This is my latest column for Ethicsdaily.com.
The Carnival cruise ship Triumph made headlines in February when it lost power. After four days of misery, it was towed into Mobile, Ala.
There were more than 4,000 people on board who had no showers, no modern sanitation, no air conditioning, and makeshift food and sleeping arrangements.
Many on board were terrified and horrified when their luxury vacation turned into a nightmare.
As I ponder that cruise ship lingering in the middle of the ocean with no power to reach land, I am struck with how we, on this planet, are much like that cruise ship.
Triumph had limited resources on board for the passengers. When a fire in the ship’s engine room damaged the ship’s generators and left it without electricity, supplies quickly dwindled.
As the ship lingered in the ocean, trash and waste quickly accumulated until there was nowhere else for it to go. Portions of the ship became unsanitary and uninhabitable.
Triumph’s generators can be replaced and its supplies restocked. But when the Earth’s sources of usable energy and other natural resources fail, there will be no more.
In the same way, whatever toxic waste we produce stays on this planet Earth and gets recirculated into our waterways and our air supply.
If we can imagine ourselves living on Earth as those on that cruise ship, perhaps we will better take care of our planet.
To do so, we need to understand the interconnectedness of our actions on the planet.
Our climate is directly affected by our failure to be good stewards of the Earth. Climate is our planet’s largest, most important and most vulnerable system. Our climate sustains life, and destabilizing it has consequences.
We cannot allow massive changes to take place through our negligence and believe we can carry on with our lives as usual.
Climate can prohibit animals or human beings from occupying a formerly suitable habitat as floods may occur or the temperature may rise too high for vegetation or animals to survive.
Global warming illustrates just how vulnerable living creatures are to even a few degrees’ change in the Earth’s average temperature.
No one can escape the effects of climate change as it does not discriminate against gender, ethnicity, status or nationality.
With our fancy for comfortable and carefree lifestyles, we have contributed much to the world’s pollution, which then affects our climate.
Fossil fuels, coal, petroleum and natural gas became the primary sources of energy with modern industrialization; burning them releases gaseous byproducts.
Carbon dioxide is now 30 percent higher in the Earth’s atmosphere than in preindustrial times; nitrous oxide is 19 percent higher.
In the 1970s, we began to realize that chemicals we use are causing holes in the ozone layer and allowing ultraviolet rays to penetrate the Earth.
The damage is difficult to grasp because in our temperate zone, we don’t see any strong influences of the change, but these chemicals affect the Earth and its inhabitants on different levels, many of which are still being discovered.
Furthermore, our pollution is affecting our clean water supply. More than 1 billion people have no access to clean drinking water. This also means that waterborne diseases afflict many.
There is only so much water, land and natural resources; if we don’t give the Earth enough time to replenish, everything will be gone.
We have postponed our concern for the planet for too long. In the goal of acquiring more goods, the world’s resources are being destroyed as affluent people live in the illusion of plenty while the rest of the world lives in the reality of scarcity and want.
However, the time is now and there is no time left for further denial or delay about global warming.
Denial has been unmasked by the evidence of our changing weather, although large segments of Western culture have not yet accepted the need for change.
Governments and the fuel industry are not eager to take the kind of action that is needed. Perhaps, if we can all imagine ourselves living on that stranded carnival cruise ship, we may begin to takes steps to live differently.
Perhaps understanding that if we pollute our “ship” and use up all its resources, there will be no more left to keep us going.
Unlike the Carnival ship, Triumph, there are no other ships that can replace the “ship” we are on.
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).