Climate of change!
It is official: each decade is getting warmer; the last decade was the hottest on record; we now have the highest carbon dioxide recordings; ocean temperatures are at their highest; droughts and floods and fires are affecting the whole world. The news carries more and more stories of climate change, the latest of which is the fascinating insight into the Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica, and the consequences of its melting on sea levels that will bring many lands around the world into grave danger.
It is also official: I am no expert, and science was never my thing, but then that applies to a great deal of things in life, so we all make decisions based on the facts that are presented to us. You can decline to accept climate change (like some prominent people – cough loudly – mention no names in particular – but you know who I’m talking about) or you can accept that something major is happening and affecting our planet on a scale never seen before.
Me? I accept the wisdom of Christian Aid and support its climate change campaign. I hear what Greta Thunberg is saying and the momentum for change that she has so wonderfully created. And who doesn’t admire and hold in great affection our national treasure, David Attenborough, who has said to world leaders that we may only have a matter of a few years to make decisions and take action that will affect the next few thousand years of our planet.
Is there a climate emergency? I accept that there is. So what am I going to do about it? What are our governments going to do about it? And what is the Church going to do about it? As we have all contributed to climate change, now is the time to create a climate of change!
As we leave the European Union, cast your mind back over the last four years and remember how we heard of little else apart from Brexit. Whatever side you were on, it has consumed our attention. And yet it is nothing compared to the climate emergency we now face. So one thing we can do is hold our governing bodies in Scotland and the United Kingdom to account and urge them to make “tackling climate change” the very top of every agenda.
What can we do as individuals? Back campaigns, speak out, write blogs! Make choices on a daily basis about how we can avoid things like single-use plastic; make informed and sensible choices about the things we buy, the investments we make, the energy we use, the things we eat; use cars less, fly less. There are plenty of individuals and companies around the world simply neglecting these issues and giving them no thought. Thankfully there are people like Greta Thunberg and many other activists around the world waking us all up to reality – don’t listen to me, she would say, listen to the scientists and listen to the facts, they do not lie – we have a small window in which to act. People are fickle and may leave it until it’s too late, but I hope and pray that the climate of change being created will indeed combat climate change.
And so to the Church. The Church of Scotland headline on 2 May 2019: “Kirk must be at the forefront of leading changes to tackle climate change.” Noble words, for there is “no time to lose”. What are we doing? It is one thing to say these things, another one altogether to deliver. As we worship the Maker of heaven and earth, what are we actually doing to care for this planet which God has gifted us?
In the Kirk we have supposedly voted for a “climate of change” through radical action to reform the Church. But it has taken nearly two years to achieve only very limited change. Yes, there are some central structures changing; yes there are moves afoot to decentralise to larger regional Presbyteries; yes some visionary ways are being introduced in some parts of the country. But we have not seen sweeping changes that have drastically altered the financial system to allow for a refocus on mission in local congregations. We have not seen any reduction in the archaic rules and regulations we have followed blindly for decades. We still have many Churches (and ministers) who cannot see past their own doors and, regardless of the facts of decline that stare us in the face (thanks for that line Greta), refuse to change.
Should “climate change” not be top of our agenda? If the Church is to be “at the forefront of leading changes to tackle climate change” then yes it should be top of our agenda. The Church says: “In our lives, in managing our buildings, our travel and our finances, we need to change quickly and purposefully.” Can you honestly say we are changing “quickly and purposefully”?
If we should be saving energy then why are we still retaining and heating too many large buildings from the central offices to the draughty Churches to the large manses? When are we introducing incentives for ministers to use hybrid or electric vehicles for work travel? Are local Churches known for supporting climate change in word and action in their communities? When will the Church make a stand and not make investments in areas which contribute to climate change? Our radical action plan is not radical enough. I thought there was “no time to lose”?
Changing mind-sets is our biggest challenge. If we are truly to create a climate of change in the Church we need to change mind-sets. If we are truly to combat climate change then we need to change mind-sets. The task is that simple and yet that enormous.