How My Faith Guides My Environmental Activism
“Tikkun Olam” is Hebrew for “repair of the world.” During my schooling, teachers would discuss the phrase from a very broad sense. It has, nonetheless, reverberated with me since the end of middle school. It is a simple phrase, yet its meaning conveys something much deeper to the human experience. Hebrew scholars have for thousands of years discussed our human duty to repair what has been broken. “The world” may be taken narrowly or broadly, but one thing is certain: previous generations discussed the necessity of creating a better, brighter future. Despite my physical disconnect from nature in suburban Georgia, I view it as my duty to make the world a better place and to be part of something greater than myself.
I’ve grown up in suburban Georgia for the majority of my life. Georgia is covered heavily with trees; in fact, Georgia ranks #1 for commercially available timberland, annual timber harvest volume, and exporter of pulp, paper, and paperboard mill products. Our climate is typically humid and warm, with few very cold days each year. I have grown to appreciate all that it provides. Georgia is known for its peaches and peanuts, as well as its man-made products like Coca-Cola; and Georgia’s economy is slowly diversifying and becoming one of the best in the country, with Atlanta attracting top talent and top companies from around the world.
Market forces have worked exceptionally well globally. Those living in extreme global poverty fell to around 10 percent of the total population in 2015 from 44 percent in 1981. Data was first tracked beginning in 1820 with 84 percent of the world living in extreme poverty and falling to the figure previously mentioned. We have made tremendous strides in the reduction of global poverty.
Market forces have brought billions of people out of poverty, so it seems likely that these same forces can reduce and eliminate pollution. Man-made pollution has been around since the first humans, but it has become a major issue since the Industrial Revolution. Sulfur Dioxide emissions continue to fall in the Americas and in Europe, as emissions increase in Africa and Asia. As nations become wealthier, it becomes evident that they promote causes such as environmentalism and human rights. Africa and Asia are undergoing economic advancement as many nations are developing, which helps to explain the increase in global pollution levels. In addition, developing nations like India and China each boast over 1 billion people, which creates further issues. The crux of my argument is that market forces have created wealth for many countries and these forces need to be applied to combat climate change.
Climate change or global warming has largely been a Democrat talking-point in my lifetime. I always associate the topic with Al Gore and his movie, “Inconvenient Truth.” I have found the partisan talk around climate change to be perplexing, because it affects all of us. This issue can no longer remain partisan if we hope to minimize the effects of climate change. Conservatives and Libertarians must acknowledge the reality that humans are having an effect on our climate, and Progressives must seek common ground if we are to make any real difference.
The American Conservation Coalition is a Millennial-led environmental advocacy organization, and its principal mission is to advocate for environmentalism from a conservative political perspective. It seeks to promote market-oriented solutions to environmental problems. Market forces have proven effective and efficient, despite concerns from Leftists. Market-oriented solutions do not mean that we believe in abolishing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-- in fact, I believe the EPA does a lot of good for Americans. What is evident is that regulation is insufficient and largely inefficient in combating pollution.
There is something genuinely exciting about human innovation in the environmental space. Science has opened up human beings to fantastic new realms of possibility, including aircrafts, automobiles, and military technology. Innovation in this space can provide new products or alternative energies. Homes were once entirely made of wood or brick, but now they can even be made from recycled plastics or carbon dioxide infused bricks. Science and prosperity go hand-in-hand. These two principles ought to lead the way in our fight towards a sustainable, productive future.
“Tikkun olam” has been the guiding principle in my environmental activism; I believe that embracing markets rather than overly aggressive regulation ought to solve many of our problems. Markets do overlook certain inefficiencies and that is where we should focus our governmental efforts. Environmentalism can no longer be a partisan matter if we are to avoid the long-term negative effects of climate change.