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RPC Eco-Letter 03: IPCC, Ukraine, and Hope

Greetings

In this Eco-Letter, I’m going to cover some current events: a new report on climate and the war in Ukraine. I will end with some thoughts on hope.

IPCC report

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a report last week that basically says things are bad and we need to act now to avert the worst scenarios. According to the report, half the of the world’s population lives in “highly vulnerable” areas. These poorer countries are impacted the most despite the fact that the wealthier countries have caused the vast majority of emissions.

These quotes from The Guardian sum things up:

  • “Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future.” -Hans-Otto Pörtner, a co-chair of Working Group II for the IPCC.

  • “I have seen many scientific reports in my time, but nothing like this. Today’s IPCC report is an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership.” -António Guterres, UN Secretary General.

This report is another reminder of how crucial the next few years are in determining our future.

Bicycling and Heat Pumps for Ukraine

In 2005, when a group of us started The Recyclery, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were on our mind. We liked the bicycle as a form of transportation not reliant on wars to control oil and gas resources.

The war in Ukraine is not about controlling oil, but it is enabled by oil. In the Guardian, Bill McKibben writes that 60% of Russia’s “exports are oil and gas; they supply the money that powers the country’s military machine.” McKibben argues that transitioning to renewables now “dramatically reduces the power of autocrats, dictators, and thugs.” Some European leaders are calling for an accelerated switch to renewables. McKibben suggests that the U.S. could assist them by pushing our production of heat pumps. On Tuesday, Biden announced a ban on imports of Russian oil. Hopefully, that will result an increase in renewable energy, but it's not totally clear since many have called for increasing U.S. oil production and the administration is also reaching out to Saudi Arabia. Something we can all do is drive less, maybe one less day of the week, or at least find ways to use an electric vehicle. Biking, walking, and public transportation can all contribute to a world with less fossil-fuel wars.

Rebecca Solnit on Despair and Hope

Rebecca Solnit writes about hope in a way that I find really useful for thinking about climate and our future. It’s easy, when reading the news, to project a future of doom and disaster. On the other hand, talk about hope seems overly optimistic and out of touch with reality. Solnit offers more nuance: “Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act.” She accepts the reality of our situation, no matter how bleak it seems, but knows that history often moves in unpredictable ways.

Recently, she’s written about the war in Ukraine and how it suddenly changed everything. These kinds of unforeseen events reveal how little we know about what is to come.

We can often take a kind of comfort in predicting doom. Solnit writes, “Despair is a delusion of confidence that asserts it knows what’s coming, perhaps a tool of those who like to feel in control, even if just of the facts, when in reality, we can frame approximate parameters, but the surprises keep coming.” Thinking the world is predictable excuses us from an active hope.

Solnit writes from a secular perspective, but I think we could find parallels in a Christian worldview. God’s providence may provide some sense of peace, but Christian hope is not an easy optimism. When Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice, he was asking his audience to persevere in the struggle, not sit back and wait for everything to be fine. Faith requires a radical vision to see the kingdom of God breaking into the present, here and now. It requires wisdom in discerning the Spirit’s movement, an openness to surprise, and humility to know we cannot predict the future. Let’s fend off despair, distraction, or complacency. Pick a small action that you can do this spring. Maybe work in a garden, get out your bicycle, or see what birds you can spot in the neighborhood. And let’s keep talking and see what we can do together for a more liveable future.

(For more reflections on hope by Reba members and others, you could find a copy of Cynicism and Hope, a book based on a conference held at RPC in 2007.)

Recommendations

  • I appreciated listening to this interview with Norman Wirzba on Living the Rooted Life. After listening, I read his recent book This Sacred Life, which I highly recommend.

  • Libby Hill writes in the RoundTable on why we there is an “irruption” of redpolls.

  • A bunch of representatives from Mennonite organizations met together to discuss climate issues.

It’s almost spring and a bunch of things are happening locally!

  • Edible Evanston seed swap

  • EEA native plant sale

  • District 65 PTA native plant sale

  • Wild & Scenic Film Fest

  • Zoom meeting on habitat restoration in forest preserves or your yard.

  • Jan Schakowsky on federal environmental justice legislation

  • Advocate to protect soil and our drinking water from farm pollution.

The witch hazel outside our apartment window.

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