No. 359, February 25, 2005

GLOBAL WARMING TO DRIVE POLAR BEARS EXTINCT—PETITION FILED TO PLACE ICE BEAR ON ENDANGERED LIST

   

CENTER PETITIONS TO PROTECT CARIBBEAN CORALS ENDANGERED BY GLOBAL WARMING—DECISION EXPECTED SOON

   

"GOD’S EARTH IS SACRED": A LETTER FROM THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF CHURCHES

   

 

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GLOBAL WARMING TO DRIVE POLAR BEARS EXTINCT—PETITION FILED TO PLACE ICE BEAR ON ENDANGERED LIST

In an action that will draw greater attention to the reality of global warming and perhaps save the world’s largest bear, the Center for Biological Diversity submitted a 154-page scientific petition on 2-16-05 to place the polar bear on the U.S. endangered species list.

Senator Joseph Lieberman, co-sponsor of the Climate Stewardship Act, supported the petition: "The potential listing of the polar bear as an endangered species because of the effects of global warming should set off alarm bells around the world. Global warming is removing the bears’ habitat and wreaks havoc in the arctic climates where they live and grow. To spoil the earth for generations to come, and for the creatures that inhabit it, when we knew what we were doing and could have stopped it, would be a moral failing of enormous—and might I add—biblical proportions."

The polar bear is completely dependent on sea ice for hunting, traveling and mating. Its main prey species, the ringed seal, is also associated with the large expanses of sea ice which cover the polar regions for much of the year. Due to global warming, however, the sea ice is melting away. The polar bear’s habitat is not just being degraded, it is literally disappearing. Scientific models predict that 50 to 100 percent of the sea ice will disappear over the next 100 years if global warming trends continue.

Global warming is driven by human-generated greenhouse gasses which encase the earth, slowing the escape of solar energy. Thus, the earth heats up like a greenhouse. Chief among these gasses is carbon dioxide, which is produced by many sources including cars and airplanes. Producing 24 percent of the human-generated greenhouse gasses each year, the U.S. has the greatest responsibility of all nations on Earth to address global warming. Yet it has refused to join the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and will likely increase emissions by 43.5 percent by 2025. The Kyoto Protocol went into effect on 2-16-05, the same day the polar bear petition was filed, with the U.S. being the only major western industrial nation to not participate.

For more information on global warming, polar bears, and how you can help: click here.


CENTER PETITIONS TO PROTECT CARIBBEAN CORALS ENDANGERED BY GLOBAL WARMING—DECISION EXPECTED SOON

The effects of global warming are also felt in the Caribbean, where the process is threatening three species of native corals.

Staghorn, elkhorn, and fused staghorn corals were once the primary building blocks of coral reefs throughout Florida and the Caribbean. But since the 1970's the corals have declined between 80 and 98 percent throughout significant portions of their ranges. In March 2004, the Center submitted a petition to the National Marine Fisheries Service to protect these species under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Coral reefs are the building blocks of the marine web of life, and their extinction not only threatens countless marine fish and wildlife but also threatens billions of dollars of real estate and recreation in Florida and the Caribbean.

Scientists believe that the engine of extinction here is the same one threatening the polar bear: human-induced climate change. As the Earth's climate warms, ocean levels rise, taking away needed sunlight from the corals; ocean temperatures go up, increasing coral bleaching events; and the frequency of hurricanes and tropical storms increases, leveling coral reefs into rubble with no time in between storms for them to recover. The Center expects the National Marine Fisheries Service to issue a decision to protect the Caribbean coral reefs in March 2005.

More Information.


"GOD’S EARTH IS SACRED": A LETTER FROM THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF CHURCHES

On 2-14-05, the National Council of Churches, a coalition of 36 faith groups representing 100,000 congregations and 45 million American Christians, published "God’s Earth is Sacred: An Open Letter to Church and Society in the United States." Warning that humanity has become the uncreator, the letter calls on Christians to repent "social and ecological sins" and work for a cleaner, healthier environment for all the earth’s species. It states in part:

"God’s creation delivers unsettling news. Earth’s climate is warming to dangerous levels; 90 percent of the world’s fisheries have been depleted; coastal development and pollution are causing a sharp decline in ocean health; shrinking habitat threatens to extinguish thousands of species; over 95 percent of the contiguous United States forests have been lost; and almost half of the population in the United States lives in areas that do not meet national air quality standards. In recent years, the profound danger has grown, requiring us as theologians, pastors, and religious leaders to speak out and act with new urgency.

“We are obliged to relate to Earth as God’s creation ‘in ways that sustain life on the planet, provide for the [basic] needs of all humankind, and increase justice.’ Over the past several decades, slowly but faithfully, the religious community in the United States has attempted to address issues of ecology and justice. Our faith groups have offered rich theological perspectives, considered moral issues through the lens of long-standing social teaching, and passed numerous policies within our own church bodies. While we honor the efforts in our churches, we have clearly failed to communicate the full measure and magnitude of Earth’s environmental crisis—religiously, morally, or politically. It is painfully clear from the verifiable testimony of the world’s scientists that our response has been inadequate to the scale and pace of Earth’s degradation.

“To continue to walk the current path of ecological destruction is not only folly; it is sin. As voiced by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who has taken the lead among senior religious leaders in his concern for creation: ‘To commit a crime against the natural world is a sin. For humans to cause species to become extinct and to destroy the biological diversity of God’s creation . . . for humans to degrade the integrity of Earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the Earth of its natural forests, or destroying its wetlands . . . for humans to injure other humans with disease . . . for humans to contaminate the Earth’s waters, its land, its air, and its life, with poisonous substances . . . these are sins.’ We have become un-Creators. Earth is in jeopardy at our hands.

“This means that ours is a theological crisis as well. We have listened to a false gospel that we continue to live out in our daily habits—a gospel that proclaims that God cares for the salvation of humans only and that our human calling is to exploit Earth for our own ends alone. This false gospel still finds its proud preachers and continues to capture its adherents among emboldened political leaders and policy makers.”

To learn more: click here.

To read the full letter: click here.


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