Friday, January 8, 2010

Copenhagen consequences

Outside the snow lies too deep for school for a third day, making it hard to contemplate rising global temperatures. As the dust settled after the Copenhagen Climate Change summit last month so life became rather busy with pre-Christmas events and I didn't get round to blogging. The mood at church on the Sunday after the Copenhagen Accord was announced was 'better no deal than a stitch up'. By the time the conference happened I think we were all resigned to not expecting great things, but still feeling we needed to stand up for what we believe in, for the integrity of our relationship with God and our neighbours.

Now the development agencies are focussing on what can be achieved in 2010. At first I found my heart sinking - I can't keep thinking 'everything hangs on . . .' every year, in the way we initially did about Copenhagen. The way campaigning works is to have short term goals to work for, but the response to the threat of climate change is going to be 'an issue' for the rest of my life and beyond. While still engaging in the short term campaigning as much as possible; for sanity's sake, we need to find a framework for acting and thinking that isn't 'we have x months to save the planet'. I've been wrestling with Alistair McIntosh's concept of 'living in a dying time' (Hell and High Water: Climate Change, Hope and the Human Condition) which is very persuasive but isn't a space I can think in yet. I do want to hang onto something our vicar mentioned in a sermon just before Christmas - apparently Martin Luther said that even if he knew Christ would come tomorrow he would still plant an apple tree.

Meanwhile, the robin pictured above is giving me accusing looks from the bird table because we've run out of bird food, so it's time for an expedition through the snow to the greengrocer's for more seed.


  1. Dear Joanna

    I am Alastair McIntosh, and I hit on your blog via a Google alert. I have been discussing the sort of issue that you say you're wrestling with with people in the eco church movement here in Scotland. Adrian Shaw in the Church of Scotland wants me to speak at an ecochurch conference in Stirling in March I think it is, and I'm agreeable, but uneasy for the very reason you touch upon. I think we are undoubtedly living in a dying time. The biology testifies to that - species decline, extinction, etc.. The question is, how far will it impact on humans. James Lovelock says there will only be a billion of us left by the end of this century, but I notice that he departs quite radically from the mainstream consensus stance, and so I consider his views alarmist. I think that if the mainstream science is right we will be looking a waves of slow and regionalised apocalypse. But, but, but ... the operative word there, in my view, is "slow". I also notice that when we environmentalists talk about melting of the icecaps etc we often talk as if it will happen in our lifetimes, whereas it will be intergenerational even on the worst case scenarios. As such, your Luthern apple tree is such an important metaphor. For sure, we may be, indeed, I think we are living in a dying time. Ask any resident of New Orleans and they will tell you. But there is still so much hope and life within that. And beyond that, because at only 200,000 years old, we are still a very young species, and the Earth has another 2 billion or more to go before the Sun starts to die and swallows us up. We must, therefore, take the God's eye view, and see the suffering in a wider context of life. Our focus must be on the greater life, just as when Jesus had his last supper, his focus was on the greater Body that is life and gives life.

    With very best wishes, and bless you, Alastair.

  2. Thank you very much for this reply. I've been thinking on it a lot since it arrived.

    Perhaps my greatest concern is what the consequences will be of recognising that we're living in a dying time. When mid 14th century Europeans were faced with the Black Death contemporaries recorded that religious extremism or hedonism were common responses. I know this time is very different in terms of pace and our understanding of what is happening; I hope it's different enough.

    I worry what such recognition does to our relationship with those people who are already suffering the consequences. It could make the relationship more honest, but it also feels like a betrayal, potentially giving up the hope that slowly we might be building the Kingdom.

    Perhaps I ought to have said this isn't a space I 'want' to think in. I'll keep wrestling.

    Thank you so much for your inspiration and your ideas,

    with very best wishes