Saturday, May 14, 2011

WWJD About Climate Change?

Two stories.  WWMD and WWJD.  The "M" being Maryland, not Moses.  The "J" being exactly who you think it is.

Maryland first.

Larry Susskind and Evan Paul, two well-respected facilitators, developed a sustainability planning game, played by stakeholders across the state of Maryland.  In this game, players were given roles and information, and asked to dive into a negotiation to build a sustainability policy for the state of Maryland.  Goals were multiple - to prepare the city for environmental, social and economic sustainability, while keeping land values stable, the city economically vibrant, quality of life high.

Simply brilliant.

Why?  Because it gives all the players an opportunity to dip their toe into the policy waters without having to commit a single dollar to a single idea.  Nothing's literally at stake - no dollars, no legislation, no new regulation - so everything can be explored for value proposition, cost impact, viability.  Players were sensitized deeply to the multiple issues existing in their own communities, and to the interdependence of communities, government, and industry.  The stage was set for real policy-making in the future.  Getting to policy could be much easier - not that policy-making is ever easy - than it otherwise would have been without the game.

The process was a roaring success with the participants, and in a show of planetary love, all the game material has been made available publicly, for free, for any community wishing to use it.  I've just now put out some information to a few Phoenix folks, and am hoping to spur a conversation about doing this in my own community.  Below is a video from Maryland, if you'd like to learn more.  Click this link to find the website where the story is told, and the game materials.

And on to thing two...WWJD?

I inadvertently stumbled into a discussion on facebook about whether God-believing people should be concerned with climate change, after a staunch Christian friend blasted George Soros for buying public billboards denouncing the existence of God.

I countered by noting that the Koch brothers' sponsorship of climate denial activities to the tune of $49 million dollars since 2005 (an initial report through 2008 is here, and an update through 2010 is here) was a far worse sin than George Soros' erstwhile funding of atheist billboards.

My friend countered with the usual climate discussion red herring, the charge that many scientists do not believe man "created" the situation we refer to as either global warming or climate change.

Sigh.... It is a tiresome waste of time to move all these red herrings out of circulation, and wasting time is exactly what the deniers want us to do.  Yet, somebody has to do it.

I'm not entirely sure how it's come to be that politics and religion have become so inextricably intertwined around this issue, but I say this is a red herring because it matters not one whit whether "man created climate change," or as many believe, the earth cycles and man is simply hurrying along the next cycle.  The planetary outcome is the same either way.

The problem is not who's causing climate change.  The problem is that, while the planet will survive whatever happens next, such a cycle could easily wipe out a lot of humankind.  

As an environmental lawyer and professor who teaches environmental policy, I've read a large amount of material.   And yes, I've read the material of the nay-sayers, which I've addressed ad naseum here, here, here, here, and here, if you're interested.

It seems clear from my reading that the large majority of scientists are quite convinced climate change is occurring, regardless of who or what caused it. While I do not think we should ignore the outliers - they check our math and point out our errors - neither should we allow an itty bitty minority to stop discussion, planning and implementation midstream - especially not outliers whose point of contention is who or what caused the problem at hand. 

Another argument:  We do not need to worry about the earth because "God gave us dominion over it," which seems to be code for permission to deplete the earth's natural resources without regard to sustainability practices.  Couple dominion with the belief that the end-of-times is nearing anyway, and problems of natural resource depletion and sustainability cease to be concerns.

By the way, I understand the next scheduled end-of-the-earth is seven days from today, May 21st.  I have a very important meeting on the 24th, and I've put in my request to God to postpone if possible.  Just in case.

I have something to say to my friends who believe any of the arguments above.

I am a believer, albeit a Jewish one.  Among other things, I believe God gave us the brains and tools to do something about earthly problems that face us.  God does not want us to sit idly by while bad things happen.  In fact, if you'll recall your bible studies, God has a reputation for forcing the hand of those who won't willing act to preserve humanity.  Moses did not want to meet Pharaoh.   Jonah did not want to preach.   Esther did not want to confront Ahashuaris. 

Whether or not we caused climate change, we should be doing what we can to preserve humanity in the face of it.   

Consider the plethora of natural disasters over the past several years.  Some of my fundamentalist friends believe these are signs of the end of time.  In all candor, these friends may be correct if we sit back and justify doing nothing just because science is not fully definitive.  Back in the day, there was no science and we had to take the prophets mostly on faith.  Ok, it's true that Moses offered up plagues.  Let me offer up hail, hurricanes, tsunamis and earthquakes.  Probably science, by its nature, will never be fully definitive on something this complex, but we have PLENTY of solid evidence nowGod gave Moses a staff with powers.  God gave us computers and incredible applications.  Wow.  Let's do good for God, for the planet God gave us, and for our grandchildren with all this technology.  

Let's not wait for God to toss us into the belly of a whale, metaphorically speaking, of course.

Instead of going 'round the mulberry bush pointing fingers, time could better be spent moving us toward planetary stewardship.  We have the knowledge and technology to reduce the impacts of climate change, if only we'll allow ourselves to implement it.  That implementation could reduce the amount of pain and trauma our children and grandchildren suffer.  Do we not have a duty to our future progeny?

And if I were God - and I mean this in all sincerity and without flippancy - I would be lamenting my people being so wedded to their material wealth that they are unwilling to take a step back and ask, how can we best steward the earth that God gave us dominion over, and clearly wants us to steward. And how can we best honor God's obvious wish that we spend time on this earth walking among humankind, not only for ourselves but for our grandchildren? 

As believers, these are the questions I think we should be asking ourselves around the issue of climate change.   Click here to be transported to Christians and Climate, an organization bringing Christians together to have these discussion. Click here to visit a similar site for Jews, and here for the Muslim site.  If you know of other sites, I'd appreciate it if you'd leave their web addresses for me in the comments below.


  1. These are two additional sites: