Climate change and us

A Christian, theological reflection by Daniel Nelson, for ARRCC's 2012 Youth Climate Embassy

Daniel is 23 and lives in the electorate of Parramatta in NSW. He works at the Institute for Advancing Community Engagement at the Australian Catholic University.




The creation stories are a reminder of why we need to take action on climate change: we have been given responsibility to be stewards of creation, not customers of it.

Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Genesis 2:7 NIV.

Human beings are of the earth; our origins call us to humility towards the Earth. As we destroy and neglect our planet we neglect ourselves and our neighbours in the Pacific. As global warming continues, the waters will rise to turn these islands into Tohu: the Hebrew word used to describe the watery, chaotic, void that existed before God created the earth. This is what awaits the people of the Pacific, a destruction of the soil they are made from, the land they lived off and the homes they were raised in.

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 3:4-5

Currently we are listening to the snake, the one who deceives us, telling us we have plenty of resources; that we can be like God and know the answers to all our problems. Lies and denial of our responsibility to our God, to our earth and to each other fill the public discourse. We are convinced that we are entitled to have everything, “for the price of 3 easy monthly payments of $29.95…” We live as though we have infinite resources, picking and choosing scientific information that only buoys our over-consumption, deluding ourselves into thinking that we can know good from evil. Bio-science tries to forge its own tree of knowledge, business worships the invisible hand of the market and politicians pander to the polls. They are not concerned with justice, only progress and power.

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. 3:7.

What we ignore is our vulnerability and fragility, we are not bigger than God; we are not masters of the earth and are each no more entitled to it than anyone else is. Though to acknowledge this would require bio-science to admit fallibility, Business to admit their false idol and politicians to form policy based on principles, not polls.

Until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return. 3:19.

Our lives are inextricably tied to the earth on which we are born; even in death, this tie endures. “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…” Nature democratises death, it does not care for how many possessions we own or what we have ‘made’ of ourselves, in death, each and every one of us returns to the soil, the sand, the dust, from and upon which we were created. The peoples of the Pacific, whose land is disappearing under the rising oceans, will be denied this. Where do we stand morally when we break that tie, when we continue to support mass industry to feed our over consumption, congruently submerging or rendering uninhabitable the land which has sustained the life and the history of those lives for millennia?

Our sacred texts call on humanity to be the stewards of all creation, which means all of us need to be part of the solution. Climate change cannot simply be pitted as either a scientific, economic or political issue, it has implications across all three. Climate change is in truth, a moral issue, but one with scientific, economic and political solutions.