Re: “Carbon questions” letter, April 29, page 8.
Carbon is created in stars and distributed through the universe as dust, which, in turn, forms the next generation of stars and their planets. Carbon is one of the most abundant elements in the universe and the 15th most abundant element in the Earth’s crust. It is also found in oceans and the atmosphere.
The amount of the Earth’s carbon is constant because, under the Earth’s conditions, conversion of one element to another is very rare. Just as there is a terrestrial water cycle, there is also a carbon cycle: from the atmosphere into organisms and the Earth, and then back into the atmosphere.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere traps heat from the sun in what is known as the greenhouse effect. In a normal carbon cycle at equilibrium, the global temperature is also at equilibrium. In geological time, extreme climate changes (glaciations and interglacial warm periods) have occurred and can be attributed largely to the carbon cycle being thrown off balance by such things as extreme tectonic shifts, variations in the sun’s heat and changing ocean currents.
What is happening now is a slow-motion catastrophe, as our growing population’s demand for fossil energy is producing CO2 and other greenhouse gases at an accelerating rate. It is our activity now that is upsetting the equilibrium and instigating a cataclysmic event. At a certain global-temperature tipping point, the balance will be irreversibly changed by runaway feedback mechanisms that will continue until a new level of equilibrium is reached.
I am fearful that the warnings sounded by scientists since the 1980s are falling worldwide on the deaf ears of politicians elected by a majority of the electorate who, themselves, are either immobilized by ignorance or confusion about this issue, are apathetic, or are motivated by greed. I fear for my grandchildren.
—Michael J. Newark, Wellesley, Ont.
The writer is a retired meteorologist.
The author of the “Carbon questions” letter poses a series of questions that many people are asking. We offer some responses as researchers in the environmental social sciences at the King’s University in Edmonton.
First, it is better to think in terms of broader global environmental change. Changes to the planet go beyond just the “global warming” of increasing atmospheric temperatures. Other planet-wide changes include acidifying oceans, altered water availability and food production, more extreme-weather events, and degraded habitats for plants and animals, leading to growing rates of extinction. A reason to focus on climate issues is because they affect all these other pieces of creation.
Second, while global greenhouse-gas concentrations and atmospheric temperatures have indeed fluctuated over 50 million years, all of human civilization has developed and flourished in a period of very stable climate. The last 180 years have seen a more rapid increase in greenhouse gases than has happened in the last several million years. The steepness of that rate of change is not “natural.”
Third, scientists propose many hypotheses and test whether they can explain the evidence. But of all the hypotheses, only human action—fossil fuel emissions, and, to a lesser degree, land-use patterns—accounts for the global environmental changes we are seeing. Without exception, the scientific bodies of individual nations and transnational bodies like World Meteorological Organization agree.
Lastly, the science does conclude that change is needed, just as smelling smoke leads to calling the fire department. Researchers explain that, if we act now, we can reduce the worst effects of a changing climate, but it gets more difficult and more expensive the longer we wait to act. As Canadians have some of the highest per capita greenhouse-gas emissions in the world, we need to address this “plank” in our collective “eye.”
—Randy Haluza-DeLay and Joanne Moyer, Edmonton
The Bible Unwrapped is informative, inspiring and scholarly
Re: “Bible commentary geared for younger readers” book review of The Bible Unwrapped: Making Sense of Scripture Today, Feb. 18, page 11.
Despite 75-plus years of biblical exposure, I found this Herald Press book both informative and inspiring. Meghan Larissa Good presents this biblical overview and “how-to-read-the-Bible” in a refreshing manner. While scholarly, it is understandable to a 10th-grader. Her everyday, picturesque, non-religious vocabulary keeps one reading this compilation of biblical wisdom. Anyone struggling with the many complexities found in the Bible can find it helpful.
Throughout, the author keeps reminding us that Jesus reveals the nature and purposes of God, and that we, like the early Christians, must interpret all Scripture through the Jesus-lens.
The third section deals extensively with discernment within the community of Jesus-followers. This, and more, is illustrated as she explores some of the challenging stories and passages of the Bible. Sometimes we, like Jacob wrestling the night-stranger (Genesis 32), will leave the struggle limping, but with a new vision of God and a new identity.
While I could not find any Mennonite school in her curriculum vitae, Good offers an excellent representation of Anabaptist-Mennonite theology. I place her writings alongside other renowned Mennonite authors who have taught and inspired me.
I place this book alongside my layman’s guide to Anabaptist theology by Paul M. Lederach, A Third Way. I suggest that The Bible Unwrapped be compulsory reading as an introduction for biblical studies.
—Ivan Unger, Cambridge, Ont.
Who has the right to choose who lives?
Re: “Can we talk about abortion?” column, April 29, page 10.
Thank you to Melissa Miller for broaching this very timely, probably overdue, topic. I agree that our conversation shall be open, honest and gracious, even when we reference a procedure that is anything but.
The big question to me, “What is the ‘thing’ to be aborted?” It is very difficult to get around the fact that “it” is of human origin. Humans beget humans. At conception, a new life with its own unique DNA has begun. Psalm 139:13-16 is beautiful in its portrayal, and the Elizabeth and Mary story in the gospels assumes the humanity of the unborn children they are carrying.
None of us were aborted. Can we arrogate to ourselves who does and does not live? Are we playing God? This is a role I cannot assume! Abortion, after all, is the intentional termination of life—a human life.
Stories abound of people—even our people in our churches—who have consequent psychological and mental health issues having participated in or promoted this often-violent procedure. But our gracious God extends forgiveness to all who seek it, even in this matter.
Are sociological, economic and psychological considerations worthy in this discussion? Yes, they are. Do they rise to the level of denying life to innocent unborn humans? I think not. Do we, therefore, owe them an extension of grace, compassion and mercy? Yes.
—David Froese, Winnipeg
Honouring family attachment lauded
Re: “Hold them close” column, April 29, page 11.
I thank Christina Bartel Barkman for sharing how she and her family honour and reinforce family attachment with their children.
I know many grown missionary kids who now carry deep wounds from their own experiences of not having their attachment needs met by their missional parents, who left them for lengthy periods and pulled them in and out of environmental contexts without much discussion. They were undoubtedly loved by their parents, but often did not have an attachment relationship with them.
I’m glad we now know as a society to do things differently. Reiterating from her quotation from the book Hold on to Your Kids: “All the parenting skills in the world cannot compensate for a lack of attachment relationship.”
—Noreen Janzen, Winnipeg