I watched the movie “The Post” last night. It gave me the idea of writing about our civilization’s lack of response to the Ecological Crisis in a similar fashion to my post yesterday about re: how our response to this crisis is very similar to the way people responded to slavery. The Washington Post faced a dilemma regarding their duty to the public, when it was discovered that certain government officials knew the Vietnam conflict was unwinnable as early as 1965, but misled the public about that fact, and kept up appearances that things were going well.
When documents (that came to be known as “The Pentagon Papers” were supplied to The New York Times and , later, The Washington Post, the White House reacted by first issuing an injunction to the Times, preventing them from publishing. Daniel Ellsberg, supplier of the Papers, then turned to the Washington Post. The White House lawyers then went to work on The Post to threaten crackdown and indictment, arguing that publishing of information from these documents constituted threat to the United States and the military. The result was a Supreme Court decision of 6-3 in favor of the Newspapers (several of which had joined the cause by the time of the Supreme Court case hearing after The Post’s decision to go to press, thus setting off the showdown). Justice Black said in his opinion that the Newspaper’s “duty is to the governed rather than the governors”.
Does the church have a moral/ethical obligation to speak the truth about what it’s leadership (and many of its members) know about the Ecological Crisis? And also, of course, do our media? And so the Fossil Fuel companies, two of which we now know outright attempted to keep what they knew (from the findings of science, which had been getting sent to them with greater and greater urgency) out of the public eye, and actually worked to deceive the public about it (Exxon and Shell).
For the Fossil fuel companies, driven by profit motive, we can “understand” in the sense of not being surprised. For our media, also driven by ratings (which lead to better profits), we can be more offended that they betray the public trust in the pursuit of profit first before their readers right to know. The Church, though, what shall we say about this hesitancy to help us face this and inspire us to act?
Climate Scientist James Hansen finally had enough of the government’s unwillingness to act on this information, and “went public” before Congress in 1988 to talk about his concerns. THIRTY YEARS AGO! A few have begun to act. As more concerning findings have emerged (both more often and more concerning as time goes on), various people in government have taken on more active roles in attempting to inform the public and begin to take measures to move toward correcting our kamikaze course with the Ecosystem.
But various interests, who see such change of course as a threat to their business (primarily the Fossil Fuel Companies, energy suppliers, agribusinesses, beef and meat industry) have supported various campaigns and “think-tanks” to produce “information” that inserts doubt into the public discourse about the findings of Climate Science, even though there is virtually NO DOUBT in the Climate Science community that this is a HUGE and URGENT problem.
The question for us NOW, is how will we respond to this reality that bespeaks of unprecedented ecological chaos looming. Many of the concerns that , as few as 10 years ago were thought to be 30-50 years off (a concern in itself, deep enough to spur some to efforts to take preventative measures) are NOW occurring today). We’ve reached 400 ppm (parts per million) for the first time in human history, and a level that has not existed in 800,000 years, when the planet was unlivable for a human species that was not to appear until much later, when the ecosystem reached the equilibrium and range that has been seen since humans appeared. “Modern human civilization didn’t arrive on the scene until the Holocene Epoch, which began 12,000 years ago.” (http://www.climatecentral.org/…/the-last-time-co2-was-this-… )
Climate Scientists have reached, after decades of study and testing and constant review, newer and newer technologies, and mere observation, a consensus that there is very minuscule doubt that human activity has caused this massive shift, and that this shift has accelerated to massively dangerous levels, and that humanity must surely step up their game from this slow, leisurely pace we are taking in looking to address this problem. But now, with the election of Donald Trump, and his appointments such as Scott Pruitt as EPA head, they are actually moving backward. When the doctor’s diagnosis has declared certain things “lethal”, to NOT STOP those things is bad enough. To increase our intake of those lethal activities is suicidal.
The church is on a severe ethical and cosmic precipice. It is an unprecedented moment for Christian ethics, and therefore, theology. Humanity has NEVER faced such a physical threat. Ecotheology has emerged as a Crisis management discipline. There are many talking about the need for a New Reformation of a scale that exceeds the impact and change of the Protestant Reformation, in society, economics, AND theology.
Theology has to respond to be able to speak of what “The Good News” means in a time like this. The theology of Creation, Fall, and Restoration in our Scriptures are a key resource for the People of God (as well as similar narratives in many of the world’s religions, many of which have been much more attuned to their own Sacred Creation narratives where the Earth is deeply respected and loved as the source of their livelihood and physical existence, than have our wayward Western (and now Industrial/Technological) civilizations.
What are we, the church, to be in this time. What Would Jesus do? How is a just world, where ALL can share of the Earth’s resources and we can provide, with all our abilities, a sustainable way of life for the world’s healthy functioning? Is this not a crucial and necessary ethical task?
We dare not let this slip away from us because we are too tied to the life to which we have become accustomed. We now know that this is an unjust way of living, as it harms the very Common Home we all share, and therefore everyone else and everything else that we need to experience the healthy balance that our planet has been providing from the time of the Creator’s moving to bring all this into existence. As People of this Creator God, a God who “so loves the world (kosmos)”, we really have no choice if we want to live the life that God intends.