Care for Creation

“You put us in charge of your handcrafted world, repeated to us your Genesis-charge” (Psalm 8)

Why Should Christians care about the planet?

In the very first book of the bible, in Genesis 1, God says: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature so they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle, and, yes, Earth itself.” It’s a pretty clear message that God wants us to look after planet earth.

What are we doing to the planet?

OK, back to basics… Our planet is surrounded by atmosphere – a layer of gases that act like a blanket. Without it we would freeze, but make it too thick, and the planet starts to warm up.

We’re doing two things to increase the amount of these “greenhouse gases”. We’re burning more fossil fuels, and we’re cutting down the trees that absorb greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.  
Global average temperatures are increasing each year, and according to NASA, 2016 was the hottest year globally since records began in 1880!

Just think about your average day. Your gas burning boiler probably kicks in before you wake up, to heat your house and your hot water. You then start switching on lights and appliances, using electricity that might be produced by burning coal. You have your breakfast – the cereal has been planted, harvested, and transported using diesel. The milk has come from cows who (accidentally) emit methane (another greenhouse gas), and also has to be transported by a lorry burning diesel. You then go outside and get into your car, which burns petrol. An aeroplane flies overhead, burning kerosene. You get the idea! Over the past fifty years our western lifestyles have become more and more dependent on oil and other fossil fuels, and our greenhouse gas emissions, or carbon emissions, have increased in line with this.

Does Climate Change actually matter?

Wouldn’t it be nice if the world warmed up a bit? It’s always cold here!

One of the major impacts of the planet warming up is that the arctic ice caps are melting. And as the seas warm up, the water in them expands. These are two of the factors that contributes to raising sea levels, causing problems for low-lying islands and coastal communities around the world. The increase in water temperature also causes coral bleaching.

An increase in temperature is also causing glaciers to melt. In many countries around the Himalayas people rely on annual melt-water from the glaciers for their water supply. As the planet heats up, some weather systems become more forceful, and there is an increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, and storms, all of which can lead to food shortages.

How is Climate Change affecting people in less developed countries?

People all over the world are being affected by climate change however those in less developed countries are feeling the impact more severely. Many of our partners in Africa and Asia are small-scale farmers relying on rain-fed agriculture. When there are droughts or floods the impacts can be devastating.

The fact that the people in the countries most affected by climate change are also the people who have a very simple lifestyle, with significantly smaller carbon emissions, is an injustice referred to as “Climate Justice”.

As Christians we have a responsibility to take action to change this situation. In Leviticus and throughout the bible we are told "love your neighbour as you love yourself”. It therefore follows that we should reduce our carbon emissions and halt the increase in global temperatures as soon as possible.

So what is anyone doing?

It’s not all doom and gloom. Amazingly in 2015 every country in the world sat down together in Paris and agreed that climate change is a serious issue and that attempts must to made to avoid the global average temperature from increasing more than two degrees.

The Scottish Government has possibly the most ambitious climate change targets in the world and already more than half of our electricity is produced from renewable sources.

And Eco-Congregation Scotland has been formed to help churches to tackle climate change by raising awareness of it, taking practical action to reduce the carbon footprint of church buildings, and to reach out both locally and internationally.

What can I do?

Individually, you can think about how your choices affect your carbon emissions. You could walk or cycle instead of always driving, or you could look into buying an electric car, especially if you are a two-car family. You could decide to always take the train to London instead of flying. You could make sure your house is as well insulated as possible to reduce the amount of energy needed to heat it and change to LED light bulbs. You could make sure you are recycling as much as you can. You could ensure that you buy your electricity from renewable sources, or better still start generating your own using solar panels, or other micro-renewables. If you have financial investments, make sure that your money is supporting the development of renewable energy rather than fossil fuels. You could ask your local politician what they are doing about climate change, and when you vote you could take this into consideration. You could go and plant lots of trees! You could pray.

Read

  • Hell and High Water: Climate Change, Hope and the Human Condition by Alastair McIntosh
  • Truth to Power (2017) Al Gore
  • Song of the Prophets, A global theology of climate change, from Christian Aid
  • Taken By Storm: Responding to the impacts of climate change
  • Loving Creation: Christian Spirituality, Earth-centered and Just, by Kathleen Fischer. Published by Paulist Press (2009)
  • A Moral Climate: The Ethics of Global Warming - Michael S. Northcott. Published by Christian Aid/ Darton Longman & Todd (DLT), London, 2007

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