Trying to do my small partBy Celeste Kennel-Shank
Nearly every day I pass a coal-fired power plant, and watch as it blows gray billows out of its smokestack.
Several weeks ago I and another member of my church attended a Chicago city council hearing to support efforts to pressure that power plant — about one mile from my house — and a second about three miles from my house to reduce the pollution they are releasing into the air.
A physician who testified at the hearing linked the particulate matter put forth by these power stations to health concerns such as cardiopulmonary disease and asthma attacks among my neighbors.
The plants also release greenhouse gases contributing to climate change, which disproportionately affects the poor.
As I traveled home that day, I felt angry at the power plants’ owner for not cleaning them up more quickly and fully, but also disappointed in myself as I turned on the lights in my living room. I can’t make the power plant into a villain without recognizing that I bear the part of the blame.
I could rid myself of that guilt, perhaps, by living in a house fitted with solar panels and a windmill, producing all of its own electricity from renewable sources. While that would be commendable, the larger problem would remain, as that action alone wouldn’t transform the power stations into sources of renewable energy for the millions of people who rely on electricity from the plants.
Before I allow my culpability to lead me to despair of doing anything, I ponder what my reasons are for living simply.
Is my ultimate goal to end all imbalance of resource consumption? Such an aim is beyond what we can change through policy solutions or radical personal sacrifice. What then can we do in the face of wrong around us, including wrong in which we participate?
The burden placed upon us as Christians is to seek to learn of God’s will and do it, though we know we will fall short.
Even when we have little power to transform a societal deficit, we can be a model, John Howard Yoder wrote in an essay, “The Kingdom as Social Ethic.”
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