Sometimes, when I think about it, I’m glad for how little our civilization has really advanced. No one drives a hover car like a Jetson dream, robots do not fulfill all of the dirty and menial tasks of life like the metal slaves that Isaac Asimov longed for. I am also almost glad that we haven’t made the advances we really should have by now. We still get most of our energy the same way our prehistoric ancestors did—by burning things.
I am glad that we haven’t advanced farther because the limits of our abilities and intelligence and vision have, on the whole, kept our society from destroying the world even more than we have. This is because the problem of ecological living, sustainable living, is not a technological problem but a moral one. As my friend Claudio Oliver says, those of us who are seeking to live sustainably are only trying to know half of what our grandmothers did. Our civilization has forgotten more about sustainable living than it can discover. Solar panels or hydrogen energy are no final answer and most so called clean or green technologies rely on extractive industries like mining. Learning to live without waste, learning to live in a way that encourages the flourishing of creation is the answer. The most sustainable people I know are not those who maintain their current lifestyle with electric cars and windmills; the most sustainable people I know are those who have sacrificed their lifestyle so that they could live in a way that actually fits with the reality of the world. If we had zero emission cars that would only allow us to feel okay about a twenty mile commute.
There was an evangelical environmental campaign several years ago that asked the question, What Would Jesus Drive? The question was meant to lead toward the idea that Jesus would be a low-carbon kind of guy who would probably drive a Prius or maybe a grease bus on his treks around the world to bring his message of the Kingdom of God. But what if Jesus wouldn’t drive anything? What if he never upgraded to anything more than the donkey he borrowed for the occasional triumphal entry? In our society we might ask, how would he get his message out if he doesn’t have a car? How would he tell the world about himself if he doesn’t have a million frequent flier miles like Al Gore flying all around the world on jumbo jets to spread the word about climate change?
The answer of course is that Jesus would spread his message just as he did before—not from the center of power or a wide geographical scope or with an advanced media campaign, but by walking with people, loving them unhurriedly and directly, being present with human beings at a human pace. To follow Him, to love the world he created, we don’t need cap and trade or some big new technological fix. We need only to be human beings living on a human scale at a human pace following the guidance of the only one who was ever fully human.