What Are You Giving Up for Lent?February 27, 2013 at 4:04 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
As you perhaps recall from previous posts, I have for many years been a member of an international women’s movement , the Grail, which is located in seventeen countries around the world. I recently wrote a position paper for the Grail’s international Global Justice/Overcoming Poverty network, “Converging Crises: Climate Change and Nuclear Power.”
In this paper, I expand on the painful lesson learned from the meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Japan in March 2011–that the dangers of nuclear power are converging with the extreme weather events that are part of climate change to make life on this planet increasingly hazardous. I begin by detailing the inevitable connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons, to wit, that the same technology is used to produce them both. I also point out that even if this were not the case, nuclear power would be extremely problematic because of the use and pollution of huge quantities of water in the production of nuclear power and the generation by that same production of enormous quantities of waste that remain radioactive for thousands of years. I then discuss the recent return to nuclear power here in the US (after three decades of building no new plants in the wake of the Three Mile Island disaster in 1979) based in the belief that nuclear power does less harm to the environment than fossil-fuel-based energy. Yet the effects of climate change–sea-level rise and extreme weather events–as well as the increase in earthquakes caused by hydro-fracking–call such a belief into question.
In the last section of my paper I wonder aloud about what we can possibly do, since both nuclear power and the fracking of natural gas risk converging with and intensifying rather than solving the problems that accompany climate change. It could be, I suggest, that political action, like the huge turnouts against nuclear power in Germany in the wake of the Fukushima Dai-ichi meltdown, will cause us to renounce these dangerous addictions. But in the end I argue that the essential shift to renewable energy will most surely increase costs across the board and undercut the consumerist lifestyle to which so many of us westerners–myself included–have become accustomed. The only thing that will save us, I suggest, is a “conversion to a more abstemious way of life…a new asceticism, (something like) the great turn to asceticism and community by the Desert Mothers and Fathers of the late 3rd century…who rejected the wordliness of late Roman civilization and the pursuit of riches; instead they practiced self-sacrifice for the sake of the reign of God.” Such a new asceticism, I argue, would be aimed not at suffering as an end in itself but at self-sacrifice for the sustaining of creation.
It seems as if Lent is a great time to undertake such a new asceticism. So what practices for the sake of God’s creation shall we begin–or continue–during these forty days?