Planet Earth’s Potsdam Declaration on Climate Change

Planet Earth’s Potsdam Declaration on Climate Change September 10, 2017

In my previous article, “We’ve Lost the Climate War. It’s Time to Surrender,” I made the case that the planet has unleashed “climate bombs” on our country in the forms of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma.  I compared this moment in time to that of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II that finally brought Japan to its knees in surrender. “Nature is giving us a Potsdam Declaration that demands the complete disarmament of our fossil-fuel industry and the unconditional surrender of our imperialistic economy,” I suggested. “And as with the ultimatum of that declaration over 70 years ago, we are being promised ‘prompt and utter destruction’ if we do not surrender.”

NOAA: GOES-16 Infrared of Category 5 Hurricane Irma. GOES-16 captured this infrared imagery of category 5 hurricane Irma bearing down on the Leeward Islands on September 5, 2017. Public domain. flickr.com
NOAA: GOES-16 Infrared of Category 5 Hurricane Irma.
GOES-16 captured this infrared imagery of category 5 hurricane Irma bearing down on the Leeward Islands on September 5, 2017. Public domain. flickr.com

What might this “Potsdam Declaration on Climate Change” look like?

Below I’ve listed some of the terms we might see Planet Earth imposing upon the United States, based on the terms that the Allied Forces imposed upon Imperial Japan in 1945. (To see excerpts from the original Potsdam Declaration, click here.)

NOTE:  THIS IS A THOUGHT EXPERIMENT.

ALSO NOTE:  These are not my demands on anyone. I’m not even a vegan yet, nor have I been able to personally meet most of these demands.  But, that’s not even the point, because these terms are not aimed at individuals.  The declaration is directed at an entire nation.  Also, these terms are not intended for any country other than the United States, of whom I am a citizen.

These terms are, of course, imperfect and incomplete.  But they use much of the original language of the Potsdam Declaration, while also being updated and reworked to describe that which may be necessary for the ceasing of Planet Earth’s climate hostilities against us:

(1) We, the Forces of Nature on Planet Earth, have conferred and agree that The United States of America shall be given an opportunity to end this war.

(2) The prodigious land, sea, and air forces of Planet Earth are poised to strike the final blows upon The United States of America. This power is sustained and inspired by the determination of all the forces of Nature to prosecute the war against the U.S. until she ceases to resist.

U.S. Soldiers with the Texas Army National Guard rescue Houston residents as floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey continue to rise, Aug. 28, 2017. U.S. Department of Defense. Public domain. flickr.com
U.S. Soldiers with the Texas Army National Guard rescue Houston residents as floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey continue to rise, Aug. 28, 2017. U.S. Department of Defense. Public domain. flickr.com

(3) The result of the futile and senseless human resistance to the might of the Forces of Nature of Planet Earth stands forth in awful clarity as an example to the people of the U.S. The might that now converges on the U.S. is immeasurably greater than that which, when applied to previous climate events, necessarily laid waste to the lands, the industry, and the method of life of whole communities of people. The full application of the power of our Forces of Nature backed by our resolve, will mean the inevitable and complete destruction of the U.S. economic and military forces and just as inevitably the utter devastation of the U.S. homeland.

(4) Following are our terms. We will not deviate from them. There are no alternatives.  We shall brook no delay:

  • There must be eliminated for all time the authority and influence of those who have deceived and misled the people of the United States into embarking on world conquest and an imperialistic fossil fuel economy, for we insist that a new order of peace, security, and justice will be impossible until irresponsible human hostilities are driven from the world.
  • The United States must immediately re-enter the agreement of the Paris Climate Accords agreed upon by the international community with the goal of holding global warming below 2 degrees Fahrenheit.
Climate March 21/09/14. Garry Knight. Public domain. flickr.com
Climate March 21/09/14. Garry Knight. Public domain. flickr.com
  • The United States must embark on immediate and rapid decarbonization of its economy and infrastructure.  This will include, but is not limited to:
    • The immediate elimination of all fossil fuel subsidies.
    • Cease and desist all drilling, fracking, and mining on public lands and waters, which contain at least half of all the untapped carbon left in America, while legislation is implemented to end the legality of fossil fuel extraction.
    • Halt and end plans for all new fossil fuel projects, pipelines, processing plants, and any related infrastructure.
    • All federal agencies must purchase all their power from green sources, while clean energy technologies are developed and rapidly brought to scale for all private homes and commercial businesses.
    • The president shall institute an immediate fee on carbon for all government agencies to follow internally, while Congress enacts legislation for the collection of carbon fees and the establishment of the Carbon Fee Trust Fund.
    • Congress shall enact an Equal Per-Person Monthly Dividend Payments plan from the collection of carbon fees to be paid to all American households each month. The total value of all monthly dividend payments shall represent 100% of the net carbon fees collected per month.

      Price the Polluters Rally - Price on pollution our kids are worth it. Australia, 2012. Photo credit: "Takver" on flickr.com. Some rights reserved.
      Price the Polluters Rally – Price on pollution our kids are worth it. Australia, 2012. Photo credit: “Takver” on flickr.com. Some rights reserved.
    • Clean energy research will be immediately increased on orders of magnitude.
    • The implementation of aggressive energy efficiency programs for all private homes, public buildings, and commercial businesses.
    • The development of completely carbon-free grids and simultaneous electrification of all transportation, heating, and industry.
    • Internal combustion cars will be replaced with electrified vehicles, while aircraft will be powered by carbon-neutral fuels such as hydrogen.
    • All new building construction must be largely carbon-neutral, by using emissions-free methods for steel and concrete or through other techniques.
    • The United States must follow the “carbon law” to halve CO2 emissions from energy and industry this decade and each decade following.
    • The immediate implementation of reforesting degraded land and creating as much carbon-capturing greenery across all available space as possible.
    • Technologies to remove carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere must be developed and scaled up immediately, until 5 gigatons of CO2 per year are pulled out of the atmosphere by 2050.
  • Recognizing that the meat industry accounts for a substantial impact on greenhouse gas emissions, not to mention untold suffering of both humans and animals, the United States must institute an immediate and rapid revolution of food production.  This will include, but is not limited to:
    • The immediate elimination of all meat and fishing industry subsidies.
    • Cease and desist all CAFO’s (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations), fish and seafood farms, and commercial fishing operations.
    • The immediate transition of animal agriculture to a vegetarian-based agriculture, with the goal of a largely vegan-based food system.
Meat packing house. Photo credit: Boston Public Library. Some rights reserved. flickr.com
Meat packing house. Photo credit: Boston Public Library. Some rights reserved. flickr.com

(5) Planet Earth does not intend that the United States shall be enslaved or destroyed as a nation, but stern justice shall be meted out to all climate-war criminals, including those who have visited cruelties upon those in island nations, underdeveloped countries, communities of color, and all communities that have suffered the effects of the fossil-fuel industry.

(6) In addition, Planet Earth’s Climate Declaration insists on the following:

  • The United States Government shall remove all obstacles to the transition to a clean energy economy while strengthening the democratic and fundamental human rights of all people.
  • The United States shall be permitted to maintain such industries as will sustain her economy and permit the exaction of just reparations in kind, but not those which would enable her to rearm for climate and planetary war. To this end, access to, as distinguished from control of, raw materials shall be permitted. Eventual U.S. participation in world trade relations shall be permitted.
  • The occupying forces of Climate Change shall be withdrawn from the United States as soon as these objectives have been accomplished and there has been established, in accordance with the freely expressed will of the American people, a peacefully inclined and responsible government.

(7) We, The Forces of Nature on Planet Earth, call upon the government of United States to proclaim now the unconditional surrender of all fossil-fuel and meat industry forces, and to provide proper and adequate assurances of their good faith in such action. The alternative for the United States is prompt and utter destruction.

If we want to save our country, we must surrender.

I’ll conclude, as I did in my previous article, that I expect to receive a fusillade of criticism for having the audacity to suggest something so “unpatriotic.”  But my love for this country is without question.  And I make the case that if we want to save this country, we must surrender to Planet Earth and the common guiding principles of the world’s religions calling us to our highest selves.

In other words, to save this country, we must surrender to a higher calling of humility, obedience to the dictates of God’s Creation, and radical focus on rebuilding a just and equitable society and economic infrastructure focusing on “the least of these” – those who have suffered under our oppressive reign.

Some may deem these terms to be unrealistic.

But what is truly unrealistic is any notion that we can continue on our current path, knowing the kind of climatic and environmental devastation happening all around us and into the future.

USS Missouri: the End of World War II in the Pacific: Japanese Surrender. September 2, 1945. Public domain. paukrus.flickr.com
USS Missouri: the End of World War II in the Pacific: Japanese Surrender. September 2, 1945. Public domain. paukrus.flickr.com

The Japanese learned that surrender can lead to survival and peace.  But the nation had to humble itself and return to the foundations of their ancient beliefs in order to heal and rebuild.

The terms of Planet Earth’s Potsdam Declaration on Climate Change must break our prideful arrogance, and will certainly require great sacrifice. But surrender and the acceptance of these terms will preserve our lives and our country. Survival and peace with Planet Earth are possible.  Continued war is not.


Leah D. Schade

Read also: We’ve Lost the Climate War. It’s Time to Surrender.

Leah D. Schade is the Assistant Professor of Preaching and Worship at Lexington Theological Seminary (Kentucky) and author of the book Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit (Chalice Press, 2015).

Twitter: @LeahSchade

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LeahDSchade/.


The information upon which the “Planet Earth Potsdam Declaration on Climate Change” is based is drawn from the following sources:

Excerpts from the original Potsdam Declaration:  http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/ps/japan/potsdam.pdf

Articles about what is needed to decarbonize:

“Scientists made a detailed “roadmap” for meeting the Paris climate goals. It’s eye-opening,” by Brad Plumer, Vox, March 27, 2017, accessed Sept. 9, 2017. https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2017/3/23/15028480/roadmap-paris-climate-goals

“A World at War,” by Bill McKibben, New Republic, August 15, 2016, https://newrepublic.com/article/135684/declare-war-climate-change-mobilize-wwii

Information about Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s Carbon Fee and Dividend Policy:

https://citizensclimatelobby.org/carbon-fee-and-dividend/

Note: A representative of CCL has informed me that this blog post runs counter with the organization’s value of optimism. (See: https://citizensclimatelobby.org/about-ccl/values/.)

Facts about the animal and fishing industry’s impact on climate change:

http://www.cowspiracy.com/facts

 

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • “If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and and heal their land.” 2 Chr. 7:14
    This was put to music in a song our Baptist Student Union Choir sang in the late 70’s (when many people began to see the signs of what would become a very relevant description of what makes for repentance. And if we are faithful in our prayer, we are moved to act as if our prayer is being answered.

  • Andrea Robinson

    I really love this article and your previous one. It’s especially encouraging to find so much of what I love about Christian teachings woven into the love of planet Earth and life here in this beautiful creation. Thanks so much! 🙂

    • Thank you, Andrea. I appreciate your taking the time to read them both and post a comment. It’s good to know there are folks out there who connect the dots between Christian teachings and care of God’s Creation!