faith in action

Buried Sunlight

With climate change taking center stage throughout the 2020 presidential campaign and the shift in language from “climate change” to “climate crisis,” ignoring the impact we as humans have on our world is impossible.

A full view of the earth from space. It centers on North and South America, with clouds swirling over them. The background is the black, mildly starry cosmos.

Buried Sunlight

A Theological Reflection on “Buried Sunlight: How Fossil Fuels Have Changed the Earth”

The opening page of “Buried Sunlight” reads, “I am your sun, your golden star. Even from 93 million miles away, I warm your land, your seas, your air, and chase the darkness from your days. My energy gives light and life to your tiny Earth.”

This stood out to me because the ways Bang and Chisholm describe the sun are the same ways that I would describe God. The words “I am your son” echo “I am that I am.” The notion of warming “your land, your seas, your air,” and chasing “the darkness from your days,” parallels what God did for creation.

We, as Christians, are tasked as caretakers of God’s creation. Although Bang and Chisholm are not writing from the Christian perspective, these principles exist in us as Christians and can be recognized in literature.

In Isaiah 24, we are reminded that “The Earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers; the heavens languish together with the Earth. The Earth lies polluted under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed laws, violated the statutes, broken the ever-lasting covenant.”

As communities of faith, we are challenged to step up and advocate for God’s creation, to love and respect what has been given to us.

Recently, many legislators have been discussing the possibility of taxing the use of carbon. The RECLAIM (Revitalizing the Economy of Coal Communities by Leveraging Local Activities and Investing More) Act passed out of the House Natural Resource Committee, indicating a global effort to acknowledge the reduction of coal and natural gas extraction.

Recognizing the importance of conservation and renewable energy will only increase; therefore, communicating these principles to children and youth is a priority. As people of faith, we are tasked with maintaining and caring for God’s creation.

Stressing the importance of creation care to our youth can begin early. As communities of faith, how can we raise our youth to consider environmental aspects and implement creation care into their daily lives?

We cannot ensure action is taken to protect the earth without first acknowledging the impact humans have on the created world. We can take the first steps toward living up to our duty as caretakers of the earth by educating ourselves and each other. You can start by examining your own carbon footprint here to try living more sustainably.

About the Authors

Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm wrote and illustrated “Buried Sunlight: How Fossil Fuels Have Changed the Earth,” which aims to teach children and youth about the origin, use and exploitation of nonrenewable energy resources.

Chisholm attended Skidmore College and studied biology and chemistry, then went on to receive a doctorate from SUNY Albany. She has been on staff at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology since 1976, where she teaches biology and environmental studies.

Bang and Chisholm have been friends for a long time, enabling their combined efforts to create a children’s story to come to fruition.

Bang grew up in Baltimore, Maryland and spent her summers in Woods Hole, Masschusetts. As her parents worked alongside a scientific community in Woods Hole, Bang developed a passion for nature. After graduating from Wellesley College with a degree in French, Bang traveled to work in Japan.

She received two master’s degrees, both in far eastern languages and literatures, from Harvard and from the University of Arizona. After deciding a life of research and libraries was not for her, Bang went on to become a reporter for the Baltimore Sun. That experience helped Bang realize that her true passion and desire was to illustrate children’s books.