September 3, 2012

Environmental Theology Feelings

So I'm taking environmental theology, and today we were talking about if faith traditions can help address climate change, and how. One of the things the article we read talked about was how to attribute blame/responsibility for climate change, and I pointed this problem out.

"I don't think it's helpful to be talking about blame," someone immediately said. "Yeah, like, I have friends who care about the environment but some who just don't care about the earth at all, and you know it's all up to the individual's beliefs so it's not like you can blame them for not doing anything." "Everyone just needs to do their little bit like turning off the lights."

Not gonna lie, all of this made me really angry.

First of all, yes, there is blame to distribute. It's tricky to do so, because it's spread across a few centuries and seven continents, but there are objectively some places and people who are more responsible than others, and failing to take that into account when considering the environmental crisis is incredibly unjust.

Second of all, yes, if your friend doesn't give a shit about the planet, they are absolutely doing something wrong. As people who live in a privileged country which contributed an awful lot to this mess, we have a moral obligation to take some responsibility. We can disagree about the extent of the responsibility - for example, people with more resources probably have more responsibility than those with less - but just not caring is immoral, full stop.

ESPECIALLY when we go to a university that makes basic environmental considerations essentially cost-free. It distributes information on how to recycle properly, and pays for it. It distributes information on unplugging appliances not in use, taking short showers, setting the thermostat at an appropriate level. It provides energy-efficient appliances, LEED certified buildings, and dozens of volunteer and political opportunities to address environmental issues locally and nationally for kicks on a Saturday afternoon if we want. All we have to do is follow directions like we learned in kindergarden, and you can literally avoid sending your garbage to China. Failing to take even that tiny responsibility has a real, concrete impact on the lives of other people. The fact that my classmates failed to recognize that and thought that everyone should just do what they wanted and not talk about blame or responsibility was really upsetting.

No comments: