It is still very much winter in Chicago. Sure, the calendar says March, but the piles of snow on the ground look more like mid-January. Everything is brown and crusty. A little bit of warmth is creeping back into the days, it is no longer pitch black before dinner. But there is also snow in the forecast this week. So there you have it. Still winter.
In my last post, I alluded to a conversation that I keep having and overhearing. I'd love to share a few more thoughts on it here. In most places it goes something like this: "I'm really cold, this has been a crazy cold winter, so much for global warming, eh?" This is usually followed with a smirk that sort of asks, "What do you have to say for yourself now, greenie?"
And of course, the brouhaha concerning fabricated data from British scientists at the University of East Anglia did not help the conversation. Whether botched data and graphs or feuding climate colleagues, many have dubbed this discovery of misinformation one of the greatest scientific scandals of the decade.
So whenever I run my mouth off these days about what we should care about in this world, those who generally disagree instantly bring up either the chilly temperatures of their midwestern winter or the climate scandal from the UK. And they press in and ask, "so what do you do if climate change is not real?"
To which I laugh and ask "is this really the issue?" As if to say that if climate change is not real then somehow we are all just off the hook, we can do whatever we want? It's like people who ask how I would live my life if there was not God. Would I suddenly decide to cheat on my husband and take up recreational drugs? Because somehow the moral compass has vanished?
Whether or not climate change is real is not the true issue when it comes to this conversation. The real question is why I insist on living my life in the sort of obnoxious manner that I often do, acting like tomorrow is a non-issue. I can easily err on the side of a consumer-minded glutton and I can consume like nobody's business, even on the hottest of days. I need to have this conversation so I can be better.
Let's say hypothetically that climate change is false. Does that somehow change the fact that most of the garbage dumps are in impoverished neighborhoods? That in Chicago, the only two coal-fired power plants in the city itself are both in minority neighborhoods? That my electronic waste still ends up in the hands of Ghana's children or India's poor?
The real issue is how my life impacts the poor and those who cannot help the fact that my trash is seeping into their groundwater. You do not have to believe in climate change to believe that this is not the way to live. Our moral compass should not rest in the hands of a scientific outcome. For those of us who are people of faith, the conversation is about more than just a few degrees. Show me a place in the scriptures where it says to be purposefully wasteful, where we are told to take what we can get and then dump it and run when we are finished.
No, the real issue is not how cold my feet are in January or what climate scientists did or did not do in the UK, or anywhere else for that matter. The real issue is asking myself if I, as a citizen of this planet, am living responsibly. Am I doing everything I can to make life better for others, for my own family, for the future? This is the real question, isn't it? The one that impacts humanity rather than sparks a fierce debate.
Let's dig in to the real issue, the one that is hard to face since (at least in my case) it convicts me and calls my whole life into question. Do I live wisely and well? This is what many of us running around in sustainable circles are asking. Not if the science is accurate (which is important), but is the trajectory of my very life accurate?
Tracey Bianchi blogs about finding a saner, greener life from the heart of the Chicago suburbs. She wrote Green Mama: The Guilt-Free Guide to Helping You and Your Kids Save the Planet (Zondervan 2009) and blogs at traceybianchi.com.