Letter 93

Forrest Clingerman

Associate Professor of Religion and Philosophy
Ohio Northern University

April 22, 2017

Dear President Trump, Vice President Pence, Members of the Trump Administration and 115th Congress,

Greetings on Earth Day!  From its start in 1970, Earth Day has drawn the support of people from all walks of life and every corner of the country. Earth Day is also a time to remember just how closely related environmentalism and religious commitment have been in American history, as John Muir exemplifies. The beauty and fecundity of the landscape we call home is engrained in our national consciousness and celebrated as God’s glorious “handiwork” (Psalm 19:2).  From sea to shining sea, from the Berkshires to the Sierras, from the Great Black Swamp of my part of Ohio to Washington’s Potomac watershed, our natural world is considered a blessing. We are living in a wonderful and divine Book of Nature.

Yet our economy and politics are laying siege to the environment. These are not problems affecting somewhere else, at some other time.  Environmental crises are happening here and now, disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable members of our society. Our actions do violence against our human and non-human neighbors and threaten the entire universe.

Nowhere is this more apparent than when we reflect on U.S. climate policy. We are decades past debating the reality of climate change, yet you appointed Scott Pruitt as EPA Director, a person who has ignored the science of climate change. Furthermore, your administration proposed funding cuts for scientific monitoring and environmental research, and you have cut curbs aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Assessments like the EPA’s Climate Change Indicators in the United States (2016) show how climate change is already affecting health, safety, the environment, and the economy. Denial of this reality is neither intellectually nor ethically acceptable.

Trust in God requires us to face the truth, however terrifying or inopportune it may be to our plans and our politics. Faith in God means living in hope, working toward what theologian David Klemm and ethicist William Schweiker call “the integrity of life before God” (Religion and the Human Future, 2008). On Earth Day, let us vow to mend our ways and atone for our climate sins. With a sense of hope, let us take seriously our role as stewards of a world once deemed “very good” (Genesis 1:31).

Yours sincerely,

Forrest Clingerman

Forrest Clingerman
Associate Professor of Religion and Philosophy
Ohio Northern University

About the author

Forrest Clingerman, Associate Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Ohio Northern University, is a specialist in how Christian thought engages environmental issues. As an author of scholarly works in religion and philosophy, he has written on such things as climate change, ecological restoration, local ethics, and appreciating the spiritual meaning of place.  He is co-editor of Teaching Civic Engagement (Oxford University Press, 2016), Theological and Ethical Perspectives on Climate Engineering (Lexington Books, 2016)and Interpreting Nature: The Emerging Field of Environmental Hermeneutics (Fordham University Press, 2014).