Why aren’t Mormons Green?

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I have lived here in the UK -London for 20 years now and when friends and family come over they sometimes comment on how green we are over here. They observe that most of us dry our clothes on the  line, drive much smaller cars, live in shoe box’s compared to the average size of an American home, walk to the shops, use long life low wattage low energy bulbs, changing windows over for double glazing, doubling up on insulation, are becoming more obsessive about recycling, drive low emission high mpg diesel cars, save left over food, food portions at restaurants smaller and public transport used far more often and readily available.

It amazes some of the Brits when they go to Utah to see how big the houses are especially in many cases for so few people who live in them.  Huge Ford Explorers, steak dinners that could feed a typical family of four.  When they go for the first time they come back thinking that it’s a land of excess.

I know there have been many of the changes I have described above happening in Utah and throughout the states but there is not quite the buzz or emphasis on it that I see here at least IMO!


I also have this theory that Mormons aren’t into green issues because

  1. Many believe the second coming will be coming soon (God the creator of this earth will be able to clean up the planet in a second, our efforts are pointless.
  2. We have to get our priorities right – family, missionary work, ward service, temple work.  Being green is definitely not a priority now
  3. If it was important the prophet and apostles would be vigorously emphasizing it during conference.
  4. It would be stressed and accentuated in the manuals
  5. Gas guzzling cars – God created fossil fuels for our use.  He created this earth and when we run out God will inspire man to come up with an alternative fuel – he always provides for us.
  6. God made fossil fuel for our use and we are fortunate to be Americans and live in a place where fuel is cheap and are blessed to be here.
  7. We have proven ourselves in the pre-existence and in this life and we deserve the just rewards for being faithful members
  8. An attitude of the more physical stuff I have cars, houses, boats shows were being blessed abundantly
  9. We have been hearing a lot about fuel and energy—about their high cost and limited supply, our unsafe and unpredictable dependence on their suppliers, and the need for new and sustainable sources of energy. I leave the discussion of these complicated issues to leaders of government and industry. The fuel I want to discuss is spiritual fuel. Elder L. Tom Perry

Please discuss

Comments

comments

Comments 56

  1. Your argument that Britons are green entails the unspoken assumption that market and economic factors make little to no difference in the size of house or apartment that people live in, the size of the car they drive, and so on. Americans who live in highly urbanized areas like New York City, for example, have a much higher cost of living, much less need for a car, and typically live in much smaller residences than those who live in, say, Texas, while paying much more for them. I suspect that Britain, on the whole, is much more like New York.

    One explanation for abnormally large houses in the U.S. is that the government heavily subsidizes the housing market via tax deductions, credits, capital gains exemptions and so on. Too many people look at their homes as some sort of tax shelter, the bigger the better.

  2. I totally agree with your assessment for the most part. I have relatives in a ward in Hilldale UT and they are struggling to keep their 5600 sq. foot home afloat. They once told me their utility bill and I was shocked. I think we LDS are practical people, but this has shown some lack of wisdom both on the part of the members and the leadership of the church. The leadership finds it difficult to criticize this lifestyle both because of their own expansive homes,(I’m thinking of the three I’ve been acquainted with) and the fact that environmental issues have been the realm of left politics. Heaven forbid we act as practical, good stewards of this planet.

    Spot on. Very sad for me.

  3. From a strictly cultural standpoint, a ‘conservationist’ ethic is better received in this region than ‘environmentalism’. Conservative Mormons would resonate with a message to reduce and elimnate waste in all its forms – financial, energy, etc. Environmentalism is viewed as a false religion, a form of earth worship that runs counter to many of ‘our’ values such as large families, agrarian culture, and improve the earth work ethic.

  4. Fortunately some LDS are green on their own – not waiting to be “compelled in all things”. The reality is that every major religious tradition on the planet (that I am aware of) is currently preaching environmental protection, conservation, and stewardship except for LDS leaders. I don’t think most LDS members will care until they do. So I would say your #3 is the most important in the list. And it wouldn’t have to be ‘vigorous emphasis’ either – I would love to hear a single talk. Early leaders of the Church were very concerned with our treatment of the earth – at a time when it maybe wasn’t so crucial. Now when the situation is crucial, we hear nothing except to leave it up to “leaders of government and industry”. Number one on the list – hoping the 2nd coming will save us from our problems is shortsighted and unwise. Christians have thought the 2nd coming was imminent for the past 2000 years, so for all we know it will be another 2000 years. I think the reason every religion is now preaching stewardship is because our treatment of the earth and the consequences we will suffer has become a moral issue for them. The real question for LDS – is it also a moral issue for us?

  5. I live in liberal Seattle so I’m perhaps more green than your average Utah Mormon. I am somewhat politically conservative but:
    1. I recycle because it is included in the normal garbage collection at the curb.
    2. My husband has taken the bus to work for 10 years and we have been a one car family for 16 out of 17 years of our marriage because we he works in Seattle and parking is too expensive and buses are available within walking distance. Before we lived here, we were mostly one car because we were frugal and it saves money to own just one car.
    3. We have a 35 year home of 2200 square feet for a family of six because that is what we could afford to buy in our area.
    4. We have double paned windows because the previous owners replaced them (don’t most newer homes do that nowadays?)

    The church has always encouraged being frugal and not wasteful. This ties in to conserving the earth very well. No one should be buying a home with utility bills they can’t afford (there should always be financial reserves). You don’t have to buy new clothes every week.
    The church also runs Deseret Industries and encourages people to donate and buy there. If my house has too much stuff, I enjoy taking it somewhere that I know someone will get some use out of it rather than throwing it away.

    Unfortunately, environmentalism and green is synonymous with liberals in the US. Environmentalists don’t approve of large families. They think the earth would be better off if man just didn’t exist. They think business is bad and executives are always evil. They tend to seem like enemies of religion. Their science is always so political. So, it becomes difficult for me as a somewhat politically conservative to not naturally discard much of what they say.

  6. My family and I have had many conversations about this. I agree with you. I live in Germany and love splitting up the trash, recycling as much as possible, and saving on heat. I love using public transportation which is clean and efficient. But no one in Salt Lake seems willing to give up the car and try to live with the bus and Trax. I did it for a couple of years before I moved to Germany and it was horrible, but I believe that if everyone would do that, the system would have no choice but to become better.

    What bugs me the most is it is so clear to me that we should be better in our dealings with the earth as a people who respects godly creations. Some official church decisions themselves are not very frugal or green, such as the running of church houses with incredible amounts of electricity, heating, or air conditioning, and gigantic parking lots with a lack of greenery. Also, I think I would add a number 6 to your list: people say that because the earth is going to die anyway, it doesn’t matter.

    I’m not sure what can be done about the problem. It doesn’t make any sense for us to counsel our leaders. Maybe some day they will come to a realization that something more should be done, like the priesthood being extended to all worthy male members. In the meantime, example and some good conversations will need to take place.

  7. Post
    Author

    1 Mark D 1

    “Americans who live in highly urbanized areas like New York City, for example, have a much higher cost of living, much less need for a car, and typically live in much smaller residences than those who live in, say, Texas, while paying much more for them.”

    Good points I think most Brits who moved to the states would definitely want to move in a bigger house and have a faster car its human nature to want more.

    And who would want to live in a Condo when you can have a big house to live in. Even though the commute is farther. I think that why there is so much urban sprawl

  8. Post
    Author

    Abey 2

    “The leadership finds it difficult to criticize this lifestyle both because of their own expansive homes,(I’m thinking of the three I’ve been acquainted with) and the fact that environmental issues have been the realm of left politics. Heaven forbid we act as practical, good stewards of this planet.”

    I sense your right on this I believe James E Faust was the last democrat apostle. I wonder if being green seems a bit wacky and tree hugging to many members.

  9. Post
    Author

    Wyoming 3

    ‘Conservationist’ ethic is better received in this region than ‘environmentalism’. Conservative Mormons would resonate with a message to reduce and eliminate waste in all its forms – financial, energy, etc.

    If it ever becomes more important to the church that’s a good tactic for them to pursue vs the granola feeling of being green which turns of many conservavtive mormons.

    green mormon architect 4

    “Early leaders of the Church were very concerned with our treatment of the earth – at a time when it maybe wasn’t so crucial. Now when the situation is crucial, we hear nothing except to leave it up to “leaders of government and industry”.

    Thanks for your comments – do you have some quotes of some early church leaders?

    I found Brother Perry’s comment slightly shocking – he maybe in retrospect would like to reword it or add to it.

    7 Michelle

    Wonderful Ex Pat perspective
    I’m not sure what can be done about the problem. It doesn’t make any sense for us to counsel our leaders.

    http://mormonmatters.org/2008/05/08/how-change-will-occur-in-the-church/

    Over the years, change in the Church has been much more top-down driven from the leadership to the members. But I think, to some extent, it is changing to a more bottom up orientation Jeff Spector

  10. There are many reasons why Mormons are not green. For starters, I think it is important to emphasize that it is an observation, not a rule. The Church is vast and there are Mormons of every color, including green. (There is even rumor of a few blue ones out there.) Secondly, American Mormons are American. American culture is a culture of excess, and that accounts for some of the paucity of green on the Mormon palatte.

    However, I believe it goes deeper than that. Many American Mormons fall into a certain political demographic whose leaders have used cognitive dissonance to get socially conservative Americans to support a broader economic policy since the 1980s. Some politicians have married socially conservative issues with economic conservative ideas, and in doing so push social conservatives toward agreeing with an energy policy they may not have otherwise cared for. As an ealrier post put it, “enviornmental issues have been the realm of left politics.”

    But, it doesn’t need to be that way. Just because I choose to support a national politician because of his socially conservative views, doesn’t mean I can’t disagree with him on others. Frugality is a virtue. Enviornmentalism is just being frugal with natural resources; and it doesn’t mean you need to wear Birkenstocks and stop shaving your legs. You can still drive a hybrid to the hardware store and hold your head up high.

  11. Look, there’s a LOT of problems with being ‘green’ in the USA that our Euro friends don’t fully appreciate. First off, this is a big country, and the lack of public transit means that it is hard to deal without a car unless you live certain areas. One must either live right in line with one of the VERY few major lines of transport OR have a car. If you live outside the major urban areas, you can kiss this idea goodbye. As for myself, while I live in a very urban area, I happen to work in a location where the mass transit doesn’t go. I’m stuck driving. So do I abandon my wife all day with the four children and no vehicle?

    Sure, I could–and we’ve done that at times, but then if there is an emergency at school I have to leave work and pick up my child. Hardly a good situation! This means that in terms of work-family balance, being green is a sacrifice that my EMPLOYER isn’t willing for me to make. I need to have TWO vehicles.

    If I had the FUNDS, I would gladly choose to drive a hybrid or bio-diesel car (or other very high mileage vehicle) as my daily-driver for work. But those things are not inexpensive, and I simply don’t have the money. Which leads me to point 2:

    Second, being GREEN often has a cost, which is in direct competition with our directive to live within our means. Frugality competes with being environmentally friendly. When I can purchase a hybrid car for the same price on the used market as another car, then I’ll be getting one–until then, I’m unlikely to get one simply because of my other needs in a vehicle. Oh, and I’m still waiting for the first hybrid that will hold my entire family AND is within my price range.

    Third, being GREEN is all too often seen as a political statement, often with the purchase of supposedly green supermarket items going to support organizations whose nature it is not only difficult to verify but whose mission often does not politically align with that of many of the very conservative members of the LDS Faith in the USA. That is–if a product boldly states that they donate to PETA or something, many conservative members will find themselves avoiding the product, as they have negative perceptions of that particular group. Thus, the politicization and movement to the LEFT of the political spectrum are guaranteed to alienate some individuals who might otherwise support the cause. At this point the fact that the current president (B. Obama) is pushing green energy and environmentalism isn’t going to help in that regard in any way. He’s enormously popular, but among the the conservatives I tell you that programs that he pushes are going to become thoroughly despised unless he manages to win their support. Which he hasn’t yet, and won’t unless he specifically gives them something they really want.

    There’s a lot more, and frankly, I don’t have time for it all. Solving this is going to be difficult. The Church could do a lot by simply saying, “Protecting the environment by responsibly recycling and seeking to reduce our impact on the environment is part of replenishing and nourishing the earth. Get to it.” Which is how I personally see it. It’s how I see the debate on Global Climate change–I don’t CARE if the planet is getting warmer, colder or whatever. I don’t care if it’s man-made or not. What I do care about is this: we are sending a LOT of artificial junk into the biosphere each DAY and that can’t be a good thing. We should seek to reduce that as much as possible. We don’t have to be fanatical about it, but we should be responsible. We wouldn’t pollute the temple, why do we pollute the earth? That’s all I know or care about. The real or imagined effects of that pollution don’t really interest me.

    As for public transit in the USA: not solvable in quite the same way as in Europe. Sorry. Can’t be done. Not without leveling the cost of living across the country (which is why people choose to live in one state vs. another like I do, which is one of the reasons public transit is nearly impossible for me. It’s not going to happen. You simply can’t do the things that would need to be done. It’s not even a question of whether or not you SHOULD use government power to make it possible for everyone to live within a more environmentally responsible distance of their work, regardless of their job, but it’s flatly impossible. Any such effort would fail. I’m not even going to bother explaining why–I’ll just say that I don’t believe that we have sufficient data or computing power to even MODEL the system that would be necessary BEFORE all the parameters changed.

    Making hybrids more affordable–especially ones that will hold a family of four children and two adults may be possible. I certainly hope so. I’d buy it in a heartbeat if it were available and I could afford it. Since I can’t….oh well.

    Depoliticization? Well that trickier. The church coming out and claiming it as their own would help–but so would the RNC coming out with their own model of conservation. That would foster a recognition of similar goals, with perhaps slightly different details and methods, but the ultimate goal–that of protecting the planet–would be the same.

  12. What Mormons are you talking about? Here in New York, a Mormon is as likely to be environmentally conscious as a non-Mormon. In the U.S. west, a non-Mormon is as likely to live in a big house and drive a gas-guzzler as a Mormon is. Largely I think it’s the ethos of place. I don’t live in or near Utah, so I can’t speak to what you’re observing, but Mark D. is right on. I’d just add that the low cost of borrowing also increased the size of cars and homes. But read through any business press in the U.S. over the last year or so, and you’ll see that big homes are not a uniquely Utah phenomenon.

  13. Post
    Author

    Benjamin

    Look, there’s a LOT of problems with being ‘green’ in the USA that our Euro friends don’t fully appreciate. First off, this is a big country, and the lack of public transit means that it is hard to deal without a car unless you live certain areas.

    I have thought similar but it could be down to urban city planning. Instead of just throwing in communities any where land is free they can plan communites with shopping close by rail links into town centres etc.

  14. Even in the UK its getting hard (certainly where I live) to be “green”

    Buses are a joke (supposed to run every 10 minutes but lucky if its 2 an hour) and on a 1 hour bus journey to work – that makes all the difference to keeping my job and not
    so my wife and I drive to work

    When it comes to recycling – the food waste bin only gets picked up every fortnight and for the health of my family i REFUSE to have refuse (play on words much) of a degradeable nature rotting outside my back door

    I recylce cans and bottles where I can
    And I try to do some of the basics like turning off the tv at the switch and not leaving it on standby, using the enregy saving bulbs etc
    (having said that I do work for an energy firm so I get helpful tips all the time)

  15. Post
    Author

    http://vector1media.com/vectorone/?p=459

    Europe Leads and North America Lags in Green Building – Ideas Why?

    Europeans have placed environmental matters within the realm of government policy. For some reason connecting environment to policy in North America is like a bad word / thought. In Europe, places like Malta just the other day connected sustainability as a government priority in operations. The European Global Monitoring for Environment and Security program (GMES) has been evolving for a long while. In principal it inter-connects environment to security and infrastructure in Europe.

  16. James (14),
    That really is a good idea. The problem is, the cities without public transportation (or without metro areas near public transportation) already exist. They can be retrofit, but no state or local government currently has signficiant capital, and such a capital-intensive project would, in any event, take years to accomplish. (Even here in New York, the Second Avenue subway line is slated to be completed (which was apparently originally proposed in the 1920s) is slated to be completed in in the 2020s.

    Alternatively, all Americans could move places that have functioning public transportation. But that would be New York (I lived in DC, and, while the public transportation worked for commuting to work, it didn’t work for living very well; I imagine most U.S. public transportation is like that). I’m afraid having the entire population of the U.S. here in New York would overwhelm our public transportation system.

    So yes, we could (and should) implement better public transportation. But excoriating Mormons (or anyone else) because they don’t live somewhere with access to public transportation is, frankly, absurd, and shows absolutely zero understanding of the U.S.

    (That said, I like life with one car or fewer for the family, so I’m limited in where I can live.)

  17. Sam B. (#17)

    You’re right, it is unreasonable to expect people to move to where there is a functioning mass transit just for the sake of ‘green’. It’s not only unreasonable, it is absurd and insane. Like I said you MUST account for where people live and where people work–as it stands. Designing a cost and environmentally efficient around that databank (or even acquiring it in the first place) is likely impossible.

    Look we have to accept that one of the costs of the concept of private property and the freedom to acquire private property as we see fit is that people will choose to live in places that affords them the highest ratio of things that suit them–for me, I’m willing to sacrifice a bit of time in order to save significant amounts of money in rent and taxes. That puts me living just across the state line, and driving more than 30 miles each way to work. TERRIBLE from an environmental perspective, but when you consider that I am saving at least 35% or more on my rent by doing so (and I still pay over $1000/month for an older home in which to house my children and I)…it makes a bit more sense. Living in a house sized appropriately for my family simply isn’t possible within 10 miles of my workplace–not that we’ve been able to find. And I just moved 10 miles (and didn’t change my work distance at all!) in order to save about $250/month on rent. That’s a ton of cash!

    Again I don’t mind the idea of green, but the implementation needs to be less politicized.

  18. Benjamin O. and Sam B. already have hit the highlights that sprang to my mind as I read this post.

    I am 100% behind the idea of conservationism, but . . .

    1) I have six kids, four of whom now are teenagers. There is NO option for getting them to and from school and church activities that doesn’t involve a car. There are almost NO part-time or summer job options for them that don’t involve a car. Our ward covers well over 100 sq/miles, so all church activities require a car – including daily early morning seminary. In our family right now, we have five of driving age – and two cars. My kids don’t like it, but we can’t afford a third one – and I would buy a third one in a heartbeat if we could afford it.

    2) My current calling requires I travel to another ward almost every week, with a few more administrative meetings throughout the month – in my car.

    3) Now that our youngest is in school, my wife works – requiring a second car.

    4) A hybrid is not a doable option. We can’t afford one.

    5) We already recycle everything we can, and we live as frugally as possible – as much to reduce our bills as to impact the environment.

    6) There are some HORRIBLE examples of astounding hypocrisy in this country, and the recognition of that hypocrisy hurts the cause. Al Gore’s multiple and large houses – movie stars taking private jets to castigate others for not being more environmentally friendly – the whole Oscar Awards ceremony where obscene amounts of money and natural resources are consumed as an ego trip for those who otherwise tell me how horrible I am for not caring, after which they return to their mega-mansions and personal jets ad infinitum – etc. That kind of rank and overwhelming hypocrisy really does hurt efforts in the US.

    7) There’s more, but the bottom line is that the US is a VERY different place than Europe – and it simply CAN’T be as “green” as Europe can be. I hope we get more environmentally conscious here, but if we ever are as green as Europe it will be because Europe dropped the ball big time.

  19. I tend to agree with Ray

    Another issue with mass transit is the poor quality of the public schools in areas that have good mass transit. Here in the Dallas area there is good mass transit only in areas with high crime and really poor public schools. I know the benefits of mass transit having lived and gone to school in Chicago as a married young adult. But Chicago public schools are simply to poor to send my 5 kids there and we cannot afford prive schools. So here we are in the suburbs with 2 cars.

    As far as hybrids are concerned they are simply to expensive for me to rationally purchase one. In addition the word I am getting from my friends that own them is that the milage advantage is actually not that much and there are still technical issues that cost lots of money to fix.

  20. Hmm. I’m sad that I didn’t catch this thread sooner. I’m a member of “Republicans for Environmental Protection,” and a self-proclaimed Conservationist, giving me the qualifications to say something both insightful and interesting in regards to this thread.

    Unfortunately, you all have said exactly what I would have said, thus rendering me vestigial. Thanks a lot everybody.

    *storming off and slamming door*

  21. I think the OP’s #2 is the only item on that list that can be taken seriously. I question whether American Mormons are any less “green” than their Non-Mormon American neighbors. You may hear the other items from a Mormon somewhere, but don’t think any of those other ideas influences any important segment of LDS Americans.

  22. I definitely agree with all that has been said above. Environmentalism is different in the US than in Europe for mainly geographical reasons. The US will not catch up very soon on things like: mass transit, recycling, and waste management for the simple fact that the majority of Americans don’t live in urban areas, and Europe’s been at this longer than we have with smaller space to deal with. Europe just isn’t as big so people are closer together, smaller cars, smaller houses, more public transportation to take you wherever you need to go.

    But today there was an article in Newsweek about the idea that in some ways America is the greenest nation. One of the key points is that our regulations are more flexible than those in Europe, allowing for more innovation: http://www.newsweek.com/id/185812/page/1

  23. And if you think that we in the USA are having trouble, wait until you see what challenges China, Russia, and some of those countries end up facing trying to engreenificate their outlying areas. Sure their urban areas are going to most likely be EASIER to convert to a responsible model due to the difference in governing styles, but the outlying urban areas of Russia and China are going to prove to be an absolute horrendous mess. India, likewise, is going to prove hideously difficulty to convert to green tech outside its major urban areas. The countries that will have it easiest are those that grow up in the midst of a responsible conservationist global culture. But every country with lots of large open spaces is going to find itself with some issues that are nearly impossible to solve as long as we are dealing with certain realities of physics (curse inertia!).

  24. It isn’t absurd for people to move where they want to with public transit IF being green is that big of a deal to them. To me, I’m being green out of the logic, not because I have a fuzzy feeling for it.

    As for public transportation, for us stuck in Salt Lake with no reasonable option that won’t take us three hours each way to get back and forth from work, then its absurd, if we want to be here. It is frankly the lack of foresight from our city planners, who never made public transportation a priority. On the other hand, I think that people have to be held accountable for their excess as far as the rest of what they do in their lives go, but I’m not their judge. I only deal with myself.

    And if Church authorities are living in excess, then I’ll leave that one up to the Lord to deal with, as I’m not going to find fault, and I’m especially not their judge. I have chosen to buy two alternate fuel/flex fuel vehicles, and now, Questar is going to raise the price on that. If they do, making it more expensive than gasoline, I will simply run gas in my flex fuel vehicles. I’m not going to feel bad about it either. Its kind of like going to walmart versus mom and pops. If mom and pops can’t compete, then I guess they deserve, to some degree, to go out of business.

  25. I don’t buy it. Your list better describes people living in the Southeastern U.S. than it does Utah. Most of those “non-green” habits have nothing to do with religious persuasion and everything to do with American culture. I’ve never known anyone who thought the Second Coming would be so soon that ecology was futile. Most of these reasons are grasping at straws, and I think they’re balderdash. The last one especially is a non-reason.

    The only item I see having a point is #8, which is a pseudo-Calvinist trend I’ve seen in Mormons in various parts of the U.S., but I think it is more closely tied to American culture than Mormon theology or sub-culture.

  26. When I was in high school–almost 40 years ago, we celebrated the first Earth Day at our public school in a small, heavily Mormon town in eastern Arizona, with the encouragement of our politically conservative (largely Mormon) school adminstrators and teachers (even seminary teachers). I suppose they were just glad we were not taking over school buildings or burning draft cards.

    Out of curiosity, I plugged “Earth Day” into the lds.org search engine, and did find one article praising the participation of LDS youth in Earth Day. While it was not written by a prominent Church leader, it was written by a well known LDS actress. Laraine Day, “Improving Our Environment,” Ensign, Oct 1971, 48 My guess is that, with careful searching, one could probably find my articles praising environmentalism, but probably not a lot in general conference.

    In the Phoenix and Mesa LDS Family Services offices, the office cars used for LDSFS matters are hybrids.

  27. I know an LDS gentleman who drives an 80s vintage rabbit diesel which gets 50 mpg. He got a new engine and it purrs along great. That is better MPG than one of those expensive hybrids. His wife drives a Geo Metro, which has mileage very similar. They had a minivan (rather than an SUV) when there were kids at home. He heats his home with a wood stove, uses energy saving bulbs, built special heat saving outer window shutters. He composts and reduces waste. His example is not typical of the members of our ward, but it inspires me!

  28. There are several prominent reasons in my mind for the reticence of mormons to identify with the “green” movement:

    1) First and foremost (as mentioned in an earlier comment), most mormons are of the conservative stripe (re: american republicans). In the general american psyche environmentalism is associated with the “liberal” left and mormons stay as far away from liberals as they can generally–environmentalism is no exception. Until mormons break away from their allegiance to the republican party you won’t see much progress in this area.

    2) D&C 104:17. “The Earth Is Full, and There Is Enough and to Spare”. I cannot tell you how many times I have talked to mormons about environmental issues and this card is pulled. The “good steward” analogy always seems to lose when up against this scripture.

    3) Large families. Mormons tend to have large families although this appears to be waning overall. Environmentalism has its costs and with large families it is more difficult to join in the movement. Also, part of the environmentalist movement includes the idea of population control. This of course is anathema to the mormon mindset. Teaming up with folks that preach smaller families and other overpopulation concepts makes it difficult for mormons to associate with them.

    4) Mormon leaders have not/do not address this issue. Yes, there may be a token reference here and there, but nothing from a general conference report or an apostle/prophet from what I can tell. While 1, 2, and 3 above are tough barriers to overcome, a strongly worded talk explicitly identifying with environmentalism would be the way to get over those hurdles. If the prophet told mormons to do it you can bet your shirt that they would do it or at least begin to internalize the teaching (even if it wasn’t put into practice widely) and stop vilifying the environmentalists and acting like they were simply blowing smoke as the minions of the liberal left.

  29. One more perceptual problem:

    1970’s: GLOBAL COOLING IS GOING TO DESTROY THE WORLD AND USHER IN A NEW ICE AGE!!!!!

    1990’s: GLOBAL WARMING IS GOING TO DESTROY THE EARTH AND SPREAD DESERTIFICATION!!!!!!

    2007-ish: (Oh, the earth’s temperature has dropped over the last decade? Crap. Let’s see. We know we are right. We just used the wrong words. Let’s see. Ooh, ooh, ooh – got it . . .)

    2008: GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE IS GOING TO DESTROY THE WORLD!!!!! (See, we actually have been right non-stop for the last 40 years.)

    I call that a perceptual problem, because I don’t mean by it to imply that there aren’t some serious climate changes happening around the world. It’s just that when the verbiage keeps changing every decade but the same voices are the ones screaming new slogans and warnings, the perception of many is that those screaming have their heads up their butts and are just doing it for political power and economic gain.

  30. Just a couple of thoughts related to the original post:

    Double-paned windows have been the standard in the U.S. for decades (our house was build in the late ’60s and had double-paned windows, which were recently replaced with new and more efficient double-paned windows.) Abundant insulation is also the norm, both in new construction and in home improvement. Even the electric utilities have been pushing the use of CFL bulbs (compact flourescents). Regarding diesels in the U.S.: there are only four makers (with a total of 9 models) that sell diesel-engined passenger cars (I’m not counting full-sized trucks in this) in the U.S.: Mercedes, BMW, Volkswagen, and Jeep. The reason? Most diesel engines are too dirty to pass U.S. vehicle emisions tests! The models that do pass have complicated (and very expensive!) emissions systems. With the high cost of diesel fuel in the U.S. and the $5000 to $12000 added cost of the emissions systems, diesel passenger cars actually tend to be more expensive to operate than similar gasoline-engined models.

  31. I concur with DavidH. The church has had a lot to say about the caring for the environment. I have collected many of these quotes on my blog. Here are a couple:

    Quote from I Believe, Ensign Magazine, August 1992, Gordon B. Hinckley:

    “I speak of that service which is given without expectation of monetary reward. Most of the troubles of the world come because of human greed. What a therapeutic and wonderful thing it is for a man or woman to set aside all consideration of personal gain and reach out with strength and energy and purpose to help the unfortunate, to improve the community, to clean up the environment and beautify our surroundings. How much greater would be the suffering of the homeless and the hungry in our own communities without the service of hundreds of volunteers who give of their time and substance to assist them.”

    Quote from A Wonderful Flood of Light, p. 103, Neal A. Maxwell:

    “This restored work not only involves the things of eternity but is also drenched in daily significance. True disciples, for instance, would be consistent environmentalists-caring both about maintaining the spiritual health of a marriage and preserving a rain forest; caring about preserving the nurturing capacity of a family as well as providing a healthy supply of air and water; caring for both the prevention and the treatment of the miseries caused by the diseases of transgression.”

    There you have it. A future prophet telling us to clean up the environment, and an apostle writing that true disciples would be environmentalists.

  32. Ray #31 – I have pointed this out numerous times, too. There was a huge “second ice age” movement in the media in the 70s. It was all over lefty rags like Time and National Geographic (I’m being a bit tongue in cheek). The current environmentalists like to say, well, it was always about global warming in the actual scientific reviews. So, why did Time & National Geographic (hardly sensationalistic mags) make it up?? They quoted scientists. Even when Carter was pres, they couldn’t get mainstream left-of-center media to portray the difference between hot and cold accurately??? I particularly remember a movie called “Ssssssss” (weren’t the 70s great for cheesy movies?) about a scientist who was turning people into reptiles so they could survive the imminent second ice age.

    As to Mormon environmental messages – what could be a more green message than having a garden and eating your own food you have raised? Composting is also common for those with gardens.

  33. 1970’s: GLOBAL COOLING IS GOING TO DESTROY THE WORLD AND USHER IN A NEW ICE AGE!!!!!
    1990’s: GLOBAL WARMING IS GOING TO DESTROY THE EARTH AND SPREAD DESERTIFICATION!!!!!!
    2007-ish: (Oh, the earth’s temperature has dropped over the last decade? Crap. Let’s see. We know we are right. We just used the wrong words. Let’s see. Ooh, ooh, ooh – got it . . .)
    2008: GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE IS GOING TO DESTROY THE WORLD!!!!! (See, we actually have been right non-stop for the last 40 years.)
    I call that a perceptual problem, because I don’t mean by it to imply that there aren’t some serious climate changes happening around the world. It’s just that when the verbiage keeps changing every decade but the same voices are the ones screaming new slogans and warnings, the perception of many is that those screaming have their heads up their butts and are just doing it for political power and economic gain.

    There is indeed a perceptual problem, as demonstrated by the misperceptions you’ve posted.

    The “global cooling” scare was nothing more than a few scientists with an interesting idea. As Hawkgrrl quite correctly pointed out, it was a mass media phenomenon. It was not a widely-held scientific consensus. I fail to understand why past media hysteria should discredit current science. Why, IOW, some media (in the 1970s) and most climate scientists (in the 2000s) should be considered “the same voices” as you put it.

    My understanding is that the reason for the change in preferred nomenclature from “global warming” to “climate change” is because “global warming” falsely implies a uniform process, i.e., every place on Earth will get warmer at the same time and at the same speed. Since this is not the case, “climate change” is more accurate. It is also not the case, BTW, that this change in terminology occurred a couple of years ago or was some sort of dishonest reaction to inconvenient data. “Climate change” has been the preferred term among scientists and environmentalists since the early 1990s.

    Global temperature in 2007 was cooler than in 1998, but that’s because 1998 was a very hot year and 2007 experienced a temporary cooling trend due to climate variability (El Niño). Climate change models do not imply that each year must be hotter than the last. They do imply that each year should be hotter than previous averages, and this has been the case. Although 2007 was not as hot as 1998, it was a hot year.

  34. It’s interesting though, reading these “polemics” as they’ve been called. The arguments for/against Global Warming and Climate Change can very much resemble arguments about religion, or even Joseph Smith or church history… if not in substance than definitely in tone and form. It seems that science can be a religion too…

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  36. What about meat?

    If we all quit eating meat — or at least used it “sparingly” as we’re supposed to, that would put a huge dent in our CO2 output as Mormons. When I quit eating meat and told some friends at church about it, I was surprised by their reaction. A couple of them were very critical, which I found interesting and yet disappointing. I thought that fellow Mormons would, of all people, find the vegetarian lifestyle admirable and something to aspire to. And yet some seem downright hostile to the idea of cutting out meat. I remember a Sunday School teacher even going so far as to call vegetarianism a “sin” because “God gave us animals and we’re supposed to use them.” Another Mormon recently told me, “Livestock were put on this earth to be eaten.”

    The way I look at it, don’t we believe that when the Lord comes again, we’ll all be vegetarians? Even the lion will lay next to the lamb and eat grass? Is it so bad, then, to get a head start before the Lord comes again and makes you go veg? 🙂

  37. Kuri, I understand absolutely everything in your comment. That’s why I called it a perception problem. People hear about all three ways to frame the issue in the media and translate that as “the same voices screaming about it”. No matter how wide-spread or localized each opinion is or was in the scientific community, the media reports tended to be sensationalized and persistent – making it appear that there was and is widespread consensus. Hence, when Joe and Jane American hear something different decade after decade, they tend to dismiss it as misguided, political garbage.

    I didn’t post any misperception. What I described is exactly the perceptual PROBLEM many people have – as your comment showed.

  38. I didn’t post any misperception. What I described is exactly the perceptual PROBLEM many people have – as your comment showed.

    I’m confused. I don’t think I understand the difference between a perceptual problem and a misperception. Or do you mean that what you posted wasn’t your misperceptions, IOW, that some people believe those things but you don’t?

    Anyway, I don’t remember the “global cooling” scare being that big of a deal actually. There were a couple of scientists who pushed it, and some media reports about it, sure, but that’s about it. There weren’t any mass protests or political movements or global treaties as far as I can recall. Just a couple of documentaries and a few (admittedly “big” in some cases) articles. It appears to me that some people today (probably deliberately) exaggerate the theory’s importance in an attempt to discredit the genuine consensus on global warming (with some success, apparently).

  39. Sorry, kuri. I must not have been clear in either comment.

    “Or do you mean that what you posted wasn’t your misperceptions, IOW, that some people believe those things but you don’t?”

    Exactly. I tried to make that clear in the original comment, but it obviously didn’t translate from my brain to my fingers. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard someone talk about how climate claims are stupid because, “nobody knows what’s happening long-term. They used to say temps were cooling, then they said temps were rising, now they say temps are changing. DUH! That’s what temps do.”

    I have heard that basic theme over and over and over again from those who discount “environmentalism” over years – with the last part (“climate change”) obviously coming to the front over the last couple of years, and the global cooling being mentioned for about 15 years before that. The focus on “cooling” and “warming” was a horrible way to frame the overall issue, as it diluted the overall focus on environmental impact in general.

  40. 38 Faithfull Disodent

    * Pound for pound, beef production generates greenhouse gases that contribute more than 13 times as much to global warming as do the gases emitted from producing chicken. For potatoes, the multiplier is 57.
    * Beef consumption is rising rapidly, both as population increases and as people eat more meat.
    * Producing the annual beef diet of the average American emits as much greenhouse gas as a car driven more than 1,800 miles.

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    http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/news/science/topics/globalwarming/index.html

    On Feb. 2, 2007, the United Nations scientific panel studying climate change declared that the evidence of a warming trend is “unequivocal,” and that human activity has “very likely” been the driving force in that change over the last 50 years. The last report by the group, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in 2001, had found that humanity had “likely” played a role.

    The addition of that single word “very” did more than reflect mounting scientific evidence that the release of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases from smokestacks, tailpipes and burning forests has played a central role in raising the average surface temperature of the earth by more than 1 degree Fahrenheit since 1900.

  42. Re #32

    It seems there is always a con to every pro for environment savings measures. Diesel engines are more expensive to run/dirtier, but could reduce depletion of fossil fuels with highly fuel efficient models. A friend of mine just raised the concern about the effects of used hybrid engine batteries damaging the environment, which I hadn’t thought about and don’t know how significant it is. Recycling materials uses water, which is scarce in some areas. Using soy instead of dairy may decrease the CO2 emission associated with cows, but if there are no cows to graze, then pastures will need to be cut with equipment that uses fossil fuels or they will lose their viability. The push for soybeans also incites slash and burn of the amazon by soy farmers looking to increase their profit and yield.

  43. What a load of crap.

    Mormons in America aren’t “green”?

    Who cares. Environmentalism is nothing more than cover for arrogant bossy tyrants who insist that they have the right to run other people’s lives and control other people’s property for some “greater good”.

    And by the way, I think we do lots of “green” things in America that never get appreciated by others. Most Mormon homes that I know constantly reuse things. We use our plastic grocery sacks and garbage bags. We reuse empty margarine containers and jelly jars as tupperware. We sew quilts and make rags out of old worn out clothing instead of throwing them away. We grow our own food in a garden.

    So we aren’t flashy, and don’t buy tiny cars that crumble in the slightest crash, well so what.

    And so what if we have big houses. We have big families, and even after the kids have grown up and moved out the parents often serve as a gathering place for the holidays, not to mention when the cousins come over too, and we like being altogether instead of spread out.

    And how exactly do large houses hurt the environment anyways? We build them out of wood which grows back. Lumber companies are required to replant what they harvest.

    Carbon emissions? Please, man made global warming is an invention of a bunch of “scientists” who have prostituted their integrity for money. I’ve looked at their statistics and it’s nothing but crap. They have faulty incomplete models that make no attempt to correct for auto-correlation. But the media loves a good crisis story and the politicians love it, it allows them to posture as world saving do-gooders while bossing other people around.

    Don’t get me wrong- I love the environment, and support it’s protection. But environmentalists are liars. I know because I have repeatedly, repeatedly, caught them lying- and then they excuse themselves that they were just “exaggerating” in order to get attention for an important cause.

    And I didn’t just swallow the conservative lines either. When the environmentalist said one thing and the conservative said they were lying in such and such a way- I went and looked up the original sources. And every single time- EVERY SINGLE TIME- the environmentalist was lying.

    And so I get really pissed off at people like you who posture about how moral superior you are because you believe these liars and we don’t. And you try to suggest that we do so not because we don’t believe the lies, no, it’s because:

    # Many believe the second coming will be coming soon (God the creator of this earth will be able to clean up the planet in a second, our efforts are pointless.
    # Gas guzzling cars – God created fossil fuels for our use. He created this earth and when we run out God will inspire man to come up with an alternative fuel – he always provides for us.
    # God made fossil fuel for our use and we are fortunate to be Americans and live in a place where fuel is cheap and are blessed to be here.
    # We have proven ourselves in the pre-existence and in this life and we deserve the just rewards for being faithful members
    # An attitude of the more physical stuff I have cars, houses, boats shows were being blessed abundantly

    Which are all basically saying that we are the arrogant immoral people and we should let you “greens” rule over us.

    My response includes a large amount of profanity.

    You want to know why Mormons in Utah don’t listen to environmentalism? It’s cause we are American Westerners who have been dealing with environmentalists far longer than the rest of the world- you people forget that modern environmentalism started out here- and therefor we’ve gotten pretty good at figuring out environmentalists are BS-ing us, and when they’re not.

  44. Can anyone name a prominent mormon environmental activist for me? I can’t think of one. I’m not counting politicians like Harry Reid. Thanks, James, for putting into words some of the reasons I have suspected all along for why Mormons in general aren’t concerned enough about the environment. We’re just to busy and preoccupied with the affairs of the Kingdom, I guess. I would really like to attend local city council meetings, where I know local voices make a difference, but church meetings and youth activities on weeknights always conflict and take priority.

  45. An interesting contrast to the ideas of this post are those in Andrew Ainsworth’s post about Brigham Young this week.

    Additionally, there are many many talks in GC, both recent and years past encouraging environmentalism (without calling it that or making it political). There is a real theme of frugality, utilitarianism, and self-reliance. These are the underlying themes of environmentalism that are clearly preached repeatedly.

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    Cicero

    It fantastic to have your comments views insights and passion for the Environment, thanks for sharing them with us. Were a really pretty friendly group at MM and wouldn’t want to steer any one away from our site or make them afraid to leave a comment you included. As a general rule we try to keep Christ centred values and principles in how we converse , basically live the golden rule. Its been a site where we all have different views politically and spiritually and appreciate each others comments and ideas respectfully.

    I hope you don’t mind me sharing some of your comments that I thought were a little harsh

    1. What a load of crap.
    2. Mormons in America aren’t “green”? Who cares.
    3. Environmentalism is nothing more than cover for arrogant bossy tyrants
    4. And how exactly do large houses hurt the environment anyways?
    5. Please, man made global warming is an invention of a bunch of “scientists” who have prostituted their integrity for money.
    6. But environmentalists are liars.
    7. And I didn’t just swallow the conservative lines either.
    8. And every single time- EVERY SINGLE TIME- the environmentalist was lying.
    9. And so I get really pissed off at people like you who posture about how moral superior you are because you believe these liars and we don’t.
    10. Which are all basically saying that we are the arrogant immoral people and we should let you “greens” rule over us.
    11. My response includes a large amount of profanity.
    12. You people forget that modern environmentalism started out here- and therefor we’ve gotten pretty good at figuring out environmentalists are BS-ing us, and when they’re not.
    13. I love Mother Earth, but environmentalists are a bunch of liars.

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    http://www.sltrib.com/green

    Utah might be as red as they get in its politics – but, like the rest of America, it is growing greener – fast. See Tribune’s special report on how green behaviors and attitudes are being integrated into everyday life of the Beehive State.

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    http://www.sltrib.com/green/ci_12183850

    Utah is a red state fast going green.

    David Long is a good example. A Brigham Young University professor of electrical engineering and self-described “middle-of-the-road conservative,” he embraced environmental protection when his work with radar imaging brought global warming into sharp focus. Now his family recycles and, when he isn’t riding his bicycle to work, he drives one of the family’s two hybrid cars.

    “It’s not a political issue when the earth is warming,” he said.

    “When God gave us the world to live on, he didn’t give it to us to ravish it and rape it.”

  50. James, there is an interesting article I just linked on the sidebar about the Church’s move to build “green” facilities, including meetinghouses, in the future.

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