I grew up in places with a lot of room to play. At one house we had woods in the backyard that led to a dammed up creek. We tied a rope to one of the trees and jumped from a ledge, catching onto the rope, letting go at just the right moment to land right in the middle of the pond.
I remember one night my family and I went to a campsite and it was well past dark when we arrived. All 10 of us piled out of the van. My brothers, dad and I set up camp, and went to sleep for the night. The next morning, a ranger came and told us to move. It turns out that we pitched our tent on the gravel road.
We later moved to Montana where I felt like I had land to run and run. I spent hours hiking in the mountains as a boy scout, making sure to keep the area, "cleaner than I found it" - my dad's mantra.
In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as with most religious traditions, a culture of environmental awareness and stewardship is preached and understood. In many Sunday School lessons (found here, here, here, etc.), we learn about how we need to be wise stewards of our Earth. The mantra my father taught me when I was young, and what I learned as a boy scout, points to the fact that we should care for Mother Earth – as we all rely on her bounty. Just as Adam and Eve were tasked to care for the Garden, so too are we asked to be careful stewards of our temporal home.
It seems like the Republican Party has come a long way from Theodore Roosevelt and his National Parks initiative. Instead of increasing the size of these beautifully preserved areas, Republicans are trying to shrink them; and to what end? So we can continue to give companies leases to ravage our planet? Is the consumption of oil and other natural resources worth such a price?
Roosevelt spoke in such respect for our land, "Of all the questions which can come before this nation, short of the actual preservation of its existence in a great war, there is none which compares in importance with the great central task of leaving this land even a better land for our descendants than it is for us."
With a real and present danger lurking in the next 20 years from the fallout of climate change, it would seem like a sense of urgency would be etched into the heart of every person – especially every Latter-day Saint, who has been taught we need to be good stewards of the planet.
Unfortunately, I’ve found this sense of urgency does not seem to exist for many Republican members of the church. When I bring up climate change among Republican friends who are members of the church, I am met with a litany of excuses for not doing anything. Mostly I hear these two arguments:
- "Climate change doesn’t exist."
- This excuse is repeated, despite near scientific consensus on the issue.
- "It does exist, but it’s a natural cycle; mankind has nothing to do with it."
- This excuse is also repeated with certainty; as if emitting billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year would have no effect whatsoever.
We have known about climate change since the late 1970s. At the same time, there was also a large and growing hole in our ozone layer because of the use of CFCs and other harmful-to-ozone chemicals. An international agreement was reached, Congress worked with President Reagan and these harmful chemicals were banned. The ozone holes caused by these harmful chemicals have finally started healing.
Shortly after this environmental initiative was instituted, climate change was brought to the fore. John Sununu, Bush Sr.’s chief of staff, derided the science and threw up roadblocks for those wanting stronger regulation. Consequently, emissions-reducing initiatives never took off during Bush Sr.’s presidency. This was arguably the best time to get something done around the issue because Republicans and Democrats were working together on environmental issues. After the Reagan presidency, oil companies began producing propaganda and lobbying legislators to begin doubting the science.
By the time President Clinton came around it had become a political issue, not a human one. The Republican congress would never allow legislation to curtail the effects of climate change.
The paramount question seems to be, "Do we save Earth, or do we save our systems built on oil?" Such a question is ridiculous when one realizes that without Earth, we have no home, we have no systems, we have nothing; indeed we are nothing.
It is time for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to realize our environmental legacy, given to us by our parents in the Garden, to preserve and nurture this beautiful Earth that we call home.