Video: Bill McKibben's Sermon At The Riverside Church

Watch: "There are far more eminent theologians than me in this room; I'm not a theologian at all. But it is my firm belief that these companies have more money than God."

350.org founder Bill McKibben's sermon delivered on April 28 at the Riverside Church in NYC, on the topic of climate change.

Here are some excerpts from McKibben's inspiring sermon titled "God's Taunt":

...Rather, Job has to answer as all mortals did up until our time, because all of a sudden we've gotten rather large. Our first sense of that sudden change in stature came with the detonation of the first atom bomb at Alamagordo in the New Mexico desert. J. Robert Oppenheimer, watching the mushrooming cloud, quoted from the [Bhagvad Gita], from the Hindu scripture - "We are become as gods, destroyers of worlds."

But the images of those blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki were enough to persuade us, so far at least, to go no further down that path, thank god. We could imagine the horror of those titanic explosions. We, so far, have NOT been able to adequately imagine the effect of the explosion of billions of pistons in billions of cylinders every minute of every hour of every day, but those explosions are wrecking the earth just as surely and almost as fast as nuclear war.

Consider that, so far, human beings have burned enough coal and gas and oil to raise the temperature of the planet 1 degree Celsius...the energetic equivalent of exploding 400,000 Hiroshima-sized bombs every day...enough energy so far to melt the Arctic...We've taken one of the largest physical features on earth and we've broken it, and with the others not far behind. The oceans are now 30% more acidic...The atmosphere itself, because warm air holds more water vapor than cold, is now 5% wetter than it was 40 years ago, which loads the dice for drought and for flood...

...This is the largest social justice issue that we have ever faced...When I started this work, one of the things I'd always heard was that environmentalism was something for rich white people who had taken care of their other problems, and if you worried where your next meal was coming from you wouldn't be an environmentalist.

What we found as we worked around the world is exactly the opposite. Rich people tend to feel themselves immune from these changes. Most of the people that we work with around the world are poor and black and brown and Asian and young because that is what most of the world consists of. And what do you know, those people care as much about the future as anybody else, maybe more, so because if you are poor in this world right now, the future bears down harder on you than it does on anybody else...

...As I've said, so far we've raised the temperature one degree but the same scientists who told us that would happen have shown quite clearly that that one degree would be 4 or 5 by century's end unless we act very swiftly to get off coal and gas and oil.

And the larger question is why aren't we doing that? Why aren't we trying to make ourselves somewhat smaller? Why aren't we following, say, the lead of Germany, the only major country that's really pursued renewable power at an appropriate pace? There are now more solar panels in Bavaria than there are in the United States. There were days last summer when Germany generated more than half the power it used from solar panels within its borders and this is Germany. Munich is north of Montreal. Think what a country could do if it had, oh, I don't know, Florida or Nevada, Texas or California or Arizona to work with!

But we don't act; and for a particular reason-- one that will be clear to those who are used to reading the Gospels. Our richest people don't want to act because it would reduce their wealth somewhat. The fossil fuel industry is the one percent of the one percent, the richest enterprise in human history. Exxon made more money last year than any company in the history of money. There are far more eminent theologians than me in this room; I'm not a theologian at all. But it is my firm belief that these companies have more money than God.

And so far, they have been able to deploy those funds in political ways to make sure that nothing ever changes. They have bought, in our nation's capital and many others, a 25-year bipartisan effort to accomplish nothing...

...It's not that Americans are addicted to fossil fuel; most of us would be just as happy if our power came from the sun and the wind, if our cars ran on electricity. The addicts...are the folks who run the fossil fuel empire, addicted to profits so great that they turn away sorrowful from the knowledge that they're wrecking the future...

...The man who runs...[Exxon] finally admitted for the first time last summer that global warming was real and caused by carbon emissions. But, he said, it was an engineering problem with engineering solutions. Asked what he meant, he explained, "If we need to move our crop production areas, we will"...Crop production areas are what most of us call farms, and we already have them...The Exxon CEO made plain the reason for his unwillingness to change in a second interview a few weeks ago with Charlie Rose who asked him his philosophy...He just looked at the camera and said, "My philosophy is to make money."

...[The fossil fuel divestment movement] is designed less to bankrupt the industry - we can't do that - but more to take away their social license, to keep them from being able forever to overpower science with money and with political favor. If it's wrong to wreck the climate then it's wrong to profit from that wreckage. And to say that out loud is an important first step in dealing with the problem we find ourselves in...

...The arc of the physical universe is short and it's bending toward heat, and doing it very rapidly. If we don't win this fairly quickly, than we will not win this at all. We've waited a long time to get started; the momentum of physics is very large. Having lost the Arctic, we have no room for complacency...

About Diane Sweet

Diane Sweet's picture
Senior Editor, Lives in a gerrymandered district in Michigan.

Comments

We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.