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Reform Magazine | November 15, 2019

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Chapter & verse: Genesis 1:27-29

Chapter & verse: Genesis 1:27-29

Helen Garton finds climate wisdom in Genesis

Half a century on this earth and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it. There were some troubled times in the past. In the 1970s, I remember power cuts, living by candlelight, the three-day working week, the hot summer of 1976 and water shortages. There were summers of discontent, IRA bombings and race riots. There were strikes and marches for the rights of workers. I was working in central London on 7 July 2005, amid the mayhem and confusion of the terrorist attacks there.

There have been many moments when the world changed forever. But the scale of the crisis we now face, with global warming, is so alarming that I wonder if we can even admit to the magnitude of what the future holds.

Has all this happened because we have subdued the earth and taken dominion over all the created world? We certainly seem to have made a mess of it and been too slow to act. Scientists tell us that we have maybe ten years to change our ways in order to halt the decline, so that global warming does not become any worse than it is already going to get.

Has God not told us to ‘subdue’ the earth? The word ‘subdue’ in Hebrew (carbash) means to dominate forcefully and to bring into bondage or submission. There’s not much comfort there, but I want some hope, and to see action which will make a change. I want to be able to look generations younger than me in the eye and know that we haven’t completely let them down.

In the 70s, there were signs of hope. I remember taking pop bottles back to the newsagents and the introduction of bottle banks in 1977. I remember the days when you bought most things loose, not wrapped in plastic. Our bins were smaller. Every year our church had a jumble sale, and clothes were recycled. There are signs of hope now too, as we (or at least some of us) become more sensitive to the planet in how we live our daily lives. That sensitivity is implicit in Genesis…

Helen Garton is Minister of St Columba’s and Cumnor United Reformed churches, Oxford

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This is an extract from an article that was published in the November 2019 edition of Reform

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