Guest Blog: Climate Action: “God Help Us!”   

Guest blog by Reverend Vern Groves

As I listened to our president announce his intention to withdraw our nation from the Paris Climate Accord, these three words came to mind: “God help us!” I guess they were a combination of swear words and prayer. As I’ve reflected on this I’m reminded of a modern day parable that goes something like this:

A man heads to the roof of his house when faced with rising flood waters and waits for God to save him. Soon a rowboat shows up to help. The man refuses to get in, saying, “I have faith in God. God will save me.” The waters continue to rise. The man prays. Before long a speedboat comes. The driver calls out, “Climb in or you’ll drown!” Again, the man declines, professing his faith that God will save him. The waters rise higher, and presently a helicopter appears. The pilot announces she will lower a rope to the man on the roof. “No,” he replies, “I have faith that God will save me.” Eventually the waters rise so high that the man is washed away and drowns. When he arrives in heaven, he’s greeted by God and asks, “Dear Lord, why didn’t you help me? I had faith in you. I prayed. But you did nothing to save me.” God gives the man a puzzled look and says, “I sent you a rowboat. I sent you a speedboat. I sent you a helicopter. What more did you want?”

As a person of faith, I see this as an allegory about a growing flood of evidence indicating that we face dangerous changes in our climate. Average global temperatures continue to rise year by year, with 2016 breaking all records as did 2015 and most other recent years. The growing frequency and intensity of weather-related disasters have made climate activists out of former skeptics. Scientific measurements tell us that not only are average global temperatures rising, but so are sea levels. Oceans are being acidified. Sea ice is thinning. Permafrost is melting. Glaciers are melting, and ice sheets are breaking apart. Recently it was reported that a crack in the Antarctic ice sheet grew by 11 miles in just six days.

I believe God wants to save us from our careless burning of fossil fuels which climate science demonstrates is pushing these damaging climate changes. We’ve been sent not just one, but many lifelines. There is the growing availability of various new clean energy technologies. Electric cars could be our rowboat, wind power our speedboat, and solar power our helicopter. Or we could stick to the familiar dirty coal and oil, just hoping and praying to be delivered from their consequences.

Despite federal rollbacks in climate action, our state remains committed to establishing Oregon as a climate leader:

  • Last year Oregon passed the Clean Electricity and Coal Transition Act, becoming the first state to take legislative action to get off of coal-fired power and transition to renewables.
  • We passed the Clean Fuels Standard, which lowers emissions from the transportation sector and creates a level playing field for producers of cleaner burning fuel.
  • This legislative session we’re working to pass the Clean Energy Jobs bill, a law that would price pollution and reinvest proceeds to both help the communities most affected by climate pollution and transition to a clean energy economy.
  • The City of Portland and Multnomah County just committed to a goal of meeting 100 percent of community energy needs with renewable power by 2050.

In Oregon, we’re seizing the opportunity to salvage a livable planet by using our human creativity, and our common sense, to shift to a brighter, clean energy future. Portland joins hundreds of other cities across the country that remain committed to climate progress, despite whatever rollbacks occur on the federal level. Oregonians should take heart in knowing that the changes we make here will not only help our state, but also serve as policy models that other jurisdictions can follow. We’re putting our faith in clean energy’s promise for a better future. James 2:14-26 contains a line that reads “faith without works is dead.” This is true for the climate fight. So don’t feel discouraged; join us as we put faith into action for a better world.


Reverend Groves is a member of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon (EMO), which works on environmental issues through its Oregon Interfaith Power and Light and Earth Ministries programs. Oregon Environmental Council has long collaborated with EMO on advancing public policies that protect the planet.

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