Why Biblical Studies Should Care about Climate Change

I presented a paper at SBL this year in the Contextual Biblical Interpretation program unit in which I compared the contexts of ancient prophets and those of modern day climate scientists, of the skepticism that both face(d), and of the challenge of adjudicating truth claims. Such a juxtaposition may seem silly. What does climate change really have to do with Biblical Studies anyway? According to this Yahoo News report, Archeologists are loosing artifacts due to the changes in climate (HT: Jack Sasson, Agade). When permafrost thaws, desertification expands, and water tables rise, historical artifacts are lost to the elements. The loss of unexcavated historical artifacts (directly related to biblical studies!)  to a rising water table happened when Syria built the Tabqa Dam upstream from the city of Ar-Raqqah. While I have yet to encounter any news of archeological material directly related to Biblical studies lost to the effects generally attributed to climate change (or, as William Brown in his Seven Pillars of Creation calls it, climate chaos), it is just a matter of time. And this is something about which the biblical studies guild should be concerned (setting aside for a moment the human suffering that will inevitably be brought on by drought, desertification, famine, and war due to climate change).

No one person is going to solve the problems posed by climate change, but we can all make a concerted effort to be less a part of the problem and more a part of the solution. There are many motivating factors, here is just one more to add to the list.


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