Whenever talking heads and political pundits start debating climate change, I honestly wish that I could turn the clock back 3 years to when Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast. They would have trouble explaining the fact that on this New York City peninsula where I live and pastor a church, the Atlantic Ocean and Jamaica Bay had not met in over 50 years, but that is exactly what they did on October 29th, 2012.
I would invite them to listen as I advocate within my church and community for environmental stewardship, which, in my opinion, means that we have to be faithful with the earth that God has given us. I would invite them to walk through my “hood” to see homes still abandoned, families still displaced and fragmented – 3 years later. I would ask these know-it-all pundits to walk the streets of my community and see that their continued denial of this issue often gives credibility to those who sit in seats of power. Their words and influence provide justification for holding back funding to reduce climate change and mitigate its impacts on vulnerable communities that await the next inevitable “natural” disaster. I would ask them to talk to the everyday people who have been affected by this issue, without the cameras, without the promise of a ratings boost, and on our terms. They need to hear the voices of everyday Americans who, three years ago may have had no knowledge of climate change, but now have experienced its reality. We have been not just affected, but devastated by it.
It would be my hope and prayer that contact with those who have experienced Hurricane Sandy would have a profound influence on those who recklessly deny climate change, even though it denies the facts and comes at such high costs. I would hope that they have listened closely to Pope Francis, who has called upon all of us – the faithful and faith-less, to pay attention as nature speaks volumes to us. Unfortunately, the voices of these naysayers have been just as loud as the voices of those crying out for change. These voices have tried to drown out nature itself, which is crying for our attention and heed. We continue to deny the facts of our carbon footprints, overuse of global resources and continued, inexcusable lack of action on issues of climate change.
The Bible says that “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof; the world and they that dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1). It is now time for those to whom God has given stewardship over this creation to take a stand and realize that we must respect the overwhelming body of scientific research that tells us that climate change is real and we are the primary cause. It’s time to listen to those scientists, the Pope, and everyday Americans in communities like mine whose lives have been and will be forever changed by our impacts on the earth that we call home: the only planet we currently have to live on.
AUTHOR: Bishop Darren A. Ferguson serves as the pastor of Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in Far Rockaway a Member of WE ACT for Environmental Justice and Campus Life Manager at LaGuardia Community College. He has been a voice for the voiceless during the ongoing recovery after Hurricane Sandy and the issues of Race, Mass Incarceration and reentry. He lives in Far Rockaway with his wife Kim, and is a member of WE ACT.