So far this year, climate change news has been just bad, and getting worse. The general rule is, whatever’s been predicted, it’s happening — anywhere from a few years to a few decades earlier than the models projected.
Anyone who’s paying attention feels the weight of this.. Every few days, I hear something that makes me have to sit and feel for the Center for a while, so that I am not holding it in my own strength. Many of us are doing something, but is there something more? And some of us are not sure what to do next. I suggest proclamation; let me explain.
Talking about climate change is actually pretty important. People are such social creatures that “conventional wisdom” matters a lot. If something is not discussed, it’s easy to pretend it’s not there. If something is voiced, then it can be worked with in the familiar ways — argument, brainstorming, organizing, etc. Sociologists have done interesting studies that show that apathy and silence about big issues are collaborative constructions that the whole community helps put in place. Breaking through the silence matters.
Studies of climate attitudes have shown that when climate change is in the news, not as a controversy, but as a part of news stories, people take it more seriously. That’s why it’s so important that TV meteorologists are now mostly on board with the science: people are hearing about the fact of climate change from yet another source, generally taken to be trustworthy (if fallible), and one of the most common faces of science.
This in turn is important because other studies have shown that the majority of people in this country don’t realize that essentially all climate scientists acknowledge the reality and scope of climate change, and are deeply alarmed about it. A recent study demonstrated that when people were given that information, they changed their attitudes about climate change.
Similar research shows that no more than 40% of people report talking with any of their peers, family, colleagues, about climate change recently or at all. People are not talking about it, not nearly enough.
Why is talk so important? Because political will is shaped by conventional wisdom and perceived threats. Learning enough to say that you feel action is important, and why you think so, is thus a really important step forward. Look around you, and make sure that you talk about climate change, and if you are surrounded by like-minded people, then think about who you don’t usually talk with , and find ways to raise the issue with them.
This doesn’t sound like much, but creating buzz is indispensable, if we are going to build the political will to support, nay force, action to mitigate the worst effects of the climate change now under way. Once you’ve found a way to talk about it, you can then up your game — taking more action, talking more loudly, or in new places, or to new people, pointing out new implications.
And frankly, Friends, we need to practice, exert our wills, to do this and to also do the despair-work, the apathy-work, the fear-work that this issue raises. It’s here that the spiritual challenges really lie — not in loving Mother Nature more, but in confronting a massive transition to a more chaotic and challenging world, with scary political and social implications, and an overturning of many many certainties we have held to. So our spiritual disciplines are confronting a real challenge. What Gospel is there for our times? How, in concrete detail, will we live in the Power that is over all? What easy assertions must we recognize and let go of?
But where ever we confront the real, and find the taproot of peace and faithfulness, of Light and Life that overcomes darkness and death, then we need to learn to tell about what we’ve found, in the ways and to the people that we are led among. Have you felt despair, but found a way to climb out of it? Have you found anger surging, or fear, and done some work to get atop it, with God’s help? Have you found in all this wrestling with powers and principalities a living connection to the Logos, the creative, desirous, delighting, multitudinous Wisdom of God – been taken by surprise by it, or found it filling you after you have wandered long, stripped and empty-handed? Then tell that, too! Have we not fasted too long from the right words, and gorged on unchallenging silence, perhaps out of fear of the “world” as opposed to the fear of the Lord?
We need to hear from each other — and “we” increasingly means everyone, all our brothers and sisters. A Christian, said Maltby Babcock, should be absolutely fearless, always in trouble, and absurdly happy — but it doesn’t come by wishing, we need to go through the work. , Try all the spirits that we find inhabiting us, and hold fast to the good, in hopes “to outlive all wrath and contention, and to weary out all exaltation and cruelty, or whatever is of a nature contrary to itself,” whose “crown is meekness and life is everlasting love unfeigned. ” Then, desire earnestly to share what we have found, heart to heart — not information, but stories of pilgrimage, search, and discovery. Proclaim what’s happened to you, what you’ve learned, how it hurt or daunted you, how you’ve been led so far to respond constructively, how your story is rooted in the love of God and neighbor. “Spare no tongue nor pen” !