My Ecological Economics professor told us a story in class from - of all things - the Bible, about Joseph. It came to mind again as I was reading an article in the Christian Science Monitor.
Joseph, if you recall, held a position as Pharaoh’s adviser. Pharaoh had a dream of seven fat cows followed by seven lean ones, which Joseph interpreted as a kingdom-saving premonition: Egypt would have seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. Joseph advised Pharaoh to store up grain during the coming “fat” years, to insure against the “lean” ones, so that his people would not starve.
Now, the Christian Science Monitor mentions Joseph’s story as historical reference to climate change patterns, but I think the real lesson (if we’re talking about environmental responsibility) is in the behavior of Pharaoh in the story.
You see, Pharaoh wasn’t stupid. He knew that in the lean years, everyone would have to come to him for grain. At first, the people gave him all the gold they had. When they ran out of gold, they traded their livestock for grain. When they ran out of livestock, they traded their freedom. And that, the story goes, is how Pharaoh amassed the army of slaves he needed to build the pyramids.
Pharaoh knew what was coming down the pipeline, but instead of sharing the information, he capitalized on it. I mean, if insider trading can secure you massive amounts of slave labor, why share the wealth? It’s not like you have a moral obligation as the leader of a country to preserve the freedom of people who aren’t as in the loop as you are.
You see where I’m going with this, I’m sure.
Now, the argument can be made, who would have believed him? No one believed Chicken Little. Should Pharaoh have warned everyone, and wagged his finger at the ones who didn’t take heed? Or would he, as a leader, have had a responsibility to take matters into his own hands, make provisions for the future, for the good of not only his nation, but for neighboring nations, Cassandra be damned?
I suppose this line of thinking would require adherence to a higher standard of leadership - one that sees the world as a self-contained, interconnected system; one that sees not races and peoples and party lines to uphold, but one species that, if it is to avoid extinction, must abhor genocide, slavery, human trafficking, and the de-humanization of any people.
The question we have to ask ourselves is: is gas the new grain? Because if it is, there is an opportunity for us to not let history repeat itself.