First Unitarian Church of Worcester

Sermons, Memos and other writings from the newsletter and worship services of the First Unitarian Church of Worcester. The First Unitarian Church is located at 90 Main Street, Worcester, MA 01608. Our phone is 508-757-2708 and our webpage is A audio CD is produced for almost every one of our regular services. Call our office or send a note to the office at our website to request that one be shipped to you.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

"In the Love of Truth" by Stacey Hill

Stacey Hill contributed the following reflection to the July 30, 2006 Worship Service, which was held outdoors in the Memorial Garden. It was led by the Environmental Committee.

“In the love of truth”

Stacey Hill

I recently saw “An Inconvenient Truth,” the documentary about Al Gore and his crusade to educate people about global warming. (How many of you have seen it?) Gore is both knowledgeable and passionate about this issue. As an environmental science teacher, I consider myself knowledgeable on this topic, too. And I’m happy to report that Gore doesn’t know much more about global warming than I do! Gore’s passion is clear. He has traversed the globe presenting his “slide show” to whomever will listen. Gore’s audiences, for the slide show and the film, are there of their own free will. My usual audience, made up of 16 and 17 year-old 11th grade students, is captive: Environmental Science is a graduation requirement for them.

I am clear with my students that we are striving for environmental literacy, not grooming environmental advocates. After 10 years of this work, however, I find it more and more difficult to restrain my passion. These issues: protecting the quantity and quality of our fresh water, maintaining open spaces for ecological, aesthetic, and recreational benefits, searching for energy sources that provide for our needs without harming the surroundings…how can EVERYONE not recognize their importance?!

I do teach about climate change, and I always refer to the larger issue as climate change and not global warming, because we understand now that the result of more CO2 and other greenhouse gases is not just an increase in the average global temperature. We can expect more severe storms, coastal flooding, wetter weather in some places, drought in others. I present to my students the accepted scientific understanding of climate change, with the caveat that even the experts acknowledge that we don’t understand climate very well, much less climate change. Even so, as Gore argues, there is much about this issue that we have to acknowledge as TRUTH. And it is our responsibility as environmentally literate citizens to make sure we are getting the truth. Gore presents a troubling statistic about media coverage of global warming. While recently published scientific papers almost never questioned the occurrence or cause of global warming, over the same time period, about 50% of the popular media coverage did.

We as Unitarians value truth…in our covenant we speak of our love of truth. And our intent to worship and serve “in the spirit of Jesus”…I wonder, WHAT WOULD JESUS DO about climate change?? While I’m not sure of Jesus’ position on the environment, I’m pretty convinced of his compassion for people. And people will suffer as the problem of climate change continues. For example, environmental refugees will have to (have already) leave flooded islands and coastal areas, people will be hungry as crops become more difficult to grow in some areas, heat-related and vector-borne diseases will affect more people.

Gore worries about the human tendency to go from “denial to despair” when faced with big issues or problems. Despair isn’t very productive. There are steps we can take, at all levels, to address this issue. As an individual, I know I could work to influence national or regional policy. But I have to admit I haven’t written to George Bush to let him know how I feel about his administration’s lack of support for US participation in the Kyoto Protocol. I haven’t emailed Mitt Romney, either, about Massachusetts’ pulling out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The actions at the highest levels of government are important, of course. I’m terribly embarrassed to be an American in this sense: we are the world’s biggest producers of GHG, yet we don’t seem to take much responsibility for our actions. It’s only typical, I’m afraid, that one American response to GHG emissions is, instead of reducing emissions, to offset them planting trees…you can even pay someone else to do the tree planting for you!!

So what DO I do, if I’m not writing letters or planting trees? I drive a Toyota Corolla, which gets great gas mileage. And I pay more for my electricity, through National Grid’s “GreenStart” program, which offers customers an opportunity to support alternative electricity sources. The last report I received indicates that my electricity consumption is powered, indirectly, by hydropower, biomass, solar, and wind. While I’m skeptical that I could reduce my carbon emissions to zero, despite what Gore’s movie says, I’ve made a start.

We need to seek the truth, both spiritually and scientifically, in understanding our surroundings and our role in them. We need to be true to ourselves, in taking action in a way that works for us.

Finally, according to the movie, one of the most important actions I can take to combat global warming is to tell all my friends to see “An Inconvenient Truth.” If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s still playing at West Boylston.


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