Noah’s Ark in Reverse: Climate-Related Disasters
The story of Noah’s ark begins with a moral assessment of his era. Noah was “a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time,” while the rest of “the earth was corrupt in God’s sight.” This beginning sets the stage for the flood to serve as God’s cleansing agent. Suppose, however, the story had been different.
My oldest daughter watches a cartoon show called “What If?” Each episode takes an original story of a Marvel superhero and asks, “What if we changed the start of the story a bit? What would happen then? What if the events that led to Steve Rogers becoming Captain America were altered slightly to instead make Peggy Carter the nation’s superhero?” Today, we might ask ourselves what if the story of Noah’s ark was reversed? Instead of the righteous Noah being saved from the wreckage of a sin-ravaged world, what if it were the sinners who were saved while Noah drowned in the floods?
We need not stretch our imaginations very far to consider how this story would play out. It is already happening today. Whether we are talking about the inequities of nations, races, or classes, moral responsibility for the climate crisis often has an inverse relationship with the damage the crisis inflicts. As the New York Times reported during the recent UN Climate Summit, while wealthy countries like the United States contribute a disproportionately large share of greenhouse gas emissions, it is the poorer countries of the world that suffer disproportionately from the enormous harm wrought by these emissions.
The blameless are the one’s drowning today as we literally experience the reverse of Noah’s story. One recent study found that in the U.S. poor White communities currently suffer disproportionately from flood damage, while future flooding will disproportionately affect Black communities, especially in the Southeast.
This reality makes next week’s Creation Justice Webinar all the more relevant, as it focuses on responding to climate-related disasters with equity and justice. It will feature Marcus Coleman, Jr., from FEMA’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Marcie Roth from the World Institute on Disability, and the Rev. Fred Meade from the UCC’s Disaster Resource & Response Team for the Southern New England Conference. Learn more and register now!
The Rev. Dr. Brooks Berndt is the UCC Minister for Environmental Justice and the author of Cathedral on Fire: A Church Handbook for the Climate Crisis.