Sunday, March 13, 2011

Welcoming the 80 Per Cent: A Lenten Carbon Fast challenge

Today's Lenten Carbon Fast challenge:
Think about how we are depleting our resources at an unsustainable rate. Reflect on the facts that the richest 20% of the world's population consumes 80% of the world's resources, and those who contribute least to the causes suffer most from the effects of climate change.
I'll bet some people look at that challenge and go, "Hey, guilt trip! You're just trying to make me feel bad!" Well, I'm not. Shame and guilt are terrible motivators, and often send people in the opposite direction ("If I'm that shameful, why bother trying to be better?")
Geese near Lake Union
Nice too look at,
But what a mess the leave!
But it's a good idea to think about what will happen when the rest of the world catches up to our standard of living.
You can't keep people in poverty forever; something is going to happen, even if I don't know what; the best thing to happen would be for them to get out of poverty and all the other things would be global disasters. But if getting out of poverty means consuming resources at our rate, clearly there's going to be a huge problem. The math don't work!
It's like the geese we have hanging around our parks. A few geese, walking around and eating and honking and pooping on the ground are no real problem; but if everyone in the park started eating and pooping like silly geese, the situation would be unsustainable!
We have a choice.
We can lead. We can figure out how to have a great standard of living, without consuming so huge a fraction of the world's resources. We can then share that knowledge with everyone else. Whether we give that knowledge away, or sell it to them at a profit, is a detail I'll leave to each person to choose on their own.
Or we can follow. We can let someone else figure out the solution. They will then implement it, and the way they do that may not be to our liking. Certainly we won't get the credit for it, probably we won't make any profit off it, and possibly there may be parts of it that we don't like for other reasons.
One thing we cannot do is stand in the way, at least not for very long. History teaches us that we cannot maintain our favored position forever; the best we can hope for is to share our values widely enough so that whatever our world grows into preserves what we most treasure: our moral and political values.
You see? there is no guilt trip here, just a realistic appraisal of what we have to do. The 80 per cent are coming, and welcoming them is both in our interest, and the right thing to do.
In Matthew 10:16, Jesus said, "Be wise as serpents, and innocent as doves...". This is always excellent advice, but to it let us also add "...and don't be silly geese!"

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