For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood shed on the cross (Col. 1:19-20).
This year, Earth Day and Good Friday share the same day. Sadly, the parallelism seems appropriate. On the day we mark the crucifixion of Jesus, we also reflect on the damage being done in myriad ways to God's creation. This Lenten season, we have had much to lament.
April 20 marks the one-year anniversary of the Gulf oil disaster. The initial explosion of the Deepwater Horizon well killed 11 men; in the months that followed, millions of gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico, causing devastating environmental and economic damage. Communities and wildlife along the Gulf Coast are still struggling to recover (The Gulf Coast: Seeking Rebirth and Resurrection: < http://nccecojustice.org/resources/#earthdaysundayresources>).
April 5 marked the one-year anniversary of the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster (<http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=135123527>) in West Virginia, where 29 coal miners lost their lives. The accident raised many questions about mine safety and oversight--questions that have been asked before. On the week of the anniversary, advocates gathered in Washington, D.C. to protest another type of mining, mountaintop removal (<http://washington.mcc.org/issues/environment/mtr>), which uses fewer miners but causes more destruction to the earth and local water supplies.
As lawmakers debated the 2011 federal budget, there was much discussion of policy "riders" which would have severely restricted the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to regulate greenhouse gases, various other emissions, and mountaintop mining. While none of these riders made it into the final bill, EPA funding was cut by 16% (while oil and gas subsidies remain untouched.) One of the few riders that did survive will block use of the Endangered Species Act to protect wolves in some western states.
A recently released report from Cornell University (<http://thehill.com/blogs/e2-wire/677-e2-wire/155101-report-gas-from-fracking-worse-than-coal-on-climate>) argues that natural gas extracted by "fracking" or hydraulic fracturing, produces as many greenhouse gas emissions as conventional coal. And, the entire world has held its breath while watching the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan unfold.
President Obama and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have emphasized that coal, offshore drilling, natural gas, and nuclear power are all essential pieces of the U.S. energy puzzle. Events of the past year remind us that our quest for cheap energy has hidden costs.
Jesus suffered and died in part because those with power and wealth wanted to keep their power and wealth. Powerful energy company lobbyists today do their best to ensure that the status quo is maintained.
Of course, there is no clean energy panacea--even solar, wind and hydroelectric power have their flaws. But as Christians, and as energy consumers, it is important that we reduce our own energy use and urge policymakers to consider all the costs of energy production--including the impacts to human health and wildlife, the safety of individuals working in the mines and on the oil rigs, and the long-term implications for communities impacted by accidents and exploitation.
Let this be the darkness before the dawn. Let us learn important lessons from the suffering and deaths of the past year so we can come out on a future Easter morning, shedding our guilt and shame, confident that all can enjoy the splendor of God's creation.