Monday, August 06, 2012

What David Lipscomb teaches about Climate Change

I'm a southern boy, all but two years of my life have been in the South.  But, when younger I wondered why those folks back in the 19th century could possibly have accepted slavery and not eliminated it as was obvious to me that they should do; and much sooner than they did and without "help".  The story of the Lipscomb family and tragedy that befell them explains in part why.

David Lipscomb was an important figure in the development of the Churches of Christ and his legacy lives on these several generations past.  Lipscomb University is named for him.  One source for the story which happened when David was a young child is in the biography Crying in the Wilderness.  It taught me a lesson about dealing with climate change. 

Lipscomb came from a very religious family and they were independent minded.  When they moved to Tennessee the extended family not only changed their physical geography but their spiritual as well.  This is reflected by the fact that David Lipscomb's father and Uncle decided that slavery was wrong and to act upon that belief.  They resolved to release their slaves.  Unfortunately, the state required payment to allow that and then freed persons had to leave.  So rather than sell their land, make the payment, and become destitute, thereby endangering everyone's health; they came up with what they thought was a better plan, that was to sell their land and travel to the slave-free state of Illinois for the emancipation.  We can fly from Memphis to Lithuania in a day, no problem, I've done it. But it was the 1830's and for them even the trip just two states northward would have taken probably weeks to accomplish and with accompanying adventures, no doubt. 

They ran into the same problem however.  But they were stuck.  To survive, they had to farm.  They would buy land, plant a crop, and wait for harvest.  It turned out to be a very wet spring.  Flooding was widespread and a malaria epidemic came through the area and claimed the life of Lipscomb's mother and some siblings and others.  They were able eventually to arrange for the liberation in Indiana.   All told, about one third of the group gave their lives for that purpose.    They returned home to Tennessee, fewer and, no doubt, saddened. 

Now for the connection with climate change.  Climate change is a science problem that is quintessentially postmodern. There are so many narratives out there making it difficult to determine who to believe. Many of them – even contradictory ones – seem reasonable on the surface.   No one study or test is absolutely decisive or free of critique. Each investigator or analyst is situated and none has the “God’s eye” objective view. No one of us has inspected each and every thermometer or retried each and every experiment or re-derived each and every equation. All of the knowledge that we have is secondary or tertiary and we seek to come up with a coherent and realistic view based on who seems most reasonable and trustworthy. With that said, I have come to the conclusion that the situation is indeed very serious and reality will eventually move everyone to that same conclusion.

I'm convinced that the main narrative of the majority of climate scientists these past twenty years is essentially correct.  It is hotter and it is due to carbon emissions, in the main.  Sure there are important issues and details that need to be understood better.  But what they said would happen is happening and that provides powerful validation in my opinion.  The most responsible skeptics it seems to me are agreeing that the climate has been changing and that humans have had at least some role in causing it. 

So accepting this as fact, how does one liberate oneself from the habits of a high carbon lifestyle? Laws and customs were not helpful enough to the Lipscombs as they tried to do the right thing and it cost them.  Thankfully we have the internet where one can find ideas and support and sometimes critical thinking about what serves the purpose and what doesn't.  I wish our churches would see it as important.  Once they are on board they could encourage and effect wonderful things. Here is a smattering of interesting links in this regard. 

Climate Change:  An Evangelical Call to Action

Catholic Climate Covenant

Operation Noah

Creation Care

Tips for Going Green


Anonymous said...

So there are others out there that believe in climate change? It is interesting though that many Christians today hold to the notion that the earth goes through these cycles, and hence, fixes it self. That makes no sense seeing that over time we have created toxins that clearly contribute to environmental degradation.

Steve said...

Welcome back Carson! We could use some of your advice about Florence, Italy. We are planning to go before too long.

So many incorrect memes are circulating around conservative Christian circles regarding climate change. The earth does go through Milankovich cycles and ice ages and asteroid impacts. But that is beside the point. The science basis of climate change has been vindicated time and again and all alternate arguments have fallen by the wayside. There are issues like the role of clouds and various details. Some might turn out not quite so bad but others could be worse. The question is not that climate change is happening but consequences and implications. It was predicted and recent history in terms of temperature rise, glacial melting, ice cap disappearance, ratio of hot to cold temperature records, and on and on. ISTM.

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