In Wichita and many other communities across Kansas, more than a month of high temperatures and no rain has harmed crops and triggered water conservation efforts. The swimming pool in my Holiday Inn is closed. There’s no drain plug in the bath – a hint to take short showers only, perhaps?
Whether global climate change is behind this is controversial. Yes, says a scientist from the National Center for Atmospheric Research: “When climate change and natural variability happen in the same direction, that’s when records get broken.” Others disagree. On blogs about the weather and human behavior, a lot of name-calling is going around.
In the clamor, I’ve been encountering darker, more pessimistic views about what lies ahead of us. “I am not about despair, but I am leaving hope up to someone else,” one young man told me. A friend who consults with businesses on sustainability no longer believes that her work will have any impact on the near future. She says she is working for people in the far distant future—the small group of humans who will survive whatever comes next. And responding to a climate question in a lecture on gardening, writer Jamaica Kincaid shrugged her shoulders and said: we are ephemeral. The world lasts. People don’t.
For an optimist who lives by the saying, “hope is the ability to hear the music of the future. Faith is dancing to its tune,” this was hard to take. But my friends who hear a dirge have a point. Maybe our actions have little immediate impact. Maybe no one cares. Maybe temperatures will rise, rainfall decrease, ocean currents change direction, disasters overwhelm us, and our era on earth draw to a close. We don’t know. Instead of being optimistic or pessimistic, we can let go of the outcome, and strive to make choices now and live in ways today that care for the earth and its future residents.
Weeds are growing in the Little Arkansas River bed. Wells are dry. The Kansans at this weekend’s Glocal Mission Gathering can only pray for rain. Act on their new-found solidarity with people contending with drought and famine in the Horn of Africa. Remember that God is good, and turn off the tap water.
Thank you for your hopeful music, Kansas. May it rain soon.
Anne Basye, Sustaining Simplicity