Reader Writes - June 2019
I joined the Extinction Rebellion (XR) outside the Coop the other day; we let off alarm clocks and waved banners in a mildest possible and good natured demonstration to draw attention to the reality that our planet faces catastrophic climate breakdown. In my forestry career I have only had to deal with one really serious storm series which blew down thousands of hectares of valuable plantations. Foresters dread a wrecking super-storm, and we are already planting different species to cope with anticipated drought. We all have our personal fears whether floods, roof-removing winds or ruinous soil loss. Yet walking into the Coop shortly after our demo I heard a loud middle-aged man declare to his neighbours in the checkout, ‘Absolute load of cobblers if you ask me’ (or words to that effect).
So does XR have a point? I haven’t signed up to be arrested or to participate in disruptive protests, but it’s lazy simply to disapprove. Our planet and future generations face bleak prospects already, and it is undeniable that political processes are irresponsibly lagging behind the physical CO2 reality. It helps to have Rowan Williams, David Attenborough and the Governor of the Bank of England also drawing attention to the urgency of our situation. Small children today must face the rest of the 21st Century on carbon budgets that are a fraction of what the baby-boomers have been used to. As one journalist bluntly put it ‘No one is coming to save us’.
Here are just 2 spiritual points. First, the earth with its bio-diversity is not ours to trash; it belongs to the Creator. Our spiritual ancestors were put in a garden as God’s stewards of its abundant life. You see this truth everywhere in scripture; how about “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” Ps24:1. That principle hasn’t changed. Whether we are Christian, Jew or humanist, we have a duty to care for the earth. And Secondly, this is an issue of justice. By some bleak irony, the rich north and west has enjoyed the industrial advantages of consuming billions of years’ worth of stored carbon, while the majority of the rest of the world are picking up the bill. Community-destroying droughts, storms, rising sea levels and human migration are already causing untold and under-reported misery. Perhaps even more important, children all over the world coming out on school strike are pointing to intergenerational justice. We have a duty to hand them a habitable world. God cares about justice!
When friends my age shake their heads at the civil disruption caused by Kington XR encamped at Oxford Circus, I say ‘OK, but what else are we to do?’. Think on a historical metaphor. In the 1930s the world faced the uncomfortable rise of fascism. For some years our island nation felt it wise to adopt a policy of appeasement; quite understandable. Avoid the disaster of war, keep options open, buy time. But what would have happened if the national mood hadn’t changed? People, and their leaders, and the Government eventually woke up and prepared for the fight of their lives. Or contemplate some ancient history. Judah squandered its blessings, turning its back on God; the consequences of that had been foreseen and forewarned by the prophets. It ended in exile. Today you and I have the technology and the warnings; with God’s help we need the will.