Without getting into whether there are or aren't gods, I'd like to do some research on you guys.
Atheists in my experience, without an exception to date, are an environmentally-minded crowd. They tend to vehemently oppose anything that looks like industrial wrecking of nature, believing as they do that this Earth is the only one we've got and that no higher power will stop us from mortally wounding it.
Many atheists will also bring this up against religion: the whole dominion of the earth, the expectation of the end times and the new earth, the call to be hard-working and industrious, the call to have children (overpopulation), and the idea that god wouldn't allow us to affect the climate, etc. etc. To many it seems religion has a "whatever, it's all going to be destroyed anyway" attitude.
But I know religious people aplenty, however, who think the Creator is to be seen in nature and NOT in man-made things, and therefore removing the influence of nature from people could be seen as pulling them away from the influence of god. There are certainly many people of faith who felt called to protect the environment or work in environmental conservation.
How do your beliefs affect your attitude about the environment?
For those of any faith, how does your faith affect your regard for the environment, or does it at all? For those who in the "this is the only life I've got" crowd, how do you feel about it? If you call yourself an environmentalist, what is the reason?
I believe religion/faith and environmental consciousness are unrelated.
I think taking environmental crisis seriously and noting its rapid decline is smart and logical, and to put religious biases or use ignorance as an excuse is just unmanly. There's irrefutable evidence of our oceans decline; rising acidity levels and the landmass of trash accumulating in the Pacific, not to mention the changes of fish population and levels of radiation in their meat.
Personally, religion and faith for me is like a private relationship. It's helpful and lends support, but as soon as it starts affecting other decisions and clouding logic or judgement, it's overstepping my boundaries.
I can comment some on the computer model issue. I am not an expert on simulation, but I am on CS generally.
When I was planning to be an astronomer (before I found how cool CS is), I was fascinated by the TTAPS study (letters are for its authors; S is Sagan). These scientists noticed that when there's a dust storm on Mars, the surface temperature plummets as sunlight is blocked. They made a computer simulation to see what would happen on Earth if a nuclear war kicked up dust and smoke. They found significant temperature drop. Thence the term "nuclear winter."
Naturally they wanted to make the model more accurate. It was vastly oversimplified: no layering of the atmosphere, no latitudes, no oceans, no weather.
As they added details, the results changed. Unlike Mars, Earth has a weather layer distinct from the stratosphere. The nuclear war wouldn't get dust and smoke into the stratosphere (where it would take a long time to settle); it would stay in the weather layer, where it would be washed out by precipitation. The oceans would do a lot to moderate the climate. Nuclear winter became nuclear autumn and then nuclear cold snap.
Climate models have a similar problem. CO2 does a lot to block infrared radiation... unless there's water vapor in the atmosphere, which already blocks that radiation, and the equatorial regions are saturated with it. It's tough to say what increased CO2 would do to cloud cover. If it increases it, Earth is more reflective (cooler) and better insulated (warmer). If it decreases it, go with the reverse.
Climate models (so I read -- this is not direct knowledge) have so far been unable to even predict the past. They require fudge factors to work for one period, but then can't predict another time period.
However you want to understand global temperatures... best not trust the models yet. When they can predict the past, then we can have some confidence they'll predict the future. That's not within our capabilities yet.
While talking about climate change is a worthwhile conversation in and of itself, could we please steer back towards the main question?
I still want to know how your beliefs, actively or passively, affect your outlook on the environment. How do they affect your actions toward the environment? If they don't, why not? I appreciate those who have shared what they do/don't do to help the environment.
A big thank you to Tesh for trying to get back on topic. I like what you said about faith being like a personal relationship that lends you support, but it doesn't dictate all your decisions.
Please sound off if you are a non-green-minded atheist please so you can be the first exception to my experience of all atheists being very green-minded. Any very green religious people want to get into the doctrine of environmental stewardship and how they practice it?
1. Actually, yes I am. But I know you get off topic. That's fine. I just think saying anything about climate change is going to end in chasing our tails around that. The ones who don't value evidence will continue to be given evidence and continue to not value it.
2. No, I haven't. But it's easy to see them give faux lip service to the environment issue and see through to the fact that they really don't care. They may not say it, but they as much as tell us by how they speak about it.
Chinese are extremely religious, and Christianity is all over Russia. The leaders of those countries might not be particularly religious in a political sense. Fair enough. I'd accept that atheists in power aren't caring about the environment. But I'd have to say the same about all the American presidents who claim to be religious, as well as all the other world leaders who are religious.
I think though if you look at several Nordic countries, you'd see atheist leaders who make the environment a huge priority.
What I glean from you point is that personal beliefs of politicians aren't as powerful as other political influences.
But what about individual people upon whom rests fewer pressures?
These are great points. Worth adding to this discussion. This reminds me of Bron Taylor, a professor whom a good friend of mine had the fortune of studying under.
He talks about "dark green religion" as being apparent in movies like Avatar.
What Taylor says about surfers is very true. Except for the drug-head beach bum surfers, I'd say most surfers I know form a kind of cult of submission to nature, as I see happening in my own life. Surfing forms spiritual bonds between people and coaxes you to love civilization less and the chaotic nature of the natural world more, especially the sea.