Monday, December 14, 2009
I had some strange, rather surprising conversations with high school seniors on climate change this week. What mostly shocked me was how readily students verbalized that they denied the very existence of climate change. How are these students being formed on this issue? Where are they getting this info? From Sarah? Or Glenn? Or Chuck? One young man said he heard it from a guy at church 'who is in his 40s so he knows his stuff' and another student said he heard it from his cousin 'who researchs this stuff all the time.' So, basically, my students are hearing this second-hand from Sarah, Glenn and Chuck.
It's a hard time to grow up, fighting back truthiness, trying to find good solid sources to base our worldviews on. Tim Rutten, in his LA Times column yesterday, offers some timely historical advice:
Long ago, Cicero suggested that a mysterious public act could be best assessed by asking: Who benefits? Is it really any that Palin and most of the GOP lawmakers trying to discredit the science on global warming come from states enriched by petroleum production and industries with sizable carbon footprints? (The delegate from Saudi Arabia has taken a similar position at Copenhagen.)
Just follow the money. Political and theological arguments concerning contentious issues are predictable. That's part of the reason why highly partisan pundits like Palin and Newt Gingrich lurch for the opportunity to give praise to Obama any chance they can get [like they did immediately after his Nobel speech which basically affirmed their neoconservative foreign policy]. It makes them look fair-minded and gives a chimera of nonpartisan independence.
With climate change, the GOP and most conservative evangelicals are married to free-market corporate interests constrained by fear that a reduction in CO2 will deplete their profits. After all, climate change eventually led to the resignation of Richard Cizek from the National Evangelical Association presidency [his support for gay civil unions in 2008 was the final nail in the coffin after years of tension over his 'climate care' position].
Many Evangelicals badly want climate change to be a hoax and they will deny it any chance they get. This is supported by a belief in a spiritual gospel that proclaims God's rescue from this world--through the rapture and a disembodied heaven--for those who invite Jesus into their hearts. But really, this apolitical message enhances Western lifestyles of consumerism and convenience. If climate change is for real then lifestyles would have to be pared down...drastically. This is hard, holy work and some Evangelicals, including Rick Warren(!), are taking it seriously...this is good news. We must resist what Cornel West calls 'the political ice age' where the West has become indifferent to the suffering of the most vulnerable.
EasyYolk is compelled by a consensus of the scientific community that the earth is warming rapidly and that this is already affecting developing countries in the form of rising sea levels, famine and drought. Nobel Economist and Princeton professor Paul Krugman offered some convincing data on his blog this week that gives a good visual of what we are up against. EasyYoak embraces the biblical, socio-political story of a God who created the world and has given the Abraham-and-Jesus people the vocation of working for the redemption of the world. The 'sin' of Western humanity--in the form of greed, carelessness, selfishness and utter indifference to the plight of others suffering down the street and half-way around the world--has brought us to this moment in time. Let us listen to the voices of those on the periphery, from Third World countries, who now bear the costs of our consumerism and materialism.