People say that I have a mind like a steel trap, and I’m beginning to think that they’re right. It’s impenetrable, can only be worn down by time, and I might hurt myself or others if I use it. Lately, though, I have been encountering things that are changing my mind. For now, I’d like to focus on the way my mind has changed about environmentalism. I grew up in the Boy Scouts, and spent the majority of my formative years camping, fishing, and hiking. Since nature and the outdoors have always been such a significant part of my life, I have always been a proud environmentalist, bending over backwards to be as “green “as possible. Recently, however, I read a book titled Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto, that convinced me that my “green” ideals, well-intentioned as they were, were hopelessly out of date.
If you’ve not read the book, I highly recommend it. It’s not often that someone can come along and, in a scrupulously apolitical way, argue you into re-thinking things that you thought you had firmly settled in your mind. In my case, i was forced to revisit my thoughts on the environmental effects of large cities; the “danger” of nuclear power; the “population crisis,” and the “threat” of genetically modified crops. 20 years ago, I would have unthinkingly bought into any of these concepts, and, once settled, I was inclined not to truly think about them any more. Being a happy “green,” I had no need to really think about some of the more important issues of the day, and then came this book.
I’ll spare you some of the intimate details, since you really should read this book for yourself, but here are some of the things that I took away from it, For starters, big teeming cities with slum areas are not “bad” in the larger sense, since they are engines of community and innovation that cram a lot of polluters in one place, instead of spreading them out all over the countryside. It’s sort of like the way a huge, smoke-belching bus is not as bad a polluter, since it moves so many people at once, rather than having them all in separate cars. “Population crisis?” What population crisis? In some areas of the world, we don’t have enough people, and birthrates are declining everywhere. “Dangers” of genetic modification? Really? We’ve been doing this for thousands of years and are just now getting worried about it? In reality, every food crop in the world is “unnatural,” growing as they do in cultivated fields. And what of the thousands of people who are condemned to starvation while the “greens” deny them this so-called “frankenfood?” Finally, it’s about time that we admit that global warming is a deadly serious problem, but it’s not new. Human activity has been driving temperatures up for a very long time. We’re just a lot better at it now. In the face of this undeniable danger, we are a LOT better served embracing the still theoretical danger of nuclear energy (especially thorium-based nuclear energy) than the proved danger of pumping megatons of coal-based pollutants into the air.
I’m not saying that your mind has to change, as mine has, on these issues, but I encourage you to read the book and start re-thinking some of the things it talks about. In the midst of all this, I wonder what else we’re missing. Churches are notorious for becoming places that teach “comfortable” theological positions that rarely, if ever, change. Many people come to congregations precisely because they are looking for that kind of comfort and reassurance. But when you look at the big picture, does that attitude really help? Should we not, instead, become places that work to change hearts and minds, including our own? Or should we not think about that, since it’s uncomfortable and messy? How is your mind going to change?