Commentary: To address climate change, we must take bold, courageous action

The following commentary is an opinion piece submitted by a reader. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Echo Press.

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By Rev. John M. Riggle, Alexandria, member of Citizens for a Sustainable Future

My mom’s father was born in 1885, when woodland caribou still called parts of Minnesota home. My father’s dad was born in 1895. He homesteaded with his family on the prairies of Canada, where they lived in a sod hut. I grew up with the pioneer spirit, and its way of looking at nature as limitless — something to be exploited.

Now we live in an era when the earth is devastated by us humans, due to climate change, deforestation, pollution, desertification, and so on. In most wild places, the Earth is still being “conquered” by us faster than nature can adapt to our pressure. Despite wide-spread damage many of us cling to that old 1800s mentality. We know better, yet we still want to think of living systems, land, sea, air and water as bottomless resources — storehouses of nature too big for us to destroy.

This has to change! Our self-centered ways of living on this tiny blue ball, hurtling through space, are not sustainable. We need a pioneering spirit fit for the Twenty-first Century. A spirit as hard-nosed and practical as that of the settlers of the 1800s. Yet also a spirit that humbly recognizes how we destroyed the lives and upended the ways of Indigenous people who were here first. Their ways of life which evolved with nature, over time, instead of heavy-handedly imposed upon it.

God our Creator has given us incredible brains, and with them powers far beyond our scrawny, human frames. Now, thanks to the James Webb telescope, we can even peer into the dawn of time when the universe began. Since we have such powers and are granted a radical free-will by God, now is the time for us to willingly commit to developing new, sustainable ways to live within creation.


At its best, the pioneering spirit was about starting all over — building new lives in unfamiliar space. Which is what we need to do now in our fast-eroding world. This might sound radical, but we have no choice! If we want Earth to sustain life for our great-grandchildren then we must take bold, courageous action to transform how we use – instead of abuse – this bountiful world God has given us!

Since Native Americans could figure out how to live on earth without killing it, and if pioneers could figure out how to survive in a foreign land, then we can and must start over also. It is our responsibility to future generations to discover healthy ways of producing energy, growing food, and making things without destroying the nature all life depends on. As miraculous as oil, gas, and coal seemed to our human development we must stop burning them!

We have to chart a new course if we want our descendants to enjoy a life anywhere near as safe and comfortable as we have enjoyed, up till now. It’s that simple.

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