Zero carbon emissions is the promise of 2030 Climate Sanctuaries

“There is a striking and unfortunate similarity between right-wing and left-wing intellectuals in today’s United States: both spend far more time on cultural issues than on economic ones. The political right spends a lot of time talking about family values. The political left spends a lot of time talking about cultural diversity. Neither side has anything concrete to say about how to close the growing gap between rich and poor.” (Richard Rorty, The Intellectuals and the Poor, 2001)

I agree with this remark. As a left-wing intellectual and progressive pastor, I spend much more time on cultural issues than economic ones. And while I spend time these days campaigning for tenants’ rights, I can’t say I have many concrete suggestions on how to transform the economy in ways that truly make our economic system fairer.

But what I want to do in this area is take a step beyond Rorty’s foresight. I would like to replace “economic” in the first sentence with “the climate crisis”. Right and left are currently arguing about cultural issues and are distracted by the most pressing issue of our time.

My parishioner Terry Tremwel, a retired professor of sustainability at the University of Arkansas and a staunch supporter of solar and other green solutions to the climate crisis, regularly reminds me that the climate crisis is essentially exacerbating every other social injustice we deal with in our own church . So we face a triple threat: 1) the left and the right are locked in a culture war that 2) largely distracts us from the more important issue of economic injustice, and 3) underlying all of this is climate change, a more catastrophic problem, that requires even larger and more significant interventions than cultural problems or economic injustice.

Against this background, what should faith communities do? I think we are called to exemplify what our companies and governments should do. 2030 Carbon Sanctuaries are havens of faith committed to net zero GHG carbon emissions by 2030. A 2030 climate protection zone makes two commitments. First, they conduct an energy audit to assess their current environmental footprint. Then, at the highest level of their organization, they commit to becoming zero-carbon by 2030. Climate action areas are also committed to zero carbon by 2030 with their denominations and their members, disconnecting lines to natural gas and other non-net zero businesses where possible.

I’m turning 50 this year. I have set a goal to have 50 communities join this 2030 Climate Sanctuaries goal by the end of the year. I hope that when my own children are 50 they will be able to say that our generation did indeed make it, we stopped climate change and so prepared the world to be a more livable place for them.

Will you work with your local church to register? Visit to learn more.

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