How To Be a Good Steward and Give a Shit

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It’s a hell of a time to be alive! Since taking the inaugural oath, President Trump has signed twelve executive orders and twelve presidential memorandums, striding forward aggressively to fulfill promises made during his campaign.

These documents establish precedents for many issues ranging from immigration and deregulation to trade and infrastructure. They restore construction on two controversial pipelines, enact a ban on individuals arriving from seven Middle Eastern countries, eliminate funding for abortion on an international scale, and establish guidelines for deporting illegal immigrants.

Our nation is in an uproar right now, and the world is changing by the hour. These are all important things that I wish to research and discuss, but they’re topics for another day.

Today, I’m gonna go dirty hippie on you.

Let’s Talk About Climate Change

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It IS happening! 😳
It ISN’T happening. 🙄
The oceans are becoming more acidic! 😳
Hippie tree huggers are blocking valuable jobs. 😤
But sea levels are rising! 😨
Clean energy isn’t worth the investment. 😡
But the ice is melting! 😨
It’s too complex to say that humans are responsible! 🤔
WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!! 😩

Whoa. Breathe, y’all! This stuff is incredibly important, and I want you to care and be involved, but stop shouting and improve your argument. No matter where you stand on climate change that isn’t the point anyway.

The point is that we should be good stewards of the world we have been given, because (for NOW, ahem, science) it’s the only one we’ve got, and it’s our responsibility to find solutions that harness a variety of natural resources while leaving the smallest possible footprint.

For this blog, we will take some things for granted. I am, and always will be, a politically moderate individual. Most likely, we share many core beliefs and values, but that doesn’t mean we’ll agree on everything. However, I will safely assume you fine folks get out of bed every morning with the intention to do right by yourself and the other people in your life.

While many individuals do adhere to a world religion, many others do not. The religious references and examples are simply used to illustrate a consensus across humankind about how we should treat one another and interact with our environment.

Climate Change Believers

mountains-1246623_1920Climate change adherents collect data from a wide variety of sources to support their theory. NASA studies atmospheric conditions and phenomena, ice and sea levels, extreme weather events, vegetation characteristics, water supply/quality, and of course, they collect temperature data from deep down on the sea floor all the way up into space. Approximately 97% of the global scientific community agrees on humanity’s role in climate change.

We know that earth’s surface and atmospheric temperatures have risen over the last century by 1.5 ℉ and 1.1 ℉ respectively. Glacial ice is melting, sea levels are rising, and the oceans are becoming more acidic. These small changes in temperature and sea levels contribute to more extreme weather events and influence patterns of drought and precipitation.

Scientists collect information about climate change in a variety of ways. They test the quality, composition, and temperature of our air and water. Extreme weather events are recorded and studied. Satellites observe wind, rain, surface temperatures, and chemical levels within the atmosphere. Researchers analyze how these fluctuations impact ecosystems, human health, and develop alternative energy sources.

Climate change research influences opinion and policy worldwide. Since the 1970’s, regulations have expanded to include air, water, pesticides, waste, emergency management, and toxic substances. Congress authorized the Environmental Protection Agency to create and enforce these laws for individuals, companies, nonprofits, and various levels of government. Opponents of environmental regulation believe it stifles economic growth and development.

Climate Change Skeptics

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My inner academic appreciates skepticism, and she enjoyed exploring the dissenting opinions on climate change. It is important to disagree, and devil’s advocates don’t allow room for complacency. Disagreement is a crucial element of progress, alongside curiosity, passion, and persistence.

The skeptics believe the data isn’t compelling enough for the scientific community to reach such an overwhelming consensus. They argue that the world is much more complicated than current scientific models can represent or imitate. Many believe that drastic changes in policy and technology are not necessary and would rather focus on present, pressing issues such as illness and hunger. Many others don’t disagree with the fact that our climate is changing, but instead, question the extent of human influence on those changes.

Our climate is a complex, ever-changing equilibrium. The balance of variables that sustain life on Earth have many influences. Things such as water vapor, clouds, and the absorption of sunlight also affect atmospheric temperatures. Carbon dioxide is toxic at certain levels, but also necessary for life. It is an essential component of photosynthesis and plants thrive on it. Factors such as altitude, topography, wind and proximity to the ocean all affect climate and the data collected about it.

Skeptics question how reliable and consistent the data is, both from modern collection techniques and reverse engineering practices that use samples of tree rings and ice cores to synthesize data throughout history. They wonder if climate scientists are biased by preconceived notions. What if politics and popular opinion influence the analyses of the data they collect?

Stewardship

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“Stewardship is an ethic that embodies the responsible planning and management of resources.”

The concept of stewardship stems from assumptions about our social responsibility. Particularly, our duty to perform the care and keeping of the Earth to the best of our ability. During my research for this article I found a pair of questions framing the debate for stewardship:

“Are humans an equal part of a greater organism which they should therefore respect, serve and nourish? Or is the very purpose of that organism to serve and nourish the human race?”

That anyone would conclude our ultimate dominion over the Earth strikes me as both quite typical and impressively arrogant. Yes, it is human nature to conquer things and exploit them. We can observe these behaviors from the earliest settlements up through history to present day, where our pharmaceutical companies look at treatments in terms of profits, and we still battle about civil liberties and human rights around the globe.

But despite this natural inclination, mindlessly exploiting the Earth is literally a death sentence. It’s suicide for the entire species. And it’s not just about atmospheric carbon or sea levels. Everything is connected and polluting our water supplies will only poison our lands. Policies and practices that nurture biodiversity impact everything from food production to human and environmental health. The green, growing things clean our air and produce our food. Why wouldn’t we do everything we can to care for them?

All world religions endorse the concept of responsible stewardship in one way or another. Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism all agree that the Earth is a gift and while we are allowed to enjoy the bounty, we should not be destructive or wasteful. Over 80% of the world has faith. This unity is significant when examining our responsibility to Earth and each other.

While reading about stewardship, I came across an article that laid out four sound principles for those of us who wish to coexist peacefully with our environments.

• Ownership implies control, and obviously, humans are at the top of the food chain. To be an active caretaker, we must acknowledge our possession of the land and resources that need to be protected and conserved.
• Responsibility stems from a belief in personal accountability. In everyday life, you clean up your messes and put things back where you found them. The same rules apply to the land we depend on for our existence. Responsibility is how we perform mindful possession of our property.
• Accountability is a brand of social justice. As stewards, we are held accountable for the choices we make and how they will affect future generations. Much like we created governments and legal systems to organize and police our actions and reactions, participating in an ecosystem requires similar rules. Just like violating social norms and established rules has consequences, failing to protect and preserve our environment will have unpleasant results.
• From a religious standpoint, our reward is the blessing of God and joy in the afterlife. From an environmental perspective, the rewards of stewardship are similar to a low-risk investment. Creating and implementing policies and practices that preserve Earth’s integrity and efficiently use all available resources will return a healthy, habitable world for future generations.

It’s All About Balance

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Every action has a reaction. Perhaps the scientific consensus has been manipulated by global warming’s popularity and the potential for funding. Perhaps the data is correct but our assumptions about it are not, and the Earth warms and cools naturally on its own. Perhaps the system is more complex than we understand. Or, perhaps carelessness and negligence have kickstarted a devastating cycle we must now scramble to diffuse.

No matter how the data has been manipulated or interpreted, that’s still not the point! The point is, we should be coordinating every aspect of our environment to produce the best possible outcome! Being a good steward doesn’t mean just focusing on clean energy, ecological conservation, or water pollution. It’s important to acknowledge how all those things, plus a multitude of others, work together… because that’s precisely how ecosystems function.

Technology and telecommunication have connected a world full of possibilities. We can create clean energy products that work in tandem with carbon supplies such as natural gas, oil, and coal in the most efficient possible manner. Infrastructure projects can harness local resources and capitalize on the solar, wind, or hydroelectric power available in their areas. Chile has near-perfect conditions for solar power: a combination of altitude and minimal cloud cover produce 196MW of electricity from 775,000 solar panels in the Atacama Desert. It’s enough energy to power an entire city! The idea is to find what works where, apply it, and supplement it with carbon products.

Then, pair these energy solutions with thoughtful urban design, creating cities that are both aesthetically pleasing and environmentally sound. Integrated planning balances natural and man-made elements, establishes a network of green spaces, incorporates clean energy elements and utilizes versatile spaces and multiple transportation options. These principles create cities that work symbiotically with both their occupants and their location to preserve the region’s natural, historical and cultural qualities.

Sustainable agriculture is another important part of leaving the smallest footprint. Large scale industrial farming relies on monoculture, which depletes the soil. Dousing fields with carefully engineered fertilizers and pesticides destroys natural biodiversity. Sustainable agriculture practices crop and livestock rotation to keep the soil healthy and pests to a minimum. Natural fertilizers and compost feed the plants. Nothing is wasted. Intensive farming practices maximize food production and allow farmers a greater variety of growing options and the ability to meet local demand.

Give a Shit

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Being a good steward means giving a shit. We should care about how our natural resources are used. We should care about air, land, and water quality. We should carefully manage our wildlife and forests. We should nurture our land and livestock.

Why? Because it’s OURS and we should take care of our things!

What do you think? GREAT! Have an opinion. Read. Question everything. Be curious. Get involved in your community. Our time here is short, and it’s a big, beautiful world. Take good care of it, take good care of yourself, and be grateful for the experience.

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Want to know more? Here’s all my research! Feel free to explore the links below!

http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/26/politics/executive-orders-presidents-actions-presidential-memoranda/

https://climate.nasa.gov/news/

http://www.governing.com/columns/eco-engines/Do-Environmental-Regulations-Hurt.html

http://bechtel.colorado.edu/~silverst/cven5534/Economic%20Impact%20Environ.%20Regulation.pdf

http://www.drroyspencer.com/my-global-warming-skepticism-for-dummies/

https://www.reference.com/science/factors-affect-climate-8c9ac2baa9a625f9

http://www.climateandweather.net/global-warming/factors-that-influence-climate.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stewardship

http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/01/27/eco.about.religion/

https://tifwe.org/four-principles-of-biblical-stewardship/

http://www.economist.com/news/americas/21711307-power-andean-sun-latin-america-set-become-leader-alternative-energy

https://seattlehousing.org/redevelopment/pdf/YT_Urban_Design_Case_Studies.pdf

https://www.asla.org/sustainableurbandevelopment.aspx

http://www.sare.org

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