Sightings From the Treehouse: The Eleventh Commandment: Thou Shall Not Destroy Creation

Sightings from the Treehouse is an investigative blog series on climate change and the environment, from GIPL’s Power Wise Director, Bob Donaghue. You can read all the posts from the blog series here

The destruction of Creation, as we know it, is the moral issue of all time. This growing
ecological and human catastrophe exists for power and greed by the few who continue to foster
a consumption-based economy dependent on fossil fuels. They knew about this evolving
disaster almost 50 years ago, but chose deception instead of truth. They sustain their control
with political contributions, obstruction and misinformation campaigns. The public does not get
off the hook either, since they have a huge responsibility to be informed voters and consumers
driving government and business to innovate. Not to let them drive decision-making and
reinforce unsustainable habits. We all share some blame.
Unfortunately, there is too much inertia today, we should be fully mobilizing to face this global
war. What does that mean? It means industries converting to zero waste processes powered
by renewable energy, cities and states requiring sustainable land use and building practices,
and the public motivated to living sustainably and willing to sacrifice for the less fortunate and
future generations. Think of the mobilization and sacrifice we had just 75 years ago to
save the world from Germany and Japan. Doesn’t saving Creation merit an equivalent response?
Not discounting actions from today’s sustainability efforts, but a comprehensive strategy will
likely happen on climate change and Creation care when the younger generations, who will fully
face this angry planet, are wholly integrated into politics, business and our houses of worship.
Their leadership will be much more focused on and committed to the crisis at hand than today’s
divided leadership. Many of these talented youths are poised to move into these global
positions soon.
Building the foundation for stewardship of Creation starts with the young. Teaching them to love
and explore Creation in their childhood will leave an imprint on their soul. Reinforcement
through better science education throughout their school years and more, balanced stories in
the media are also needed. Tomorrow’s leaders need to have a grip on reality to build
resolve, resilience and hope.
Today’s religious leaders should review their faith’s public commitments about climate change
and its impact on Creation, and then prepare education programs and services that help the
young and others better understand the moral issue at hand. Just think, where else do
business leaders, politicians, scientists, teachers, soccer moms, and children gather to learn about sin and morality? Preach the 11th Commandment.
All faiths have their Creation and stewardship stories. Pope Francis stepped into the fray with
both feet last year with the publication of his climate change encyclical, Laudato Si. The
encyclical details man’s abuse of nature and unending greed.

Different faiths also have climate change statements showing deep concern for Creation and offer ideas for the future. Although the words are on paper, not much is being done at the congregation level. Faith leaders have not developed clear direction on climate change and Creation care, nor have they prepared new liturgy, songs and stories for use in classrooms and sermons. A new generation of clergy, schooled in ecological theology and sustaining Creation is needed to lead congregations with new blood and ideas appropriate for a world in ecological crisis.
Both current and future clergy must speak with moral clarity about sin and the destruction of life
in all its forms, and how to live sustainably within Creation. Thomas Berry often said that we
need to tell a new story; one in which the human world is meshed with the nonhuman world and
the universe.
The transformation to a Creation care posture needs to happen quickly, not at the snail’s pace
of today. There are strong negative forces at play to continue business as usual, which
need to be negated by the faith community, the media, our schools, business and the
voters to sustain Creation. It is urgent that society have moral clarity on climate change, and
aggressively adopt the many available technologies, behaviors and other actions needed to
reduce carbon emissions and begin the drawdown of carbon in the atmosphere. That would
give us a fighting chance.

A To-Do List for Clergy

  • Become informed about the science of climate change
  • Challenge anti-science propaganda
  • Read and internalize your faith’s current climate change declarations
  • Review your holy books for moral guideposts about Creation care
  • Obtain or prepare new relevant liturgy, stories, and music about the Creation story
  • Establish a green team to reduce the facility’s carbon footprint and build Creation care programs
  • Encourage the congregation members to apply the stewardship lessons learned,
  • Participate with your Interfaith Power and Light state affiliate and other Creation care organizations
  • Promote information sharing among clergy and their congregations
  • Be a public advocate for Creation care
  • Preach the 11th Commandment – tell a new story.