In the current climate crisis there are two aspects—a physical, scientific dimension and a spiritual one hiding embedded in the interstitial spaces of the unfolding ecological upheaval. The first is conditioned on facts, measurements and data. It is supported by evidence so strong that to ignore it is unethical, and additionally suggests that science is not a way to learn things about the world. The second is framed by the realization that our spirituality imposes on us normative demands that come from the values that we embrace informed by what it means to live in a God-created universe. It means that our spirituality demands we attended to the needs of other humans, many perceived to be different than us, and to care for the other inhabitants of this world and their necessary ecosystems.
In Pope France’s recent encyclical Laudato Si on ‘Care for Our Common Home’ he lays out both of these stories. I think there is a Mormon perspective on the spiritual side that adds an interesting facet to this because we see the earth not only as our current home, but our future one as well, if we manage to be graced with the highest degree of glory.
In the first chapter of his wonderful document, the Pope lays out the science side of this crisis with hints and pointers to the spiritual facets of climate change. The science story is very clear. After a decade hiatus (the warming is stair-stepped with periods of stability then increases as energy disputes into strange storm patterns, moving arctic vortexes around, and such large-scale changes in climate structure) the last year was the warmest since humans started taking records and this year looks to top it. We see it in rising oceans, melting glaciers, thinning ice, major ocean currents shifting, and many other changes. But there is evidence beyond the measurements of the physical aspects, ecologists, such as myself, see it in the effects of species redistribution, in how lizards at certain latitudes are going extinct because of shifts in the timing of spring, patterns of precipitation effecting lizards and frogs, collapse of oceanic fisheries, how pine beetles are destroying great swaths of forest because of warmer winters, penguins affected by climate induced changes in their food supply, and of the loss of coral reefs worldwide. These are just a few examples of thousands of scientific studies showing how the changing climate is affecting species and ecosystems worldwide.
The Pope in the first chapter reminds us that thus far it has been the poor of the earth who have suffered the most devastating effects. We see it in the unprecedented drought that destroyed Syria’s agricultural base. As droughts, floods, and new climate regimes enter the world, it is likely that, as the Pope points out, the poor will be those who bear the brunt of the effects.
It is in relation to the poor that Zion is defined. Care for the poor is foundational in what it means to be a Zion people. Latter-day Saints will not be surprised that anthropogenic climate change is a manifestation of the greed of the world, for the prophets have long foretold that because of the wickedness of humankind the seas would heave themselves beyond their bounds and the elements of the earth would be found in commotion. And we of all people know that in our day because of the ‘evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days’ (See D&C 89:4) that the greed and averse of these purveyors of will try to bury the scientific story that uncovers our role in the current ecological collapse. Because we know this, let’s rise up as a force for good. Recognizing our vital role in building Zion. And our responsibility to do so.
Today in church we sang the hymn, “Bless Our Fast, We Pray,”
We’ve shared our bread with those in need,
the suff’ring poor.
The stranger we have welcomed in–
Wilt thou impart thy store?
May it be so.
Pope Franciscus 2015 Laudato si, Chapter 1
Collect: Beloved Father, Creator, who has reminded us through our brother Pope Franciscus of the glory your creation that we have forgotten the poor and, that as the prophets have foretold, through sin and avarice the climate of the earth has begun to reel to and fro like a drunken man: help us not forget those who, by an accident of birth suffer the more by our role in nature’s pains: in order that we may better bring Zion as you have requested: Fill our hearts with compassion for all your children and all creation as we have been taught and exemplified by the life of Jesus Christ or Savior. Amen.
ST FRANCIS OF ASSISI CHOIR KARIOBANGI
 For a view of how it was the same organizations and people that ran the campaigns for the tobacco companies’s obfuscation of the harms of cigarettes are the same as those involved in denying the scientific story, see historians of sciences, Oreskies and Conways, book Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming. In a Frontline documentary showed very clearly the enormous money that goes into the disinformation campaign to deny the reality of climate change. No wonder people are confused.