We may choose to build nuclear power plants, or we may choose a view of today's lapping waves over worries about tomorrow's tsunami, but let's not kid ourselves about who's responsible for our choices and their consequences. Nature is blameless. If blame must be placed, let us appropriately assume it ourselves.
We decided to build towns on the beach and cities on the faults; we created the complex web of power-hungry machines that require ever more energy. After that mindful reckoning, let us stockpile resources and make evacuation plans and fund more disaster response agencies, even as we take a long, hard, soul-searching look at our insistence on hauling out experts to justify bad ideas whenever they serve our short-term priorities.
Energy is the foundation of modern civilized life. Can we generate power cleanly and safely? Can we teach ourselves to live more frugally and use energy more wisely? We are in the midst of a great investigation of those questions. We do the Earth and ourselves the greatest disservice in imagining that addressing them lies outside our lives and choices.
Experience has taught me to have faith in a higher power, which for the sake of efficiency I call God, but my God is not the great gray-bearded guy in the sky tugging and pulling at Earth's strings. Instead I believe in the God of Exodus 3:14, "I am what I am," or, in another translation, "I am what is."
"What is" includes everything — earthquakes, tsunamis, laughing babies, your little dog Spot. God's great wisdom has left to us human beings the creation of a world in which we can devise and practice virtue. We will do ourselves and the world a great service by taking responsibility for our choices, in our language and in our lives.
Fenton Johnson's most recent book is "Keeping Faith: A Skeptic's Journey Among Christian and Buddhist Monks."