Noah, Climate Change Hero

Noah is a timely hero. Whatever Hollywood makes of his story, in the Bible Noah is a just man who believes that catastrophic climate change is upon him, and acts. According to Jesus’ account of the ancient narrative (Luke 17:27) “Everybody kept on eating and drinking, men and women married, up to the very day Noah went into the ark and the flood came and destroyed them all.” The crucial gospel warning to be heard is that humans resist believing the need to change their ways--even to save themselves.

Transposed to today’s global warming crisis the question is similar: why aren’t people more aroused and eagerly mobilizing to meet the destructive threat? Psychology can offer its own explanations. Fear and anxiety are known to induce the defense of denial and avoidance. It’s too awful to think about, so put it out of mind. Or alternately, people seek comfort in "a pathology of hope": don’t worry, something is sure to turn up and rescue us. Besides, what can individuals like ourselves do anyway? A "learned helplessness" keeps us paralyzed since we have previously been unable to solve such large problems. Then again, if others around us aren’t upset we excuse ourselves and go along eating and drinking with the careless crowd. No one wants to rock the boat or "force others out of their comfort zone," as the saying goes. Changes that curtail our freedom and habitual way of life provoke reactance and resistance. If we’re all right here and now, living good lives, must we worry about those others in faraway places, or distant futures?


Dark reflections on these questions carry us back to the Noah narrative and the bitter comments of Jesus. We read in Exodus that the flood came to destroy the earth because men were corrupt and completely mired in violence. Today we also have violent and corrupt social systems in which persons and groups routinely put greed for corporate profits and selfish interests first--way, way, before instituting costly ecological changes for the common good. Noah, as a "just man" was capable of listening, believing and going to work. Will we raise up enough just people to survive?

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Stanley Kopacz
4 years 9 months ago
It's been said that genetics points to a bottleneck in the human population around 70,000 years ago due to a super volcanic explosion and ecosystem collapse. Right now, we are headed toward disaster of our own making. If contemporary man lacks the foresight to change, how small might be the human remnant after the collapse, if any survive. How devastated and simplified and barren will be the ecosystem the survivors would have to survive in? Will they remember the follies of their ancestors (us) and co-evolve with the newly complexifying ecosystem and new species to come up with a new type of world? I prefer to fight the collapse, degradation and extinction of the world and species God called good. But, on the back burner, I keep the hope that if we screw up, God will reach into God's big bag of possibilities and save and renew once more. Also, God could upgrade another critter and try again.
J Cosgrove
4 years 9 months ago
Also, God could upgrade another critter and try again.
I sort of follow the Yoda view when it comes to God, "Do. Or do not. There is no try." As far as new species, they do not arise so readily. We will be stuck with what we have now though some will adapt to the new environment if it should come about. Though it seems reasonable to nearly everyone, science cannot point to one instance of a new species arising from another. It is one of the dirty little secrets of science. From this review:
But where is the experimental evidence? None exists in the literature claiming that one species has been shown to evolve into another. Bacteria, the simplest form of independent life, are ideal for this kind of study, with generation times of 20 to 30 minutes, and populations achieved after 18 hours. But throughout 150 years of the science of bacteriology, there is no evidence that one species of bacteria has changed into another, in spite of the fact that populations have been exposed to potent chemical and physical mutagens and that, uniquely, bacteria possess extrachromosomal, transmissible plasmids. Since there is no evidence for species changes between the simplest forms of unicellular life, it is not surprising that there is no evidence for evolution from prokaryotic to eukaryotic cells, let alone throughout the whole array of higher multicellular organisms.
Bill Mazzella
4 years 9 months ago
"Today we also have violent and corrupt social systems in which persons and groups routinely put greed for corporate profits and selfish interests first--way, way, before instituting costly ecological changes for the common good." Even the International Monetary Fund is recognizing now that the increasing fiscal inequities are threatening stability in society. The rise in the minimum wage is a good start. And there is Francis making a strong appeal. These may be good signs of some change. Maybe we will even get another Ted Hesburgh to lead the environmental rehab.
Bruce Snowden
4 years 9 months ago
Not everything in the Bible is accurately pictured, something like a Thomas Kinkade painting, where exaggerated light gives a beautiful, but an unreal outcome. Such is the story of Noah I think, a beautiful outcome, a message, but unlike Kinkade’s use of exaggerated light, the message of the Noah story is shrouded in exaggerated darkness, mystery. Things certainly didn’t happen the way it’s pictured. What is the message? Is it that all creation must collectively come together to preserve its resources, under leadership of the human family such as Noah’s? That’s a good guess and I like it. I’ve never heard of an ecological meaning to the Noah story, but it does make sense. As with everything in the Bible there’s a primary meaning, followed by secondary, tertiary and as many other meanings that the Spirit might inspire for personal individual benefit. Thus I think, the primary meaning of the Noah story is about the Providence of God looking out not only for the wellbeing of materiality, which God called “Good,” at the creation, but for the spiritual needs of humanity as well, delivered primarily through the flow of the water of Baptism, poured over the head and down the face, of recipients, the way people drown in a torrential flood, head and body engulfed in water, as the Orthodox Church does in Baptism. Those wining and dining and engaging in unrestrained sexuality to the very end, unmindful of what Jesus would later call “the better part,” were swept away in reprobation, imaging “everlasting death” of those who choose to irrevocably turn their backs on the pursuit of Goodness, namely God and it is a choice. But for a moment getting back to Noah as an ecological sign, it is interesting to note that God is not “choosey” so to speak, or maybe he is precisely “choosey” about who gets the “call” to proclaim and live out a message from God. God chose Moses who was a murderer, David who was an adulterer AND Noah who was a drunk, unintended but one who got good and plastered at least once! The Good Book says God showed Noah how to ferment grapes and told him to drink thereof to “make the heart of humankind happy!” Noah forgot about the fermenting grapes and when he remembered he took a swig of the liquid and got good and drunk! The point is God left it up to human experience to learn HOW to use his gifts, much the same as he has left the good earth in our care to learn HOW to properly care for it. That’s another application of learned ecological sensitivity relative to the Noah story, respectful of the way the Biblical writer told the story, but probably I think, part of the storytelling “mythos” of the First Five Books of God’s holy Word. But I am no Biblical scholar. However, when it comes to Hollywood messing around with scripture it complicates the story sometimes to the point of fallaciousness. Those with at least foundational scriptural knowledge cringe, anti-religionists mock its farcical presentation, Believers accept as they wonder. I don’t think Hollywood is capable of doing a good Biblical movie. That’s why I haven’t seen the movie Noah, nor do I intend to see it. So then, probably I ought to keep my big mouth shut?


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