Shishmaref, Alaska, has taken center stage as its residents fight to preserve their way of life as changes in their environment and landscape attributed to climate change pose threats.

“The best way to help is to tell our story,” said Thomas Richter, pastor of Shishmaref Lutheran. “Let Shishmaref not be forgotten for our story is not just our story. If we become climate refugees, then the whole world is also climate refugees.”

Richter, who leads the only congregation in Shishmaref, said it will not suffice to let the village’s challenges be confined within the borders of Shishmaref, to let them be forgotten or politicized.

“Our warming is the warming of the whole planet,” Richter said. “Our sinking homes are the sinking of everyone’s homes. There is not a Shishmaref facing climate change that is to be considered—and then the rest of the world. There is only one world. Shishmaref’s melting away is a problem for the whole. Just as if the hand is hurt, the whole body suffers. Shishmaref becomes climate refugees, and the whole world becomes climate refugees.”

ELCA Advocacy is a nonpartisan voice on behalf of the ELCA and congregations to Congress and the administration, advocating for the protection of all creation, according to Ruth Ivory-Moore, ELCA Advocacy program director of environment and energy.

“Congress needs to hear that climate change is real,” Ivory-Moore said. “It is impacting our neighbors. Congress and the administration need to know that their constituents are about the earth, and they will hold them accountable for being responsible in their decisions to protect all of God’s creation.”

ELCA Advocacy uses traditional and social media to bring attention to and call for action on matters of concern. It provides education and resources for congregations and communities to lift up creation in the form of blogs, action alerts and resources, Ivory-Moore said.

“We are called by God to be stewards of all creation,” she said.

To learn more about ELCA Advocacy’s work combating climate change and for resources on how to help, click here.

Cindy Uken
Cindy Uken is a veteran, award-winning reporter based in Palm Springs, Calif. She has worked at USA Today, as well as newspapers in South Dakota, Minnesota, Montana and California.

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