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Climate Crisis: It Hasn't Gone Away...

Published July 01, 2020 by Dr Sally Myers

Climate Crisis, Faith, Climate Change

Sally Myers reflects on the place of faith in tackling the climate crisis.

The world has very understandably been almost completely focussed on COVID-19 for nearly the whole of 2020. However, the very real issue of climate crisis is still waiting patiently in the wings for renewed media attention.

The scientific consensus is that the earth's climate is changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilisation through human-induced global warming. Yet it is hard to hear this scientific truth and individual and institutional reactions remain dissonant and often in denial.

Part of the problem is the complex nature of the issue, and for people of faith that complexity can also include theology. Of course, as always when human need is clear, we don't wait to get our reasoning sorted out before trying to help. Faith communities have been at the sharp-end of ameliorating the immediate consequences for those already suffering, predictably the poor; providing food and flood relief, and practical and spiritual help in re-building lives after tragic weather events. Interfaith networks have also come together for lobbying and demands for climate justice.

However, a new book argues that the role of faith communities could also be crucial in articulating a theological rationale for making the changes in attitudes and habits required to control, if not reverse, the potentially devastating effects of global warming. It argues that in order for this to happen, people who speak different languages (in more ways than one) need to listen carefully to one another. The book, which was inspired by a 2019 conference, Moana Water of Life, showcases the challenges and potential fruits of open dialogue between diverse stakeholders to navigate the critical challenges to planetary health caused by climate change.

Inviting participants to contribute 'in their own voices', the book cuts across real-life insights, ranging from researchers from the Pacific Islands Region on the front line of devastating water surpluses and shortages, to the thoughts of leading climate change and Earth scientists, social scientists, educators, faith leaders, theologians and activists who are offering practical solutions to the problem. By highlighting this collection of inspiring stories at the local and global levels, the authors aim to offer a vision of hope for communities in the future to communicate, adapt to change and ultimately resist further deterioration of the planet's health. Although a Christian initiative on this occasion, the book ends with an ambition to widen the conversation across different faith groups.

It is a great shame that this year's conference, Climate change and religion: Politics, perceptions and radical potentials, due to be co-hosted by the Woolf Institute and the Faraday Institute, had to be postponed. I for one, very much look forward to continuing the conversation.

The book, published on 17 June 2020, features a Foreword by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and an Afterword by Archbishop Emeritus of Polynesia, Winston Halapua. All royalties are being donated to the Red Cross in the Pacific Island Region.

This article is written by Sally Myers, Woolf Institute Visiting Scholar, who is researching the theology and psychology of wisdom across different faith traditions, and is also co-author of the book featured.

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