Is “going green” more important than helping the poor?

An interesting question to ask from East Lansing, I suppose, where “go green!” is usually followed by “go white!” and has absolutely nothing to do with the environment. (On that note, fellow Pancheros customers – yes, I know my jacket is the same color as the opposing team’s jersey today, but that is just a coincidence!)

When we got our first electric bill from the Lansing Board of Water & Light, I was struck by the fact that there was a mandatory surcharge for renewable energy, and also a plea to make a voluntary donation to help the poor pay for heating over the winter. Doesn’t that seem utterly backwards to you? Apparently the trees have more lobbyists in the Michigan Capitol than the shivering poor.

I thought about that again today when reading this story from Michigan State University’s newspaper about three students who were arrested on campus for trespassing as part of a protest to get MSU to switch to 100% “clean” energy. Leaving aside the moral question about when such protests are a good idea (and how costly and impractical it would be for power-hungry MSU to actually do that) – when was the last time you even heard of a protest encouraging an organization to do more for the poor? (I’m sure MSU makes plenty of charitable donations – where do they go?) Do you know more people who are on fire for the planet, or more people on fire about loving their neighbor a little better?

If you know me, you know that I’m usually against the government forcing people to do just about anything, so this isn’t a plea for more mandatory aid for the poor. But I do think our legislation and our protests show that our culture’s heart is mis-focused, that we regularly commit the error of making a good thing (caring for the planet, especially) into the most important thing.

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