April 16th, 2009
In Part Two of my series, I had mentioned that although abortion and gay marriage are important issues, they are not among my top priorities as a voter. So, what issues do influence my vote? In today's entry, I'll focus on the environment, which is one of my highest priorities as a voter.
For fun, I want to start out with one of my favorite clips from An Inconvenient Truth (2006):
Chris and I just love that clip. We regularly say "Mmmmm! Gold bars!" to each other at randomly humorous moments. We both really enjoyed An Inconvenient Truth and I feel that it changed the nature of the public debate about environmentalism.1 I know it made me more concerned about global warming than I had been before watching it.
That being said, I think it's unfortunate that Al Gore has become the unofficial spokesperson for the environment. It's not that he's a poor spokesperson, because he isn't---he's articulate, knowledgeable and highly persuasive. What's unfortunate is that having Al Gore speak out for the environment further politicizes the environmental movement and makes it seem as though this issue belongs solely to "the Left."2
The environment should be considered a human issue, not a political one. Interestingly enough, a recent survey of LDS attitudes towards the environment found that there was a direct correlation between one's level of education and one's belief that global warming was real. Those individuals who identified themselves as liberals were more likely to believe that global warming was real if they had obtained more education. But oddly enough, those who identified themselves as conservatives were less likely to believe in global warming if they were more educated. My theory about these results are that conservatives distrust the global warming debate as some sort of scare tactic to get us to vote leftist.
Unfortunately, this is not a liberal conspiracy. There is a nearly unanimous consensus among climatologists (e.g. the types of scientists whose opinions on this topic actually matter) that global warming is real and is human-caused. As I've learned more about the potential dangers that global warming could cause I've come to feel like global warming could very conceivably bring about the conditions of the latter days: terrible storms, destruction, shortages of resources, wars and rumors of wars (most likely over these depleted resources). As much as I'd like to usher in the millennium, I would personally prefer to delay the apocalypse as long as possible. It just really doesn't sound like fun to me.
At the end of the day, what it really comes down to for me is that it's better to be safe than sorry. The risk we take in not taking action on the global warming problem far outweighs the costs. Besides, I figure that nothing but good can come from doing things like reducing our dependence on foreign oil, conserving our natural resources, putting an end to rampant overconsumption, etc. These are all things that can only be for our benefit ultimately. As I've argued elsewhere on my blog, most of the time you are benefiting yourself when you make environmentally-friendly choices. If the end of the world comes and we found out we were wrong about global warming, then what harm was done, really? It sure beats the alternative.
Many of my fellow Latter-day Saints like to cite Doctrine and Covenants 104:17 as proof that we don't really have to worry about the environment. It states:
A lot of Saints interpret this to mean that there are plenty of resources in the earth---enough to where we would never run out of them. But I think it is important not to read this verse out of its context. You need to read Doctrine and Covenants 104:11-18 in order to see that the Lord spends a great deal of time talking about stewardship and caring for the poor. If you read those verses, you see that the Lord talks about how His purpose is to provide for the Saints, but it must be done in His own way and the "poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low." And then in verse 18, the Lord states:
Ouch! Those are some serious warnings.
I like what the Green Mormon Architect has to say about these verses (my emphasis added):
I especially love the phrase "the sin of overconsumption" that he uses. I believe it certainly is a sin to take more than we need. I know it is a very uncomfortable reality to face, but we as Americans are collectively quite guilty of this sin. If everyone on the planet consumed resources the way Americans do, we would need 2 or 3 earths to sustain such egregious lifestyles.
If you don't believe me, I'd like to close with a couple of images produced by the activist artist Chris Jordan. Jordan produces artworks on a huge scale to highlight environmental concerns. Here's a few images from his series entitled Running the Numbers:
Depicts 106,000 aluminum cans, the number used in the U.S. every thirty seconds:
Detail at actual size:
Depicts one million plastic cups, the number used on airline flights in the U.S. every six hours:
Detail at actual size:
These images---and others in this series---awaken one to the sobering reality of how unsustainable our way of life really is. Surely we can sacrifice some of our little conveniences in order to become better stewards of the resources we have been blessed with.
: I find that most people who are suspicious of the facts related in Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth are usually the people who haven't seen it. You should watch it yourself and give it a chance. Some people whose opinions I respect didn't like the film, which is a fair response, but some people find it highly influential, as I do. I had an extremely bright and gifted student last semester who was hard-core anti-Gore. After watching this film, her attitude had totally changed, stating "If Gore had shown me this side of his personality in 2000, I would have voted for him." She's much more concerned about environmental issues now. I think everyone should watch the film and judge for themselves rather than just taking everyone else's spin on it.
: I had to laugh at this gem of a quote Chris found a while back: "Gore's Law: As a debate on global warming grows longer, the probability that arguments will descend into attacks on Al Gore approaches 100%." It's so funny because it's true. Those attacks on Mr. Gore are a logical fallacy, my friends. (Ad hominem.) But at least some attacks are done with style.