Religion and the Keystone XL pipeline

by Milan on September 7, 2011

in Activism, Climate change, Climate science

One interesting element of the Keystone XL protest in Washington was the composition of the group of people who came to participate. There was a big First Nations presence, and there was a specific day in which the First Nations played a prominent role in the whole event. There was also a large religious delegation arrested on the same day as NASA climatologist James Hansen. If I recall correctly, that was the Monday after the weekend when the organizers were jailed, and that was the day when momentum really returned, with numbers over 100.

Personally, I am deeply skeptical about religion. I think the factual claims made by religious texts and officials are often demonstrably false, and that makes me question why they should be considered an authority on any subject. I also worry that belief in an omniscient god may stop people from believing that we could wreck the world by burning fossil fuels. You certainly have to wonder what a benevolent god would have been thinking in making fossil fuels so useful and abundant, but adding a deadly hidden catch that would not make itself obvious for several centuries. If you don’t have any concern about the possibility of catastrophic outcomes, there is much less reason to be concerned about climate change. If a friendly god is watching over us, surely we will not accidentally cook the planet.

But, I digress.

The religious delegation definitely helped the protest, both in terms of numbers and in terms of legitimacy. There is something about getting arrested with a bunch of prominent religious figures – apparently including someone who was the equivalent of a bishop in the United Church – that makes it seem obvious that your ‘crime’ was defensible and probably praiseworthy. If the movement to stop dangerous climate change is to succeed, we need allies who see climate change as one important issue among many. If there are religious organizations that have or can work climatic protection into their theology, I think those in the climate change community should encourage and appreciate their help.

Report a typo or inaccuracy

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

oleh September 8, 2011 at 2:24 am

The people concerned about the environment are a coalition from various backgrounds including religious. The civil disobedience in the civil rights movement in the US in the 1960’s was led in large par by the clergy, most prominently Rev.Martin Luther King Jr, The presence of the clergy in that protest also ws quite helpful.

Byron Smith September 14, 2011 at 6:28 pm

“I also worry that belief in an omniscient god may stop people from believing that we could wreck the world by burning fossil fuels.”
I too worry about this, and have basically decided that addressing this profound misunderstanding amongst certain Christian circles is going to be a key part of my contribution to trying to respond well to climate change.

“If you don’t have any concern about the possibility of catastrophic outcomes, there is much less reason to be concerned about climate change. If a friendly god is watching over us, surely we will not accidentally cook the planet.”
But we may of course deliberately cook the planet, which is what we are currently doing. One of the reasons I find Christianity attractive is that it has a compelling and nuanced account of how our desires can be so deeply muddled as to pursue our own destruction.

“If there are religious organizations that have or can work climatic protection into their theology”
There is a rapidly growing body of theological and ethical work that does precisely that (and my PhD is an attempt to contribute to it in some small way). Anyone interested in this area might find this radio programme a helpful introduction to some of the key ideas floating around theological circles that take climate reality seriously.

Milan October 18, 2011 at 10:25 pm

One of the reasons I find Christianity attractive is that it has a compelling and nuanced account of how our desires can be so deeply muddled as to pursue our own destruction.

It would be good if you could elaborate on this.

Given the number of Christians in the United States – and the importance of the climate policy of the United States in determining what will happen to the world – it seems important to work out ways in which the protection of climate stability can be effectively incorporated into mainstream American Christian theology.

Of course, that would also be important in other countries with a large Christian population and significant emissions of greenhouse gas pollution.

. February 26, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Does Santorum think the pope is a ‘radical environmentalist’?

Rick Santorum presents himself as a devout Catholic, and he certainly holds fast to the church’s line against birth control. But on the issue of climate change, he’s more than happy to stray from the pope’s teachings.

. April 1, 2012 at 5:53 pm

Fairy tales and global warming

I would like to make a few comments about the recent increase in warmings and threats about global warming. “If” the temperature increases the ice caps will melt and cover the whole world with water. How much money has already been wasted on this false information?

First of all, what can mere man do, if the ice caps melt and this planet Earth is covered in water? Can we build a freezer big enough to refreeze the ice in the North and South Poles?

Just think of all the cold weather we have had this past winter; it was 50 degrees below zero in Russia less than a month ago. Europeans were freezing to death according to the news reports. So which report should we believe?

Did you ever read the story of how Hennypenny tried to convince all the animals in the forest that, “the sky was falling,” just because an acorn fell on her head? She caused such a flurry of panic among all the other animals they all ran around like chickens with their heads cut off. The sly fox though, convinced all the animals, mostly poultry, to come into his lair and he would save them. However, he had them all for lunch instead. I hope we are not all chickens in Canada.

Is that where this lie is coming from? So that some brilliant leaders can make every nation in the whole world pay taxes? To pay for something no one can do anything about anyway?

If people would read the Bible in Genesis, chapter 8, verse 22, God made a covenant with Noah and his family after the flood which destroyed all living creatures except the ones who were saved in the ark. In verse 22, God says while the Earth remains, seedtime and harvest and cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night will not cease.

God also promised in verse 11 of chapter 9, the world established a covenant with man, and there would not ever again be a flood to destroy the Earth. That was 4,365 years ago. So far, no global floods have destroyed the whole Earth at the same time. God was true to His promise.

I think God is true and every man a liar. Just imagine how much money could be saved to do better things in this world, feed and clothe the nations of people who are hungry and destitute as we read this.

If the nations of the world would eliminate the atomic weapons and bombs as they used to in the past, along with better forest management, maybe the Earth’s environment would be safer for human habitation.

I certainly hope that Canada will not be duped into believing this trick, giving place to the world government so that they will gain control of more of our money and independence.

Frances Guillemette

Goulds

. April 16, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Bishops call for fair pipeline hearing; Northern Gateway deal should not be rubber stamped: clergy

Six Anglican bishops from across British Columbia and the Yukon came together on Good Friday calling for the environmental review hearings on Enbridge Inc.’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline to remain fair and free from political pressure.

“There’s some concern that the decision’s already been made and that the review process is just a rubber stamp,” said Bishop Michael Ingham, of the Diocese of New Westminster. “I think what we’re trying to do is call upon the panel itself to resist pressure – political pressure, industry pressure – and to come to a fair, balanced and thorough set of recommendations.”

Ingham signed the statement, which he said was prompted by bishops being inundated with concern for the process from members of their dioceses.

“We’re not directing this at any one group – except the panel itself,” Ingham said. “We hope they might receive it as a supportive thing, to maintain their independence and, therefore, credibility.”

“Recent public statements by various officials of the federal government, including the announcement last week of the streamlining of environmental assessment reviews, have raised concerns that NEB (National Energy Board) hearings may become subject to improper time constrictions and industry influence,” said the bishops’ statement.

. August 6, 2012 at 12:21 pm

Churches speaking out on Northern Gateway pipeline project
United Church considering motion to oppose pipeline construction
The Canadian Press Posted: Aug 6, 2012 10:52 AM ET Last Updated: Aug 6, 2012 10:51 AM ET

Churches across Canada say they have a religious duty to speak out on the proposed Northern Gateway oilsands pipeline.

Next week, delegates at the United Church of Canada general council meeting in Ottawa are to debate a resolution that calls on the church to reject construction of the $6-billion Enbridge project that would take diluted bitumen from Alberta to the British Columbia coast.

The resolution was drafted in support of aboriginals in B.C., who worry a spill would poison the land and water, and directs the church to send the results of its vote to the federal, B.C. and Alberta governments and the media.

Mardi Tindal, moderator of the United Church, said care of the Earth is an important part of the faith and the church can’t shy away from the pipeline just because it is controversial and politically divisive.

“People care so much about this. People understand that you cannot separate economic health from ecological health,” she said from Toronto.

“The church has a responsibility to contribute to the conversations that make for the best public policy for the common good.”

The United Church of Canada is not alone.

. June 3, 2014 at 5:12 pm

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: