Given the Ecological Crisis, what is the role of the church?
Kay Goldsworthy, Assistant Bishop of Perth, chaired a session in which both the science and the implications for moral leadership at a time when our very existence is under threat was considered.
The principal speaker, Professor Chris Rapley OBE, currently Director of the Science Museum and well known expert on climate change, outlined some of the indisputable evidence: the earth is a complex object with no manual, no spares and is finite. Its currently unhealthy state is being driven by human behaviour, and the need for fossil fuels that has happened within the last 200 years. The UN IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) wrote in 2007 that “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal”. The effects of climate change can be seen in one off extreme events, which impact areas such as flooding in low lying coastal communities, as well as gradual changes.
A partnership is required, to allow the solutions which lie in our human capabilities to be seen and activated. Moral leadership is at the centre of this to ensure problems created by humans are solved by humans.
The Rt Revd James Stuart Jones, Bishop of Liverpool described how his understanding of the effect of this on our children had been dramatically changed by talking with thousands from his diocese, many from deprived areas, and all of whom who are anxious about the future of the world.
The ‘Tree Mother of Africa”, Nobel Prize winner Wangarai Mathai described, via video, her passion for replacing the lost trees of Kenya. Through trees they have all they need for food, fuel, and trade, and after 35 years they are now achieving this. A side benefit is reduction of friction, since there is more arable land to share. But some people still won’t listen… In addition to the motto of Reduce, Re-use, Re-cycle there is also Respect. Mathai believes that what the bishops say will be taken seriously so they must understand and do something, such as plant a tree.
The Rt Revd George Browning, Bishop of Canberra, spoke with passion and enthusiasm about the imperative of moral leadership right now. Have the bishops got the energy? Is this not out core business? This is actually the old religion, not a new one since the whole created order is either blessed or diminished by us. Will the West lead? Or will it be left to people like those in Papua New Guinea who said “We want you to lead, we expect you to lead, but if you won’t get out of the way and we will!”
The Rt Revd Dinis Sengulane, Bishop of Lebombo Mosambique, spoke of the effect of rising temperatures on the increase in malaria in his country, where a child dies every 30 seconds. In addition, the cashew nut, both a primary food source and a cash crop, is not growing or fruiting as it used to. He suggests “the typical Anglican” is a black woman carrying the precious resource of 20 litres of water on her head for her family to use, the times of flooding being simply the maker between droughts.
The good news is that we have the skills to know there are problems, and also to solve them. Anglicans have credibility, and if we blow the trumpet call to action many will follow us. God’s cares enough to help us be the solution to the problem.