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“After me the deluge! What does it matter?” 09/16/2008

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“Après moi le déluge”

The hurricane down in Galveston, Texas did a big number on the poor people there and our prayers are that God helps them recover and quickly restores their power, shelter, and livelihoods. Amen.

That the decimation of New Orleans and the southern states to its East, is now followed by such devastation to the West in Texas and the other states, shows that our weather has become much more violent because of global warming: the devastating Galveston flood in the turn of the last century, not-with-standing, because an interval of a hundred years is different from one of three years. (There were other great storms between the Galveston Flood of 1900 and Hurricane Ike of 2008, the Okeechobee Hurricane of 1928, for example. So that last statement may not be true. I cannot find two great disasters so close together, however.)


In the Science Times (9/16/2008, pages D-1 and 4) the naturalists in the Mohonk House in New Paltz, New York, about 90 miles north of New York City, have been taking weather and other measurements for 112 years. In that period the average temperature has risen 2.7 degrees; of the top ten warmest years in that time, seven have occurred since 1990. The annual precipitation of both rainfall and snow has increased and the growing season has increased by ten days. There is no significant increase in the length of the frost-free season, nonetheless, there were significantly more days without frost.

I can’t believe the way in Los Angeles, in a coffee hour after a church service, just for breaking the ice and starting a conversation, I brought up global warming. The little group turned their back on me. I couldn’t believe it!

There have been times before when we have had small ice ages and warming thereafter, for example, from 1550 to 1850 winters in early modern Europe and North America were colder and glaciers advanced. But the human factor involved today is underscored by the rate of change by which the global warming is taking place. It is not progressing over the course of thousands or millions of years, but by decades. That fact faces humanity with a momentous challenge for our collective lives on this little planet and we had better get it together and get together with a meaningful response or we will be in real trouble.

Our churches should not drag the feet of Christ and remain part of the problem. When I mentioned global warming in a sermon in Old Zion, Philadelphia, a fellow asked me furiously if I was trying to split the congregation or drive everyone away. Conservative Evangelicals have seen the stewardship issue involved in taking collective responsibility for climate change, while conservative Lutherans, from my experience, have not yet done so. (Despite my two experiences, other Lutheran conservatives may already have grappled with the gravity of the issue.)

It is a mistake to play off economic concerns against environmental ones. The principle that needs to be attained is sustainable economics and not short-term, irresponsible economics. Like old Louis the XV of France said, “Après moi le deluge.”[1] The sky is not the limit in this realm, the way it is for love, hope, and forgiveness. These factors in the climate of the human heart, should really have no limit, but over-fishing is unsustainable, when factory fishing boats take out more tonnage of fish than the tonnage of their number that the fish can reproduce. That makes one species after another go extinct and then whole industries and cities have gone down the tubes, when the codfish, for example, in New England, was gone.

There is a lake in Mexico, where a friend of mine grew up. They had all made their livelihood around it by fishing. Now the water was all polluted with factory, industrial, toxic chemicals. As he ordered fish in a restaurant, he asked if it came from the lake. “Don’t worry.” he was told. “The fish we serve comes from Vietnam.” What’s wrong with this picture? What an impoverishment! What is the natural and human capital that industrial capital does not take into account? When I fished for horn pout in the Merrimac River as a boy, you could not safely eat the fish. If with your hands you touched the black water of the river, they smelled like chemicals.

When economics ignores its abuse and remains irresponsible to the environment, economics will always lose and the environment will win. Without the principle of sustainable economics, it’s like saying, “Après moi le deluge!” Well, now the floods are hitting while we are still around, quite literally.

[1] What does it matter? The flood will hit when I’m no longer around!


Written by peterkrey

September 16, 2008 at 6:11 pm

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  1. I read your posts for a long time and must tell you that your articles are always valuable to readers.

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