Opening Words from Sun. November 5 by Brian Vandenberg on behalf of the Climate Action Now! team

The Climate Action Now! team has been asked to give today’s opening words, which I offer on behalf of our planning group that includes Cathy and Bob Pickard.

Catastrophic storms pummel communities across the globe, record heat waves scorch the earth from Antarctica to the tropics, unprecedent wild fires and floods ravage every inhabited continent, ocean temperatures now approach hot tub levels, melting ice caps threaten to submerge island nations and great coastline cities—these and so much more are now daily events. And it only promises to get worse.

It is hard not to despair.

How can we cope?

Action. The Climate Action Now! team has taken Joan Baez’s aphorism as our motto: “Action is the antidote to despair.” It is when we move off the couch, shift from being a helpless victim, lean into our fears and become an active agent of change that we gain a sense of power over our life. It is how we alter our fate.

Yes, each of us is but a small, almost insignificant ant amidst the overwhelming forces aligned against us. But each of our actions is important, not only for our individual wellbeing, but for our collective survival. When we join with others to form a colony, our efforts become a force that can clean rivers, restore forests, clear our skies.

The Climate Action Now! team has a dual focus: Identifying actions that each of us can take, now, to address the climate crisis, and doing this together, as a community. We have addressed a host of issues that we can act on including plant based diets, climate justice, plastic use and disposal, environmental costs of clothing, and solar power to name a few. We also are addressing what we can do with our own building and grounds, including clearing invasive plants and developing plans to install native gardens. A shout-out to the Humanist Hangout folks who have given bent backs and sore arms, joining us in the Honeysuckle Holy War being waged on our back lot. We have also installed an air sensor on the building that is part of the Metropolitan Congregations United and Wash U sponsored regional network monitoring air quality and providing data that can be used for political action.

Action, however, must be coupled with hope. Hope is the vision that propels us. We must have hope to sustain action. Not the kind of hope prompted by a Pollyannaish belief that everything turns out for the best, which is a passive renunciation of reality and our role in influencing the future.

Hope, realistic hope, is a moral commitment. It is forged in the face of adversity and challenges, sometimes in the face of overwhelming odds, to envision a better future; a future not brought about by ease and accident, but by sweat, toil, and hardship to “make it so” in the face of daunting obstacles.

We must ask ourselves: “What gives us hope?” Oftentimes it comes from others who inspire us. Martin Luther King offered hope, inspiration, and a motivating dream. The centuries long history of slavery, racial murder, violence, persecution, and soul-crushing humiliation can easily overwhelm and make such pronouncements of a dream seem misguided naïve shouts into the darkness. This is precisely why hope is a moral commitment. It is precisely what we need to act on the Climate Crisis.

Ironically, the despair, angst, and anxiety we are experiencing about the climate is a source of hope. These experiences are, and I quote, “the crucible through which humanity must pass to harness the energy and commitments that are needed for the lifesaving changes now required.”  (Lancet; July, 2020, e256)

I invite you to join us at the Climate Action Now! 9:45 Forum next Sunday when we will discuss the possibility of installing a charging station on our grounds.

And I welcome today’s speaker, Dr. Sophia Hayes who will enlighten us about the actions being taken to develop technological solutions to the climate crisis, which is a springboard for hope.

Embrace hope. Take action. Join us.

NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.