Hey, I’m all in favor of helping fellow human beings in distress, but
But? There’s a “but”?
Yep. Here’s the thing. When I was studying theology in a seminary many years ago, one professor reflected on the well-known biblical story of the good Samaritan. In it, a Samaritan traveler comes upon a man lying beaten and robbed on the roadside. He promptly gives aid, transports the man to town and arranges food and lodging for him, and tells the innkeeper that he will foot the bill.
What a good guy, we all think. And we’re right, up to a point, said my professor. But he then asked, “Suppose the Samaritan encounters another victim the next day, and the next, and the next, and the next. At what point does his patching up their wounds become a far less praiseworthy use of his time, energy and money than doing something about public safety on that roadway?”
His question pestered me when I read of the latest $100 million allocation of your money and mine to help New Jersey shore residents lift their homes onto stilts, the better to withstand the next onslaught from a Mother Nature whose temper seems a little hot these days.
This $100 million gesture may feel good to some, but it’s easy to overlook what it represents: namely, adaptation.
So, what’s wrong with adaptation? Like the Samaritan’s initial gesture, nothing. It’s only when we set adaptation next to the alternative — mitigation — that it triggers a question about the wisest, most humane course of action.
The issue of adaptation vs. mitigation is not widely or well understood. Put simply, we have a choice regarding the expenditure of any given dollar to be spent in the general arena of climate change: Spend it to adapt to a changing climate or spend it to diminish the change in the climate.
While it is inevitable at this point that we must invest in both, the proportion of allocation to each strategy is critical. When we choose to invest in adaptation, we admit that climate change is happening, is damaging, is unstoppable and we’re going to do the best we can to limit the inevitable destruction of human lives, property, economies and world peace. Think: stilts for houses.
When we choose to invest in mitigation, we tackle the causes of climate change, some, if not most of which, are driven by the staggeringly out-of-control increases of carbon emissions and other byproducts of our worldwide industrialized society. Mitigation sets out simultaneously to reduce those emissions and to devise geo-engineering solutions such as carbon capture and sequestration…….
My own recommendation is to join a group such as the Citizens’ Climate Lobby (citizensclimatelobby.org), where a well-informed, nonpartisan team helps ordinary folks like us to understand the issues, voice our concerns and effectively assert our preferred solutions.
It’s time to become a player. Really, it is.