Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Is it All About the Green?: A Skeptics call to Environmental Action

This is part of this month's Synchroblog about Green Spirituality.

I have an uncomfortable alliance with Green Christianity. On the one hand I do not believe that we are doing enough, on the other hand I do not really believe the threatening science of global warming.

I believe it is humanity's necessary task to care for the earth, and in these current days we need to leave it in better shape that we found it for our children's sake.

Yet, I tend to feel that the current threatening dialogue of global warming falls into being all about the green, and I don't mean leaves, and grass. I can not help but wonder if 10 years down the line we will have made millionaires out of people on the forefront of the global warming crisis, and will rethink the science to move on to another crisis, which will once again consume our personal finances in the name of caring.

I can say these things. We drive a Prius. We recycle plastic, paper, glass and aluminum. We have a composter in the yard. I have water barrels adorning the back of my house. Our church sponsored the speakers for Salem's Living Green and Renewable Energy Fair and hope to do so again next year.

For myself as well, I suppose that conservation is greatly about the green, and I do mean money green. If it can be cheaper, and help the environment I like it - thus I am ambivalent about my wife's choice of the Prius, and prefer my old diesels, but I am afraid that the current trends in ecologically friendly resources are all about making expensive things, which make the rich richer, the mid-classes who can afford to go green poorer, and the poor will have the last bit of green sucked from them.

I hope I am wrong, but let's look back at this post in ten years, and we'll see.

I will recycle. I will drive a Prius. I will make compost, and finish setting up those water barrels in the backyard. More will follow. I think that I might make biodiesel and cut my heating fuel with 20% biodiesel. I might want to build a wind generated power plant for the house from local hardware store parts. (Notice how I avoided saying mentioning the orange guys.)

I may not be alone in this thinking. Even among those who are fully convinced that global warming is coming.

Well, that is my heretical thinking on the subject. But even if I am a skeptic no one can accuse me of not doing anything about the problem. One way or another I suppose it will end up being all about the green. I hope I can help keep some green in the pockets of the poor, as well as on the earth as we move through the coming years of threatening science.

Wanna read about the scientists who reject the current global warming mania? Check out The Deniers. I haven't read the book yet, but I followed many of the articles which eventually came together to develop the book, and it is significantly impressive enough to consider methinks.

But don't let skepticism about global warming make you inconsiderate about the earth you have been called to care for.


Wayward Son said...

Thank you for putting it this way. It reflects much of my own feelings. I think there's a way for Christians to care for the earth without falling into the hysteria of unproven science.

Adam Gonnerman said...

I understand your skepticism. While we have a mandate to take care of the earth and one another, there are questions about some details of the science behind global warming. It's sort of a bandwagon right now.

Pastor Phil said...


You mean I'm not alone? I was getting ready to sit under the juniper tree and tell God that I should die, because no one else thought this way.

Pastor Phil said...


I knew I liked you for a plethora of reasons. You've added another to the list. ;-)

David said...

It's strange to be in the minority with a bunch of people who actually are not money hungry right wing nuts. :-)

I know there is some doubt about climate change and I'll concede that, but I think the evidence points to it more than away from it. I've heard both arguments from science and politics and that happens to be my conclusion.

To me it's obvious. But you bring up some good points.

And whether we agree on climate change or not, the point is, you're doing some thing in being a good steward and caring for the earth...because why would you NOT do that regardless.

Pastor Phil said...

Het Dave the FishMan

Among the people I know, in the state I live in, I am definitely in the minority as a non-convinced person. Remember I live in the socialist republic of Massachusetts.

john heasley said...

I have noticed a tendency for green taxes in the uk, that only hurt the poor. Taxes on fuel, people who can afford will still do so, the poor will sit at home. Taxes on cars, the rich can buy an eco friendly one, the poor get taxed more for having an older one, cheap clothes and supermarkets are bad, but it is only what some people can afford. We all have a responsibility, but the environment is being turned into a preached, self righteous guilt issue, the same way some people still see the church.

Pastor Phil said...


Thanks for some really practical examples for the other side of the pond. In the UK you are a few years ahead of us in terms of seeing the results of the monetary impact relating to green legislation.

Anonymous said...

It's a bit harder to be an environmental skeptic in Australia when we've been on water rations for God knows how long now, when our soils are desalinating and becoming infertile and when our weather is getting crazier every year. We're more environmentally vulnerable than most western nations so its less of an academic exercise for us I suppose (I'm much more skeptical of the corporate sponsored debunking teams than I am of anything else). But, all that aside I appreciate that in your skepticism you realize caring for the earth is about much more than the science of global warming. Never really considered that there were people who were skeptical but still saw value in green living, so you've prompted me to re-evaluate some things.

Pastor Phil said...

Stone Down Under!

Here in New England I jokingly blame our winters on global warming. It has not been hotter of late here, but rather cooler - er, colder at times.

I have heard tell of the "corporate sponsored debunking teams," but at the street level in the US, that is not something I have ever come across. My position is a serious contender for flat earth theory here in New England - no one believes it any more.

I am not sure how academic my position is in respect to this issue either. Although my limited academic sense is skeptical, my practical sense is even more skeptical, and that is why I posit my position in monetary terms.

steph said...

Since my master's degree relies heavily on environmental studies, I'm deep in this issue right now.

First, I think the most important thing for as as Believers is taking care of the earth because God created it and expects us to be good stewards.

But God also expects us to take care of the poor and the oppressed, and climate change is creating more poor and oppressed people around the world. Everything we do to be good stewards of the earth helps those who haven't created this situation (because they don't consume as much as we do in the West).

The science DOES point to climate change. Are there scientists who are rejecting this notion? Yes. Are they climate scientists? I can't say for certain, but the ones I've read up on are not. As Matt said above, Australia is getting hit pretty hard. A huge ice shelf separated from Antarctica in February, and it's not the first (and looks to not be the last). The ice at the north pole is melting more and more each summer, and isn't rebuilding in the winter. The ice sheet on Greenland is melting. We are seeing visible changes at the extreme ends of the globe, but we're also seeing changes at other places, like harsher winters, flooding, and droughts. If you want to study some more of the science, go to
and read the IPCC 4th report.

And yes, some of these ideas to get greener are expensive, but new things usually are. As demand for greener products increases, more companies will supply them, and the competition will lower prices. Better still, we need to convince other Christians that God doesn't care about our prosperity when there are people who don't eat on a daily basis.

Ok, end sermon. Sorry. I'm really passionate about how climate change effects the poor, and I've been reading Shane Claiborne's Irresistible Revolution; I'm a little riled.