Saturday, February 03, 2007

Will pollution bring God back sooner?

Well, it's unanimous: humans are destroying the earth and causing climate change.

"The top scientists from 113 countries have reached a unanimous consensus at the Paris International Panel on Climate Change that mass burning of fossil fuels, land use and agriculture practices are indeed melting polar ice caps. And the new message to world leaders is that inaction is no longer an option."

Will this latest announcement change the minds of those cynical disbelievers who quote petroleum industry-funded scientists who say "climate change is natural, there is nothing significant humans can do to prevent it, and besides, there is no unanimous consensus among scientists that climate change will result in a significant impact on the environment."? "Oh, and God won't let us destroy the planet completely before he returns. In fact, he may be waiting for it to get really bad before that happens!"?

Probably not.

Early training is so important to make children environmentally conscious. While the environmental movement of the 1970s may have taught hippies that big business is evil and pollutes the world, I don't know how much individual action was encouraged. I have vivid memories of school clean-up days at my elementary schools, of children excitedly rooting through the grass for that last discarded sucker stick to put in their bags. I remember the classes on composting, the "reduce, reuse and recycle" training, and Green Team recruitments (my best friend was the president). At home, my parents renewed my subscription to Ranger Rick every year, and I became well versed on blue-footed boobies, endangered pandas, and how pollution, overfishing or overhunting, and too much water use destroys ecosystems. It was what so many conservatives in the US and Canada fear for their children: liberal brain-washing in the public school system and media.

But doesn't it just make sense? I'm glad that myself and most of my fellow students have been inculcated with environmental messages. It means that as journalists, we are (hopefully) less likely to give credence and significant air time to the pseudo-science that combines faulty science with misplaced apocalyptic reasoning as an excuse for the continued abuse of our planet. It means we are more likely to put up with the hassle of sorting recyclables from compost and refuse. It means we are more likely to vote for a party with environment-friendly policies. It means, even if we don't "do our part," we still know enough to feel guilty for it (Identification hint: they're the defensive ones).

From a religious standpoint, we act like petulant children if we think that any mess we create is going to hurry up the plans of an immortal parent. Trashing our bedroom until it is unlivable, packing our toy suitcase full of monopoly money, and telling our parent, "I'm ready for Disney land now that I have nowhere to sleep," is not going to convince the parent one whit. Parents see the big picture; they need time off work. They want good weather for the trip. They may be saving up money so they don't go into debt. They have plans that are not going to be changed because their three-year-old throws a tantrum. Although, too much bad attitude, and they may decide to postpone the trip indefinitely. While a parent would never deny their child the love they have freely given, they still understand their responsibility to see that their children are trained up as best as they can be, before they are given, by grace, their reward.

Opting in to the general vocabulary of this dialogue, I could mention a few parables off the top of my head that should be used to show that Christians are expected to be good stewards with what God has given them. So why in the world is the most "Christian" nation in the world, not to mention the dear, steely-eyed Christian leader of this country, sitting back on its haunches and saying "it's not my responsibility"? Evangelicals are told that Christianity, that salvation, starts with a personal accountability. So why are they so eager to shuck their own personal role to protect and respect what God has given them?

I should finally say that I have not encountered these views at my church, but I think the omission of environmental discussion is problematic. We know that the United Church and other progressive, left-leaning churches take positions on things like environment, but Fellowship Baptist churches seem to stop at the "family values" page. Some Pastors preach from the pulpit to support social conservative-friendly parties like the Conservatives, but they don't encourage us to think about the entirety of the Conservative platform.

If you accept that respect for the environment and personal action is the role of a Christ-emulating Christian, but also that the government has some role in regulating people's behaviour, then Conservative apathy and double-speak on the issue of environment is dishonest and unChristian. I accept that some people will never see respect for the environment as another one of those things Christians should be concerned about, but I still think that good stewardship should be a priority for Christians. While voting politically for a "family values" platform really only seeks to regulate other people's morality, voting for environmental issues covers something we can actually control - our own behaviour, and the industries that endanger our planet.

Well, now I have covered the religious angle from my uneducated position; maybe later I'll talk about the connection between gender and environmentalism! Now that is one post I'm sure you're all looking forward to.


Lori said...

Did you take all those pictures or did you "borrow" some of them? Very good writing. Very...hmmm...good fodder for discussion (that seems a tame way to say it, but 'offensive' isn't the right word because it is too extreme). I enjoyed reding it, but since I don't like to argue, and am not very good at it, I will leave my comments there. (Consequently I don't have anything to argue about what you said - maybe a thought may strike me by Wednesday.)

Sarah O. said...

Thanks Lori, they are all my pics. Thanks as well for your honesty. I wanted to share, knowing it might be controversial for some, but certainly didn't want to offend. I was actually so anxious about this post that I woke up at 3 am Saturday morning to edit a sentence!

Obviously, I don't think Pastor Kohler should be preaching environmentalism from the pulpit every week, but I think a sermon once a year might be nice? :P

I also know that my remarks have the credibility of hearsay at best, b/c I don't really give any evidence for anything... but let me know if I should start preparing some bible verses and scientific research for Wednesday! I really should put some evidence where my fingers type/mouth is.

Finally, I will also say that this entire post is more experiential and less universal than its tone implies, but I like to think my paragraph on 'personal experience' is the disclaimer for possible non-universality/room for opposing viewpoints.