Center for Health and the Global Environment, January 17, 2007
AN URGENT CALL TO ACTION TO PROTECT CREATION
[Rachel's introduction: Scientists and evangelicals unite to protect creation.]
Scientific and evangelical leaders recently met to search for common ground in the protection of the creation. We happily discovered far more concordance than any of us had expected, quickly moving beyond dialogue to a shared sense of moral purpose.
Important initiatives were already underway on both sides, and when compared they were found to be broadly overlapping. We clearly share a moral passion and sense of vocation to save the imperiled living world before our damages to it remake it as another kind of planet. We agree not only that reckless human activity has imperiled the Earth -- especially the unsustainable and short-sighted lifestyles and public policies of our own nation -- but also that we share a profound moral obligation to work together to call our nation, and other nations, to the kind of dramatic change urgently required in our day. We pledge our joint commitment to this effort in the unique moment now upon us.
This meeting was convened by the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School and the National Association of Evangelicals. It was envisioned as a first exploratory conference, based on a shared concern for the creation, to be held among people who were in some ways quite different in their worldviews. It now seems to us to be the beginning point of a major shared effort among scientists and evangelicals to protect life on Earth and the fragile life support systems that sustain it, drawing on the unique intellectual, spiritual, and moral contributions that each community can bring.
Our Shared Concern
We agree that our home, the Earth, which comes to us as that inexpressibly beautiful and mysterious gift that sustains our very lives, is seriously imperiled by human behavior.
The harm is seen throughout the natural world, including a cascading set of problems such as climate change, habitat destruction, pollution, and species extinctions, as well as the spread of human infectious diseases, and other accelerating threats to the health of people and the well-being of societies.
Each particular problem could be enumerated, but here it is enough to say that we are gradually destroying the sustaining community of life on which all living things on Earth depend. The costs of this destruction are already manifesting themselves around the world in profound and painful ways. The cost to humanity is already significant and may soon become incalculable.
Being irreversible, many of these changes would affect all generations to come. We believe that the protection of life on Earth is a profound moral imperative. It addresses without discrimination the interests of all humanity as well as the value of the non-human world. It requires a new moral awakening to a compelling demand, clearly articulated in Scripture and supported by science, that we must steward the natural world in order to preserve for ourselves and future generations a beautiful, rich, and healthful environment.
For many of us, this is a religious obligation, rooted in our sense of gratitude for Creation and reverence for its Creator. One fundamental motivation that we share is concern for the poorest of the poor, well over a billion people, who have little chance to improve their lives in devastated and often war-ravaged environments.
At the same time, the natural environments in which they live, and where so much of Earth's biodiversity barely hangs on, cannot survive the press of destitute people without other resources and with nowhere else to go.
We declare that every sector of our nation's leadership-religious, scientific, business, political, and educational-must act now to work toward the fundamental change in values, lifestyles, and public policies required to address these worsening problems before it is too late.
There is no excuse for further delays. Business as usual cannot continue yet one more day. We pledge to work together at every level to lead our nation toward a responsible care for creation, and we call with one voice to our scientific and evangelical colleagues, and to all others, to join us in these efforts.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE January 17, 2007
CONTACTS: Sharon Castillo, Phyllis Cuttino 202.289.5900
Evangelical, Scientific Leaders Launch Effort to Protect Earth
Unprecedented collaboration aims to instill sense of urgency on elected officials, advance sound environmental policies
Washington, D.C. -- In a first-of-its-kind collaboration, evangelical and scientific leaders announced today a collaborative effort to protect the environment. Speaking at a news conference in Washington, DC, a dozen leaders of the effort shared concerns about human-caused threats to the creation -- including climate change, habitat destruction, pollution, species extinction, the spread of human infectious diseases, and other dangers to the well-being of societies.
The coalition released an "Urgent Call to Action" statement signed by 28 evangelical and scientific leaders. The statement -- sent to President George W. Bush, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, bipartisan congressional leaders, and national evangelical and scientific organizations -- urges "fundamental change in values, lifestyles, and public policies required to address these worsening problems before it is too late. Business as usual cannot continue yet one more day." The group pledged to "work together toward a responsible care for creation and call with one voice" to the religious, scientific, business, political and educational arenas to join them in this historic initiative.
"There is no such thing as a Republican or Democrat, a liberal or conservative, a religious or secular environment. We all breathe the same air and drink the same water. Scientists and evangelicals share a deep moral commitment to preserve this precious gift we have all been given," said Dr. Eric Chivian, Nobel laureate and Director of the Harvard Medical School Center for Health and the Global Environment. "Great scientists are people of imagination. So are people of great faith. We dare to imagine a world in which science and religion cooperate, minimizing our differences about how Creation got started, to work together to reverse its degradation. We will not allow it to be progressively destroyed by human folly," added Rev. Richard Cizik, Vice President for Government Affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals.
Stressing that their effort is just beginning, coalition members spoke about some of the immediate next steps they will be taking, including holding meetings with Congressional leaders from both parties to inform them of this unprecedented effort and encourage their attention to environmental issues. They also plan to hold a Summit on the Creation and will develop outreach tools, such as an environmental bible and environmental curricula.
"If current deterioration of the environment by human activity continues unabated, best estimates are that half of Earth's surviving species of plants and animals will be extinguished or critically endangered by the end of the century. The price for future generations will be paid in economic opportunity, environmental security, and spiritual fulfillment. The saving of the living environment is therefore an issue appropriately addressed jointly by science and religion," said Pulitzer-award winning author Dr. Edward O. Wilson.
One of the imperatives of the group will be to advance the dialogue and influence policy in regards to global warming. "In order to avoid clear and substantial dangers... it will be necessary to substantially reduce CO2 emissions during the next few decades, and perhaps by 80 percent or more before the end of the century, " said Dr. James Hansen, the leading climate change scientist in the United States.
The coalition vowed to expand their collaboration and encourage action from all sectors of society. "We are glad to be partnering with our friends in the scientific community. They have the facts we need to present to our congregations; we have the numbers of activists that will work through churches, government, and the business community to make a significant impact," said Dr. Joel Hunter, Senior Pastor of the mega Northland Church in Orlando, Florida.
The unique collaboration, 28-members strong and growing, was spearheaded by leaders from the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School and the National Association of Evangelicals. During a retreat held last November 30 to December 2nd in Thomasville, Georgia, the group agreed that science proves that the natural world is imperiled by human behaviors and policies, particularly by the unsustainable burning of fossil fuels and degradation of living systems. They decided to embark on a continuing collaboration and authored the "Urgent Call to Action" statement.