Wednesday, June 3, 2015

How Worried Are You About Climate Change?

 I filled in a survey recently, which was intended to "help determine the most effective religious messaging on climate change". 

One of the questions in the survey was the one in the title: How worried are you about climate change? The survey offered a range of options from "extremely worried" to "not at all worried".  The last was further subdivided into two categories: "not at all worried because I don't believe climate change is happening" and "not at all worried because it is all part of God's plan for the end of the world".

I had a lot of trouble answering this question, and I came to feel that was because two questions had been fused into one - and that the way these two questions had been fused together itself has something to say about "religious messaging on climate change".

Suppose I said to you, "How worried are you about being struck by lightning?"  In ordinary conversation, that question would be asking for your assessment of the chance that you are going to be struck by lightning (about 1 in 700,000 in any given year, according to National Geographic).

But suppose I said, "How worried are you about death?"  Now I am asking, not for your assessment of your chances of dying (which you will most likely agree are 100%), but for you to tell me about the psychic weight that death carries for you right now.  Does death's inevitability fill you with anxiety or have you, in one way or another, made your peace with it?

Especially in the context of climate change, where the probability of the future event is something on which people have a wide range of opinions, it seems to me important not to confuse these two meanings of "how worried are you".   Because confusing them sends the message that, if one comes to believe that climate change is real and serious, then the only possible response is "worry" in the psychological sense: gnawing anxiety, guilty strident activism, no humor and no rest. This is another manifestation of Eco-Law when we need to share Eco-Gospel.

After all, Christians follow the One who told us to consider the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, and asked "Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?"  I can't conceive of Jesus being worried by Death (or by climate change).   Deeply moved, yes; angered, yes; grieved, yes; fearful, yes.  But worried? Not deep enough.

Let's stop pushing worry and let the deep grieving through.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

No comments: