Encyclical anniversary sparks religious call to shift from fossil fuels
Today, on the anniversary of Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical, Laudato Si’, Australian religious leaders are collectively calling for an accelerated shift away from fossil fuels. In an election campaign where global warming has scarcely been mentioned, they are calling for it to be a top priority.
In an open letter which describes the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef as a “wake-up call”, senior leaders from the major faith traditions say the approval of new coal mines near the Reef was “irresponsible”. Echoing the same concerns, heads of three Catholic Religious Orders are also announcing their decisions to divest from fossil fuels.
To those in public office or aspiring to it:
As leaders in a range of faith traditions, we draw attention to the wake-up call which the degradation of the Great Barrier Reef provides.
The Reef is a wonder of the natural world and, to people of faith, a sign of the spiritual dimension of life. It also supports many jobs and economic benefits.
It is therefore with great sadness that we witness the irretrievable loss of parts of the Reef, principally due to global warming.
I am, if not preoccupied, at least seriously engaged with the question from the future: ‘What were you doing to try to stop the world from spiralling into ever increasing temperatures and violent weather patterns?’. My faith impels me to repair the world, not destroy it. In fact it views humans as its caretakers, looking after God’s creation and passing it on in good condition to those who come after us (ie ‘sustainability’, millennia before the term was coined!). So on Wednesday 18th May, I participated in a peaceful demonstration in Preston, at Bill Shorten’s constituency office, a part of the 350.org campaign to show worldwide concern for the need for dramatic and immediate action.
On Mother’s Day, I found myself standing on a double railway line at a bridge over the Hunter River, wearing white overalls with a red X painted on the back like the other 60 or so people with me. We were waiting for the police to arrest us all, having declined their invitation to leave voluntarily. The police didn’t seem in much of a hurry to do this, as they arranged and re-arranged the on-site processing set up they had brought. We were happy for them to take as long as they liked - it added to the time the coal trains were unable to bring their cargo to the Newcastle coal port.
In New York on 18 April, Ambassador Mogens Lykketoft, President of the UN General Assembly took delivery of the Interfaith Climate Change Statement to World Leaders signed by 270 high-level religious leaders, 4970 individuals and 176 religious groups from around the world (www.interfaithstatement2016.org).
This milestone document calls on governments around the world to take decisive action on climate change. ARRCC member, Philippa Rowland of the Multi-Faith Association of SA was present and gave a brief address to the meeting.
The nation appears to be gearing up for an early federal election, so I hope you’re preparing to advocate for sound climate policies! This is especially if you’re in a swinging seat, or in a seat with an elected representative who is lobbying against good policies. (See the dirty thirty.) Is that you? Especially then, we have a job to do!
The media is full of reminders of the urgency of the issue, the latest being the major coral bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef.
How do we communicate about climate change to people of faith in a way that they can hear us? What kinds of terms seem to appeal and motivate action? What language should we avoid? Communications experts like George Marshall have done the research.
What do you do during Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter? For Christians, Lent is the time to remember the 40 days that Jesus spent in the Wilderness, facing challenge and temptation. It is a time to reflect on God’s purpose for our life.
In recent years, many Christians have adapted this noble tradition to become more mindful of – and reduce - their impacts on Creation.
After some rest in January, relieved that an agreement had finally been reached in Paris, the ARRCC Management Committee has met to sketch out next steps. The Paris outcome was achieved in large part because of the considerable pressure from so many people around the world. Now, the Agreement will be important for holding our political leaders accountable.
The agreement reached in Paris depends on political will, with countries setting their own climate action plans. So this is not a time to be complacent. If the decisions are to be implemented, the world will need to pick up the pace of change dramatically, and Australia will have to change quite markedly from
the course it is on.