Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Global Warming: Why Raffi Needs to Chill

It’s been really trendy to talk about global warming and caring for the environment for the past few decades (maybe it’s more than just a trend now). I remember growing up with this music video they showed incessantly on PBS. The lyrics were something like, “One world…We’ve only got…One world. We’ve got to learn to treat our one world like a friend.” The song was led by Raffi or a Raffi wanna-be who was accompanied by children of all races dancing around on this big cartoon earth. I don’t know why this image has stuck with me for so long. Maybe it was just the catchiness of the song. Maybe it was the Utopian, euphoric feelings it evoked then and now; this sense that if we all learn to reduce, reuse, recycle and treat each other well that people, plants and animals will all burst into song and dance in unison through verdant, chartreuse fields with fruit-filled trees swaying in time to the rhythm of our feet shuffling on the fertile ground. This is still an image I cradle in my memory. It brings me back to a time when I lived on a farm, breathed fresh country air, milked goats, collected chicken and duck eggs, picked berries, and slept outside; it was a time when I was wild and free. Sitting here in front of my computer screen, that life seems so far away. My feet are so used to sneakers and dress shoes that tread on carpet, concrete and wood that they’ve forgotten the joy of running barefoot through a yard of dew-soaked grass, squishing mud through my toes and climbing a tree to watch the sunrise. As real as those memories are, I gave up watching Raffi’s music video a long time ago (I can’t even find it on youtube!).

Just recently the National Academy of Sciences released the findings of a study they’ve conducted on global warming. Their conclusion? Global warming is irreversible. No matter what we do, the effects of pollution and emissions will continue to heat the earth for the next 1,000 years. Anyone else feeling a little apocalyptic? That said, the lady who authored the study results said in a recent NPR interview that the best thing we can do is still to reduce waste now. As I see it, for some people this will be akin to a patient who found out he was still going to die after thinking that all the things he was doing to be healthier would eventually cure his disease. At least he might be able to live a little longer if he lays off the potato chips and sugary soda pop. No matter what political persuasion you are, I think the arguments in favor of global warming are pretty convincing. I also think it’s fairly obvious that the wasteful way us more industrialized nations have been living hasn’t had a good effect on the environment. Even if living more responsibly doesn’t do a darn thing to slow or reverse the direction of the current global trend, I still think it’s a good idea.

My wife just wrote about our decision to use cloth diapers. I have to admit that cost was and still is the number one reason we started and are still going on this thing. I like it when the cheapest thing happens to be the most responsible, least wasteful way to do things. However, that’s rarely the case anymore. Generally, the cheaper the sneakers, the more likely they were manufactured in a sweatshop or produced with man-made materials from some emission-heavy factory. What happened to the profession of cobbler? The last time I took my shoes in to be repaired was at the Birkenstock store, and it made me feel like a hippie. This is just one example of the many things we buy, only to use for a short period of time and then discard. I can think of a lot of others.

In a podcast I listened to recently, Clark Carlton discussed how communion bread and wine have a lot to say about who we are as people. Pastors and priests don’t offer up wheat kernels and grapes. They bring things that show our cooperation with what we’ve been given by God. I have a patch of land in the back of my house that’s aching for vegetables and herbs to be planted in it. I have tools and cinder blocks. I have paper and pens and pencils. I have a drum set and sticks and other instruments. I have uncooked rice, lentils, pintos, and many canned and fresh foods lying dormant in the kitchen. All these things are things about which I would like to say, as the Orthodox liturgy says, “Thine own of Thine own we offer unto Thee.” For this to happen my conclusion (again!) is personal responsibility (this might be my mantra for rest of the year). However, with snow and ice on the ground, and lethargy still keeping me congealed, what can I do now by grace to start moving? Maybe I should get back to work.


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