Season for Green Thinking
I will celebrate Thanksgiving in many typical ways with my family -- enjoying a wonderful meal, talking about what we are grateful for, catching up on each other's lives. But this time, I will do at least one thing differently. I am going to talk about gratitude in a new way.
This past year, I've begun working as one of 17 United Methodist Women's national Green Team volunteers. I've made a four-year commitment to advocating for better planetary stewardship from a Christian perspective. One of the things I am learning is how people living in poverty in developing nations are confronting hardships as a result of climate change. This has prompted me to also begin to pay more attention to what is happening in our part of the world. I love the beauty of upstate autumns and winters and know that what I treasure about these seasons is at risk because of climate change. I realize I have taken New York's climate and my way of life for granted.
Through prayer, study and advocacy, I have come to consider climate change as the moral issue of our day. I realize that my generation of Americans has worked hard to improve our lives and the lives of our children on an assumption of economic prosperity based on fossil fuels. We've wanted comfortable cars and spacious houses. We've enjoyed foods and clothes that come from thousands of miles away. For many of us, the way we live is quite different from how our parents and grandparents did. We had no inkling that the American Dream would carry with it dangerous economic and environmental consequences. We had no inkling of such major repercussions on our lifestyle as nations being permanently under water or millions more children going hungry. We did not realize that the consequences could be hidden from our view because those suffering the most immediate and harshest effects would be living half a world away.
For most people in the United States, Thanksgiving is a secular holiday. As we face what climate change is doing to our world and how we must change, I think it is important that we recognize its religious roots once again and celebrate it in a 21st century multicultural way. Many religious traditions encourage the cultivation of a sense of gratitude. They honor creation as a sacred gift and have powerful justice traditions -- calling people to live in right relationship with each other and with creation.
So this Thanksgiving, I'm going to talk about how I've taken climate for granted and how I hope to change that attitude. I'm going to tell my son, niece, other members of our family and friends how I'm moving toward a smaller carbon footprint and why I think this is an essential part of how I try to be a faithful Christian. And I'm going to talk about how working for just policies -- in the climate legislation before Congress and in what the Obama administration negotiators hope to achieve at next month's international climate conference in Copenhagen -- is another way of practicing gratitude. Individually and collectively we are called to be responsible in our actions. Our nation now must live up to its moral responsibility and I must try to live up to mine. Otherwise, expressing gratitude for our blessings rings all too hollow to our fellow humans around the world, and quite possibly to God.
*Dorothy Scott Fielder of Oneonta is a United Methodist Women's Green Team member, representing the northwestern region of New York.