Messages of Hope

Climate Justice

Published / by Sandy
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg meets with Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Photograph: Gian Ehrenzeller/EPA

Jeremiah 1:4-8 The word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” “Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young”. But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.

Sixteen-year-old Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg has been cast as a modern day Jeremiah, lecturing leaders about the imminent catastrophe of climate change in gatherings large and small, and in countries around the world. 

She caught the attention of the world when she boldly shamed climate change negotiators at the UN Climate Summit in Poland, by saying, ‘you are not mature enough’. In her speech, she said, ‘you say you love your children, but you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes… until you start focussing on what needs to be done rather than what is politically possible, there is no hope. We cannot solve a crisis withouth treating it as a crisis’. 

At the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos, she told delegates, “Our house is on fire”, due to greenhouse gas emissions and rising global temperatures. “Adults keep saying: ‘We owe it to the young people to give them hope.’ But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” She said, people like to tell success stories, but financial success has come with an unthinkable price tag on climate change. We have failed”. 

School students around the world have joined her “strike” each Friday to protest against their governments’ failure to do enough to combat “Climate Change”. They wield such placards as “You’re never too small to make a difference” and “Climate Justice Now”. 

Inevitably, this modern day prophet has been castigated by some in the media including social media. Here is an example in an online post: The idea that some 16 year old kid has insight that is worthy of ‘panic’ is absurd on its face. Like all 16 year olds she ‘knows’ nothing. She has zero life experience, has no idea what money is, has no idea how economics works, has no idea where her own wealth and lifestyle comes from, has never met real adversity, has never accomplished anything at all”. (Yessir Imafat) Others like Andew Bolt have weighed into this space, denigrating her with a statement calling her the ‘”deeply disturbed messiah of the global warming movement”. There will be more pushback, because the stakes are high.

Greta keeps reminding the world the stakes are even greater for her generation. Her passion, courage and plain speaking on climate justice resonates with the prophets like Jeremiah in the Old Testament, chosen by God as a young boy to speak truth to power. God anointed him as a prophet, not to sing the praises to the powers or to uphold the status quo of the politics of his day, but ‘to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant’. 

The nations of the world have put profits ahead of the Prophets, who remind us that the Earth is our home, our mother, and our only life support. Greta is a prophet herself, young like Jeremiah, trying to wake her elders to the consequences of their decisions and reckoning that lies ahead if they fail to see the signs of the times.

Greta invites us to be serious about our planet, and act, as the general consensus is that there are only 12 years left to turn things around. After that, it becomes impossible to achieve the global climate targets. She is standing at the door and knocking, trying to wake up the leaders of the world, inviting us to conversion of heart and lifestyle, and reminding us that every other ethical issue is moot if the earth becomes uninhabitable. May we have ears to hear, hearts to open, and hands to fulfill God’s call for us to be God’s companions in healing the Earth.

The UCA President Dr Deidre Palmer has issued a Call to Climate to the whole church, and encouraged people to join in the Climate Strike activities planned for September 20th.  

The NSW/ACT Synods of the UCA which runs a number of high profile schools, passed a resolution in July to endorse its 10,000 students and their teachers to ‘skip class’ for the September 20th climate change rally, as part of a broader push to respond to the “crisis confronting the planet”. Moderator Rev Simon Hansford said, “It’s their future that is at stake and their protests are genuine and informed and should not be ignored. And as a church this reflects the theological truth of God’s calling for us to be carers of the creation.” The church and its advocacy arm, Uniting, is also allowing its 8000 staff to take time off to attend the rallies, and is encouraging its 50,000 members across NSW and the ACT to support the strikes.

(this article has incorporated material from a number of media sources, and Christian Aid UK, and Bruce Epperly)