by Tom Sine
As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of EARTH DAY this week, I am deeply grateful for all the groups in all our countries that are working aggressively dealing with not just climate change, but now we are dealing with what is now a CLIMATE CRISIS.
In 2020s Foresight: Three Vital Practices for Thriving in a Decade of Accelerating Change, Dwight Friesen and I argue that the turbulent 2020s is the make or break decade!
If we are convinced that if we don’t turn around the amount of garbage we are putting in our air, and our waterways and God’s good earth in the 2020s… then quite frankly, our children and grandchildren will not have a future that will be sustainable.
While many mainline Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox Christians are not only concerned about the climate crisis but many are actively involved in work for climate change. That is not the case for many evangelical Christians. I am deeply troubled that so many older American evangelicals seem content to bequest a deeply polluted planet to their offspring and all those in the next generation.
However, thank God that recently some younger evangelicals decided to take decisive action in addressing the climate crisis and launched “Young Evangelicals for Climate Action”. Whatever your religious affiliation, they would welcome your support. Even though my roots are in the evangelical tradition, these days Christine and I find our home in COTA, a mainline church in Seattle, with many active young leaders.
As we celebrate the anniversary of the first Earth Day 50 years ago, it brings back very compelling memories for me because it was quite literally “my second conversion experience”!
On that first Earth Day, I was the Dean of Students at Maui Community College in Hawaii. James Dator, a Political Science professor, was invited to speak to a group of about 40 of us, primarily comprised of students.
I attended mostly out of curiosity. In my early 30s, I had prided myself on keeping up on what we used to call “current events”. However, I had no idea that our world was changing or that we were facing daunting environmental challenges. Dr. Dator’s presentation literally “turned my comfortable world upside down”.
My first response was to join 30 students in collecting over 50 huge plastic trash bags after the presentation. Then I followed them as we walked to a motel that was three blocks from the community college. I was surprised to view what attracted these students. The motel was located on the beach. As we walked around, there was an enormous mountain of the motel’s garbage from the past week. One of the student leaders explained that this was the regular pattern at this motel so the ocean could take it away.
I joined the students in the filling of those 50 bags and then they brought them into the lobby, which infuriated the motel manager. However, the students were resolute and by the end of the day, the manager caved in. He agreed to have the local garbage service to pick up the weeks waste in the future. The students applauded and were clearly delighted. In the coming months, they discovered other ways to become environmental activists.
For me, that first Earth Day was not only a “conversion” experience discovering my faith called to not only care for others, but God’s good creation as well. More than that, it was also a vocational call. It was a call to enable church leaders to learn from environmental planners, urban designers and business innovators to learn to anticipate the incoming waves of change….before they start planning.
Within three months, I moved to Seattle and began a doctoral degree in history at the University of Washington. But my advisor allowed me to create a minor in strategic foresight to enable evangelical, mainline and Catholic leaders to learn not only to anticipate environmental and societal change, but to learn to create innovative ways to respond to these new challenges in our lives, churches and communities that reflect the ways of Jesus.
If you want to catch up on not only the disruptive changes we are facing today, as well as new ones that await us in the turbulent 2020s, check out the new book by Tom Sine and Dwight Friesen called 2020s Foresight: Three Vital Practices for Thriving in a Decade of Accelerating Change that will be released in September 2020 by Fortress Press.