Why should we care about climate change?
Huw Brodie of the Church in Wales environmental group CHASE and Diocesan Eco Group joins us to ask what our responsibility is as Christians to care for the world, and why we should care to begin with:
Why should we, as Christians, care about nature, the environment and climate change? Should we see it as something integral to our faith, or as a minor, fashionable, add-on extra?
The summary of the commandments that Jesus quoted is very simple: we are to love God, and to love other people as ourselves. I would argue that caring for the world's ecology and environment is inseparable from each of these.
First, very simply, poor people are far more likely than the comfortably-off to suffer the effects of climate change, sooner, and to a more painful degree, for instance through food shortages, floods, and extreme weather events. This is clear from scientific analysis, and Christian Aid are very concerned about the impact climate change is already having, for instance in Africa. In Wales, climate change is already causing misery through flooding. We cannot pretend to care for other people if we ignore climate change.
Second, how can we say we love God if we abuse Creation? Many of us sense God’s glory in nature, as Gerard Manley Hopkins expressed in his memorable poem ‘God’s Grandeur’. But instead of walking lightly and respectfully on Creation, we are driving ecological catastrophe. Environmentalists who are not Christian sometimes see Christianity as part of the problem - they argue that the Genesis Garden of Eden story has been used to excuse human exploitation of nature. But that is not how the Eden story should be interpreted - the message is that people have a duty to act as stewards of God's Creation, looking after it, and serving it. After all, Jesus showed us how power is properly used, in loving and humble service, when he washed the feet of his disciples. Surely, we must keep that in mind when we interpret Genesis. Jesus was clearly sensitive to the fragile beauty of nature, saying that Israel's greatest king, Solomon, even dressed in all his glory, was not clothed as well as a single lily-flower. Passages in the Bible indicate that the healing of relationship between God and humanity includes a healing of relationship between people and the natural world, too (Isaiah 11.6-9, Romans 8.18-25, Revelation 21, 1-5a). That vision is beautiful, but it is also logical and practical, when you think about it. Exploitation of nature is normally linked, somewhere along the line, to injustice in human relationships, some people living at the expense of others (as any Christian or non-Christian book on sustainability would argue). These are issues we must address, for our very survival.
So, for me, everything fits together. Caring for Creation is an integral part of our faith, it is a thread that runs through the fabric. And now, through Eco Church, and with the diocese’s new environmental policy, we have a chance to show our local communities, and our young people, that we mean it.