Why Christians should take climate change seriously, and all use public transit

Okay, we can’t all use public transit. Even I can’t, and I really want to! It’s not always practical — but I’ll get back to this.

Today I read an article on NPR about Tony McMichael, an expert in climate change, and also a physician and epidemiologist. He died in September — here’s the article, by the way — but I’m strongly interested in his legacy. Admittedly, I haven’t read any of the man’s papers, but I think I’ll look some up on my school’s research database later. Anyway, according to NPR, one of the significant things McMichael did was predict and observe some of the effects of climate change on public health.

This struck me because I’m interested in climate change precisely because I’m worried about the effect on public health. Don’t get me wrong, it’s also the polar bears. It breaks my heart a little to think about them all starving to death. It’s incredibly sad how many of the world’s coral reefs have died because of ocean acidification. And honestly, I think it’s a sin too.

What I’m getting at is that if there’s one reason to care about and quit harming the environment, it’s that harming Mother Earth is also harming all of her inhabitants. I wrote 18 pages to persuade my last English professor of this, so I’ll be honest about not wanting to write too much right now. But the data is out there, easy to access for free, and not only does it suggest that humans are causing significant climate change, it also suggests that very real human beings are suffering in terms of economics and disease. What’s particularly disturbing is that often the people suffering the most are not the ones really driving carbon emissions; and the people consuming the most electricity, wasting the most food, watering their lawns, etc., either don’t care or don’t believe there is a problem because it hasn’t started to affect them yet.

So if there’s one reason to care about our planet, the only place there is for our race to live… unless somebody creates an artificial wormhole for us, and so on, a la my favorite movie, Interstellar, it’s that people are suffering. It surprises me that more people and organizations don’t try to talk about climate change in this light. “Save the whales” can’t possibly mean more than “save other people,” can it? And let’s face it, few of us have much concept or concern regarding what Earth will be like 100 years from now, which is probably why the price of gas affects our consumption far more than the fell boding of a whole lot of scientific research.

Now to my Christian brothers and sisters. We have dominion the creatures of the earth, so are we masters or stewards? I think to be masters in a Christian way, we must be stewards, taking care of what has been entrusted to us and putting the needs of others above our own.

Here’s some support from the Bible (because I don’t think I’m just making this up myself):

I guess I should take more time to persuade and also to include research just in case anyone does read this, but… it is a blog post. My point is that humankind wasn’t given the earth to destroy. We weren’t given dominion over the other creatures just so that we might enjoy ourselves better. We were made in the image of God, so why don’t we try to be creative like he is? To be kind and merciful like he is? The Bible also tells us that God is not above caring even for the sparrow, insignificant little bird as it may seem to us to be. I also believe in what we Catholics sometimes call ‘preference for the poor,’ and so I assert that working to improve the environment, or at least to slow its destruction, is actually working to help the poor… and not only are we morally obligated to help the poor, I think that if the Holy Spirit dwells in us, that is, the love of God, then it should be quite natural that we should want to help the poor.

I know that there are Christians who do indeed help the poor, although they do no help them by driving Priuses or abstaining from meat or trying to ‘go green’ in whatsoever way. But it disturbs me that there are so many Christians who deny the really, really evident claims of climate scientists who, after all, are trying to help the world by bringing it to our attention that we’re hurting it. I urge anyone who reads this and has a heart for those who are greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven to truly make an effort to care for the poor by caring for the earth; and for those who do not believe the hype, I urge that you begin some serious research with an open heart and mind (and with prayers) into whether what I have written and alluded to is true.

Please consider the question, as well, “What happens if it is true, but I didn’t believe it?” Indeed, one is hard pressed to come up with a reason not go live a more environmentally conscientious lifestyle — even without believing in ‘global warming.’

Since I said I’d get back to it, back to public transit. All I want to note is that there are things we can each do, even if all of us can’t do all things. I can’t use public transport, but I can unplug things I’m not using. You may not be able to live without air conditioning, but maybe you can bike to work. With a little discipline, lots and lots of us could surely commit to Meatless Monday, right? Reusable bags and bottles. Efficient cars and appliances. Solar panels. Native ground cover instead of grass, in some places. Eating only ethically sourced palm oil, coffee, etc.

There is so much we can do, and I am only trying to point out that the question of whether humans are driving devastating climate change (which honestly isn’t even a question to me anymore) is very important because, as Dr. McMichael knew, it is a matter of global health. Real moms and dads and babies.

++ If anyone needs help with research, or wants me to cite specific papers, etc. to support statements I made in this entry, feel free to comment and ask. I just don’t want to spent tons of time documenting on this post when I’m not sure many people will really read it or check my references anyway. The primary reason I write is to get these things off my chest for a bit. Thanks.

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