The challenge of leaning into climate change research is engaging in hard conversations with children and adults. I distinctly remember a conversation I had with my 11-year-old brother over Thanksgiving break about climate change. We were lacing our shoes to go on a nice jog on the trail behind our house, and I said to him, “I love this warm weather, but it’s scary to think why it’s so warm,” and he paused. I continued, “You know, climate change and global warming,” in a tone that indicated that that must be the most obvious reason. As he jumped off his bed and landed firmly on the ground he said, “Well, my teacher told us that the earth’s climate has always changed, and that we shouldn’t be too worried about it.” I was shocked by the confidence with which he had delivered that message. In the moment, I fumbled through my response by saying, “what did she say exactly?” to hint that I was not buying what he was trying to sell me. He genuinely wasn’t worried.
Research presents the facts: Earth’s climate has had its ice ages, but 17 of the 18 warmest years on record have all taken place since 2001. Yet, my young brother is learning that rapid warming of climate is a natural occurrence in the history of climate patterns. When people say, “but our global climate has always fluctuated,” it dismisses the data, which is one of the biggest points that the Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg makes. Scientists published data proving that the rapid incline in average temperature is factual and dismissing that evidence is a mistake. The World Wildlife Foundation writes that “the kind of changes that would normally happen over hundreds of thousands of years are happening in decades.” Steep increases in average global temperature correspond with ever-rising levels of carbon dioxide, which have been increasing since the Industrial Revolution. Policies, laws and tax breaks are well-intentioned, but those restrictions are not as effective as lawmakers once thought. What if they knew those policies and laws wouldn’t effectively reduce carbon dioxide emissions?
I think that the need to be relevant and a step ahead is costing us the most valuable and beautiful aspects of Earth. If only as a human race we could recognize what is fueling this need to be relevant, then we could get to the true heart of the issue of climate change: greed. Why produce more food, cars or bigger buildings than we need? I would argue that power, relevance, status, control and selfishness have more to do with climate change than factories or deforestation. This is a heart problem. Andy Crouch spoke at Praxis, a conference on redemptive entrepreneurship, and he said, “How we spend our lives influences the culture we build, and we are in turn shaped by the culture that we influence.” So, if we spend our life committed to greedy industries and politics and worldviews, then we will be shaped by the same greedy industries and politics and worldviews. I am not sure how we tackle this at the core, but I think that by spending each day more aware of our environmental impact that we can begin to shape a more conscious culture.