I often hear that the Biblical views on the sinfulness of wealth, the need for simplicity and the universal calling to economic equality are radical ideas. But they’re actually extremely realistic, in contrast to the mammonistic and neoclassical ideas of the necessity of wealth, growth and inequality. Not only because the Biblical ideas, if put in practice, fights poverty much more effectively, but also because they’re the only ones that can reduce the devastating impacts of the upcoming climate change catastrophe.
The other day I listened to a very interesting lecture by professor Kevin Anderson from Manchester University. He talked about the really dangerous form of climate change denial, which isn’t the goofy ideas that the planet isn’t warming or that its warming but we’re not the primary cause and so on. Those views are rejected by the vast majority of scientists and most ordinary people don’t believe in them either. No, the real problem is when scientists adjust or deny their results in order to communicate that we can mitigate and adapt to climate change without too much reduction in economic growth and without adjusting our economic system. He writes on his website:
In several important respects the modelling community is self-censoring its research to conform to the dominant political and economic paradigm. Moreover, there is a widespread reluctance of many within the climate change community to speak out against unsupported assertions that an evolution of ‘business as usual’ is compatible with the IPCC’s 2°C carbon budgets. With specific reference to energy, this analysis concludes that even a slim chance of “keeping below” a 2°C rise, now demands a revolution in how we both consume and produce energy. Such a rapid and deep transition will have profound implications for the framing of contemporary society and is far removed from the rhetoric of green growth that increasingly dominates the climate change agenda.
In the talk he gave several examples of scientists, political advisors and politicians that he has spoken to who are perfectly aware that with the current system there is no way we can keep the global temperature below a 2 degree rise, yet they say so to avoid spreading pessimism and inspire revolutionary ideas.
Why is this the case? Anderson pointed out that many foundations which fund climate research have stated that one of their primary goals is to strengthen growing economies, that criticising dominant paradigms within academia generally is a big risk taking and that the true conclusions of what science says concerning our chances to avoid an enormous climate catastrophe deeply question all of our lifestyles, including the one of the scientist.
But the Gospel presents a wonderful solution! If we collectively agree that wealth is evil and simplicity is necessary, if Christians start practising community of goods on a massive level and prophetically proclaim that the greed-based capitalist system is no better than the force-based communist system but we need a new, morally based, system – then we’ll make it. If you think this is naïve or utopian, ponder on the alternative: that our current longing for wealth will kill hundreds of millions of people and plunge humanity into an age of unspeakable misery that won’t end until Jesus comes back. Isn’t it obvious which route Christians ought to take? Which scenario is more realistic for us?