The American Academy of Religion (AAR) Should Demonstrate Leadership on the Climate Crisis

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The AAR executive board is asked to take bold action to address the climate crisis. In 2014, past AAR president and bioethicist, Laurie Zoloth called climate change "the central moral imperative of our time" and called for the AAR, the world's largest organization of scholars of religion, to provide moral leadership on this critical issue.

The October 2018 IPCC report gave the world 12 years to reduce carbon emissions by 50% or risk irreversible, catastrophic climate change that will render life-systems on our planet unsustainable. We are already witnessing the destructive nature of climate breakdown taking lives, destroying homes, villages, towns, and ecosystems through fire, flood, drought, and rising seas, with children and vulnerable populations suffering first and most. Business as usual is immoral cowardice. Allowing ourselves, as Dr. Zoloth proposed, to let our plans and our lives to be "interrupted," is a moral imperative at this critical moment in time.

Believing that our response should be commensurate with the problem we face, we call for the establishment of an AAR and SBL sabbatical every six years beginning in 2021 to reduce the carbon footprint of our more than 10,000 attendees. On that weekend, the members who would otherwise attend the Annual Meeting are asked to spend time studying, advocating, training, teaching and, in short, interrupting our lives with the urgency called upon us to address the climate crisis. In addition, the executive should take steps to dramatically reduce the carbon footprint of its meetings and operations by promoting zero carbon and low carbon, food, energy, and transportation.