In a future of climate extremes and their disastrous results for the world – is there any hope?
On Saturday July 9th, 2016, Revd Dr John Weaver led our debate. John is a Baptist minister, Chair of the John Ray Initiative http://www.jri.org.uk/ He was formerly Principal of South Wales Baptist College, Cardiff, and Dean of the Faculty of Theology, Cardiff University, where he taught Science and Faith in dialogue. He now lives at Odell, North Bedfordshire.
What is happening to our weather? – a question echoing around the world – it’s been the hottest, driest, wettest, windiest; the worst cyclone, hurricane, tornado season since records began.
Already this year:
floods in the north of England
fires in Canada
floods in the USA
drought in Ethiopia
typhoons in the Philippines
coral reefs dying
We know the science behind our understanding of global warming; the sun’s radiation which passes through the atmosphere and warms the surface of the earth; some is reflected back and some, as infra red radiation is reflected back by CO2 in the atmosphere, adding heat to the earth. It is these anthropogenic green house gasses: CO2, Methane, Nitrous Oxide and CFCs, that are the cause of global warming.
The science is unequivocal and the situation the world faces is urgent. 2014 was the warmest year on record and 2015 was warmer, as is 2016. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has exceeded 400ppm and the average global temperature has risen to 1.010C above the pre-Industrial temperature. The results of global warming are seen around the world, for example in the rising sea levels for the Pacific islands, water shortages for power generation and irrigation of crops in Malawi and Nepal, drought and fire risk in California and Australia, and intense weather events in various parts of the world such as the Philippines and for the UK most recently storm ‘Desmond’ in Cumbria.
Listening to God:
I recently reviewed a book by Baptist minister, Kevin Durrant entitled The Earth will Teach You. Durrant challenges his readers to listen to the wisdom that comes through the voices of the natural world. He reflects that we don’t hear the voices of nature because of our disconnection with the rhythms of God. He encourages us to benefit from the God-given rhythms of the seasons and of day and night, which our modern industrialised world has blurred. He concludes that we need to hear the wisdom that God offers to us through the voices of nature, for example God speaking to us through the decline and extinction of species, and through global warming and changing climate.
His final thoughts are close to my heart as he draws a parallel between Hezekiah’s buying off of the Babylonian threat in exchange for 15 years of personal peace and prosperity (2 Kings 18:13-16, 20:4-19) with our desire for several extra years of energy-rich living through the fracking of shale gas. Like Hezekiah we ignore the possible catastrophe.
He concludes that we have the testimony of two witnesses: scripture and nature supported by science. He stresses that we will be foolish to turn deaf ears to the voices of nature, which are for us the voice of God.
In his recent encyclical, Laudato si’, mi’ Signore – ‘Praise be to you, my Lord’, Pope Francis expresses his concern about our common home and the need for global, sustainable, integral, development. He challenges us to avoid the short-term outlook that has dominated politics, and calls for a new political will.
He maintains that we recognise that the destruction and wanton disregard for the environment is both a sin against ourselves and against God.
He outlines the scientific consensus and develops the thesis of the climate as a common good or a global common. In rehearsing the scientific observations of drought, flood, loss of rainforests, reduction in biodiversity, aquifers, coral reefs and glaciers he challenges the developed world to see the impacts on the poor in the form of water poverty and crop failure. These demonstrate global inequality and injustice, and threaten the breakdown of society. He observes that world leaders fail to hear the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.
He concludes that ‘In the meantime, economic powers continue to justify the current global system where priority tends to be given to speculation and the pursuit of financial gain, which fail to take the context into account, let alone the effects on human dignity and the natural environment.’ (paragraph 56)
The challenge of COP 21 Paris:
There have been high hopes expressed about the discussions in Paris, and there is no doubting the historic first step that the final agreement by 195 countries represents to stave off the worst effects of catastrophic global warming, but as the White Queen offers Alice, is the Paris agreement an offer of ‘jam to-morrow’?
COP 21 sought to build on the agreement of the COP 17 ‘Durban Platform’, 2011 for a comprehensive global commitment to establish a legally binding international treaty in 2015 to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and to establish the Green Climate Fund to deliver finance and technology to developing countries for clean energy economies.
COP 21 also recognised the need to protect human rights and ecosystems, to safeguard food security, and to manage the world forests in a sustainable way. It sought to hold global warming below 20C above pre-Industrial levels, preferably to 1.50C; to increase the ability of countries to adapt to climate change, and to pursue transformation toward sustainable development in low GHG emission societies and economies. There is a recognition that the world’s least developed countries face the greatest threat from climate change as their infrastructure is too fragile to cope with extremes of weather, and they lack the technology to develop low emission power.
This is the culmination of over 20 years of UN climate talks and has seen all countries agree to reduce emissions, promise to raise $100bn a year by 2020 to help poor countries adapt their economies, and accept a zero emissions target by later this century. Economist Lord Nicholas Stern commented that this ‘is a historic moment, not just for us but for our children, our grandchildren and future generations.’ However, Bill McKibben, founder of environment movement 350.org, said ‘the power of the fossil fuel industry is reflected in the text of the agreement, which drags out the transition to clean energy so far that endless climate damage will be done.’ His comment reflects the predominance in the agreement of vague words, ‘resolves’, ‘recognises’, ‘urges’, ‘emphasises’, ‘affirms’, ‘takes account of’, all of which lack a legally binding commitment. But then we may ask, could any global agreement be legally enforceable?
Let’s begin with the most important recent scientific finding: the increase in average global surface temperature, from which every other feature from climate change to crop failure, human migration, and animal and plant extinction ensue.
2015 was the warmest year on record. In 2015 the average surface temperature reached 1.010C above pre-industrial levels, and was 0.13°C warmer than 2014. The North Atlantic is projected to show a continued rise in surface temperature of 3-40C in the next half century. This will continue to enhance the extreme weather events we experience – warmer water and warmer atmosphere see larger amounts of water taken up into the atmosphere to fall as rain at the next landfall, which is the UK. Even more serious is the effect on food production in the developing world with reduced yields and drought.
One major challenge – the levels of CO2 and Methane in the atmosphere have increased dramatically in the last 250 years. Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have increased since the pre-industrial era, driven largely by economic growth and population growth, and are now higher than ever. This has led to atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide that are unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years, and are the cause of climate change. In March 2015 CO2 emissions rose for the first time above 400ppm, a rise of 120ppm since pre-industrial times.
Sunlight is speeding up the conversion of Arctic soil carbon into carbon dioxide, raising the possibility that future warming could occur at a much faster rate. Higher temperatures increase the likelihood of collapses of long-frozen Arctic ground, or permafrost. It was once thought that permafrost soils would thaw quietly in place. A recent study has shown that the conversion to CO2 in reaction with sunlight is taking place at a faster rate than was previously thought. The permafrost is a rich potential source of the greenhouse gas, and if all the world’s permafrost melted, it could double the amount of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
We recognise that in this feedback system higher temperatures melt Arctic soil, which then releases even more carbon dioxide, helping create additional warming.
The political and economic will:
Through their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions we see the commitment of countries around the world, but even these commitments would result in a 2.70C rise by 2100 with accompanying significant and dangerous climate impacts. Therefore it was agreed that these commitments be reviewed and increased every 5 years. Alongside a vital part of the agreement is commitment to the Green Climate Fund to aid adaption to climate change for poorer nations. There is an agreed call for transparency in the review processes and for contributions to the Green Climate Fund. The recognition of the importance of justice in the negotiations and their implementation has been refreshing.
Pope Francis called for global, sustainable, integral development, which avoided the short-term political outlook. He pulls no punches in laying the blame for environmental degradation and destruction on human beings. While recognising that technological creativity has brought vast benefits to humankind, he warns against the global view of technological progress, the mastery of creation, domination, and exploitation. He rightly observes that progress has become the new mantra, but such progress must be in the service of all humanity. He challenges us to recover Christian values and goals in our relationship with the environment, others, and God. He called for technology to be used in the service of all humanity, urging politicians to hear the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.
As these facts pile in, one after the other, the opposition in the form of climate change deniers has diminished considerably.
Perhaps, following Paris, the world leaders will now ensure that mitigation will begin in earnest. However the noises from the Republican camp in the US are not encouraging.
Disappointment has also been expressed at the perceived hypocrisy in the UK government’s approach to reducing its GHG emissions. While Prime minister, David Cameron, has made a passionate call for action, the chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne has scrapped a £1bn fund for a demonstration plant to capture CO2 from a power station and store it underground, which was a major pillar of UK climate policy. This came in addition to the reduction in subsidies for renewable energy and the diverting of money from the normal aid budget to fund the climate finance to developing countries.
And now post-Brexit, can we trust the would-be prime ministers? Of the most likely next Prime Minister, both Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom generally voted against measures to prevent climate change, and outsider Michael Gove stands accused of trying to wipe climate change off the national curriculum.
The economic austerity-based cuts contrast with the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney’s speech to Lloyds of London on 29th September 2015, who saw climate change as the most urgent problem, and stated that shifts in our climate bring potentially profound implications for insurers, financial stability and the economy.
In the USA the Republican Party, which largely rejects the science behind climate change, has moved to oppose the $3bn climate aid bill. Donald Trump especially, but most Republican Party candidates for the presidency threaten to reneage on the Paris agreement. They hold a view that such top-down climate policies will threaten a free-market economy and limit the ability of corporations to make a profit.
There is a utilitarian ethical principle at work here, but the greatest benefit for the greatest number is national rather than global: keeping energy bills low for UK consumers, and higher profits for US corporations. While the needs of the countries in the developing world are ignored in this approach, the poorer nations have their own difficulties, where for example, the utilitarian approach would see the continued building of coal-fired power stations to satisfy their demand for cheap energy.
The challenge for us:
Why now? Current commitments on greenhouse gas emissions run out in 2020, so at Paris governments produced an agreement on what happens for the next decade at least, and potentially beyond. Also the situation is increasingly urgent.
Why is this important? Scientists have warned that if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, we will pass the threshold beyond which global warming becomes catastrophic and irreversible. That threshold is estimated as a temperature rise of 20C above pre-industrial levels, and on current emissions trajectories we are heading for a rise of about 50C. That may not sound like much, but the temperature difference between today’s world and the last ice age was about 50C, so seemingly small changes in temperature can mean big differences for the Earth.
Only in the past few decades have scientists begun the measurements necessary to establish a relationship between current carbon dioxide levels and temperatures, and the science conducted since then has consistently pointed in one direction: that rising greenhouse gas emissions, arising from our use of fossil fuels and our industries, lead to higher temperatures.
Increased supply of gas means an increase in GHG emissions. Increased supply of gas and oil means a greater threat of long-term, irreversible climate change.
The Fifth Assessment Report of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change’s Scientific Committee was accepted on 30th March 2014 and the media picked up the key concerns for people around the world. For farming there will be more droughts, more floods, less reliable rain, and more water shortages will mean worse harvests and higher food prices for most regions. There will be more frequent storm surges, coastal flooding, and increasing rise in sea-level. It will be harder for many fisheries to make a living, especially tropical ones, as the seas get warmer and more acidic, and coastal ecosystems change. Heatwaves will pose increasing risks to health and lead to premature deaths. There will also be the dangers of violence as unstable food prices and more competition for resources will make conflict more likely. More people will be forced to move to make a living, and more people will be at risk from water-borne diseases. There is a remarkable coincidence between areas of unrest and war, and those most affected by climate change. We will need to be prepared for far greater migration of people – an estimated 300 million environmental refugees.
Extreme weather and rising temperatures could reduce global output by 10% with the poorest countries losing the most.
As the world population grows so does the demand for energy; and it is expected that, in the early part of the 21st century, this increased energy demand will largely be supplied from fossil fuels. As a result GHG emissions will rise at a faster rate and the UN advocated cuts will not be met.
Some suggest that Nuclear Power is the answer. Nuclear power produces no CO2 emissions (but this is not the only sustainability consideration). At their peak, nuclear power stations generated around 25% of UK’s electricity. All but one of the Magnox power stations are scheduled to close by 2023. The first new one will be the Hinkley Point C plant in Somerset was due to be commissioned in 2023, at the earliest, but this has now been put back a number of years – probably as a result of potential fossil fuel supply through fracking. In common with all existing nuclear plants, it will still waste huge amounts of heat energy and carry the environmental concerns of radioactive waste disposal.
Despite the stated commitments of successive UK Governments, cost considerations (not ethics) resulted in 2012 producing the highest level of GHGs from the UK’s power generation sector for 16 years. Obviously, this makes a mockery of the Climate Change Committee’s ambitions to ‘effectively de-carbonise’ the power generation sector by 2030’ and it is noteworthy that the motion to legislate for a zero target for 2030 was defeated in the House of Commons on 4 June 2013.
Fracking is a popular pragmatic answer for the government.
What is fracking?
‘Fracking’, short for hydraulic fracturing, is the process of drilling down into the earth and injecting water, sand and chemicals into the rock at high pressure which allows the gas to be collected. It is a controversial process with a number of environmental concerns.
In December 2013, a report commissioned by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), said more than half of the UK could be suitable for fracking. The report shows that 100,000 sq km of land is available for drilling.
The business lobby group, the Institute of Directors, suggest that shale gas could be a ‘New North Sea’ for Britain.
No-one who understands the science of the fracking process or the economics of power supply will dispute the central focus of the arguments. What few, even amongst the ‘green lobby’ are getting to grips with is the potential danger of rapid climate change brought about by the unabated increase in the burning of fossil fuels – however they are extracted and derived.
The environmental ethicist Michael Northcott links growing industrialisation with a growing population and the ecological crisis facing the world. There are global production systems partly driven by the increasingly materially comfortable lifestyles of modern North Americans and Europeans. These lifestyles depend upon access to reserves of fossil fuels, timber and land for exotic crops and animal feed which represent an ‘ecological footprint’ more than double the land occupied by the people who enjoy them. He maintains that the only answer is to leave the fossil fuels in the ground.
With Northcott and others we can identify the modern separation of the world from any divine influence other than an initial creative power. We have a mechanistic cosmology of cause and effect, in which human manipulation and use of natural resources is divorced from any sense of God’s ongoing care and concern for creation.
The Incarnation brings into focus both the presence of God in creation and God’s desire to redeem a broken world.
The biblical challenge:
As Christians we worship God who created the universe and pronounced that it was good (Genesis 1); God who is in a covenant relationship with the whole of creation (Genesis 9). We follow Christ, who is co-creator with God (John 1:1-4), and who came to redeem the whole cosmos (John 3:16). Empowered by the Holy Spirit, God’s presence in all creation, our role is to become truly Christ-like, the first fruits of the Spirit, as creation awaits complete redemption (Romans 8:18-25).
We live with broken relationships (Genesis 3) in a world fractured by human rebellion, which seeks the power, control and wealth that belongs to God (Genesis 3:5). But we also live with the ultimate hope of God’s promises and purposes, God who will finally renew the whole of creation (Revelation 21:1-4) and destroy those who lust after power and wealth (Revelation 19).
We are accountable to God and are called to follow Christ (Mark 8:34) in his mission in and for the world. We are called to a life of self-sacrificial concern for the world and its people, and worship God through humility, justice and merciful action (Micah 6:8).
We see a growing movement of people involved in campaigning for greater, fair and more ambitious action on climate change. Christians have a central role in many countries in these movements keeping their governments accountable and pushing for more and better action both domestically and internationally.
From the Old Testament we understand the nature of God’s involvement with creation in the gift of the rhythm of time and in the Sabbath. The seventh day of rest that recognises the Creator; the seventh year, when the land is given rest, left fallow to recover its nutrients; and the seven times seven fiftieth year of Jubilee, when debts are cancelled, slaves set free, and the equal division of land restored. Jubilee was intended to protect the small householder and also ‘served to establish an economic practice for redeeming the land and the people,’ and we can suggest that Sabbath and Jubilee give three principles for farming and food production: sharing – with the poor; caring – for the earth; and restraint – of power and wealth. But there are imbalances in the world food system, there is unfair trading, and a growing industrialization of agriculture, which is destroying the environment. Instead of keeping the Sabbath we have a ‘Sabbath-less society.’
One of the great gifts that the Judaeo-Christian tradition can give to sustainable living is the concept of Sabbath. Not just a pause for breath before carrying on consuming, and not just for humans. In Genesis 1, we find that the crown of creation is not humankind, created on the sixth day, but the Sabbath, instituted on the seventh day, when God took a rest, and God did not do so because God was tired. The Mosaic covenant commands regular jubilee seasons when debts are forgiven, families reunited, and land left fallow. We wear ourselves, and the land, out by constantly rushing. There is nothing that works against a sustainable lifestyle more than being in a hurry. Too much of a hurry to ponder shopping choices. Too much of a hurry to walk rather than drive. Too much of a hurry to cook. Too much of a hurry to grow food. Too much of a hurry to turn off the TV and play with our children. Too much of a hurry to sleep properly and give the world a rest from our self important busyness.
Finally, perhaps, too much of a hurry to have noticed the damage we have done to the planet, before it is too late. We need to step back and take the time to look, to learn about what we see, so that we can appreciate in more and more astonishing detail the beauty of what we see, and we can love it, if we but give ourselves the time.
To rest on the seventh day is not just to have time off work, it is to remember who we are, what we are, and why we are here. Every aspect of our lives individually and collectively are to be viewed in the light of the Creator’s intentions for us. How we spend our time determines the quality of our lives, as well as the quality we can add to the lives of others.
The technical control of time (departing from the natural God-given rhythms) is human-centred and takes our times away from a relationship with the creator. Jesus declared the Sabbath and Jubilee principle at the beginning of his ministry, expressing his mission, which is also the mission of the church:
18 The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour. Luke 4:18-19
And we are called to live as Sabbath-keepers within the new covenant in Christ.
For the Old Testament prophets such as Isaiah (Isaiah 24:5-6), the exclusion of the poor and the degradation and exhaustion of the environment are seen as the results of ignoring God’s care of creation and God’s justice expressed in the Covenant. And Christians are the new covenant community in Christ.
We see in the prologue of the Gospel according to John that the pre-existent Christ is not only Lord of the lives and bodies of Christians but Lord of the whole created order, and the implications of the resurrection extend beyond the lives of Christians to reveal God’s intention to restore the righteous peace, or shalom, of the whole of creation.
Modern approaches to environmental ethics and global justice tend to be focused on the effects on human beings. There is an absence of the Christian tradition of understanding creation as belonging to God and not under human ownership. As human beings we experience our life in this world as a gift from God, whereby creation is under our care. But sadly we are losing or have already lost touch with God’s wisdom.
We have already seen what a global approach to a global problem can do. The Montreal Protocol was agreed in September 1987 and concerned the ending of the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and help with alternatives for developing countries. It was subsequently agreed by 197 countries. CFCs from fridges and air conditioning systems were destroying the Ozone layer, leaving holes through which dangerous ultra-violate radiation could reach the earth’s surface. The results have been excellent and this month it has been reported that a major hole over the Antarctic is closing significantly.
While the science and the remedial actions are far more complex with global warming, the results from the Montreal Protocol are encouraging for everyone.
Christians are the people who pray ‘Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’ We are following Jesus and joining him in his mission of shaping the world, in the power of the Spirit.
We are called to be radical: looking outwards at the needs of the world and adopting a radical agenda that recognises where Gospel values are absent in politics, business, economics, and the church.
We have God’s faithful provision of natural resources; and a God-given human wisdom and understanding as part of our creation in the image of God. A call for wise stewardship questions the use and exhaustion of natural resources; and Christian ethics addresses the use and abuse of earth’s resources, God’s provision and our accountability for creative and destructive activity within the environment.
An ecological doctrine of creation implies a new kind of thinking about God. We do not place God outside the world, but recognise the presence of God in the world and the presence of the world in God.
The ruthless conquest and exploitation of nature in the agrarian and industrial revolutions of the Enlightenment found theological support in the distinction between the world and God. An understanding of God’s presence in creation corrects this error. We learn that to ‘have dominion’ over nature is a challenge to act with God, imitating God’s loving kindness and faithfulness with the whole of creation.
The call of Christ is expressed as ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me’. This is a different sort of life, a Christ-like life, a life that is ‘in Christ’. It is to deny self – move away from a selfish materialistic life style; take up the cross-shaped life of sacrificial love – sharing God’s good gifts of creation with all; and follow Jesus – in his compassion for others and for the world. The call is to join in Christ’s redemptive mission.
We must avoid the self-centred individualistic ideas of happiness and consumption, where growth is seen as a virtue expressed in consumerism and personal satisfaction. Hope requires a broader understanding of a world-wide community and nature’s renewal.
i) On the individual level
What marks out a Christian lifestyle as different? apart, that is, from attending a church building on Sundays. Dave Bookless of A Rocha UK – Caring for God’s Earth (an environmental charity) writes
“If we are to worship God with heart, soul, mind and strength and love our neighbours as ourselves, then we need to change our lifestyles radically. At present, the average Briton uses such a large amount of the earth’s resources that we would need more than three planet earths if everybody in the world wanted to live the same way, This is both an issue of justice for the world’s poor and an issue of worship, as this excessive consumerism is actually an idolatry of greed, pure spiritual cholesterol.”
We might add that we are also building up our physical levels of cholesterol!
Changing our lifestyle will not be easy, probably those beginning to establish their lives as adults may find it easiest, along with those who are older and have retained the more frugal approach to living that first developed in them during post-second World War rationing. Being tied to mortgages, work, dependent children and parents will limit the changes that can be made immediately.
A Rocha UK suggests ‘Living Lightly’ believing that this is God’s world, entrusted to our responsible use and care, and that living sustainably is part of Christian worship and mission.
Living lightly includes:
· living lightly in using resources as a matter of justice
· examining and changing my values, choices and lifestyle decisions
· joining with others in community in modelling a sustainable way of living
To these we may wish to add a concern for the poorest of the world; a commitment to the purchase of fairly traded goods (although we may also need to examine the sustainability of the transport of these goods); and encouraging government action to achieve such ends.
We should not seek to live lightly out of duty, fear or guilt but out of love: love for our neighbours, love for our fellow creatures, love for future generations, and at the deepest level of all love for God.
ii) On a corporate level
Can we find a principle for a Christian approach to business?
One example is seen in the MBA Oath, a voluntary pledge developed by the ‘Class of 2009’ Graduates of Harvard Business School for graduating MBAs and current MBAs, around the world, to ‘create value responsibly and ethically.’ Its mission is to facilitate a widespread movement of MBAs who aim to lead in the interests of the greater good and who have committed to living out the principles articulated in the oath. The Oath includes the following:
“As a business leader I recognize my role in society.
· My purpose is to lead people and manage resources to create value that no single individual can create alone.
· My decisions affect the well-being of individuals inside and outside my enterprise, today and tomorrow.
Therefore, I promise that:
· I will manage my enterprise with loyalty and care, and will not advance my personal interests at the expense of my enterprise or society.
· I will refrain from corruption, unfair competition, or business practices harmful to society.
· I will protect the human rights and dignity of all people affected by my enterprise, and I will oppose discrimination and exploitation.
· I will protect the right of future generations to advance their standard of living and enjoy a healthy planet.
· I will invest in developing myself and others, helping the management profession continue to advance and create sustainable and inclusive prosperity.”
The widespread adoption of these principles could revolutionise the business world; the oath is consistent with the ethical principles that Christian might wish to endorse.
iii) On both an individual and a Church level
The Big Church Switch was launched on Ash Wednesday this year. The Big Church Switch calls on churches and individual Christians of all denominations to switch their energy supply (electricity) from fossil fuels to renewable energy, as part of their commitment to care for our neighbours and for the earth – our common home.
By using clean, renewable energy we can help restore the earth and bring balance to God’s creation. Clean energy sources offer a reliable energy supply and secure long-term jobs, fuelling prosperity for our neighbours near and far.
Since Ash Wednesday 2016 over 600 churches, including five cathedrals, have registered with the Big Switch. In addition the 845 Salvation Army premises have switched to a green tariff, the Quakers are aiming for 200 Meeting Houses to have made the switch, and CAFOD is working to build on the 50% of Roman Catholic Dioceses who use green energy already. The URC youth federation is intending to encourage all its churches over the next few months.
Now we have another opportunity to express interest between 4th and 15th July, when individuals and churches can sign up their interest in making a change in their energy supplier to a totally renewable source.
Switching is easy – I signed up and switched my supplier in March. It is only a matter of following an online form. Anyone who knows me and my competence with a computer will say: ‘If John can manage it anyone can!’
I am doing my bit to save the planet and I am also saving money.
We look for Christian disciples to embody an alternative narrative, sovereignty and hope.
There is Hope:
Our hope is focused and centred in God. In Colossians 1:15-20, Christ is seen as the agent of creation, the sustainer of creation and, as redeemer, the one who holds creation together. It suggests that if Christ is the source of every element in the universe, then no part should be treated dismissively. Our role should be to interact with the world to enable all to flourish and if Christ, the redeemer, is the source of all things and is chief over creation, it means that redemption is built into the fabric of creation.
Can there be a theology of hope? Can our sinful actions thwart the purposes of God? The promise of the first covenant, with Noah, is that while human sinfulness and self-centredness will continue so will God’s gracious promise ‘never again’ to destroy the earth. (Genesis 8:21-22)
God promises to be present with us in the realities of life (Psalm 23; Isaiah 43:1-5; Matthew 28:20), and encourages us to hold onto hope in the face of uncertainty. We learn from both Amos and Jeremiah that the false prophets promised hope without catastrophe, while God’s prophets offer hope beyond catastrophe. We can speak of the hope of judgement; that there is accountability for our lack of care of the poor and of the environment. Our hope is based on God and God’s justice and grace, which is not thwarted by human sinfulness.
In Romans 5:1-5 there is a link between hope and endurance; hope is the motivation to keep on going. We are faced with a failure and crisis in politics and public opinions, in regard to climate change. The situation for the poor in the developing world is reaching crisis proportions and at the same time we see a public weariness with the green agenda. There is no sign of governments reducing their carbon footprint. As a result of scepticism and the economic recession people claim that addressing climate change cannot be afforded, yet all the while consumption levels are rising in an unsustainable way.
Ultimate hope is in God and is eternal, while human hope is temporal and uncertain. Christians are called to a hopeful discipleship in the light of our ultimate hope in God’s promises and purposes. We live as those who are created in the image of God and cooperate with God’s transformative action in and for the world.
We have a contribution to make. God created and entrusted the earth, and will redeem the whole of creation (Rom.8:19-21) In Christ there is a new creation, but as ever in the New Testament, there is a now but not yet aspect. There are the first fruits of the Spirit, but still creation groans as it waits for God’s human creatures to reach their perfect humanity (Romans 8:18-23). Our true humanity is to be located in Christ, and when we locate ourselves outside Christ we find ourselves in disharmony with God’s purpose for the well-being of creation.
The Apostle Paul places the redemption of human beings in the context of the redemption of the whole creation, and creation is brought back into relationship with God through the cross (John 3:16). This takes place as human beings find their restored relationship with the Creator, through the cross; living as hopeful disciples. God is deeply and passionately involved in his world; God is no absentee landlord, but indwelling, accompanying, incarnate, and present as Holy Spirit. There are important implications for our relationship both with the Creator and with creation.
We live between the Cross and Christ’s second coming, when God will renew the whole of creation, where all relationships will be redeemed and restored (Revelation 21:1-4).
Our ultimate hope is always in God. This is hope beyond chaos and catastrophe. It is a hope that includes accountability and judgement. This is hope in God, who is creator and redeemer, and who will ultimately make all things new.
There are two kinds of hope: proximate and ultimate. Proximate hope is temporal, it is uncertain, incomplete, open to failure and looks to something beyond the present. Ultimate hope is God’s Kingdom come, guaranteed, complete, beyond imagination, continuity and discontinuity. Such hope is a fact of the future.
As the Native American Indians say:
Only when the last tree has been cut,
the last river poisoned,
and the last fish caught,
only then will you realise
that you can’t eat money