Thursday, January 7, 2010

Climate change as a moral ethical issue

Loved this bit of conversation between Krista Tippett and Bill McKibben on "Speaking of Faith":

I hope this conversation may guide some of the lenten practices/ disciplines proposed this year.

MS. TIPPETT: I asked you a little while ago to talk about some really basic information that people could use to begin to wrap their minds around this and I want to ask you a similar question. Again, there's lots of conflicting information about what one can do that is helpful. Right? You know, one year it's drive a hybrid and the next year it's not. One year it's we can create alternative sources for fossil fuel and then the next year that's just as bad for the universe. Recycling is good; recycling doesn't matter.
So where would you want to propose a different way to start thinking about what one can do?
MR. MCKIBBEN: Sure. No, I mean, look, burning fossil fuel is the root of this problem, and so ways that we can figure out to use less of it are the answer. And what's interesting is that burning more and more fossil fuel is almost always or often because we're becoming more and more and more privatized. So many of the answers are about doing things together.
So, yes, it's a good idea to drive a hybrid compared to driving an SUV. It's a much better idea to get on the bus compared with driving a hybrid. It's a much better idea even than that to do what Europeans have done, which is get together with their neighbors and demand that their politicians build a great train network so that they can, without even having to think about it, be innate environmentalists all the time. You know, that's sort of the — and you can do that same kind of scale of things in regard to food or almost anything else.
MS. TIPPETT: OK. Give me another example.
MR. MCKIBBEN: Let's think about another commodity that we all use every day: food, three times a day. OK? The moment the average bite of food that reaches an American's lips has traveled 2,000 miles to get there. That essentially means that it's been marinated in crude oil before you get it. So start thinking about how to change that. A, maybe you start cooking more and better yet, cooking for a bunch of people at one time, which means you have your neighbors over or you figure out how to share cooking and have the pleasure of — I'm a Methodist so potlucks are, you know, deep in my DNA.
MS. TIPPETT: Right. All right.
MR. MCKIBBEN: You start eating lower on the food chain because it's clear that eating lots of red meat is a big problem in terms of the emissions it causes. You start searching out your neighbors to buy food from them. Find the farmers who live near you. Now maybe it costs a little bit more. Maybe not, because you've knocked out a bunch of middle men, but maybe it costs a tiny bit more.
This is advice for people who still have some margin left. It doesn't work for the poorest people in our society who have to figure out how to scrape by. And it's one of the reasons that the great gulf between rich and poor the world around is now not just a sin, it's an enormous practical inconvenience to getting anything done. But it does allow all of us who still have some set of choices and margin to make those choices, not just in the direction of what seems environmentally obvious, but in the direction of what builds strong communities. Because in the end it's strong communities that are efficient, that replace consumptive pleasure with deep human pleasure, that allow us to imagine a future that actually works.


  1. I like the practical applications he suggested. One of my resolutions this year is to eat vegetarian about 80% of the time. I just watched "How to Cook Your Life" and loved it. I recommend it :) Maybe I'll try to go 100% veg for lent?

  2. Go for it! Lent is a great time to try something, that you kind of want to do...but, aren't too sure. But since it's just for a limited number of days (40 plus sundays), you go for it! Last year I gave up watching/ listening to, (but not playing) sports because I was getting TOO in to it.

    This year, I'm going to try only taking my bike or public transportation...we'll see!