The competent magician compels the audience to turn their attention elsewhere while the switch is made, seemingly unseen. Magicians are Old School though, because entire industries have adopted the mechanism of deception as their entire public relations strategy. The tobacco industry got away with it for fifty years and now the fossil fuel industry is well into its fourth decade of deceit. Their latest target is your growing desire to address climate change.
The Exxon-Mobil’s, Shell’s and Koch Brothers know they can no longer suppress or delay your fear of climate change consequences. All forms of communication are beaming video, pictures, and commentary of the rising natural events that are destroying lands, disrupting regions, and leaving swathes of dead creatures, even human beings. The corporations know the entirety of the fossil fuel industry is responsible. They even recognize that most of the world’s population knows of their culpability.
Still, they hope to delay the dismissal and banning of fossil fuels and their byproducts. They have an excellent plan. They are not going to talk about their responsibility, they are going to broadcast your responsibility. They are presenting a marketing plan that declares, “You are the problem, and you are the solution to climate change.”
Yes, you are the problem and all that you need to do is tidy up your little piece personal property. Save the planet by putting in a compost heap. Help your community by consolidating your errands into a minimum number of trips. Dry your laundry on a line in the backyard. Change out lightbulbs. Replace that dirty old furnace with a new, efficient model. Use the Energy Star program and replace all your appliances as they age. Recycle.
Do all these things, the marketing promises, and you will have addressed your personal responsibilities. You are done and you should be proud of yourself for addressing climate change. Sit back and appreciate life.
Each and every step of this pernicious initiative is a lie, a devastating one too. Compared to the gigatons of emissions being pumped into atmosphere, every possible act and deed an individual can do to address their personal responsibilities is negligible. Your actions are a drop of spit off the pier when the freighter is discharging its bilge water in the harbor.
What do you really need to do to address climate change?
Hold the fossil fuel industry accountable. This is the action they fear. Bringing attention to their culpability and demanding action against them is what they are paying P.R. firms to help them avoid.
Demand loudly and often that your legislators act
Elect legislators who support climate change legislation
Demand that state agencies and regulatory bodies enforce environmental laws.
Go to zoning board meetings
Attend public meeting of state and county agencies.
Broadcast as loudly as the fossil fuel industry does.
The equation is simple. Belief in God and scientific confirmation of climate change coalesce into the imperative that the believer must vote climate change this November. The fact of climate change demands that we vote for candidates willing to address global warming at all levels of government. The local races are just as important as the state and national ones.
What is the most important thing a religious person must do now? Vote.
You feel the imperative to praise God? Vote for God’s creation.
You feel the need to repent to God? Then vote for God’s gifts to humanity.
Do you believe that holy words and the sacred relationship with God are being subverted for selfish gain? Vote.
While the United States has been locked down, carbon emissions have decreased by 5.5 percent. The skies have cleared over major metropolitan areas and the sunny days are simply gorgeous. However, sheltering Americans in their homes left the rest of the nation producing carbon emissions at an incredible 94.5 percent of the rate before the pandemic struck. How could this happen?
The answer is the fossil fuel industry. The utilities are still running at full tilt. Diesel trucks and trains are still crisscrossing the country at steady rates. Essential manufacturing and cattle management are continuing unabated.
We have been taken for idiots.
For decades, climate change advocates have worked at the grassroots level, encouraging individuals and households to become involved in the fight to save the planet from global warming. The most common method of raising volunteers is teaching them individual responsibility, of reducing their own carbon footprints. Our websites, toolkits, and workshops are full of strategies and advice for individual choices and household choices for green living. Most of material is good and worthy.
In fact, many of the best suggestions for individual greening are also promoted by the fossil fuel industry, particularly utilities. They offer promotions for digital thermostats and LED lightbulbs nearly every month. We should have been more suspicious.
The utilities have been emphasizing their customer’s individual responsibility for climate change while remaining silent about their own outsized culpability. “Don’t look at us,” they are saying, “look at what you are doing. You are guilty of not doing enough.” At a time when households are absolutely doing their part by staying home, the carbon emissions only dropped 5.5%.
The utilities are responsible for most of the rest of the carbon pollution, 60%, 70%, or 80%. The reality could not be starker. Utilities were, are, and will be the worst polluters until we stop them. At this time of pandemic, energy sector bailouts should be targeted at clean renewable energy sources. Natural gas and coal powerplants should be wound down as soon as possible.
Furthermore, the only path out of the pandemic-caused recession/depression is government spending. FDR’s New Deal was a spending plan focusing on infrastructure, of which the United States is already in great need. The new energy structure necessary for the 21st century needs to be built and it must be built for a green energy economy.
Individual responsibility is a still a great entry into the green activism. However, the ultimate goal is not individual actions, but government and industry actions. Let us not allow ourselves to be taken for malleable idiots again.
With Earth Day coming rapidly on April 22, NYIPL joins with other IPL chapters to celebrate the entire week of April 15-24 as Faith Climate Action Week. You can start right away by downloading resources here and here. Despite the greed and short-sightedness that is widespread, we can be still be good stewards of God’s creation.
The Hudson River Presbytery is a judicatory of 82 Presbyterian churches spread across eight counties in the Hudson River Valley. Included in this presbytery are NYIPL member congregations White Plains Presbyterian (above), Holmes Presbyterian Camp, and Huguenot Memorial. The Hudson River Presbytery is very active on earth care issues. They have a group called the Food Justice Corps which is five young people who come together regularly who explore food justice issues. The group is not just educational but also a leadership development program: The corps members will develop their own projects to bring back to their congregations next spring.
Welcome, Hudson River Presbytery and White Plains Presbyterian!