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We have to do our part to save the world

Many of us hoped to have, enough impact to change the world, end climate change – but that’s not enough.

Mike Denton Conference Minister's Comments

Many of us
hoped to have, enough impact
to change
the world,
end climate change – but that’s not enough.

A little more than four years ago, wildfires were so bad on the east side of the Cascade mountains that our conference held a special offering in support of our 26 congregations to help support any recovery or wildfire-related work that they might be involved in. At the end of it, as far as we knew, one member of one church had an unused outbuilding that was burnt down and a couple of members lost a small portion of their crops, but that was the extent of the property damage. 

We soon found that it wasn’t just about the fires. One thing that came up in conversation after conversation was the effect of the ever-present, lingering smoke on people’s physical, mental and spiritual health. Those with compromised immune systems and those with cardiovascular challenges were at high risk but, as the smoke lingered, it had the effect of compromising the immune systems and cardiovascular systems of all those who inhaled it. For months after the smoke dissipated, everyone’s physical health was compromised.

Emotionally and spiritually, folks were on edge during this same period, too. Churches with smoke in the air had less capacity to deal with conflict and crises that emerged. Their stress level was already cranked up a bit and so the normal stressors of congregational life were cranked up, too.

One of the things that happened when the smoke came is that the stores sold out of masks that could filter out smoke. With the special offering monies, we distributed boxes of them to our churches on the east side of the mountains so they could share them with folks who might not be able to afford or find one. We also purchased hand sanitizer and encouraged churches to treat the arrival of smoke like flu season. Since everyone’s immune systems and cardiovascular systems were challenged by the smoke, it made sense. It was a good thing to do. It’s worse, now.

Already, several PNC churches have had days when the air quality level was in an unhealthy range.  Last summer, every single church in the conference was blanketed in smoke for days if not weeks. The noon sun was red for all of us. The smoke became so thick that the air was unhealthy for everyone. It was so bad that we were encouraged to stay in our homes with the windows closed in 90 degrees or more temperatures as fires raged everywhere. Ash blanked our homes and cars and the inside of our homes.

All indications are that this year is going to be worse. As churches and communities, we should be planning on what that might mean.

As far as smoke masks, there’s been some emerging learnings over the last few years. Before I say much more, understand that this is a lay person’s interpretation of medical advice not medical advice itself. If you want medical advice, you should talk with your doctor. So, with that said, my understanding is that several studies are saying that if you have no lung or heart condition, a smoke mask can be an important safe guard for your health. Smoke inhalation is not good for you. Period. However, for those who already have compromised heart, lung or immune systems a mask may not be as helpful for a variety of reasons. If you have any of these conditions, talk to your doctor before you use a mask and if your church is sharing masks, share this information. A respirator mask—not a surgical mask—is what you need and that facial hair breaks the seal around your mouth and nose enough to make it useless. A mask should be rated at least, N95 to begin to give protection.

That said, air purifiers can be helpful for anyone. Please consider investing in these for your church or your home and keep in mind that many in your community may not have this capacity. There are some DIY air purifiers (the directions are online) that you can make with a box fan and a HEPA filter that works as well as many more expensive air purification systems for under $30.

We have to be honest. This only scratches the surface of what we’re dealing with. Those who understood what climate change could mean told us about the kind of weather phenomena we’ve been experiencing decades ago. The only thing they were wrong about was how rapidly the changes would occur.

It’s all happening faster than we expected. The latest report from the United Nations says we only have 12 years to change our ways until our current weather trends are irreversible; resulting in the extinction of thousands of species including, potentially, humans.  Those of us later in life will only see the beginning of these changes but, if we change nothing, we are committing our children and grandchildren to lives full of suffering, pain and loss. Their lives will be ruined and, well, it will be our fault.

Some of these patterns were set up long before us but it is our choice, now, to change directions. Many of us hoped to have enough of an impact to change the world but that’s not enough. We have to save it. God help us. We need to save it.

What might you, your family, your church do to help save the world?


Pacific NW UCC News - Copyright © Summer 2019


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