The Oracle

Pastor warns of coming eco-pocalypse

Pastor and environmentalist Timothy Eberhart speaks on the intersection of religion, race and the enviroment and how it affects the Midwest.

Nate Correia, Senior Reporter

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Many of us will disregard religious preachers claiming that we are on a path to the apocalypse. But what if one actually had scientific evidence?

South Dakota pastor and Saint Olaf graduate Timothy Eberhart combines an unlikely combination of his Methodist background, various forms of interfaith inspiration and a strong background in ecological science to arrive at his conclusion that humanity is headed towards serious disaster.

Pope Francis has said that “every person living on this planet” needs to protect “this, our common home.” In other words, all humans depend on the environment to survive.

Eberhart introduced the audience to his speech, saying, “Whether Christian or not, I hope you will hear these words as an invitation to think about your own perspective.”

Eberhart’s philosophy is that nature is one of God’s gifts to humanity. God intends for humanity to flourish and enjoy the goodness of existence. All humans rely on nature, indirectly or directly, to exist. The problem is that people aren’t living like we’re in Eden. Instead we’re living east of Eden, says Eberhart, referencing the novel. Because of this, we’re on a path to serious repercussions.

Numerous scientists have noted that the world is witnessing the sixth great extinction, a time of massive ecological damage. Unlike the past five, this extinction is being led by humankind. There are several planetary life systems vital to human survival. However, today human ecological damage has put a severe strain on these systems.

“Any further pressure on these systems could be deleterious, even catastrophic.” said Eberhart.

But what’s worse, as Eberhart says, is that humans remain largely oblivious to the approaching ecologically-induced disasters. Of all regions, the South Dakota pastor focuses on the problems facing the Midwest.

Careless industrialization has induced disastrous consequences on the Midwest. The problems are too numerous to entirely list, but a few examples of them are fracking and oil centers polluting our lakes and drinking water, pollution going straight into our living areas, and massive waste being produced by large-scale, industrial farms. One illustrative example the pastor notes of this is that, as of today, the average American damages the environment fifteen times more than the  average citizen of a Third World country like Bangladesh.

Environmental racism plays a role as well. Coal power plants being located in primarily African-American neighborhoods and the current water crisis in Flint, Michigan disproportionately hurting African-Americans and other racial minorities are just a few examples of our harmful practices.

The reality is that careless environmental damage and environmental racism are simply unsustainable.

The good news is that we have found ways to amend our situation. As Eberhart notes, UN environmental reports have shown that smaller-scale farms are much more ecologically friendly to feeding humanity and meeting its needs. If we have the political resolve, we can work towards ending the environmental racism that is currently harming racial minorities at a disproportionate rate.

Eberhart ended his speech saying “Utopian and unrealistic? Perhaps. But even more unrealistic thinking is that we can sustain living like we are, in an age of collapsing biosystems. We can transition quite rapidly if we have the public will and direct public dollars to it.”

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Pastor warns of coming eco-pocalypse