My Environmental Rant

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My family of treehuggers

The only thing I’ve found humorous the past few weeks on social media, besides getting a break from president craziness and the hurricanes, is the occasional post about the causes behind the severe weather we’ve been experiencing lately.  Between the hurricanes and flooding and forest fires, seems like many are quick to jump backward in time to the pre-modern era and discover some superstitious reason behind it all.  Whether it’s God punishing us for accepting same-sex marriages or God punishing our country for electing Trump, it’s all quite humorous, I must say.  I love the idea of a vengeful god as much as the next guy, and enjoy picturing that the only reason behind natural disaster is an angry god.  Surely, there can be no other explanation.  I love modern folks happily skipping along each day, sitting behind their computer, their wi-fi, their voice activated controlled world, driving their almost-self-driving cars, and, upon seeing natural disaster, go right to, “The gods must be angry!”  Now, I’m a Christian, and I believe in God, and believe he has omnipotent powers.  However, there MAY be another reason behind natural disasters.  There are the obvious ones, like, say, weather.  But there actually may be a more direct cause, and while it may not be caused by God being angry at human behavior, it may just be actually HUMAN BEHAVIOR.

Severe weather may not be shocking at all, it may be the consequence of us raping our planet and not keeping in place the safety nets the environment needs in order to “behave” the way we need it to, if you will.  I won’t go in to great detail, because it took me 4 years of college to learn it all, but the ecosystem is apparently fairly fragile and we haven’t cared at all, until we get devastated by the consequences of our actions.  No, not that we’ve sinned and we are now being punished kind of consequence, although if you want to keep that mindset you just need to refocus where our sin is (gluttony and disregard for Creation would be good starting places).  We are dealing with the natural consequences of not managing grasslands, forests, and wetlands.  For example, if overgrazing hadn’t led to grasslands disappearing and then poor forest management hadn’t led to forests with too much fuel as well as inviting invasive species like the pine beetle to kill off our pine trees, we wouldn’t be dealing with devastating fires.  If we hadn’t destroyed 99% of wetlands, which act as water sinks when flooding occurs, other places wouldn’t be experiencing flooding.  We all learned in 8th grade social studies that the Dust Bowl of the 20s and 30s were in fact caused by poor farming practices, and not angry weather gods.  I’m not sure there is any dispute over the cause of this, nearly 100 years later.  It’s pretty cut and dried.

Again, it took me 4 years in college to learn a lot of this but it’s really simple science.  People can affect the environment around them.  In little ways and big ways.  It’s not a political belief but an actual, real live fact.  You can see it in your own backyard if you plant flowers, have sod, or leave it bare.  You can plant flowers that attract butterflies.  You can fertilize your garden and it grows better.  You can spray herbicides and things die.  You can cut down the tree in your yard that’s shading your house and know that your house will be hotter in the summertime without it.  I didn’t even go to a crazy liberal college to learn all this.  I was taught this at a very conservative, very Christian college by Christian professors who taught me I can be both a Christian and a scientist.  I could learn about scientific fact and sort it out from opinion.  I also learned that my primary job was to be a steward to the earth.

I’ve notice that it’s often Christians who are the ones to be thinking that God uses weather to show us the error of his ways and yet the same group is the most likely to deny the obvious:  That people affect their environment in mostly detrimental ways.  And maybe God IS using the weather to show us his disappointment but it’s not because he’s protesting gays or our last election or abortions.  He may be using natural consequences to show us we aren’t doing a good job taking care of His creation.  And not in a “I’ll show them!” kind of way, but in a “when you kill off predators and let deer overpopulate this kind of thing tends to happen and I’m not going to stop it” sort of way.

I’ve mellowed (read: I’ve gotten super lazy about it since having kids it’s gone on the back burner but I’m slowly trying to reignite that flame because that’s no excuse) in my environmentalism in the past decade but it’s always been an issue that speaks to my heart since I was a child.  It’s one of the clearer issues as a human I’ve had to deal with.  And, as a Christian, it’s always been crystal clear as a mandate from our Creator.  Even as a child, one of the biggest disconnects I’ve ever seen with the church and its people is its inability and blatant disregard for the earth.  I often felt like the only Christian who saw the connection between the Earth and the Creator.  Was I missing something?  Today, 30 years later, it hasn’t changed much.  How are these things even related?  I shake my head even more as an adult.  One of the FIRST things in the Bible is the story of how man was put on the earth to tend it.  Man was given a mandate to care for creation, take care of the animals, and exhibit our creator-like tendencies to care.  So many Christians believe this actually means that we should dominate and conquer the earth and do what we want to it.  I’ll never forget a conversation I had with a fellow farmer-at-the-time about caring for God’s Creation.  He spoke, unfortunately, as many people believe.  He said, God will provide a new earth one day, so it’s fruitless to care for this one because God promised something better.  Worrying about the environment is a waste of time because of the sin of man.  You just can’t fight it.  I was so blown away.  How can it be?

The President wants to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement.  To me, the environment is a perfect example of how the theory that “every man (country) for himself” is flawed.  The environment isn’t isolated.  Our air, our water, our land are not separate entities unto each square mile of the earth.  The attitude we exhibit when we pull away from the rest of the world is indicative of pure, selfish, evil.  There cannot be an attitude of “Me first, at the cost of the rest of you.”  Not with the environment, our country, or our future.  I think I can fathom the attitude and reasons behind this, and it just doesn’t match up with the group of people that push for it.  I get that I am generalizing here, and if you are not part of that group don’t take offense, but please take up protest and grassroots efforts instead!  In what other example would a group that claims to care be able to push this attitude?  I think mostly of what we want to teach our children.  Would anyone agree that we should sit them down and say, “hey, Billy, if you want to get ahead, take the shortcut!  Don’t worry about anyone else but yourself, and if you see other people take shortcuts you should think, hey, I should be too!  Why should I do things the right way?”

Since when is not leaving a mess to our kids a political, partisan opinion?  I thought that’s what we all wanted?

I’ve seen articles complaining that The Paris Agreement “isn’t fair!” because the US agreed to be more strict than other countries who haven’t caught up yet.  I read this and I can only picture a spoiled, fat, ugly brat of a toddler, stomping his feet at the perceived injustice in his limited world.  I’ve seen people take to social media proclaiming that we should all just recycle more and do our part and that’s all we need to worry about.  Hmmm…I agree with we all should do our part, but it’s a very skewed view of what makes up pollution, degradation of our soils, our oceans, our air and our water.  Industrial controls and regulations are the ONLY reason we wake up to clean air, our lakes AREN’T ON FIRE anymore, and we (for the most part-sorry Detroit Michigan) have access to clean drinking water EVERY DAY OF OUR PRIVILEGED LIVES.  We can all and should all do more, recycle more, use less, shop environmentally, buy Prius’, and walk to work.  That would be great, but the largest percentage of impact falls mostly to industry.  The people that are willing and able to put their money where their mouths are cannot make up the difference.

All environmental “facts” aside (double tongue in cheek my friends), as Christians we are called to care for creation, lead by example, and care for everyone, including the poor, widowed, and orphans.  As one of the wealthiest populations on earth, pretty much everyone else falls into the “poor” category.  We are mandated to care for them.  At least let’s not make them suck our smog on the way to extreme wealth and greed and gluttony.  Even if, and please know I’m only saying this for the sake of argument, there were ANY doubt that humans can impact the earth (I can barely type that hypothesis without laughing in pure dismay), I feel as though we are called to err on the side of, “let’s take super good care of the earth just in case”.  Or, “let’s take care of something that God created because it’s the right thing to do.”

I know I’m ranting, but I am not interested in raising our children in a world where we are taught to put ourselves first and others last.  The funny thing is, we are only hurting ourselves when the natural consequence is natural disasters in our own country.  If we could only stop and think through our actions, perhaps we would see that not only is this selfish, but not even self-promoting in the end.  Clean air and water is far from a political opinion.  There are facts, and there are things we can do to change the environment around us.

I have no conclusion to this, no idea how to take those next steps except to pause and decide what I am doing to contribute to the problem and the solution.  Which am I part of?  What can I change?  What can I talk to our kids about?  But maybe the first step is to call a spade a spade.

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