A sermon by Rev Sandy Boyce, 12th September 2021
An interesting insight from Paul Farhi from the Washington Post about the ‘crawl’ or ‘ticker’ that feeds the constant news cycle. Those banners on the bottom of your television screens with snippets of breaking news. And we all catch our breath hoping it’s not another disaster, another tragedy. On 9/11, less than an hour after the first tower collapsed, Fox News began a scroll of text across the bottom of the screen, to summarise the events for those wanting to catch up on what was happening. The other channels quickly followed. The crawls were an improvisation, that remained part of what we have become accustomed to, whether it’s on the television, or scrolling through headlines on our smart phones and devices. The crawls became little conveyer belts of doom and dread. They remain, and act now as a reminder that something terrible could be happening, somewhere, to somebody, by somebody – even when there isn’t so much going on at all in a slow news cycle. It can create a perpetual air of crisis and frenzy and partial facts generating opinions. And it leads to a kind of startled paralysis – too much happening in the world so we retreat to our small safe world in our homes.
Until that small safe world isn’t anymore – and the reality of storms, bushfires, floods, extreme weather events and other so called natural disasters come calling. And the reality of climate crisis, climate justice, climate emergency become something experienced by young and old, rich and poor. We awaken to the real world consequences of our warming climate. Tough news is what we’ve come to expect. Humanity is gaining a glimpse of the dystopia scientists have long warned of due to our profound disruption of the earth’s balance.
Pope Francis’s encyclical on ecology, Laudato Si, says that climate change is real and mainly “a result of human activity.” Humans have pushed the climate into unprecedented territory. The problem is urgent. “Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years.” We must all change our day-to-day actions to live more sustainably. “Reducing greenhouse gases requires honesty, courage and responsibility.” On a larger scale, our leaders must be held to account. “Those who will have to suffer the consequences . . . will not forget this failure of conscience and responsibility.”
Solving climate change means protecting the planet and vulnerable people, and we must hear “both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” Faith can guide us. “The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us. Soil, water, mountains – everything is, as it were, a caress of God.” The problems are big and urgent. But hope remains if we act in honesty and love. “Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home . . . Truly, much can be done!” “We need to ensure that the environment is cleaner, purer and that it is conserved. We must care for nature so that nature may care for us”.
We’re pretty proud as Australians about how we deal with a crisis. Mateship. Working together. Cooperation. And if the earth itself is the one in crisis, can we pull up our sleeves and help to make the change that is needed? Well, yes, we can make adaptions.
We do what we can with home insulation, recycling, solar panels, fuel efficient cars and other things in our sphere of influence, and mainly in the home. But thinking beyond that is overwhelming. Trying to get the government to make radical shifts to mitigate the effect of climate change seems huge – setting realistic targets and identifying actions that will reduce carbon dioxide emissions and limit the warming, and meet the goals aspired to by the United Nations or by the Paris agreement. One writer said there is a cacophany of mitigation panic. The tragedy is we’ve had the abiity and the roadmap to make major strides in reducing emissions and mitigating climate change for many years.
But how might our thinking change when we think about earth as our common home. This year, the theme for the season is A home for all? Renewing the Oikos of God. With the followers of Christ from around the world, we share a common role as caretakers of God’s creation. We see that our wellbeing is interwoven with its wellbeing. We rejoice in this opportunity to care for our common home and the sisters and brothers who share it.
Effective mitigration of climate change requires changing human behaviour, ingrained geopolitical and economic power structures, and built infrastructure on a global scale. It requires convincing people to invest for the common good of other people, often decades into the future. “No nation can solve this crisis on our own,” said Joe Biden. This year he called on countries, especially the largest economies, to step up their ambition, including providing greater financing to help vulnerable countries mitigate the impacts of climate change and adapt to a warming world. Biden announced the U.S. would double its climate financing to developing countries by 2024. “This is a moral imperative, an economic imperative,” Biden said. “A moment of peril, but also a moment of extraordinary possibilities. Time is short, but I believe we can do this. And I believe we will do this.”
Climate despair is a real thing. But as Christiana Figueres says, we can be and need to stubborn optimists choosing to build a better future together. Re-balancing the earth will only be possible with active, forward-moving conviction. The choice that we each must make every day requires that we are fully aware of the reality that we see, not blind to it, and at the same time filled with the conviction that we possess the ingenuity, innovative capacity and determination to change that reality for the better. Outrage and Optimism are both needed at this time. Hope needs to be cradled and cherished lest despair overwhelm and paralyse us.
Take the example of 29 year old Kenyan woman Nzami Matee, who invented a brick stronger than concrete that’s made entirely of recycled materials like plastic. Then there’s Peri Coleman talking about how salinity is effecting the SA St Kilda Mangroves and how nature will move back in and re-generate if given a change. and her fight to preserve the St Kilda mangroves here in South Australia. And an Indian man who has transformed a treeless landscape over the last 20 years. And so many more inspiring stories that give hope!