Saturday, July 07, 2007

Stewards of the Earth

I've been enjoying watching segments of the Live Earth concert this afternoon, so I kind of feel honour bound to cover the subject of climate change in a blog entry.

As a Christian, I hear many different viewpoints from other believers over this very issue. Some are skeptical. I think it is easy to be that way when many of us don't live on the front line, ironically the nations who cause the most damage are the ones with the technology to protect themselves best... and who are situated in locations where the consequences won't become truly apparent until it really is too late.

So is it any wonder that people with access to the information remain so cynical about it? Even among my friends there are those who don't believe that climate change is a genuine threat. Alcester is not a coastal town, it is nestled in a valley in the middle of England. It is a relatively "safe" environment. Yet 9 years ago during a period of torrential rain, the waters of the Arrow and Alne rose and flooded the town centre... many towns and villages suffered the same fate. It didn't make the news because the Good Friday Agreement happened on the same day. I remember driving home (which was an arduous task in itself), looking across the fields as we approached the town.... but the fields weren't there. As far as the eyes stretched, all I could see was an ocean of red water engulfing the land. Fortunately the damage in the town wasn't so bad... but I have never forgotten that image... knowing that when we see waters rise in other countries that don't have the ability to stem the tides, and it is only by virtue of where we are that we get off so lightly... is a sobering thought.

I'm sure the people of Sheffield and Worcester have probably thinking along similar lines in recent days. Are these just isolated incidents? I don't think so. We have had a couple of twisters in the midlands in recent years. I can't recall a time in the past century, let alone my lifetime where extreme weather has been so frequent. So I do believe things are changing.

I saw a documentary earlier this year called "God is Green", I was extremely concerned because there were church leaders who used a scripture to justify what they see as mankind's right to plunder the Earth and what he likes to it:

"Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.""
Genesis 1:26-28

As far as I am concerned they are extremely flawed in their thinking, theology and justification of such actions. It is true that God gave us dominion over creation. Yet time and again we have chosen to neglect one small matter...

... we also belong to God and are therefore answerable to him:

"To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it."
Deuteronomy 10:14

We don't own this planet in our own right, we are merely stewards and custodians of it.

Jesus once told a parable about a rich man who owned a vineyard and left it in the care of it's tenants. They proceeded to take advantage of their position, living it up and refusing to give the owner his rightful tribute. In the end the owner dispatches servants and even his son to resolve the matter... but they slay all of them. Jesus asked how the owner would react when he came to see things for himself?

Now of course, that parable is a warning against refusing God in our lives... but I believe that looking after this planet is part of that mandate. It isn't ours except by God's grace... when God gives us a gift, we should use it wisely and treat it kindly. If we are honest, we have not been doing that with the Earth itself... let alone many of our personal blessings.

Earlier this year I stumbled across a passage in James... and it was a bit of a wake up call to me as to why things like the abolition of slavery, Fairtrade and looking after the planet are important and part of serving God, if we live in comparatively wealthy circumstances:

"Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you"
James 5:1-6

Now I don't mean to get all apocalyptic... and of course I'm not suggesting any of have pointed guns at the heads of paupers and blown them away. Have we murdered people... simply by not caring about their fate whilst we accumulate wealth and possessions? My only real aim in writing all this is to make people (not excluding myself), seriously think about whether or not we have been remiss with regard to God and neighbour in the pursuit of material decadence?

In conclusion, I think I'm going to try and redouble my efforts with regard to showing compassion to people in need and to keeping the planet functioning correctly...

... until God calls time either on me, or the planet itself.

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