It was fantastic that MUC’s camp last month focused on Climate Change and that I was surrounded by like-minded people who also cared passionately about where the World is heading. Simply put, the distinct possibility of the extinction of much of God’s creation, and humankind in particular, has to be the core issue for our time. For me, the most alarming reality is that despite the well-meaning efforts made around the world to date to limit carbon dioxide emissions, notably with the roll out of solar and wind power, LED lights etc. the trajectory of carbon dioxide accumulation in the atmosphere and global temperature rise continues to accelerate. Whether we can slow that acceleration in carbon dioxide build-up, bring it to plateau and then remove the two centuries of pollution back to pre-industrial revolution levels in time, given the current culture of self-serving global politics is anybody’s guess. The chilling thing for us is that Australia stands at the forefront of that pollution, not only as the third greatest exporter of fossil fuels, predominantly coal, but also as the third greatest emitters of greenhouse gases per capita in the world.
As Christians, just what should we do?
While some are angry at the militancy of many environmental activists I am increasingly sympathetic of their stand. It seems to me that great change for the good often only comes when the masses selectively disrupt the economy. The refusal of poor weavers to manufacture cotton goods from the slave farms in America and the boycott of sugar produced by slaves in the West Indies in late 18thC Britain were key factors in the abolition of slavery. Likewise Nelson Mandela’s overt civil disobedience 60 years ago and economic sanctions against the South African Government brought about the end of apartheid. There are times in history when good people must stand against power and I fear with global warming we are at such a cross-road. At the very least, we need to support those businesses that work toward a sustainable world and actively resist those who promote ‘business as usual’. As with the abolitionists, if that behaviour threatens some industries, it might be the price we need to pay for the survival of civilisation.
What Australia now needs is courageous, enlightened and honest leadership. Australia, with sunlight and wind in abundance is uniquely placed to lead a green revolution. Indeed, we must, for with over one third of our current exports being coal and petroleum gas, raw materials that the world will not want in decades to come, we need to rapidly embrace the new energy resources that renewables can provide.
It seems to me that the time has come for MUC to join many other churches, governments and other bodies around the world who are declaring a ‘Climate Emergency’ for God’s earthly creation; to publicly embrace the call of the young Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg when she succinctly put it, “I want you to act as if the house is on fire, because it is.”