Climate change isn’t just a matter of degrees


In the course of our discussion about consumer ethics on Sunday, Melissa gave a shout-out to Whole Foods Market for making its seafood section just a little leaner.  The high-end market chain last week blacklisted fish that have been rated red – the color assigned to seafood that’s been overfished, or is caught in a way that threatens other species.

The talk of the table was how Whole Foods’ philosophy of holistic interdependence might serve as a model for how to carve out social policy positions based on ethics. Staking out a progressive environmental policy position, informed by the mutual benefit of all parties involved (including the planet, and us), puts into practice the belief that the needs of others and of ourselves are one in the same.

Christians call that “almsgiving,” and it is at the heart of the Lenten season which culminates this upcoming Sunday with Easter. And whether, for you, Easter Sunday means redemption and resurrection, it means discounted chocolate eggs and jellybeans on the day after, or both – if you’re not already, it’s time to become a believer when it comes to the environment as a moral concern.

The World Health Organization has stats from the year 2000 on deaths caused by climate change all over the planet. You’ll see that on this map included in their report, the darker the shade, the more people that died – and usually, they are some of the world’s most vulnerable citizens, living in developing nations.

Similarly, a UN climate panel sounded the alarm from Geneva last week about the frequency and severity of extreme weather changes due to climate change – and about those who are hardest hit. (The video above is an overview.)

From the report, emphasis mine:

Economic disaster losses associated with weather, climate, and geophysical events are higher in developed countries. Fatality rates are higher in developing countries. From 1970 to 2008, more than 95% of deaths from natural disasters were in developing countries.

In other words? We pay the price in dollars, while those in developing countries pay in lives lost.

We all share collectively in the causes of climate change. But its costs fall heaviest on the most exposed, unprotected populations who are least equipped with the resources to respond and recover from natural disaster (as so many in Melissa’s hometown of New Orleans understand all too well). And whether it’s the environment – or housing, healthcare, food justice, or education – building good policy to address any of these issues might begin with consulting what Jesus would say: that whatever we do to the least among us, we also do to ourselves.

Postscript: our segment concerning consumer ethics is embedded after the jump.

Climate change isn't just a matter of degrees