Did you know that in 1940, our food system produced 2.3 calories of food energy for every calorie of fossil fuel it consumed? Now it takes ten calories of fossil energy to produce a single calorie of modern supermarket food. We need to change the way we do things. Ah…but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Two weeks ago my wife and I visited a friend in DC who knows the area. She’d recommended a burger place near Capitol Hill and we met her there for one of the best burgers, and surely the best fries, ever (Thyme on fries! Who knew?). Good places are popular though, and so we stood in a line that stretched out the door, for over half-an hour. By the time we entered the building we were drenched in sweat. It wouldn’t be the last time during our 10 days back east.
I don’t offer this little anecdote because it proves that the earth is getting warmer. Single days, or single summers mean nothing, just like single snowstorms in the dead of winter aren’t indicative of trends, just like a batter’s single game performance is meaningless. We’re looking for bigger trends (in spite of Senator construction of an igloo in February to show America how cold things are getting).
The trend lines are pretty clear. Things are heating up. I wonder if congress would have passed real energy legislation last week if the air conditioners were turned off in the senate buildings? Nope. Here’s the problem, as stated in the New York Times:
“…But taxing carbon has never had much of a political chance. It’s too honest. It acknowledges that the best way to reduce the use of a product is to increase its price. We would all prefer a free lunch.”
If every drop of oil cost more, we’d use less. If we used less, there’d be fewer greenhouse gases. Fewer greenhouse gasses means less warming, less dependence on foreign oil, an opportunity for building a new energy infrastructure, which means real, long term employment, and so much more. How hard can this be?
Hard enough, it appears. So it will be business as usual into the foreseeable future. Expect more severe storms, longer and hotter summers, more oil wars, more carbon in the air, more deforestation, more drought, more water wars…all so we can enjoy cheap oil and coal for another few years.
I see some trends here: A congress with an addiction to spending and an exploding national debt and consumers addicted to spending and credit card debt; an inability for congress to pass substantive climate legislation and an unwillingness for American consumers to simplify. Apparently, we get the kind of leadership we deserve.
What to do? Systemic changes are needed, but whether or not they happen, we who are Christ followers should offer an alternative. We are, after all, charged with stewardship of the earth, until Christ returns (which, as I reminded my congregation yesterday, will happen “in a little while”, which means somewhere between tomorrow, and hundreds of millenia from now).
Until that return, I’d suggest that the church’s light might shine with greater clarity if we wrestle, both individually and collectively, with what it means to steward the earth. I’d suggest Bill McKibben’s “Eaarth” as a good starting point. We need more than knowledge though, we need practices that will actually reduce our carbon footprint and challenge others to do the same. Public Transportation? Bike? Insulation? Sweaters in winter? Walking?
Finding a way to reduce the footprint is part of our calling. And these days, just doing that will speak volumes while the nations leaders seem paralyzed to do anything at all.