The Green Room ~ care and cost

21/09/2015

By the Revd Dr John Harrison 

 

Over the last few weeks and months I have been working on the content for the new diocesan Environment web pages. These will be appearing on the diocesan website soon. I do hope that what I have included will help you as parishes and as individuals to work towards the standard of stewardship of creation that God expects of us. Among the environmental web pages is a new version of “Renewing Creation”, which now appears as a bulletin board, and which I will update on a regular basis.

Laudato Si'I had promised myself that I would take a break from our familiar topic of ‘climate change’ but there have been two significant events over summer 2015 which should not pass without comment. The first of these was the publication in June of the Papal Encyclical “Laudato Si’: On Care for our Common Home” in which Pope Francis calls us all to acknowledge the urgency of environmental challenges. In this he reviews what is happening to the earth and guides the reader towards a change in lifestyle, or ‘ecological conversion’.

While I found the encyclical heart-felt and challenging, I couldn’t help feeling that this was too little and perhaps too late. If this had appeared in the 1960s it would have been seen as a major contribution to changing attitudes towards the environment. However, in the context of other ongoing conversations in the 21st Century I feel that it serves as little more than a reminder to all Christians.

Peter Forster and Bernard Donoughue have offered a critical response to the encyclical and conclude that “…the environmental, and especially the energy, policies advocated… are more likely to hinder than advance…” the environmental cause.

They further add that “…The encyclical strikes us as well-meaning but somewhat naïve.” But I suggest that you read it through for yourself – it is available online.

The second event was the Church of England General Synod meeting in York in July at which the issue of climate change was the main item on the agenda. The debate was a lengthy one and has already been reported in a recent issue of LINK (Aug/Sept pg 6). What is immediately apparent is the level of understanding of the full complexity of decision-making which has now entered our thinking on this and other environmental issues. This is encapsulated in this final motion from the Synod:

“This Synod, accepting that the threat posed by climate change to the environment and human wellbeing requires urgent action to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels, and recognising that achieving this effectively without creating damage and unintended economic consequences requires political subtlety, flexibility and a focus on achievable change”.

Our new bishop designate, The Ven Christine Hardman, added the telling comment that Synod should “be aware of those who carry the cost of our decisions”.

And finally, I have to thank Synod for providing a wonderful addition to our climate change vocabulary: “portfolio decarbonisation” – put that on the next PCC agenda and see what happens!

 

Internet search for -
The Papal Encyclical: A critical Christian response. Peter Forster and Bernard Donoughue GWPF Briefing 20
and
Laudato Si’ : On care for our common home. Papal Encyclical

 

  

  • Dr John Harrison FRMetS is the Bishop of Newcastle’s Environmental Adviser, and a former Vice-Dean of Natural Sciences and Senior Lecturer, Climate Laboratory, in the Department of Environmental Sciences at Stirling University.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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