Hospitable Planet: Faith, Action, and Climate Change

329508_243006176_product_1024x1024By Stephen A. Jurovics. Morehouse Publishing, 2016. 155 pages. $18/paperback; $16/eBook.

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Ever since Evangelical Protestants rediscovered that the world is going to Hell in a handbasket—this time in an ecological as well as a moral sense—a groundswell of Christian writers have attempted to spur the faithful up out of their pews. The resulting books tend to spend a lot of time explaining where to find the Bible’s green lining and how salvation might mean something more than waving goodbye while being whisked away in the Rapture.

Within this crowd of prophetic voices, Stephen Jurovics stands out as a Bible-totin’, Leviticus-quotin’, former aerospace engineer turned environmental rights evangelist. His book presumes biblical authority, accepts scientific consensus, attacks climate change denial, questions American capitalism, and extolls both organic gardening and nuclear energy. Jurovics is no Quaker, and Hospitable Planet does not specifically address a Quaker audience, but it provides an interesting mix of biblical justification and engineering exhortation. As Jurovics puts it, “Why should people of faith feel an obligation to take on climate change and what specifically can we do?”

Jurovics’s biblical case may be unique. Unlike other authors that evoke Jesus’s words to engender compassion, Jurovics whips out his copy of the Torah—the Old Testament law. What bothers Jurovics is that Christians hide behind Genesis 1:28—the verse that gives humans “dominion” over creation—without studying its context. Using texts from Genesis to Deuteronomy, he reminds us that “dominion” must take into account biblical mandates to preserve and care for living beings while shunning wanton destruction. The earth is God’s (not ours), and our use of the land connects with care for the needy, loving our neighbor, and paying attention so as not to injure the community. On this last point, he confronts modern carbon emissions with ancient religious injunctions against polluting our neighbors’ air. There may be nothing new about these biblical precedents, but Jurovics pursues his legal case with the fervor of a courtroom lawyer.

Halfway through the book, Jurovics leaps from Bible to pulpit, calling for direct action at both national and local levels. His plan promotes familiar elements like energy conservation, solar and wind power, and near-term conversion from coal to natural gas. However, he goes much further, adding carbon pricing, reduced emission of all greenhouse gases (not just CO2), and new generations of nuclear power to rapidly phase out and shut down all remaining coal and oil plants. Interestingly, he advocates not just reforestation to capture carbon but deliberately using carbon in new ways—for example, by promoting carbon fiber as a material to lighten vehicles, thus further reducing carbon emissions.

A book marrying Levitical law to carbon fiber technology won’t appeal to all, but any approach that unites science and religion may speak to the worldwide community who already recognize the moral urgency of confronting climate change. In 2012, Friends World Committee for Consultation approved “The Kabarak Call for Peace and Ecojustice,” and in 2016, the FWCC World Plenary followed up with a minute on “Living Sustainably and Sustaining Life on Earth.” (Both documents are available at fwcc.world.) Like Hospitable Planet, the 2016 minute calls for concrete action (at local, yearly meeting, and global levels) to sustain life on Earth. As Jurovics insists, this is the challenge of our generation. The next generation will be too late.

Hospitable Planet is a thin book with short chapters ending with queries, ready-made for a discussion group. The book opens conversation between liberal and evangelical cultures, since some suggestions will helpfully disturb both camps. At the very least, Jurovics’s heartfelt technical insights deserve to be heard as we struggle to discern way forward in a time of moral and ecological crisis.

In Jurovics’s words, “When people driven more by faith than science join forces with those driven more by science than faith, their union will form the Environmental Rights Movement that will stabilizes the earth’s climate and preserve God’s creation.”

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