The peril of our planet and society is much to the fore. If we pause to view and consider we are surely aware of the level of deforestation, pollution, hunger and displacement that litters our earth.
One wonders why we don’t act. Mark Hertsgaard wrote: “Many people tell themselves that dangers like global warming are so far off in the future that they don’t really exist. On some level, these people may know better than that, but the possibility that we humans are dooming ourselves is simply too terrible a thought to absorb. It is much easier to pretend the danger doesn’t exist, or adopt a childlike faith that everything will turn out all right in the end… and burrow back into the routine of paying bills, getting the kids off to school, and waiting for the weekend.” (Quoted in Beyond Homelessness, Bouma-Prediger and Walsh)
I usually despair at the debates I read that seem locked in arguments as to whether climate change exists or that it is so far gone that we are doomed. Now, as a reasonable and hopeful person, obviously I want to search for some middle ground.
There is another way of reviewing our reactions which may explain things and give us a way forward.
We find it hard to address environmental issues because we are locked into a human centred way of looking at the world – we do what is best for human beings. On top of that when we make decisions about what is possible based on new technology and what is best based upon the demands of global institutions. Then when we count the cost we base our calculations on market forces and values which do not factor in costs to the environment. I also find it hard because I know I am irrevocably implicated in the consumption of the earth – so I am in the overwhelmed hypocrite category!
So basically, arguments about tackling climate change will never win while we are hard wired to think according to global every expending technological markets. One alternative is to allow a different way of thinking to filter into our planning and action.
A Christian contribution to such thinking is to see the earth as gift and not a possession. As a God given place this world is holy and special: not only are humans wonderfully made, so too is the whole planet!
At times we slip into a view that God is only concerned with human beings. The Bible tells of God’s much wider concern. In Genesis, we learn that all the universe is created by God and all is seen by God as good. God forms humans out of the creation – the dust of the earth and commissions them to be carers of the earth and it’s flourishing. After the flood, God made a covenant with humans and every living creature. In the New Testament Jesus teaches us to pray for the Kingdom to come on earth as in heaven and later Jesus is seen not just as the saviour of humans but the one in whom all creation holds together.
So, this makes the environment a faith issue.
It seems to me that we have neglected this agenda because we have slipped into a very human centred view of the world and a very narrow view of salvation and a Saviour. It is God’s will to restore all that is made and Jesus is the peacemaker, judge and the one in whom all is held together.
This same Jesus took food, the things of life, and blessed them and they were shared with much to spare – in the feeding of the 5,000. This is a story of the wonderful presence and promise of Christ to be with us, take the things of life and offers new ways of sharing that bring abundance. This was a risky moment or uncertain but miraculous outcome. We should not shun such acts in our present age.
I believe that a Christian response to the environment is first and foremost not born of despair, resignation or complacency but of responsibility and promise.
Now before I go back to the daily routines of life, I pause to think about Hertgaard’s take on our apathy. There are many reasons that prevent us from concern – we may simply not care, we may think it will see us out and so what, we may be ignorant of the facts or denying the information.
A Christian view gently and persistently moves us from this stupor to consider an uncertain and yet more hopeful way. Born of the gift and promise of God, to challenge thinking that ignores our environment and to search for what next.
In some small way in 2017, with the help of informed and committed people among us we are aim to open the issues and suggest practical steps for action.