Friday, September 24, 2010

White Shirts with Dirty Collars: Utah Valley Mormons and the Environment

Winter is coming and with it the dirty air. Each winter we drive our cars, heat our homes, build our fires and all of that adds to the dirt in the air. I remember one winter when I had a small child that some people didn’t take their babies to church to be blessed because the air pollution was so bad it was not safe. What was our community’s reaction to the problem? Nothing. We acted as though our own actions were an unsolvable problem created by nature. And I suppose that is true, though it was not a problem brought by mother nature, it was the result of our human nature.

I debated writing about our need to find a way to improve our lives. I wanted to write about how we could work together and develop a new way of live that would allow us to enjoy so many modern conveniences without polluting our environment to the point of danger. A sustainable way of life that we could share with our children. But then I stepped back and realized that we are not prepared to move forward. We have not put in the effort to understand our world and the tools available to us so that we can take on new challenges. I realized that even if we did pause for a moment to look at our future we would only attempt half hearted and poorly thought out solutions. And that in the end those programs done on the cheap for political show might be worse than doing nothing at all.

I began to think about my grandmother who used to worry about preparing for lessons on the cultures of other people. She did not grow up traveling but there was something in her life that made her and my grandfather want to know more about the world. Ultimately thy did travel and they encouraged their family to learn and to travel. Today it seems that our culture has lost that energy along with the desire for improvement and is turning its back on building for the greater good.

When I look at our leaders I don’t see a team with the education, understanding and determination to solve our difficult problems. Sure, they can build roads, and I enjoy good roads, but they don’t appear to even notice that our air is bad and our limited water is used to keep silly lawns green in the desert.

This week I read how the Chinese are worried about their pollution and they are working hard to find solutions. Why are the supposedly godless communists able to see through the smog while those of us who think ourselves as chosen are more concerned about trivial political sound bites. The author of the article suggested that educated communists understood that sick people were bad for business. That concept appears too complex for our community despite their love of freedom (which I’ve come to understand means a love of money).

How can a people with an eternal perspective be so short sighted?

I suggest we go back to some of the values my grandparents held, that reading good books and learning skills is important. That learning about other lands and respecting the good they have is of value. I suggest we worry less about pop culture notions regarding our founding fathers and spend less time listening to blow hard commentators and the radio and TV. We might spend that time researching real solutions to local problems. Better yet, we might insist that our children learn about science, research and critical thinking since they will be the ones who have to clean up the mess we are making.

One final note on Latter-day Saint thought: If we believe that the Earth will become a paradise, just who do we think will clean it up?

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