Rounding Up the “Unusual Suspects” to Save Climate Change: Communities of Faith and Insurers
At the end of the classic film, Casablanca (1942), Humphrey Bogart, playing Rick the bar owner, shoots a Nazi officer, Major Stasser, in front of the collaborative French police officer, Capt. Renault, played by Claude Rains. The act is to allow Rick’s love, Ilsa, played by Ingrid Bergman, to escape with her freedom-fighter husband. The local gendarme arrive immediately and realize the German officer has been shot, and Capt. Renault orders his men to “Round up the usual suspects.” The order is for a roundup of those who normally would be thought responsible for the killing, and it is the “beginning of a beautiful friendship” between Rick and Capt. Renault, in their opposition to oppression.
In a climate change context, Major Stasser is played by the fossil fuel interests, like ExxonMobil, BP, coal companies everywhere, and the Koch Brothers. This is just a metaphor so don’t get carried away with the comparisons.
To fight these fossil fuel interests, we already have the usual suspects, such as climatologists, geographers, geologists and many other scientists; environmental organizations; some enlightened governments and businesses; some political organizations; and some people. But we need to round up the “unusual suspects” to help us in this struggle.
Our cast of characters, playing the “unusual suspects,” include communities of faith. For example, Pope Francis has become outspoken in arguing for protecting the earth, or creation, from climate change, he has questioned fracking, and is expected to issue a green manifesto. At the beginning of his reign, he did choose as a namesake St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and the environment and he recently, and cleverly, said, “God always forgives, we sometimes forgive, but when nature — creation — is mistreated, she never forgives.”
Muslims are deeply engaged with climate change issues as are Evangelical Christians. A climate scientist, Katharine Hayhoe, who is an Evangelical Christian, was featured in the series The Years of Living Dangerously, meeting with actor Don Cheadle in her home state of Texas to explain why faith and a warming planet aren’t in conflict. And Evangelical Christians are taking political action in Florida, and elsewhere.
Another unusual suspect in the struggle against fossil fuel interests is the insurance industry. As reported in this same issue, Lloyd’s and other insurers are at the forefront of calculating the risks and costs of climate change and building those considerations into the way they do business. They also are demanding that their clients, including major companies and governments, do the same.
When you’re trying to figure out the next step to take to counter the fossil fuel interests, consider these unusual suspects as allies and seek them out to develop common grounds for action.
“The pope is writing a big green manifesto,” Grist (25 Jan 2014). grist.org/news/the-pope-is-writing-a-big-green-manifesto/
Holly Richmond, “Pope Francis continues being awesome, says Christians should fight climate change,” Grist (22 May 2014). grist.org/list/pope-francis-climate-change/
Andrew Revkin, “Can a Pope Help Sustain Humanity and Ecology?” New York Times (6 May 2014). dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/05/06/can-a-pope-help-sustain-humanity-and-ecology/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=1
Chris Mooney, “Why Should Evangelical Christians Care About Climate Change? Here are five reasons from an evangelical Christian climate scientist,” Slate (3 May 2014). www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/climate_desk/2014/05/conservative_christians_and_climate_change_five_arguments_for_why_one_should.html
Alex Leary, “Evangelicals in Florida turn to climate change and call on Gov. Scott to act,” Tampa Bay Times (20 May 2014). www.tampabay.com/blogs/the-buzz-florida-politics/evangelicals-in-florida-turn-to-climate-change-and-call-on-gov-scott-to-act/2180561
John Wihbey, ‘Green Muslims,’ Eco-Islam and Evolving Climate Change Consciousness,” Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media (11 April 2012). www.yaleclimatemediaforum.org/2012/04/green-muslims-eco-islam-and-evolving-climate-change-consciousness/
“Catastrophe Modelling by Insurance Companies: Building Climate Change Impacts into Doing Business,” Reports section of irish environment magazine (1 June 2014).