Leading Climate Change scholar, activist, and educator Katharine Hayhoe tackles the question asked by many: “Why should I care?”
By Shanley Smith
“Christian, Climate, and Culture”
Last month I attended (virtually) a January Series lecture at Calvin University entitled “Christians, Climate, and Culture.” It spoke about exactly what you might expect: Christians, climate, and culture. To put it more personally, it spoke directly to my faith, my environment, and my community. Thirty-some days later, I’m still thinking about the words spoken.
The lecture was led by Katharine Hayhoe. If you haven’t heard her name before, let me give a brief introduction: Hayhoe is listed as one of Christianity Today’s top “50 Women to Watch,”, one of Fortune’s “50 Greatest Leaders of 2017, and a 2019 Champions of the Earth United Nations awardee. In short, Hayhoe is a powerhouse.
Katharine Hayhoe is listed as one of Christianity Today’s top “50 Women to Watch,”, one of Fortune’s “50 Greatest Leaders of 2017, and a 2019 Champions of the Earth United Nations awardee.
Hayhoe asked what we pictured when she said “global warming.” I’ll ask you, dear reader, to picture in your mind the same right now.
I imagined a polar bear on a slowly-shrinking iceberg. Maybe you did as well? Hayhoe told us polar bears and icebergs rank as the top responses she receives. Which begs the question: Why fight climate change or invest in green energy in West Michigan?
Katharine Hayhoe encouraged us to not let the conversation stop at polar bears, and instead ask, “What does this mean for our city?”
What it means for us:
As a lifelong resident of Holland, I know the following statement to be true: We care deeply for people and our community. Here, you can hardly throw a stone without it hitting a church. If you missed, it would likely end up at the door of a nonprofit. These organizations and churches are filled with individuals dedicated to serving. Giving, caring, and serving are in the history and tradition of who Holland is. Who we are.
Giving, caring, and serving are in the history and tradition of who Holland is.
Hayhoe tells us that people in poverty or in marginalized communities are much more likely to suffer from the effects of climate change due to pollution, job loss, or – as we have experienced in previous summers – heat waves. Holland has increasingly faced summers with more days above 90º, which may sound like a great beach day to some of us, but poses a serious health risk to others and also hurts our neighboring farming communities.
A second virtue of West Michigan: we are leaders and innovators. We put ourselves at the forefront of solutions. As Holland increasingly faces more days per year above 90º, our city has taken action. We responded on the offense by providing cooling centers to those who don’t have access to air conditioning. Cooling centers are public facilities – such as government buildings, nonprofits, and even businesses – that open their air-conditioned buildings to people who lack access to air conditioning. Such actions serve as essential steps to protect our community. But these measures alone cannot sustain us.
Holland increasingly faces more days per year above 90º…
Holland can and should operate on the offense and on defense as we provide cleaner solutions to support the city and community we have cultivated here in West Michigan. As we continue to make decisions that care for our city and people, I’m optimistic that we will place green energy at the forefront of our stratagems. By moving towards renewable solutions such as wind and solar energy, we can reduce our city’s carbon output substantially. These are sustainable solutions that offer sustainable care.
To engage more with the intersection of climate change and faith, I encourage you to tune into Hayhoe’s lecture linked here. Thanks to Calvin University and Katharine Hayhoe, this lecture will remain open to the public indefinitely. Additionally, Hayhoe’s YouTube channel, Global Weirding, seeks to educate and answer common questions such as, “What’s the big deal with a few degrees?” and “Is global warming part of a natural cycle?” If you’ve ever asked these questions (or had someone ask you), these short videos are a great way to expand your climate education and your ability to influence action in our community and beyond!