Climate Change: Our tremendous opportunity

Creative commons  This is a post previously published on my other blog in October 2018. Permaculture and theology are intertwined for me and creating community is a theological concern hence my re-posting it here.

 

The mainstream media is finally getting the message on global climate change as the latest report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was released a week ago. Dire predictions of climate related catastrophes affecting civilization within a very short time table, 12-22 years, have been made because humanity has with willful obtuseness altered the biosphere to such an extreme extent through burning fossil fuels and deforestation. Ecologists, climate scientists, permaculturists, and others in the scientific and agricultural communities have been making these warnings for decades, largely to no avail. I remember learning about “global warming” and dwindling  fossil fuel resources in elementary school in the early 1980s while living in Kansas City, MO. That was not long after the gas shortages that shook America in the 1970s. This information is not new, despite long term climate change denying protestations from fossil fuel companies and the politicians that they’ve bought with their blood money from wars and covert actions engaged in to secure oil resources.

The IPCC report warns of a 1.5 degree Celsius rise in overall global temperature which is important because such a rise in temperature would become a tipping point for when climate becomes completely unstable thereby putting millions of lives at risk and making mass exoduses of people likely from areas soon to be inundated by coastal flooding, islands being subsumed by rising ocean levels, and the increased incidences of super storms. It’s all incredibly daunting and I remain skeptical that governments in affluent nations will truly give these issues the attention they deserve and make the “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” (1) that the IPCC deems necessary. The American government, under Trump’s leadership has shown itself to be as abjectly selfish as the man himself, as the Trump administration has set forth a scorched Earth policy that will enable he and his cronies to hoard the wealth now while the planet burns. (2)

In America, we need a fundamental rethink about how we engage life. Currently, much of the fruit of American society is foul because of hubris, selfishness, narcissism, so-called “rugged individualism,” and our national history of systemic oppression which is still a cancer to our nation and culture. As David Holmgren wrote in Permaculture: Principles and Pathways we’re like the teenager who wants everything NOW without consequences, and because of this immature mindset we’ve allowed the perpetuation of all manner of sins – rampant militarism, resource theft, slavery (chattel and the for-profit prison variety that is becoming entrenched in the U.S.), blatant sexism and misogyny, the intentional impoverishment of people of color in poorer countries, and the myriad other abuses brought about by the “love of money” known as capitalism, so we can maintain our comfortable lifestyles of conspicuous over-consumption by shopping til we drop…

Studying permaculture has taught me that “the problem is the solution.” Seeing things in this way helps us to change our thinking in response to some pressing issue. In this instance, the problem is an unstable climate and a potentially completely uninhabitable planet for human beings, brought on by our selfishness, greed, and a failure to recognize and live within the Earth’s carrying capacity. That’s a truly daunting problem, which will require an equally large, society jarring solution. Herein lies our tremendous opportunity, which is to eschew and undermine the current system as often as possible (which Christians have been called to do since the time of the Apostles) while engaging in both bottom up community building in our neighborhoods, hometowns, and cities, as well as top-down political activism to hold the government accountable for keeping the planet habitable, in order to design and create a society that works with nature and not against it, fosters symbiotic and harmonious relationships between humanity and the biosphere, and regenerates natural systems in order to stabilize the climate. Permaculture design, regenerative agriculture, ecological reforestation, and restoration ecology, coupled with a more thoroughly egalitarian social structure that encourages “power with” others rather than “power over” others will enable us to respond proactively and creatively to climate change. These Creation care strategies are the theme of my forthcoming book entitled Go Golden, which will be published later this month by Wipf and Stock Publishers.

We have the tools; what we need is the will, personal as well as political and theological, to proceed to engage in the drastic measures required to allow for the furtherance of human culture and humanity in general. Human beings are not a keystone species, unlike the ostensibly humble prairie dog, so the planet’s biological capabilities will not collapse along with civilization and humanity due to climate change. Life will proliferate and evolve without us if we fail to take the requisite action to remove carbon from the atmosphere. The drastic measures enacted should include at a minimum: the immediate cessation of the extraction, refining, and production of fossil fuels, re-localization of food, fiber, and building materials, mandatory no-fly days at commercial airports worldwide (a Sabbath for the Earth from airplane exhausts), a massive redirection of funds from the military towards afforestation, reforestation, and ecological restoration projects, the immediate banning of the production and use of toxic agricultural and industrial chemicals, the restoration of riparian buffers along major rivers, estuaries, and other bodies of water, transition to organic and regenerative small scale agriculture to include retrofitting suburban lawns into food growing spaces, an immediate ban on all disposable plastic and other non-biodegradable consumer items, reconfiguration of the transportation systems away from personal automobiles. This would include mandatory no-driving days in all major cities, and the immediate and for all time repudiation of the notion that monetary profits are more important than the natural capital that perpetuates life on Earth. This is just a start. Much more needs to be done, depending on conditions in the bioregion in which people live. We really do not have much of a choice in the matter if we want our loved ones in current and future generations to have a chance to survive. To adequately follow the Golden Rule, we must take our immediate neighbors and our global neighbors into consideration. If we consider the challenge of climate change as an invitation to live a more productive, meaningfully engaged life, in cooperation with our neighbors near and far. A completely positive and necessary step is to frame things thus; instead of coming at the problem from a place of fear, come at it from a place of hope. If we do so, then I like our collective chances. Humanity has solved big problems before with collective action, intelligence, and determination. Here’s our chance to do so again.

Peace be with you.

(1) CNN: IPCC report

(2) Live Science: 7 degree rise

 

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