Hallelujah, Churches Have Seen the Light

Hallelujah, Churches Have Seen the Light

By Amy Westervelt

The Presbyterian Church made a huge announcement this week: it will divest $4-$7 million from fossil fuels entirely. That includes removing its money from five oil companies: Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Marathon Petroleum, Phillips 66 and Valero Energy. The announcement came on the heels of another announcement from three dozen other religious groups that have also divested from fossil fuel. It's a big deal, not just as a win for divestment and less money for Big Oil, but also because of the longstanding relationship between western Christianity and oil.

Religion and oil have been deeply intertwined from the very early days of the industry in the U.S. According to Darren Dochuk, author of the book Annointed with Oil, which traces the history of this relationship in great detail, "Oil is first found in western Pennsylvania. This is a land of folk religion, right? Tucked away in Appalachia. Where does oil discovery and exploration go next? It goes to east Texas. It goes to California. It goes to regions where there is already kind of an established kind of folk religiosity, much of it very intensely evangelical. So, you know, where oil arrives, there's already a built-in mechanism that, whether it's Pentecostal or Presbyterian, allows this prosperity gospel to flourish at the ground level."

Early oil men like Lyman Stewart and John D. Rockefeller were deeply religious men who believed that God had chosen them not just to find oil, but to profit from it, and, eventually even to use it as a tool for reaching new converts. "There is evidence of American corporations, those located in the West in particular, in relying on information provided by missionaries for exploration and also lines of potential marketing in places like Peru," Dochuk explains.

Peru was one of the first countries where a U.S. oilman, Presbyterian leader Lyman Stewart, found large oil reserves.

He moved to Southern California in the late 1800s and started Union Oil company. Eager to build  his own oil empire in the West to compete with the Rockefellers' stranglehold in the East, he started looking to Latin America to do that. "An executive in the company was a missionary in Peru and was aware both of the oil potential of Peru but also of this kind of fertile, as they saw it, land for witnessing and spreading a gospel of conservative evangelicalism," Dochuk says. "So, these two operations, the search for oil and the quest to save souls for Christ, as Lyman Stewart saw it, went hand in hand very much early on."

Which not only makes the announcement about the Presbyterian Church divesting in fossil fuels that much more important, it also makes divestment that much more complicated and fraught for the church. Leaders in the Presbyterian Church have been talking about divestment since the 1980s, but opted to try to engage with company leadership in an effort to try to pressure them to change. This move to finally embrace divestment marks an evolution there, a realization that those changes aren't coming, that engagement isn't enough, that there really is no compromise between the status quo and winding down fossil fuels. In a lot of ways it's a precursor to the rest of society disentangling itself from the grip of fossil fuels…and it's about damn time.

May and June Were a Mixed Bag for Climate Coverage

By Mary Annaïse Heglar

Ever since May, it feels like the news has been dominated by two things: the overturning of Roe vs. Wade and the January 6 hearings. As we’ve written about ad nauseum in this newsletter, neither of those two things are separate from the climate crisis, but that’s usually how the story is told. At the same time, we’re kicking off wildfire and hurricane season with terrifying temperatures across the globe. And, as far as I’ve heard, all the news outlets that made Big Pledges to tackle the climate story haven’t issued statements to the contrary. So… let’s check in on how media coverage on climate change panned out in May and June.

Survivors' Guilt

By Amy Westervelt

California is on fire again. This time, an out-of-control wildfire is threatening Yosemite and, in particular, a grove of ancient sequoias that have been rooted in the ground there for more than 500 years. Every year, for the last decade or so, I have braced myself for fire season, starting around April and going until the end of December, tensing up whenever there's lightning or a dry wind. This year's different. I'm worried and watching still, but I'm not there.


By Mary Annaïse Heglar

Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that I have not been on top of my greentrolling game lately. I’ve kind of just needed a break from social media and technology in general, so I’ve been keeping my distance. Which is how I happened to miss this gem of a tweet from my #ClimateBae BP:

BP…sweetheart…babydoll…sugar pie…GIRL..Verbalizing support for the LGBTQ community is not what gets you nasty comments on the Twitter machine. Never in my entire time of cyberstalking and cyberbullying BP have I seen anything homophobic or hateful in the comments. What I HAVE seen are people pointing out the hypocrisy of “supporting” the queer community while… doing your damndest to end life on earth for everyone–including the queer community!


Your weekly digest of climate coverage, compiled by the great Jules Bradley and Georgia Wright, of Inherited.

Rising Temperatures, Rising Tides

A Heat Dome Is Bringing Dangerous Temperatures to the Southwest by Angely Mercado for Earther

Hurricane Season Brings Emotional and Social Stresses for Young People | Teen Vogue, by Vaishnavi Kumbala

Utah's Great Salt Lake Dwindles to New Record Low by Lauren Leffer for Earther

Heat dome builds in southern US, severe thunderstorm risk in the north - The Washington Post, by Matthew Cappucci

Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon hits record for first half of 2022 | Reuters, by Jake Spring and Bruno Kelly

Wild species relied on by billions at risk, report warns | AP News, by Fabiano Maisonnave

The Amazon Rain Forest's Future Is on the Ballot in Brazil by Andre Pagliarini for The New Republic

In Africa, Conflict and Climate Super-Charge the Forces Behind Famine and Food Insecurity, by Georgina Gustin for Inside Climate News

Crops destroyed, clean water scarce: How will millions of South Asia flood survivors move forward? By Zakir Hossain Chowdhury and Aatreyee Dhar for The New Humanitarian

Europe is heating up faster than other 'hot spots,' a study finds. by Henry Fountain for the New York Times

Biodiversity Crisis Affects Billions Who Rely on Wild Species, Researchers Say by Elena Shao for The New York Times

Thirteen dead, three dozen missing after cloudburst in India's Kashmir | Reuters, by Fayaz Bukhari

Derecho turns sky green, sweeps through 5 states with 90 mph winds, by Matthew Cappucci for The Washington Post

Big fish sightings are spiking. Climate change may be the cause. - The Washington Post, by John Farrell

New Study Identifies Rapidly Emerging Threats to Oceans - Inside Climate News, by Rachel Rodriguez and Bob Berwyn

Deadly Glacier Collapse in Italy Shows Reach of Europe's New Heat by Jason Horowitz for The New York Times

The Amazon Rain Forest's Future Is on the Ballot in Brazil | The New Republic, by Andre Pagliarini

“Hell on Earth” Used to Just Be a Figure of Speech by Tom Engelhardt for the Nation

Extreme lightning sparks more Alaska wildfires in already historic season, by Jacob Feurstein and Joshua Partlow for The Washington Post

Wildfire nears famous site in California’s Yosemite National Park, by Al Jazeera reporters for Al Jazeera

Climate change forcing nature reserves to adapt, warns new report, by BBC staff

Thousands still without power as Electra fire grows to 4,112 acres with 40% containment, by Grace Toohey for the Los Angeles Times

North Korean streets flooded as heavy rains exacerbate economic crisis | Reuters, by Reuters Staff

Italy's worst drought in 70 years in photos - The Washington Post, by Kasha Patel

The Climate Presidency?

Democrats race to clinch deal on climate, energy with Manchin - The Washington Post, by Maxine Joselow and Vanessa Montalbano

Utility-Backed Republicans May Have Gerrymandered Against One Democrat by Molly Taft for Earther

With Build Back Better Stalled, Expanded Funding for a Civilian Climate Corps Hangs in the Balance, by Samantha Hurley for Inside Climate news

The 3 Most Important Climate Laws You've Never Heard Of by Anne Barnard for The New York Times

Global dismay as supreme court ruling leaves Biden's climate policy in tatters, by Oliver Milman for The Guardian

Biden proposes more offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska by Emily Pontecorvo for Grist

In light of EPA court ruling, new focus on states' power | AP News, by Kathleen Ronayne

Biden's New Highway Rule Offers Some Hope for His Faltering Climate Agenda in Inside Climate News

Climate Accountability

The EU Just Decided Natural Gas Is 'Green' (???) by Molly Taft for Earther

The Supreme Court's EPA ruling affects not only climate change, but also air pollution - Vox by Siobhan McDonough for Vox

Quitting Oil Income Is Hard, Even for States That Want Climate Action by Brad Plumer for The New York Times

EPA Describes How It Will Regulate Power Plants After Supreme Court Setback by Lisa Friedman for The New York Times

How a 50-year-old PR strategy influenced the Supreme Court's EPA decision by Kate Yoder for Grist

'Insane' lithium price bump threatens EV fix for climate change, by Ian Neubauer for Al Jazeera

The Supreme Court's EPA decision could have been much worse by Shannon Osaka for Grist

The World Is Turning Back to Coal by Robinson Meyer for the Atlantic

I led the US lawsuit against big tobacco for its harmful lies. Big oil is next | Sharon Y Eubanks | The Guardian

China's summer floods and heat waves fuel plans for a changing climate, by Christian Shepherd, Pei-Lin Wu and Eva Dou for The Washington Post

Governor signs $1.2B water plan as Arizona faces cutbacks | AP News, by Bob Christie

Australia floods: Unfounded cloud seeding claims spread online - BBC News, by Marco Silva

We've overexploited the planet, now we need to change if we're to survive | Patrick Vallance | The Guardian

Justice Is Justice Is Justice

Pride at the End of the World by Molly Taft for Earther

Preparing for extreme weather is a community concern. Here's how to be ready. by Muizz Akhtar for Vox

Local climate action by Somini Sengupta for The New York Times

The Supreme Court Appoints Itself to Be America's Regulatory Czar | The New Republic, by Simon Lazarus

California Released a Bold Climate Plan, but Critics Say It Will Harm Vulnerable Communities and Undermine Its Goals by Kristoffer Tigue for Inside Climate News

Lessons From Latin America, by Salomé Gómez-Upegui for Atmos

A Vast Refinery Site in Philadelphia Is Being Redeveloped and Called 'The Bellwether District.' But for Black Residents Nearby, Justice Awaits - Inside Climate News by Victoria St. Martin for Inside Climate News

With Build Back Better Stalled, Expanded Funding for a Civilian Climate Corps Hangs in the Balance by Samantha Hurley for Inside Climate News

Puerto Rico Is Not Yet Free, by Norishka Pachot for Atmos

Glimmers of Hope

California passes nation's toughest plastic reduction bill by Joseph Winters for Grist

Climate change: 'Sand battery' could solve green energy's big problem - BBC News, by Matt McGrath

Floating wind farms at sea to create 29,000 jobs - Crown Estate - BBC News, by Sarah Dickins

Why the Supreme Court's power plant ruling isn't 'game over' for the climate, by Sammy Roth for the Los Angeles Times ‘

Monsoon arrived early, delivering much-needed rain to the Southwest, by Matthew Cappucci for The Washington Post

In the US West, Researchers Consider a Four-Legged Tool to Fight Two Foes: Wildfire and Cheatgrass, by Emma Foehringer Merchant for Inside Climate News

Climate in Culture

In the UK, Climate Protesters Are Gluing Themselves to Art by Alex Marshall for The New York Times

As North Carolina warms, one farm is turning to a tropical crop: Taro by Lina Tran for Grist

Americans are coming around on electric cars by Julia Kane for Grist

Last Supper targeted by climate protesters at Royal Academy - BBC News, by BBC Staff

Scaling a Next-Gen Material | Atmos, by Lauren Cochrane

Art, science and a reef made of sugar: an exploration of climate change | Art | The Guardian by Joe Hinchliffe

To the End: Director Rachel Lears on the Fight for a Green New Deal | Teen Vogue, by Nadja Sayej

Plus more

Mitt Romney Is in Denial | The New Republic, by Alex Shephard

Found: One Oak Tree, Famously Missing | The New Republic, by Marion Renault

Down to Earth, by Willow Defebaugh by Atmos

Colonization’s Lasting Impact on Photography, by Jesse Van’t Hull and photographs by Josué Rivas for Atmos

Microplastics detected in meat, milk and blood of farm animals | Plastics | The Guardian, by Damian Carrington


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