I heard my friend Larry Schweiger, president of the National Wildlife Federation, speak recently at a conference in Nashville about the connection between the Gulf spill and our need to address global warming. I’ve known Larry since 1994 and have been privileged to hear him speak on numerous occasions over the years – and this just might have been the best.
Larry is passionate about protecting God’s creation and leaving a better world for his children and grandchildren. And because of that passion he is outraged about the Gulf spill and is also profoundly concerned about what climate change will do to the rest of creation – and our lack of a serious response thus far as a country.
Larry’s strength as a communicator is the inspiring stories he tells. And in Nashville, he told one of his best about his childhood mentor and Scout leader, Ralph Abele.
Ralph used to tell his scouts, “Be careful what you are stubborn about because it just might happen.”
Larry recounts in his new book, “Last Chance: Preserving Life on Earth,” that during WorId War II Ralph was a company commander in the Third Armored Division who served in five campaigns in the European theater. Ralph’s service to his country included the Normandy invasion.
As Larry puts it in the preface: “As the sole survivor from his landing craft, Ralph knew the cost of stubborn courage. His gravelly voice, long silenced by death, still speaks clearly to me as I write this book.”
Ralph also told his Scouts, “Fight no little battles.”
Larry implored all of us at the conference to have stubborn courage when it comes to the big battles of the Gulf spill, climate change and creating a clean energy future.
Besides telling stories of courageous people like his mentor Ralph Abele, his hero Rachel Carson and his grandchildren, Larry loves to tell stories about wildlife.
One such story in his book involves sea turtles, who currently are being burned alive in the Gulf by BP in their efforts to burn off oil from the spill. Larry reminds us that these slow-moving creatures have survived more than 120 million years, outlasting the dinosaurs. But our actions may extinguish their majestic wonder.
“Rising temperatures combined with habitat fragmentation, shoreline alterations, marsh subsidence, sea-level rise, pollution and unrelenting fishing pressures may stress these amazing shelled reptiles beyond their survival capacity … it remains to be seen whether sea turtles will survive even the next few decades,” he writes.
In “Last Chance,” Larry states: “Like it or not, global warming is the defining issue of the twenty-first century, and this may be the defining moment for an all-out effort to avoid a climate crisis. Many who are paying attention to what is going on perceive the enormous risks ahead, but there are too many who are not paying attention.”
Larry’s book is a lucidly written, passionate and inspiring call to action that I highly recommend.
As a fellow Christian, Larry understands that the Christian life can be about stubborn courage. May we heed Larry’s call to be stubborn like his mentor Ralph as we tackle the big challenges of the Gulf spill and climate change.
Jim Ball is senior director of the Climate Campaign for the Evangelical Environmental Network.
Jim Ball is Executive Vice President for Policy and Climate Change at the Evangelical Environmental Network and author of the award-winning book, “Global Warming and the Risen LORD: Christian Discipleship and Climate Change.”