I read an article by the esteemed George Will today about humanity’s relationship to the environment. I shouldn’t have. It was like drinking warm, weak grape Kool-Aid to quench a thirst. George Will is just one representative of the madness involved with most “debate” about the environment–there are plenty more out there who are adding fuel to the ignorance fire–but its a shame that someone who has the platform he does would be so obscurant.

I put quotations around “debate” because a true debate is often based on argument, evidence, and clear perameters. If people really were having debate about humanity’s relationship to the Earth, or more specifically America’s relationship to other cultures, nations, and individuals, we would be getting somewhere. I believe that the great majority of people are good hearted and caring. I also believe that many can understand more of logic, reason, and sense than they are given credit for. We can and should discuss the human-aggravated climate crisis in terms of clear evidence and reason as much as possible.

However, I do understand that science (and personal experience) have shown that folks determine their worldview and actions by much more than ‘reason’. Folks do construct their lives, attitudes, and actions by processes of the messy human factors of emotion, religious sentiments, intuition, fuzzy logic, fear, etc. I do believe that climate and the environment would be well served by appeals to humanity’s better nature of compassion, religious aspiration, and common decency. Where I see that those who are antagonistic towards climate crisis warnings–let’s call them Sarumans for now–failing in science and logic, I see them also fail in terms of compassion and religious/spiritual excellence.

Not to be wholly negative about the Sarumans. They are skeptical. I like skepticism. They are cautious. I like caution. They are burned out by previous “Cry Wolf” situations. There are many times and places where a “hold on and waitaminute” approach is valuable, but I believe in terms of the current environmental consciousness change, they are practicisng a dangerous game of “Let’s wait and see if the Titanic really is sinking before we get in the lifeboats.”

Before I proceed to looking at some of George Will and others’ lines of thought I should do some quick ‘clean up’ on the statement I made about the Sarumans failing in religious/spiritual excellence. My reading of Genesis upholds a strong caretaker ethic towards all creation. Eden was not a bountiful All You Can Eat buffet where it was free for the asking. Adam and Eve were charged with being servants, caretakers, and stewards of the garden. There was responsibility involved. They were gardeners, not hungry stoners with the munchies who had nothing better to do than eat and chat with snakes. Adam and Eve were caretakers for each other also. Cain couldn’t believe that there was a responsibility for his brother “Am I my kindred’s caretaker?!” Our relationship, treatment, and attitude towards the Earth, including all the creatures (human to amoeba) is of spiritual import.

So what’s the spiritual counter to the caretaking ethic? What is there to say? Is it admirable to use as much as you can? Is it ethical to ignore the future we are creating for our young? Is it saintly to turn a blind eye to the world’s poor having to live in toxic landscapes that will be washed away by rising seas? I will be bombastic (even more than usual) and say that I feel that if one is not fighting for the smallest carbon footprint possible (which is conceivable to be none) and fighting for a minimal consumption program (four gallons of water a day for example) and fighting for America to be the world’s leader in sustainable, clean, and renewable practices….they are operating under a system which could only be described as satanic. There I said it and I welcome discussion about this.

Anywho: Here’s my response to some of the rhetoric you can hear about climate:

Al Gore and other rich climate advocates fly jets around and have big mansions–True. We need our leaders to be as non-hypocritical as possible. It would be great to see each person to speak out for Greener practices actually practice what they preach. But their hypocrisy does not discount what they are saying. Yes, we can telecommute and so should they. So let’s get behind that idea. Let us all propose that when possible we not travel to geographic sites to get stuff done. I think that there are plenty of easy ways to accomlish this: local church cell groups can meet closer to congregants’ homes rather than them travelling to the giant church surrounded by a grove of SUVs is just one example.

Government is trying to micromanage our lives! (The lightbulb argument)–‘Big Scary Government’ has been micromanaging our lives in terms of safeguarding our food and Viagra and requiring carmakers to pass safety tests. The government also protects our children by forcing paints and construction to be nontoxic, and protects us through creation of bridges and dams (and when they fail in that regard we only have to look to Minneapolis’ bridge collapse and New Orleans’ deluge to see the effect). What we can buy (weapons-grade anthrax), what we can watch (child pornography), what we can say (death threats) are under the supervision of ruling leaders. They owe us the best care and have the responsibility to be the best informed about the effects of our nations’ actions. In terms of the environment, they have the responsibility to assure that each and every young person one hundred years from now have the same privileges that some enjoy today: clean water, open natural spaces, the ability to trust that their air and environment is not harmful, etc.

We Can’t Make The Changes That Barack Obama Or Climate Crisis Scientists Ask For–Whatever happened to ‘America is the greatest nation and can achieve any goal it sets?’ America can and I believe will be the world leader in creating a just environmental ethic and practice. We just need a little more of the public to speak to their representatives and our representatives to cut the ties to Old Money Model lobbies (i.e. Coal, Oil, Big Agraculture, etc).
Who is benefitting from the current lifestyle and use of environment? Let me give you a clue: it is not the overwhelming number of poorer and poorer Americans. Nor is it the unemployed. Nor is it the world’s poor. A commitment to curtailing consumption, minimizing greenhouse gases, and incentivizing new Green technologies is not only possible, it is necessary and just the beginning. We also need to begin the discussion about ideal population levels, egalitarianism, global worker’s rights, and moral economies.

Global Warming Is A Hoax!–Who’s talking about “global warming”? Denialists. Why? Because its a hoax. Those who are in ‘the know’ talk about climate change, climate crisis, sustainable and just industries, etc. We know that the increase of carbon and greenhouse gases like methane will result in warming trends overall but the specific and local expressions of human aggravated climate change will be a bit of a grab bag. That’s why when I hear people say: “Where I’m from we call it weather!” I die inside.

Nature Is Always Warming and Cooling Naturally!–Yes. And your body is always naturally headed towards death so does that make smoking cigarettes okay? Sarah Palin has said carbon dioxide is natural and therefore ‘okay’. This is the same logic that teenagers have towards cocaine or pot: “Its natural. Its not meth! It grows in nature its not a big deal.”
George Will says in his article “Earth’s Next Last Chance” (Monday Dec. 7th 2009) “climate change is always a 100 percent certainty.” It troubles both logic and human compassion to state in essence “Those climate scientists have discovered basically every move the climate has made in the past and I believe them but when they make projections about the future based on their findings of the past I distrust them. The world changes and we could have an Ice Age at any moment so I’m going to be content with polluting the world as much as I want because I live in the most greedy, gluttonous, and abusive Empire in history.” In short, George Will: you are a moral and intellectual cretin and should be ashamed of yourself.

You Are An Alarmist!–Those who called the U.S. to action in the early days of WWII were alarmists too, I bet. Those who foresaw and warned of the current economic collapse were alarmists too no doubt. If you speak about any issue that involves compassion for the world’s poor and marginalized (which climate crisis is most fundamentally about) you must be an alarmist. Prophets, saints, compassionate clergy people–they are alarmists when they speak out against arrogance, apathy, destructive and violent actions. Well if that is the case, call me an alarmist. Because while I do not ever wish to ‘cry wolf’, I will not be silent while our nation and the world’s elite are being propped up by unjust and pollutive industries. Nor will I in any way support the ravenous and unquenchable consumerism of much of the West.

There Is Still Debate About The Effects of Humans on The Environment and Possible Consequences–There is still “debate” about whether humans rode dinosaurs like Tauntauns.
Well, George Will, I hope you sleep well tonight. I hope that you don’t get malaria, your local crop doesn’t fail, your city isn’t submerged, you don’t drink contaminated water, you don’t have an extreme pollen allergy, you never have to rely on fishing or hunting for sustenance, and you don’t ever live in a hurricane/typhoon affected area.
Bottom line: be a Francis of Assisi, not a Saruman.
Ryan McGivern