Ask people here in the valley what evidence of climate change they’ve noticed, and you’ll hear the following: forsythia and cherry blossoms in December. Fleas in January; ticks all winter. Shorter ski seasons. May-like temperatures in March. Earlier onset and longer duration of seasonal allergy symptoms. Streams too low for paddling in spring due to lack of snow melt. More poison ivy. More weeds, generally.
Most people know that a week’s or season’s weather does not represent a change in climate. And an unusually strong El Nino—the warm phase of a naturally recurring climate pattern across the tropical Pacific—likely influenced this winter's weather.
But we are seeing long-term changes. Since 1967, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Plant Hardiness Zone numbers for Pennsylvania have been revised upward from 4 to 6 in the north and from 5 to 7 in the south, reflecting rising annual minimum and maximum temperatures here as in most of North America. The third National Climate Assessment Report (2014) noted that temperatures in the Northeast increased significantly between 1895 and 2011. As the report explains, a warming climate is expected to bring less frequent but heavier rainfall and other “extreme weather events,” and the amount of precipitation “falling in very heavy events” in the Northeast increased more than 70% between 1958 and 2010.
Globally, temperatures in 2015 were 0.9 degree C. above the 20th century average, continuing a multi-year trend. According to Professor of Atmospheric Science Michael Mann, director of Penn State’s Earth System Science Center, recent studies indicate that only 0.1 degree C. of this variation is attributable to El Nino. Taken singly, none of the local examples above proves that the climate is changing. Together, however, they signal a warming world.
So what are we waiting for? It’s time to take action against climate change—action that goes far beyond recycling plastic bottles, driving less, or using less energy at home. Each of us individually has a role to play, but collectively we must develop alternative energy sources, create good and secure jobs to replace those that rely on fossil fuel extraction, and drastically cut emissions of CO2, methane, and other greenhouse gases. We’ve initiated warming processes that we can’t stop. However, we have time, if we have the will, to limit their effects and preserve our ability to live, with integrity and justice, in the only world we have.
Sabrina Kirby, Lewisburg
Faith Leaders Call for MORALtorium on Shale Gas Drilling
The Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade
On Monday, March 21, 2016, over fifty faith leaders representing seventeen organizations, religions and traditions gathered in Harrisburg from across PA to say that our state’s energy policy is a moral issue. The day included lobby training, an interfaith worship service, and a rally and press conference in the Capitol Rotunda. We also visited with legislators urging them to: (1) enact a MORALtorium on new hydraulic fracturing wells and development of related infrastructure; (2) provide full funding for examination of existing wells and cleanup of contaminated wells; (3) support renewable energy and the jobs that come with it; and (4) support transition and retraining of workers for the renewable energy sector.
As people of faith, we believe it is important that the voices of “the least of these” – those most vulnerable who are impacted by the devastation of shale gas drilling and its related processes – be heard. Nearly every faith tradition would look at what is being done to the people of this state and to God’s Creation and clearly recognize that it is immoral, unjust, unethical, and intolerable. Just because it’s legal does not mean that it’s right.
We see this as a ‘green’ civil rights issue. Not only are the human rights of families being violated for the sake of corporate greed, the waters, air, land, plants and animals are being violated as well. We are standing in solidarity with the long list of the harmed in PA who have endured the ravages of this industry. We will continue to demand justice for them and for Creation. Like the persistent widow in Jesus’ parable, like David fighting Goliath, like Moses and Aaron confronting Pharaoh, like Gandhi confronting colonial imperialism, like Buddhists monks wrapping trees in saffron robes, we know that justice and righteousness shall prevail.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once shared his dream for this nation about the end of racial inequality and injustice. As people of faith today, we also have a dream. We dream of this beautiful and noble state, this nation, and the world promoting and investing in clean, renewable energy that will create jobs and avoid the destruction that comes with dirty fossil fuels like natural gas, oil and coal. We dream of families and communities able to live peacefully without fear that corporate and governmental forces will take away their homes, or poison their waters, or murder their trees, or foul their air. I dream of my own children being able to play in the waters of the Susquehanna River, no longer afraid of poisons flowing through the waters and causing diseases in the fish, plants and wildlife, and eventually in their own small bodies.
The Messenger of Allah said, “Help thy brother whether he is the doer of wrong or wrong is done to him.” His companions said, “O Messenger! We can help a man to whom wrong is done, but how could we help him when he is the doer of wrong?” He said: “Take hold of his hand from doing wrong” (Manual of Hadith). This means we are charged with taking hold of the hands that are doing wrong. This includes the elected officials we visited, asking for them to sign a letter to Governor Wolf asking for a MORALtorium on any future shale gas drilling.
Of course, many will say people of faith should stay out of politics and be relegated to the task of cleaning up and comforting after the perpetrators environmental disasters have long gone. But we are no longer satisfied with that role. Our task is not only to care for the afflicted, but to stay the hand of the one causing the affliction in the first place.
We are answering the call to justice, and are standing in a long line of faithful people who take their religions and traditions outside their houses of worship and out into the world, helping to create on the outside what we preach on the inside. This is the Great Work of our time.
Schade is the pastor of United in Christ Lutheran Church, Lewisburg, PA; author of Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology and the Pulpit (Chalice Press, 2015); and Adjunct Professor in Religion and Philosophy for Lebanon Valley College, Annville, PA, and Susquehanna University, Selinsgrove, PA
A QUIZ for our readers:
WHO WROTE THIS?
“We need to protect, conserve, and be good stewards of our environment, and base our policy decisions in science and quantifiable facts on the ground.
There has been a marked increase in extreme weather events across the United States, including more frequent heat waves, extreme precipitation, wildfires, and water scarcity. These negative impacts are expected to worsen in every region of the United States.
If left unaddressed, the consequences of a changing climate have the potential to adversely impact all Americans, hitting vulnerable populations hardest, and harming productivity in key economic sectors and imposing additional costs on State and Federal budgets.
Therefore, we must work to create and support private and public solutions to address the causes of changes to our global and regional climates.”
Who wrote the above statement?
A. a national environmental organization
B. members of the Republican Party
C. President Obama's administration
It would be easy to believe that it was written by A or C. In fact, the answer is B! This passage is taken directly from a resolution submitted in September 2015 in the United States House of Representatives called the Gibson Resolution. (For the complete text of the resolution, go to http://gibson.house.gov/)
This resolution was written by Republican U.S. Representative Chris Gibson, from New York. Nine other Republicans signed onto the Environmental Stewardship Resolution including three from Pennsylvania: Representatives Patrick Meehan, Michael Fitzpatrick, and Ryan Costello.
Smart planning does not have to be divided by political party. We should each learn about these issues, how they are expected to worsen, and how they might negatively affect our area. Thinking ahead can prevent problems and disasters in our future.
Let's start talking with our neighbors, in our churches and organizations and with our elected officials about what we in our area can do to protect ourselves against these negative impacts. We owe it to ourselves, our children and our grandchildren!
Penn Garvin, Mifflinburg, PA