A few night ago I watched Al Gore's film "An Inconvenient Truth" for the first time. Most of you have probably seen it (if not, I recommend it for the wake-up call) and for most of us, climate change is (or should be) high up on our list of things to worry about -- unless of course you're Mitt Romney or Glenn Beck.
So, all the news and warnings we hear regarding climate change are a real downer. It's frightening and depressing, to put it quite bluntly. After watching something like "An Inconvenient Truth," you can either come away from it feeling motivated and determined to save our beloved planet, or feeling like it's all hopeless so you may as well just continue to enjoy your SUV and long, hot showers, since giving them up would only be a drop in the bucket.
The main problem I see is that those with the means to make the biggest difference -- enough that we could perhaps see a change for the better -- are generally the world's most prosperous nations where the negative effects of climate change are either not really negative at all (such as longer, warmer summers in the north) or virtually non-existent. The US has seen more frequent and powerful hurricanes, but the average North American or European is probably not seeing or feeling climate change to the extent that people in southeast Asia or the Pacific islands are now noticing. Where I live, the biggest "crisis" has been not enough snow to go skiing in the winter. Ouch.
So what connection does climate change have to Mormonism, if any? Most of the Mormons I know aren't the most environmentally-conscious people. Most are either ignorant and/or apathetic about things like the environment or animal rights. So I guess that makes the average Mormon not much different from the rest of society in that regard. Tree-hugging vegetarians are stereotypically left-wing Liberals, while Mormons are stereotypically (though accurately) overwhelmingly right-wing Conservatives. I will take the liberty of lumping in most (but not all) Christians in that category.
So besides differing political persuasions, is there another reason why Mormons aren't more active in environmental and/or animal causes? When you think about it, who of all people should care more about both those things than Mormons? We believe that God created Mother Earth for our benefit, along with all the animals and resources that came along with her, and that we've been instructed to be wise stewards of these gifts. We are also perhaps one of the few religions that even believe that plants and animals, all living things, have a spirit just as we human beings do. So we should be treating all these things with care and respect, right? Or does this belief give us an excuse to exploit Mother Nature, satisfying our conscience by knowing that all the plants and animals that we do away with are going on to a better place in the Hereafter?
While I was watching Al Gore's film, these thoughts came to mind because I suddenly remembered something that I heard in sacrament meeting a few months back. One of the stake high councilmen, whom I always enjoy listening to, said something that made me think. Now, I don't wish to puts words into his mouth, or to accuse this brother of justifying maltreatment of the environment, but I did sort of interpret his words to possibly give the impression that it's all irrelevant. He was talking about how we hear so much negativity in the world today. (Very true.) That it's easy to become discouraged or frightened by all the bad news out there (Also very true.) He mentioned climate change, and how all the predictions are bleak and scary. (True once again.) But it didn't matter, he said, because when the Lord is watching out for us and as long as we remain faithful, He will take care of us. (OK, I believe that, and yet is he trying to imply that these worldly concerns really don't matter??) It made me think a lot about how our faith can affect our actions, at least where the environment is concerned, if we are willing and able to just put our complete trust in the Lord. Then that old saying came to mind, "The Lord helps them who help themselves."
We could say that if Antarctica is gone in 30 years from now, it'll be OK because The Second Coming could be before then. Or we could say that environmental disaster has been predicted in the scriptures and it's a sign of the times, so there's nothing we can really do about it except to not worry and trust in the Lord. Both of these statements could be true, but does putting our complete trust in the Lord make Mother Earth's bleak future irrelevant?
How ironic it is that we, who are of faith, often have to look to atheists or unbelievers to set an ethical example. Those who believe that they have to make the most of this one and only life they've been given, so that their children and grandchildren will be able to have an enjoyable earthly stay, even while they themselves are no more.
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