Changing American culture is not an easy task - normally we only change out of pure necessity. If history has taught us anything, it is that we are not creatures of change.
We have to see to believe and even then we're skeptical of what we're told.
The thought of climate change or global warming having a negative impact on the world is as foreign to some as the science that proves it. So how do we change the perception of climate change, and, more importantly, how do we change our lifestyles to work toward reversing climate change and living with the consequences of decades of consumption and abuse of the environment?
As far back as elementary school, I can remember talks of a hole in the ozone layer caused by the release of CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) from aerosols and other household and industrial items.
If we knew then that there was an almost certain likelihood that humans were adversely affecting the environment, why were policymakers not working toward solutions as early as 20 years ago?
Probably because we as a society liked to look at conservationist and other environmentalist as extremist, giving them cute little nicknames like tree huggers. Who's laughing now?
The sad story is now - because for so long we as a people have ignored signs and relied too heavily on our governmental officials to tell us what to do, we'll all have to make sacrifices because of the excessive living that has escalated in our country.
We're a nation that likes to buy things - lots of things - and the bigger the better. The more we have the better we are and the higher up the totem pole we are. It's like the elementary school playground - the kid with the coolest toys is king of the hill.
Where does it end?
Probably with a world in distress and catastrophic climate related events - most likely to include mass migration of peoples in various low-lying terrains.
An awakening, however, is happening all over the world it seems, and, at long last, we're taking notice and talking about climate change as real problem not a plot cooked up in a futuristic science fiction novel. Religious organizations along with scientist are forming groups to reduce human greenhouse emissions and effect change in policy making on the governmental level. And, yes, it seems the scientific and religious community might finally have found some common ground.
Even some of the most conservative religious groups in the country are shifting their stance on climate change and human impact on the environment in light of current scientific data involving not only global warming, but the melting of the ice shelf and the higher occurrence of extreme weather events.
The Southern Baptist Convention, in June 2007, issued a resolution on global warming saying, "[we] urge Southern Baptists to proceed cautiously in the human-induced global warming debate in light of conflicting scientific research; and be it further resolved that we consider proposals to regulate CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions based on a maximum acceptable global temperature goal to be very dangerous, since attempts to meet the goal could lead to a succession of mandates of deeper cuts in emissions, which may have no appreciable effect if humans are not the principal cause of global warming, and could lead to major economic hardships on a worldwide scale."
In March of this year, the SBC released a new stance on global warming, calling for more action from its millions of congregants and from its thousands of pastors.
According to a New York Times story published March 10, 44 SBC leaders backed the declaration including the current SBC President the Rev. Frank Page and two former presidents, the Rev. Jack Graham and the Rev. James Merritt.
The new declaration states in part, "We believe our current denominational engagement with this issues has often been too timid, failing to produce a unified moral voice ... Our cautious response to these issues in the face of mounting evidence may be seen by the world as uncaring, reckless and ill-informed."
More and more religious groups have gotten involved in a green movement around the world citing a mandate from God to be better stewards of the environment. Though many tie no particular scripture to an allusion of global warming, Biblical versus pertaining to stewardship ring true for those searching for answers in the Bible.
Whether through science or religion, the United States has to find a new way of living - one with a greater sense of community (in that we live life with regard to how our actions will affect our neighbor).
A cultural shift from success tied to consumption to success tied to the legacy we leave behind needs to happen, not a legacy of an ailing environment and a depleted store of natural resources but a legacy of environmental stewardship and a commitment to the betterment of the human state.
At this point, we as a society have no choice but to take the lead in effecting change. It is up to us as a community to challenge our public officials to, once and for all, take a stand and begin to enact rule in the way of climate change.
A proactive electorate is needed because, if we've learned anything from the past, governmental knee-jerk reactions generally are more painful and less effective than real planning and legislation.
Robby Byrd is the editor of The Covington News. He can be reached at rbyrd@covnews.