environmental as anything

Today I participated in the People’s Blockade Of The World’s Biggest Coal Port in Newcastle (New South Wales, Australia). Here’s something the organisation that organised and ran it (Rising Tide Australia) had to say;

Now, more than ever, we need to be turning up the heat on the coal industry, and their friends in government. The export coal industry is Australia’s single biggest, and fastest growing contribution to the global climate crisis.

Newcastle, already the world’s biggest coal port, is opening a major new coal export terminal over the course of this year, bringing the export capacity of the Hunter Valley coal chain to an incredible 178 million tonnes of coal per annum. That’s the climate change equivalent of 30 Bayswater Power Stations.  Within ten years, the coal corporations plan on exporting more than 300 million tonnes of coal per annum – a tripling of current export capacity.

Tripling coal exports means tripling coal mining. As Newcastle coal exports boom, more precious bushland will be razed, more waterways polluted, more communities ripped apart as the transnational coal companies carve their way westwards into the Liverpool Plains. The profits will be exported, but the devastation will stay here in the Hunter. The catastrophic effects of climate change will hurt all around the world.

This madness has to stop. The climate crisis is deepening, and time is fast running out. Politicians are failing to take action against the rampant coal companies, so we have to do it ourselves.

We had a great day paddling canoes around Newcastle Harbour in protest. But I was disappointed.

Not about the amount of people (there were quite a few!)…

Not about the effectiveness of the protest (it stopped shipping traffic for the day and spread awareness of climate change and the planned expansion of the coal port)…

No, I wasn’t disappointed with anything like that. I was disappointed at the lack of Christian involvement. Indeed most Christians I spoke to laughed off the event, as if it was some quaint exercise that was beside the point of the “gospel”. On the other hand I met some of the most beautiful people at this protest, who deeply cared for our earth, and whose lives reflected respect and love for God’s creation more than any Christian I have ever met.

And this was a huge challenge… and so should it be!

This is not a condescending rant, as if to say, “I got involved and you didn’t!” No… this is just some musing about why most Christians couldn’t care less about the workmanship of the God they claim to worship. After all, God created the earth, and then put us in charge of caring for it – shouldn’t Christians be most committed to ensuring not only its care, but its survival?!

This is especially true, given that climate change is most affecting the world’s poor, even though they are least responsible for it (for example, the monsoon in many countries is becoming shorter but more intense and less predictable, leading to failed crops and lost livelihoods. This is one example of how our CO2 emissions are destroying the lives of the poor overseas).

Are our lives worth more than theirs? Should our lives have to change in order to ensure their survival and betterment? How do I answer such questions in light of Jesus’ statements about the poor and our responsibility to look after them? How can Christians just freely and knowingly ignore such commands of Jesus as if he “didn’t really mean it”?

This is not meant to be a guilt trip, but merely me asking questions and getting my thoughts off my chest (and secretly hoping they might change someone’s mind and actions). One thing I think about is how so many Christians get caught up in arguments about creation that are beside the point of the Genesis narrative, but when you bring up one of the major points of the creation story in Genesis, namely humans being created to care for the earth, those same Christians lose interest (or sometimes worse).

It is way too easy to debate about peripheral issues in the biblical narrative and neglect (often willfully) some central ones that will actually require us to act, change and advocate for the helpless. Our responsibility as the image of God to care for his creation is central to the biblical story (it’s the stated reason for why we were created); should we start acting like it?


Posted on March 28, 2010, in Ecology/Environment, Mission, Theology and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. We cant be activists for every fault we see in our world. Maybe ‘christians’ see climate change as a lower prioirity to say the aids crisis or other poverty related issues.

    Plus, isnt climate change a theory? I thought they are not able to prove that there is a direct link between emissions and Global warming. Im all for cleaning up the world, i just think in a mostly capitalist world we need to look at it from an economic point of view. The reason they are expanding the port is because there is a global demand for coal…

    Aonther solution would be to talk to governments to encourage investment into clean energy industries. Our world has to keep growing… therefore increasing the demand for energy, we need to create an economic alternative to coal.

    On the other hand stopping the supply of coal would be a pretty drastic but highly efficient way of forcing people and businesses to invest in cleaner energy sources.

    The problem here i see is that the consumer supports the coal industry by demanding the cheapest price for just about everything they buy, if people are prepared to pay for the premium to supply a product made and trasported using clean energy than i think we have found a solution.

  2. A great little video about climate change and how it has affected a small community near Bouganville.

    Christians didn’t paddle in the harbour with you because how is it bringing people to Christ, how is it ensuring our ‘bring a friend’ service next Sunday is packed out.

    Also climate change isn’t sexy. People know if they engage with it then it will require some personal sacrifices and lets face it, Jesus wants me to have an SUV.

    a side note of interest.

    Some of the money from the Aid Budget was used a few years ago to build a power station for one of our Asian neighbors, the power station was built on the condition that it would always and only be supplied with Australian coal.

  3. Thanks for the video Howie. I watched another great one put together by you guys over at TEAR that Maddog sent to me. I also love your intense cynicism and sarcasm… no wonder we get along.

    Lloydy – true, we can’t be activists for every issue. But unfortunately climate change, if it is real, will affect us all eventually, though for now it affects the poor most of all, so we seem to be able to handle it for a while at least.

    Climate change as a theory – this is an interesting thought, as it is very common today, particularly amongst evangelical Christians (just last night I had a conversation about it for about the gazillionth time). The problem this assumption not only misunderstands the notion of a *theory*, but also is uneducated about the consensus.

    1) A theory, in scientific terms, is not, as it is often thought, a possibility that the majority of scientists think is *maybe* true. Rather a scientific theory is like music theory – just as music theory is the theoretical basis for playing music, so to is a scientific theory a foundation that the majority of the scientific community work from. Most people confuse *theory* with *hypothesis* or something similar. This is the mistake many Christians make when they say “evolution is only a theory” for example – they totally miss the point of what a theory is.

    2) Phil Ireland over at TEAR (educated in climatology), tells me that the vast, vast majority of scientists concede that climate change is real. Only 5-10% are sceptics. This is incredible in the scientific community, as there is never that kind of agreement on almost anything. Scientists, by definition he says, are sceptical, that’s what science is about. They do not simply jump on bandwagons, let alone ones that will affect their own lives like the issue of climate change.

    You would be led to believe by the media that the debate is about 50%-50% of scientists, because the sceptics are often the most loud-mouthed parties. However, this is not at all the case.

    We are actually able to determine that humans are the cause of global warming. We can chart temperature and climate shifts over the last thousand years by looking at corals, ice cores (such as glaciers) and historical records, as well as thermometers in more recent times. The results show that temperatures have steadily increased in the last century, particularly in the last 50 years. There are, of course, changes in global temperatures naturally (as the sceptics say), but nothing like what we are seeing outside of catastrophic natural events.

    It is one thing to say we live in a capitalist world, but it is another thing to approve that as acceptable. This is especially in light of the fact that many of the peoples across the world suffering most because of climate change do not live in a strictly capitalist society – they suffer because of OUR capitalism. Indeed, the prophetic imagination calls us to question our social and economic structures when they harm God’s world (just as Jesus did). There may be an economic reason for the expansion of, say, a coal port, but that doesn’t make it right.

    The whole point is that in light of climate change our economies and lifestyles WILL suffer. But the truth is that the planet cannot afford the Australian/American dream… As you allude to Lloydy, our lifestyles demand more consumption, and thus more harm to God’s world. Truly, we need to be prepared to take a hit in the pocket and in our general lifestyles for the good of the planet.

    The question is what should be the response of the Christian in light of the fact that this is God’s world?


Leave a Response

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: