Love in a Time of Climate Change:
Honoring Creation, Establishing Justice
Paperback: Fortress Press, 2017
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Reviewed by Teresa Langness
Hurricane Harvey jolted Houstonites out of their homes and armchair television viewers out of their comfort zones, especially in light of rapid increase of “500-year hurricanes” devastating the region in the past five years. A month earlier, a newly released book had asked readers to hear not only the cries of their countrymen and women but the chronic ache of injustice among climate change victims around the world.
The title of Sharon Delgado’s new book shifts the topic of climate change out of its usual dimensions, which too often buck wildly from well-corralled layers of scientific research into the muddier bog of political rhetoric.
Through crisp storytelling, personal experience and articulate up-to-the-minute research, Love in the Time of Climate Change posits a theory that we must deeply understand but look beyond both. We must act not only with our minds but with our hearts and our feet to safeguard all members of our human family during the current age and stage of climate change.
As an ordained Methodist minister unafraid to spend time in a jail cell or shivering on the river banks near the Dakota pipeline, Delgado has earned the right to “appropriate the story.” This, her second environmental book, connects the dots of a plethora of long-term climate injustices that occur as “unintended consequences of inertia or lack of information” about the continuous, capricious rise of global temperatures. These human slights bear out in economic, health and public safety crises, in struggles over issues as basic as food, water, human dignity, cultural assets and settings and ultimately, survival. Loss of these gifts of creation demand compassionate action as the only appropriate spiritual response on the part of the faithful, Delgado asserts.
Essayists and authors from Kathleen Dean Moore and Desmond Tutu and Barak Obama and Pope Francis to various religious councils have raised the clarion call to envision climate change as a moral issue. This book outlines a particularly action-based, Wesleyan perspective on the relationship between the essence of faith and the exponentially growing impact of climate change on people—especially on the least industrialized, indigenous populations of people—all over the earth.
As long-term Wesleyan activist, Delgado’s intent springs from a belief in human rights and an intimacy with the creed that “the love of God and neighbor in this time of climate change requires us to honor creation and to establish justice for our human family, for future generations and for all creation.” She cites interfaith, intergroup and individual initiatives along a wide avenue of local and global routes to demonstrate love through social justice. She arms readers with options while urging them to “weigh the evidence and think for themselves, in community with others and with the help of the resources of faith.”
While certain chapters explore history and compare distinctions between the Wesleyan perspective and liberation theologies, the book ultimately calls upon “people of every faith tradition and philosophical perspective to work together for climate justice.” Whether Christian, Baha’i, Jewish, Zoroastrian, Buddhist, agnostic, or simply humanist, those of many stripes may find resonance with the approach to Cobbian process theory and its rejection of whatever level of literalism defies logic and conscience in search of a truer empathy that demands personal and collective action in the face of human suffering.
Each chapter suggests not prescriptions but, rather, ideas for action aimed at increasing empathy, inviting social justice and bringing about inner and outer peace. Disaster relief, divestment and refugee programs certainly take their expected place on the list, but with so many unique challenges unfolding daily on the horizon of our climate-change ravaged landscape, the range of possibilities for action in terms of broad-based alliances that lean toward systemic change continue to grow. This book highlights them, establishing its value to readers of all faiths or no faith.
Amid a fine menu of climate change books on the market this year, Love in the Time of Climate Change fills a unique niche. Some Christians who formerly felt uncomfortable talking about climate justice might just consider it a new bible for broaching the subject of faith and social action.