Entries in She Blinded Me With Science (2)

Tuesday
Apr222008

Ask Not What Your Earth Can Do For You...


This post is brought to you by the hellebores and muscari in my yard.

Today is Earth Day. I'm not going to preach to you, since half of you are in the 'choir,' and the other half don't care to be. Instead I'm going to give you some practical (and hopefully non-controversial) ways, big and small, that you can commemorate this world holiday. I'm sure that even the busiest among us can fit one of these into our schedules in the next several hours.

1. Clean up a local public area with your family. Members of our church did this on Saturday; many families, including ours, went out with safety vests and garbage bags and picked up hundreds of pounds of trash along a popular bike path near the chapel.

2. Buy reusable grocery bags and keep them in your car so that you remember to use them.

3. Figure out your local walkshed and enjoy using it instead of driving at least once a week. Thinking about moving? Figure out your potential new neighborhood's Walk Score. Our neighborhood is only average, getting 52 points out of 100. (Our old neighborhood in Manhattan scores a whopping 98.) That said, nearly everything I need on a weekly, nonexceptional basis--namely, the grocery store and the library--is within a half mile of home.

4. Buy and eat locally grown food. Find out where the nearest farmer's market is. Join a CSA. Patronize producers of grass-fed Real Milk. You'll make new connections in your community, and your taste buds, your waistline, and your local farmers will all thank you.

5. Read the fantastic book Food, Not Lawns, by H.C. Flores. Then plant a garden, even if it's just a couple of tomato plants in a bucket on your patio.

6. Read Michael Pollan's essay "Why Bother" from last week's New York Times Magazine.

7. Check out the funny, informative, and inspiring blog of Colin Beavan, a.k.a. No Impact Man. Colin is Walking the Walk, my friends; it's pretty great to witness.

8. Subscribe to Grist, the free online environmental news and commentary site.

9. Don't just recycle it; take steps to reduce the junk coming into your mailbox. Pay $1 to the DMA's Mail Preference Service to get off undesirable mailing lists. The Big Three credit bureaus have an opt-out function for the deluge of credit card applications many of us receive on a daily basis. Join Green Dimes! This service is terrific.

10. Just say 'no' to more stuff. Set at least a 24-hour 'time-out' period in which you consider whether you really need that new (fill in the blank). Use your library more. Share yard tools with your neighbors. Downsize your wardrobe and donate your excess to a responsible charity. To quote Emme, a prominent simple lifestyle blogger, "Living simply does not have to mean sacrifice or hardship. It means focusing on the things that are important to us and in our lives." Amen, sister.

Tuesday
Nov062007

Global Climate Change

The lovely and talented Dedee suggested that I write about global warming today. Another lighthearted and uplifting post written by the woman who ruined chocolate for you--say "Hallelujah," friends! You're in for a treat.

A better term for the phenomenon popularly called 'global warming' is 'global climate change,' since climatic effects are expected to grow more extreme (meaning that some places might get colder).

I am ill-equipped to address this topic properly; I'm tired, and I have a novel to write. (I don't mean to sound whiny, Dedee. This is a subject near and dear to my heart, and I was grateful that you asked. Really: thank you.)

I will tell you this, though. I believe, after much research over many years, that 1) global climate change IS a real problem; 2) that it HAS been caused in large part by people living in industrialized countries; and 3) that we DO have power--at least for a very short time RIGHT NOW--to do something to reverse the situation before more disaster strikes.

I also believe that I'm not going to change anyone's mind about this issue. But you should know that even President Bush's head science advisor and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, John Marburger, stated in a recent interview with the BBC that global warming is a very real threat.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), co-winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize, is a great resource for those wanting to educate themselves. RealClimate.org is another thoughtful site putting good science out in readable fashion.

I have to say, I don't understand why taking care of the earth is not a higher priority for people of my faith; I don't understand why the majority of LDS Americans still support a president who has undermined environmental policy at every turn.

I believe that God has given us everything we have, asking that we show our love for Him by valuing His gifts and taking good care of them. We're not doing that.

"In the name of 'progress' and 'growth,' we have plundered our planet and despoiled our environment....Many of our environmental problems arise from the fact that our society has become obsessed with materialism...this reflects a misinterpretation by conventional Judeo-Christian philosophers of God's injunction to Adam about subduing the earth....The reason we are in trouble ecologically is because of our inability to see ourselves as a part of nature. We have not seen ourselves for what we are: part of the web of life and part of the biological community; a portion of an incredibly complex ecological system; and intimately a part of the total environment. The serious ecological problems which face us have as their basis a disordered spirituality." --A. B. Morrison, "Our Deteriorating Environment," Ensign, Aug. 1971, 64

I've read two books in recent months written by Christians very concerned about ecology: Pollution and the Death of Man, by Francis Schaeffer, and Serve God, Save the Planet, by J. Matthew Sleeth. These two men show very plainly that taking care of the earth is clearly outlined in the Bible as the responsibility of humankind.

People of other faiths agree:

"The earth we inherit is in danger; the skies and the seas, the forests and the rivers, the soil and the air, are in peril. And with them humankind itself is threatened. As earth's fullness has been our blessing, so its pollution now becomes our curse. As the wonder of nature's integrity has been our delight, so the horror of nature's disintegration now becomes our sorrow."--Rabbi Alexander Schindler, President, Union of American Hebrew Congregations

"In the Koran, God said that He created nature in a balance or mizam, and that it is mankind's responsibility to maintain this fragile equilibrium," says Richmond-based Islamic leader Dr. Imad Damaj. "We cannot maintain it by blaming each other, but must do so by working together." (quote from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network)

"Despite significant variations among the different Buddhist traditions that have evolved over its 2,500 year journey throughout Asia and now in the West, Buddhists see the world as conjoined on four levels: existentially, morally, cosmologically, and ontologically....Although the Buddhist doctrines of karma and rebirth link together all forms of sentient existence in a moral continuum, Buddhist ethics focus on human agency and its consequences. The inclusion of plants and animals in Buddhist soteriological schemes may be important philosophically because it attributes inherent value to nonhuman forms of life. Nonetheless, humans have been the primary agents in creating the present ecological crisis and will bear the major responsibility in solving it." --"Buddhism and Ecology: Challenge and Promise," Donald K. Swearer, Harvard University

"Hinduism and Jainism offer unique resources for the creation of an earth ethic. The variegated theologies of Hinduism suggest that the earth can be seen as a manifestation of the goddess (Devi) and that she must be treated with respect; that the five elements hold great power; that simple living might serve as a model for the development of sustainable economies; and that the concept of Dharma can be reinterpreted from an earth-friendly perspective. The biocosmology of Jainism presents a worldview that stresses the interrelatedness of life-forms. Its attendant nonviolent ethic might easily be extended to embrace an earth ethics. Both traditions include a strong emphasis on asceticism that might discourage some adherents from placing too much value on earthly concerns, but, as we have seen, Hinduism and Jainism both contain concepts that can lead to the enhancement of core human-earth relations." --"Hinduism, Jainism, and Ecology," Christopher Key Chapple, Loyola Marymount University

There's so much more to write; this topic is overwhelmingly huge. I could spend months on it alone and not exhaust the nuances of the issue: aspects of the problem; evidence from all over the planet; ethics; solutions both societal and individual. But I have the proverbial miles to go before I sleep, so I'll quit now. Thanks for your patience.