I write this as the Government has announced it will cut greenhouse emissions to “net zero” by 2050. Many applaud, many say “too little, too late”. Allow me to let you in on a discussion that the Bishops of England and Wales had recently at their bi-annual conference.
“Looking at the bigger world picture it is obvious that the climate is already changing. Amongst its clear effects are the loss of 200 species per day, with one million species under threat; cyclone flooding on an unprecedented scale, an increase in wildfires and unpredictable seasonal changes disrupting agriculture. The ice caps are melting at an alarming rate and sea levels are rising, already submerging some Pacific islands and endangering coastlands where cities have become home to 40% of the world’s population. Experts in a wide range of scientific disciplines (over 95%) agree that we have about 12 years before we arrive at a point where there will be irreparable damage done.
Whilst it is important that governments act, and for industries to regulate their emissions and fossil fuel consumption, everyone must be involved. Pope Francis insists that no one can excuse themselves. All must change their living routines and begin to understand these issues more clearly, creating a greater awareness and sense of urgency, which in turn will force governments and industries to take more stringent action.
It is imperative that we recognise that each of us has a role in caring for our common home. As bishop, I would want to encourage all local initiatives concerning re-cycling, energy economy, simpler living, reduced meat consumption and food waste, and bring public awareness to pressurise governments to act.
However, there is also an opportunity. In the West it is generally true that we have lost many young people from the practice of their Faith. Yet these young people are the ones most seriously engaged in understanding Climate Change and its threats. The Youth Synod, last October, invited young people to show us the way. Is this the moment when we show the young that we recognise their insights and we will learn from them? Might this cause young people to re-engage with Faith? Pope Francis says that we must have hope that we can act in time. Will children, now in our primary schools, grow old experiencing humanitarian disasters that we did nothing to avoid, and learning only in history books about God’s creatures which suffered and became extinct on our watch? Will they rightly blame our generation for failing to be worthy stewards of the gift of creation? Did we fail to identify our neighbour and, like the priest and the Levite, see their brother injured on the road and just walk by on the other side?”
As ever, in blessed hope,