Author: Mark Pickett
God has shown you what is good. What does God require of you? To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8
Margot and I moved to Colorado from North Carolina nearly two years ago. Shortly before our move, Hurricane Florence struck the NC coast. Florence was a massive category 4 storm with sustained winds of 130 miles per hour. But when it made landfall, it had degraded to a cat 1 storm with winds of 90 mph. By NC standards, this was not a big storm. However, shortly after making land, Florence stalled for four days and dropped 36 inches of rain.
The city of Wilmington, situated on the Cape Fear River a few miles from the coast, became an island accessible only by boat for several days. But what struck me most about this storm was the warning that was issued soon after it departed. For a month there was a health advisory that people should not swim, or even wade, in the Atlantic Ocean near the mouth of the Cape Fear River. Not go in the Atlantic for a whole month? Why?
In that part of the state there are massive, industrial hog farms. These farms raise thousands of hogs and generate massive amounts of waste which is gathered in large lagoons. Some of the waste evaporates; the rest is sprayed on nearby fields. The stench and filth from this process suffocates neighboring home and coats houses and cars with a disgusting film when the wind blows. There are also elevated rates of respiratory diseases. People were warned to stay out of the Atlantic in part because hog waste washed into it when Florence passed through.
This is not just a story about one storm. It’s the story of industrial farms located in impoverished counties overwhelmingly populated by people of color. Smithfield Foods has money for lobbyists. Local residents do not, and so their voices go unheard while being forced to live with an ongoing ecological disaster with few options.
Our church is in the process of becoming a “Creation Justice Church” in our denomination, the United Church of Christ. Over the next several weeks members of the Climate Action Team will be talking to church boards and committees about this process, and we anticipate having congregational forums so that your hopes and dreams may be heard as well. We are concerned not only about the climate disasters we are living through today with more powerful and frequent hurricanes, firestorms and many more. We are also concerned about climate justice issues like those confronting black folks in coastal Carolina, and other voiceless people across the country and around the world.
The prophet Micah condemned the people of ancient Israel for turning their backs on the oppression of the most vulnerable. But he did point a way forward. “What does God require of you?” he asked. “Do justice. Love mercy. And walk humbly with God.” In our Creation Justice initiative, that is exactly what we are hoping to do!