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Disasters and Climate Change: Connecting the Dots

Ben Lowe

This post was originally published on Resilire Blog on June 20, 2016.

Photo Credit: By NASA Goddard Space Flight Center - NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s, NASA Visible Earth: Great Barrier Reef (IotD ID 11269), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1806532

Photo Credit: By NASA Goddard Space Flight Center - NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s, NASA Visible Earth: Great Barrier Reef (IotD ID 11269), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1806532

"The integral links between disasters and climate change—and thus disaster ministry and climate action—are growing clearer every day.”

In early 2012, a group of concerned young Christian leaders came together in Washington, D.C., for two days of prayer and vision casting at the home of a senior leader in the World Evangelical Alliance.

Our concerns were twofold. First, we were getting reports from numerous relief and development organizations about how changing climate patterns were undoing their progress in helping communities secure clean water, dependable food supplies, and stable environments in order to sustain their livelihoods. Second, when we looked to our churches, campuses, and communities in the United States to see what was being done about this growing challenge, we found very little.

Prayerfully, we came to see that climate change is growing into a diverse and far-reaching humanitarian crisis, rendering many communities less resilient and undermining our ability to flourish together on God’s earth. Rising sea levels, acidifying oceans, failing crops, worsening extreme weather events, and other climate changes are increasingly wreaking havoc on both human and nonhuman communities around the world. As Christ followers called to love God, love our neighbor, and care for creation, we felt called to take greater responsibility for the world we are inheriting—and so, Young Evangelicals for Climate Action (Y.E.C.A.) was born.

At first glance, some may view Y.E.C.A. as an “environmental” initiative focused on “environmental” action and advocacy. In reality, however, we work just as much with relief and development agencies, mission organizations, and justice and compassion ministries as we do with traditional environmental groups. This is because climate change, like many of the pressing challenges we face, has interconnected moral, spiritual, societal, and ecological roots and impacts that must be addressed holistically in order to achieve lasting progress.

One partner that we are very grateful for and always eager to support and collaborate with is the Humanitarian Disaster Institute (HDI) at Wheaton College. HDI is at the forefront of equipping Christians and churches to more faithfully prepare for and respond to disasters in all their forms and at every level. Together, we are working to highlight the reality that, to reduce the frequency and severity of disasters, we need to tackle their roots, which include climate change. Likewise, if we want to help communities grow more resilient to disasters, we need to ensure that their natural resource base is healthy, stable, and sustainably utilized.

The integral links between disasters and climate change—and thus disaster ministry and climate action—are growing clearer every day. The more we are able to connect these dots in our action and advocacy, the more faithful we can live and love in a disaster-filled world.

For more on the links between disasters and climate change: