Part II – Hacking Global Cooling
If last post was the good news, affirmations about God, then this post is the bad news, or our human condition. It is an adaptation of an Earth Day sermon in 2009 I gave. Read on for more:
Did you know that Earth Day was established in 1970 to oppose something very different than we hear about today? In 1969 there was growing concern over global cooling, over fears that we were entering into another ice age. These were popular ideas but were ultimately misunderstandings of the scientific data at the time.
Today, we hear a lot about global warming, about the earth growing warmer and hotter as man-made gasses capture heat in the atmosphere and the polar ice caps melt and thus no longer reflect the sun’s warmth back into space.
But I want to talk about global cooling.About the way how we as humans have become cool to one another, detached, unaffected by anothers’ ills. It seems that everywhere we go people are more and more detached, aren’t they? Have you ever stood in front of something and hear them say hello, you turn, and they are talking to someone on their cell phone? I don’t interact with the person on the train because of those white headphones coming out of a pocket. They are listening to music that I cannot hear. Well, sometimes I can hear it.
During Holy Week 2009 I preached the story of 82 year old Helen Jackson who was on the escalator on the train station in Boston and her scarf got stuck, pulling her to ground and slowly asphyxiating her. Dozens upon dozens of people just walked by, not getting involved. The faithful two or three who stopped only needed scissors or a pocketknife or simply brute strong hands to cut through the scarf. Instead, over the period of 15 minutes, Helen Jackson suffocated and died right in front of dozens of commutors at State Street Station in Boston.
I’m sorry to say the science in 1969 was correct, in a sense. Today, there’s a global cooling when we disregard or ignore our fellow people.
How long will the land mourn, and the grass of every field wither?Jeremiah 12:4
The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers; the heavens languish together with the earth.Isaiah 24:4
If God can be found in all, then why do we level rainforests without consideration? It has been emerging over the past 20 years that medicines and cures for ailments are found naturally in the deep mysteries and ecology of rain forests. We are destroying rainforests before we even know the value of what is there. I am reminded of a clergy friend of mine was asked by a child at a conference in Japan “Why do you adults destroy things that you donít know how to bring back?” This child said that she was raised not to take things apart if she didnít know how to put them back together…then why do we?
On this Blog Action Day we must push back against the ways in which we isolate ourselves from each other and our communal responsibilities.
My friend and ecologist Marla Marcum has said “all theology is ecological.” By ecological, she means the relationships and the web of ways how different ideas interact. Ecology is about relationships, how the bees pollinate the flowers which take carbon from the atmosphere and put nutrients in the ground, all is caught up in the web of life.
For our ecology in our theologies, what we believe about God is important (see part I of this series), and global cooling impacts what we believe about God.
- Our ancestors worshiped an earth-friendly God, one who was connected to everyone, because our ancestors were warmed by the earth, not Central Air, and lived and died alongside everyone. Their God was a relational God.
- But what kind of God do we end up with in our disconnected world? We end up with gods who only want us to be happy, who want us to have our ‘best life now,’ and who want us to be rich in money and poor in relationality.
What we believe about God impacts how we treat our fellow human beings. And global cooling is neutralizing our human empathy for people who are dying as we speak due to lack of clean water and other effects of climate change. Those who live on low-lying island nations (millions of people and many of them living in poverty) are especially at risk, as ocean levels rise. Without reliable weather cycles or normal growing seasons – too much rain or too much drought – crops fail and hunger increases, especially for the already desperately poor in many places of the world.
In Sallie McFague’s A New Climate for Theology, she notes that more people, including a high percentage of children, are dying from climate change than terrorist acts. And the global cooling is part to blame for that:
The dying is slower and for the most part out of our sight. As such, it allows for our denial and indifference; in other words, for sins of omission“McFague, A New Climate for Theology, pp145
In our ecology, in our world, global cooling hurts us more than global warming because we have the cause and the cure for our contributions, but we no longer see or care about the effects. How do we overcome sin of omission and apathy to bring the God of warming to our frigid hearts?
Part III is next. Thoughts?