Sunday, August 7, 2011

I've moved

I am now blogging at LDS Earth Stewardship. Come and check it out.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Review of "Light in Darkenss: Embracing the Opportunity of Climate Change" by Firmage

I am flattered to have been asked by Kristine Haglund, editor of Dialogue (an independent quarterly established to express Mormon culture and to examine the relevance of religion to secular life) to review Edwin Firmage Jr.'s article "Light in the Darkness: Embracing the Opportunity of Climate Change" published in a recent issue of Dialogue. Here goes...

As a blogger who writes about the environment from an LDS perspective, it will not come as a shock that I enjoyed reading Mr. Firmage's article. The article rises above the rhetorical banter that is ever present in discussions of climate change. The author skips debating about the reality of climate change, and jumps straight to discussing the implications of climate change. This will, no doubt, infuriate the climate change skeptics and deniers. The article is not for them. Rather than trying to convince the unbelievers, Mr. Firmage's essay is a challenge to religious communities to step up and seize the opportunity that climate change presents:

"Indeed, it is in addressing [climate change]...that churches will find a moral purpose and a relevance that they have lacked now for many years."

The quote above gives some clue that Mr. Firmage is writing from the perspective of a lapsed Mormon, though one who appears sympathetic to the LDS Church. He is also quite the Biblical scholar. In the first third of the article the author gives a lengthy discussion on the theme of "Zion," found throughout the Old Testament. For the remainder of the article, he contends that because religious communities have a tradition of seeking Zion and rigorousness, that they are the best hope for starting the collective action required to address climate change.

Some quotes that give a flavor of the author's thinking:

"The biblical paradigm of Zion is a way of life that knows contentment. It's a way of life that is at peace with the world..."

"Our way today seems to me to embody precisely that worship of the self and of the selfish that is the great sin in biblical thinking..."

"If there is any hope for our civilization, it is the hope that inspired the biblical tradition of Zion."

As I see it, the heart of the conflict surrounding climate change can be understood by examining (stereotyping?) the first principals of those entrenched in the issue. For some people, collective action is the panacea that will cure all of the world's ills. For others, collective action is ripe for abuse and necessarily limits personal freedom. Thus, depending on one's perspective, climate change is just another problem that needs collective action, or it is a excuse to remove personal freedom. By proposing Zion as the model for addressing climate change, Mr. Firmage suggests a solution that may appease both camps:

"Standing against [selfishness and idolatry] is the biblical concept of Zion, the good society that embodies our deepest aspirations for individual and social transcendence."

"And the scope of the intended redemption is universal: government, religious life, and civil life as well as individual behavior must all be transformed."

I too see that the Zion longed for in religious communities is the key to addressing climate change. Zion requires that we collectively solve the problem of climate change, and that we solve it without abusing individual freedom. Zion also tempers the individual shortcomings of greed and selfishness that are the cause of climate change.

I believe in religion. After reading this article, I have new hope that society will embrace religious concepts as relevant and powerful vehicles for addressing the world's problems. After all, even Mr. Firmage, a secular environmentalist, sees church as the answer:

"Looking at American society, the only place I see communities that could rally around the idea of Zion is our churches."

Amen Brother Firmage.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Commentary: I really should stop buying cheap toy cars

I just listened to an interview with Ellen Ruppel Shell, author of Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture. In the interview she mentioned that the price tag was invented by John Wanamaker, an American merchant born in 1838. The price tag is such a ubiquitous part of my own economic experience that I had never considered that price tags have only been around for about 150 years. It amazes me how quickly some ideas can transform the world.

Ellen Ruppel also talked about how the American consumer has been trained to not expect much of the items we purchase, especially when those items are inexpensive. I'm thinking of the cheap toy cars that I buy my son. The axles always bend after just a short time of play. Do I take the broken toy back demanding a replacement? No, I just do as I have been trained -I rationalize the poor quality by admitting that it only cost a dollar or two. I am sad to report that I have also been known to buy poor quality furniture, clothes, tools, electronics, etc, all in the name of low cost. Even my housing choices are governed more by cost that by value and quality. How did we ever get to the point where cheap junk is acceptable as long as it has a low price? Such waste of money and resources. My grandparents are rolling over in their graves!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Resource: FHE Idea, Financial Stewardship

Jenny Whitcomb wrote a nice guest post at the Segullah Blog about a recent Family Home Evening wherein she taught her children about financial stewardship:

"So FHE became a Consumer Awareness 101 group therapy session centered on two visuals: a credit card, and a piggy bank. We shared thoughts, from youngest to oldest, starting with the credit card, and taught each other everything we knew about that little piece of plastic."

"It takes discipline to manage the card, more than it does to make purchases from a piggy bank. The key? Embrace the principle of work and save in order to consume. Not that owning a credit card or desire equals entitlement, but understand that the credit behind our credit cards is actually cash. To have the money in our pockets before we spend it is a worthy guideline."

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Commentary: Upcoming Chances to Discuss Earth Stewardship in Sunday School

Important first thought: I don't want to promote any kind of "activism" at church...except of course Christian activism.

With that out of the way, I want to remind everyone of some great opportunities to discuss Earth Stewardship in upcoming Sunday School classes. Lesson 22 The Word of Wisdom "A Principle with a Promise", and lesson 38 "In Mine Own Way" both include some material regarding with Earth Stewardship.

Lesson 22 includes D&C 59:17-20 as source material. This lesson will probably be taught sometime in May.

Lesson 38 includes D&C 104:13-18 as source material. This lesson will probably be taught sometime in October. BTW, The late Elder Maxwell had some interesting words regarding these scriptures.

If you find it appropriate,
and if it fits into the content of your class discussions,
and if it adds to the spirit of your class,
and if it brings glory to God,
then please consider sharing your feelings about Earth Stewardship during one or both of these lessons.

Final thought: Please don't abuse this as a chance to prove a point or advance a political agenda. Nobody likes it when people abuse church meetings for their own purposes.