What if, when the Uniting Church in South Australia meets later this year, the Synod were to adopt a proposal that stated: “We accept that global conditions have now reached a state that warrants declaring a Climate Emergency”. Just more words? Or a stimulus for us to wake up and begin taking appropriate action?
In June 2019 the Pope declared a 'climate emergency'. Sixteen countries have done it (including the UK, Ireland and Canada ). World-wide hundreds of local governments have done it. In Australia more than 25 local authorities, including the Cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Wagga Wagga and the Australian Capital Territory have made such a declaration.
Why would we even consider bringing such a proposal to the Synod? Isn't this the role of governments? Why would the church do this?
What is happening now throughout the world is a direct consequence of increasing climate chaos: extreme heat events, 100 year floods occurring every few years, increased storm ferocity, food supplies being jeopardised by heat and drought, sea-level rises encroaching on fertile land and threatening built infrastructure, retreating glaciers… Do these events not warrant the status of an emergency?
What if… we were to agree to face the truth of the toll we human beings are taking on the very life-systems upon which we depend for our own well-being?
What if… we were to consider the environmental consequences of everything we do and undertake to consider how our actions impact on other life forms. In what ways would things change?
We have a vocation – to care for this earth and all its creatures, to care for each other, especially the most vulnerable amongst us – and that now includes the animals threatened with extinction, the forests and grasslands threatened by rapidly changing climate. We are conscious beings, with the capacity to know and to reflect on what we know and to act accordingly. That is our God-given responsibility.
What difference might that make to what we do when we meet together for worship, or study, or prayer? What difference might it make to the songs we choose to sing, the prayers we pray, our understanding of what questions the weekly scripture passages might be raising? How much more might we celebrate that wonders of the universes,the diversity of the life forms on this planet, the profligacy of God's love? And how we might lament the alarming changes for which we must bear some of the responsibility by our over-use of the resources at our disposal and our ignorance in thinking we need to change nothing.
We might be more assiduous with undertaking the usual energy saving measures (changing to LED light fittings, installing insulation), reducing our reliance on fossil fuel for transport (by changing to hybrid or battery electric vehicles, by walking, or bike riding, or using public transport), undertaking water conservation measures (rain water tanks, low flow showers), using available roof space to generate electricity and heat (installing photo voltaic panels and hot water solar panels) and so on. These practical things are necessary - but they are not sufficient. It's a change of heart we really need. And that's a spiritual matter!