March 2010 Anglican Newsletter
Keith looks at the conflicting arguents on Global Warming and applies his Christian doctrine to the problem.
There has been some fuss in the news recently about the evidence provided (or not provided) by the University of East Anglia in relation to global warming. If my memory serves me right the issue seems to have been partly whether or not there is any global warming and secondly whether (if so) it is man's fault.
Whether or not there is global warming seems to me to be pretty important. There seems to be a lot of evidence of it in the far north and the far south where the ice certainly seems to be diminishing pretty drastically. The problems for the Winter Olympics in Canada seem to be pretty unprecedented! So, I am not sure whether it actually matters too much if global warming is happening at all; whether it is happening in a large way or a small way, or not at all. That is to say that I do not know whether it matters in the short run, in terms of what we should be doing. If there is a real possibility that it is happening and we can calculate or guess at the likely effects (which have got to be disastrous in the short run for some of humanity, to say nothing of the other species in God's creation) THEN surely it is right and proper for us to take measures to ameliorate those effects, if only to slow them down, to allow for more effective avoiding action. If we could all agree with that, then the debate as to what is happening to the world's climate can again become the province of the scientists, until such time as they can tell us that the possibility has turned out to be a mere scare or to confirm that it has turned into a reality.
As you can see, I am wondering why I am bothering my silly little head about the big debate, when I really need to be concentrating on what is the best way forward, given that global warming, is probably, may possibly be, or whatever - happening.
The second question per se seems even less important, except from an academic or historical point of view. If there is global warming, it doesn't actually matter now whose fault it is, does it? It presumably started with our prehistoric ancestors burning down trees in order to make cultivatable fields in the woods and forests they lived in. I imagine the whole process will have started to accelerate with the early industrial revolution in this country and has spread from here and still hasn't reached all parts. The only benefit in knowing how the global warming is caused is that we may derive some ideas as to how to reverse or slow it down. Certainly, if on balance you do not believe there is any global warming in process, it would still make sense to encourage newly developing industrial economies to avoid the worst excesses of our own dirty development. If on balance, you think global warming is happening as part of a natural cycle, which has nothing to do with our endeavours, it still makes sense to avoid contributing to it with life styles which we all know reduce and waste the resources of our world and probably exacerbate the warming process.
As Christians, we are taught that God put us in charge of his creation - at the top of the pyramid - with instructions to exploit it. In the process of doing just that, we have been responsible for all manner of consequences, for example the extinction of the dodo. I don't feel especially guilty about that, although it is a shame. But now that we understand what we are doing so much better, we need to look at consequences and accept or aim for those that we consider good - there is no excuse for carelessness, even less for deliberate damage, regardless of possible benefit.
The key word in the last paragraph (for the Christian any way) is 'exploit'. My dictionary tells me that 'an exploit' is a brilliant achievement. It tells me that 'to exploit' is to work or turn something to good account. Unfortunately, nowadays we regard 'exploitation' as almost necessarily derogatory or reprehensible, which, of course, it can be. God's injunctions to mankind in Genesis chapter 1 (in the most famous English translation - the King James Bible) were 'to be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth'.
Whether or not there is global warming, we Christians are bound to try to 'replenish the earth', while subduing it and exploiting it (YES, exploiting it) and the life upon it. Atheists and agnostics should also feel a responsibility (from wherever it derives) for replenishing the earth in order to be able to hand down to our children and grandchildren as rich a body of resources as have been available to us.
So, I don't actually care if global warming is happening or, if so, why - I do care about making the best use of our planet while I am n on it and behaving responsibly in my exploitation of it and carefully in terms of handing on to the next generation a world as well managed as I can make it. I don't fully live up to my grand ideals (I strongly resent the useless energy saving bulbs which I am reluctantly putting in place of the old fashioned ones which actually provided light in my house), but my heart is in the right place. I care on a wider basis than this, of course, We are not bothered enough about the probable disappearance of islands which currently support living populations, as the sea seems to be rising around them; or the probable disappearance of Bangladesh under the waves, not just for a season every year, but for good.
But if these things are observed to be happening, then let's do something about it, without worrying about the niceties of academic study in the University of East Anglia or beating ourselves up with what is a natural consequence of the inventiveness of our ancestors, as they sought to subdue the earth and to be fruitful.
Licensed Lay Minister