Contact NCC News Service: 212-870-2228  |  E-mail   |  Most Recent Stories   |  NCC Home

Parker admits impending climate collapse is scary,
but fear is not the best motivator to action

Saturday pictures

Washington, March 14, 2009 The Rev. Janet Parker didn't have to remind more than 700 delegates to the annual Ecumenical Advocacy Days conference Saturday that projections of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are scary indeed.

Among other things, the IPCC predicts the shrinking or disappearance of low-lying island nations, the destruction of 20 to 30 percent of the earth's species, the evaporation of water sources affecting millions of people in Africa and Asia, and the retreat of U.S. coastlines, creating millions of environmental refugees.

"I am afraid," Parker admitted. "I feel a chill of fear in my gut. The consequences of climate change send my head spinning and I feel like Alice falling down the rabbit hole."

Most people who are aware of the problem are also scared, said Parker, Pastor for Parish Life of Rock Spring Congregational United Church of Christ in Arlington, Va., and winner of the 2007 NCC Eco-Justice Working Group's award for best environmental sermon.

"Too bad we can't buy stock in fear because its' value would be going through the roof."

But Parker had words of caution for activists who use fear to prod people to take action against global warming.

"What have we got to say to people who are literally scared out of their wits?" she asked. "Is fear more powerful than moral arguments?"

Fear is the motivator that leads to war, excuses torture and convinced white folks not to vote for "the scary black  man," she said.

"Fear in small doses is essential to life -- like a pinch of salt is useful but too much ruins the dish," she said. "Fear leads to scape-goating, punishing, shunning and judging. It rarely leads to collective action for the common good."

Fear is also contrary to God, who is the embodiment of love, she suggested. "We had, better be careful about calling forth the dark energy of fear to combat the specter of climate change ... Imagine how history would have been different if Dr. King had made an 'I have a nightmare' speech."

Tyler Edgar, assistant director of the National Council of Churches' climate and energy campaign, reported on legislative efforts to create effective laws to stem climate change.

Recent activities in congress have shown promise, and both Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) have promised to bring climate legislation to floor votes in 2009.

Edgar provided delegates with information sheets to bring to members of Congress Monday when they go to Capitol Hill. Delegates will urge legislators to enact effective laws to lower greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., support vulnerable communities overseas and in the U.S. that are struggling with the effects of climate change, and assist and welcome climate migrants through a special immigrant visa process.

"Our main task will be to communicate urgency," Edgar said. "Time is of the essence."

Parker's and Edgar's presentations were preceded by a morning worship service led by the Rev. Mari Castellanos, Policy Advocate for Domestic Issues in the Washington Office of the United Church of Christ, and Jordan Blevins, assistant director of the NCC's Eco-Justice office in Washington. Ms. Tevyn East of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, interpreted musical worship with liturgical dance.

NCC News contact:  Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228 (office), 646-853-4212 (cell) ,


Return to NCC Home Page