By comparison to what it could have been, it’s a miracle. By comparison to what it should have been, it’s a disaster’, says George Monbiot in his summary of the final agreement coming out of the Paris COP21 talks.
There are many excellent analyses of the agreement and the path that lies ahead already circulating (I recommend this one from Paul Cook of Tearfund). What has been really encouraging for me, personally, has been the tremendous response from faith groups, and the Church in particular, all round the world, who have got together, acted, spoken, marched, walked, cycled, campaigned…. to call for a future of hope for this earth and all that share it.
It was a privilege to be involved in a very small way in that big movement by taking part in a couple of inter-faith moments at the Climate March in London the day before the talks started, firstly at an inter-faith service at Westminster Synagogue and then on the podium at the main rally at the end of the march, with Rabbi Laura Janner Klausner and Shanza Ali (as you can see from the little video at the top, it was windy!).
A few people have asked to see my speeches so here they are. As we now set our faces to the road post-Paris, a road which will be demanding and challenging, I hope they will inspire us to keep faithfully working together and praying for a better world.
The Pre-March Inter-faith Service
A few years ago the Environment Agency brought out a report called, ’50 things that will save the planet’. They brought together 25 leading environmental experts and together compiled a list of actions in order of importance.
Much to everyone’s surprise, the second most important thing that needed to happen to save the planet, they said, was for religious leaders to make the planet their priority: to get their congregations of all different varieties to make caring for this world their priority, and to form a coalition to encourage their followers to set an example to the rest of the population.
Today is a sign that this is happening, as we stand here together, from our different faith traditions, united in our desire to protect this earth, and all its inhabitants, both human and other-than-human.
As we each reflect on an aspect from our particular faith that motivates us in our action on climate change, I’ve been thinking about how my Christian belief in God as the Trinity – God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit – inspires me as I think about this world and our place within it.
Our world is one huge interconnected whole, made up of a myriad of interconnected webs. The scientific term for these webs is ecosystems: the theological term is relationships.
As a Christian, I believe that God has created a world that is built on relationships, and we are a part of that as we think about our relationships with one another, with the wider natural world, and foundationally, with God.
My understanding is that this world exists because the Trinitarian God, who has relationships at the core of who he is, has poured himself out and created something that expresses himself. Of course, then, this world is made up of ecosystems, because it reflects a God who is utterly relational.
Climate change is basically relationship gone wrong, on all levels, and my worship of God sustains me in working to see those relationships put back to rights; working for a more just, more equitable and better world for us all, human and other-than-human.
My personal commitment is to do all I can to see this sort of thinking, and its accompanying practice, become an integral part of the life of the Christian community. In January, we are launching a brand new award scheme called Eco Church, which I hope will do just that. Eco Church will replace the current Eco-Congregation scheme and will challenge and equip churches across England and Wales to care for God’s world in all areas of their church life. We’re also going to be encouraging churches to take part in a massive big energy switch that a number of organisations are collaborating on.
We know this work will go on way beyond the next two weeks’ talks, so let us join together in solidarity, supporting each other on the road that lies ahead.
(Laura) We don’t own the world. We’re only temporary stewards.
Our relationship with the earth is like our relationships with each other. Every relationship, every person, every life, is precious, and a gift from God that we must treasure. So too we must treasure our relationship with the world. We shoulder the responsibility that comes with stewardship over this planet.
(Ruth) Right now, something irreversible is happening, something that will destroy the gift we’ve all been given, Christian, Muslim, Jew, people of any faith and none. Our earth is gathering scars and scratches from overuse and abuse. There’s no insurance policy. We can’t replenish lakes and trees, oil and minerals, melting ice caps. But together, we can halt this damaging process.
(Shanza) Climate change is not just something that will one day affect our children, it is affecting hundreds of thousands of people around the world today, right now. And it is disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable, harming those people who do the least to cause it. It’s our duty to restore the hope and dignity of those already suffering from droughts, typhoons and floods.
(Laura) Around the world we see efforts to protect our planet. Over recent years we have seen important changes such as a reduction in the use of plastic bags, an increase in recycling, and the growth of clean energy.
(Ruth) But change needs to happen faster, and on a global scale. As religious people, we know the power of working together as faiths united. We know how our faith can give us hope and strength, and a unique ability to galvanise humanity.
(Shanza) At a time when religions may seem further apart than ever, we can say today that we are united against climate change.
Let us not be remembered for our mistakes and silence. Let us be remembered as the generation that stood firm for Climate justice, and that brought us back from the brink of no return.
In order not to needlessly put off people, in my opinion it’s crucial to keep matters separated. These past two weeks, I’ve seen the central issue – the need for human action to mitigate, adapt to and suffer from climate change – mixed up with some very divisive other issues, such as ecumenism, moving to a state-planned economy, and gay rights. Every time people piggyback other issues with climate change, they are eroding away bits of their audience, no matter how well meaning they may be. So for the sake of our fellow travelers, let’s travel light, with as little baggage as possible.
Thanks Julio. I don’t think I’ve entirely understood your point. Are you saying that getting involved at this interfaith level is distracting/divisive, or that you think it’s a good thing? (btw you speak English better than I speak Portugese!)
My point is it’s good to work at the broadest level possible, including interfaith, but that we should stick to the issue at hand: climate change. If we link climate change with other issues as I’ve seen some do (not you, Ruth), we will lose people needlessly. Climate change should be a nonpartisan issue in all ways imaginable.
I’ve sent you a longer email. Thank you for the work that you do, it means a lot!
Thank you. And thanks for your email too, which I’ve seen. You’re right, we can let all sorts of agendas get all mixed up together, and people who believe passionately in fighting against climate change will also have other things they’re passionate about, which can then alienate other sectors. ‘Tis the trouble of working with people rather than on your own, which would be so much easier!
Thanks for understanding. As to the messiness of other human beings and their different ways, well, for me personally one of the best ways of learning about my own shortcomings is working with other people. So, even when it’s bad, it’s good! 🙂
I need a ‘like’ button for that.