Johnny Townsend: Mormons know how to adjust to things like climate change
(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune)
Students gather to call for action on climate change at the Utah Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday March 15, 2019.
We all know the stressful changes required to mitigate climate crisis. We understand the necessity of giving up oil and coal and natural gas. We know we must drastically cut meat consumption, divert tax money from the military budget into developing an entirely new infrastructure that can support renewable energy.
Adapting to such massive changes seems too awful to contemplate. So we simply pretend it isn’t necessary and go about our lives as usual.
What happens when a diabetic decides that daily finger pricks, daily injections and daily deprivations are just too much to ask and refuses to comply with the strict regimen?
Does their diabetes go away?
Precancerous polyps don’t go away because we avoid colonoscopies, either.
The glaciers in Greenland won’t miraculously stop melting if we refuse to listen to factual coverage of climate change.
It’s important to remember we are capable of doing legitimately difficult things. In fact, most of us already have.
As Mormons, we make difficult adjustments throughout our lives. Many of us work for two years as full-time volunteer missionaries. We adjust to prolonged separation from our family and friends, to ridiculously frugal budgets, to living with assigned companions 24/7, to constant monitoring of our emails. We can’t read newspapers, surf the internet, watch TV, go to a movie or listen to anything other than approved music. We learn new languages and cultures, adapt to different climates.
Upon returning home, Mormons must adapt again to their native culture, which is surprisingly almost as hard as leaving it was to begin with. We adapt to short engagements, quickly followed by a household of five or six children.
As a gay Mormon, I had to adjust to total abandonment by my friends, to a life without the church that had been the focus of my existence. Ex-Mormons face a similar traumatic adjustment to their new normal.
If a convert to Mormonism can give up coffee, tea, alcohol and tobacco to save his soul, why can’t we give up meat to save civilization?
We are perfectly capable of making whatever adaptations we must to reduce greenhouse gases and limit the extent of global suffering.
We all know someone who’s been forced to change careers. I went from teaching English to experimenting on rat brains to delivering mail to processing equity loans. In today’s economy, few of us will escape the enormous difficulties associated with career change. Those working in oil and coal and fracking can do it as well. And the rest of us can accept the burden of helping them accomplish it.
A native of New Orleans, I evacuated with one suitcase two days before Hurricane Katrina and never saw my apartment again. I relocated to Seattle and started my life over at the age of 44.
If we can disrupt our lives to cope with the devastating effects of climate change, we can make the necessary adjustments to combat that climate change.
Everyone of every religion and every culture faces extreme difficulties. It’s part of mortality. What’s extraordinary about humans is that we even seek out difficulties on purpose. We climb Mt. Everest. We push ourselves to the limit for a five-year career in gymnastics. We spend months or years in Antarctica studying penguins. We fly to the moon, we live aboard space stations, we choose careers deactivating bombs. We spend our lives serving others as teachers, nurses, physicians, and firefighters. As bishops, Sunday School teachers and Relief Society presidents.
Mormons believe we’ve come to Earth for the purpose of being tested to our absolute limits.
We can adjust to whatever changes we must to reduce carbon emissions. The truth is, if we don’t do something hard now, we’ll be left with no choice but to face even more severe adjustments later.
Mormons left their homes in Europe and other parts of the world and crossed the Plains on foot to start new lives in the desert.
We can adjust to climate combat.
So let’s start singing the Handcart song and get to work.
Johnny Townsend, op-ed mug.
Johnny Townsend, Seattle, is the author of “Behind the Bishop’s Door” and many other collections of Mormon short stories. His latest book of essays, “Human Compassion for Beginners,” was recently released by BookLocker.