Pasadena Mennonite Tackles Global Warming: A Reflection on Kiribati, iMatter and Apocalypse

I’m pleased that our congregation, Pasadena Mennonite Church, is putting realities of “Climate Change” (a euphemism for our abuse of the atmosphere) at the center of the congregation’s attention.  Sunday, Feb 10th the sermon will focus on Kiribati, the tragic “poster child” of sea level increases. 
The people of Kiribati (pronounced “Kiribas”) are not exotic “others” in some universe far, far away.  I worked with indigenous communities throughout the Pacific islands for seven years in the 1980s, organizing for self-determination, demilitarization and environmental justice.  At one very poignant moment during one of our Pan-Pacific gatherings, a chief from Kiribati gave me a gift (as is the custom in the islands), and asked me, with tears in his eyes, never to forget his small people and place.  The gift was a chief’s hat, beautifully woven from local pandanus leaves, and beaded it traditional style.  I wear this broad brimmed hat to this day, always using it as an opportunity to tell people about Kiribati and our climate crisis.  (I tried to figure out a way to get the hat to Joe this weekend, but regrettably wasn’t able to.)  Amidst your sharing and reflection today, please take a moment to remember that this place and this people are real—vulnerable and anxious just as we are.  Except that they, like poor people and climate refugees everywhere, are always the first victims of our “affluenza” and the end-game of our environmental greed.
To bring this closer to home: the same ocean that is swallowing Kiribati is slowly rising along our beloved California coast, too.  Alec Loorz (pictured above) is a teenager from our little town of Oak View in Ventura County; we are friends with his mother.  Alec has been a climate change activist since he was 12, after seeing Al Gore’s film, “An Inconvenient Truth.”  Founder of “Kids vs. Global Warming,” Alec placed markers at the beach in Ventura showing predicted sea levels in 20 years, a dramatic public installation which is still there, educating thousands.  He has spoken to more than a quarter million young people and adults about the issue of climate change and its ramifications as part of a generational movement to challenge the status quo in favor of personal lifestyles and government policies that are responsible to the future.  His first “iMatter March” mobilized youth from 43 countries and 160 cities, and Alec is the lead plaintiff in a federal lawsuit that that seeks to compel the U.S. government to control greenhouse gas emissions on the grounds that the atmosphere is a “public trust.” 
I urge you to visit the website of this remarkable “local hero” and to watch the amazing 4 minute video he made to capture his message—set in an abandoned oil refinery just down the road from us (also see below).  The video begins with a compelling—and in my opinion accurate—definition of “apocalypse” as: “A disclosure of something hidden from the majority of humankind in an era dominated by falsehood and misconception.”  May we all join Alec in embracing the apocalypse, doing our part to unmask denial, and to insist upon radical change:  for his generation, for Kiribati, for God’s good Creation.
Lifting of the Veil from iMatter Campaign on Vimeo.