Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Apathy is not an option

"No one who believes in a God that loves all people should be able to sit by as the wealthy harm the poor on a massive scale."

- John Torrey, Why Religious People Must Speak Up About Climate Change,
Huffington Post, 21st March 2012.

This piece clearly articulates one of the key ethical drives behind caring about climate change. Given that it is the wealthy who are by and large responsible and the poor who are most vulnerable, it represents a form of global injustice. We could add to this that it represents intergeneration injustice, another way in which those who have done little or nothing to contribute to the problem are left with facing the worst consequences.

Beyond injustice, we can also speak of respect for the Creator in respecting creation, our delight in the created order, our debts to and dependence upon the rest of the community of creation, love for our neighbour, prudence in the face of catastrophic harms and the rejection of idolatrous consumerism. There are many avenues into considering why Christians ought to care about our climate crisis (and ecological crises more generally). This Catholic article argues that it is part of a consistent ethic of life. With the potential for conflicts widely acknowledged to be exacerbated by climate change, then those who wish to be blessed as peacemakers should care too. Even those who believe that careful stewardship of economic resources is a high priority must acknowledge that credible climate damages outstrip many of the suggested mitigation strategies.

In short, if the earth is indeed warming, if our actions are the primary driver and if severe negative consequences are likely to continue to mount, then Christian discipleship does not leave room for climate apathy. Each of these claims is well established and the burden of proof lies with those who dissent from them. Christian discipleship also entails intellectual honesty. Honest scepticism is willing to update its beliefs in light of new evidence. If you do find yourself outside the scientific mainstream on this matter, then it may be worth being extra careful in reflecting on why and whether you choose to remain there.

There is more to climate change than these ethical considerations. Theological ethics does not specify in advance the best path of response for our policy, infrastructure or behaviour (though it may give us principles in evaluating proposals, such as being suspicious of the lures of wealth, paying extra attention to the plight of the most vulnerable and so on). For those already concerned, then becoming better educated on this very complex topic is an important next step. But apathy or indifference are not faithful options.


byron smith said...

Dr John Lockwood:* Superstition, climate scepticism and and Christianity.

*Another evangelical (? Baptist, at least) climate scientist (retired).