Today's environmental crisis
presents us with opportunities we must not miss.
One of the central beliefs of Christianity is that Jesus will return in glory. In spite of the fact that the Gospels tell us we do not know the day or the hour, some Christians decorate their automobiles with signs that declare "Jesus is Coming Soon!" It seems to me that we spend far too much time concentrating on this. Someday Jesus will return and the end will come. However, it does not really matter when that will happen--whether it is soon or centuries from now. What really matters is how we get there--what we do with this life.
Have you ever wished to relive some past experience? Maybe you promised yourself you would not make the same mistake. That is what we might call a lost opportunity, and life is filled with them. The following story illustrates the point:
A man fell into a deep hole. There was no way to get out and he thought to himself, "I will be stuck in this hole forever!" People would pass by and ask him, "Don't you want to get out of that hole?"
He would respond, "It doesn't matter what I want. I can't get out. I'm stuck in here forever."
One day, a stranger came to the hole and threw down a rope. He had tied one end to a tree so that the man could climb out of the hole. But the rope was not long enough. The man in the hole could not reach the end of the rope because it was a good jump above his grasp.
He said to the stranger, "I can't reach the rope--I guess I'm stuck in here forever." So, the stranger untied the rope, wrapped it under his arm and left.
The next day, the same stranger returned. This time, he brought a ladder that he lowered to the man in the hole. The man quickly climbed the ladder but it was not high enough. It did not reach to the top of the hole that was still a good jump away.
The man said to the stranger, "I can't reach the top of the hole--I guess I'm stuck in here forever." So, the stranger retrieved the ladder and left.
The next day, the same stranger came back again. This time, he had nothing with him. He looked into the hole and the man said to him, "How come you didn't bring me a longer rope or a longer ladder? You knew the other rope and ladder were too short."
The stranger said, "I have neither a longer rope nor a longer ladder. What I had, I gave to you. All you had to do was jump, but you didn't. So, I guess you will be stuck in your hole forever."
Today we are faced with a global problem and an incredible opportunity. If we miss it, the result will be catastrophic for our entire planet. The problem is global warming. Although scientists do not have all the information, they are united in their concern that the average temperature of the earth is rising at an alarming rate. Some see the temperature rising by 3 degrees by the year 2020, and a possible 5 degrees by 2050. That means that within 40 to 60 years, the earth's temperature will be hotter than at any time in the last 100,000 years. This will melt both the Arctic and Antarctic ice caps, simultaneously raising sea levels all around the globe. The entire Eastern Seaboard will be flooded, and land masses the size of the United States will be submerged.
Years ago, the government of Japan announced that it was setting gas-emission targets that would limit the amount of emissions in the year 2000 to the levels in 1990. It is not enough, but it is a start. That announcement was followed by the Kyoto Protocol, with most of the world's developed nations signing on. The United States is now one of only a few developed nations without no real goals for reducing green house gas emissions. President Bush says more information is needed. Meanwhile the temperature rises.
Global warming is not only a governmental problem. It is your problem. It is my problem. Each of us contributes to it in our pursuit of comfort. No matter how fuel-efficient our automobiles are, as long as they burn fossil fuels, they emit carbon dioxide gas. Meanwhile the temperature rises. Each time we escape the heat by air-conditioning our cars, we emit Freon gas into the stratosphere, damaging the ozone. Meanwhile the temperature rises.
It seems clear that we must change the way we act. We must control our population growth. We must eliminate air-conditioners from our automobiles and drive less. We must seek alternate, non-polluting forms of energy, such as solar and wind. Even that is only a beginning.
Life is full of missed opportunities. This must not be one. This time it is not just you or I who lose--the whole planet loses. If we miss this opportunity, there won't be a second chance.