As Advent invites us to prepare for the arrival of Christ, it challenges us to care for creation and protect the climate. In this article, first published in December’s Climate Caretaker’s Newsletter, I explore this challenge and suggest some responses.
The church secretary rushed into the pastor’s office and said, “This is incredible, Jesus is riding into the parking lot on a donkey. What should we do?” The pastor turned back to his keyboard, resumed typing and said, “Don’t just stand there, look busy.”
This joke comes to mind as I consider the work of Climate Caretakers and the opportunity of Advent. We have just begun these days of Advent on the journey to Christmas. It is a time, a season, for reflection and spiritual preparation. A time when, to one extent or another, churches invite their members to exercise their empathy and imagination. Advent opens up time and space to experience what it may have been like to look forward to the Messiah’s arrival. It does the same for appreciating what it means and feels like to wait in preparation for Jesus’ return.
In that regard, I find the punchline amusing, yet amusingly off the mark. Our opportunity and challenge is not to merely look like we are busy at work, but to be faithful in our work. In all our lives, in all we do, at all times, we can be faithful to God and God’s call on us. In that faithfulness we can prepare for Jesus’ presence and Jesus’ return not by casual indifference to a passing world but through loving stewardship of a thriving creation. God invites not a dominion of human greed and destruction but of Godly love and protection. In this season of preparation that extends into the future, God invites us to care for creation and delights in us as we do so.
Within this Advent, as we consider the return of the “landlord” and how best to faithfully prepare for that arrival, there are ways to care for creation in general and the climate in particular. For this month filled with Christmas gift-giving and holiday travel, try one or more of the following:
Option 1: Give less stuff; Give more experiences – The less stuff you give, the better for the environment and the climate. That’s simply because “stuff” requires energy to produce, ship, and (often) use. Besides, many of us already have more than we need. Additionally, we have to take care of, possibly return, and eventually dispose of all these new things. On the other hand, giving experiences creates memories, more happiness, and, done wisely, less pollution.
Option 2: Stocking stuffer gift for the house and family – Energy
efficiency improvements represent low-hanging fruit for climate protection. You can help yourself and your family reduce fossil fuel combustion and the accompanying greenhouse gas pollution with LED lightbulbs. High efficiency LED lightbulbs not only reduce climate impacts, they affordably pay for themselves in energy savings and reduced replacement costs.
Option 3: A bigger gift – Programmable thermostats help run the furnace or air-conditioner with better control and increased efficiency. They can help make sure the heat is only on when people are up and about at home and, during heating season, setback to lower temperatures that save energy at other times of day.
Option 4: And about that holiday travel – Traveling less and traveling more efficiently helps the most. That means avoiding flying, driving alone, and driving big cars and instead choosing the train, bus, or carpool (with 2 to 3 people). Unfortunately, however you travel over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s – or someone
else’s – house, you are bound to use some fossil fuel. Purchasing carbon offsets help you counteract the negative climate impact of the accompanying greenhouse gas emissions.
What will YOU do this month?
(Kermit Hovey is a Co-founder and Leadership Team Member of Climate Caretakers and also serves as Director of Operations and Development for Care of Creation in Madison, WI.)