August 2019 Inter-Belief Conversation Café
Is Saving the Environment a Moral Imperative?
7 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Interfaith Action of Greater Saint Paul
1671 Summit Avenue, Saint Paul, MN 55105 (View Map)
If the Earth is our mother as some say, are we exceptionally naughty children? If we are headed for a sixth extinction is the only sad part, the really nice plants and animals that we will be taking with us? Do we have dominion over the environment and should expect it to serve our purposes or are we stewards of nature and possibly bad ones? Would the world without us run by cockroaches be an improvement? Are there moral issues even more important than our physical survival to consider in what is happening to our planet? Are we coming close to answering for our sins?
Once subduing the wilderness was considered essential to progress. Wolves and grizzly bears were considered threats to humans not endangered species needing protection. It was man against nature and the environment had better look out. Could these attitudes have been all wrong? Could fossil fuels be something other than the basis of civilization? Could plastic not be a miracle product but death to oceans, fish, and birds? Should we go back to the Shire and be one with nature? But when people only ate organic foods, didn’t they all die by age 40?
Is it already too late? Have we passed the tipping point for global climate change? Will melting glaciers in Antarctica raise the ocean level two feet and flood even Trump Tower? Or is the future still in our hands? E.F. Schumacher, the author of Small Is Beautiful, was asked what could be done about the degradation of the environment. His response was to advise everyone to plant a tree. What acts like walking or biking to work, getting energy from solar panels, and setting thermostats lower in winter and higher in summer be enough? Even if too late is there an obligation to do something? Do we have to succeed to be moral?
Who is obligated to take up the fight? Religious leaders? Politicians? Environmental activists? Concerned scientists? Ordinary people? All of the above? Do we know what we should be fighting about? Might we boycott useful products because someone on the internet says they are dangerous? What expertise should guide us and who can we trust? Could global warming really be a hoax? What about the New Ice Age we heard about in the 1990s? Can we do the right thing if we are misinformed as to what the right thing is? Is this just a pragmatic quest to save our skins or are our souls at risk if we destroy the world we were born on?
Is it all about human beings? Animals have become extinct long before the arrival of homo sapiens. The first five extinctions had no help from us. Isn’t death and destruction part of the natural order? Do we have to save every endangered insect? Wouldn’t we be better off focusing on making the planet more livable for human beings and restrain our homicidal impulses towards them? Shouldn’t we be our brother’s keeper not every buffalo’s keeper? Do we really miss the dodo and the passenger pigeon? Or are we all fellow passengers on spaceship earth and the disappearance of each species takes something away from us? Should there be priorities set and who sets them—Greenpeace or the current Environmental Protection Agency?
On Monday, August 19 from 7-9 PM at Interfaith Action of Greater St. Paul, 1671 Summit Avenue, St. Paul, Inter-belief Conversation Café will seek to be environmentally moral. Our agreements of open-mindedness, acceptance, curiosity, discovery, sincerity, brevity, and confidentiality may keep us from doing more good than harm. No matter one’s ecological views; treats for everyone!