Perhaps you heard them — church bells ringing in Needham at exactly 11 a.m. on Friday, March 11.
Our venerable Paul Revere bell, which has called people to worship, celebrated important events, and warned the community of imminent danger for over 200 years, joined with bells from the nearby Congregational Church, as well as church bells in other towns across Massachusetts, to sound the alarm. We are in a Climate Emergency!
The newest report by the Intergovernmentall Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) minced no words. According to Hans-Otto Pörtner, the co-chair of the working group which produced the report: “The scientific evidence is unequivocal: climate change is a threat to human wellbeing and the health of the planet. Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future.”
What can we do? Belief in the climate crisis is not enough. Our concern must be reflected in the way we live our lives. Local environmental groups offer a wealth of information and ideas about what individuals can do, both in their own lifestyles and in extending their reach to affect government and business. Green Needham has added a Climate Emergency: What Can I Do link on their home page; Sustainable Wellesley has a So Much You Can Do! link. Please do not read this blog post without checking out one of those resources.
In my mind I’ve been exploring the moral and spiritual dimension of this crisis, the knowledge that the Earth on which I was born, in important ways no longer exists. As UUs, we know our seventh principle: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. As I see it, we are now called to deepen this respect by becoming healers and advocates, accepting the fact (and the responsibility) that everything we do affects the environment.
This doesn’t mean we have to obsess about our every action. We will make compromises and do the best we can in our circumstances, which include health, income and other limitations. We will practice self forgiveness. But we can make sustainability an important factor in the many decisions we make. How big a living space do we need? What kind of car do we drive? How much do we fly? What’s for dinner? What do we plant in our yard? What do we advocate for with our legislators? What ideas do we bring up at work?
Climate change, biodiversity, climate justice — these beliefs should truly enter our minds and hearts and should be an automatic part of our decisions. We obey traffic laws; we act with consideration for others; we follow through with our commitments. These kinds of actions are part of an unconscious social contract that powers a well-functioning society. Taking the environment into account should be just as automatic.
Is this a burden? For me, sometimes it feels like it is. I wonder what it would be like to do anything I want and can afford, without thinking of its effect on the environment. But with the “liveability” of the planet at stake, we do not have the moral luxury to act without taking environmental responsibility.
Wherever we are in our journey towards this goal, we can take further steps. There are benefits. For me: focusing on the pleasures close to home (my native plant garden! traveling in New England!), trying new things (Tofu Mushroom Korma – yes!), making a more comfortable house even without AC (ceiling fan — hurrah!), enjoying new technology (Nissan Leaf EV!). Today I took a walk on a lovely sunny day, then got home and signed up on the Green Needham website for a Home Energy Assessment, which we haven’t had for a few years and needs repeating. I’m traveling on in my journey toward sustainability and will keep going. I hope you will too.