Last week, actor Leonardo DiCaprio released his film The 11th Hour, which spotlights the problem of global warming in an effort to raise awareness about climate change. With the overwhelming success of Al Gore’s documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, last year, which showed the power of combining a celebrity name and an inescapable issue in much of the mainstream media, the movie was set to be another major achievement for activists championing environmental care. But since its release, it has generated just modest buzz despite decent reviews (nothing like the grassroots fanfare that Truth saw when it first opened). And yesterday, the film became a subject of controversy when the the co-founder of Greenpeace spoke out against the movie’s “scare tactics” for its approval of deforestation. Dr. Patrick Moore wrote a scathing editorial, criticizing the latest “doomsday documentary” and saying, “I’m concerned that we’re losing sight of some indisputable facts.” This comes from an outspoken environmental activist disagreeing with the details of another reformer’s climate-change opinion. And it’s not the first time there has been in-fighting and controversy among global warming activists.
MSNBC recently ran this story that looks at possible scams stemming from the new business of carbon offsets. In an effort to make a positive environmental impact and offset their own “carbon footprint” (a term the describes the measurable amount of carbon emissions an individual is responsible for), consumers can purchase the services of a company that will offset the carbon by investing in renewable energy and planting carbon-absorbing trees. And with the continual rise of environmental awareness and high-profile Hollywood anti-global-warming campaigns, the idea of carbon neutrality has become big business. But as the article points out, because the service is relatively unprecedented, it is largely unregulated and wrought with potential scams. It says, “When the environmental group Clean Air-Cool Planet commissioned a study on carbon offsets, communications manager Bill Burtis was surprised to find how few groups offered transparent details of their projects or had set up any process of independently verifying their environmental benefits.” Because so many carbon offset companies withheld information, the Clean Air-Cool Plant sought the service of an investigation firm that found few of the companies received high rankings from environmental watchdog organizations. And despite efforts, no formal set of standards has been established to rank carbon offsets.
The issue of global warming has also become a source of controversy within the Church. Last year, when several evangelical leaders signed the Evangelical Climate Initiative, which acknowledged our responsibility to combat global warming, it was met with sharp criticism from more conservative leaders who called into question the facts of climate change and the political affiliation of global-warming proponents. And as the issue continues to be a hot-button one within evangelical circles, other parts of the Church are also becoming involved in the debate. At this year’s annual Greenpeace fair in London (Sept. 2), a Catholic priest will be on hand to hear the confessions of sins against the environment. Though he said that the eco-confessions will be “a question of secular rather than sacramental confession,” it is another interesting melding of faith and environmental activism.
Awareness campaigns concerning climate change and global warming have become prevalent news stories, political issues and now parts of the conversation among faith communities, and as Christians, it is important that we closely discern the details surrounding the issue in an effort to act responsibly toward the environment as well as each other.