Johnny Cash & Global Warming

220px-JohnnyCash1969By Dick Gillett

Heading up to Phinney Ridge the other day on my morning coffee run, I grabbed a Johnny Cash CD as I went out the door. The inimitable, deep voice of this old singer and his wonderfully uncomplicated music flowed from my car’s stereo to the bottom of my soul as he sang “When the Man Comes Around”. This song is chock full of apocalyptic verses from the bible’s Book of Revelation—doom, the end of the world, judgment, good and evil, choice—not a book many people read nowadays, including myself as an ordained minister.

But the pathos of Cash’s music took me immediately back to the conference I’d returned from last week. Called “Seizing the Moment: Toward an Alternative Civilization”, this Pomona College gathering of over 2000 people from around the world included about 130 participants from the People’s Republic of China. The conference topic was global warming—and what to do about it. The mood was somber, if not downright apocalyptic at times. “We live in the midst of perhaps the greatest crisis the world has known,” warned environmentalist and keynoter Bill McKibben, “and it has come upon us very fast.” He called for a “global grassroots movement” to address the global warming generated by the trillions of tons of carbon dioxide we collectively put into the atmosphere each year.

…on this morning, Cash’s apocalyptic music and global warming came together for me.

Theologian John Cobb suggested that “it may already be too late” to save the planet.

So it was on this morning, on my way to coffee, that Cash’s apocalyptic music and global warming came together for me.

Despite the seriousness of the conference’s topic and our global situation, determined participants engaged in several dozen workshops over three days, focusing on specific aspects, projects, and models needed to address the huge complexity of a global society that must eventually move from an expanding economy to a “steady state” economy. Could we imagine a society whose ethic would affect sharing with others instead of unlimited consumption and rampant individualism?

By the end of the conference there was hope in the air as well as the hard recognition of the lateness of the hour. Johnny Cash’s song was for me a call—an inspired call to pay attention! Pay attention today to what can and must be done by all of us who share this precious Space Ship Earth.

If you’d like to know more about the conference and its follow up, please visit:

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Author Dick Gillett is a Member of PNA Village and a retired Episcopal priest. His previous works for our PNA Village blog include, “Martín’s Journey to the White House”, “”Generation Nice’ at Herkimer Coffee”, and “Monthly Book Group at Couth Buzzard”.

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