Horror and hope in the face of climate change

Jim Antal calls for a green reformation among churches.

Are Christians talking in church about the impending global damage due to climate change? Are they moving toward concrete action to prevent further harm, understanding how much the everyday life of the church needs to change? The answer is that likely they are not—a grim realization that looms behind Jim Antal’s urgent and important book.

Antal’s starting point is rooted in both horror and hope: the horror of an un­precedentedly violent global shift and the hope that humans, especially people of faith, have the power and vision to lessen the earth’s ruin and soften its backlash. Appropriately serious but not pessimistic, Antal’s work is devoted to offering clergy and laypeople a vision of Christianity in which they can understand and em­brace their own role in caring for creation.

Global climate change, Antal argues, is a problem that humanity is uniquely unprepared to face. The snares of privileged avoidance, murky media campaigns, and the human brain’s inability to grasp long-term risk have hindered what otherwise should have been a rapid response. To bring the problem into focus, Antal deploys a military definition: climate change is a threat multiplier, a challenge to security that is dangerous in its propensity for inciting and intensifying other kinds of evils. Food shortages and resource depletion increase poverty, prejudice, and violence—damage that is unevenly distributed across global lines of class and privilege. Extreme weather events leave behind refugees whose fate lies in the hands of nations already locked in immigration struggles. The intersection of these dangers, Antal suggests, makes climate change perhaps the greatest moral struggle humanity has faced.