“When we bring together reason with our values a vision will evolve for the good of the whole.” – Karenna Gore
Dean Kelly Brown Douglas of Episcopal Divinity School speaks with Karenna Gore, Director of Union’s Center for Earth Ethics. They discuss the moral dimensions of our ecological crisis, how environmental issues are playing out in the presidential primary, and Karenna’s recent New York Times op-ed. Full video and excerpted transcript below.
KBD: “What we have to appreciate is that this is not a crisis that just emerged overnight for no reason. The roots of this are deep. And when we talk about the oppressions of people, the subjugations of people, the subjugations of the earth this is all the fruit of the same poisonous tree, right? Or the same poisonous root. That goes deeply back into our traditions, into our religious traditions and into Christianity.
We are living in a time and a culture where people refuse to recognize that there is a problem, and that there’s a crisis. And I’ve heard you speak about that before as an addiction.”
On Addiction to Fossil Fuels
KG: “Many people have experienced addiction or are close to people who have experienced addiction and it is instructive about the limits of human nature or the ways in which – how – the idea that we would self-destruct as a species – because that is what is happening in slow motion – ”
KBD: “That’s right.”
KG: “- is not logical. But nor is it logical that someone would be so hooked on something that is causing them so much damage but they can’t quite see it. Until, or in many cases it comes to hitting rock bottom, in many cases people say it comes to turning to a higher power. Those are instructive stories I think in a way of understanding what we’re seeing now because a lot of people are looking and watching because the see climate impacts now. The amazon is on fire, polar ice caps are melting, we’re losing species…”
KBD: “60% of, I understand, the animal species has been degraded?”
KG: “Yes. So the question is, how much, is a similar question as an addict might face. How much more damage do you want to do?
I think most of us have the feeling we will turn away from fossil fuels – or we’ll die. And it’s not just a feeling, it’s what the body of scientists in the IPCC tell us.”
“We’re on track for about 7-9 degree Fahrenheit warming by the year 2100. What that means, of course, are tipping points that we don’t totally understand. Many people criticize them (scientists) for being overly conservative it their estimates because they can’t exactly what happens when all the ice melts. The Gulf Stream is changing. We know that there are many things in place that would start to make large portions of this earth uninhabitable and the strife involved in that, the widespread suffering involved in that – is unimaginable. So if we’re on the road that kind of destruction, at what point can we decide – we’d like to stop now – let’s just try to stop now as opposed to doing more and more damage. And I think the analogy to addiction is very important.”
On the role of Faith in the Climate Crisis: Prophetic and Pastoral
“There are three concepts to think about Place, Time, and Being in which, you know, we as individuals, we are asked to think about in our discourse, we as individuals we are asked to be consumers, we are asked to think about consumer choices. We are asked to think about our belonging to different races, or genders, or denominations but to belong to a place and a time is also part of understanding what’s happening now. And that –
When you look at the scale and the pace of the ecological destruction we are living right now – it’s overwhelming.
And our own sense of what our agency is – it’s overwhelming.
And I believe it is going to come from leaders, faith leaders – and I say that in a broad way. If you are a counselor in a community center, if you’re an indigenous keeper of traditions, these are all forms of ministry. But this is what is called for, those types of skills to help people through this time.” – Karenna Gore
The Center for Earth Ethics is an institute at Union Theological Seminary that envisions a world where value is measured according to the sustained well-being of all people and our planet. Learn more at their website www.centerforearthethics.org