There is a future I want for my children – and for all children – and for the children of all children. It is a future of abundance, diversity, beauty, health, equity and peace. The potential for that future is still real, but it is threatened. Global climate change is one of the greatest threats to realizing that future, and it is up to those of us living and making decisions now to curb that threat and steer a new course for the future. Here’s the story of why I work with NCIPL, seeking to mobilize the faith community to be the leaders charting this new course.
Over 30 years ago, I started my career as a pediatrician because I love children and wanted to help them grow up healthy and strong, and to reach their full potential as happy, fulfilled adults. I concentrated on wellness and prevention and found my niche in university student health. Then one day in 1990, after a particularly wonderful experience being told by a patient that she had completely abandoned all her self-destructive behaviors in favor of healthy ones because of the care and advice I had given her, I had an “ah ha” moment that changed my life. I suddenly realized that her healthy lifestyle choices could only work if there was a healthy environment supporting them. We all need clean air, clean water, wholesome food and the ecosystems that produce them in order for our personal choices to bear healthy results.
So, I decided to do something about my “ah ha” and went back to grad school to learn about the public health implications of environmental degradation. The idea was that it would be obvious to everyone that healthy bodies and healthy environments were inextricably interdependent.
Unfortunately, the “health message” for why we should care about restoring environmental balance was not strong enough either alone or in combination with the “economic”, the “ecologic”, or the “equity” messages to change the trajectory of most environmental harms, chief among them global climate change. The forces causing climate change are powerful and the fact that the globe is still unequivocally and increasingly warming is proof that these standard approaches are ineffective. I became despondent as I continued working with less hope and more fear year after year.
Then came another “ah ha” experience. In 1999, I helped put together a Lenten series at my church on environmental theology. With one of our pastors and a fellow environmentalist, we reframed our message within the context of our faith, and I found a new freedom and a new power that was completely unexpected. Instead of developing scientific, logical, fact based arguments for working to restore creation, we found the scriptural instruction in our sacred texts and familiar traditions to do so. Honoring and caring for creation in all forms is what we are told to do by our Creator. It’s just the right thing to do. We don’t need to look farther than our faith to know that we as a species are off track and need to change. Even better, all faith traditions share this same theme.
So what could be more natural than for a medical doctor with and environmental sciences and engineering degree to start working with NCIPL? Recognizing that the real power to change comes not from the head with facts and figures but from the heart with awe and love, I took the opportunity to work first as staff and now as a volunteer with the only organization in the state with the explicit mission to work on positive responses to the climate crisis as a matter of spiritual practice and faithful action. I believe that the work of NCIPL is the work I need to be doing to help realize my hope for all children’s futures. I hope you will join me in that work by giving of your time, your talents and your treasures. A great time to start is now with a donation to this matching grant challenge. Every dollar helps us grow our reach and strengthen our effectiveness. Please give generously.
NCIPL Senior Advisor