A warm day in February
Today as I write it is 71 degrees in Peoria. I cannot remember any time in my life when it was this warm in February in Illinois. People are sitting in cafes drinking their coffee and tea. I can’t say I don’t like it. It’s lovely.
I know that climate and weather are not the same thing, and I also know that this warm day is not a proof of climate change. Climate change does not need today’s weather to prove its reality. That has already been established. But today does bring to my mind serious issues regarding earth’s climate, issues that are absolutely crucial to everyone, including those enjoying the cafes.
Today the U.S. Senate also voted to confirm Scott Pruitt as the new EPA chief despite the fact that he repeatedly challenges the reality of climate change and is openly hostile to efforts to do anything about it. They also confirmed him despite the deep concerns of 800 former EPA staffers who sent a letter to the senators imploring them not to put him in charge of this crucial agency. They also voted for him today even though a judge has ordered the release of some 2,500 emails between Pruitt and oil company executives that might shed some light on his views and intentions. They couldn’t wait three days to get this extra information. This is an action I find hard to understand. Perhaps they feared that once the emails were out, he couldn’t get confirmed.
We have deep disagreements in our country over what is true or untrue, real or unreal, wise or unwise. There is nothing wrong with disagreement as long as we have an underlying sense of good will and a healthy respect for the facts. Tragically, neither of these conditions seems to exist right now. The new idea of “alternate facts” is now part of our vocabulary, an amusing joke with real consequences.
How will we meet the very serious challenges of living on earth when science is ignored and even the facts are twisted and manipulated on a daily basis? How does this kind of behavior influence the odds of a good life for our children and grandchildren? Why would we think that there are no consequences for such lack of wisdom?
In our religious traditions we have the idea of stewardship. Stewardship means we have a responsibility to care for the earth and its creatures. In scientific language we talk about sustainability, a way of life that can be lived in a healthy way over a long period of time. Either way, we are not behaving wisely. We are letting our chances slip away as each year goes by. If we move backward for the next four years, our vulnerability will be greatly increased. It will get harder and harder to recover.
I hope we can restore a sense of good will in our country so that we can actually have civil conversations with each other. I hope that the crucial importance of facts will have a renaissance in our country, for without that essential concept we are truly lost. I hope that the idea of truth will make a comeback as dramatic as the Cubs did last year. I hope we can recover a sense of the sacredness of the earth that so many religious traditions have taught for centuries.
Without these movements toward both common sense and deep wisdom, we are in for a rough road.