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Building more resilient communities in a climate-challenged world

April 28, 2015

"Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him a name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father."

(Philippians 2:4-11)

What is resilience? The dictionary defines it as the ability to recover quickly from illness, disaster or adversity. In ecology, the term is used to describe the ability of an ecosystem to return to its original state after a disturbance. For Christ, resilience came from a life lived in service, love and obedience – examples that still resonate with us thousands of years later.

Climate disruptions, such as extreme storms and multi-year droughts, are testing the resilience of the earth community. Long-term drought in California, for example, has put at risk not only the state’s fruit and vegetable farms, a source of food for millions of people, but also the state’s drinking-water supplies, which face the very real possibility of running dry in some parts of the state. In another extreme example, multiple typhoons have devastated the Philippine islands in recent years, triggering massive and costly humanitarian efforts to rebuild lives and communities in ways that can withstand future storms.

In the face of long-term drought or extreme weather, some families and communities will be able to find the resources to rebuild, but over the long term, will the larger human community have the resilience to withstand the rising sea levels and extreme weather brought by climate change? If more extreme weather is becoming the norm, what does the future hold for communities of modest or few means?

These questions take on even more urgency in the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries. How will a small, low-lying island in Micronesia find the means to cope with rising sea levels? How do farmers in coastal Bangladesh manage salt water intrusion into freshwater supplies needed to grow staple crops to feed their communities?

And how are we, in one of the wealthiest nations on earth, called to help our neighbors cope with this emerging reality? Do we put up sea walls on our own coastlines and retreat behind them, ignoring the fact that many of the communities already heavily impacted by rising sea levels and weather extremes lack the means to prepare for climate change disasters? Or do we look to the interests of others, whether they are in native villages in coastal Alaska, farming communities in sub-Saharan Africa or the tiny Pacific island of Tuvalu?

The Green Climate Fund is a new international funding mechanism that represents a major commitment by the global community to help vulnerable nations build resilience to climate impacts. The fund was established to build the capability of vulnerable and low-income nations to embrace clean and low-carbon energy development and to adapt to the unavoidable impacts of climate change. By building more resilient communities, countries will also increase food security and political stability, both of which will have positive impacts on issues such as migration and national security.

Last November, President Obama announced that the United States will contribute $3 billion over the next five years to the Green Climate Fund. Countries ranging from Germany, Japan and France to Korea, Mexico and Peru have also announced initial pledges to the fund that total more than $10 billion. If this new institution is to succeed in its task of helping the most vulnerable build resilience to climate disruption, honoring these pledges will be critical.

The president’s budget request for 2016 includes an initial payment of $500 million to the fund, which we will be urging Congress to approve. Please join us next month as we take part in interfaith effort to ensure that the United States honors its pledge to the Green Climate Fund.

Resilience is being prepared for disaster, but it is also building what can be sustained and taking steps to help our neighbors as well as ourselves. Christ lived a resilient life, living humbly while building community and serving others. Leading a Christian life in our complex modern world poses challenges that Christ never faced, but his lasting example of love and service to others is still a good pathway to a resilient life and strong and enduring communities.

Learn more about the Green Climate Fund here.

-Mary Minette, program director, Environmental Policy and Education

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