Conflicting values? Or just selfishness?

Posted on April 30, 2010 by elcaworldhunger

I”m struggling today with my willingness to contribute to the causes world hunger. I read Peter Sawtell’s “Eco-Justice Notes” from Friday, April 24. In it, he talks about the eruption of Ejyafjallajokull and the ash that disrupted flights around the world. Mr. Sawtell says:

“The interconnection of commerce, culture and climate has become real. I made a comment to friends last weekend that what we were seeing in Europe may be just a taste of how the world will soon change. The dramatic scale of action that is needed to minimize global heating should mean that the travel and trade that we now take for granted will be seen as luxuries. If we are responsible in dealing with climate change, then we will no longer see fresh produce rushed around the world. The short business trips and quick vacations to far-away lands that now seem routine will be a thing of the past. The quiet skies over Europe may be the new “normal” within a few decades.”

What? I can’t fly anymore!?

Now, I know how bad flying is for the atmosphere and the climate. I’ve known that for a long time. And I know how bad climate change is for everyone, but especially those living in poverty. Still, somehow this particular article hit me more personally than others, and I bristled as I came face to face with a problem: I love to travel, and I’m not ready to give it up. I’d even go so far as to say I value travel. Not only do I find it enjoyable, but I think I’m a more educated, appreciative, and broader-minded person because of the places I’ve seen and people I’ve encountered. Travel has changed my perceptions and enhanced my life. I want to do more of it, and I’m not likely to tell others to knock it off, either. (In fact, I know some folks who could really benefit from some global exposure!) But here Mr. Sawtell tells me my actions are irresponsible. If I’m serious about tackling climate change, I need to stop with the elective flying. And I see his point. I don’t want to trash the planet. I don’t want to add to the burdens already borne by those living in poverty. And I wouldn’t have to go anywhere. Which leaves me wondering: when your values clash, which one wins? How do you choose, and then how do you live with the choice?

What do you think? Insights welcome…

-Nancy Michaelis

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