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/

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.

 

 

 

With the stroke of a pen

Yesterday the stroke of a pen appeared to erase wisdom. But, as Kenneth K. Mayer’s With the Stroke of a Pen: Executive Orders and Presidential Power reminds us, appearance and reality are sometimes different. There’s a difference between the stroke of a pen and an eraser.

00-PEN-777x437Mr. Trump signed the executive order that defies climate science, diminishes responsible federal action on climate change, and promotes a hoax: more jobs and a stronger economy.

The news coverage of the President proudly displaying the executive order to the “audience” while surrounded by smiling fossil fuel corporate executives and climate change deniers left me feeling sick.

 

Fortunately, thanks to a political system of checks-and-balances, and organizations like the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC)*, there’s more to reality than the stroke of a pen and what meets the eye from a television camera.

Read U.S. Climate Actions Can’t Be Stopped With the Stoke of a Pen and enjoy a better day than yesterday.

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

* NRDC works to safeguard the earth – its people, its plants and animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends.

 

Imagine there’s no heaven

This morning’s news of a State of Emergency in Brussels is chilling. Less so than the deadly attack in Mali, but one doesn’t need to be a mathematician to add up the increasing number of threats, deaths, and States of Emergency and conclude that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Whether one calls it Daesh or the Islamic State, we are dealing with something worse than insanity. The killers are not insane. They do not qualify for a pass, as do those who commit criminal acts but are judged as “criminally insane.”

One wonders, then, what draws a young Belgian, Frenchman, or American to ISIL.

The late teens and early 20s are a peculiar stage of human development,  which may help explain, in part, the attraction of idealistic younger people to an organization that promotes an ideal society – the caliphate. Younger men in particular are looking for vocation -a call, a purpose larger than themselves – to which to give their lives and, if necessary, to die for.

In America in the ’50s, ’60s, and early ’70s those of us who were idealistic found a calling in the Civil Rights Movement and the Peace Movement. We marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and William Sloane Coffin. We sought to stop the enemies of racism and war, to create a more perfect world without either.

At first the notion that it is idealism that draws young, disillusioned western men and women to ISIL strikes us as a contradiction in terms. But idealism is a grand vision worth living and dying for. That it is illusory or demented does not negate its essential character as idealism.

The 21st Century was supposed to be better than the 20th, the deadliest century in the history of the world. Clearly it is not, and any previous projection of a religionless world at peace with itself – remember john Lennon’s “Imagine” – has proven as unreal as the hope for peace and mutual understanding. Religion will not go away. The only question is what kind of religion we practice irrespective of whether one is Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, Sikh, Pantheist, or Animist. Do we practice it humbly or arrogantly, confessionally or righteously, as penitents begging for mercy for participation in the evil we deplore, or as righteous crusaders for the Kingdom of God or the Caliphate; as those who accept our mortality as a precious gift, or cheapen life by sacrificing others and themselves for their vision of eternal life?

In a recent presidential debate candidates were asked to name the greatest threat to national security. One answered Islamic terrorism. The other answered Climate Change.

Today defeating ISIL and its extremist counterparts seems more urgent than action on Climate Change, but Climate Change is the more important and longer-lasting threat. But there is a common belief that underlies both crises. It is the illusion that we are immortal, the consequent denigration of earthly life, this miraculous life we experience on this planet between our births and our deaths.

The lure of an afterlife is ludicrously represented by a French imam’s sermon warning children not to listen to music. Why? Because listening to music puts the children at risk of being “turned into monkeys and pigs.”

No monkey or pig has organized for killing in the name of heaven. Neither should we.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Nov. 21, 2015

 

 

Verse – Flooded Former Bean Field

Champaign County, Illinois.
June 29, 2015, A.D.

Climate Change is still my tune,
Everyone will know it soon;
It’s rained just twice,
And that is nice:
Once all May, and once all June…

[“LIKE” if you wish water could
be shared with the West!

Flooded bean field - Champaign, IL

Flooded bean field – Champaign, IL

– Verse and photograph by Steve Shoemaker, Champaign County, IL, June 29, 2015

 

Climate change or just weather?

Cyclone PamReading  The Atlantic story – “A Cyclone that Destroyed a Nation” [March 15, 2015] – about the category 5 storm that has left most of Vanuatu’s population homeless, brought to mind our earlier post, Winston Churchill on Climate Departure.

New Zealand and Australia are coming to the rescue with massive aid. The question that hovers over every compassionate relieve and rescue attempt is how many rescues it will take before “we” – the human species – plan differently for habitable habitations that take climate change as inevitable.

“The era of procrastination, of half measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to its close. In its place we are now entering a period of consequences…. We cannot avoid this period, we are in it now…” – Winston Churchill

Click A Cyclone that Destroyed a Nation to read the story in The Atlantic. Then chime in on the topic of climate change, weather, and climate departure.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 16, 2015

The Election: What Now? My Quandry

Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center granted permission to re-publish this morning’s reflection. It begins with a quote from Henry David Thoreau:

“Cast your whole vote,
Not a strip of paper merely.”

Dear friends,

During this week since the election, I have been living in a quandary.

The root of my quandary is my affirmation of these spiritual truths as applied to “political” events:

  • Ecology, the fullest expression of our science, teaches that if any species exerts total control over any eco-system — tries to gobble up all the nourishment in sight — it destroys the eco-system – and itself.
  • Torah teaches that we must love our neighbors as ourselves, and that we must grant the earth its rhythmic rest — or suffer disastrous floods, famines, exile.
    Democracy is an experiment in increasing interhuman compassion, community, and cooperation.
  • Ecologic sanity is an experiment in increasing interspecies compassion, community, and cooperation.

It seems to me that our recent election, dominated by huge gobs of money in the service of generating even huger gobs of money, marginalized both democracy and eco-sanity.

Part of me wants to believe that politics is always a game of waves — –– that a wave of attacks on democracy today will bring a wave of creative affirmations of democracy tomorrow. That the defeat of pro-democracy candidates (even in states where pro-democratic referenda won big) was an accident of abysmally low voter turnout (the lowest percentage since 1942), and that the progressive movement will recover in 2016.

On the other hand, part of me believes that at this moment in US history the whole system is broken, because extreme inequality of wealth and the dominant power of global corporations has smashed all the organs intended to protect and advance democracy.

And this part of me believes that this brokenness is driving not only America but all our planet into an enormous crash – a dead end where we cannot wait for the next wave of the old system, but instead must give birth to something entirely new. Beyond the kinds of elections we have now, beyond the economic structure built on fossil fuels during the past 250 years.

Not backward into feudalism but forward into new forms of eco-democratic community.

From the first perspective, what needs to happens next is more grass-roots organizing of the well-worn style, combined with a much bolder, clearer progressive populist message. The People vs. Wall Street.

From the second perspective, the meaning of this last election was taught 165 years ago in the midst of a growing crisis over slavery: “Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence. A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority; it is not even a minority then; but it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole weight.” – Henry David Thoreau, “On Civil Disobedience”.

Which answer to my quandary is “right”? To get beyond my quandary – OUR quandary! – let’s start from basics:

Both our spiritual/religious traditions and the findings of modern science teach that community, connection, cooperation – in that dangerous four-letter word, LOVE –- are required for human beings and our planet to be healthy and life-giving.

It’s true that Control — in Buber’s language, I-It as distinct from I-Thou — is a necessary part of life. But when Control becomes so overwhelming that community, compassion, are erased –- disaster follows.

Triumphalism, like the “triumphs” of Pharaoh in enslaving people and the very earth his country lived in, becomes self-destructive.

Mentioning Pharaoh reminds us of an historical as well as moral truth:When Control becomes overwhelming, it self-destructs and a new form of society is born.

  • When the ancient Egyptian and Babylonian Empires over-reached, shattering the societies of early Western Semitic tribes, the new social form we know as Torah was born.
  • When the Roman Empire over-reached, it shattered Biblical Judaism – so that Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism and (a little later) Islam were born.
  • Now the machinery of Modernity has over-reached, and all the classic social forms of the last millennia have been shattered. Something new needs to be born. Is being born.
    For Control and Power to limit themselves so as not to over-reach –- is elementary wisdom, even simple sanity.

But this election was a triumph for the practice of insisting on Total Triumph — Big Money, Big Corporations, choking Earth’s atmosphere, heating Earth’s oceans, depriving the poor, the young, the Black, the Brown of the right to vote while giving the rich millions of extra votes in the form of hundreds of millions of dollars spent on elections.

More important – this election was a defeat for defeatists. Defeat for those who refused to stand up against these policies of Top-Down Power. Defeat for a President and a Party that has practiced preemptive surrender to Big Money since it took office in 2009. Defeat for those “liberals” who whimpered about Obamacare instead of proclaiming its undeniable though limited success.

By their timidity they were thinking to appeal to “moderates” — but instead they convinced these moderates that even the timidly progressive President and Party must be a failure.

Many of these same defeatists will behave as if 2016 can be won by the same defeatism that lost in 2014. They will point to mechanics: more Republicans up for grabs in the Senate, a respected woman candidate for President who is a pro-Wall Street “moderate,” more turn-out in a Presidential year.

But even their best efforts will be given to lessen disaster. The basic structure – enormous inequality in wealth, free use of that wealth in politics, the purchase of the Supreme Court by anti-democratic forces — will remain the same, and because of their own defeatism they will remain defeated, prisoners within it.

Even if they “win” the 2016 election, their “winning” will really conceal a more basic defeat — as it did for Obama in 2012.

Yet — preventing the worst is still desirable. Resistance to the worst attacks on democracy could begin right now: Not waiting for the next election, or even the next Congress to convene in January. What would that take?

(This is the first half of an exploration of the quandaries we face from a spiritually rooted perspective on the last elections. The second half is available at our website at https://theshalomcenter.org/content/election-what-next-my-quandary, and will also be in your in-box in the next few days.)

———————————

Thank you Rabbi Arthur Waskow for connecting the dots of faith, politics, economics, and the sacredness of the Earth.

Click HERE for the Shalom Center website.

Election Night: Hoping we’ll all pull through

A song of lament for tonight’s midterm election.

The lyrics come from Psalm 137 where the people’s conquerors ridiculed their captives, taunting them to sing one of their native songs, the songs of Zion. Big oil and coal won tonight. Mitch McConnell won. So did the other deniers. Things like climate change action can’t wait for the next election.

God bless the memory of Pete Seeger who was always singing the aspirational songs of hope in times like this. God bless us all.

 

I may have to get arrested

“What are you going to do in retirement?” asks a friend who knows I will retire from active pastoral ministry in a few weeks.

“I’m not sure,” I answer. “I may spend the rest of my life getting arrested to help stop the rush to the cliff that is climate change.”

I won’t, of course. I’m a chicken. But being in large groups and protest marches have always made me squeamish. I’ve had the sense of losing my self. I’m uncomfortable with crowds, even the best of them. At this age, I’ve come to realize that I’m an introvert, an outsider, more observer than activist. Observing…reflecting…writing…preaching…connecting the dots are my thing.

Yesterday an estimated 300,000 ordinary citizens like you and me gathered in New York City for the People March on Climate Change. This week the Secretary General of the United Nations will convene a group of international leaders for a one day Climate Summit.

The problem with standing at the edge observing is that, without action at the lowest and highest levels of society across the world, the Earth as we know it will go over the edge, over the cliff to massive population displacement, mass starvation, mass death, extinction of species, death of nations and peoples, and an exponentially worse wealth disparity between the one percent and the 99. I tell myself that publishing what I observe is its own kind of action. As a minister of the gospel, I believe in the power of the Word – the power of speech.

But I may have to rethink and act on my off-the-cuff answer to the questioner. Climate change is the overarching issue – the developing dark global spiritual and moral cloud – under which all other ethical questions fall and pale by comparison. Everything else must be examined under this umbrella. To think otherwise is to be distracted and out-of-touch with the Lord and Giver of Life. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,” wrote the psalmist. It does not belong to the one percent, big oil and coal, or any one nation. While greed reigns, I just may have to get arrested.