Why we, today’s environmentalists, have failed so badly in our mission
By Steve Dresselhaus
Several years back a fire started in a good friend´s kitchen. It was a grease fire from bacon left on the stove. His wife had stepped out of the apartment for a second. Our friend was somehow awakened from a deep sleep. He rushed out of the bedroom and into the kitchen. Without a moment’s hesitation he emptied a large plastic container of Corn Flakes onto the fire. As the Corn Flakes landed on the fire, the expected happened – nothing. Fortunately, the fire quickly burned itself out without spreading beyond the frying pan. As the smoke cleared from both the air and my friend´s sleep-clouded brain, he cleaned up the mess, including the now carbonized Corn Flakes he had hurled into the mix.
Yes, of course there is a moral to this story: otherwise I wouldn’t be writing about it. As an active love-based environmentalist, I have grown weary of the reality that nearly all of my environmentalist friends are throwing Corn Flakes on the environmental fire. They are losing our battle to protect the environment because they have chosen the wrong weapons with which to fight. With growing sorrow I have watched my friends go full Gollum as anger, hate and scorn have become their ineffective weapons of choice in the battle to care for the environment. I grieve as my once gentle and kind friends devolve and become bitter, angry and morose, seemingly incapable of seeing any good. Hate for others has crowded out their once admirable love for creation. Jesus put it this way, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” What my Gollumized friends talk about most (or post on Facebook) reveals their heart. I grieve. They seem to truly believe that immoral, power-hungry, hateful politicians of the other party will solve a moral problem called environmental degradation by passing laws capable of regulating greed, selfishness and laziness– the principal causes of our environmental crisis. I hate to pop their biodegradable balloons, but sin cannot be controlled by laws nor is it possible to cool the planet by generating sufficient hate. Good environmental laws are truly needed but they are ineffective until people want to obey them and that requires a changed heart. And to change a heart requires love, modeling, and encouragement, not anger, hate and arrogance.
I am not a fan of those manipulating adults who turned little Greta Thunberg into a raging mini anger machine. Someone stole her childhood, but it might not be the ones she blames. Shame on them for exploiting her for their purposes. I do agree with her sometimes. She is now venting her anger during the COP 25 by saying “The only thing we want to see is real action and real action has not been happening, so of course we have achieved a lot, but if you look at it from a certain point of view, we have achieved nothing.” The phrase “we have achieved nothing” is her way of saying we are throwing Corn Flakes on the environmental fire. She is right. Now all she needs to do is find a workable solution. I hope she finds one.
History shows us that the best way to change a person, community and nation is through love and gentle persuasion, not merely through laws which must be written, enacted and then enforced through legal coercion. Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa and of course the master change agent of all time, Jesus, had huge impacts on the world as they gently and humbly changed people´s way of thinking. Expressing anger, hate, scorn, ridicule and using coercive political force were not their tools of choice for changing the way people think. They loved people into changing. If politicians want to jump on our bandwagon, they are more than welcome to do so, but we cannot afford to wait for governments to create new laws that people are forced to grudgingly obey. Politicians will and do respond to a critical mass of voters. Our job as Christian environmentalists is to strive towards the “renewing of the minds” so that millions of people, not just a one voter majority, can enjoy all things becoming new.
To all my Christian eco friends: it is time to jettison our hatred, scorn, bitterness, arrogance, and superiority. They don´t work. They cannot work. Please stop taking pleasure in anger and hate. Anger makes you miserable but changes no one. Hate makes you indistinguishable from those you abhor. Instead, let´s fight the battle to care for creation the Jesus way, our weapons of choice being “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness” (Galatians 5:23). More anger and more hatred will have the same impact on healing the planet as they have always had – “nothing” to quote Thunberg. It´s time to stop throwing Corn Flakes on the fire.
In my next post on Macrochristian (assuming I get around to it), I will share some positive steps to take on how to become a love-based environmentalist.