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J Henry Fair Headshot

Heaven Help Us

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J Henry Fair Headshot

Heaven Help Us

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Click here to read an original op-ed from the TED speaker who inspired this post and watch the TEDTalk below.

The German word for sky, Himmel, is also the word for heaven. Heaven is the place God resides, to which the "worthy" will ascend upon succumbing to mortality. Storms have often been seen as the wrath of God meted out upon the terrestrial wicked, and the mighty clouds that carry them are righteously feared. Maybe it's all true. Maybe the geometric increase in deadly weather events we have witnessed in the last years is God (or the spiritual unity that seems to run through all things) punishing us for defiling the Garden of Eden with which we were gifted, at least metaphorically.

The images in "Storm Chaser" are both beautiful and awe-inspiring in a way that only the deified can be. The parallels between "God" and "nature" are endless, and in our modern, consumerist world, we have lost our connection to both. Popular legend tells us that indigenous people are closer to nature than we in our industrialized world, but in spite of that (or because) we are immediately entranced by images thereof. It is ironic that we are so drawn and inspired by images of the world which our every purchase defiles.

There is no doubt that something is happening -- things are changing. The fundamentalists would argue that their God is punishing us for our licentious ways, but in fact, these misbehaviors have been part of civilization since the conversion from hunter-gatherer to agrarian. The more logical explanation is that our actions are upsetting a delicately balanced system. A rational actor would take heed of the warnings provided by that system, make assessments about cause and effect, and adjust her actions, especially when the benefits from the smooth running of that system are so great, and the consequences of disruption so drastic.

Are we so gullible as to believe the ludicrous disinformation of the climate change deniers? Or perhaps we are so mesmerized by our indulgences that we don't want to accept the logical and prefer an irrational explanation for the floods and the droughts. -- J. Henry Fair

The approach of our society seems to be denial. Even those who know what is happening and why continue with individual behaviors that push the system to dysfunction (airline travel, meat eating, consumption and disposal). Certainly denial by the carbon barons and their minions, who profit from the change-causing activity is explainable, if not comprehensible (their children will suffer as well). But, what about the rest of us? Are we so gullible as to believe the ludicrous disinformation of the climate-change deniers? Or perhaps we are so mesmerized by our indulgences that we don't want to accept the logical and prefer an irrational explanation for the floods and the droughts. Maybe it's God's will and nothing can be done but pray and turn on the television to watch the precious baby tigers and polar bears that will soon be extinct in the wild. Certainly that is the easier answer than contradicting the anchorman that says "plenty of experts disagree." After all, who really wants to make a unilateral sacrifice; we like our steaks and our SUVs, and who wants to be the first to give them up?

So the days pass, species disappear in rapid succession, hurricanes come and go, their narratives obscuring their larger meaning, and meanwhile, the storm clouds are looming.

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