Today’s entry is part of an occasional set of observations about changes in the world’s climate that will affect all of us, old and young alike. The series bends toward a key question: As God’s people, how should we respond? Today’s entry: Taking action, even though it may be difficult.
As I’ve noted in previous Climate Conversations, the scientific evidence regarding global warming makes it more urgent to pay attention to what’s happening in our world. The conclusions of the *Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA), Volume II call for more results than those we’ve accomplished in the past.
This is a difficult matter to write about—this blog has been stuck inside of me for weeks now. And I’m sure that it will be even more difficult to start making the lifestyle changes that are more necessary than ever before. Perhaps you share some of those feelings?
What might make these modifications hard for us: We thought we were doing enough to reverse the environment’s slow slide. And now the NCA comes along with its troublesome insistence: Do more, and start on it right away! CO2 levels are still rising; the polar icecaps are melting faster than ever; weather patterns are growing more ominous and some of our government’s top leaders seem unfazed by these facts. It’s hard to hear the NCA’s recent warnings: Incremental changes now must be supplanted by large-scale lifestyle modifications.
What may be required now are more profound lifestyle adaptations that challenge our sense of living well: Eliminating air travel; cutting way back on electricity and natural gas usage; donating significant time and funds to environmental organizations; sharing cars; revising our eating habits; installing solar panels; replacing lawns with trees, shrubs or gardens; using less water or relocating to a smaller home.
As tough as this call to action may seem, we can take up this challenge with more than dismay or distress. This time around the stakes are higher, but we who are older may be especially ready and capable of leading the rest of society towards wide-ranging lifestyle shifts. By this time in our lives, we’ve been through similar circumstances: We’ve faced ill-health, the deaths of loved ones, job losses, natural disasters and more. That’s why our life-experiences could be a powerful witness to those around us.
Let me offer a hopeful thought about knuckling down and tackling climate change: This is hard stuff, but that doesn’t mean that our lives are unquestionably lost, our faces perpetually grim or our spirits irredeemably anxious. Even though business-as-usual probably is a thing of the past, we can accept this new part of our lifework with determination and grit, while also remaining grateful and generous. We can live simply and joyfully at the same time. We can find like-minded others—our congregations are a good place to start—and with them work on larger tasks together. (For example, repairing fuel-inefficient homes; +planting trees, pressuring politicians, encouraging each other publicly.) We can support governmental leaders who accept the NCA’s challenge, and call out the ones who don’t. We can dig down into our collection of personal assets—especially our skills and experience—and create new ways of living well.
Perhaps most importantly, we can continue to live like Jesus—willing to give our lives to God’s will, however that happens. We can see ourselves as part of God’s continuing redemption of the world God surely loves.
However hard it will be to live in a challenging environment, we can be hopeful and courageous!
(Next time: Emotional responses)
*You can find the most easily accessed portions of the 4th National Climate Change Assessment at www.nca2018.globalchange.gov, in Volume II. The extensive supportive data is in Volume I. (See especially Chapters 28 and 29 regarding adaptation and mitigation.)
+ To start or join a program of planting trees in your locale, visit the web site for The National Arbor Day Foundation at https://www.arborday.org/programs/energy-saving-trees/