On the Importance of Educating Ourselves on Climate Change

Last Sunday, Berkeley Friends Meeting had a called Meeting on the environment. I will say a little more about this later.

Catharine Lucas gave ministry on the importance of education, and I asked her to write up her ideas:

On-going education – of ourselves and others – is the cornerstone of any meaningful response to the current environmental crisis, and the proper preparation for our Leadings to operate on informed and receptive consciousness. Without constantly educating ourselves, we run three great risks:

Risk #1: The Risk of Under-Reacting. If I do not regularly check reliable sources for updates, it will be easy to forget the urgency and value of taking action now; I can fall into complacency, listen selectively, heed false reassurances, stay stuck in comfortable denial, hide behind skepticism, imagine that alarming facts are not known for sure – when actually they may be known quite well.

Risk #2: The Risk of Over-Reacting. If I do not regularly review reliable sources of information, learn to interpret the news in an informed and measured spirit, I may get caught up in imagining the most unlikely outcomes, may heed false alarms and pass them on. This will cost me credibility when others discover I’m out in left field. Worse, I can fall into despair, believing there’s nothing to be done.

Risk #3: The Risk of Mis-Reacting: Without constant re-education as more is learned about causes and effects, I risk directing my energy and resources inappropriately, adopting practices or campaigning for solutions that have little effect, or even negative effects on the goals I want to achieve. I may attach too much importance to one small act while failing to discover additional acts that I could easily practice with far greater effect on global warming. I may devote great attention to debates over the relative virtues of plastic vs. paper bags for groceries, but forget to carry my cloth bags, buy more bulk foods, or – far more significantly – discover I can shop some days on foot or by bus, or carpool with a neighbor. I may invest thousands in solar panels – when I might reduce my carbon emissions more by installing flash-heating for my hot water. I might oppose efforts to make nuclear energy a safe option while ignoring the greenhouse gases and deadly pollution from millions of traditional coal power plants. I may “fight to save the polar bear,” not realizing its fate is already sealed, in part by cars, planes, coal-fired plants, in part by rainforest-burning. How do I help stop the burning of rainforests?

Education is worrisome, when we think of all the things we’d rather not know.

Education is worrisome, when we don’t know whom or what to believe; when we don’t trust our tired minds to keep straight the bombardment of information available.

But driving downhill toward a cliff with blinders on is more worrisome still.

Elizabeth Kolbert closed one of her many New Yorker pieces updating news on global warming by marveling — that the United States has poured more money than any country in history into state-of-the-art scientific research on climate, obtaining the most accurate and reliable data now available to humankind, creating the most sophisticated and reliable models for prediction we have ever benefited from – And then chooses to ignore the information thus obtained.

How can we help each other stay aware, awake, alive to passionate leadings, able to engage in informed action with open hearts and joyful spirits?

One Response to “On the Importance of Educating Ourselves on Climate Change”

  1. Peter says:

    Many Americans are both uninformed and ignorant to the problem of global warming/climate change. Take a drive out on the interstate- notice the number of ‘huge gas guzzling SUV’s and trucks’- incredible. In order for the mass public to begin to take this problem seriously, there may have to be some sort of catastrophic chain of climativ events over a period time before the mass of Americans wake up. And by that time it will be too late to avoid severe climate change events.