Dig beneath the surface of ecological issues and for many people, apart from fear, the second most significant factor driving our responses is guilt. So much of the discourse around ecological responsibility has the feel of a new legalism, a set of norms available to external quantification and verification that can at best provide useful guidance and at worst either crush motivation or provide an open door to self-righteous superiority (depending on the size of one's footprint). Indeed, the whole concept of an ecological or carbon footprint is ripe for interpersonal comparison and when linked to moral judgements of the necessity of reducing it, the full range of contemporary ecological psychoses becomes manifest: holier-than-thou accusation, desperate performance, pious self-denigration, tokenistic conformity, resentful rejection, weary indifference, paralysing despair.
If we are nonetheless to take our ecological concerns seriously (as the scriptures, reason and a passing familiarity with our present condition suggest), then do we have to live with such legalism? Of course not.
Basically, we need a way to talk about the good life to which Christ calls us that speaks in the tones of grace not law (apart from the law of love). This good life may well often look like taking up a cross and denying myself, but I walk it in hope and faith that the path of love is ultimately the path of life, even if I have to wait for God to raise the dead to see it.
We are set free by Christ to live as servants of God and neighbour. This is the only path to life, and at times it can feel narrow, and yet the content is actually quite flexible. Andrew Cameron speaks of the ethical life as being like a river - there is a strong current in one direction (love), but within that, there is water moving in all kinds of ways, at different speeds and so on. Yet there are still river banks. This is his attempt to speak of how the scriptures can be quite specific in their prohibitions ("do not lie"), but general in their exhortations ("love your neighbour").
drunkenness, or gluttony. I may know that once I have had ten drinks, then I am in disobedience to the warnings of scripture against inebriation, but there is not necessarily a line we can draw in the sand and say that up to this many drinks is I am simply enjoying the fruit of the vine. Perhaps legal blood alcohol limits for driving might give us a ballpark estimate, and perhaps contraction and convergence models of carbon reductions (applied on a per capita basis for our nation) might give us a ballpark estimate for our the path of our personal carbon footprint goals, but the law of the land is always going to be both too precise and too blunt an instrument for forming the mind of Christ within us.
If our goal is defined too narrowly in terms of certain emissions levels or atmospheric concentrations or personal footprints, then the complex world of goods and the discernment required to navigate it can become oversimplified. Even amidst the grave perils we face, Christian obedience is a path of freedom and joy, of trusting the goodness of God under the weight of a cross, of dying to self and receiving new life being granted as a gift.
Some better questions: How does new life in Christ lead into delightedly sharing my neighbour's burdens? In what ways are my neighbours threatened by ecological degradation? Which parts of my life and the life of my community contribute to this path of destruction? How can I discover new patterns of thankfulness, contentment and engagement to express the abiding peace I have received from Christ and the deep concern for my neighbour this grants me?