See this from Joe Zarantanello. He and I were teachers at St Thomas High School in the early 1970s. He and Pam run a retreat center in Bardstown Kentucky.
|Release, Relax & Rest in this Space for Grace|
|OP-ED IN THE KENTUCKY STANDARD|
|Stealing or Healing Humankind’s Future?|
The United Nations Climate Summit, COP26 is meeting in Glasgow, Scotland to continue trying to forge an international agreement on how to deal with the climate crisis. This is a life or-death crisis that deserves much more attention than it’s receiving from our political, governmental, or media organizations.
Currently, most of the energy and direction in the climate justice movement is coming from young people around the world. Greta Thunberg, the 18-year-old Swede who sparked the global Fridays for Future student strike movement, slammed the decades-old climate negotiations:
Build back better, blah, blah, blah. Green economy, blah, blah, blah. Net zero by 2050, blah, blah, blah…This is all we hear from our so-called leaders: words that sound great but so far have led to no action. Our hopes and dreams drown in their empty words and promises.
The irony of the Climate Crisis right now is this: The teenagers are acting like elders and wisdom figures, and our political leaders sound and act like adolescents! So, in hopes of clarifying these paradoxical, muddy waters a bit — I would like to share three viewpoints on the crisis.
Before I launch into this, I want to be clear: every viewpoint is just that — a view from a point. I don’t contend that my views are the truth, or even “right” — but I offer these views in the spirit of dialogue and democracy.
A Human ViewpointA CEO once said that he was trained not to consider the well-being of future generations, but instead, to be laser-focused on the quarterly earnings report. While that might not be every CEO’s ultimate viewpoint — for most corporations, it is their stated viewpoint: maximum returns to their shareholders.
As a human being, and as a husband, father and grandfather — I want future generations to have a flourishing life, a life worth living. For me, the climate crisis threatens all that. Nature doesn’t make mistakes, but people do. And not having a long-term view of human well-being, is to my mind, the biggest mistake of all.
I’m betting that the planet will be just fine: it has gone through five previous extinction periods, and it has rebounded from each of them. The Earth will survive; what I’m concerned about is whether organized human life will survive and thrive. The climate crisis is not about “Saving the Planet” — it’s about saving humankind! When you “get” that, it changes your view.
A Teacher’s ViewpointFrom a teacher’s viewpoint, I am happy to tell you that we know what has caused the climate crisis, and exactly how to remedy it. Consummate businessman and environmentalist, Paul Hawken, puts it succinctly, “Fossil fuel combustion is the primary cause of overheating our planet, and must cease rapidly; without this, there is no cure.”
The major oil companies knew this, based on their own research, 50 years ago. Unfortunately, they hid their findings. Instead of sounding the alarm, the oil companies opted for profits, and that amounted to “stealing the future” well-being of humankind — and the planet that sustains us all.
Even though this felonious decision by the oil companies put humanity behind the “existential 8-ball”— all is not lost. For decades it was assumed that if we were able to stop our carbon emissions, the momentum of the warming would continue for centuries to come. However, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has reported that the climate science now indicates that the overheating of the planet will begin to recede more rapidly than we thought, in the decades after we achieve zero carbon emissions.
This means that if we can halve emissions by 2030, and then halve them again by 2040, we could reach net-zero by 2050 — and begin to bring the planet’s fever down much quicker than expected. Given the level of awareness and political will in the world right now — that’s a real long shot. But it is a shot!
A Cosmic ViewpointWhat can you do to help us make this planetary bank shot? What can one person do? Well, if quantum physics has taught us anything, it’s this: the universe is stranger, more unpredictable, more uncertain, and more powerful than we can know. Being an individual is an ongoing, functional, and intimately relational connection to the rest of humanity, the living world, and the whole blooming universe. When we use our networks, when we connect to our “higher power”— each of us becomes multitudes!
Thankfully, each of us has different skills and potentials for action, including: sharing, voting, promoting green energy, putting your body on the line in nonviolent demonstrations, teaching, creating, supporting front-line communities, and just plain speaking up! There are so many diverse ways of helping your family, neighbors, co-workers, cities, companies, and governmental leaders — become aware, and begin to create a life worth saving.
“The climate crisis is no longer conceptual,” Paul Hawken writes, “it’s experiential. As weather becomes more disruptive, the movement to reverse the climate crisis will become the largest movement in the history of humankind.” Will that be enough to save us? I don’t know, but I always come back to something Thomas Merton once said: “Concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself.”
The number one cause of human change is when people around us change. As Gandhi famously put it, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” By all means, don’t waste even a second feeling guilty or being paralyzed by doubt. The only way to heal the future is by loving it. Find your own unique way to love the world — and love it with all your heart and soul!