My latest column for EthicsDaily.com.
Major weather pattern changes should be alarming news to everyone.
Anne Thompson, NBC News’ chief environmental affairs correspondent, recently reported that our average global temperature has increased by 1 degree Celsius and almost 2 degrees Fahrenheit over the past century.
To a normal citizen, one degree doesn’t sound too alarming. Yet, one degree change in temperature can have devastating effects on our climate and, therefore, on the environment. Here are a few examples.
● With warmer climates, we experience less precipitation, resulting in drier summers and less snow in the winter. This affects the flora of the land on which we live.
● There are longer droughts and once fertile farmland can no longer yield any food. Globally, lands suitable for farming are diminishing and moving north, while deserts (such as the Sahara) are becoming larger and moving south.
● We also see species migrate to temperatures where they can survive, which puts stress on them and on the habitats to which they move.
● Scientists have determined that a crab’s heart will stop beating with the increase of only 2 degrees Fahrenheit in temperature. This means that crabs will be at their limit of survivability if temperatures keep rising.
● Finally, the butterflies that used to fly in Texas are now found in the Northeast, and the ice in Greenland is melting faster than anyone had earlier imagined.
Much of the change in weather patterns is due to our lack of care for the planet. Through globalization and consumerism, we create new environmental problems, such as:
● Depletion of the earth’s ozone layer
● Rising temperatures
● New, surprising weather patterns
● Rainforest destruction
● Steady depletion of groundwater
● Proliferation of nuclear wastes
● Pending mass production of genetically altered foodstuffs
These problems illustrate the incompatibility of our present global economic system and our environment.
The Report on Alternatives to Economic Globalization put it this way: “Economic globalization is intrinsically harmful to the environment because it is based on ever-increasing consumption, exploitation of resources and waste disposal problems.”
In short, the global economic engine of the 21st century is unable to prevent its industrial and economic activities from destroying the global ecological balance.
Climate is our planet’s largest, most important and most vulnerable system. It sustains all life, which is why climate changes have grave consequences.
Therefore, we cannot ignore the causes of massive changes and carry on with our lives as usual.
Most of us know, firsthand, the temptation to exploit the vulnerability of other people, of the world’s flora and fauna, and of the land. We have been either the exploiter or the exploited. Often we have been both.
Now we must confront the results of our exploitation of the defenseless inhabitants of the earth. There is no time left for further denial about global warming.
Denial has been unmasked by our changing weather – although large segments of our neighbors, far too many in our own country, have not yet accepted the need for change.
Global warming is telling us that we cannot continue to live as selfish individuals, heedless of the consequences of our profligate behavior. In fact, the tipping point of the global thermal catastrophe may be less than a few decades away.
We cannot live without the earth. We are part of the entire biosphere that creates, gives and sustains all life on earth. Thus, we damage our health by damaging the earth.
We, and all the other inhabitants on this planet, need the earth for survival. Therefore, we must make preserving the health and wealth of our planet one of our highest priorities. We have no other earth on which to live.
We must stop our habits of wasting natural resources and polluting our air, water and land.
Without the planet, we cannot exist. Therefore, we must begin a new way of living with the environment this new year and for generations to come.
[my latest blog for EthicsDaily.com: Consumption: New Religion During Christmas Season?]
Grace Ji-Sun Kim is Associate Professor of Doctrinal Theology and the Director of the MATS program at Moravian Theological Seminary. She is the author of Colonialism, Han and the Transformative Spirit (Palgrave Pivot), The Holy Spirit, Chi, and the Other: A Model of Global and Intercultural Pneumatology (Palgrave Macmillan) and The Grace of Sophia: A Korean North American Women’s Christology (Pilgrim Press).