Faith and Climate

Islanders working on common ground to respond to climate change.


This is the first in a series of guest columns from various writers from a broad spectrum of faith traditions, and those with no tradition. The “Faith and Climate” column will run once a month, leading up to Climate Action Week in May.  –Ed.

Here on Martha’s Vineyard, like Islanders around the world, we are on the frontlines when it comes to sea level rise and vulnerability to hurricanes and other extreme weather. As part of the preparations for Climate Action Week (May 8-14) hosted by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, representatives of a number of Island faith communities have been meeting on common ground. A shared love for the Island that sustains us has given us all reasons to be climate activists, and to cooperate to defend our future.

Within ecosystems, increased diversity brings additional resilience and adaptability. We hope that by working together as people of many traditions and no traditions, from all walks of life, and with widely varying beliefs, we too will muster the resilience and adaptability we need to deal with the climate crisis. We wish to be valuable and useful citizens of the natural world rather than arrogant agents of extinction.

We asked some Island residents if and how their faith informed their views on climate, and we’ll be featuring some more in-depth conversations on the subject in a series of upcoming columns. Here are a few brief responses:

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” rings out from my early Sunday School years. As my faith and appreciation of God’s magnificent creations has grown, so has my understanding of “others” to include not just fellow playmates but everything other than me that God has created. The skies, oceans, trees, birds, sands — all creations — are my treasured “playmates,” worthy of having good things done unto them.  –United Church of Christ, believer in love

The word “matrix” derives from the Latin mater, meaning both mother and fertile woman, and is translated in late Middle English as womb. The planetary matrix came into being about a billion years before life originated. Life then emerged from within it, using some of its materials, and flourished in the wondrous habitats that it provided — the oceans, skies, lands, and inland waterways. Reverence for life, and hence human life, entails taking our matrix to heart.  –Religious naturalist

One idea in Jewish thought is that all of creation is like a linked chain, in which everything is intrinsically connected to everything else, and our own human DNA double helix replicates this creational chain. So caring for myself means caring for the planet, when I recognize that there is no separation between myself and the rest of creation.  –Jewish

Nature has always been a source of wisdom and faith for me. With all the beauty of the world around us, I am presented daily with a spiritual connection, a feeling of the holiness of this world. The complexities of our interrelationships with each other, and the “simple” things like plants, fungi, and the soil hold infinite lessons and wonder. World climate change represents to me a call for humankind to assume responsibility and stewardship to care for our spiritual health.  –First Congregational Church Of West Tisbury congregant

Vodou promotes the idea that there is an all-powerful energy of love and goodness containing all things and contained within all things. Within that model, Vodouisants acknowledge infinite specific types of energy that are associated with life on earth: wind, water, the fertility of the soil, the sun, and more. It also places a high value on balance. Like the philosophy behind yin and yang, Vodou recognizes that there is light and darkness; positive and negative; birth and death. Climate change indicates that the balance of our relationship to the planet is off. Coordinated, aggressive, widespread human action is required if we are to regain harmony.  –Vodouisant

We pray every week for the just and proper use of Your creation.  –Grace Church parishioner

We believe that climate change is an urgent issue — which is spiritual, moral, and ethical, as well as economic and social. The sentiments expressed by Pope Francis in his encyclical on the environment “Laudato Si” resonate with us. We commit to work individually and with others to do what we can to be stewards of the great gift of our natural environment.  –M.V. Quaker Meeting

In the story of creation, Genesis says that God gives humans “dominion” over all creatures on earth. We need to exercise that “dominion” not as the right to do whatever we want to other creatures, but rather as the responsibility to care for all those creatures — a Christ-like form of kingship which entails caring instead of exercising power.   –Grace Church parishioner

Let us each do what we can, individually and collectively, so our children and grandchildren can experience the transcendent awe and wonder of this beautiful planet.  –Unitarian Universalist, atheist

These brief statements of faith informing response to climate change represent different traditions, working together and with others on the Vineyard to develop a unified and united response to an issue that affects all of us. The next columns will feature fuller conversations about faith, spirituality, and climate change, and we look forward to sharing them with you.