Hillcrest UU hosts a Scientist and a Theologian for Climate Change Discussion

On April 21st, the First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego held an Earth Day event in conjunction with the Church For Our Common Home and SanDiego350. Bringing together people young and old from diverse faiths and religions, the highlight of the event was a presentation by Dr Veerabhadran Ramanthan and Dr John B. Cobb, Jr.

Dr Ramanathan (left) and Dr. Cobb (right) speak about science and religion coming together in the fight against climate change Photo courtesy of James Long

Dr Ramanathan and Dr Cobb spoke on solving the current ecological and climate change crises. Dr Ramanathan is a distinguished Professor of Atmospheric and Climate Sciences at Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, who joined the Pontifical Academy in 2004 and advised Pope Francis on the encyclical Laudato Si’, subtitled “On Care For Our Common Home”. Dr Cobb is a process theologian and philosopher who has taught in Claremont School of Theology for many years and has been influential in China’s growing movement towards “ecological civilization”.

Dr Ramanathan addressed the congregation first. He has studied climate change since the 1970s. Caused by the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, he says, “Nine hundred and fifty billion tons of carbon dioxide now blankets the earth.” He had predicted global warming impacts by the year 2000 and in 13 years predicts more dangerous droughts, fires, and mudslides if we do not curtail our carbon emissions. 

While the ramifications of climate change are dire, Dr Ramanathan proposed four solutions to help solve the crisis: 1) In ten to fifteen years, a total conversion to electricity generated from renewables – such as geothermal, hydro, solar, and wind 2) Get rid of super-pollutants such as diesel and methane by, for instance, converting all motor lawnmowers to electric lawnmowers 3) Plant more gardens 4) Have a biodigester in every restaurant and grocery store to produce biofuel and which would lessen emissions of landfill gases.

Locally, he proposed the formation of a coalition – a San Diego alliance of churches, doctors and nurses, various industries and scientists to fight climate change. In working with Pope Francis in 2014, Dr Ramanathan saw the church becoming a force in climate change resolution. He noted that doctors and healthcare workers were needed in the alliance due to the virus-borne diseases released from the polar ice caps with climbing temperatures.

Dr Cobb spoke on the topic of religion, spirituality, and being stewards of the earth in his segment on stage. At 93 years old, he is on a mission to bring sustainability and ecological awareness onto the world stage to counteract living in our present “unsustainable world.” Dr Cobb wants to lift up spirituality and sustainability in industrialized and Westernized society and discredits the notion that nature is something to draw from until the raw resources run out.

He proposed a California Collaborative for Climate Solutions with top scientists coming together with churches and other folks on a grassroots level – to effect change to address the climate crisis. Dr Cobb sees climate change as a moral issue that should not be politicized between the Democrat and Republican parties. He praised Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si as a document that bridges and intersects many sectors of society for the common good and for the health of the planet.

Having a whale of a time – kids being creative at the event Photo courtesy of Nanci Kelly

Together on stage, Dr Ramanathan and Dr Cobb then held a discourse on climate change. This ended with Dr Cobb being welcomed to come to the University of California, San Diego to speak to Dr Ramanathan’s colleagues about what actions they can take and changes they can make on climate change – in their positions as scientists.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Community Choir gave a stirring performance of “Glory, Glory Hallelujah following the dialogue. Festivities continued on the patio with an Earth Day Fair of various environmental and climate change action organizations. The public was invited to a free, vegetarian Sikh dinner at 5:30 pm. There was also dancing for the whole family to take part in. Reverend Bonnie Tarwater, who helped bring this event together, quoted Alice Walker, “Hard times require furious dancing.”

Interfaith Team Member Spotlight: Fr. Emmet Farrell

Fr. Farrell in his priest robes

Father Emmet Farrell is one of SanDiego350’s climate change action warriors. He is a member of our Interfaith Team and serves on the San Diego Interfaith Climate Coalition. The Interfaith Team – which formally came into being earlier this year – comprises SanDiego350 members who belong to various congregations and faith backgrounds. The team’s mission is to support the revival of the San Diego Interfaith Climate Coalition (which was formed in 2015) and to support creation care efforts in the diverse faith communities in our area.

A Catholic priest for 52 years, Fr. Farrell is originally from Iowa where he grew up on a farm. He is fluent in Spanish, having served sixteen years in Latin America – specifically in Peru. There he worked heavily on social justice issues such as inequality and helping the poor. During this foreign mission work, he spent eight years in a slum town on the outskirts of Lima, four years in Chimbote (a small coastal fishing and steel manufacturing town) and the last four years in a small mountain town in the Andes mountains south of Cuzco. Upon his return to the United States, Fr. Farrell continued to serve in the parishes of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in San Ysidro, St. Anthony in National City and, lastly, at St. Jude Parish in Southcrest before retiring from the priesthood. [Read more…]

The Pope heard round the world

By Hutton Marshall
Originally published in the San Diego Free Press on September 24th 2015

The Pope is in town.

Not this town, unfortunately — he’s in Washington, D.C.  Today, Pope Francis will give a historic address to Congress, where he is expected to speak on the escalating climate change crisis. This closely watched event will further solidify his stature as an acknowledged global leader of the climate change movement.  He caps the year in Paris with an address to world leaders at the UN-sponsored climate-change summit COPS 2015.

Earlier this year, Pope Francis released his Encyclical Letter entitled “On Care for our Common Home.”  A passionate, comprehensive 40,000-word exhortation about caring for the planet, the Encyclical weaves modern climate science together with teachings from Catholicism and other religions, to build the case that caring for Earth’s climate is a moral obligation, a matter of justice for the poor and vulnerable. He thus breaks down the barriers between religion and science, and between environmental stewardship and social justice. [Read more…]