Creation, dreamed up by a beautiful innovative God. Land that, like in Gen. 1-28 – 30, God gave us. To rule over, to steward and to bless in goodness and prosperity.
How does it feel, to know that our God made this? How does it feel to know that we live in such an abundant, creative earth? How does it feel to think of this beauty and this intricately balanced world we inhabit?
And how does it feel to know that the Sahara desert is expanding by 3km per year, resulting in the slow desertification of Africa, making this continent that is home to over 1billion people, potentially uninhabitable?
How does it feel to know that we cut down 375 square km of forest per day – just under the size of Lake Taupo per day?
To know that hundreds of billions of plastic bags are produced each year, and of these hundreds of billions, only 1% are recycled, the rest taking hundreds of years to break down in landfills?
How does it feel to know that sea levels are expected to rise over half a metre in the next 70 years, slowly submerging a huge amount of land that people depend on for thier homes?
How does this feel??
Global warming is a hugely controversial topic, and one that many people believe is exaggerated. But its better to understand it and the weight of it before we make any assumptions.
Global warming all starts off with something called “The Greenhouse Effect”. The "greenhouse effect" is the warming that happens when certain gases in Earth's atmosphere trap heat. These gases let in light but keep heat from escaping, like the glass walls of a greenhouse. First, sunlight shines onto the Earth's surface, where it is absorbed and then radiates back into the atmosphere as heat. In the atmosphere, gases trap some of this heat, and the rest escapes into space. The more greenhouse gases are in the atmosphere, the more heat gets trapped, and the warmer our earth is. This greenhouse effect is what keeps the Earth's climate warm enough to be livable.
Levels of greenhouse gases have gone up and down over the Earth's history, but they have been fairly consistant for the past few thousand years along with global average temperatures. Volcanic eruptions or weather patterns have always warmed and cooled the earth, but now humans have increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by more than a third since the industrial revolution. CO2 has increased hugely in the last century - just in the last two decades, CO2 equivalent emissions have gone up by 6 billion metric tones. This is a huge increase, one that has been imminent since the beginning of the industrial age. This increase is not only due to emissions from fossil fuels, coal and oil, but also the massive deforestation of billions of acres of forest at unsustainable rates. Changes that have historically taken thousands of years to happen and have historically been fairly consistent are now happening over the course of decades with disastrous effects - Scientists are already seeing some of these changes occurring more quickly than they had expected. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, eleven of the twelve hottest years since thermometer readings began occurred between 1995 and 2006.
Perhaps "climate change" is a more appropriate name as opposed to "global warming", because although temperature have risen, other parts of the globe have also cooled - on the whole, weather patterns become more extreme and symptoms vary. What remains inarguable though, is the fact that climate change is happening at this very moment and whether or not is was started by humans, we are inextricable linked to this phenomenon.
So this is all very well but…how does this relate to us, as followers of Jesus? My view is that we are under the authority of Yahweh. He is all, created all and gave us responsibility over the environment, to steward and protect – just look to Genesis chapter 1, or Psalm 8.
Our true identity is in love for others, and for our world. So how are we honoring God with our destruction of the planet? Every time a species becomes extinct because we have abused our power over its life and habitat, we are essentially claiming that we have the power to destroy what God created. Every time we show disregard for the creatures we have been placed to live with, every time we cut down a football field of trees, every time upset the delicate ecosystem that depends so significantly on its finely tuned dials – we are claiming that the great and infinitely beautiful planet that we have been gifted is not Gods, but ours to do what we like with; that his creation does not deserve respect, but instead is something infinite, or easily dispensable?!
We don't all have to be anarchist tree-huggers, or environmental terrorists, or live in a commune. It is about changes that are sustainable and effective in the long run, as well as living a life that honours God's creation. I hate the fact that we need to take the economy in to account, but its impossible to ignore the fact that we can easily upset any economic stability and possibly hurt the poor hugely - how do we expect people who can't afford a meal a day to afford Fairtrade products or buy a Hybrid car? Yet the thing is, all these issues are hugely linked; our capitalist society is allowing the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer and to be completely honest, this massive difference in wealth is something that is affected by the environment. The rich use thier riches to say that is they turn 'green' they'll lose money. Oh thats ok. How about when your kids lose thier lives in 50 years? The poor can't turn 'green' because they can't afford it. How do we expect them to pay bigger taxes to fund environmental research?
This is when I kind of like the idea of Communism.
But what is NZ doing? The ETS. Emissions trading scheme. Trading NZU's (NZ Units) in return for the right to emit CO2. It's a handy little thing, encouraging tree-planting and owning forests in return for NZU's, getting taxed if you're emitting gases...
But it's still so capitalist. People are still getting rich off it and noone's heart is actually changed.
What's the world doing? The Kyoto protocol...kicked off in 1998, almost every country in the world is a part of it, vowing to reduce our CO2 emmissions to 5% less than it was in 1990. Well I say almost every country because, well America refused to join. Why? Because they didn't want China to have an "unfair advantage" in world trade if they were less limited in thier emissions than America. Which kind of renders the whole thing a little bit pointless seeing that as about 5% of the world population consuming 40% of the worlds resources, America kind of need someone to kick them up the butt and tell them pull thier socks up, as my Mum would say.
The Kyoto protocol is good - it gives us a global incentive to reduce emissions and produces some kind of universal unity.
Because it is all linked. you may say there are other more important issues, and I agree. Not everyone's passion is in conservation. But it is linked, climate change is robbing people of thier land, of the ability to plant crops, of the very air that they breathe. How can we say poverty is more important when the poverty is being caused by a famine thet we caused because of our greed and slothfulness?
I guess the crux of this is the passion though. The environment lives, breathes…We are on the most delicately attuned planet; Exact salinity in the sea, exact amounts of oxygen in the air. Species depend on one another – its all relationship. God is relationship in Himself. Father, Son, Spirit. We are created in his image, in relationship – man and woman, friendships and love. And the whole earth is in relationship – it is transient, moving, breathing, ALIVE.
Did you know that in the last 20 years 4 million acres of Spruce tree’s in Alaska have been destroyed? Because the temperature of the last 20 summers has been increasing, Spruce Bark beetles has increased in number and stripped all those tree’s of their bark for food. That amount of tree’s disappearing affects hundreds of species and their habitats, can upset an entire ecosystem! It's not just the tree's or the beetles, it's the birds, the bears, the insects, the ground tree's, the vines and bushes and rodents and predators. All destroyed.
Imagine this beautiful earth being poisoned. It IS being poisoned. It is heart-breaking! There is a new heaven ad a new earth coming – a new cycle of life, renewal and restoration (Rom.8:19).
We HAVE to have a part in it – this is a step in us bringing the Kingdom to earth. What is the point in having children if our earth is going to be dead within 100years? Do we not want out great grandchildren to be able to feel air on their skin without being burnt by acid rain or scorched by the sun through a depleted ozone layer, or unable to drink fresh water because our finite resources are finished??
We are yearning for redemption, we say we need God so much yet we take this gift of life we have so lightly.
Since when did our greed and faith in money get so great that we put the economy before protecting our environment? When did we get so arrogant that we say we have say over the future of our earth when God gave it to us. “Increase in number and be plentiful,” he said. “Rule over the birds and the land and the animals and the sea,” he said. He gave us this beautiful, creative gift of life that enables us to survive and we are indebted to him. We should be totally indebted to Him, totally in love with Him and all he has created and nurture this gift of love, this gift of creation.