A few months ago I was asked to write some words for the 40 Acts Lent challenge. The brief was to connect green issues with Christian generosity. To me the connection seems obvious – a no-brainer – but the request got me thinking: it’s been five years since I started this column. We’ve talked about bidets and aluminium foil, frogs and chocolate, fear of peas and unsanitary seawater, but am I just blathering on, leaving everyone else wondering what place the environment has in a faith-based magazine? So this summer, for our fifth anniversary, I’m going back to basics.
First, let’s pose a few questions: Does God care about the environment? Does he notice if you drive a fuel-guzzling 4×4, eat steak every day and leave your electrics on overnight? Does it really matter if you tarmac your drive, buy kitchen gadgets you never use and only wear that frock once? Well, unless you’re ignoring the whole ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ thing, it would seem the answer is yes. Last year, Amnesty International and Greenpeace co-authored a statement that made the link between global warming and basic human rights patently clear.
An additional 600 million people could face hunger by 2080 due to climate change, their statement reads. And it sets out some stark facts: if temperatures rise by 2C (the lowest, and least likely, prediction), one in seven people will face a severe reduction in water resources. Not only that, but the effects of this catastrophe will be disproportionately experienced by those living in poverty, particularly women and children.
At the other end of the scale, 157.8 million people were forced from their homes in the past seven years as a result of extreme weather. There’s currently a 60 per cent greater risk of being displaced than in 1975. Homelessness is no joke, nor is losing all your possessions. The Bible repeatedly tells us to care for the destitute. It certainly doesn’t tell us to be complicit in causing their misfortune.
I’m not saying it isn’t a challenge – a huge one – to love your neighbour through your lifestyle choices; there’s so much – too much – to change. I can roll out the clichés: “one day at a time”, “an ocean is made of many drops” etc. and you’ll likely roll your eyes, but Jesus said, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: love your neighbour as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments’. When are we going to start taking Him seriously?