Accepting the Reality of Climate Change

A faith-based response to the reality of climate change.

| November/December 2013

  • Could churches, synagogues, and mosques help us work through our grief so we can embrace the radical changes that must be made?
    Photo By Fotolia/chones

Why is it so hard for people to respond effectively to the reality of climate change?

Changing people’s minds—with facts, tables, and predictions—has proven extremely difficult. Even showing people the miraculous beauty of the planet alongside the predicted losses is not working. Guilt, anxiety, and anger can be motivating forces, but they have debilitating side effects: They are all soul-destroying.

So I wonder about our hearts. Have we ignored our emotional and spiritual connections to the planet? Could the noise swirling around climate change—science, politics, media blitzes, as well as the weather disasters themselves—drown out the voice of a loss so profound that it rests unnamed in our souls? Could our breaking hearts be part of the reason we are immobilized?

In the 1960s, Rachel Carson’s image of a “silent spring” due to the proliferation of pesticides was as heartrending as it was controversial. Carson was ridiculed, her predictions dismissed. The corporate world paid millions to have her silenced. But eventually the love of bird songs won out. People read Carson’s book, grieved at the prospect of a silent spring, spoke up, and insisted the chemical-company-supported politicians ban DDT.

Today, the iconic images surrounding climate change are different: the human mother watching her child slowly die from malnutrition, the majestic polar bear mother with her cub on a shrinking ice flow, or the head of state of a small island nation pleading with delegates at yet another international conference to save his homeland from disappearing under the rising ocean waves.

These things are happening right now and, sadly, most often to those innocent of the causes.

10/28/2013 10:16:13 AM

Thanks for your insight and courage, Katharine. For stories and poems that show individual people struggling with just these issues (though not necessarily from a faith-based perspective), you may be interested in the new anthology _Facing the Change: Personal Encounters with Global Warming_, just released by Torrey House Press ( From the Introduction to the anthology: "Unlike most things that you’ve probably read about climate change, this book is filled not with science and politics but with stories and poetry. The writings collected here are not intended to convey new facts, to prove any particular theory, or to make predictions, though you may find any or all of these in them. Rather, they convey something more amorphous, individual, and emotional, even spiritual: what it feels like — for these authors, at least — to be living in a world in which the climate seems to be changing as a result of human action, and what those changes and those feelings mean for us, for our understanding of our place in the world, for our perceptions of ourselves as ethical beings, for our hopes and fears for the future." Peace, Steve Steven Pavlos Holmes, Ph.D. Editor, Facing the Change

10/23/2013 9:50:19 AM

It's a real eye opener and shows that the real problem is apathy and refusal to accept responsibility. This further shows the human failings of selfishness, greed, laziness, and apathy, which is dooming us to a fate we refuse to acknowledge. Nature, or God, or whatever you believe in, will indeed solve the problem if we don't and it won't be pretty. I believe it will most likely be either an incurable disease or self-destruction through a human mistake. If we don't solve the problem, someone else will--FOR SURE!

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