On March 15, 2019, the youth from over 2000 cities around the world went on strike to protest and raise awareness of the unique threat climate change poses to the younger generations. While many of those who benefitted from the misuse of natural resources will be dead before the worst effects of climate change arrive, children today will be at the start of their adult years. In the words of one banner from the strike in New York City, NY, USA, “We don’t want to die.” This Earth Day, what can communities of faith do to promote intergenerational justice for our current and future generations?
Let’s start with a basic definition of “intergenerational justice.” According to Janna Thompson of Future Leaders, an Australian philanthropic organization which promotes leadership for future generations, “A society is intergenerationally just when each generation does its fair share to enable members of succeeding generations, both inside and outside its borders, to satisfy their needs, to avoid serious harm and to have the opportunity to enjoy things of value.” In sum, we’re practicing intergenerational justice when we ensure that we’re living in a sustainable manner, such that, when we die, we leave the Earth both habitable and enjoyable for future generations.
As stewards of Creation, we have a divine responsibility to maintain and protect the natural world and all that inhabit it, including our fellow humans. We also carry a moral responsibility not to burden future generations with cleaning up our messes and suffering our consequences. Yet, despite agreement that we must work together to form climate solutions, we often find ourselves wondering what to do.
This Earth Day, follow the example of #ClimateStrike and take action. First, start a conversation in your community of faith. ecoAmerica has constructed some helpful talking points to help you have a productive and uplifting discussion— no need for gloom-and-doom headlines! Then, take that conversation beyond your community of faith. Get a group together to attend a conference or summit, make a public commitment as a community to working toward clean energy, and work with your local leaders to create a broad dialogue on the topic of climate change and climate solutions. Write letters to the editor and op-eds for your local paper on climate change and local solutions. Finally, take your new knowledge of climate change and solutions and go vote! Contact your policymakers and representatives and ask them what they plan to do about climate change. Keep informed on policies under consideration and voice your opinion to your representatives— it’s their job to represent you, after all.
Intergenerational justice is how we can best ensure that our children inherit the same Creation we had the joy of stewarding before their arrival. So, go talk, learn, and voice your commitment to climate solutions. Make the world more intergenerationally just this Earth Day.
For general resources on faith and climate, visit Blessed Tomorrow. For interfaith, advocacy-centric intergenerational justice resources, please visit #EachGeneration. For our Christian partners, Creation Justice Ministries has a comprehensive toolkit on intergenerational justice for Earth Day 2019. The Religious Action Center has a blog post discussing environmentalism in terms of shmita and current politics. For our Muslim friends celebrating Ramadan this May and June, ISNA has a “Greening Ramadan” resource and campaign pledge form. For more information on Earth Day and ways to observe it, please visit the Earth Day Network and read about the goals for Earth Day 2019.