I wasn’t meditating on a mountaintop when the idea came to produce a documentary about climate change. I was at a Rudy’s Barbecue. My wife and I had just moved to the Albuquerque area. I had been traveling the world for years doing missionary work. While we enjoyed the life of ministry, it became clear that God was moving us on to something new. For no other reason than to have a little fun, I had started taking acting classes, but Rhiannon wasn’t so hot on the idea. She knew that whatever I threw myself into would have to have a sense of purpose, or I wouldn’t be happy. Her exact words to me on our lunch date were: “If you’re going to make films. Why not make films that matter?” That was all I needed. Within a few weeks, I hired a director and was off to the Appalachian mountain region filming a story about Christian college students doing community health surveys in towns impacted by mountain top removal.
As I talk to people about the urgency of climate change, a consistent response I get is that nobody really knows what to do about it, which isn’t true at all, but I think that too often climate change communicators with Ph.D’s speak above the average person.
So let me put it plainly.
In order to mitigate the worse effects of climate change, the world has to come together and do two things:
1. Stop burning oil, gas, and coal.
2. Plant lots of trees.
No more blowing up mountains for six inches of coal. No new pipelines. Don’t even think about drilling in ANWR or expanding offshore drilling. Immediately transition to clean, renewable energy like wind, solar, geothermal, hydro -power, and bio-fuels…..And plant lots of trees.
As controversial as some of these things are, the fascinating discovery I’ve made in the process of making this film is that everything we need to do to combat climate change are things that we need to do anyway for reasons unrelated to climate change. So, if you’re a person who believes that global warming is a U.N. inspired socialist conspiracy designed to steal your freedoms and implement a one -world government, sorry to break the news to you, but it doesn’t really matter. The things that the 97% of the world’s climate scientists who are allegedly in on the conspiracy say we have to do—well, we still have to do them.
For one thing, fossil fuels are finite. We will run out of them. Virtually every aspect of modern society—from transportation to electricity to plastics, cosmetics, and food production—depends heavily on fossil fuels that will eventually be gone. Once we run out of fossil fuels, if the world hasn’t made the transition to 100% renewable energy, then down goes civilization as we know it. Transitioning away from finite energy to renewable energy is something the Bible would call prudence, and something others would call common sense.
Then there are the health and water issues.
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the pollution from coal plants is literally making us sick . This is especially true in areas impacted by mountain top removal, where communities in the Appalachian region have seen increases in cancer, heart attacks and asthma. Coal plants also spew toxins, particulates, and mercury, which seep into our air and our water, causing all kinds of health problems, which also raise health care costs. Coal plants also require billions of gallons of water to cool them. So if you believe that everyone should have a right to clean air and clean water, and that water should be conserved as much as possible, then you’re halfway there. Not only do coal plant pollution, and—to a lesser extent— natural gas fracking, use insane amounts of water, they also poison our air and our water, which in turn makes our children sicker.
Let’s talk about trees.
According to Carbonfund.org , deforestation contributes 20% of the CO2 emissions that are warming the planet and placing human survival in danger, but even if you think that’s 100% malarkey, it’s still a good idea to plant trees. Deforestation increases contaminants from soil erosion. It also causes less rain to fall, which in turn affects food production. A simple way to clean up pollution, bring more rain to drought-stricken areas, increase food production, and restore a healthy ecosystem is to reforest the earth, whether by planting trees or by allowing trees to grow back naturally.
In all of my studies into climate change solutions, I haven’t found a single solution that doesn’t have an additional positive benefit unrelated to climate change. Changing light bulbs, insulating your home, and installing solar panels are all good for the environment, but they happen to be good for your pocketbook too. Riding your bike to work is good for the environment. It also happens to be good for your health.
Lastly, with apologies to Rudy’s Barbecue, methane is the gas that cows produce when they fart. It’s also a greenhouse gas that traps heat 22 times more powerfully than CO2 (though it doesn’t stay in the atmosphere as long), so in addition to planting trees and burning fewer fossil fuels, we should all be eating less red meat. Isn’t it strange that one of the primary things your doctor says you should do to reduce your cholesterol is to eat less red meat? Why not chicken or fish?
It’s as if God, or if you prefer—the universe—is telling us something.
Aaron Taylor is the producer of We Know Not What We Do.