Sabbatical Blog

...chronicling some of my projects and learnings during this time apart from parish ministry

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Global Warming

The news about global warming and arctic melting has begun to be a steady drumbeat of anxiety in the back of my brain. Will civilization have time to muddle through this mess we've created with our addictions to energy and travel and stuff? What should I be doing, saying, suggesting, about this?

There are no easy answers, in part because this is clearly one of those problems where the facts are only evident in retrospect. Scientists can take guesses about what will happen next, but they are only guesses, and it's hard to make tough choices on the basis of guesses. That's where we've been for some years now, it seems to me; we know that what we're doing is damaging the ecosystem, but we don't know how much, or for how long we can get away with it, or who will be hurt. I believe that one thing fueling this sudden, unseemly greed on the part of those who can get away with it is a sense that they'd better do their getting while the getting is good, and that only wealth will bring a person in comfort through the coming crisis.

That's yet to be seen, of course. It may well be that none of us will get through the coming crisis comfortably, but the only ones who will survive with their spirits intact are the ones who have, not wealth, but a rich enough family, community, and inner life that they can quit running around so much and using so much stuff.

It may also be that the projections are sort of right but sort of wrong, like the population projections of the 1960's that had us all starved to death by 1980.

It may also be that the projections are sort of right but sort of wrong, in the other direction, and we'll discover the hard way that the tipping points of global warming are far lower or the effects far more devastating to us than we had imagined they would be. Some people think that has happened with CO2 in the thawing Tundra. That seems to be the origin of this month's anxiety.

It could be that there's going to be a lot of trouble and change but it won't mostly be here. It will be island nations and Africans and the people who have foolishly built their houses on sand at the seacoast who will suffer, and not Americans, or New Mexicans. Then we'll have hard ethical decisions to make as a people, and may very well gain the whole world and loose our souls in the process.

Tonight I'm going to plant my tomato seeds. A tomato plant is not as effective as a tree in harvesting co2 from the air but it's better than bark mulch, and the tomatoes I eat from my plants won't have to be trucked from California or Mexico. I've pumped up my bicycle tires. Perhaps there are a few errands I can do on two wheels instead of four, at least while I'm on sabbatical. And I find myself thinking very hard about whether I really need to go to GA this year. These are small, almost symbolic tweaks of a very energy consumptive lifestyle. I'm under no illusion that they're effective or sufficient, but that's all that is available to me at the moment.

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