Imagine hearing that someone you love… someone for whom you feel responsible… someone who has been entrusted to your care… is very ill. You are told that it is not completely clear how quickly, or how completely, she will recover even if aggressive treatment begins immediately. Some doctors suggest that there is no time to waste in responding; it is a situation that should have been addressed long ago. Other doctors say they cannot even be certain that she is sick and suggest it is probably best to proceed as if nothing were wrong while waiting for the results of further tests. What would you do?
Many people think this situation is analogous to the one we are in with respect to the Earth. We have a responsibility (to ourselves, to the millions of impoverished people around the globe, and, according to some at least, to God) to preserve and protect the environments on which our lives and the lives of future generations depend. This responsibility has been neglected to such an extent that we cannot be sure how many threatened ecosystems, species, and cultures could still be saved even if everyone began to act responsibly right now. Still, many people seem unwilling to take action…
So, what would you do if you were in this position with a loved one? Would you sit by calmly and hope that everything works itself out? Or would you begin doing everything you could immediately? If you did nothing and she died, would you find comfort in being able to say that you couldn’t have been certain she was actually sick? If you began treatment immediately, and it turned out she was not as sick as some had thought, would you feel your efforts had been wasted?
Now, does what you would do in the case of a loved one have any bearing on what you think you should do, or even on what you will do, in response to the claims you are hearing about global climate change?
(Thanks are due to the Rev. Canon Sally Bingham for suggesting this analogy during her recent talk at the conference Stewardship or Sacrifice? Religion and the Ethics of Climate Change)