Northwest YM Session on Global Change

QUERY #1: Klamath Falls is an agricultural community dependent on water from the lake, but there is not enough water and this creates social and economic problems as farmers have had to stop planting crops.  But in this community, many gathered to find a way to allocate the water equitably. They also made a recommendation to tear down four dams to restore Native American fisheries (a decision which can only be made by Congress).  This approach has been much less painful and divisive than had been the case. An example of the peaceful and constructive action a community can take.

QUERY # 2: I see so many ways in my own life where I am not walking the walk.  I live in simplicity in some ways, such as working to conserve old growth forests which are part of our treasure here in the PNW, but there is so much to be done.

So much information is available about what is wrong that is it hard to figure out how to respond.  So many catastrophes in the world, it is hard to focus.

Some of my friends have decided to only buy and eat locally and not eat things out of season.  I recommend the video, “Food, Inc.”

I am struck by the interconnectedness of all things – in an increasingly complicated way.  It is so easy, and perhaps inevitable, that when we act to correct one ill, something unexpected happens.  It seems obvious that eating locally saves transportation costs, and it does. But paying someone locally takes away money from someone far away and perhaps leads to more protectionist labor laws and pooling wealth in certain localities rather than reaching out to help the world.

I like the reflectiveness of this process and very much want to hear the worldwide effects of global change and get a better sense of the impacts of actions we are considering in order to better understand the implications of our decisions.

I am a teacher in a wealthy school district.  My first project for the students was on hunger and I am delighted there is a District-wide theme of sustainability leading to all kinds of training and awareness.  Lester Brown’s “PlanB 3.0″ on global issues offers hope and possible solutions.   “Flow” on potential water shortages and “Deep Green” by a Portland, OR film-maker are both worth seeing.

QUERY # 3:  I am struck by our arrogance in thinking we’ve caused everything.  Geologically, we’re in a warming cycle which began with the last Ice Age.  I was so aware of this at Grand Coulee dam, knowing an ice age will come again.  What will happen to this dam then?

QUERY # 4: My 92-year old mother, all her life an Iowa farmer, is now living with me in Spokane where she can see the mountains for the first time in her life.  Each night we read from the Psalms, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.”  This metaphor speaks to the heart as well as to the reality out the window.  As a people of faith we have long looked to the hills, to the high places for God’s help.  No matter how deep the valley or how much we feel we are drowning, God is there to lift us up.  God, I’m in this low place, lift me up to a high place.

Stories of our past can be so valuable.  80 years ago, much of the U.S. became the “Dust Bowl” – a situation caused by “modern” agricultural techniques.  What happened then?  How did they recover? [Others responded: They planted trees.  They changed how they plowed. The government bought up land and took it out of production.  They struck oil.]

QUERY # 5: I grew up in Los Angeles, where my elementary school (in a relatively clean area of the city) had regular smog alerts.  I recall the 45 minute drive to Disneyland through orange groves which are no longer there. We couldn’t go anywhere without a car and I thoroughly learned to dislike them. Thus,  my husband and I treated each other to a new bike which we use for commuting.  We bike to Meeting on Sunday, stopping at a lovely bakery.  Surprisingly, this has changed worship for me, I arrive relaxed and open to God.

This is just one simple example of how obedience to God can lead to great blessings.  I have come to learn that focusing on big issues leads me to despair, but acting in small ways leads me to hope.

I have been blessed abundantly by having 5 children (some still infants), something unusual in my generation.  People ask “how can you do it?” – but I do not find it a burden. I have an abundance of time and energy and enough money.  It is clear we have ENOUGH (except sleep).  I live in a neighborhood with a very diverse population and am faced day to day with the disparity between my abundance and those whose lives are not so full.  Here I speak not so much of physical abundance, but rather of spiritual abundance.  The lack of hope in people around me leads them stuck, with no incentive to change.  I seek to share my abundance – it is mine to give, not to hoard.

GENERAL: I have been thinking about these issues for a long time in my role as a philosophy professor at George Fox University, and in particular for the class I teach on ethics.  I always include a section on Futurism.  You might ask, “how do you study the future?” – it is not a thing, a frog to be dissected. It has not happened yet.  But this is not what we seek to do.  We study trends and extrapolate them.  Many people tend to look at the most recent and popular trends.  We look at what has been happening in the long term, so we don’t think too small.

Here are a few long term trends which are important:

1. The great growth in human wealth, which has lead to massive population growth.

– One consequence is that a much smaller proportion of the world lives in abject poverty where the loss of one crop will mean starvation.

– While the very poor are not getting poorer (they can’t and still live), the rich are getting wealthier.

– The world is more and more intertwined and the moral question for the wealthy is their willingness to step forward and end absolute poverty,

2. Militarily, for the first time there is a global super-power (the U.S.) and no counter-balancing power.  Even when Rome “ruled the world,” China existed as an independent and major power.

– More and more people will hate and fear the U.S.

– The U.S. will be increasingly tempted to misuse its power

Climate Change is tied to many other changes, yet we will find new ways to travel not requiring fossil fuel.  I have hope.