Columnist Peter Ives: Making a statement about Mother Earth

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

It was while looking at the distant stars in the night sky that the book of Genesis became important to me. “In the beginning God created the heaven and earth and God said, ‘Let there be light.’ ”

My favorite theologian Paul Tillich used to say, “When speaking of God use the word ‘depth.’ ” So I like to say, “Out of the depth of God’s being there was light, and billions of galaxies and stars, until on one of those galaxies, near one of those stars, where the sky was blue and the water deep, the sun warm and the air pure, God gave us the gift of the Earth to be our home.”

The book of Genesis also says we human beings have been given a choice. The Hebrew word “shamar” means caretaker. We can be caretakers of this Earth, and stewards of creation or we can seek only to dominate the Earth, and despoil it.

There is enough for everyone’s need but not enough for everyone’s greed, and there are forbidden fruits. God places limits on our temptations. And today the limits are how much CO2 we can emit into the atmosphere.

Carbon dioxide emissions are now our forbidden fruits. It is imperative we transform our nation’s electrical power system away from fossil fuels to renewable energy resources. In the last three years we’ve had the highest heat records in recorded history.

Justin Gillis wrote in The New York Times on Jan. 19, “When heat buildup in the ocean is taken into account, the heat is roughly equal to the energy released by 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs exploding across the planet every day.”

This is a game-changer because 80 percent of all the oil and gas must be left in the ground if we are to prevent the buildup of CO2 molecules with enormous consequences to life on Earth. That is our first major limit. And the second major limit is that we have until the year 2050 to cut fossil fuel emissions 80 percent before our Earth spins out of control, and it’s too late. And that’s only 33 years away.

In 1968, NASA Commander Frank Borman on Apollo 8 was orbiting the moon when he and his crew suddenly caught sight of our planet as they came around the other side. “Oh my God,” Borman said. “Before us was the Earth, like a tiny blue and white marble in the vast darkness of intergalactic space and I realized that everything I cherished in life was upon that tiny blue and white gem.”

To make a statement about our responsibility to Mother Earth, 10 of us are riding our bikes from Northampton to Washington, D.C., to attend the People’s Climate March on April 29, and the bicycle is important part of our message.

The dawn of cycling began when Pierre Lallement, the inventor of the first modern pedal bicycle, rode his bike into New Haven in April of 1866. The bike is the most energy-efficient form of travel ever devised. A bicyclist fuels on carbohydrates, not fossil fuels.

Thus, the bicycle is a powerful symbol and direction for a world fueled by wind, water, sun and carbohydrates. What the spinning wheel was to Gandhi’s revolution in India, the bicycle wheel is to our revolution today with its message: “Live simply so others can simply live.”

Several weeks ago I was holding my 2-year-old granddaughter and I realized that by 2050 she will only be 35 years old. It brought tears to my eyes for all our children and grandchildren. That is why we are riding our bikes to Washington. We just have to do it for them.

The Rev. Dr. Peter Ives, a United Church of Christ minister in Northampton, is among 10 local activists who will leave Friday for the People’s Climate March on April 29 in Washington, D.C.