From time to time, the religious argument for taking on climate change surfaces, and that's exactly what happened in the state of Washington this week.
Greg Rickel, the bishop of the Episcopal Church’s Diocese of Olympia, and Rev. Hunt Priest, the rector of the Emmanuel Episcopal Church, penned a compelling religious argument for addressing the impacts of a changing planet’s climate. Their editorial in the Columbian is worth a read to anyone fascinated by the relationship between religion and science. Rickel and Priest are proof that science and spirituality aren’t mutually exclusive.
The letter was direct in its use of religion. “In the New Testament, Jesus told his followers to care for the poor and the least of these among us. Coal is a dirty and dangerous fuel source, which poisons the air, water, and our own health. We as a country are guilty of using fossil fuels as if there were no consequences. We are not keeping our covenant with the Creator.”
As you can tell, these guys aren’t big coal fans. But they are not just all talk; they have at least committed to put some skin in the game. The Diocese of Olympia includes the Bishop’s Committee for the Environment which recently began implementing new environmental policies under what is known as the Genesis Covenant. Essentially it calls for the entire Episcopal Church to, “reduce the carbon footprints of all its facilities by 50 percent within 10 years.”
I also found it interesting that the two men of the cloth took a moment to write about cleaning up already damaged places. “The Coal-Free Future for Washington bill will ensure cleanup of contaminated lands and preparation of the site for future economic development,” they wrote, scoring a political one-two punch by combining the religious with the economic.
If you are wondering about the Coal-Free Future for Washington Bill, it is the legislation that Priest and Rickel support that calls for the state to phase out its reliance on the coal industry, namely one plant: the TransAlta plant. This plant is frequently the focus of environmental investigations. Most recently it was mercury levels that brought it under closer examination.
The state will be interesting to watch as the Coal-Free Future for Washington bill gets batted around. Perhaps religious support is just what the climate movement needs. You may even be able to call it a miracle.