Geoengineering and the Climate Crisis

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Rex Tillerson clearly stated his views of climate change during remarks in 2012 at an event sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations.

“And as human beings as a — as a — as a species, that’s why we’re all still here. We have spent our entire existence adapting, OK? So we will adapt to this. Changes to weather patterns that move crop production areas around — we’ll adapt to that. It’s an engineering problem, and it has engineering solutions. And so I don’t — the fear factor that people want to throw out there to say we just have to stop this, I do not accept.” 

earthwrenchGeoengineering now seems to have become the de facto climate policy of the Trump White House and the GOP as they, on the one hand, deny the apparent fact of climate change, and on the other hand, prepare to fight it by employing poorly tested technology with unknown long term effects! 

In Conservative circles, seductive but superficial reasoning exists for Geoengineering being so popular.  One is that on a large scale, it can make several corporations and individuals very rich.  Another is that the effects of carbon based fuels can be downplayed by government and industry now.  After all, any atmospheric heating caused by burning fossil fuels and a buildup of carbon dioxide can be minimized by employing geoengineering technologies.  In short, the current state of Conservative thinking, Jobs, Jobs, Jobs translates into Burn, Burn, Burn.

Globally, the atmospheric carbon dioxide level reached 403 ppm this year (it held between 180 ppm and 290 ppm for the previous 800,000 years).  Even so, fossil fuels still reign supreme as the power source of world economies.  With no end in sight for the abatement of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels or the employment of alternative/renewable power sources, carbon dioxide levels will continue to rise.  Planet cooling by geoengineering will just mask the warming effects of elevated carbon dioxide levels.  At some point, as yet undetermined, Earth will depend upon geoengineering to remain within livable limits.  It is apparent that once we are hooked on geoengineering in a world with high atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, any cessation of geoengineering efforts will be accompanied by rapid and severe global climate changes to unacceptable levels.

Obviously, clear thinking is in short supply.  At best, geoengineering is the environmental equivalent of the opioid crisis and at its worst it is applied asininity, if not a downright “Faustian Bargain” of epic proportions.

If you want deeper insight into geoengineering and the climate emergency, please read the following:

https://cleantechnica.com/2017/11/09/new-computer-modeling-helps-scientist-analyze-effects-geoengineering

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article183547911.html

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/11/02/561608576/massive-government-report-says-climate-is-warming-and-humans-are-the-cause

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/11/08/pruitt-says-alarming-climate-report-not-deter-replacement-clean-power-plan/839857001

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/nov/06/how-indias-battle-with-climate-change-could-determine-all-of-our-fates

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/nov/08/seven-megatrends-that-could-beat-global-warming-climate-change

https://qz.com/index/1116160/for-800000-years-carbon-dioxide-levels-moved-between-180-ppm-and-290-ppm-last-year-they-got-to-403-ppm/

The Pruitt Bible and The Jefferson Bible

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You’ve heard of the Jefferson Bible. But you may not have heard of the Pruitt Bible.

Today’s Daily Beast brings the Pruitt Bible to the public’s attention. It’s well worth the read.

The Jefferson Bible is missing whole sections. Thomas Jefferson, a produce of the Age of Enlightenment, a Deist who believed in science, took a penknife or some other sharp instrument and cut out passages of the four Gospels that made no sense to him. He didn’t twist their meanings. He just cut them. But he did so only after studiously comparing six different copies of the New Testament in King James English, Latin, French . . .  and Greek, the language of the New Testament.

The Pruitt Bible is different. It’s the bible of twisted meanings that serves the interests of eliminating real scientists from serving at the EPA. Here’s Jay Michaelson’s “EPA Director Scott Pruitt Sites Bible for Industry-Led Science Boards and Gets the Bible Exactly Wrong in today’s Daily Beast.

There’s a big difference between the Pruitt Bible and the Jefferson Bible. One of them took the texts seriously. The other twisted them.

We may also suggest that only one of the authors read Shakespeare’s Richard III, or F. Jacox:

Shakespeare embodies in Richard of Gloucester a type of the political intriguer; as where the usurper thus answers the gulled associates who urge him to be avenged on the opposite faction: —

“But then I sigh, and with a piece of Scripture

Tell them that God bids us do good for evil.

And thus I clothe my naked villainy

With old odd ends, stolen forth of holy writ;

And seem a saint when most I play the devil.”

An unmitigated scoundrel in one of Mr. Dickens’s books is represented as openly grudging his old father the scant remnant of his days (on the ground that “Three-score and ten’s the Bible-mark”); whereupon the author interposes this parenthetical comment: “Is any one surprised at Mr. Jonas making such a reference to such a book for such a purpose? Does any one doubt the old saw that the devil quotes Scripture for his own ends? If he will take the trouble to look about him, he may find a greater number of confirmations of the fact in the occurrences of a single day than the steam-gun can discharge balls in a minute.”

 – F. Jacox

 

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Nov. 6, 2017.

Sermon: You shall see My back

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A sermon on The Book of Exodus 33:12-23 for Reformation Day celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the 16th Century Reformation, preached at Central Presbyterian Church, St. Paul, Minnesota.

With all that’s happening in the world these days, many thoughtful people wonder about the nature of God, or conclude there is no God, that the whole thing is a made-up story to serve our own purposes rather than seeing something real that cannot be seen.

“See, there is a place by Me” [says God to Moses in the wilderness] “where you shall stand on the rock; and while My glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with My hand until I have passed by; then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen” (Ex. 33:22-23).

This strange reading from the Book of Exodus which puts a face on God —  God has no face, no hands, no feet — may just be the text to help us get reality straighter than we had before the crisis that imperils the human species itself: the onset of climate departure. Not just climate change, but climate departure, the point of no return to nature as we have known it. Maybe God has put us again in the cleft of the rock and is passing by. We only get to see God’s back.

While our hearts and minds are reeling on the edge of the abyss of despair over the rise of the KKK and the alt-right in Charlottesville, the hurricanes, floods, fires, and earthquakes in Houston, Puerto Rico, northern California, and Mexico City to say nothing of the inexplicable massacre of more than 500 concert-goers in Las Vegas while two little boys with matches in Washington and Phnom-pen play chicken with nuclear toys, we are like Moses in the wilderness pleading to see God’s glory. We are teetering on the edge of an abyss into which we dare not look.

“To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world,” wrote Karl Barth. Elsewhere he insisted that the God we know in Jesus Christ is essentially unknowable. So today we clasp our hands again asking about God, asking about what, if anything, is ultimately and finally Real. We only see God from the back, clasping our hands in prayer — the beginning of an uprising against the present disorder of the world.

Like Moses in the cleft of the rock — between a rock and a hard place — in the wilderness where nothing is certain — we have forgotten, to paraphrase our Lord, that “Humankind does not live by tweets alone…but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”

In the Hebrew mind, to see someone’s face is to know them. But God says to Moses, “You cannot see My face and live. I will put you in the cleft of the rock, cover you with My hand and passed by. Only after I have passed by can you see My back.”

Why the back? Why not the face?

We are mortals who don’t want to be mortal, mammals who don’t want to be mammals. We are part of nature, not the masters of nature, not the exception to it. “You are dust,” says the Creator in Genesis, “and to dust you shall return.” Mammals are not meant to wake up with morning tweets from a mortal who can’t sleep and needs to hear Echo’s voice before breakfast and coffee.

We are living in the period of Narcissus of the Greek myth who dies because he cannot take his eyes off his reflection in the pond — his own face, his own image, his own glory.  A mere a mortal who must eat and drink to survive, Narcissus dies because to drink would have disturbed the pond in which he sees only himself. And, when he dies, a flower blooms on that very spot.

On this Reformation Sunday and the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, we do well to pay heed to a declaration that may strike us as curious: “Human nature is, so to speak, a perpetual factory of idols.”

Wait! Wait! Don’t tell me!     Who said that:

Bill Maher, Christopher Hitchens, or someone else?

Would you believe it was John Calvin, the much misunderstood 16th century reformer whose work was turned into stone by the Calvinists who mistook his face for God’s, turning his work into an idol?

The issue for Calvin and the Reformed theological tradition which is Central’s tradition, was not atheism. It wasn’t unbelief. It was idolatry. It was misplaced worship of the products, phantasms and fantasies produced by the human heart and mind, the substitutes for ultimate reality that command our worship.

Wait! Wait! Don’t tell me! Who said:

“The human mind, stuffed as it is with presumptuous rashness, dares to imagine a god suited to its own capacity; as it labors under dullness, nay, is sunk in the grossest ignorance, it substitutes vanity and an empty phantom in the place of God. To these evils another is added. The god whom man has thus conceived inwardly he attempts to embody outwardly. The mind, in this way, conceives the idol, and the hand gives it birth” —

Bill Maher, Christopher Hitchens, William Barber II, Cornel West, Elizabeth Warren, or John Calvin?

“I will cover you with My hand while I pass by. You can see me from the back.”

There is in the Hebrew Bible, and in the writings of Holocaust survivor Eli Wiesel, a profound sense of God’s absence as well as presence. By the time Moses gets to see God from the back, God has already passed by.

In the Lutheran and Reformed tradition from Luther to Calvin to Bonhoeffer to Bill McKibben, there is a long-standing recognition of God’s absence or hiddenness.  Listen to Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

The God who is with us is the God who forsakes us. The God who makes us live in this world without using God as a working hypothesis is the god before whom we are standing. Before God and with God we live without God. God allows Himself to be edged out of the world and on to the cross. God is weak and powerless in the world, and that is exactly the way, the only way, in which God can be with us and help us. …

 Man’s religiosity makes him look in his distress to the power of God in the world; he uses God as a deus ex machina. The Bible, however, directs us to the powerlessness and suffering of God; only a suffering God can help. To this extent we may say that the process we have described by which the world came of age was an abandonment of the false conception of God, and a clearing of the decks for the God of the Bible, who conquers power and space in the world by his weakness. . .

 Humans are challenged to participate in the sufferings of God at the hands of a godless world. One must therefore plunge oneself into the life of a godless world, without attempting to gloss over its ungodliness with a veneer of religion or trying to transform it. . . To be a Christian does not mean to be religious in a particular way, to cultivate some particular form of asceticism. . . but to be a human being. It is not some religious act which makes a Christian what he is, but participation in the suffering of God in the life of the world.. . .

One must abandon every attempt to make something of oneself, whether it be a saint, a converted sinner, a churchman . . . This is what I mean by worldliness—taking life in stride, with all its duties and problems, its successes and failures, its experiences and helplessness. It is in such a life that we throw ourselves utterly in the arms of God and participate in his sufferings in the world and watch with Christ in Gethsemane. That is faith, and that is what makes a human and a Christian. —Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison.

 The world may be God-less, but it is not without gods. The idols are everywhere. And the chief idol of our time is the prosperity gospel: the gospel of greed that escapes all suffering.

These small gods our hearts have manufactured are not real but they are no less powerful. When they are unmasked, we see their ashen faces – the faces we have created because we refuse to live as mortals who cannot see God’s face, discontent to spend time in the cleft of the rock in order to see God from the back, the scarred back of God, whipped and lashed by the hands of Narcissus’s god-filled world.

Presbyterians and others of the Reformed theological tradition often ask why our membership is declining. Are we dying?

On this Reformation Sunday in the year of the 500 Anniversary of the Reformation, could it be not because we haven’t kept up with the latest cultural trends and fads but because we’ve forgotten our identity? Could it be, in part, not because other churches have bands and are better at entertainment, and make God more accessible to a tweeting culture, but because we have surrendered the one thing that makes us Reformed Christians: humility before God — a profound sense of awe before the holiness of God whose face we cannot see?

Could it be that we have mis-translated the rallying call of the Reformed tradition to mean that the church must always be changing itself, that we are the agents of our own change. Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda! is properly translated “The church reformed and always being reformed!” Which is to say, under the judgment and guidance of the Holy Spirit of the Living God, not changing our image in Narcissus’s reflecting pond. It is a theological-ethical perspective which, as McCormick Theological Seminary’s Anna Case-Winter wrote in Presbyterians Today (May, 2017), “neither blesses preservation for preservation’s sake nor change for change’s sake.”

Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda . . . calls us to something more radical than we have imagined. It challenges both liberal and conservative impulses and the habits and agendas we have lately fallen into. It brings a prophetic critique to our cultural accommodation—either to the past or to the present—and calls us to communal and institutional repentance. It invites us, as people who worship and serve a living God, to be open to being “re-formed” according to the Word of God and the call of the Spirit.”

“Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty! All the saints adore Thee, Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea; Holy, holy, holy!  Though the darkness hide Thee; Though the eye of sinfulness Thy glory cannot see, Holy, holy, holy! All Thy works shall praise Thy Name in earth and sky and sea!”

We don’t get to see God’s face. We cannot see God’s full glory.  But, as the disciples of Jesus Christ, we do see God’s back! And for mortals, that’s plenty good enough! And from the darkness of this cleft in the rock, we join with Luther in trembling before the Holy One, and join Barth and Bonhoeffer by clasping our hands together in the dark as the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.

And though this world, with devils filled,

Should threaten to undo us,

We will not fear, for God hath willed

His truth to triumph through us:

The Prince of Darkness grim,

We tremble not for him;

His rage we can endure,

For lo! his doom is sure,

One little word shall fell him.

 

That word above all earthly powers,

No thanks to them, abideth;

The Spirit and the gifts are ours

Through Him who with us sideth:

Let goods and kindred go,

This mortal life also;

The body they may kill:

God’s truth abideth still,

His Kingdom is for ever.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, October 29, 201

2017 in the Cleft of the Rock

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This 500th Anniversary of the 16th Century Reformation is also the onset of climate departure. Not just climate change, but climate departure, the tipping point beyond which there is no way back.

1529MartinLuther

Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Preparing to preach on Reformation Sunday at Central Presbyterian Church in St. Paul leads to reflection on a strange text and several great hymns.

The text (Exodus 33:12-23) pictures Moses in the cleft of the rock with God’s hand covering him while God passes by with the reminder that no mortal can see the face of God and live. The hymns that come to mind are “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” and “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise.”

Perhaps, like Moses in the wilderness, we are in the cleft of the rock — between a rock and a hard place — and more than a little humbled as the Creator of all that is, Being-Itself, passes by while we are in the dark.

This moment of climate departure demands a new reformation, beginning with the recognition that we, homo sapiens, are mammals with the horses, cows, dogs, lions, cheetahs, and elephants — and that our future is imperiled by the gods of greed and prosperity our hearts have manufactured.

“Human nature is, so to speak, a perpetual factory of idols,” wrote the 16th Century Reformer John Calvin.

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2017 is a far cry from 1517, but it is, in this respect, the same.

A difference this year is that Martin Luther’s Ein feste Burg — “A Mighty Fortress” — will be sung in Catholic masses as well as protestant celebrations, bearing witness to the reconciling love of God over centuries of time.

Meanwhile the prosperity gospel — based on the idol of property — will go unchallenged in many churches, a departure from the truth that can only be found between a rock and a hard place: this cleft of the rock in 2017 while God passes by.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, October 27, 2017.

 

The Planet and Puerto Rico: Unincorporated Territories

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Much of Puerto Rico is still without power. But it may be that Puerto Rico will lead the way for the U.S. mainland by developing a renewable energy power grid that replaces its dependence on fossil fuels.

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While Elon Musk of Tesla proposes building a new renewable energy power grid to replace the destroyed carbon-producing fossil fuel-dependent grid, the Trump administration is shoring up the fossil fuel grid back on the U.S. mainland.

The Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Scott Pruitt, on Monday said he would sign a proposed rule Tuesday rescinding Obama’s Clean Power Plan, established in 2015 to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions.

Pruitt spoke at an event with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in Hazard, Kentucky — coal country.

“Here’s the president’s message: The war on coal is over,” Pruitt said. “Regulatory power should not be used by any regulatory body to pick winners and losers.” – Yahoo Finance, Oct. 9, 2017

Coal and oil are shipped at great expense to Puerto Rico from the mines of Hazard, Kentucky and the oil refineries of Houston. Puerto Rico, an unincorporated third world U.S. Territory, has been the loser. So have the people of Hazard who’ve been led to believe that winning the the war on coal will secure their future.

In the world of climate departure — not just climate change, but departure with no way back to what we considered normal — we’re all losers when the departure is denied.

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Governor Ricardo Rosselló and Elon Musk

The sun, on the other hand, is indigenous to Puerto Rico.

Could it be that a poor unincorporated Territory in the dark without power would lead the world by building a new grid lit by a source that shines without discrimination on winners and losers in Puerto Rico and in Hazard?

Perhaps, if the Governor of Puerto Rico comes to an agreement with the Elon Musk and the Tesla Corporation, the light may yet go on across the world that the planet itself is an unincorporated territory.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, October 10, 2017.

 

 

What would Bill say?

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What_Would_Wellstone_Do_-254x300“What would Wellstone do?” is a question often heard in Minnesota after the un-timely death of Senator Paul Wellstone. Most people can make a well-educated guess at the answers.

What would Bill say?” is the question I’m pondering this morning, looking for light in the darkness of the chemical eco-catastrophe  in Crosby, Texas.

Bill Gibson — click William E. Gibson to read Bill’s obituary — was a campus ministry colleague in the mid-’70s.

41XX644YJ4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_One of 27 campus ministers in New York State under the auspices of United Ministries in Higher Education*, Bill was “doing his own thing” at Cornell. His own thing — “eco-justice“– resulted in Eco-Justice — the Unfinished Journey. Click the title to read from the book Bill edited.

 

Like Paul Wellstone, Bill Gibson was a trailblazer. Unlike the senator, he worked away from the floodlights, quietly taking the path less taken on what has proven to be humanity’s great unfinished business.

Thank you, Bill. Rest in Peace.

Bill-Gibson-1Your joy and light still shine.

 

 

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, September 1, 2017.

*Click HERE for the history of United Ministries in Higher Education (UMHE), the ecumenical ministry jointly funded by the American Baptist, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Episcopal, Moravian, Reformed Church in America, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Brethren, United Church of Christ, and United Methodist churches.

Harvey, Houston, and the Holy

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The urgency of a rescue operation is not the time for anything but compassion.

Timing and perception are everything in this startling time of Hurricane Harvey, 500-year floods, and the chemical plant explosions now taking place in Houston. Watching a helicopter rescue the elderly and disabled from the rising waters of a flood that has put people at risk is not the time to say I told you so.

But sooner or later it is time to speak about the unnatural crisis hidden behind the crisis of nature. In times like this, everyone becomes a socialist, and, if we’re seeing straight, no one stays a climate change-denier in the city big oil built.

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Chemical plant explosions are the latest horrific news that graphically illustrate a national crisis that is more than ‘natural’. The crisis is anthropological and theological.

“Man over nature” was always an illusion. A hoax. A faux understanding of the human species’ relationship with the rest of nature — “man (sic.) over nature,” as though the first were separate from the latter — that leads to destruction and self-destruction.

The chemicals are exploding because the plants that make them cannot keep them cool. Keeping them cool requires an operative electrical grid, or, when the grid goes down, an emergency generator that isn’t vulnerable to flooding. When the grid and backup generators fail, the chemicals heat and explode.

Timing and perception are everything.

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Not much more than a year ago Standing Rock was being touted as the emerging symbol of the revised understanding, the shift in consciousness, and the new behavior required of humankind in the age of climate departure. The oil pipeline from Canada to Texas refineries was stopped in the name of nature itself.

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That was before the 2016 election, and the 2017 appointment of a climate change-denier to gut the EPA, presidential executive orders stripping away regulations on the fossil fuel industry, and America’s spiritual retreat from the Paris Accord on Climate Change. Texas, not Standing Rock, was in charge again. Or so it seemed until Harvey came ashore to wash away the illusion of “man over nature.”

It’s time now for a clearer perception. Time to hold next to each other a picture of flooded Texas chemical plant explosions and the peaceful protest of Standing Rock,  and ask ourselves which picture is truer than the other. Or perhaps the truth is better seen when both are held together side-by-side: two anthropologies and two theologies. According to the one, humankind and the human city are the measure of reality itself. According to the other, God (i.e. the Eternal, Being-Itself) is the “natural” context — the mysterium tremendum et fascinans* — in which we live, and move, and have our being.

Today is, and tomorrow will still be, time for compassion and help for the people of Houston. It is also time to perceive something much deeper and wider. The rescued people of Houston, southeast Texas, and Louisiana are but the latest victims of the tragedy of the human mind and spirit: the fanciful illusion and creation of an alt-world of species superiority to nature.

Could the trembling of this horrific moment lead us to a holier fascination with reality itself?

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Rudolf Otto (1869-1937)

The people of Standing Rock and Rudolf Otto are watching.

*Rudolf Otto‘s Latin term for the human experience with the Mystery beyond all taming that both fascinates and causes us mortals to tremble. (Rudolf Otto (1869–1937), The Idea of the Holy: An Inquiry into the Non-Rational Factor in the Idea of the Divine and its Relation to the Rational.)

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 31, 2017

 

 

 

 

Big Yellow Taxi and climate science

Songs like “Big Yellow Taxi” rise from memory so many years later when an EPA climate scientist report reaches the New York Times before it gets edited or killed and all the scientists get the word “You’re fired!”

We won’t know what we’ve got till it’s gone.

Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 9, 2017.

Operation Popeye and Leonardo da Vinci

Scientist and artist John Lince-Hopkins responded to Geoengineering and Nature Itself:

“Don’t forget that the U.S. was the first (and so far, only) world power to weaponize climate during the Viet Nam War (Operation Popeye).

“Whither now?”

Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia’s article on Operation Popeye:

The cloud seeding operation during the Vietnam War ran from March 20, 1967 until July 5, 1972 in an attempt to extend the monsoon season, specifically over areas of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The operation was used to induce rain and extend the East Asian Monsoonseason in support of U.S. government efforts related to the War in Southeast Asia.

The former U.S. Secretary of Defense, Robert S. McNamara, was aware that there might be objections raised by the international scientific community but said in a memo to the president that such objections had not in the past been a basis for prevention of military activities considered to be in the interests of U.S. national security.

The chemical weather modification program was conducted from Thailand over Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam and allegedly sponsored by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and CIA without the authorization of then Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird who had categorically denied to Congress that a program for modification of the weather for use as a tactical weapon even existed.[1]

Click Operation Popeye for a history of Operation Popeye’s attempt at weaponizing the climate.

Then join John in asking “Whither now?” John’s no Leonardo da Vinci, but he represents the wisdom of the master artist from an earlier era:

“It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.” – Leonardo da Vinci. 

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, June 29, 2017.

Geoengineering and Nature Itself

John Hopkins paintingThis morning John Lince-Hopkins of Lynx North Studio brought to our attention Technological Fixes for Climate Change.

We share below one theologian’s response to Technological Fixes for Climate Change.

Regarding “geoengineering”, maybe it’s just my depression, but I think not. The Tower of Babel has always been one of my go-to texts because it holds the paradox of the human condition. All attempts at “engineering” our way to security will fail.

There is an architecture that eludes our engineering when it comes to the planet. It’s called Nature. We are living in the time of what Bill McKibben calls “the end of Nature”. To what extend the end of Nature is the result of human disruption conceived in Western terms as “man over nature,” and to what extend climate change is attributable to non-human factors makes little difference IMHO to the call of the human species within Nature.

The Human Vocation

There are two very different creation stories in the Book of Genesis. Chapter one comes from the priestly (P) tradition.

It was the genius of the Priestly tradition’s creation story (Genesis 1) that they saw the balance of Nature as “Good”  (“and God saw…and it was good!”). The artchitecture of creation is a beautiful piece of art that inspires praise and awe. To imagine something else would be to fall from praise. You might say the P writers were more like scientists who beheld and marveled at the intricate web of natural life.

No sooner do we read Chapter One that we come to the second very different creation story from the perspective of what biblical scholars call “J”,  so called because of the use of the writer’s Name for God.

Genesis two and three read more like novels, expressing in very earthy terms the earth-bound character of human nature and human creature’s resistance to creaturely life — the inexplicable choice of the archetypal “earthlings” to eat the fruit of the ONLY tree among all the trees of the garden based in humankind’s tragic urge of to become “like God, knowing good and evil.”

Only when they fail to stand in awe and thanksgiving in the midst of the Good (a good which includes nature’s “limits” on their behavior) do they invoke the curse that renders them shamefully conscious of their nakedness (their naturalness) and sends them into a hiding from their Creator. Fratricide (Cain’s slaying of Abel) quickly follows their expulsion from Eden.

The continuing human calling is to see Earth itself as the theater of a glory not of our own making and to resist the illusion of the serpent: “if you eat of the one tree which is forbidden, you will become like God.” It’s the second part of that statement that is the temptation – refusing to live with the limits of Nature itself. One might even say “the Fall” is an attempt at geoengineering.

Genesis 1-11 is called the Primeval History — a history that never was but always is. The Primeval History concludes with the story of Tower of Babel — human engineering for the purpose of “making a name for ourselves”, i.e., establishing and securing our existence in time in the face of chaos.

Now it’s “GEO-engineering” – the illusion that we can fix this, that we can “engineer” our way out of the mess our geoengineering on behalf of a more perfect world has created. There’s a HUGE difference between geoengineering and being responsible. The former disturbs Nature. The latter works collaboratively with Nature…or whatever is left of her. Anything else is Babel. It is doomed to fail.

John captures in paint what his word say of his intention.

jr-3“Environmentally focused paintings and other art forms from the early 21st century build a foundational historic context for future generations.  They are documents of the time of ‘the first awareness’ by the human species about the course and implications of climate disruption. As this awareness settles in, climate disruption in the form of weather (as it affects biodiversity, human society and the physical planet) has become, for me, a main topic of my work.”

Perhaps it’s not too much of a stretch to say that John Lince-Hopkins, the scientist and the painter, combines in the 21st Century the ancient wisdoms of the P writer and the J writer — the awe of Genesis 1 and the earthy calling and tragedy of Genesis 2, 3, and 11. Would that we might all do the same.

Click Art Wander for more on how John views his work as a climate change scientist and artist.

Thankful for the friendship,

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, June 29, 2017.