Creative Team Building and Leadership Resources - In our Elements

Changing the Climate

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

Fellow Passengers: This week’s Prophetic Passage* (Isaiah 24:4-6) transports me to the streets of Washington, DC, specifically 1600 Pennsylvania, where thousands of people are gathering and hundreds participating in civil disobedience over the next two weeks to protest the creation of a pipeline that would bring oil from the Tar Sands of Alberta, Canada, down to Oklahoma and Texas refineries. Two good friends of mine are participating in the protest; maybe they’ll see Daryl Hannah in jail. She got arrested this week (although I think the Park Service folks are employing a catch and release protocol for the offenders, without jail time). The main cause of concern for some is the potential for immediate environmental devastation from a spill, as the pipeline would travel through the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world’s largest sources of fresh water. For others, including NASA’s acclaimed climate scientist James Hansen, who also got arrested in the protest, the larger concern is over the fate of the earth, namely, global warming and our nation’s seeming inability to wean ourselves from the addiction to fossil fuels. He said that if the environmental movement is not able to convince this President, who campaigned on green energy policy, to stop the pipeline, it’s a game over proposition for the movement. While more and more Americans are believing talk show hype that says global warming is a hoax, the climate scientists are in pretty much full agreement on the danger. A George Mason University survey found that 97% of climate scientists–the folks who actually study the data–agree that global warming is real, and 84% agree that human activity is largely responsible. Of course you can find scientists who disagree: the survey also showed that only 47% of petroleum geologists believe that human activity contributes to climate change. Surprise, surprise. Who’s paying their salaries?

From what I read in today’s passage, I think it’s a safe bet that we could add Isaiah to the 97% crowd; he sounds a lot like James Hansen in the warning shots he’s firing off at his nation. You’d probably find him right there with Daryl Hannah and my buddies, waiting to get arrested and processed. Listen to him: The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers; the heavens languish together with the earth. The earth lies polluted under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. That everlasting covenant included stewardship of the earth, which is the Lord’s. It started way back in the creation story, where God created the earth and the waters and the skies for life to teem and resound, and gave humanity responsibility to till and care for that earth. The covenant continued on in the Levitical command for Jubilee, when the earth could rest and recover from its production. And here the prophet says that because the people have violated the covenant, the earth and the heavens will languish and wither. Sounds like climate change. And there’s no doubt in the prophet’s mind that it’s caused by human activity. The earth lies polluted because the people have transgressed. Therefore, Isaiah cries out, a curse devours the earth, and the inhabitants will suffer. The population will dwindle until few people are left.

I’m sure there were people in Isaiah’s time who tried to discredit him, to say that his warnings were overblown, to point to other scriptures that promised a different outlook for the world’s future. When I read his words, though, I wonder how he could have foreseen so clearly the world we inhabit. I’m glad my two friends are hearkening to his call and are willing to put themselves on the line in hopes that the game is not over. One of my friends was explaining to his daughters what he was going to do, and the youngest one, a fourth grader, said, Daddy, I want to get arrested. He asked why, and she said, This is going to affect me more than it will youI should be the one to go. I can just hear Isaiah’s game-changing words now. And a little child shall lead them.


How about you? Where does this Prophetic Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment.



  • September 2, 2011 at 6:24 am

    I cried when I read the fourth grader’s comment. My son, in 7th grade, has been educating me about the proposed pipeline and its potentially devastating consequences. Thank you for such a clear explanation of what the protests and the proposed pipeline are all about.

    Comment by Doris Bailey Spencer

  • September 2, 2011 at 8:14 am

    Thanks for sharing that, Doris. I can’t believe you have a 7th grade son! I suspect that the young folks will definitely have to lead the way on many of the issues plaguing us today.

    Comment by Stan

  • September 7, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    Reminds me of another Isaian lament: “The envoys of peace weep bitterly. . . . The land mourns. . . . “Now I will arise,” says the Lord. 33:7-10

    Comment by Ken Sehested

  • September 8, 2011 at 9:04 am

    Thanks for that word, Ken. Isaiah sounds more and more like he’s been reading our mail.

    Comment by admin

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