Environmental Justice

by Carol Stirling, Boise First Congregational United Church of Christ, Boise, Idaho

In early May, the most important CO2 observatory in the nation measured 400 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere, for the first time ever. The increase in carbon in the air is causing the Earth’s temperature to rise and is causing dramatic climate changes that are harming people and other life forms on Earth. The side effects of burning fossil fuels have proven to be more harmful than we expected, because the burning process releases chemicals into the air we breathe. The CO2 released into the upper atmosphere serve as a blanket over the earth that prevents the heat from escaping normally. Our goal should be to decrease the use of fossil fuels and encourage and invest in alternative energies such as solar and wind.

Idaho’s abundant renewable energy resources can fill a critical role in creating and maintaining a clean energy for Idaho. Idaho has available supplies of almost all known renewable energy resources to meet future needs. Idaho has lots of sun, lots of wind and geothermal heat that can meet our energy needs if we commit to developing these resources.

A local issue we are addressing in Idaho is a new Idaho Power proposal that will lead to more fossil fuel consumption rather than encourage conservation or alternative energy sources such as wind and solar.  Idaho Power wants permission to increase the service charges to customers who are using solar or wind and to stop paying for any excess energy customers may generate.  These proposed changes will discourage the use of solar power in Idaho.  We are encouraging our congregation and others to write letters and attend hearings to encourage Idaho Public Utilities Commission to deny the changes requested by Idaho Power.

People of faith are beginning to realize global warming and climate change are issues of environmental justice.  People who are poor or unable to adjust will feel the effects of a warming planet most acutely.  Many will lose their homes to rising seas and will be unable to grow food for their families.  Low-lying countries such as Bangladesh will lose landmass, islands in the Pacific will disappear, and coastal marshes such as the Everglades will be under seawater.

For plants and animals, global warming means that many will not adjust in time and will become extinct, thus reducing the diversity and beauty of God’s natural creation.

Editor’s note: click here for resources from the UCC Environmental Ministries.

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