It's hard to remember now, but back in 2002 as the post-911 threat of terror loomed larger than the now absent 1 World Trade Center, many environmentalists buried their heads in the sand, waiting for the ash to settle. In those dark days, it seemed almost unAmerican to talk about fuel economy, climate change or pollution. Who could complain about Bush as he repealed one environmental law after another? After all, he was keeping us safe from a much more immediate threat.
Political tensions had also centrifuged the country into red and blue, eroding what was once a nonpartisan issue -- protection of the environment. In the era of "with us or against us," environmentalism somehow got lumped in with "anti-war" and it seemed to many of us that it would be a long, long time before a pro-environment agenda with popular support would ever emerge in the U.S.
But then an unlikely ally arrived on the scene who in some way reinvigorated the environmental movement as a whole. With his catchy campaign called "What would Jesus drive?" Rev. Jim Ball changed the way millions of evangelical Christians thought about the environment. And in addition, he changed the way political progressives thought about the Christian right. Instead of seeing red, they now saw hints of green.
The Evangelical Environmental Network was born (again). For as Jim said in our interview, the essential tenets of environmentalism are age-old. The Creation Care movement says that according to the Bible it is a duty to protect God's creation. And in 2006, this duty was expanded to include climate.
That was a pretty big leap. Most evangelicals do not adhere to the evolutionary theory and are skeptical in general of scientific theory. I asked Jim how we overcame this obstacle in explaining climate change. He said the key was calling on senior evangelical leaders to "bless the facts" and to shift away from politicized rhetoric by focusing on caring for the poor, the population must immediately affected by climate change.
There is overwhelming evidence that human activity is a major cause, and we know that the impacts of climate change would be hardest on the poor and vulnerable, and on future generations. We need to act, and everyone has a role.
The group has been steadily growing and now includes over 280 of the nation's most influential evangelical leaders who minister to millions of Americans. Evangelicals represent a full 1/3 of the US population
(approximately 100 million people) and they are highly mobilized. As the Creation Care movement brings more and more christian evangelicals into the climate fold, they may soon represent the greatest force in the struggle to combat climate change.