“Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”
The world is a messy place. I don't mean the earth or nature, I mean the world in more general terms. That is I mean the world filled with people, culture, as well as the physical earth; it's messy. Interaction between humanity and the rest of creation is messy as well, but I am not referring to oil spills or other similar things. I mean the interaction between humanity and creation is a very difficult thing to manage, if not impossible. All of it is messy!
I have argued in previous posts that Christians have a responsibility to take care of the environment, but this must be done with an understanding that there will be a new creation and with the understanding that the earth, the environment, is a resource to be used FOR people. I also argued that God is more concerned about people than He is about the earth. This does not mean people ought to trash the earth; instead, it suggests that there is a hierarchy of values and God values humanity more than He values the rest of creation.
This brings me to the main point of my post. I drive old vehicles. Who doesn't want a back up camera, a car you don't have to fix, or a wifi hotspot everywhere you drive. I want those things. No, I drive old vehicles because it is what I can afford. There are some things that come along with old vehicles including the fact that they need to be fixed and quite frequently they don't pass emissions. Emissions are designed to protect the environment and that is a good thing in and of itself. Last week I took our old 1999 Suburban with about 240,000 miles on it to get the emissions tested. It FAILED. I replaced the spark plugs and the wires and took it back...it almost passed, but it FAILED. I did some more research regarding why I was failing the test and found that I needed a Catalytic Converter. The details are less important than the cost. If I had a garage, I could fix this myself and it would cost about $300. However, I don't have a garage, and most poor people don't either. Even if they do have a garage, many of them may not have the skill necessary to do it themselves. The price goes up drastically if you have to pay someone else to do it. I called around a little bit and found the cost to be over $1,000 initially. Eventually I found someone who is able to replace the part for $600. What is my point?
My point is simple. Protecting the environment is important, and Christians have a responsibility to do so. However, tradeoffs are required. If a poor person finds a way to purchase a car that runs, there is a pretty good chance that it won't pass emissions at some point. I am not rich, but I can afford to get my care fixed. A car could be the difference between being employable or not. A car could be the difference between kids attending a neighborhood school that is vastly underperforming or being able to open enroll in a school where a child can pursue a better education. A car, for many people, is an important part of becoming a productive member of society. Emissions testing doesn't hurt people like me, and maybe not you. But for the person who can barely afford a car emissions testing could hinder them from being able to work, pursue a good education for their children, or a host of other things. No emissions - no tabs, not tabs - no insurance, no insurance - no driving. Or if a person drives anyway, they are putting others at risk.
What's the solution? I'm not entirely sure. I don't want to pollute the earth. I also don't want to pretend that there isn't a trade off. Higher standards on car emissions and all kinds of other environmental regulations have a detrimental effect on the poor. There is a trade off! Perhaps the beginning of a solution is to stop pretending that these policies don't have economic repercussions, especially for those who are at risk.
John Byrne is a pastor who has been spouting off his opinions his entire life (just ask his mom). This little blog is his venue for continuing in this tradition.