Family Values, Power, and the Climate

In a study released last month, the researchers warned of an abrupt and catastrophic climate shift caused by burning fossil fuels that would affect us by the end of this century.  Global warming is set to cause really irreparable damage, even perhaps within 50 years, yet people think that’s far in the future and no action is needed.  If Americans extol family values so much, why can’t they consider the future welfare of their children and grandchildren?  This is another example of the limited vision of many Americans.  This limited vision will bring their children and grandchildren a future that will be horrible to an unprecedented degree, causing suffering that is unimaginable to us.

Surveys provide varying results to support this.  Gallup states that 41% of US adults feel warming will pose a “serious threat” to them during their lifetimes; 64% of those polled said they worried about global warming a “great deal” or a “fair amount”; and 59% of people think that changes in the climate are under way. Additionally, a record 65% of Americans said global warming was due to greenhouse gases released by human activity.  However, according to the Public Religion Research Institute, people in the U.S. are twice as likely to say that climate change will impact people in poorer developing countries a great deal (54%) than to say it will impact them personally (24%). To reiterate: less than one-quarter of Americans think they’ll be personally harmed a great deal by climate change.  Americans also think other Americans will be harmed more than they themselves will. Sixty-eight percent of Americans say the U.S. public overall will experience a great deal or a moderate amount of harm because of climate change, compared to 54% who say the same about themselves personally.  The difference between 41% and 24% is quite large, but neither is a majority, so it is likely safe to say that Americans are mainly living with their heads in the sand regarding climate change.

What should we be doing?  Aside from the obvious elimination of fossil fuel use, we should realize that it is time to change our views of things.  Power and control are important to Americans; our competitive society rewards the winners with power and control.  It seems that people believe these things are real.  However, being in control isn’t what’s important after all because it’s impossible.  The universe is much larger than we are, and life just on our planet is much more complex than we can comprehend; how can we control it?  The limits of our control are much smaller than we would like.  Real power is also much smaller than people would like, and quite different than generally believed.  Power really comes from knowing what to expect and what to do based on experience, knowledge, and understanding.  Real power comes from accepting our smaller place in the universe and working with the natural mechanisms of nature.  The true sage does not wield a magic staff and change things precipitately; rather, the sage knows how things work and how to work with them.  We can still accomplish our goals and achieve comfortable, satisfying lives without the brutal force we have been using.  This smaller power is very effective, just not spectacular.

Approaching life with a contemplative attitude and reverence for nature helps one along the road of learning how to live in and with the world.  More people need to realize this and move away from the values that have held sway for so long and make a real change.  This work is slow, but must be done.  I hope that more people will turn to the contemplative way soon, because they may be crucial in saving us from ourselves.


Copyright © 2016 Teresa Chupp.  All rights reserved.


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