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?