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Letter to editor: ‘Climate Emergency NOW!’ (Zadok Perspectives 146, Autumn 2020)

Thursday, 23 July 2020  | Janet Down

Janet Down

Should we keep burning fossil fuels until the earth fries? Should we ‘continue in sin, that grace may abound’ (Romans 6:1)? It looks like a Yes answer for some of the ministers Alison Sampson was talking to (see her column, ‘ScoMo Fiddled While Home Burned’ in the Autumn issue of Zadok Perspectives and Papers), who believe that God is ‘creating a new earth, which they understand to be a new planet’, so ‘there is nothing to worry about: in this life or the next, we will all be transported there. Still others believe that the sooner the earth burns up, the sooner Jesus will return. Thus catastrophic climate change is a Good Thing and the consumption of fossil fuels is to be encouraged’.

Ouch! The best interpretation we could put on their beliefs is that they want to trust in God to deliver us, one way or another. But their thinking is woolly and completely unethical, if only they could see it. The logic of these arguments is that: a) trashing the planet doesn’t matter because God will make a new one, and we have no responsibility to look after the one we are living on despite God’s command to care for it; and/or b) if we wreck the planet we will twist God’s arm into sending Jesus back sooner. As if we could!

Alison’s experience highlights the importance of better theological education, which Mick Pope argues for in ‘Why Academic Study in a Time of Climate Emergency?’. Absolutely right, but what do we do in the meantime? Gavin Mountjoy’s experience at Westgate Baptist Community (‘Our Earth, our Home and our Future’), where the church has declared a climate emergency and started work on a corresponding action plan, suggests that some churches at least are ripe for this. (He also mentions Brunswick Uniting Church as doing similar work.) If churches do this, they not only reduce their emissions, they become models for other churches and for the wider community. They earn the right to speak out. This has so much potential.

On hope: Alison finds hope for creation as a whole by taking the long view (Assyria fell, Rome fell etc.) and through her trust in a good Creator. But she has very little hope for a continuation of human life on earth, which is probably a rational response to the reality confronting us. The only escape route I can see is that we don’t know what we don’t know, so predicting the future is always tricky – thank God, because that leaves room for a gram or two of hope.

But what is hope? Is it a feeling or an attitude or both? If it is just a feeling then it will keep fluctuating depending on our moods and thoughts. If it is an attitude then it is something we can choose. But either way, it is informed by what we know and what we focus on.

As Carrie Philpott reminds us, grief is important too and needs to be given space. Then it can become a source of power that leads on to hope and action.

Philippians 4:8 says to look at what is true as well as what is lovely, and some of what is true about the climate emergency is far from lovely – in the science, in our politics, in our communities and even in our churches. And we have to look all of that in the eye. But the lovely and good, of what is possible and what is being done, is there too. It needs to be looked for and seen and known and pondered. Here are some that feed my hope:

Manna Gum, an initiative of Jonathan and Kim Cornford (see Jonathan’s excellent article in Zadok: ‘A Proper Anthropocentrism?’) is an independent non-profit organisation that seeks to ‘Help Christians reclaim and practise Biblical teaching on material life; and promote understanding of the ways our economic lives impact upon ourselves, others and the earth’.

Common Grace is an online Australian Christian movement for justice existing ‘to inspire and organise Australian Christians to think, speak and act like Jesus for a more just world’. Climate change is one of their four major campaigns.

The Australian Religious Response to Climate Change is a multi-faith network committed to action on climate change.

Drawdown is ‘the world’s leading resource for climate solutions’ (the book by the same name is also a great resource and an uplifting read). This is where to find the technical solutions.

Transition Australia is a support network for the Australian arm of the international Transition movement, which aims to re-localise communities and economy, building resilience as well as reducing emissions.

The Climate Council provides expert advice to the Australian public on climate change and solutions based on up-to-date science.

Janet Down

Croydon, Vic

From the editor: You can get your back copy of the Spring issue on climate change by emailing us. Or subscribe to Zadok Perspectives and Papers to receive our latest issue ‘Going Viral’ and the next three issues.

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