Don’t look away

Global warming, water scarcity, biodiversity loss, disease, poverty and war... the headlines of today. We’ve failed to exercise our God-given mandate to care for God’s creation. Responding quickly and well is the greatest challenge of our age.

A stark picture

Eco-system collapse and climate change are a real and present threat to our continuation as a species. In the last half century about 50% of the world’s animals have been lost. Of all the mammals left on earth, only 4% are wild mammals, 36% are humans, and a whopping 60% are now livestock. 70% of the bird biomass on the planet is made up of poultry. Insects have declined by 75% yet threequarters of the crop types we grow rely on insect pollination.

The unprecedented heat and water shortages we all experienced in the summer are not unrelated events. They are part of a developing pattern of extreme climate events which are becoming the norm. What we’ve experienced comes with only just over 1°C of global warming, yet the world is currently on track for 4°C by 2100.

By and large we all managed for the few days of extreme heat. But for our brothers and sisters across the world, global warming and water scarcity is a present and often life-threatening reality. There is an issue of justice at play that lies at the heart of how we respond to these crises. It’s the most prosperous parts of the world that are chiefly responsible for the degradation of our planetary ecosystem.

Our uncontrolled consumption and the consequent greenhouse gas emissions drive planetary warming, whereas those countries that have not developed their economies using vast quantities of fossil fuels are the worst affected. They’re least able to mitigate the effects of global warming and adapt. People are losing their lives and livelihoods at an alarming rate.

We owe it to God

The numbers present a stark picture of the effect that we’re having on the web of life. This matters, because the whole of creation matters. It matters because the the Bible paints a picture of a God who is very, very keen on justice. It matters because it’s the web of life that sustains us and provides for our needs.

So many times we read in the Bible of God’s concern for the poor, the marginalised, the vulnerable, the stranger and the refugee. So many times we hear of the cause of the wronged being righted; the hungry being fed; those who wield power needing to have special care for the weak.

The environment and the climate are issues that link directly to our Christian faith. We have disrupted the ecological balance of all that God created on earth. We owe it to God, and to each other and to all the species we share the planet with, to restore the balance. As people of faith we have a responsibility to raise our voices for those who cannot. And we have a responsibility for our own actions and the example we set.

Gus Speth, a senior academic scientist, recently said science won’t address these issues:

“The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy, and to deal with these we need a spiritual and cultural transformation. And we scientists don’t know how to do that.”

But we people of faith do know how to do that. This is the greatest physical and spiritual challenge humanity has ever faced and we have the tools and the understanding to go right to the heart of it.

We can do this

All this has to change. Not just because it is self-evidently in our self-interest. But because it is our calling, as disciples of Jesus Christ, to live lives which are holy; to confess our sins of greed, apathy, indifference and selfishness; to change our ways; to uphold and work for justice for those who are suffering; to make amends.

Love the Lord your God... Love your neighbour... Be good stewards of the earth and all that is in it. These are words that lie at the heart of our faith, yet we have known about this looming crisis for decades, and for decades we have continued to assume that it is someone else’s problem.

The world can still limit global warming to around 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Even this will have devastating consequences for many. But it requires radical action and better political leadership now, to avert the unimaginable chaos that would follow a temperature rise beyond this threshold.

We need to demand more of our businesses and politicians, but did you know that it is estimated that more than 60% of the change needed to get to net zero carbon involves personal behavioural change by individuals and communities? Change that is focussed on just three areas: transport, home heating and diet. 1

If we act right now and adjust the way we live, then we can change the trajectory of planetary warming and eco-system collapse. We have perhaps ten years, starting now, and it’s going to require nothing less than an ecological conversion of every person and every part of society. And that includes, dear reader, you.

How is the Church responding?

The Church should be leading, not following, on climate action in every place. That’s why the diocese has divested from fossil fuels and developed a costed plan to achieve net zero emissions. 2

In every parish we need much more engagement with Eco Church, with environmental action groups, with the political process, and with behaviour change. So far 10% of our churches have registered as an Eco Church, and we’re hoping many more will this year.

Our environmental team at Church House Oxford offers tailored advice for parishes looking to reduce their environmental footprint and save money on energy bills.

The diocesan website has a wealth of information, including an ever-growing resource library: oxford.anglican.org/environment

Bright Now from Operation Noah helps churches to divest from fossil fuels and advises on environmentally sensitive ways of managing church land: operationnoah.org

Eco Church is free of charge. It helps churches celebrate what they’re doing to care for the environment and decide what to tackle next: ecochurch.arocha.org.uk

So, with expert advice on tap and a wealth of resources to draw from, what’s stopping you?! Why not gather a group of people at your church and get cracking with a local care for creation plan. Be sure to let us know how you get on.

Words: adapted from a talk given by Bishop Olivia, which was filmed for a major documentary to be broadcast later this year. See aljazeera.com/program/earthrise

1 According to the Climate Change Committee: theccc.org.uk

2 Net zero means balancing the amount of greenhouse gases that we put into the atmosphere with the amount we take out, so that we’re not increasing the total. To get there we need to reduce the emissions for which we are responsible as far as possible, and then remove an amount from the atmosphere that is equivalent to the remainder.


 

9 ways to care for creation

Stay informed – sign up for our monthly environment newsletter, Care for Creation, at oxford.anglican.org/email-sign-up

Save water – an aerated shower head makes a big difference to energy and water consumption. See savewatersavemoney.co.uk

Reduce plastic – remove single-use plastics from your cleaning routine. Visit ocean-saver.com

Eat sustainably – rethink your diet and eat many more whole grains, vegetables, fruits and nuts, and far fewer red meats and processed foods.

Reduce food waste – keep the fridge at 5°C or less so food lasts longer, treat “waste food” as ingredients, start a compost heap for food that really can’t be used.

Recycle everything – Find out how to dispose of the hard-torecycle home and office waste not accepted by local councils: zerowasteboxes.terracycle.co.uk

Travel sustainably – Traveline helps you to plan journeys using all modes of public transport: traveline.info Check out sustrans.org.uk for getting back on your bike.

Home heating – the Energy Saving Trust have excellent guidance for efficient heating systems and preventing heat loss in the home: energysavingtrust.org.uk

Bank sustainably – Triodos only lends money to organisations making a positive impact, culturally, socially or environmentally: triodos.co.uk


 

This article is taken from the autumn 2022 edition of Pathways.

Page last updated: Monday 19th December 2022 10:01 AM

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