15The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.
Genesis 2:15 – NRSV
1 The earth is the Lord’s and all that is
the world, and those who live in it;
Psalm 24:1 – NRSV
For many churches, last Sunday was Harvest Festival; a time to give thanks for the earth and for its produce. In the same week, the streets of London have been brought to a standstill by ‘Extinction Rebellion’ (ER) and hardly a day goes past without our media discussing what we should do about ‘climate change’.
So what should Christians make of this? Our beliefs and our scriptures do support the view that ‘the earth is the Lord’s’. This is perhaps one reason why so many Christians are active in ‘environmental issues’. This certainly points to our responsibilities as stewards of our earth and its resources. But is this enough – should we all be there in London, erecting tents and stopping the traffic, as I note some Bishops and clergy have been?
I found myself the other day considering what a ‘zero carbon’ world would look like, using the example of our dog’s smart new red collar. It’s made of woven synthetic – therefore not compatible with the aims of the protestors. The traditional material would have been leather, but in this new world there will be no meat, no farm animals and no leather. So what is the answer, or perhaps dogs won’t be allowed in a future ER world? You don’t have to spend much time thinking about this, before you start to form a picture of this very different new world, and the pain that would be associated with it. How, for example, would a modern hospital be able to manage without plastics? How would drugs and painkillers be produced and shipped all over the world?
When I was in business, if we faced risks, we’d look at them this way:
- What’s the risk? The warming of the planet running out of control and endangering life
- What would the effect be of the risk occurring? Potentially disastrous
- What would the costs and implications be of reducing the risk? Almost unlimited both in cost/economic impact and changed lives
- What’s the likelihood of the risk occurring? Ah, the sixty four thousand dollar question!
I’m not a scientist, let alone a climate change scientist, but there are some serious questions for which there seem to be no clear answers:
- If the icecaps are melting as we can see for ourselves in television reports, then why do satellite measurements imply that in the last century, sea levels have only risen by 3 centimetres and are predicted to increase by only 3 cms +/- 6 cms in the next few decades?
- Why is global warming increasing at only one third of the rate predicted by the IPCC a mere 30 years ago, despite the massive rise of economic activity in China over that period and (the elephant in the room) a huge global population increase?
- The CO2 content of our atmosphere is nominally approximately 4 parts per million; there’s evidence that many tens of thousands of years ago, it was over 1,000 parts per million. What’s the optimum level of CO2? The science of climate change is astonishingly complex. Even tiny errors in forecasting, when multiplied together, could have a colossal effect on outcomes.
Those who write as I’ve done here have been compared to Holocaust deniers and there have even been calls for the execution of ‘Climate Change Deniers’. I don’t consider myself a ‘denier’ just someone with questions about the science and how much of the observable warming is caused by man and his activities. Many scientists who wish to ask questions are totally denied any kind of platform; there’s a kind of zealous ‘Global Groupthink’ which seems to brook no challenge or even accept questioning. Some have even likened it to a new pagan religion, with the 16 year old Swede Greta Thunberg as High Priestess, and those who question the doctrine as the heretics who should be burned at the stake. (No, maybe not burned, on second thoughts!)
Whilst this debate continues unresolved and possibly even unresolvable because of its complexity, there’s a massive threat to our stewardship of the earth about which there’s absolutely no disagreement. Our planet is being poisoned, and there’s only one party that can possibly be responsible – us.
The two issues are, of course, inter-related, but why does all the focus seem to be on mankind’s share of responsibility for global warming, where the science is unclear, rather than pollution, which is an ‘open and shut case’? And if we can’t stop plastic contamination of our oceans, what chance do we have of stopping global warming?
As Christians, we have a duty to offer hope to a world that’s already swimming in negativity and pessimism. My view is that we should focus on what we know can be done. As a small example, the two fields next to our house, which last year cropped ‘Oilseed rape’ harvested in July (a lot of which is grown for ‘biodiesel’) have been so far been sprayed four times with ‘Roundup’ (glyphosate-based herbicide) which may possibly be linked to cancer, in an attempt to kill off ‘re-seeding’ by the rape. Why do ‘Extinction Rebellion’ not seem to care about this, which seems to be a case of life-threatening pollution which is being created in the name of reducing our dependence on oil? I believe that a great deal of our rapeseed is exported to Germany, because their farmers and environmentalists don’t like the huge volume of chemicals that the growing of rape requires at different stages.
So what’s our duty as Christians? We should care deeply about the pollution of our land, of our seas and of our atmosphere. We should fight to get previous pollution cleaned up and focus our efforts on reducing known man-made pollution as quickly as possible. And as for global warming, until there is more scientific understanding, we may just have to accept that for the moment, the cure might be every bit as bad, and possibly even worse than, the disease.