Saturday, April 14, 2012

Worldview & Global Warming

After reading and listening to Bill McKibben, the picture I have of him in my mind is very similar to that of a prophet one sees in the pages of the Hebrew Scriptures. He sounds very much like a Jeremiah who predicted doom for his nation. The prediction of doom is a shock treatment to wake the people up from their slumber to become aware of the impending doom unless they make a quick turn. McKibben is predicting doom for life on earth as we know it. Humanity has proved to be an irresponsible manager of earth. Unless it turns around and starts making quick responsible moves to rectify the colossal errors, humanity and the rest of the life forms may not survive the increasing global warming. People perish due to the lack of vision according to ancient wisdom. McKibben is someone who has a clear vision of the impending doom in our path, and he is warning us to wake up and make a U-turn. This is a global problem, and the solution has to be a global one too. The entire human race needs to rise to the situation, and make specific steps to avert the catastrophe. McKibben is at the very forefront of the global movements that strive to wake up the humanity to action. He tells us how we have converted the earth to the eaarth (the name he has given to the present earth), and what we can do about it.

A website created by concerned citizens and scientists provide very clear and concise definition of global warming.   It says: When CO2 and other heat-trapping emissions are released into the air, they act like a blanket, holding heat in our atmosphere and warming the planet. Overloading our atmosphere with carbon has far-reaching effects for people all around the world—more extreme storms, more severe droughts, deadly heat waves, rising sea levels, and more acidic oceans, which can affect the very base of the food chain. The burning of fossil fuels and deforestation are its primary causes, and stopping these two is the solution.

Stopping the use of fossil fuels and stopping deforestation involves making a radical shift in human behavior worldwide. A change in behavior is possible only by a radical change in human awareness, for our behavior is based on our awareness. In other words, how we live our life depends on how we view our life. That is why it is important to examine what has gone wrong with our view of life, so that we can make necessary adjustments. Philosophy and religious outlook play an important role in shaping our view of life.

When I was growing up, I think I inherited two different worldviews: one from my religious upbringing, and the other from my secular educational upbringing. My religious outlook was very much otherworldly. I am from another world, I am an alien here, and I will leave this world any moment. Although this view has its plus points, and it helped answer various questions about life, it made me see the world as unrelated to me. There is no need to be concerned about this world and there is no need to get involved in the affairs of this world because I am an alien here. Moreover, in the end, this world will be burned, and I am destined to live in a world above. The worldview I inherited from my secular education was not other-worldly, but it had an objectified worldview. It made me look at the world as an object. The world was seen as a place to examine, manipulate, and exploit for our benefit. In short, both of the worldviews I grew up with alienated me from the world.

I believe most of the people in the world can relate to my experience. Most of the religions in the world promote an otherworldly outlook to help people combat the fear of death. But this other-worldliness has a severe side effect of ignoring this world and getting alienated from this world.  Most of the people in the world, who have a religious upbringing, tend to develop an otherworldly outlook of life.  No wonder the Christian fundamentalist leaders in the US like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell are against the movement of global warming. They are too otherworldly to be against a movement that strives for the safety of this world. They see global warming and the impending doom as a mark of the end times. They see global warming as the will of God, and as God-fearing people, they want to follow the will of God by letting the world perish.

Equally damaging is the secular worldview that objectifies the world. Secular education is the primary mode of education in almost all the centers of higher learning in the world. All people who go through this education system learn to see the world as an object to be manipulated and exploited. The world is a lifeless machine in this worldview. Sciences are about exploring the rules that govern this machine, and technology is about manipulating this machine for our benefit. The secular system of education produces people with a very destructive mind capable of destroying the world. 
I grew up until my late twenties wobbling between these two worldviews—the otherworldly one and the secular one. I bumped on to a new worldview in my late twenties when I read a book authored by Metropolitan Paulos Mar Gregorios. Its title was Human Presence. It discussed the issues involved in the presence of humanity on the planet, and the solutions offered in the light of the traditional Eastern Christian worldview. It presented a worldview which was neither otherworldly nor secular.

The traditional Christian worldview as found in the writings of bishops like Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory of Nazians, who lived in the fourth century, was not otherworldly. It was not this-worldly either. It saw the visible world and the invisible world as parts of one world. It was one-worldly. It does not deny or ignore the other world. It does not deny or ignore this world either. It affirms both parts of the world and sees them as one whole. This view saved me from the otherworldliness with which I grew up.

The traditional Christian worldview of these fathers of the fourth century did not objectify the world. Humanity was seen as an integral part of the world as the brain is to the body or as fruit is to a plant. The earth is our body, and we need to take care of it just as we take care of our own body. It is not something we can manipulate and exploit. This view saved me from the secular worldview I learned from school.

Today I have this integral worldview that sees all that exists as one whole. I am so thankful for this worldview. The author of Human Presence became a hero to me, and he continues a hero. I understand that this worldview has the power to save the world, and propagating this worldview is the mission of life for me now.

We have a problem of global magnitude, and the solution cannot be anything less than global. The problem we are talking about here threatens the very existence of humanity on our planet. Even the very existence of all life forms on this planet may be in jeopardy. This colossal problem has been caused by the worldviews that made us ignore or deny our world, or those that mismanage and exploit it without caring for it. The solution cannot be anything less than adopting a new worldview that lets us see all that exists as one whole. If we search in our inherited traditions, we can unearth so many alternative unifying visions and worldviews that can sustain us.  Paulos Mar Gregorios has set an example by digging deep into the fourth century Eastern Christian tradition and has found an alternative worldview in the thought of Gregory of Nyssa. Mar Gregorios wouldn’t recommend anyone to slavishly adopt this worldview of the fourth century bishop. On the other hand, he would advice us to use this as an example and explore our own alternatives.


Thomas Varghese said...

John,It is great. Very good examples and explanations. This article helps to think more-insight and outlook. Thank you for this article.
Kunjumon(Thomas K Varghese)

susan said...

What about the heat generated by cellphone towers and the radiation from these?

The invisible pollutants (radio waves and other radiation) is our worst threat now