Visiting friends over this past weekend, I stopped by a favorite bookstore between visits and purchased the Spring 2015 issue of Tikkun magazine. I need to subscribe to this magazine because I enjoy the articles and the overall perspective of “healing/repairing the world” (tikkun olam). A particular piece that I have thought about in different contexts appeared in Tikkun.
This Spring 15 issue contains a series of articles on the theme, “The Place of Hope in an Age of Climate Disaster.” I appreciated the complementary and interfaith perspectives on what is, to me, a very depressing problem. The ordinary person doesn’t know what to do, and the lachrymose tone of many writings on the subject (who are, after all, environmental activists who see what is happening) can be distressing. Too, we are all beneficiaries of a economic system that contains injustices, and environmental destruction is one.
It would be amazing if we had more political leaders who inspired people to action on this issue. To use Ronald Reagan as an example of a very inspiring leader: had he been an environmentalist, how many Americans would have been inspired to step up!
The nature of science, too, can be a source for impatience. Scientists observe present phenomena and make predictions based on models suggested by the evidence, and the observations may change based on additional evidence, as was the case last week when predicted solar activity suggested a near-future cooling of the earth. These aspects of science–ongoing study, and the refinement of predictions–contributes to two popular responses to the science: scoff at it, or just wait and see what happens.
But for now, on this subject of climate change, I recommend to anyone interested in this subject to pick up a copy of this issue of Tikkun and read the articles, which are:
Michael Lerner, “It’s time to get serious about saving the planet from destruction” (pp. 18-19, 60-61).
Whitney A. Bauman, “Facing the death of nature, environmental memorials to coiner despair” (pp. 20-21, 61).
Charles Derber, “Hope requires fighting the hope industry” (pp. 22-23, 61-62).
Julia Watts Belser, “Disaster and disability: social inequality and the uneven effects of climate change” (pp. 24-25, 62-63).
Vandana Shiva, “Limiting corporate power and cultivating interdependence: a strategic plan for the environment” (pp. 26-27, 63).
Ana Levy-Lyons, “The banality of environmental destruction” (pp. 28-29, 63-64).
Janet Biehl, “Reducing auto dependency and sprawl: an ecological imperative” (pp. 30, 64-65).
Arthur Waskow, “Prayer as if the earth really matters” (pp. 31-33, 65-66).
David R. Loy, “A bodhisattva’s approach to climate activism” (pp. 34, 66-67).
Rianne C. Ten Veen, “Looking to the Qur’an in an age of climate disaster” (pp. 36-37).
Parth Parihar, “Dharma and Ahimsa, a Hindu take on environmental stewardship” (pp. 38-39).
Matthew Fox, “Love is stronger than stewardship: a cosmic Christ path to planetary survival” (pp. 40-41, 67-68).
Anna Peterson, “Climate change and the right to hope” (pp. 42, 68-69).
Peterson writes, “Most people in the United States genuinely care about the environment, and yet collectively we are still filling landfills with plastic, guzzling gas, supporting factory farms, investing in unsustainable companies, and electing officials beholden to energy lobbies.” In other words, we have values but our practices are different, in part because we lack a genuine hope, she writes. Amen! But using TIllich’s theology, she discusses genuine (as opposed to utopian) hope to build confidence in the possibility of incremental improvements.
Her article is a good complement to Levy-Lyons’ article that draws upon Hannah Arendt’s famous phrase “the banality of evil” in order to discuss the fact that ecologically damaging practices are normal for our culture, and that is how we are accustomed to living.
Derber puts blame on both liberals and conservatives. Republican leaders are one source of the denial message, and unfortunately 40% of Americans buy into this message. (In fairness, I do have a conservative friend who criticizes the science based on his own study of the topic.) But liberals have another kind of false hope: that the problem can be solved within our current political and economic system.
The pieces together develop ideas that could help change attitudes but also suggest different economic practices—the later of which are scary for those of us (like me) who though concerned live comfortably each day.
All the articles have some spiritual component, even if more general, but the pieces by Waskow, Loy, Ten Veen, Parihar, and Fox clearly bring in religious traditions on this subject.