Planet Earth: what will we leave our children?

Bishop Richard Randerson
Sun 16 Jul

People talk today about ski-ing: S K I - Spending the Kids’ Inheritance! We know what family inheritance is, but is the Earth also a treasure to pass on to our kids? How do we see the Earth biblically?

Genesis 1 is not about how the earth was made; it is not science or history. The truth religion and science share in common is that each sees the world as an inter-locking entity. Earth, and every creature and life-form within it, live in a relationship of mutuality and inter-dependence. There is no part that can say to another: “I have no need of you”. The Creation story tells us that:

Creation and life are gifts

Life is to be lived relationally with God, all people, all life forms, with Earth itself
Mutuality and inter-dependence are key, not self-interest and exploitation

We have kaitiakitanga (stewardship) to ensure the maintenance of life, Earth, justice, peace and well-being of all.

The word ‘appreciate’ has two meanings: 1. being grateful for; 2. improve in value. We should appreciate Earth in both senses.

All peoples have their stories of origin. Maori tell the story of Rangi and Papa, the meanings of which are remarkably similar to Genesis – love for God, love for each other, love and respect for Earth. There is no contest between religion and science: they are complementary. Science can tell us about the physical origins of Earth, and how it functions. Religion tells us how we live on Earth as God’s people.

Earth does not exist simply to resource humanity, but has an intrinsic value in its own right, as an equal part of Creation. Do we care for Creation out of self-interest, because without it humanity is doomed? Or do we care because of its intrinsic value as part of Creation?

 

Planet Earth is family with us, but we don’t treat it that way. Earth is too often seen as “a storehouse of rich resources to which (we) can help ourselves”.[1] In 1892 a Chicago businessman, W P Rend, said: “Smoke is the incense burning on the altars of industry”. Planet Earth is groaning as a result of the damage done to sea, air and land, the over-use of resources, its use as a rubbish dump, and the loss of biological diversity. Romans 8: ‘Creation groans with pain, longing to be free’. A new paradigm is needed if we want to turn things around.

The Climate Change debate over recent years has brought this to our attention, and there are some good things happening:

Parliamentary cross-party: could this lead to an official Climate Commission?
Renewable electricity in NZ is now approaching 90%, but when all energy sources are added in (eg fossil fuels) only 40% of energy is from renewable sources
Some electric cars are around, but we need more
The Sustainable Business concept is being followed by some businesses.

But we are also dragging the chain. Climate Action Tracker (climateactiontracker.org) has a wealth of information, and posits four categories of nations in terms of performance:

Role Model : (no countries qualify)
Sufficient: 6 (no western countries)
Medium: 11 (incl China, India, EU) (see footnote, and also Climate Action Tracker website)
Inadequate: 15, NZ 4th from bottom (29th out of 32 overall)

If most other countries were to follow New Zealand’s approach, global warming would exceed 3-4C, double the current target of 1.5-2C -   the world would see oceans acidify, coral reefs dissolve, sea levels rise rapid, and more than 40% species become extinct.

Carbon credits: we are buying other countries’ credits to offset our excess. Like smoking – people who no longer smoke are saving money; those who do have to pay high tax to continue in their habit.

Investment:  the amounts of money required nationally to make a difference would be repaid not only financially but in terms of a better environment and health. Sadly there is much resistance to change.

What we can do nationally:

Small-scale generation, solar, wind
Higher taxes on large vehicles; low tax electric
Industry efficient programmes
Address agricultural emissions
Carbon travel offsets: $120 London return.

Locally: (the Near Edge)

Core group to discuss/plan
Transition churches eg Hutt: Colin Lewis: colin@cjlewis.nz
Parish life – worship, teaching, local action, community
Carbon footprint audit
Carbon Zero campaign
Plastic Bag campaign (see end)
Wellington diocesan contacts: Kate Day – kate@wn.ang.org.nz  and Max Prestidge – mcprestidge@gmail.com
Auckland diocesan website: www.cherished-earth.org.nz

The Gospel (Matt 6.25-33) reminds us of the beauty of the earth and God’s generosity, and warns us against anxiety about material things. So always remember this is a work with God to love and care for Creation, and to leave the Earth not only as we received it but to improve it.

We are part of Creation, Creation is part of us. We need to leave a rich inheritance for our children and grand-children. “We didn’t inherit the Earth: we borrowed it from our children.”

In The Karamazov Brothers Starets Zosima says: “Love all of God’s creation, love the whole, love every grain of sand. Love animals, love plants, love every kind of thing ....then everywhere God’s mystery will reveal itself to you.” And if to this dynamic of love we can add a sense of awe at the wonder of the gift that is ours in Creation, then we come to a proper frame of mind that will ensure the ecological footprint of humanity on Planet Earth is both light and sustainable, now and always.

     *      *      *

The issue of plastic bags is a global one – plastic used for single-use purposes like shopping bags and takeaway food containers is used for an average of twelve minutes, yet it has a life of 500 years before it decomposes.  Huge quantities of the plastic manufactured around the world ends up not in a landfill, but in the natural environment, posing significant risks to wildlife.  It’s estimated that quarter of a million metric tons of plastic is now afloat in the world’s oceans, and by 2050, there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish.

Re India and China as listed on Climate Action Tracker: they are in a higher category because of the steps they have taken to reduce carbon emissions and are reducing such emissions.

 

[1] Sharing God’s Planet : a report from the Mission and Public Affairs Council of the Church of England, 2005

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