Notes and some images from Sunday’s sermon
Climate Change – Am I Bothered?
Job 28:1-11; 20-end
I’m sure you all know a lot about it, it is in the press all the time at the moment but I would like to do a quick summary.
What is Climate Change?
– When we talk about climate we usually mean the average weather over a period of time, usually about 30 years. We can talk about local climate and global climate. Even micro climates like a walled garden. Climate changes gradually over time but what we are seeing at the moment are big changes in local and global climate across the globe.
What causes Climate Change?
– The climate is a very complicated system and scientists have built huge computers to model it and try and understand it. It helps them to predict the weather in any part of the world and they are getting pretty good at it – honest!
– Climate change is occurring because we are disrupting the complicated systems. The most talked about is Greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. We burn carbon based fuels, mostly fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas which releases into the atmosphere carbon dioxide that has been trapped for millions of years. These greenhouse gases let sunlight in through the earth’s atmosphere and this sunlight warms up the earth’s surface, just as it has been doing for millions of years. However, the heat radiated off from the earth’s surface is less able to escape back out into space because the greenhouse gases trap more of it. The result is that the temperature in the atmosphere rises a bit. Even small changes in average temperature can have significant effects on these complicated systems leading to changes in the flow of air and water in our atmosphere. The climate becomes less stable with more extreme events occurring.
What will happen?
– As a result of warming, systems that we have relied on for centuries are changing. For example, there is the Gulf Stream, a powerful flow of warm water heated in the Gulf of Mexico that flows across the Atlantic towards Britain. It is driven by cold water from the Arctic sinking down and being replaced by the warm water from the Gulf. It keeps us about 9C above the average temperature for this latitude. It is also the source of strong cyclones.
– The melting of huge amounts of ice in the North Atlantic is altering this flow, the Gulf Stream may not be as stable, we could lose out on our warm blanket and find ourselves having much colder winters and more extreme weather.
– Melting ice will lead to a rise in sea levels. You may have read articles this week that say that it won’t be as bad as some scientists have been predicting because they think that the Antarctic ice cap won’t melt as much, but there is still going to some melting.
– And these articles were talking about the contribution to sea rise due to melting ice. They chose to ignore the rise in sea levels due to the expansion of water in oceans due to warming.
– Sea levels rise and will impact on islands like the Maldives. The Maldives are a string of coral islands in the Indian Ocean which some scientists predict will be inundated completely within 30 years. Three of the archipelago’s 280 inhabited islands have already been evacuated, and a new capital, Hulhumale, is being built on a reef bolstered with sand. When completed in 2020, it should house close to half the country’s current population of 340,000. But for how long?
– In Fiji, islands in the Pacific, the government has initiated a campaign called “Migration with Dignity”, as they face up to the fact that many Pacific islanders will in future have to leave their homes. This is due to many factors, including sea level rise, coastal erosion, saltwater encroaching into drinking water areas, and ruined crops. The Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, says: “We in the Pacific are innocent bystanders in the greatest act of folly of any age. Unless the world acts decisively in the coming weeks, the Pacific as we know it is doomed.”
– Low lying coastal land will gradually disappear under water, in some countries this land is the flood plains of rivers and is where most of the food is grown. In India alone it is estimated that a 1m sea level rise will displace 7.1 million people and cover over 5700 square km of land
– Climate chaos, the disruption of seasons, the loss of fertile land, all this is going to affect our ability to grow sufficient food as harvests will be reduced.
– Mountain glaciers, source of drinking water and irrigation, are melting more rapidly, this will affect our water supply, the seasonal flow of rivers and may lead to more flooding and droughts.
– Marginal land will become desert
– Many articles in the news and media predict the migration of large numbers of people
But it is already happening
– Between 2008 and 2013, some 140 million people were displaced by weather-related disasters with countless others being displaced by gradual climate change such as persistent droughts, sea-level rise, etc. These are “climate refugees”
– Syria crisis has been fueled by large numbers of people fleeing areas of drought which was probably caused by Climate Change due to Global Warming http://www.upworthy.com/trying-to-follow-what-is-going-on-in-syria-and-why-this-comic-will-get-you-there-in-5-minutes
– If we believe that we are called to live lives of justice and peace then we need to take these issues seriously because how we live affects the life of our planet and those who live on it. These are issues of faith and justice. Our God calls us to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with Him.
You bet I am!
Can I do anything about it?
Next weekend a very important international Summit is taking place in Paris. This is one of the greatest chances we have had so far that the governments of the world will agree to united action to achieve a legally binding universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2 degrees centigrade. People all over the world are taking the opportunity, next weekend, to tell their governments, through marching and protest, that this is important to them, and that they demand action be taken. On Saturday, as part of this, there is a great Peoples’ Rally at 3.00pm. in City Square. United action by the churches, is organising Pilgrimage Walk from the four corners of Leeds, to the Minster for a Service of prayer and commitment beforehand, before marching to the Rally. I do hope you can join in this event, as a way of making your voice heard on this issue. Get in touch with Sarah if you are interested.
Ecological Conversion: a spiritual response to climate change
How do we respond to climate change and the devastating environmental damage which our way of life is wreaking on our planet? Is it something you can engage with, or do you recoil at the immensity of the issue and your powerlessness to effect change?
I’ve been on a bit of a faith journey myself on this issue, and it has challenged the roots of my faith, and the depths of my emotions. I’d like to share a little with you.
Jan and Heston have shared a little of what it means to take St Francis seriously. Saint Francis has been described as, “the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable, and of an integral ecology, lived out joyfully and authentically… a model of the inseparable bond between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.“ It’s this inter linking of faith, justice and care for the earth which has caught my faith imagination. We are challenged by something which is not just an issue, it is uncomfortably, at the heart of the gospel, requiring us to enlarge our vision of God and our relationship with others.
One unlikely link can be found in the word “ecology” itself. The root eco- comes from a Greek word oikos and is an element of the words ecology, economy, and ecumenical. Oikos means “house’, so these three words mean respectively, “study of the house”, “management of the house”, and “universal house”.
Are we studying about or managing well what the Pope recently called “our Common Home”? Firstly, to take care of something, we need to love it deeply. So many of us live busy, city based lives, to the extent that loving people different to us becomes difficult, never mind loving other species, landscapes or woodlands. We are pretty much detached from the natural world.
A group of us have been trying to counter this by meeting monthly at Meanwood Farm to observe the farmland around us, within the centre of the city, searching for footprints of God there. As the months pass, we think about myths and saints, and watch the seasons, letting these soften our hearts, and strengthen our resolve to become informed and involved with efforts to discover sustainable lifestyles for ourselves and our planet. This is a struggle! The World Wildlife Fund has a quick calculator to critique your lifestyle, and tell you how many of our earths your life needs to resource it. I have been to Australia this year to visit my only grandchild. My lifestyle needs the resources of more than three of our planets to keep it going. Who in the world is losing out because I am taking more than my share? Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “The quality of our life is measured not by our achievements, but by the kind of world we will leave to our grand children”. Do I have to decide between either relating to my grandchild or not seeing her, but leaving her a world worth living in?
We live in an incredibly fragile earth. I have observed this just a hundred yards from my home. Last spring the season got out of kilter as cold winds and rain washed insects and grubs off the leaves, and hundreds of baby birds died. Magpies were the winners here, feasting off the dead birds, and now they are the ones starving, as their large numbers mean there is not the food to go round. This is not illustrating climate change, but does show what a fragile web of life we live with, and how easily it becomes unbalanced.
I’ve only noticed these things, because I have been sensitised to beauty in the last three years, having moved house a very small distance, to a place in which I felt myself being profoundly changed by a life slightly more in contact with the natural world. But most of the time we have to learn about our environmental influence on the planet by listening to other people. I’d like to bring you a message from the President of Fiji, an island in the Pacific. People there are suffering the effects of climate change, now, it’s not just an abstract injustice to them. The government has initiated a campaign called “Migration with Dignity”, as they face up to the fact that many Pacific islanders will in future have to leave their homes. This is due to many factors, including sea level rise, coastal erosion, saltwater encroaching into dinking water areas, and ruined crops, The Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, says:
“We in the Pacific are innocent bystanders in the greatest act of folly of any age. Unless the world acts decisively in the coming weeks, the Pacific as we know it is doomed.” The World Health Organisation estimates that between 2030 and 2050 globally, climate change will directly cause around 250,00 deaths.
Indirectly, climate change is multiplying death and destruction in complex ways. There is a clear line of argument that the Syrian conflict would not have exploded in the way it did, had it not been for the civil unrest and overcrowding in Syria’s cities. This had been caused by mass migrations from outlying rural areas, following six years of extreme drought, crop failure and the death of nearly 85% of livestock, directly related to climate change. A million people lost their farms, and moved into the cities, which triggered water shortages and social unrest. Many deaths later, we are seeing how this tension is multiplying across the middle East, and overflowing into Europe.
Pope Francis wrote an open letter this summer, called Laudate Si (“Praise Be!”) – On the Care of Our Common Home. He said,
“Generally speaking, there is little in the way of clear awareness of problems which especially affect the excluded. (and WE are a church who pride ourselves in seeking out the excluded) Yet they are the majority of the planet’s population, billions of people… Today we have to realise that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates about the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”
Can WE sensitise ourselves, through prayer, to the cry of the earth: understanding and appreciating the beauty of the fragile webs which keep our planet in balance? Can WE sensitise ourselves, through prayer, to the cry of the poor: understanding the need to change OUR hearts and lifestyles to enable ALL around the world to live in a sustainable way? These are some gospel questions which an understanding of climate change encourage us to face.
Is there hope for our world? Some people say we have passed the point of no return, too many people are already living the effects of man made climate change and our addiction to consumerism is too great to turn around in time to save a planet we would recognise. But I see signs of hope just in the initiatives which this Climate Summit have thrown up around the world. Whether it be theologians challenging our too-small views of God, engineers like one I met recently designing new means of desalinating seawater, architects, builders, and city councillors – many coalitions of people are challenging established wisdom and presenting the climate summit with new ways of being. Some cities in Britain, and many around the world, have decided to pull out of investing in fossil fuels. Other ordinary people like you and me are living in new ways already, and many are travelling to Paris to make their views known in mass protest.
What can we do. Sometimes it feels, very little, and the whole problem is overwhelming. The Pope again: “Our goal is not to amass information or to satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it.” Prayer and curiosity. Not being afraid to face this issue. Taking on suffering. A spiritual shift in our view of our place in the world.
We can and will pray, that there will be a fruitful outcome to the climate summit.
Another pope, Benedict 16th linked our personal spirituality to the ecological crisis, “The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast.” For this reason, the ecological crisis is also a summons to profound interior conversion… So what we all need is an ‘ecological conversion’, whereby the effects of encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in relationship with the world around.
We can begin to bring about this “ecological conversion” which will change our relationship with Jesus forever, through learning, studying and praying for personal transformation, and that there is still a chance that together, our world society can find peace and true sustainability.
The best thing for our planet and its inhabitants would be if we left fossil fuels in the ground. We need to find a way of transitioning the way we live so that we don’t contribute more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. This doesn’t mean going back to the stone age or middle ages. The Transition Movement is showing us the way, we can live our lives differently but still have satisfying, meaningful lives and know that we are contributing to the well being of the planet rather than screwing it all up!
A few weeks ago Lydia talked on how we are all consumers and that, as God’s children, we should take responsibility for how we spend our money and how we consume.
A book I am reading at the moment talks about how each we pound we spend is a vote. We may only be able to vote for our government once every five years but each time we spend money we are making a vote.
If we purchase food which required huge amounts of carbon based fuel to grow it then we are voting for a continuation of the industrial food system that contributes heavily to global warming and environmental destruction.
If we grow some of our own or buy locally grown, organic food – although probably costing a bit more – we are voting for a food system that contributes to food security and builds local community.
If we choose to drive our car everywhere we go then we are voting for a continuation of our destructive transport system.
If we choose to car share, take the bus, cycle or walk then we are voting for a transition towards a lifestyle that is less dependent on the personal car and for a better transport system.
If we buy our gas and electricity from a supply committed to extracting more fossil fuels out of the ground we are voting for more global warming.
If we move to an energy supplier committed to using only renewable energy then we are voting for change. If companies like British Gas and Npower lost customers to the likes of Ecotricity, what message will we be giving to a government who seem intent of sticking with fossil fuels?
Do we want to invest in pension schemes that support the fossil fuel industries, or do we want to put our vote and our investments in companies that are concerned about the future of the planet rather than just their profits? And while we are at it, does our employer or our council invest in fossil fuel industries? Can we change their minds?
As we buy Christmas presents do we want to buy presents that will last only for Christmas and then get thrown, or do we want to give presents that have meaning, that will last a lifetime and won’t wreck the planet?
We are in the last Sunday of the Kingdom season.
A favourite image of the church is of a pilgrim people and throughout the church liturgical year, which ends this week, we travel with Jesus through our readings, sermons and prayers. We started nearly a year ago with the beginning of Advent, the anticipation of the birth of Christ, we listened through the year to his teaching, witnessed his execution and celebrated his resurrection. We have celebrated the gift of the Holy Spirit and the whole of Creation. We explored the life of St Francis and he has had a profound effect on a number of our congregation. Our church year concludes with the Kingdom season. We started with All Saints day celebrating that we are all saints and remembering those who have gone before us. Today we conclude the year by celebrating Christ the King.
But King of what?
The Old Testament is clear that God is Lord or King of everything
When the early church declared Jesus as King and as Lord they were challenging the existing powers, the power of the Roman Empire, the power of the religious authorities, the power of those who tried to keep power and get rich at the expense of everyone else. They were challenging the injustices in the world and celebrating the fact that all of creation was Gods.
And that is the challenge to us today. All Creation belongs to God and we are called to live as if all creation matters.
If Jesus is King then are we bothered about Climate Change?
You bet we are!
N.B. There are loads and loads of resources on the Internet about Climate Change, it’s current effects on us and nature and predictions as to what might happen. A good place for us to start as Christians is the Christian Aid website.If you want to know more then both Paul and Pippa would be happy to have a conversation with you – so get in touch!