A good question: What action should we take on climate change?
One question, four answers
‘We need nonviolent direct action’
In May, people around the world were shocked by footage of an 83-year-old grandad being escorted off the top of a DLR train by police as part of the Extinction Rebellion climate change protests. Looking more at home in a greenhouse than a green protest, why would Phil Kingston, a devout Christian and ex-parole officer, feel driven to take such drastic action?
Phil took part in the rebellion with fellow Christians who stand under the banner of Christian Climate Action. A band of unlikely rebels, our uniting motivation is our respect and compassion for God’s creation and a drive to protect it. However, each of us have our own personal reasons for taking part. ‘I have four sons’ said the Revd Helen Burnett, ‘young adults who are apprehensive about their future. I lie in bed and weep for the future they face.’
Scientists warn us that if we carry on along our current trajectory, we could see climate breakdown as early as 2030. Jim Skea, co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s working group, has made it clear that the response required to prevent this is not like any we’ve seen before: ‘Limiting warming to 1.5C is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics’, he said, ‘but doing so would require unprecedented changes’…
Holly-Anna Petersen is a member of the protest group Christian Climate Action
‘Contact your MP’
When the United Reformed Church General Assembly agreed a new environmental policy in 2016, it acknowledged climate change to be ‘the most significant underlying issue of our time’. It called for urgent action at all levels of the Church and of society, recognising this would require both conversion in the practices of individuals and communities and transformation of structures and systems.
There are many changes we can make to our lifestyles as individuals to reduce our carbon footprint. These include flying less and using public transport rather than our own cars, eating less meat and sourcing our food more locally, switching to renewable energy suppliers and making our homes more energy efficient.
For local churches, registering as an Eco Church (in England and Wales) or Eco-Congregation (in Scotland) is a great way of beginning a journey of deepening and strengthening your care for God’s creation. These ecumenical programmes help congregations to review practices across the whole of church life – including building use and management, worship, community engagement, land management, and lifestyles – and look at how you can make more environmentally responsible choices. Guidance and awards encourage you along your journey…
Simeon Mitchell is United Reformed Church Secretary for Church and Society, and works as part of the Joint Public Issues Team of the URC, Methodists, Baptists and Church of Scotland. For more information, visit urc.org.uk/caring-for-creation and www.christianaid.org.uk/climate
‘Face the end’
The latest climate science reads like a Johannine apocalypse. It is very scary. Many, as in John’s time, simply ignore the warning signs. But thank God for people like Greta Thunberg, David Attenborough, the wonderfully brave, striking children, and Extinction Rebellion. They help us to awaken to what is, and what is yet to come.
At Christ Church United Reformed Church, Petts Wood, we are doing all the right things: eco awards, eco gardens, bug hotels and climate justice activism. None of this, however, changes the reality: humanity is blasting through earth’s climate tipping points. The last time the earth had 400ppm CO2, palm trees grew in the arctic, and 95% of all living species went extinct. We are faced with the dawning realisation that humanity itself is on the verge of being wiped out.
Children worldwide are expressing levels of anxiety, depression and fear. Many are at one of the stages of grief as they process an uncertain future. They face the terrifying prospect of societal collapse, perhaps human extinction. We know social collapse will be uneven. The poorest and the global south will be affected disproportionately harshly. Soon everyone will have to face the end of our current means of sustenance, shelter, security, identity and meaning…
Nadene Snyman is Minister of Christ Church United Reformed Church, Petts Wood
‘Stop praying, and act’
Climate change has brought about a great deal of disturbance to our way of life as Tuvaluans. Tuvalu – a small Polynesian island country to the north of Fiji, with no mountains – is on the brink of extinction. The increased frequency and the intensity of cyclones and longer droughts are serious threats to the very livelihood of Tuvalu and its citizens. We are not only observing rising seas during high tides but also the bubbling up of seawater from the ground. The detrended pattern of rainfall will pose a great challenge to the agricultural sector as it will disturb our traditional stable root crops and livestock, forcing our people to rely heavily on imported foods for survival. One risk of this imposed practice is to health, as people will not choose quality food but the low-cost items. They are no longer concerned about food safety, but simply the availability of food on the shelves.
While we continue to engage and negotiate at the United Nations for a fair and equitable deal on climate change, we have lived with its negative effects for many years and continue to do so. The unjust and unfair economic models constructed to uphold the interest of the capitalists benefited only a few, while the rest suffer. We continue to lift our voices to God: Why us? What have we done wrong? Why do we have to suffer the actions of the west? Our contribution is next to nothing, yet we are being called the first to disappear from the face of the earth.
Cyclones cause many internal displacements. In March 2015, Tuvalu was hit by tropical cyclone Pam…
Maina Talia is Climate Change Officer for the Christian Church in Tuvalu
These are extracts from an article that was published in the June 2019 edition of Reform