The Public Humanist
Green on Our Minds
I have no quarrel with David Tebaldi calling global warming a moral issue, and certainly share his dismay at the notion that for Christians to be concerned about it takes attention away from the real moral issues “abortion and sexual morality.”
But even as he writes, this group of reactionary Christian politicians is already being marginalized by a groundswell of support for action on global warming. Partly in response to Al Gore’s documentary, partly in response to the newly publicized scientific consensus on the human contribution to global warming, Green is in big time, not only among evangelical Christians, but almost every other sector of the American polity, including big business. Just the other day, the CEO of CBRE, for instance, the world’s largest global corporate real estate firm, announced his intention to make CBRE “carbon neutral” by 2010. Hybrid cars are selling like hot cakes, everywhere one turns people are talking about how they can contribute to solving the problem.
Of course, there is already a strong whiff of hypocrisy in the air. Upper middle class Americans are vowing to build homes that are “off the grid.” Unfortunately, many of these are second homes, to which they will be commuting by jet or by hybrid SUV’s which get poorer gas mileage than a small, conventionally powered car.
We’re all dying to help out, but we just can’t help being Americans, by which I mean that we cannot readily change the fact that each of us, on average, generates 35 times as much trash as the average Indian, whose higher birthrate we deplore.
In fact, as someone has pointed out, the Greenest thing an American can do is to commit suicide. The second Greenest thing is not to have children. And the third is not to fly. None of these options is very appetizing, and none appear to be on anyone’s policy option list.
But this is not to dismiss the current wave of popular concern as bogus. George Orwell wrote a wonderful essay in the late 1940’s called “The decline of the English Murder.” In it, he compared a typical capital crime from the Victorian era with a typical post World War II homicide.
In the former, a husband would brood for twenty years about the iniquities of his wife, and finally, with agonizing reluctance and enormous guilt, would slip some poison into her morning porridge. He compared this with a typical postwar story from the daily newspaper in which two young strangers had hooked up casually at a race track, lost their money, then murdered a cab driver and spent his money at another track that same day.
Orwell concludes his essay with the remark that the prevailing Victorian hypocrisy, so often deplored, ensured that the crime of murder would be taken very seriously and committed correspondingly rarely.
So it is with Global Warming. Even if all we are doing is cutting up our cardboard and talking the talk, the very fact that green is on our minds makes it more likely that we will vote for a candidate who will vote to raise CAFÉ standards for all vehicles. And that, while not in our top three Green initiatives, would bring us genuinely forward.
--Tim Wright, Filmmaker