I have been almost speechless (though not quite surprised) since the announcement by President Trump to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. The standard questions swirl: How should an ordinary citizen in the middle of America respond to this proclamation? How should a farmer who notices the effects of climate change react? What does a Christian response entail?
As usual, the responses shouldn’t be as mono-cultured as our bi-partisan society, the lonely caverns of our minds, or the President’s rhetoric might make it seem. So, I am wondering if the Christian Food Network could be an initial repository of Christian responses to the Paris Climate Agreement. Maybe, here, we could gather a polyculture of reasoned responses as a taste of productive discourse about the relationship between climate, food, and faith.
My response: “What Can I Say Except…Thank You.”
I want to thank President Trump for pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement. Sure, I almost gag as I type those words, but there is a little thread of truth in them.
For some strange reason, this speech shattered my last vestige of hope that the United States government can be the final solution to a major problem. Sure, it can still play a role, but I now realize something that every good high school civics student should be able to articulate: a government is only as good as its people.
And, in case we should fail to remember, the environmental and soil health movement is largely farmer and consumer driven (Thanks for the reminder, Eric Fuchs!). Maybe, the world is in better hands than we may think – ours.
The world is in the hands of mothers and fathers, businessmen and unemployed, educated and illiterate. Maybe, now that President Trump has washed his hands of the environment and justified it with economic prosperity, we can learn to wash the feet of our neighbor and our world.
As the United States government questions truth, the world is in the hands of Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Athiests, and every other creed on the planet. Speaking as a Christian, maybe we can draw upon our ancient faith tradition as told in scripture to provide an alternate narrative.
We can draw upon the prophetic tradition of the Hebrew Bible to remind those in power not to create idols (usually connected with economic prosperity gained at the expense of the less fortunate) to protect the livelihood of the poorest and most powerless human beings on the planet.
We can draw upon theologians like Miroslov Volf and remind the world that it matters as much what we do as what we believe.
We can recast the American dream along with spiritual guides like Sallie McFague and remind the world that economic growth is not the only indicator of a blessed life.
We can remind the world, along with N.T. Wright, that our eventual hope is the restoration of the world, not escape from it, so we should join in that restoration work now.
We can provide the world with an alternative to the “Us or Them” mentality with the words of Jesus – “No man has greater love than that he lays down his life for his friends”. Or, as the musician Gungor has penned – “if it’s us or them, it’s us for them.”
Perhaps most importantly for this forum, as the President claims that almost no good would come from this initiative, the world is in the hands of those who work the ground.
I, as a farmer, can choose to innocuously exit the Paris Agreement. I can choose tillage practices that emit carbon into the atmosphere, use fertilization systems that require more and more petroleum based inputs, ship my products to more distant markets at the undervalued expense of fossil fuels, and allow my soil and nutrients to pollute the water.
Or, I can choose to stay in. I can sequester carbon by covering the ground with living roots and replace petroleum inputs with biological activity while preventing the loss of soil and the pollution of rivers and streams. I can plant more ecologically responsible and economically rewarding perennial crops. The possibilities are only limited by my lack of creativity.
As we are all reminded in the “Laudato Si (Care for Our Common Home)” encyclical by Pope Francis, each of us are faced with our own decisions to work with the soil.
Maybe the world is in good hands after all – ours.
Editor’s note: Further responses to the announcement from President Trump that the United States intends to exit the Paris Agreement are welcome. Please use this link for instructions on how to send them.