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Dreaming innocence in the face of climate change

12 October 2012


From Canon John Nurser
Sir, - I am surprised that the Christian Church is not (to my knowledge) making any significant response to the consensus among scientists that global warming and over-population have now developed an almost unstoppable momentum.

Yes, synods can and do submit memoranda to international conferences. But what difference do these make, when there are elections to be won? Does anyone seriously suppose that there is the political will in the United States (or Britain or China) to invest now in the infrastructure that would make life after road transport bearable?

I believe that a shared community experience of religious faith - far more than education - is one of the only fulcrums against which a lever can be imagined that might still be effective in changing human behaviour. After all, change is the Christian métier. And Christians are a world-wide community. We set up a language of global human rights after the Second World War to provide communities and individuals (without distinction) with space and time to live and to become. It was intolerable that packing a town's Jewish population into trains for Auschwitz should be legal, that there was nothing to be done.

And yet . . . is not our complicity in "dreaming innocence" about climate change - our conviction that there is nothing effective we can do (and, meanwhile, let's enjoy ourselves) - very much of a piece with the mind-set of "decent" German churchpeople two generations ago? Trains already rumble out of far-off villages with populations whose farmlands are finally burnt out. Fairly regularly, as summer ends, we see on television great hunks of ice flaking off Arctic glaciers into the sea.

London in August was Olympics time. As circuses go, it was a great success. In the same month in the Royal Court Theatre, a distinguished professor of computational science, Stephen Emmott, gave a nightly lecture-performance to a packed audience on global population - four billion in 1980, and a likely ten billion to come by century's end.

His conclusion (and he is not a maverick scientist) was that life on planet Earth is racing to extinction. In other words, we belong to a generation that will witness the unfolding of an apocalypse that (in all likelihood) it is already too late for any human action to stop. We accept that our grandchildren will be on these trains. And we accept that there will then be no Bach to be played (or, for that matter, no gospel to be preached).

I repeat: is it not odd that every Christian congregation is not raging with anxiety every week at what we are allowing ourselves to do to God's world?

68 Friars Street
Sudbury CO10 2AG

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