Eco-Justice Ministries  

Eco-Justice Notes
The E-mail Commentary from Eco-Justice Ministries

distributed 6/7/02 - ©2002

This week's Eco-Justice Notes begins with the Simple Test of User Propensity for Irresponsible Decisions (STUPID). Please answer these four questions:

  1. You have purchased an expensive new car. Do you: (a) commit yourself to following something close to the regular maintenance schedule, or (b) plan to never check the oil, and then replace the engine every 60,000 miles.

  2. You are preparing for a week-long wilderness backpacking trip. Do you: (a) take along the equipment to purify stream water for drinking, or (b) take along medicine to treat the diarrhea and nausea of an expected giardia infection.

  3. Your daughter has developed major infections in both ears, with sharp pain and fever. Do you: (a) take her to the doctor, and carefully follow the complete round of prescribed antibiotics, or (b) start to research how to help deaf children function in society.

  4. Two nations, both with nuclear weapons, are moving toward war. Should national and world leaders: (a) do everything possible to reduce tensions and avert the war, or (b) allow the situation to take its own course, and encourage people to build fallout shelters and stockpile medicines for treating radiation sickness.
SCORING: Give 1 point for each (a) answer, and 2 points for each (b) answer.

If you scored 4, you are a fairly sensible and responsible person. If you scored 5 or 6, you should do some serious reflecting on the nature of cause and effect. If you scored 7 or 8, you are a danger to yourself and those around you.

BONUS QUESTION: You are the President of the United States. Despite your earlier denials, you and your administration have finally admitted that human-induced climate change is happening. Your administration has submitted a major report to the United Nations detailing specific and far-reaching effects of global warming on the environment. Do you: (a) use your position of leadership to work through administrative, legislative and public opinion channels to quickly and dramatically reduce the causes of global warming, or (b) recommend adapting to the inevitable changes, and allowing greenhouse gas emissions to rise.

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A week ago, the Bush administration submitted its "Climate Action Report 2002" to the United Nations. (See below for a link to the report.) The document states:

Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth's atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing global mean surface air temperature and subsurface ocean temperature to rise. While the changes observed over the last several decades are likely due mostly to human activities, we cannot rule out that some significant part is also a reflection of natural variability.   (p. 4)
In his coverage of the document's release, NY Times reporter Andrew Revkin wrote:
But while the report says the United States will be substantially changed in the next few decades -- 'very likely' seeing the disruption of snow-fed water supplies, more stifling heat waves and the permanent disappearance of Rocky Mountain meadows and coastal marshes, for example -- it does not propose any major shift in the administration's policy on greenhouse gasses. It recommends adapting to inevitable changes.
After touting the Bush strategy to reduce "greenhouse gas intensity," the report then admits that "total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are projected to increase by 43 percent between 2000 and 2020." (p. 6)

An extensive chapter deals with potential impacts and possible adaptation strategies with regard to land cover, agriculture, forests, water resources, coastal areas and human health. That chapter acknowledges where successful adaptation is most likely:

Natural ecosystems appear to be the most vulnerable to climate change because generally little can be done to help them adapt to the projected rate and amount of change.   ...   At the same time, greater wealth and advances in technologies are likely to help facilitate adaptation, particularly for human systems. In addition, highly managed ecosystems, such as crops and timber plantations, appear more robust than natural and lightly managed ecosystems, such as grasslands and deserts.   (p 82)

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As I try to find a faithful response to this report and the US's consistent policy on climate change, I find myself drawn to the Bible's wisdom literature, especially the Proverbs.

The wisdom writings frequently contrast wisdom with the deeds of a fool. Hear these words from Proverbs:

  • Wise men lay up knowledge, but the babbling of a fool brings ruin near. (10:14)
  • The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. (12:15)
  • A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool throws off restraint and is careless. (14:16)
I can think of no other term than "foolishness" to describe the ludicrous US policy which knowingly increases our damage to the Earth's climate, and then proposes enormous and complex, but very partial, steps to try and adapt to the climate change we are causing.

I continue to pray for wisdom for the President and the Congress.


Peter Sawtell
Executive Director
Eco-Justice Ministries

The entire Climate Action Report is available on the Internet at Chapter 6, on "Impacts and Adaptation" is available in HTML format, and can easily be viewed by web browsers. The entire report (with 9 chapters and 5 appendices) is available in PDF format, which requires the Adobe Acrobat Reader software.

To see a listing of the 225 appearances of the word "fool" in the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, click here!

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