The Church Times Article (27 August 2021) by Katie Cross entitled “Our polite evasion is a threat to survival” is prefaced by a cartoon by Davey featuring a cleric driving away from a church building in an open topped sports car whilst the exhaust trail spells out “Go Green”.
In a hard hitting piece about our undoubted privilege of living here in the UK, Katie Cross makes the point that “priviledged progressives subsconsciously view climate change as a set of inconveniences that challenge their way of life.” She fairly puts the challenge: “how to care for those experiencing climate anxiety, whilst also maintaining accountability and challenging attachment to comfort and consumption.”
As with all these situations, posing the problem is easier than finding the solution. Am I falling into the trap of overcoming the inconvenience to my liefstyle by driving a hybrid car, changing my heating to an air source heat pump, installing PV panels, and ensuring my home’s Energy Performance Certificate has moved from Band D to Band B? Or am I exhibiting the climate anxiety Cross refers to? Privilege undoubtedly brings with it responsibilities because privilege puts us in the position of being able to make changes which others are not in a position to do so.
What prompted me was not only this article but the news that the pink iguana of Galapagos can be counted in a few hundred and is on the road to extinction. I have been to the Galapagos, but not encountered the pink iguana. The number of cheetahs left in the wild is only just over 7,000. I have seen cheetahs in the wild in Africa. The number of Mountain Gorillas is only just over 1,000. I have twice visited Bwindi Impenetrable Rain Forest and been privileged to see these magnificent primates (There is that word again “privileged”). The same can be said of countless other species: orangutans, even bees and other flying insects are in sharp decline. Does my planting some wild flowers in my garden and my energetic attempts to recycle everything also fall into the trap of simply overcoming the inconvenience that climate change is causing to my lifestyle?
The age of petrol-chemicals and oil is passing. We are entering a new and potentially dangerous age of change that has to be brought about with immense speed if we are not to hurtle towards the self-destruction of our planet. As a Christian I have a responsibility to face these hard questions, racked with guilt as I may be about my position of privilege, but not so that it disables me from facing some difficult truths and doing what I can to do something about them.
There is a well known maxim: “pray as you can, not as you can’t”. I want to borrow that maxim and say “act as you can, not as you can’t”. That is not an excuse for inaction, but a call to arms to act in ways that may be small but cumilatively can make a difference. The climate change emergency is now, not tomorrow. One of the actions of the Holy Spirit is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable and whilst I am open to the charge of hypocrisy (as all Christians are) at least I can acknowledge that and attempt to do something about it.