By Cat Pastoor ’21
Kyle Meyaard-Schaap, National Organizer and Spokesperson for Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, spoke at Gordon College on March 5, 2018 on climate change and hope.
“Hope is thin on the ground when we talk about climate change, climate impacts, the effect that climate change is having on the world and on people around the world,” he said.
However, “before we can talk about hope,” says Meyaard-Schaap, “we need to set the context. As Christians, in particular, we have a special duty, a responsibility to cultivate hope in our own lives and in the world around us. “ One of the first slides in Meyaard-Schaap’s presentation was a list of the effects of climate change, and they pile up.
“Glacier National probably won’t be able to be called ‘Glacier National Park’ for much longer, because they are all in retreat,” he says, referring to the melting of glaciers in Montana and elsewhere up north. In addition, the Antarctic ice sheet in the Southern Hemisphere is being broken up by rising temperatures, and arctic polar ice is decreasing.
Other climate change effects include rising sea levels, melting permafrost, heat waves and extensive droughts, dramatic change in precipitation, changing of species distribution, and physiological changes in species themselves.
Included in this list is food production impacts and rising food insecurity. “Climate change is very much about humans as well […] it is the greatest humanitarian and world challenge of our lives.”
The first kind of hope we can cultivate, according to Meyaard-Schaap, is a theological hope. We can draw a particular kind of hope from scripture. Starting in Genesis, “we see a God who loves to create […] and calls it good,” he said. “God is reveling in the non-human creation.”
In Genesis there is a deep connection between humans and the rest of creation. “The basic human vocation is the mirror, the nature of the loving creator God to creation […] and then to offer creation’s praise to the creator […] this is what it means to be an image bearer.”
In answer to the words “rule” and “dominion” found in Genesis, Meyaard-Schaap redirects to Gensis 2:15, where God places humankind in the garden so they might “avad and shamar” it, to serve and protect creation. Nature provides so much for us, and we are called to live in reciprocity with God’s creation.
The very existence of Jesus is “God [putting] his money where his mouth is.” It is proof that God cares about his creation and had no problem taking on flesh to show it. “I can’t think of a better affirmation of the creative world than this,” Meyaard-Schaap stated.
“God is in the business of using the stuff of creation to communicate his saving power.” This should give us some decent theological hope, and grounding to support our climate activism.
A second hope for climate change can be found in our government. “Washington isn’t as dysfunctional as you think,” Meyaard-Schaap says. He cites international progress as the most positive, as the last seven years have yielded “unprecedented momentum” for addressing climate issues.
The first, rather well-known example of this is the Paris Agreement of 2015, where all the nations of the world came forward to address climate change. The second is the Montreal Protocol, where a global agreement was reached to ban the production of chlorofluorocarbons, including the Kigali Amendment, meant to phase out the use of hydrofluorocarbons. This was thanks to the work of both business and government together.
Countries such as France, the United Kingdom, and China have committed to steps to phase out diesel engine cars. France is projected to succeed in this by 2040, moving the whole nation to electric.
There is also increasing support within the United States. The science of climate change is steadily becoming more accepted. There are also specific climate related policies in the works. “70 percent of Americans accept the climate consensus,” says Meyaard-Schaap.
There are is also progress being made on the Federal stage as well. There exists a “Republican Climate Resolution” within the House of Representatives. It states that the writers, as conservatives, acknowledge climate change and that they have a responsibility to do something about it. The “Bipartisan House Climate Solution Caucus” also exists. No congress member of a particular party may enter the caucus without also joining with a member of the other party.
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And then finally we can find hope on the ground through local communities at the grassroots level. Running the Young Evangelicals For Climate Action gives Meyaard-Schaap the energy he needs to do his work.
“We see it in the citizen action happening in lobby visits around the country, in the Citizens’ Climate Lobby,” he said. ”Thousands, maybe millions of normal, average people who have committed to building relationships with their representatives, holding meetings with them a couple times a year.”
The YECA participated in the People’s Climate March on Washington DC. Young people provide much of the impetus for grass roots movements on climate action and initiative. “It’s giving me a ton of hope.”