Doing the Right Thing for Mother Earth (Rev. Lou Snead)
In a conversation with our fifteen year old grand-daughter, Katie, at Christmas I learned that she is interested in environmental science. From her studies in high school Katie has come to accept the scientific basis for concerns about disruptive climate change and global warming created by human activity. For her, there is enough scientific evidence to trust on this issue, including the positions that most of the scientific societies around the world have taken on this along with what the major oil companies have also acknowledged about the burning of fossil fuels. What she has difficulty understanding is why so many Americans seem to deny what the scientists are overwhelmingly telling us about the adverse impact of carbon being pumped into the earth's atmosphere. Katie asked me why I thought climate change deniers refuse to accept the scientific evidence at hand.
This is a thought-provoking question. When I asked her what she thought, she simply dismissed climate change deniers are “ignorant people”. Katie believes that those who acknowledge that humanity is facing a serious environmental problem don't want to make any changes in their lifestyle because they don't see really the adverse effects from fossil fuel burning. “The increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere is just too imperceptible for some people”, she claimed. She thinks many people will not get very concerned about global warming or environmental degradation until something really catastrophic begins to happen around the planet. “Even in the face of rising sea levels, melting ice caps, or more intense and frequent hurricanes?”, I asked. Our grand-daughter brushed off the apathy towards climate change that she hears in her small town in Michigan as a matter of people being isolated from those problems. I understand all too well Katie's pragmatic notion that people sometimes don't do the right thing until a crisis presents itself in such a forceful way that they can't avoid their problems any longer.
This raises a vexing question- what should motivate us to do the “right thing” with regard to environmental stewardship? In a world accustomed to operating frequently on the basis of self-interests, it may take a crisis to motivate some people to face the pressing concerns about disruptive climate change. Denial is often the way that humans, at times, deal with unpleasant realities. Certainly, the detrimental effects of obesity, substance abuse, driving while intoxicated, resorting to violence, etc. are clear to most everyone these days. But, our awareness of the negative effects of the behavior or activities that lead to these problems rarely, in and of themselves, motivate some of us to make constructive changes in our lifestyles to prevent or mitigate against these problems. Something else must be needed to motivate some people to do the right thing. So, I ask- What would you suggest to our grand-daughter to help her understand how to motivate people to do the right thing with regard to caring for and protecting Mother Earth from the harm humans have been doing to our bio-sphere?