The work of the peaceable kingdom is never done until God calls us home. That is especially true in the fight to preserve our ocean and coasts, and we must continue to fight that good fight until our oceans are once healthy again for all who live in or visit Florida.
We have a moral obligation to protect God’s creation.
As Chairperson of our Florida United Methodist Church’s Creation Care Task Team, I believe our stewardship of Florida’s natural resources is vital for the reconciliation and healing of God’s waters and aquatic creatures.
That includes standing against offshore oil and gas drilling, pushing for Everglades restoration, raising awareness of ocean acidification, and the restoration of coral reefs.
We are at a pivotal time in Florida’s history to mend the damage already done. God calls us to ensure the well-being of all who live and visit here by fighting to preserve this treasure we call Florida.
The Creation Care Task Team passed its Plastic and Foam Free Florida United Methodist Church resolution in June. We boldly encourage all people of faith, children of God, and all Floridians to do all they can to protect God’s blessed oceans and coastal communities so that harms already committed can heal. Our creation crisis rests upon all our shoulders. We must live a life that brings life and not death to our neighbors, which blesses the least of these that have contributed the least to climate change.
|Elan Brown, Chairperson of the conference Creation Care Task Team.|
Climate change is jeopardizing everything the ocean does for humankind — supplying our food and oxygen, supporting our coastal economies, regulating our weather, and buffering our shorelines from storms.
The ocean has been a critical tool in the fight against climate change, absorbing more than 90% of the heat and nearly a third of the carbon dioxide from greenhouse gas emissions.
To ensure that the ocean continues to play this important role, and to protect all the other benefits that God’s marine creation provides, we need to take ocean climate action.
We, as God’s children, are responsible for the way we live and use the natural environment He created.
What does taking ocean climate action mean?
It means we must decrease greenhouse gas emissions, especially carbon dioxide, which causes ocean acidification. We also need to block new drilling plans that would increase emissions and exacerbate climate change and its impacts.
It means we must protect the ocean’s natural ability to store carbon. We must protect coastal ecosystems like mangroves, salt marshes, and seagrasses. They absorb carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and safely store it at a rate of up to four times that of forests on land.
These ecosystems serve as a buffer that can limit the impacts of coastal erosion, flooding, and storms while providing habitat for marine wildlife and fisheries.
Finally, it means helping the ocean be more resilient to the impacts we can’t avoid. Scientists recommend we must strongly protect 30% of the ocean, including coral reefs, kelp forests, and deep-sea corals, to save the diversity and abundance of life on Earth.
These habitats are home to fish, sea turtles, whales, sea birds, and many more ocean wildlife. Protecting special places in the ocean, much as we do with national parks on land, creates sanctuaries in which those fish and wildlife can thrive.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas was a pioneer in her fight to preserve the Everglades, the river of grass, and now more than ever, we must be pioneers in creating blue sanctuaries that safeguard Florida’s marine treasures for future generations. Blue sanctuaries are possible.
Psalms 24: 1-2 declares: The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it, for He founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.
Our oceans flourishing means the flourishing of Florida, and the death of sea turtles, fish, dolphins, and whale sharks upon our shores means paradise lost for our state and our people.
I’ve lost track of the numbers of times our family was banned this year from our beaches in Southwest Florida due to the poor air quality, putrid rotting fish smell, and overall degraded water quality. It is heart-wrenching to know that the place you seek solace and restoration is off-limits because the beach is littered with dead fish and is toxic to breathe.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we have about ten years to sufficiently transform our extractive economy into a sustainable one. By doing so, we can avoid a climate catastrophe of unimaginable suffering.
It’s not too late to act. We still have a choice about the kind of future we leave our children and grandchildren.
As Floridians, we know our ecological health is the engine of our spiritual as well as economic wealth. Our beaches have a magnetic pull on those who seek spiritual peace and times of Sabbath.
God gave us this incredible gift. We must show our gratitude by doing what we can to preserve it. There is nothing more important that we can do.
--Elan Brown is Chairperson of the Florida United Methodist Creation Care Task Team
Follow the efforts of the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church to protect and nurture the environment at https://www.flumc.org/creationcare