Climate Justice

God’s Tree-mendous Creation

If you were at the worship service on April 24 or watched it online, you heard Pastor Jane’s excellent Tree Sabbath message about the significance of trees in scripture and the references to “trees of life” in both Genesis and Revelations.  Saint Paul UMC and 27 other Lincoln churches are each engaging in special activities to honor this year’s 150th anniversary of Arbor Day.  As announced in the worship service on the 24th, the project our church has launched is called “God’s Tree-mendous Creation” and its purpose is to plant as many trees as we can during 2022.  Planting trees is one of the ways to combat climate change as trees absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. We as Christians need to recognize the inequitable impact of climate change.  A hotter climate is a threat to food supplies and health and when facing food and health challenges, persons with fewer resources fare much worse.  Mitigating for climate change is indeed an issue of justice.

To be part of this important project, please complete one of the special donation sheets that will be at the back of the sanctuary through the spring and summer and choose how you wish to participate. You can contribute toward the purchase of one or more trees.  $200 will buy one good size tree and will also provide for professional planting of that tree.  Or you can make your contribution go further by agreeing to do the planting of one or more trees yourself.  Either way, you can make your monetary donation by check indicating it is for the tree project or by clicking here.  Also, you could adopt a tree that has been planted because of this project.  Adopting a tree means taking care of it, including watering until it can fend for itself.  Finally, you can volunteer to assist in the siting of trees in those less advantaged areas of our city where additional trees my be the most needed.  If interested in doing that contact a member of the Climate Justice team. 

Additional Climate Justice Opportunities

The 2022 session of the Nebraska Legislature was completed on April 20.  Most of the legislation relating to climate change that was previously identified here failed to pass, but two bills, one of which was listed here, LB925, did pass and was signed by the governor.  One other bill, LB1014, became of interest late in the session.  LB925 and the relevant portion of LB1014 are summarized below:              

LB925: Healthy Soils Bill—This bill adopted the “Resilient Soils and Water Quality Act.”  That act recognizes that over time, Nebraska’s agricultural soils have been degraded and that some groundwater supplies have become contaminated with nitrates.  In short, the act provides for a grassroots approach to convince farmers that it is in their interests to use best practices to improve the health of their soils.  While the words “climate change” are not found in the act it is well documented that farming practices that improve soil quality also result in greater sequestration of carbon.  The Department of Natural Resources will serve in an administrative role and will hire a “facilitator” to lead the effort including the organization of a “producer learning community.”  The Department will also need to submit annual reports by December 31 of each year of the project.  The act indicates that the intent of the legislature is to appropriate $250,000 for each project year through FY2026-2027. 

LB1014: Appropriation for Update of Climate Change Report—LB 1014 is an act that appropriates funds for several state purposes.  Section 40 of that act appropriates $150,000 of federal funds to the University of Nebraska to update the Assessing Climate Change report that was released by the University in 2014.  Instead of authorizing the University to do the update itself, the bill requires it to “contract with a third-party, science-based organization to develop an independent report that identifies and recommends specific prescriptive measures to be taken by the State of Nebraska relating to the updated Assessing Climate Change report. Such prescriptive measures shall include (1) a conservation and management plan under section 320 of the federal Clean Water Act and (2) plans for green infrastructure investments and projects to improve resilience to climate change.”  The updated report is to be completed by 12-1-2024.

  1. Decoding the Weather Machine – A documentary outlining what is happening scientifically to our planet because of the addition of greenhouse gases to our atmosphere and what options exist for reducing the increases in global warming.
  2. SojoAction Christians and Climate Q&A – This resource aims to demystify the topic of climate change and clarify the call to take action for climate justice. Designed for Christians of all backgrounds, it addresses the most common questions and concerns we hear about the climate crisis and provides clear steps for action.
  3. “Earthrise” by Amanda Gorman – A poem recited by National Youth Poet Laureate.
  4. Watch the Recent PBS Video “Earth Emergency”
    “Earth Emergency” is a recent PBS production that describes how the effects of global warming are themselves leading to more global warming and climate change.  In other words, it demonstrates how changes such as the warming of the oceans, by itself, leads to more global warming and how the thawing of artic tundra releases more carbon into the atmosphere.  It is a sobering reminder of the challenge we face globally in our effort to combat climate change. The video is no longer available for viewing on that website but it can be purchased there for $24.99.
  5. Climate Change Books
    The following are recommended as sources of information that will further explain climate change and its impacts:
    1. Bill Gates book “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster” not only describes the nature and extent of the climate challenge ahead of us, but also the technological obstacles that must be overcome to meet those challenges.
    2. “The Future We Choose” by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac describes what we can expect in the future (2050) if we alternatively do or do not do anything to stop emitting greenhouse gases.  
    3. A short 112 page book that includes speeches by Greta Thunberg, the remarkable Swedish teenager who has gained worldwide acclaim for her advocacy for climate change action is titled “No One is Too Small to Make a Difference.”
    4. A slightly different twist on the environmental challenges ahead can be found in Doug Tallamy’s book “Nature’s Best Hope, A New Approach to Conservation that Starts in Your Backyard.”  In that book the author explains how important insects and plants, especially the native plants that support the insects, are essential to the continued existence of our ecosystems.
    5. Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, an internationally recognized climate scientist, is the author of a book entitled “Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World.”  In that book Dr. Hayhoe explains how we can more easily start and have conversations with others about climate change.
  6. On February 28, 2022 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a new report about climate change.  It indicates that the climate breakdown may soon outpace humanity’s ability to adapt to it.  Co-authored by 270 researchers from 67 countries, a brief description of the report can be found at: https://www.conservation.org/blog/ipcc-report-climate-change-could-soon-outpace-humanitys-ability-to-adapt and the full report is available at: https://www.ipcc.ch/assessment-report/ar6/
  7. It is time to highlight some of the energy and resource conservation measures that are on the new 2022 Carbon Reduction Calendar.  The following are among those recommended for this spring and summer:
    1. As you move outside to grill this summer, don’t forget to eat from sustainable seafood sources. Information about those sources and how choosing such seafood can lower your carbon footprint can be found at: https://www.seafoodwatch.org/recommendations/download-consumer-guides.  And here’s a website on grilling those locally grown vegetables, as well: https://www.allrecipes.com/search/results/?search=grilled+vegetables
    2. Visit the website https://drawdown.org/about to learn more about what it will take to get the level of greenhouse gases to start to decline.
    3. Obtain a copy of the Green Bible and study a portion of it while reflecting on the beauty of God’s creation in the cool shade of a tree.

7. For information on the sources and proportions of greenhouses gases in our atmosphere, take a look at: https://www.epa.gov/ghemissions/overview-greenhouse-gases

8. To calculate your own carbon footprint and see which of your activities are causing the most emissions, do the fun activity found at: https://www3.epa.gov/carbon-footprint-calculator

9. To learn about emissions globally, by type of gas being emitted, by economic sector and by country, see: https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/global-greenhouse-gas-emissions-data

10. Arguments are still being made about whether electric vehicles result in fewer greenhouse gas emissions when their manufacture and disposal are also considered.  For an excellent article about how much lower emissions are with an EV, read: https://arstechnica.com/cars/2021/07/electric-cars-have-much-lower-life-cycle-emissions-new-study-confirms/

11. A blog about plastic bags and the damage they cause can be seen at: https://blog.padi.com/2017/03/27/7-facts-plastic-bags-will-change-way-use/

12. An article about divestment in fossil fuels in the New Yorker magazine can be found at: https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/the-powerful-new-financial-argument-for-fossil-fuel-divestment

13. Composting of food waste and other organic materials is another way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  The City of Lincoln’s website has several items of interest about composting including how to do it ourselves and what is available commercially in that regard.  It can be easily accessed by going to: https://www.lincoln.ne.gov/home and by searching for “compost.”  The UNL Extension Service also has made a lot of helpful information about composting available at: https://extension.unl.edu and by searching for “compost” there as well.

Saint Paul Justice & Mercy Team FAQ

  • Presence at the state capital for justice gatherings on topics such as immigration and racial injustice
  • Representation on community partnership boards working for justice
  • Speakers, classes and forums to educate on justice issues
  • Preaching justice
  • SP supports (financially and through participation) the Interfaith Peacemaking Coalition yearly workshop.
  • We have placed yard signs in member’s homes which address justice issues to let community know we are sharing God’s Love for all in acts of justice.

We have gained new members through our efforts at justice as people have seen our witness with PRIDE festival and our rainbow banners outside the church.  Each have told stories of their previous exile from churches due to homophobic or shame-based theology.  They have found new life and new connection to God through the welcoming of Saint Paul UMC.

  • Saint Paul has undergone a new visioning process with the guidance of the Unstuck Church Group.  One of the areas of our focus for growth is in Mercy and Justice.  We have formed a strategic planning team which will be leading the congregation into greater justice-centered mission practices.
  • We will begin with a foundation of deepening our own understanding of lovingkindness. All justice work must be grounded in love (open hearts).
  • Next we will educate ourselves and the congregation around justice and the biblical mandate (open minds).
  • Finally, we will go forward into the world beyond our doors to do acts of justice (open doors).

Our strategic planning team has identified three areas for our focus:  racial justice, ecological justice, and health care.  Each of these areas will be resourced and ministry teams will be formed to engage the congregation in love, education and action. We will schedule our efforts strategically by launching one at a time and building support before adding the next.