Thinking Anew – A Christian response to climate change
Scientists tell us that reckless human behaviour is a factor in climate change and that we must change
‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.” Some people hearing these words read in tomorrow’s gospel will perhaps pause to reflect on the weather of recent months; a summer drought in Ireland with restricted water usage, huge destructive storms in the United States and elsewhere with many lives lost. Certainly, we have been reminded in no uncertain terms that despite all our technological achievements, we remain at the mercy of the elements.
Scientists tell us that reckless human behaviour is a factor in climate change and that we must change. This is underlined in a recent report by the World Wildlife Fund which claims that humanity has wiped out 60 per cent of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles since 1970, prompting experts to warn that this annihilation of wildlife threatens civilisation. The report finds that the vast and growing consumption of food and resources by the global population is destroying the web of life, billions of years in the making, upon which human society ultimately depends for clean air, water and everything else.
People responding to such information will be shocked, but the tragedy is that too many of us go on to insist that someone “out there” should do “something”. So, fingers are pointed at governments, big business and the deniers of global warming. But this conveniently removes from us, the ordinary man and woman on the street, any responsibility for the cause and remedy of this deadly trend.
For the Christian this is not just a political or economic issue; we have a religious and moral obligation to safeguard this amazing and complex plant. It is given by God not only to provide for our sustenance but also that of future generations. In an interview with the Guardian newspaper in 2014, Bishop Desmond Tutu said: “Twenty-five years ago, people could be excused for not knowing much, or doing much, about climate change. Today we have no excuse.”
Climate Generation is the title of a book recently published by Veritas and written by Lorna Gold who through her work for Trócaire has important things to say about the dangers we face. She was motivated to write her book as a mother concerned for her children and future generations, believing that it is part of a mother’s DNA to protect her children. What better incentive to write such a book. Her travelled experience and careful research equip her well for the task.
She describes how she used an online resource called the Ecological Footprint Calculator to measure the family carbon footprint and discovered that if everyone on Earth lived as her household did, we would need 3.3 Earths to sustain us. One area she focused on was the food choices she made for her family. “As the main grocery shopper and main cook in the house I felt that I had a big responsibility . . . to make changes. On the food front, I took a gradual approach. I simply made the change to using less meat and the others have hardly noticed. The first thing I did was to choose one day a week which is totally meat free. In many ways, this reinvents an old Christian tradition of fasting and not eating meat on Fridays . . . I then introduced another day – Fishy Fridays – where we try to only eat fish from sustainable sources.”
Some may wonder what the family menu has to do with religion. Pope Francis provides the answer: “Education in environmental responsibility can encourage ways of acting which directly and significantly affect the world around us, such as avoiding the use of plastic and paper, reducing water consumption, separating refuse, cooking only what can reasonably be consumed, showing care for other living beings, using public transport or car-pooling, planting trees, turning off unnecessary lights, or any number of other practices.”
Those words have special significance as we prepare for Christmas, the season of extravagance.