Tag: St Paul’s Episcopal Church Payson

Ecology and faith

The National Preach-In held the week-end of February 11th/12th.

Some while ago, I signed up for a week-end organised by the Arizona Interfaith Power & Light.  It was part of a national programme inviting faith leaders from across the country to give sermons and reflections on climate change over the weekend of February 10-12, 2012.  My interest was simply to learn more about the week-end.

Then I quickly discovered that Father Dan from our church, St. Paul’s, had also signed up.  In my innocence I offered to help in any way which was quickly met by a response that bowled me over, “Well, you can be the homilist and give the sermon!”  Thus it came about that at yesterday’s 8am and 10am services yours truly rather uncertainly delivered the sermon.  John H., who with my dear wife Jeannie, did so much to turn my rambling thoughts into a coherent theme, encouraged me to publish the sermon as today’s Post on Learning from Dogs.  It now follows.

oooOOOooo

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Payson, Arizona

The 6th Sunday after the Epiphany

Year B

February 12th, 2012

2 Kings 5:1-14 X Psalm 30 1:13 X 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 X Mark 1:40-45

It was just a photograph. OK, one taken 43 years ago but, so what! Well, the late Galen Rowell, the famous Californian wilderness photographer called it, “the most influential environmental photograph ever taken.”

We are talking about the photograph called ‘Earthrise’ taken from Apollo 8 on December 24th, 1968 during the first manned mission to the Moon. Each of you should have a copy of that picture close by. Look at it now and let your imagination be carried back to that Apollo 8 capsule and that momentous experience.

As the Earth rose above the horizon of the moon, NASA astronaut Frank Borman uttered the words, “Oh my God! Look at that picture over there! Here’s the Earth coming up. Wow, is that pretty.” Bill Anders then took the ‘unscheduled’ photograph.

Then recall that evening, Christmas Eve 1968, when the three NASA crew members took turns reading from the book of Genesis to what was probably the biggest audience ever in the history of television, Frank Borman finishing with the words, “God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good.

Our planet is good, and so beautiful, and so precious to life. Life that arose in just a fraction of time after the Solar System formed 3.7 billion years ago; the oldest traces of life have been found in fossils dating back 3.4 billion years. That miracle of life.

Who hasn’t gazed into a clear, Arizonan, night sky and been lost in the beauty above our heads. Or felt the wind, flowing across ancient lands, kiss our face. We stand so mite-like, so insignificant in all this immensity of creation; God’s creation.

Our dreams, our hopes and failures, everything we are, have ever been and ever will be, nothing more than a swirl of dust across a desert track.

Jeremiah was called to be a prophet in 626 BC, some 2,638 years ago. In Jeremiah 12:4 he wrote, “How long will the land mourn, and the grass of every field wither? For the wickedness of those who live in it, the animals and the birds are swept away…

Words from so long ago! But Jeremiah would, surely, have gasped with disbelief had he realised how, some 2,600 years later, ‘the land now mourns and the grasses so wither’.

Jeremiah reveals much that we all could learn about ourselves. The other prophets couldn’t be accused of hiding behind their work but Jeremiah, out of all of them, allowed us to see the evidence of his own spiritual condition. He was a man of deep feelings and sensibilities and in his book there are five laments over the serious spiritual and moral condition of God’s people. That’s us, by the way!

In that time of Jeremiah, the world population was 100 million persons; slightly less than the population of Mexico today.

Some 1,350 years later, 1,000 A.D., the global population was 265 million.

But by the year 2,000 A.D., our population had increased to 6,000 millions! Put another way, that’s an increase of 5.7 million people every year for a 1,000 years !

Any guesses on the increase in the last 12 years, since 2,000? Well, the global population has increased by 990 million. About 90 million every year!

It is utterly unsustainable at present levels of Western consumption, let alone with poorer nations trying to ‘catch up’.

Last September, our House of Bishops issued A Pastoral Teaching. Our Bishops believe those ancient words of Jeremiah describe these present times. They call us to repentance, to change.

That Pastoral Teaching, in part, says, “Christians cannot be indifferent to global warming, pollution, natural resource depletion, species extinctions, and habitat destruction, all of which threaten life on our planet. Because so many of these threats are driven by greed, we must also actively seek to create more compassionate and sustainable economies that support the well-being of all God’s creation.

Our bishops refer to The Anglican Communion Environmental Network that calls to mind the dire consequences that our environment faces, again I quote: “We know that we are now demanding more than the earth is able to provide. Science confirms what we already know: our human footprint is changing the face of the earth and because we come from the earth, it is changing us too. We are engaged in the process of destroying our very being. If we cannot live in harmony with the earth, we will not live in harmony with one another.

Let those words enter our souls: “If we cannot live in harmony with the earth, we will not live in harmony with one another.” Planet Earth mirrors our souls! Nothing new about that. In 1975, Berkeley physicist Fritjof Capra wrote in his book The Tao of Physics, “we can never speak of nature without, at the same time, speaking about ourselves”.

Fr. Dan reflected in his January 22nd sermon on the questions, “Am I really free? Can I really change?” ….. and continued with the words from Jesus, “The time is fulfilled, the Kingdom of God has come near, Repent.” Fr. Dan reminded us that the word ‘repent’ indicates that we can change. We can change, we must, and we will.

Otherwise we will learn the truth of that Cree prophecy, “When all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money.

OK, from out of the mouths of North American Braves to out of the mouths of English babes.

The ‘eat money’ phrase reminds me of a story I heard years ago, back in England. You need to imagine a dilapidated, rural Anglican church with a dwindling congregation. A young boy was given a five pound note to put in the collection plate. When the offering came around, he didn’t put it in. However, after the end of the service, he went up to the vicar, shook his hand and gave him the five pound note. The vicar asked him, “Why are you giving me this money? Why didn’t you put it in the collection plate?”

The young boy answered, “Because my Mummy told me you’re the poorest vicar we’ve ever had!”

Let me stay in Britain. Martin Rees is a British cosmologist and astrophysicist and has been Britain’s Astronomer Royal since 1995.

Sir Martin Rees, indeed Lord Rees as he is now, has been Master of Trinity College, Cambridge since 2004 and was President of the Royal Society between 2005 and 2010.

In a presentation in 2005, he said this, “We can trace things back to the earlier stages of the Big Bang, but we still don’t know what banged and why it banged.

Lord Rees continued, “But the unfinished business for 21st-century science is to link together cosmos and micro-world with a unified theory. And until we have that synthesis, we won’t be able to understand the very beginning of our universe. You want to not only synthesise the very large and the very small, but we want to understand the very complex. And the most complex things are ourselves, midway between atoms and stars.”

Hang on to that word ‘midway’ as I continue reading from Rees’ presentation.

We depend on stars to make the atoms we’re made of. We depend on chemistry to determine our complex structure. We clearly have to be large, compared to atoms, to have layer upon layer of complex structure. We clearly have to be small, compared to stars and planets — otherwise we’d be crushed by gravity.

And in fact, we are midway. It would take as many human bodies to make up the sun as there are atoms in each of us. The geometric mean of the mass of a proton and the mass of the sun is 50 kilogrammes (110 lbs), within a factor of two of the mass of each person here. Well, most of you anyway!

Back to me! Just reflect on the magnificence of that fact! Science and poetry so beautifully woven together. We, as in humankind, the poetic manifestations of God’s unbelievable creation. Our relationship with the atoms perfectly balanced with our relationship with the sun. Brings a whole new meaning to seeing starlight in the eyes of the one you love!

It is all so beautiful, so magical, so spiritual, so God-like. It is also so fragile and vulnerable.

There is a copy of that Pastoral Teaching available for you on your way out of Church. I implore you to read it, nay more than read it, hold it close to your heart. Within that teaching all of us are invited to join our Bishops in a 5-point commitment for the good of our souls and the life of the world, our beautiful planet; the essence of those 5 points being:

That we, as brothers and sisters in Christ, commit ourselves:

  • To repent all acts of greed, over-consumption, and waste;
  • To pray for environmental justice, for sustainable development;
  • To practice environmental stewardship and justice, energy conservation, the use of clean, renewable sources of energy; and wherever we can to reduce, reuse, and recycle;
  • To uproot the political, social, and economic causes of environmental destruction and abuse;
  • To advocate for a “fair, ambitious, and binding” climate treaty, and to work toward climate justice through reducing our own carbon footprint and advocating for those most negatively affected by climate change.

As our Bishops wrote, “May God give us the grace to heed the warnings of Jeremiah and to accept the gracious invitation of the incarnate Word to live, in, with, and through him, a life of grace for the whole world, that thereby all the earth may be restored and humanity filled with hope.”

I started with the taking of a photograph 43 years ago that forever changed our view of our planet. Now is the time to change our relationship with our planet, to love it and cherish it; it’s the only one we have. Otherwise, we may not have another 43 years left.

Or in the words from today’s Psalm, “O LORD my God, I cried out to you, and you restored me to health.

Amen.

Climate, truth and integrity, part two

Continuing from Part One last Friday.

Last Friday I started re-publishing the wonderful comments that had appeared on Climate Sight in response to a question that I had raised, namely,

While in every way that I can think of, I support the premise of mankind affecting global climate, I would love to hear from someone who could reconcile the Post above with these recent items:” and then included the links to the WSJ and Daily Mail items.

If you are not familiar with those WSJ and Daily Mail items, then you will need to go back to Friday’s Post.

So moving on.

The third response was from chrisd3, here’s what he wrote,

Paul, here is the Met Office’s response, which begins, “[The Daily Mail] article includes numerous errors in the reporting of published peer reviewed science undertaken by the Met Office Hadley Centre and for Mr. Rose to suggest that the latest global temperatures available show no warming in the last 15 years is entirely misleading.”

Here is Deltoid taking David Rose apart on some earlier pieces:

And NASA never said anything about the Thames freezing over. Rose just made that bit up.

Finally, here is a chart of global temps from HadCRU:

From this, it is pretty clear why Rose chooses 15 years as his starting point: 1997-1998 was the time of the largest El Nino ever recorded, resulting in a huge temperature spike. Using that as the starting point for a temperature comparison is absolutely classic cherry-picking.

And in any event, you can’t say anything about trends in noisy data by simply comparing two arbitrary points. That is not a valid way to analyze the data (especially if you pick an obvious outlier as your starting point!). It is like trying to say whether the tide is coming in or going out by looking at the height of two waves. It just doesn’t work that way. You have to look at the long-term trend to remove the noise.

Let me take you to that Met Office response (and I’m republishing it in full).

Met Office in the Media: 29 January 2012

Today the Mail on Sunday published a story written by David Rose entitled “Forget global warming – it’s Cycle 25 we need to worry about”.

This article includes numerous errors in the reporting of published peer reviewed science undertaken by the Met Office Hadley Centre and for Mr. Rose to suggest that the latest global temperatures available show no warming in the last 15 years is entirely misleading.

Despite the Met Office having spoken to David Rose ahead of the publication of the story, he has chosen to not fully include the answers we gave him to questions around decadal projections produced by the Met Office or his belief that we have seen no warming since 1997.

For clarity I have included our full response to David Rose below:A spokesman for the Met Office said: “The ten year projection remains groundbreaking science. The complete period for the original projection is not over yet and these projections are regularly updated to take account of the most recent data.

“The projections are probabilistic in nature, and no individual forecast should be taken in isolation. Instead, several decades of data will be needed to assess the robustness of the projections.

“However, what is absolutely clear is that we have continued to see a trend of warming, with the decade of 2000-2009 being clearly the warmest in the instrumental record going back to 1850. Depending on which temperature records you use, 2010 was the warmest year on record  for NOAA NCDC and NASA GISS, and the second warmest on record in HadCRUT3.”

Global average temperatures from 1850 to 2011 from the three individual global temperature datasets (Met Office/UEA HadCRUT3, NASA GISS and NOAA NCDC)

Furthermore despite criticism of a paper published by the Met Office he chose not to ask us to respond to his misconceptions. The study in question, supported by many others, provides an insight into the sensitivity of our climate to changes in the output of the sun.

It confirmed that although solar output is likely to reduce over the next 90 years this will not substantially delay expected increases in global temperatures caused by greenhouse gases. The study found that the expected decrease in solar activity would only most likely cause a reduction in global temperatures of 0.08 °C. This compares to an expected warming of about 2.5 °C over the same period due to greenhouse gases (according to the IPCC’s B2 scenario for greenhouse gas emissions that does not involve efforts to mitigate emissions).  In addition the study also showed that if solar output reduced below that seen in the Maunder Minimum – a period between 1645 and 1715 when solar activity was at its lowest observed level – the global temperature reduction would be 0.13C.

Back to that response from chrisd3.  He offered this, “Finally, here is a chart of global temps from HadCRU.”  Here is that chart, remember we are looking at Global temperatures.

Global temperature trend

OK, between this Post and my Post last Friday, you probably get the message!  There were many other contributions and I could go on and on quoting the great responses I got, all of them uniformly saying there IS global warming unprecedented in recent years.  The message is crystal clear and those who wish to deny the evidence … well, I can’t come up with a polite term, so will just leave it at that!

My final contribution is from Martin Lack, author of the Blog Lack of Environment, and a good friend of Learning from Dogs.  Here is what he wrote in a recent email,

You may have seen my latest response to How much is most?

When I eventually saw your earlier comment, I was surprised and disappointed in equal measure because I almost feel that I have failed in some way. Let me explain:  Unlike ClimateSight and SkepticalScience, which both do an excellent job of focusing on the science of climate change, my blog is deliberately focused on the politics underlying the denial of all environmental our problems; including 2 key aspects to my MA dissertation, namely the political misuse of scepticism; and the psychology of denial.  See my How to be a Climate Change ‘Sceptic’  for more detail.

Therefore, although not specifically categorised as such, just about everything I have posted is traceable back to Paul and Anne Ehrlich’sBetrayal of Science and Reason (1996) and/or Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway’s Merchants of Doubt (2010).  For someone who does not currently go to any Church, I am remarkably fond of quoting Scripture so, if necessary, please forgive me but, as the Good Book says:  “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

Therefore, I do not think you should be surprised by the amount of misinformation and misrepresentation contained in the original WSJ Sixteen’s article; and/or the fact that denialist arguments are repeated no matter how many times they have been shown to be false.  Furthermore, I would warn against trying to summarise it all on Learning from Dogs.  This is definitely Book territory and, in addition to the two mentioned above, the market is already saturated by the likes of Climate Change Cover-up by James Hoggan and Climate Change Denial by Haydn Washington and John Cook.

With very best wishes for a fog-free future,

What to say to close these two Posts off?  Frankly, it’s difficult to know how to pitch it.  The science seems clear beyond reasonable doubt.  But if you are reading this and disagree, then PLEASE offer the science to refute the conclusions presented here.  I promise you that I will present it on Learning from Dogs.

So let me end with a simple photograph.

Earthrise

This is the photograph that wilderness photographer Galen Rowell called, “the most influential environmental photograph ever taken.”

The now world-famous photograph was taken by Astronaut William Anders from Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the Moon, a little over 43 years ago on December 24th, 1968.

As the Earth rose above the horizon of the moon, NASA astronaut Frank Borman uttered the words, “Oh my God! Look at that picture over there! Here’s the Earth coming up. Wow, is that pretty.”  Bill Anders then took the ‘unscheduled’ photograph.

Now project forward 43 years to the year 2055 and play with the idea of what ‘pretty‘ planet Earth will be like for mankind and so many other species, including our longest companion, the dog, if we don’t get our act together pretty soon!