1. On a level of personal preference, I am pleased in the extreme by the effects of climate change. Giddy! My family roots are in the Deep South. No one is fonder of hot weather than I. Unless I’m required to wear a three-piece suit in a parked car on a triple-digit day, you will not hear a peep of complaint out of me about the heat.
2. On a level of personal conviction, I am unnerved in the extreme by the effects of climate change. Horrified! As predicted by the most sophisticated, peer-reviewed science and corroborated daily by the evidences of temperature rise, frequency of extreme weather events, glacial melting, sea level rise – just to get ‘warmed up’ – the climate is in crisis, the hour late, and game nearly over.
We all make choices on the basis of our deepest desires. Ultimately, we do what we want. Short-term self-interest is one tempting criterion for action. Whether yielding to the allure of a double-fudge sunday or ignoring the long-term consequences of a rapidly-warming planet, we can play now and pay later. Yet, we are all required to live with our choices.
As a father, my greatest desire, far beyond my craving for warm weather, is that the Earth my children inherit is sustainable, that my generation doesn’t doom theirs to destruction. This desire trumps my preference over the price of gas at the pump, my love of transcontinental travel or the size of my 401K. It is more important to me by far than the growth rate of our economy or my federal income tax rate.
If it would help ensure the Earth’s well being for my children and grandchildren, as measured by trends of ppm levels of CO2, biodiversity, clean air and water, and the like, then I would gladly pay higher taxes, suffer higher energy costs, even bundle up indoors in winter.
A Protestant minister, I’ve endeavored to live by faith tenets that call us to love the Earth and our neighbors as ourselves as surely as we love God. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, God names the Earth “good,” associates Sabbath-keeping with honoring the land, its rhythms and wisdom, and calls us to be stewards, not dominators, of creation. All major faiths resonate with these perspectives. They affirm creation’s intrinsic worth and the call to cherish and keep it. They likewise hold an uncanny similarity in their calls to love the neighbor and act for the welfare of the vulnerable among us.
The Earth stands near a tipping point. Widespread drought, shrinking coastlines, proliferating severe weather events, and unprecedented misery for those most exposed to their consequences, who are predominantly poor, are already in evidence.
Imagine what might happen, then, if Hoosiers, who practice their faith with heart and conviction, awakened both to this urgent hour for the Earth and to the mandate of their traditions to act on its behalf. Pew research indicates what many already intuit: faith communities engender a greater measure of shared social responsibility than society at large. The Catholic social teaching of social mortgage holds that all human goods are a part of God’s creation. None is purely mine or yours. Without the community of others and the largess of creation itself, none of us would have anything.
What is required is that we open our eyes and hearts and act for the sake of the poor and vulnerable, coming generations, and, indeed, ourselves.
Recently I joked with my own children, “Because I love you, let me go ahead and apologize now for this wreck of a planet my generation is going to be leaving for you. Good luck in advance!”
As soon as the words came out of my mouth I wanted them back. If comedy is tragedy revisited, then this was a flippant surrender before the fact to a still-avertable catastrophe.
As James Hansen of the NASA Goddard Institute puts it, “It is immoral to leave our children with a climate system spiraling out of control.”
The alarm bell calling us to act for the Earth and climate with moral force and faithful resolve has already sounded, but there is still time. It is not yet too late!