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President Obama made a strong call for action on climate change in his inaugural address. As in the past, he described the potential for economic growth in the transition to energy sources with a much smaller carbon footprint. He also framed the issue in moral terms.

"We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations."

"That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God."

Even the stodgy Washington Post noticed.

Since human contributions to climate change is the moral crisis of our age, it is worth looking at the importance of moral framing of the issue.

Morality is best thought of as the values we live by. As Darwin noted in Descent of Man, morality is rooted in how we treat others and our willingness to work for the greater good. Self-centeredness impairs our ability to work together, solve complex problems, and respond to major existential threats. One of my favorite quotes from Darwin sums it up perfectly. "Selfish and contentious people will not cohere, and without coherence nothing can be effected."

The we vs. me idea is the central theme to the president's inaugural address. He states it eloquently in prefacing his remarks about climate change.

"We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity."
As scientific evidence piles up for the adverse impacts of burning fossil fuels on our planet's climate, the challenge becomes how to build public support for making the transition to cleaner sources of energy. The task has become even more difficult as the richest corporations in human history have sought to protect their profits by cleverly designed disinformation campaigns aimed at discrediting climate science and confusing the public.

Several recently published studies have examined different approaches to increase support for environmental sustainability. Both conclude that values matter.

The limits of self-interest messaging

Laurel Evans and colleagues from Cardiff University published a study in Nature Climate Change that compared the efficacy of self-interest and environmental protection messaging. Saving money was an effective motivator for participation in things like car pooling, but the effects did not carry over into other eco-friendly behaviors like recycling. By contrast, pro-environmental messaging was effective in increasing multiple eco-friendly behaviors.

Financial self-interest is commonly used as an inducement for energy efficiency programs. The researchers caution that this approach may be counterproductive when it comes to policies with little or no direct individual benefit.

Campaigns can have large target audiences and it is therefore especially important that they have the desired effect without unintended side-effects. Yet, campaigns highlighting financial motives to carry out environmental actions run the risk of decreasing environmental behaviour in other areas or over the long term. Highlighting self-interested reasons instead of or alongside self-transcending actions may undercut the ability of self-transcending values to guide behaviour. Although such campaigns may help to enact the targeted behaviour, they may also prevent people from enacting a range of behaviours that could otherwise have been shaped by self-transcending values.
The limits of self-interest messaging deserve additional study. I am particularly sensitive to the issue in working with Energy Impact Illinois. This program encourages residential and commercial property owners to invest in energy saving measures, particularly insulation and air sealing, which has the largest immediate impact on heating and cooling costs. Even though reducing energy consumption lowers carbon footprint, our grassroots efforts in the community focus exclusively on saving money. It is purely pragmatic because the money-saving pitch has been more effective in getting people to sign up for house parties, comprehensive energy audits, and targeted property improvements. I do wonder if we might be better served to at least list a smaller carbon footprint among the benefits of improving energy efficiency.

Different strokes for different folks

Researchers Matthew Feinberg from Stanford and Robb Willer from UC-Berkeley examined values as a way of bridging the political ideological divide in a study published in Psychological Science ("The moral roots of environmental attitudes"). They found that different value-oriented approaches were effective in targeting progressives and conservatives. Progressives favored appeals to compassion and harm avoidance in environmental messaging; conservatives were more responsive to appeals to purity. It is about tailoring messages to appeal to the values of a target audience.

Along those lines, our research indicates that different frames regarding climate change can account for polarization among Americans on this issue. For instance, Hoffman’s (2011) content analyses of newspaper editorials found that believers and deniers of climate change frame the issue so differently that the two sides talk past each other, which likely contributes to the growing animosity each side feels toward the other (Bazerman & Hoffman, 1999; Chambers, Baron, & Inman, 2006). The current research suggests that reframing environmental issues in different moral terms offers one way to improve communication between opposing sides.
There was once a great deal more bipartisan support for environmental protection. Improving air and water quality was something everyone could agree on. Of course that was before big money politics and corporate personhood. The anti-regulatory fervor when it comes to the environment has been strongest among conservatives pushing the self-interest meme (the "I built this" crowd). They see greater prosperity for themselves if corporations are allowed the freedom to destroy the environment, perhaps because they believe that any negative consequences will be someone else's problem.

However, some conservatives do understand the moral imperative to protect the environment.

The current research may also help explain why many Christian groups, though traditionally conservative, have become proponents of the environment in recent years (Wardekker, Petersen, & van der Sluijs, 2008). Many of these groups perceive environmental degradation as a desecration of the world God created and a contradiction of moral principles of purity and sanctity, which motivates adherents to take pro-environmental stances. More generally, most of the world’s religions emphasize humanity’s role as stewards of the earth charged with keeping pure and sacred God’s creation (Wardekker et al., 2008). Thus, reframing moral rhetoric around the environment to fit with this religious tenet might be persuasive to many religious individuals, a possibility that could be explored in future research.
The president adopted this framing in his inaugural address ("That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God"). It is an important nod to the "creation care" movement.

The climate fight among evangelical Christians

It is tempting to view the evangelical community as monolithic, little more than loyal foot soldiers of the Republican army. In fact there is far more receptivity to the climate crisis that many of us probably realize.

The creation care movement among evangelical Christians gained enough momentum to put a scare in the rich and powerful. Organizations like the Evangelical Environmental Network sprang up and attracted a following, particularly among the young. The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) caused a stir in 2004 when they listed creation care as one of seven principles of public policy engagement.

Because clean air, pure water, and adequate resources are crucial to public health and civic order, government has an obligation to protect its citizens from the effects of environmental degradation. This involves both the urgent need to relieve human suffering caused by bad environmental practice. Because natural systems are extremely complex, human actions can have unexpected side effects. We must therefore approach our stewardship of creation with humility and caution.
By 2006, there was a strong push to address climate change as part of this stewardship principle. The Evangelical Climate Initiative quickly gathered signatures from nearly 100 leaders, including some big names like Rick Warren. Richard Cizik, then vice president of the NAE, was advocating official endorsement of the Evangelical Climate Initiative. In 2007, the Southern Baptist Convention was on the verge of endorsing its own set of environmental and climate change resolutions.

Then came the backlash. Leaders of politically-connected "religious" organizations like Focus on the Family (James Dobson), Family Research Council (Tony Perkins), and the American Family Association (Donald Wildmon) demanded an end to these "divisive" and "demoralizing" environmental campaigns. These self-appointed paragons of virtue also demanded that the NAE fire Richard Cizik for his advocacy on climate change. Richard Land scuttled climate change resolutions by the Southern Baptist Convention. Ironically, this same cast of characters was instrumental in selling the Iraq war to religious conservatives in 2002.

Up popped the Cornwall Alliance, headed by Cal Beisner, to counter the budding creation care movement. It puts a religious spin on every climate change denial talking point and condemns any environmental regulation, while genuflecting to the glorious "free market."

Think Progress dug into the Cornwall Alliance organizational structure and found connections to the fossil fuels front group, Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT). This attempt to follow the money, while valuable, was limited by the trickle of money coming into the Cornwall Alliance. On paper, their cash flow is only enough to pay for office space and salaries for a few key figures.

Perhaps a better strategy would be to follow the noise. Beisner appears regularly on radio and television programming of the American Family Association, Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, and the Christian Broadcast Network. His bread and butter is disinformation targeting conservative Christians subsidized by big money religious broadcasters. Here is a Beisner ditty from a recent appearance on the American Family Association's radio show where he says God will be offended if we do not use fossil fuels.

Despite the repressive actions of religious media moguls, the creation care movement is alive and kicking in the evangelical community. More than 300 religious leaders have signed the Evangelical Climate Initiative. That dwarfs the few dozen that have signed Cornwall Alliance pledge to do nothing about climate change apart from denial.

A few final musings

I would be remiss not to mention religious efforts to address climate change beyond evangelical Christians. One of the largest organizations to do so is Interfaith Power and Light (IPL), which has over 14,000 participating congregations across a wide range of theological perspectives. In my area, local affiliates of IPL have worked together to secure funding to improve energy efficiency in low income housing and other sustainability initiatives. The common denominator is the impact of climate change on the poor and most vulnerable.

"The poor and most vulnerable are hurt first and hardest. People of faith are called to love our neighbors. We can't continue what we are doing because that exacerbates the problems."

Tim Darst, executive director of Kentucky Interfaith Power and Light

IPL is also organizing a "preach-in" on carbon pollution and climate change for the weekend of February 8 - 10. It will include gentle reminders to the president to honor his pledge to address climate change.
At his first news conference after re-election, President Obama said, “I am a firm believer that climate change is real, that it is impacted by human behavior and carbon emissions. And as a consequence, I think we’ve got an obligation to future generations to do something about it.” So Preach-In participants will have the opportunity to send postcards asking President Obama to honor this pledge.
As an aside, Dr. Richard Muller, leader of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project, has recently become active in IPL. Muller was a prominent skeptic but was converted by his own analyses funded ironically in part by Koch Industries.

I applaud the president for highlighting climate change in his inaugural address and even adopting moral framing for why a response to carbon pollution is necessary. Now comes the hard part - taking action.

Vice President Biden popped into the Green Inaugural Ball to say a few words.

"I don't intend on ending these four years without getting an awful lot more done. Keep the faith."
Ah, faith. In his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. highlighted the "ethical infantilism" that plagues our society. Ethical infants are people that tolerate injustices like racial discrimination, poverty, and military conflict. I doubt he would be surprised by the ethical infantilism surrounding climate change and the ability of corporations to shape the debate. I can only hope he was justified in his faith in humanity.
"I have the personal faith that mankind will somehow rise up to the occasion and give new directions to an age drifting rapidly to its doom."

Originally posted to DWG on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 11:10 AM PST.

Also republished by Climate Hawks, Climate Change SOS, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Sorry for the length (7+ / 0-)

    Thanks for stopping by.

    Be radical in your compassion.

    by DWG on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 11:11:47 AM PST

    •  republishing to Climate Hawks in hopes that (9+ / 0-)

      more people will stop by. Very nice job.

      It's time to unfrack California before it gets fracked. @RL_Miller

      by RLMiller on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 11:38:05 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I'm glad someone finally framed this as a moral... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      homo neurotic, YucatanMan, ybruti

      ...issue.

      However it comes 30 to 40 years too late, long after the time to make a difference. We've reached the tipping point.  As I have said frequently and often, we need to adapt while trying to reverse the damage for future generations. If the entire world stopped producing hydrocarbons overnight, the cycle in which we find ourselves would continue for at least 100 years. Species will continue to go extinct, temperatures will still rise (though not as quickly) and the ocean will continue to die.  

      So what are we morally obligated to do? I'm making sure my genetic legacy is positioned where there will be permanent fresh water, and hopefully will be an area where more and more sustainable agriculture can exist. Besides that, we need to convince the politicians and corporations that this is in their self-interest. All the small gestures make us feel great, but they really aren't effective in the large picture.

      "Wealthy the Spirit which knows its own flight. Stealthy the Hunter who slays his own fright. Blessed is the Traveler who journeys the length of the Light."

      by CanisMaximus on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 05:18:18 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I still hope that we can do some engineering to (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bob Guyer

        minimize the damage that's already scheduled to occur.

        I'm not sure what form it would take, but even some mitigation may help.  Even massive tree plantings may help.  Some estimates are that the die-off of Native Americans following first contact led to a massive regrowth of forest on previously fire-managed lands across the North American continent and this led to a cooling period in Western Europe.

        So... things may be possible, but not unless everyone gets on board, across the world, and fast.

        "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

        by YucatanMan on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 06:36:18 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Look around... (0+ / 0-)

          ...do you see any serious mitigation taking place? Any real research into it?

          How many developing countries are even TALKING about it?

          Even if the whole world stops now, we have already excellerated the present extinction and the best for which we may hope is mitigation for future generations.

          Otherwise the Earth is going to "mitigate" us.  And soon.

          "Wealthy the Spirit which knows its own flight. Stealthy the Hunter who slays his own fright. Blessed is the Traveler who journeys the length of the Light."

          by CanisMaximus on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 06:53:50 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  When my Mom put solar panels on her roof (14+ / 0-)

    my uncle said, "you're too old, the energy savings are never going to pay off in your lifetime." Her response, "I'd like to leave a livable planet for our grandchildren," was a pretty powerful rebuttal to the common appeal to financial self-interest that can obviously only go so far where the environment is concerned.

    As far as the involvement of churches into the moral question of climate change, I think there's a real sea change as you describe. In Germany, my native country, especially the Lutheran churches have been very active in pushing climate change as a moral issue. One pastor I interviewed for an article in Sojourners entitled Heavenly Energy very eloquently describes how they managed to turn solar panels into "Creation Windows."

    We thought, wouldn’t it be a great metaphor of what a church should be doing anyway, transforming the power of God into energy for our daily life? Just as electricity is a symbol of light and power, faith is a symbol of the power that God gives us to have hope and trust in humanity, to help each other and to co-create.

    - Pastor Peter Hasenbrink, Bergkirche Schönau

    Pastor Hasenbrink

    You don’t want to be victimized by your lesser talents. - Gary Snyder

    by citisven on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 12:14:22 PM PST

    •  I may be an atheist... (7+ / 0-)

      ...but if all believers manifested like this, I wouldn't be nearly as grouchy about it.

      Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

      by WarrenS on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 12:23:11 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  the problem is that the most misguided (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        James Wells, WarrenS, AoT, Eowyn9

        religious folks are often also the loudest ones. I would say that the majority of people of faith, not just in Germany but in the U.S. are very much environmentally conscious and would agree that being good stewards is absolutely in line with their theology. It's just that the screamers take up so much space leading to the false assumptions that most Christian are just itching for the end times. So I think it's actually important for environmentalists to work with and promote the many church communities that are really on our side, rather than judging or ridiculing them for whatever ecumenical beliefs they hold.

        You don’t want to be victimized by your lesser talents. - Gary Snyder

        by citisven on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 12:35:40 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Very cool (6+ / 0-)

      Your mother is a smart woman.

      Love the solar roof on that church. In my area, we have gotten funding to install geothermal heating/cooling units in one church and working on two more. Several others are looking into installing a green roof. Congregations are also starting to ask members to commit to lower their carbon footprint.

      Be radical in your compassion.

      by DWG on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 12:29:24 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  2 points: (7+ / 0-)

    Long before corporations and the like began to shape the debate, it was dominated by conservative Christians arguing that God gave man dominion over all the earth and everything on it, to develop and exploit for the benefit of man. The stewardship movement, as a retreat from and counter to that position, is quite recent.

    The "ME" thing has has a ton of forms. Anything that might lead to even the slightest increase in cost of living at a given standard, or even the slightest decrease in creature comforts, was evil. Thus the war against doing away with Freon was largely based on the fact that replacement technology was not as efficient and would lead to increased discomfort & would cost mose in terms of energy costs.

    That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

    by enhydra lutris on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 12:23:19 PM PST

    •  Not sure about that (0+ / 0-)

      There has always been a Calvinist streak in America, but the dominionist/reconstructionist movement is more recent and probably inaccurate to suggest that is the predominant worldview among conservative Christians. It is true that dominionist/reconstructionist ideas are quite popular among the religious right power brokers.

      The point is there is a fair amount of heterogeneity among evangelical Christians and probably always has been. The idea of stewardship is growing in popularity, particularly among younger generations. Thus, there is a critical mass to build public support for action on climate change.

      As for the "me" thing, we are all prone to it. Part of getting people to invest in energy efficiency is being able to show them how long it will take to recoup their investment and see real cost savings.

      Be radical in your compassion.

      by DWG on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 02:01:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I am sure about that, it was big news (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        AoT

        when a handfull of larger churches switched to protectionist views - within the last 20 years.

        The argument from Genesis is unrelated to dominionism/reconstructionism. --
        Gen 1:26

        And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
        thru
        Gen 1:28
        Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

        That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

        by enhydra lutris on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 04:26:31 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Genesis 1:28 is where the moral fight (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          James Wells, enhydra lutris

          will center in Christianity.  If we want to survive we will have to convince the crazy evangelicals that ruling over it means that we must be it's stewards and not destroyers.

          •  Define "Dominion" (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            AoT, Eowyn9

            If any religious person considers God to be a caring shepherd, then Dominion means caring stewardship.  (Consider "Domini" as Latin for God, as in Anno Domini).

            Reflexively, if someone thinks that "Dominion" means to uncaringly use up and destroy anything you can control, then that person apparently doesn't think much of their God.

            •  Yes -- when I think of the word "dominion," (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              James Wells

              the connotations that come to mind are of order and structure, not chaos and destruction. A dominion in the sense of a country ruled by a monarch, for example.

              Kings and queens that actively destroy the countries that they rule usually don't last very long, and suffer pretty nasty ends.

              "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell) Join the Forward on Climate Rally on February 17!

              by Eowyn9 on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 06:18:20 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  Fossil fuels are not "on" the Earth (0+ / 0-)

            Where does it say in the Bible that it's okay to take stuff out of the ground, burn it, and put it into the air?

            I'm not a Christian and wouldn't make arguments about climate change based solely on the Bible, but if that's your source for truth, it seems to me you need to be able to answer this question.

            Since plague became in this way some men's duty, it revealed itself as what it really was; that is the concern of all. --Albert Camus

            by Neighbor2 on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 07:58:54 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Nice work. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    citisven, James Wells, DWG, homo neurotic

    Morality as we understand it has developed within the context of a stable climate.  Human behavioral norms are all a function of climatic stability.  As we head into a time of climatic disruption, it behooves us to have our morality and ethics stabilized in favor of the long-term survival of Earth and its biota.

    Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

    by WarrenS on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 12:25:14 PM PST

  •  outstanding work here, DWG .... (5+ / 0-)

    .... and such valuable research.

    For me, one of the most powerful impetuses was after participating in the Awakening the Dreamer seminar when they ask what did you do when you knew?  Of course, the folks who take this training are already sensitized to the ramifications of not addressing climate change through most not to just how intrinsically and immediately threatened we all are.

    Yet, it somehow always just never fails to astound me when highly intelligent people are incapable of recognizing that they and theirs are not not vulnerable.

    Gov. Cuomo's plan to purchase property on the seashore from homeowners is so interesting. Because there are, at least in my little bit of the universe, those who actcually believe Sandy was a freak of nature. A once in a lifetime or hundred year plus event. My brother, for example, owns a house on the ocean in Ct. which was significantly damaged. He has alrady repaired. But the whole area in which he lives was hit really hard. Old old beachfront properties.

    I wonder how authorities in this 'upper crust' New England neighborhood are discussing rising sea levels with their community. What pitch they can/will use.

    Thanks so much. Hotlisted and tweeted out there ...

    •  One of Ecocity pioneer Richard Register's (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DWG, homo neurotic, boatsie, Bob Guyer

      big peeves is that people aren't willing to look into resilient ecocity design even after their entire towns get wiped out. As he told me in a recent interview...

      I went to New Orleans a few months after Katrina, and what I suggested didn't go over very well because after so much loss people who've been traumatized don't want to experiment. They want to go to the things they know and that are tried and true. So in New Orleans, everyone wanted to go back and build the same thing. It's almost like a reflex, and that reflex was to say, "let's go back to how it was and just build a higher dike around it."
      His idea for an ecocity rebuild...
      if you have an opportunity to redesign, which you do in New Jersey and you had in New Orleans, you would be building on elevated fill, the tried and true thing that goes back 4500 years. In the mesopotamian valley the first large Sumerian cities like Ur were built on elevated fill. The Tigris and Euphrates would flood, the water would come up, and the entire valley turned into this ocean of waters slithering by, because everybody would be safe, twenty feet above the water. You're going to lose your beaches and have a waterfront that's essentially a cliff, but it works and you can have your town behind it.

      You can even design it like a bow on a boat, so the flood splits. So that's a solution. You go up a ways and as the sea levels rise from climate change you can last maybe for a couple hundred years by going up 40 or so feet. You could never do this with suburbia because of the massive amount of dirt you would need, but you can do it in a compact city with narrow streets and taller buildings because you have 50 times as many people.

      He'd be psyched if anyone from NY or NJ came to him to work on some of these ideas, but he's not holding his breath.

      You don’t want to be victimized by your lesser talents. - Gary Snyder

      by citisven on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 01:45:38 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  My wife's family has a home on Long Beach Island (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      citisven, homo neurotic, boatsie

      Since escaped without any damage, its value suddenly jumped and there appears to be something of a boom market on the island. Apparently many are thinking the storm was a fluke instead of a harbinger of things to come.

      Be radical in your compassion.

      by DWG on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 02:25:32 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Different strokes even at different times (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    citisven, homo neurotic, Eowyn9

    Thanks for a very thoughtful diary on an important topic.

    One very tactical part of communicating about climate may be to avoid mixing moral and self-interested arguments within the context of one pitch.  That's because appeals to self-interest may dull people's moral sense, even as a short term effect within one session.  

    Consider these experiments about the effect of money images on compassion:

    First we exposed the subjects to concepts of money in very subtle ways. For example, we would have some Monopoly money on the table on which they were working, or we would have them do a word task that involved unscrambling words that made up logical phrases, and sometimes those phrases related to money. Then we gave subjects the opportunity to help someone else … Subjects who were reminded of money were less helpful than subjects not reminded of money.
    In addition, people exposed to images of money were less likely to ask for help, less likely to be concerned when socially isolated, and even less sensitive to physical pain.

    Money, of course, is the ultimate proxy for self-interest.

    This suggests that a given appeal may not benefit from adding moral to practical arguments, or vice versa, because of the dissonance between the two types of appeal.

  •  smart, substantive, and constructive (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    James Wells

    very solid read -- many thanks!

    "i hear you're mad about brubeck ... i like your eyes. i like him too." -donald fagen

    by homo neurotic on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 05:27:12 PM PST

  •  Mitigation: Parable of the 7 Fat and 7 Lean Cows (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Jim Tietz, DWG, Calamity Jean

    Another way to (possibly) get the (Judeo-Christo-Islamic) religious believers to pay attention.  Pharoah dreamed of seven fat cows, and then 7 thin and ill-favored cows came and ate up the fat cows.  Joseph interpreted that dream as God's warning that there would be seven "fat" years of plentiful harvests, followed by seven "lean" years of crop failure.  The resulting famine would make it as though the seven fat years never happened.

    As a result of this warning, Pharoah's government sucessfully mitigated the disastrous famine that Joseph predicted -- storing up grain during the fat years to carry Egypt through the lean ones that followed.

    Today, we are living in the last of the "fat" years; and the climate scientists are interpreting the signs and portents in our environment.  Those portents show that we will face worldwide famine, as crop-growing areas shift, and extreme multi-year droughts strike the world's major grain-producing areas.  Clearly, like Pharaoh, we should be working to mitigate the disaster that so many can clearly foresee.

    "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right" -- Sen. (and Major General) Carl Schurz, 1872

    by Diesel Kitty on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 09:14:44 PM PST

    •  My daughter also made this connection (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DWG

      She just turned thirteen and had the story of Joseph in her portion for her Bat Mitzvah service.  She connected the feast/famine in the story with an imperative toward stewardship of our food stock (and by extension, the entire environment).  She actualized it by volunteering at our local community garden.

      Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear. ~William E. Gladstone, 1866

      by Jim Tietz on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 11:29:06 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Excellent point (0+ / 0-)

      And this time, we will have a hand in creating the drought and famine in the lean years.

      Excellent point, thank you very much.

      Be radical in your compassion.

      by DWG on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 03:55:36 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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