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Last weekend, I met some other Christian activists discussing the serious threat of climate change, its effects on the poor and what we should do. We will partake in Act Alliance‘s global climate campaign next year that will urge world leaders meeting at the COP 21 in Paris, December 2015, to finally reach a universal, legally binding agreement on the reduction of greenhouse gases, stopping the global warming from reaching more than 2 degrees Celsius. To get some inspiration, we watched an awesome documentary called Disruption, produced by 350.org.
Instead of getting stuck in debates with the skeptics, Disruption simply concludes that the absolute majority of climate scientists agree that this is an enormous threat towards especially the poor and vulnerable. The title refers to “the dangerous environmental tipping points after which the entire climate system could spiral out of control, as well as the need for a mass social movement to disrupt the status quo and business-as-usual approach which is inhibiting the bold actions necessary to protect the planet’s future.” If the current global warming melts the arctic or releases tons of methane in the tundra, climate change may spin out of control. It is urgent to stop this as soon as possible.
Disruption is thankfully not just about the problem, but mainly about the solution. It’s a film by activists for activists, and its main focus is the historic People’s Climate March, the biggest climate manifestation in history. The documentary was released two weeks prior to the actual march, so you may feel a little disappointed after watching it without seeing what is being prepared throughout the film. But fear not, I got the solution: here are some pics from this amazing event that occured on September 21st in New York, Berlin, London, Lagos, Istanbul and many other places:
Kumi Naidoo, international director of Greenpeace, tweeted an article today that caught my attention. Written by David Suzuki at EcoWatch, it discusses climate change deniers and their mutually exclusive arguments. At a recent conference organized by the Heartland Institute, one of the biggest centers for climate change “skepticism” in the United States, the speakers were arguing that climate change isn’t happening, or that it’s happening but that it’s cooling the earth instead of warming it, or that it is warming it but it’s not caused by humans but by the sun, volcanoes or something else, or that it is happening and it is caused by humans but it’s to expensive to do anything about it.
Obviously, these four theories are not compatible with each others, yet they were uttered at the same conference. The only common thread was, according to Bloomberg news, the constant jokes about Al Gore. I wasn’t at the event, but I recognize the pattern from various climate skeptic blogs that I’ve encountered; and I would like to add another thing that I think is almost universal among climate change deniers: conspiracy theories.
When I took a course in climate change at Uppsala University, we watched a British climate change “skeptic” documentary that argued that the earth is indeed warming, but it’s caused by the sun rather than carbon dioxide. It ended with an attempt to explain why most scientists believe in man-made climate change if it’s so obvious that it is caused by the sun, and the answer was – I’m not kidding now – that they are communists. The voice-over explained to us that after Soviet collapsed, Marxists and leftits felt disillusioned in how they now would crush capitalism, and found their escape in the environmental movement and its demand to decrease fossil fuel usage.
As the election to the European Parliament gets closer, I want to highlight some of the biggest European sins that unfortunately are not very present in the political debates.
The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia describes gluttony as “the excessive indulgence in food and drink. The moral deformity discernible in this vice lies in its defiance of the order postulated by reason, which prescribes necessity as the measure of indulgence in eating and drinking.” It is opposite of contentment and fasting. Gluttony is exetremely common in Europe and the rest of the so called Western world, not only in its original food sense but also when it comes to consuming other goods. In fact, consumerism is the defining social end economic order in modern Europe.
Consumerism is caused by the economic envy of Europe which sees endless economic growth as the main political goal, and it is because of this consumerism we see the horrible greedy neo-colonisalism where Europe enslaves poor workers in Asia and Africa. But not only does consumerism oppress poor workers, it also destroys the environment. It becomes increasingly clear that the world’s climate, water, forests, air, flora, fauna and more get polluted and destroyed by sinful humanity. The environment is a broad topic so let me just focus on the main environmental issue of our time: climate change.
I don’t want to spend so much time refusing climate skeptic’s arguments since that has already been done by others – check this website to find good replies to what they say. We have to agree that man-made climate change is a fact, and that it is caused by inequality and injustice. As the video above shows, it is mostly rich countries that has caused climate change due to their industrial pollutions while it is the poor countries that will suffer the most from climate change’s consequences. Climate change is thus not just one of the biggest market failures, but also one of the biggest neo-colonial strikes against the global south. Europe gets rich through pollution and let the poor countries pay the expensive, life-costing bill.
(This is a April’s Fools joke. Obama would never say this, unfortunately).
I was really discouraged when I heard about the new IPCC report, which shows that unless we change our lifestyle quickly we will be heading for disaster that will kill and damage millions of people, especially in poor countries. However, I was very pleased to see President Barack Obama’s response to the report; firstly because he acknowledge that a quick lifestyle change is necessary, and secondly because he referred to Jesus Christ when seeking for inspiration for this lifestyle change. The Guardian reports:
“What we now have is a massive environmental crisis that requires urgent action,” Obama told reporters. “My meeting with pope Francis the other day reminded me of the simplicity and charity of Jesus of Nazareth, a person that is of great inspiration not only to me personally but to millions of other Americans. Christians, of course, but also Muslims, Hindus, and non-believers.”
The president argued that Jesus lived “environmentally friendly” by using a sail boat and his mere feet as means of transport, creating food and other resources out of thin air and commanding the rich to sell everything they have and give the money to the poor. Likewise, Obama said that the United States must end its consumer culture, quickly reduce its emmissions and increase its aid to developing countries.
Yesterday, IPCC presented the first part of their new report about climate change in Stockholm, Sweden, and it was yet another reminder of the horrible catastrophy we have put ourselves into. The economic system that created climate change and other environmental problem is structurally wicked and needs to change quickly if we are going to save the lives of all the people that are in risk of dying because of environmental destruction and natural disasters. We have to challenge and change capitalism.
All the bishops of the Lutheran Church of Sweden wrote an article in our biggest newspaper today where they argued that changing our lives in response to climate change is a spiritual matter that the church has to adress. I completely agree. In fact, I think the reason why the capitalist economic system has put us into this mess is because it is detached from Christian holiness.
Of course, not everyone think this is the case. I once read an article by a Christian who claimed that the Bible supports capitalism, and he challenged the “misconception” that capitalism is based on greed and thus is sinful. This is not the case, he said, because self-interest does not equal greed, but is something all people base their lives on. Whenever we eat a sandwich we do it out of self interest, and there is nothing wrong with that, he said.
The problem with this argument is that the Bible actually says that self-interest is wrong:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” – Phil 2:3-4
So it is Christmas, and once again we have celebrated the incarnation of Jesus Christ through destroying the climate even further with our hyper-consumption and meat eating, at least in the Western world. In the midst of shopping, Santas and stress, Christians try to remind their Facebook friends that it is Jesus who is the reason for the season. I’m convinced though that to make this message really effective, we have to split from the traditional consumerist Christmas celebration and point to the fact that the original Christmas was a revolutionary event that turned the existing political and economic structures up side down.
God Almighty became a baby. He was not born in the Holiest of Holies to the tones of choirs and harps, but among cows and hay and was laid in a food pot. Herod, the political ruler, got totally mad when he heard that the true King of Israel had been born, and so God was forced to become a political refugee. From this vulnerable and poor situation Jesus was then about to criticise the rich and privileged in His radical preaching, which His mother had prophesied about when He was laying in her womb:
The COP18 Climate Negotiations in Doha resulted in an extremely weak agreement. It becomes more and more evident that the politicians constantly fail to solve the climate crisis – the leaders of the developed countries are out of touch with reality, they are more interested in short-term profit than in saving lives. Since they are the worst polluters and have the most money, this is blocking the whole process.
Christians cannot sit and wait for these slow negotiations to come somewhere, we have to take the initiative. And many churches are indeed talking a lot about climate action and some are even making plans concerning how to reduce their own emissions. This is great, of course. However, my experience that both the church and society as a whole is talking very little about one of the most effective climate actions: becoming vegetarian or vegan.
As the video clip above shows, the current Western meat consumption is wasting resources and destroys the environment. 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from meat and dairy production. There is nothing as effective, simple and cheap to save the climate than becoming vegetarian or vegan. This is why the UN is calling for “a global shift towards a vegan diet”, something that would also increase our health and, of course, create better lives for God’s beautiful animals.
Today the 18th international climate negotiation conference (COP18) starts in Doha, Qatar. I don’t know how they chose host country for the conference, but since Qatar is rich on oil, owns the “best airline in the world” and has turned into one of the richest country in the world per capita, it wouldn’t have been my primary choice. To end the enormous problem with climate change, we need to dramatically decrease oil use, flying and wealth.
Scripture tells us that the love for money is the root of all evil (1 Tim 6:10), which is evident when it comes to the horrors of climate change. Of course, developing countries have a right to develop and fight poverty, I am defenitely not against that. But I’m against that rich countries, corporations and individuals keep getting richer although they know that this will result in coming catastrophies.
The climate problem has been publically known for 20 years, but global greenhouse gas emissions are still increasing. Recently the World Bank published a shocking report which said that even if all countries implement what they have promised to do, we still risk a rise of global temperature with four degrees, resulting in humanitarian disasters affecting millions. The aspirations of especially rich countries are simply far too weak. We really need to pray for miracles in Doha.
Even though it is difficult to say if hurricane Sandy is a result of weather conditions or climate change, what we do know is that these sorts of natural disasters undoubtedly will increase becuase of global warming. Thus, many see the tragic irony in that the US presidential candidates have to cancel important meetings because of the storm while the climate change issue has been absent in their debates. Instead, the main topic has been how to make the richest country in the world even richer. But in the midst of their passionate discussion concerning economy, GDP, growth and the middle class, Sandy knocks on the door and forces them to stop ignoring nature for a while.
However, it’s a bit unfair to speak about both candidates as uninterested in climate change. Even if he has done far from enough, Obama thinks that the issue is important, he is increasing renewable energy and has participated in global climate negotiations. Romney, on the other hand, has a different approach:
Yesterday, this lovely picture appeared in my Facebook feed. Around the world, polar bears occupy Shell’s gas stations in a desperate attempt to save their home. Not only is Shell melting the Arctic through their fueling of climate change, now they want to go there to dig for more oil, although the ecosystem is extremely vulnerable in the area and Shell’s rutines to avoid oil spills are insufficient.
Of course, polar bears aren’t allowed to occupy gas stations, so they got a bit of trouble with the police force (no polar bear who participated in the occupation depicted above got arrested though). I wrote a month ago about how Greenpeace stated at the Rio+20 fiasco that “we have to intensify civil disobedience” since the legal process to stop climate change s going far to slow. What does climate civil disobediance look like, you may have wondered. Polar bear occupation of gas stations is one example. Human occupation of oil ships is another:
The current global conference on sustainable development, Rio+20, is a fiasco. The draft text that’s being negotiated is extremely weak and lame, and at some points it’s even worse than the agreement at the first Rio conference on sustainable development 20 years ago. The NGOs represented at the conference say that ”the text as it stands is completely out of touch with reality”.
Boy, we’ve heard this story before, haven’t we? Many like to blame the UN at this point, but personally I think they do their job quite well – the leaders of Western countries, on the other hand, are out of control in their sinning behaviour. They cause the mess, and the poor countries will have to pay for it: