WHAT CAN I DO?
can I do? That's a question that people all around the world
are asking as the environmental crisis continues to deepen around
them. Those of us who live with easy access to news and information
are confronted on a daily basis with updates about global warming,
drought, melting ice caps and devastating storms. But our sisters
and brothers who live on the margins of the information stream,
in communities of poverty, are even more aware of the crisis
since their lives are directly threatened by its impact. Their
cry of "what can I do?" is an appeal beyond liberal
sentiment; it is a prayer for help against forces that seem
beyond human control.
irony is that what seems so out of our control is what we have
created for ourselves. Like Frankenstein, we are the creators
of the monster. Climate change is our responsibility. As we
have pumped more carbon out of the earth and into the air we
have poisoned ourselves. Therefore, the question of "what
can I do?" is a powerful confession of our own complicity
in the thoughtless history we share as makers of a force that
threatens to run away from us and ravage our world.
be honest, when confronted with that realization, many of us
stand before the question "what can I do?" in stunned
silence. We can admit our role in causing it to happen, but
we feel helpless in knowing what to do about it. Immobilized
by the magnitude of the problem we seem frozen by our own undoing.
In fact, this kind of reaction has been a national denial of
reality. Our slowness to respond, our equivocation in the face
of mounting evidence, comes from the fear that there is no answer
to the question, only an inevitable consequence.
is exactly at this critical point, the axis of human fear and
indecision, that faith becomes pivotal. While those of us who
are women and men of faith share in the responsibility for what
is happening, while we also share in the anxiety about its ultimate
impact on our lives and the lives of the poor, we have an answer
to the question "what can I do?" that is the tipping
point of hope in the face of disaster. Our faith tells us what
we can do. Our faith uproots us from standing still in the face
of danger. Our faith moves us to respond and to change history.
reminds us that as small as we may feel, we are great in the
gifts of love. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus,
and many other world traditions may vary widely in their theology,
but they are united in their call to hope. They tell us that
love is the transformative power that gives us hope no matter
how humble or fearful we may be. They call us into a community
of hope. They ask us to answer the question "what can I
do?" with an affirmation that echoes around the world:
you can be believing and by believing you can be saved.
over the centuries we have fought our religious battles over
how to exercise that belief, the common call to faith in something
greater than ourselves, something profoundly good and healing,
has remained. Beneath the layers of theological sediment that
covers our human story is a bedrock of faith that is the sure
and certain ground on which we can build. If we are awake to
the global nature of what threatens humanity and our environment,
we can claim this hope as part of our own personal response.
We can step beyond the past to embrace one another as people
of faith in a witness that will transform our future from fear
to hope, from death to life.
world is waiting while the clock is ticking. The world is waiting
for some group of people, some community, to take the lead in
restoring the balance of the Earth's climate. The poor are waiting
for those who have the power and ability to make the kinds of
choices, the kinds of sacrifices, necessary to turn the wheel
of history. They are all waiting for us. Waiting for us to simply
do what we say we believe.
Genesis Covenant is an opportunity to practice what we preach.
It is an open invitation to every man and woman of faith to
answer the question "what can I do?". It says, you
can do this. You can exercise your faith by inspiring your own
community of belief to join in a global movement to reverse
climate change. You can take not just responsibility, but initiative.
You can put your faith to work. You can become an agent of hope
in a fearful age. Here are three specific things you can do:
Help get The Genesis Covenant on the action agenda of your
national governing body. Work to have your faith community
adopt the Covenant.
Actively tell others about the Genesis Covenant, especially
your friends in other faith communities. Encourage them to
do what you are doing in your own context.
Once the Covenant is adopted by your national body, work to
support its implementation on the local level.
every person of faith would do these three simple things, the
world could stop waiting to see who will take the lead in halting
destructive climate change. The poor could stop waiting to see
who cared. The answer would be clear in the actions of those
of us who say we are believers. As people of faith stood up
to put their faith to work, a new sense of hope would spread
across our planet. Others would take heart and join us. The
vision of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and people
of all traditions working together would become real, just when
it is needed most. History would bend toward grace and life
would truly be redeemed. Your single answer to a single question
could be the most important act of faith you have ever taken.
What can I do? I can do The Genesis
The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston
Assistant Bishop of California