To live in the Tropics is to live on the front line of climate change, which just means that things tend to hit our delicate mountain cloud forest first. Most of it seems to do with water. The amount that falls, the droughts or floods that result, the animal life that changes patterns to find it, and how the waves of change resonate throughout the delicate balance of biodiversity relationships.
Currently we are experiencing a water crisis. Aquifers are running low. Huge water tanks are being hauled up the mountain. This will hopefully be alleviated when the rainy season returns in a few months, but the old timers will tell you that we haven’t a true rainy season in years. But we see the effects of change every day. We see the toucans and shore birds that never used to be seen here, coming up the mountain in search of cooler temps and water. We see the disappearance and failing of species of both plants and animals. It’s all out in the open.
Today is Earth Day. I am conflicted about this because while it is a good thing to create awareness about environmental concerns, I believe it turns the topic into a one-day Hallmark holiday with all the gravitas of Sibling Day. It’s good for a few memes and inspiring Rachel Carson quotes but soon forgotten. It disarms the crisis we face as humanity. Essentially, we are Thelma and Louise speeding toward a cliff. Woo-hoo! “Happy Earth Day!” The cliff is not necessarily our own death and destruction (though it is for others) but the oncoming irreversibility of the effects of climate change that is predicted to arrive as soon as 2030.
We are beyond arguments of cause and blame. Like being on an airplane when the pilot dies, it may not be our fault or our responsibility, but certainly it is now our problem. No one in the past or in the future can help us. It is on us. It is on all of us.
The only good news is that although things may seem impossible and our efforts insignificant, there are things we CAN do that are within our power TO do. But we need to start acknowledging that it is going to take drastic and life-changing actions. It will also take wisdom. Thanks to scientists and politicians, we have the knowledge. But knowledge alone will not change us. We need wisdom from the clergy and artists and teachers and writers and gurus. When was the last time (or only time) you’ve heard a climate change sermon or message from a house of worship? A church could spend an entire year showing how it relates to spiritual topics of economic disparity, racial inequality, greed, compassion, creation, and incarnation. We need fiction writers to stop using it only as a monster movie villain and begin to imagine alternative versions of a sustainable future.
If you’ve stuck with me this far (perhaps there is hope?) I have two suggestions this year. Read a book on the subject. Some good ones include “The Great Derangement,” “The Future We Choose,” “The Uninhabitable Earth,” “Under a White Sky,” and “Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change.” There are more, but I’m just asking you to add climate change to the list of things you care about and read about.
Second is a big one. Consider making a commitment to never again purchasing a combustion engine vehicle. Electric car technology is improving in leaps and bounds. They have longer range, better batteries (and battery recycling), better refueling infrastructure, and lower costs. Even in the US where electricity mainly comes from burning coal and natural gas, you will still emit less carbon into the atmosphere with a car powered by dirty electricity than you will with a gas-powered car. Here in Costa Rica where our power is almost 100% thermal, hydro, wind, or solar, it is a no-brainer. There are other things you can do, of course. The main point is, you can do something. We all can. We all must.
If the past has taught us anything (certainly the recent past), it is that greed and fear are much stronger motivators than compassion. That is why people of compassion must stop looking away and wishing it away and waiting for someone else to do something. If you have any compassion for your children or grandchildren, or their children, if you are someone who feels a spiritual connection to nature and creation, I beg you not to turn away or lose hope. A wise man once said, “The art is to keep your heart open in hell. To be able to look at ‘what is’ in the the universe without turning away.” But we need to act now and we need to act fast.
Happy Earth Day. Woo-hoo!