Sunday, January 29, 2017

Don't look down Donald - climate and political change

Have you ever watched cartoons where the character doesn't know that they are about to fall under the influence of gravity until they look down? I remember once watching a cartoon (I was sure it was Ren and Stimpy but can't find the episode) where the laws of gravity are held in the local court house. Someone accidentally rubs them out and gravity fails.

The equivalent of this appears to be happening in the US at the moment with climate change either being removed or planned to be removed from government webpages. This, together with planned sackings etc in the US (and indeed what has happened in Australia with the Climate Council which now is publicly funded and CSIRO) is the equivalent of trying to erase the law of gravity.

Now you might protest that climate change science and gravity cannot be equated, but hear me out.

Firstly, both may be observed by anyone. Drop a brick on your foot, or keep track over the years when flowers first open or birds migrate. Keep a record of rainfall on your farm. A friend who worked in aid and development in Nepal for many years said there were no climate change skeptics there - because they could see it.

But secondly, both need some more careful observation. When Newton said that a body continues at a constant velocity unless acted upon by a force, he knew that in the absence of air that a pound of feathers and a pound of lead would fall at the same rate due to gravity (a fact someone I once worked with denied), but this is a level of abstraction since none of us lives in a vacuum (at least in the literal sense). Likewise, careful longterm datasets help us understand how natural change cannot fully explain the warming we see.

Thirdly, while Einstein came along, and quantum gravity might yet arrive, Newton is still valid for everyday. Likewise, while we learn more about aerosols, the role of the oceans, the sun, etc in natural variability, the basics of greenhouse gases - depending on the fundamental physics of quantum mechanics and radiative transfer are also still valid. It really is warming, it really is our fault and it really will get bad if we don't act.

Trump's lies (sorry alternate facts) will not change the real facts - except they will become worse through inaction. Tell the truth and shame the devil my mum sometimes says. Or as it says in the ten commandments, don't bear false witness. Tell the truth about climate change during this era of Machiavellian, oligarchic lies.


  1. I think the difficulty for lots of christians is when one have to choose the lesser evil. Some argue that abortion is extremely important to be fought in public sphere (i.e. to protect the unborn child), and everything else secondary (i.e. Trump).

    Here in Australia, many christians quickly identifies The Greens as 'evil', where as party that support 'conservative' values are 'good'.

    Yes, these people will quickly say environmental issue is important, but not THAT important compared to protecting conservative values (marriage, abortion, etc).

    What shall one do?

  2. I agree that there is often a play off between more 'conservative' values, often in the area of sexual and reproductive ethics and more 'progressive' concerns about environment, social justice, etc. I do note the treatment that some pro-life feminists received in the recent march in the US.

    That said, the question might then be posed as how to be consistently pro-life? How do you, for example, give people choice and encourage and support them to choose life? By supporting social welfare networks, sexual education and contraception (under attack in the US), a fair living wage, etc. Pro-life should extent to attitudes to war, gun control and a sustainable planet. I have read that abortions in the US have gone down, and this without limiting access to them.

    Finally, recent supports suggest concern over jobs and not abortion issues was a major driver of the Trump vote.

    So what does that leave us with? Well the continued need as the church to promote life, love and serving the community, perhaps more than the typical finger wagging attitude. And as for votes, well thankfully Australia is not as polarised as the US, but we need to work harder to depolarise politics and see issues in broader contexts than left/right binaries.

  3. Thanks. That is useful reminder that the Gospel is far wider just one specific issue. It's a pity that very easy to be polarised, instead of working to common goal (that is life).