Those of us who lived through the 1980s have not forgotten the rush of “relief concerts” that followed the USA for Africa “Live-Aid” concert for famine relief in Ethiopia. On the heels of “We Are the World,” Willie Nelson organized “Farm Aid” to provide relief for foreclosing family farms. Other musicians put together concerts for various causes, from opposition to South African apartheid to third world debt relief. The 1980s are back, but the issues are bigger than saving the children or saving the farmers. We’re rocking to save the whole planet.
Former Vice President Al Gore’s “Live Earth” concert this weekend demonstrates something of how culturally popular the crusade against global warming can be. The truth really isn’t all that inconvenient for most Americans, because the “solution” to global warming seems so abstract and distant that few Americans can picture how exactly fixing the problem would change their lives at all, beyond listening to concerts and watching Al Gore documentaries. I am hopeful, however, about this debate, precisely because it is, at its heart, deeply theological.
I am a conservative and a conservationist. I may be to the left of most of my fellow Southern Baptists on environmental issues. I believe government has a role in restraining corporate America from poisoning our eco-system, just as government has a role in restraining corporate America from poisoning our culture. I believe in wetlands protection, in the national parks system, and in most of the environmental laws passed since the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency in the 1970s. I am horrified to see woodlands and forests mown down to put up another Home Depot, and believe there ought to be common-sense zoning laws to keep Outback Steakhouse and Wal-Mart from taking over the countryside like so much kudzu. And yet, I am disturbed by the ideology behind much of the religious rhetoric behind the global warming debate.