This reflection was written for a service based on the book The Cloud Spinner.
The boy tells the Princess in our story that there is still time.
In the face of the threat of catastrophic climate change, there is still time, but only barely. Only if we act, decisively, ambitiously, and right now.
Swedish environmental activist and high school student Greta Thunberg told the World Economic Forum:
Adults keep saying we owe it to the young people, to give them hope, but I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house is on fire, because it is.
In speaking about what it will take to address climate change, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes says:
The only way we are going to get out of this situation is by choosing to be courageous. That’s the only way we’re going to get out of this.
We can use the transition to 100% renewable energy as the vehicle to truly deliver and establish economic, social, and racial justice in the United States of America. That is our proposal. And that is what we are here to do.
When we think about where we were when the New Deal was established, we were a nation in depression, in great depression. We were a nation on the brink of war. We saw the rise of fascism creeping across Europe. No one would have thought that a nation so poor and in such dire straits as we were at that time could pursue such a bold economic agenda. But we chose to do it anyway. We had the courage to do it anyway. And that is what this moment demands of us right now. That’s what we have to do.
This is going to be the Great Society, the moonshot, the civil rights movement of our generation. That is the scale. That is the scale of the ambition that this movement is going to require.
Connection to UU Principles
The struggle to prevent and mitigate the effects of climate change is connected to every one of our Principles as Unitarian Universalists.
We covenant to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Climate change threatens the wellbeing of every single person on the planet. Our affirmation of the inherent worth and dignity of every person thus calls us to respond to this universal threat.
We covenant to affirm and promote justice, equity, and compassion in human relations. We know that the effects of climate change, though they will touch everyone, are being most profoundly felt by those who are already vulnerable, and that the disparities in who is hardest hit will only grow as the crisis deepens. A commitment to justice, equity, and compassion thus demands both that we prevent and mitigate as much harm as possible, and that we work to ensure that the burdens that come with climate change are born by those most equipped to handle them rather than those least able to do so.
We covenant to affirm and promote acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth. For a great many Unitarian Universalists, nature is our most important spiritual teacher. When asked about spiritual practice and spiritual renewal, Unitarian Universalists who have very different theologies often find common ground in the importance of time in the natural world as a source of spiritual support and deepening. What threatens the natural world thus threatens the very place many of us go for spiritual growth. Encouragement to spiritual growth means fighting for the living planet which supports our spirits as well as our bodies.
We covenant to affirm and promote a free and responsible search for truth and meaning. Central to the question of climate change politically is the issue of a responsible search for truth. So much of the fuel for the opposition to serious efforts to overcome climate change relies upon falsehood and misdirection, upon an unwillingness to accept inconvenient truths. As a people committed to a search for truth that, though free, is also responsible, we must insist that in this case, public policy be guided by established scientific truth.
We covenant to affirm and promote the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process. I believe most of us feel called to act on climate change as a matter of personal conscience. I know I do. And though this fact is often obscured by the way we talk about these issues in the public square, action on climate change has lots of popular support. An INSIDER poll in February found that more than 85% of those polled believed it was important for the US to meet 100% of its power demands through zero-emissions energy sources, and that the federal government enact policies designed to achieve net-zero greenhouse emissions.
We covenant to affirm and promote world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all. As Americans in the global community, we are outsized contributors to the causes of climate change, but at the moment, we are lagging in our contributions to the solutions to climate change. The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all, requires that we address climate change, and we need to start doing our part in that work.
And finally, we covenant to affirm and promote respect for the interdependent web of all existence, of which we are a part. Climate change threatens the whole web of life on earth, and our place in it. We need to come home to our place of interdependence and balance with the web of all existence, and act now to protect it.
When she was perhaps in a more hopeful place herself, Greta Thunberg had this to say about hope and action:
Yes, we do need hope. Of course we do. But the one thing we need more than hope is action. We’ve had thirty years of pep-talking and selling positive ideas. So instead of looking for hope. Look for action. Once we start to act, hope is everywhere.
Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortes tells us that we can only get out of this situation by choosing to be courageous. By having the courage and the audacity of the Great Society, the race to the moon, the Civil Rights Movement. That is the scale. That is the scale of the ambition this is going to require.
So, do we have that kind of ambition? Do we have that level of courage? Are we ready to act?