Honorable mention – High school essay contest: Isabel Li
Religion: Unscientific stalling in the face of urgency
By Isabel Li
“If climate change were real, then God would save us from it.”
My years of climate action advocacy suddenly seemed utterly futile. Such beliefs did not come from a random passerby or a local pastor. They came from Tim Walberg, a United States congressman, who just denied the existence of climate change, claiming that a so-called greater force will protect humanity from its own disaster. I was appalled — How could he say that? How could he use his own faith to meddle in the equation of much-needed climate action?
Unfortunately, I soon learned that he was no outlier within the scope of society, particularly in the United States. Millions of Americans, many who are conservative evangelicals, believe similarly. In the face of a scientifically supported issue, they seek refuge in the bible, maintain that God is in control of the world and that rising temperatures are intentional. They take the subjective existence of a greater, more heroic being, accept the notion as a fact, and stray further than science, especially when these beliefs are inflamed by political rhetoric.
While I strongly believe in the right to practice religion, I do not agree with using religion as leverage to deviate from science. I trust science because it involves numerical analysis of accurately obtained experimental values done by credible and well-educated people across the globe.
Religion, however, is inherently subjective and open to all types of interpretation, which makes it easy to use as justification for unscientific statements.
Today’s world is in a dire situation where governments need to decide between climate action and inaction in a scientifically proven climate crisis; the situation is far too urgent to involve religion while waiting for divine intervention.
As a climate activist advocating for systematic change, it is disheartening to see that devoutly religious climate change deniers are everywhere, stalling critical bills in our governments. We constantly rally and fight for systematic change supported by credible scientists and science-based organizations worldwide, but such widespread change cannot occur when heavy reliance on religion blurs the lines between fact and faith.
While not all religious people reject science, the increasingly prevalent use of religion, rather than science, to justify support or opposition to certain policies poses more harm than good. Endangering the separation of church and state only opens pathways for misinformation, religion-motivated restrictions on civil rights, and stalling of critical bills— especially when facing an urgent climate crisis. With an ever-expanding group overdependent on the salvation of humanity by an impending divine intervention that has no basis in science, the praying, the stalling, and the waiting is all we need for our world to succumb to disaster.
Isabel, 17, is from Temple City, Calif., and attends Scripps College. “I was a volunteer manager for the youth climate activism organization ‘This is Zero Hour,’” Isabel writes. “As someone who advocates for systematic change in response to the climate crisis, I will also be studying environmental analysis along with media studies. In the future, I hope to produce film projects that emphasize the need for climate action, as well as promote green practices based in science.”