Monday, September 5, 2022

Can we do anything about climate change?

It was fascinating at our annual Synod which finished late Saturday afternoon just past to have two motions debated which related to climate change. This post is not about the course or character of the debate, save for observing one thing which was said which underlined the great challenge of doing anything significant about climate change. (I accept that every little thing counts; and this post is not an argument against doing all that we can. It is a post about the challenge of making significant change.)

For instance, from a proponent of bike, bus, scooter and like means of travel, including walking, came the critique of electric cars that they actually achieve little change to the environment, though they may make those who use such vehicles feel personally better about the crisis we are in.

Now, it is not appropriate for me to work out how you could use bus and bike more, but it is appropriate for me to consider a question such as, Accepting that replacing my car* with an electric car is mere "greenwashing," could I use our bus network more for my travel around the Diocese and around our major city, Christchurch?

The short answer is definitely, Yes.

The longer answer is a significant change in the way my diary runs. Visits to a number of parishes outside of Christchurch would require me bussing down to them on a Saturday, taking a good chunk of the daytime, and possibly not returning until Monday. (Compared with, say a day return car trip on a Sunday, or a late Saturday afternoon/evening trip to and then return from the parish Sunday afternoon.)

Another part of the longer answer is, Yes, in respect of a number of conversations through working week days, I could hold them by Zoom; but there is a diminishment of ministry encounter, person to person, and I would worry about the health of my relationships with people I only speak to via Zoom; which could be mitigated by some bus travel!

Put a bit more simply: there is significant change possible re climate change if there is significant change of life - of allocation of time, of planning for travel taking a considerably longer time than is possible when a handy car is used.

Should I do it? Can I do it? What if our clergy and parishioners do not readily fit in to my revised schedule of life? (And, would I make demands on them and their motor cars to fit that schedule?)

Such questions are the questions we all should be asking in respect of significant change to our lifestyles!

Thoughts?

PS for those keen to keep discussion about the shape of current Anglicanism, next week's post likely will resume that discussion from the past few posts.

*I happen to drive a hybrid diocesan car which is much appreciated re fuel economy, but which I accept makes little difference to reducing carbon emissions.

30 comments:

Mark Murphy said...

In the Meeting for Worship I attended on Sunday, this topic was the subject of a number of 'ministries': what can we do to significantly reduce climate change, and if and when we find we can't do anything significant, how do we deal with the intense but rational hopelessness and despair that we are then holding?

I have no answers for this bigger question, aside from: we can't hold this concern/despair alone.

More practically, I'm rembering that your distant predecessors, Peter, travelled the diocese by horse and foot.

= Perhaps we need to be adjusting expectations about how much face to face contact is reasonable under our present climate emergency

= It would send a message of gravity and solidarity with many for the diocese to declare a climate emergency and adjust timetables and expectations accordingly

= Zoom sessions sound v reasonable to me


Anonymous said...

Peter, your OP already continues the above-referenced discussion in some intriguing ways. For the moment: churches flourish as *communities* in the sweet spot where *zealous* dedication to a *distinctive* calling from Jesus Christ also forms *social capital* for the *society at large*. It has happened over and over again.

In the ungovernable cities of late antiquity, churches' *works of mercy* for the lowest classes of society made them indispensible to the Roman imperium that had officially banned them. Pagans like Julian the Apostate could see the mechanism by which Christian influence was growing, but they were powerless to copy it themselves because sacrifices to their gods did not inculcate patience, compassion, non-violence, outgroup altruism, etc. YHWH had commanded these; Jupiter had no morals.

Likewise, there are several cases in which monastics, driven by their vocation to wild places, promoted safe travel as a byproduct of gospel hospitality (eg along pilgrimage routes) and local industry as a spin-off of the work that supported their monasteries (eg Cistercians). Again, it is in a worldly way crazy to go to remote places just because there is nobody there and then to start a labour-intensive enterprise where there are few inhabitants, but the monastic ethos and networks have been able to do this from the west coast of Ireland to the Aleutian Islands.

St Basil the Great invented the departmental hospital in which each patient is bedded with others needing the same sort of care. The centuries-old priesthoods of Asclepius had never thought to group and tend the miserable people who slept each night in the house of their god. Why did St Basil? He did not know the molecular causes of diseases, but as a Christian he was attentive to differences in suffering. In Britain, the hospitals built by the Church of England are still the backbone of the NHS.

Anglicans elsewhere are probably most familiar with schools where parents paying to get children into university support teachers trying to get them into the kingdom of heaven. All schools do some good and a little harm, of course, but church schools have the best ratio. Why? They have intrinsic motivation from faith to do what secular schools as institutions would do less carefully and only for money.

One could go on and on.

Now modern churchfolk mostly think of Christian ethics as private, individual morals. An excitable few not otherwise busy have had lots to say for and against the rules that they think that other people should follow. Occasionally someone even wants the sheriff, the jailer, and the hangman to induce compliance. For the most part, all sides dress secular opinions in cassocks.

But problems of *wicked complexity* like civil chaos, dangerous travel, provincial poverty, disease and illness, and mass ignorance require something more of us-- a calling from Jesus Christ to new forms of *collective action* motivated by zeal for an ethos that is not already that of the surrounding society. Once that ethos has been fleshed out as a community around the Lord, the next steps have come into view. Climate change, as your OP makes memorably concrete, is a problem of *wicked complexity*.


BW

Anonymous said...

These two videos on Tom Wright's How God Became King never mention climate change. But they do obliquely explain how biblical faith sees the despoiling of the planet as a religious concern, even though that has no direct connection to sex or holy orders.


NT Wright https://youtu.be/FEmIQspS6xc Heaven is on earth. Creation is good.

NT Wright https://youtu.be/IEHliSDNxa4 Are we Epicurean or Christian?


They make more sense in the reverse order of the links here.


BW

Mark Murphy said...

Is it just CO2 that's killing the planet? If we could invent a magical, CO2 transforming machine, that allowed us to go on as usual, would the planet then be saved? Put another way, would we have answered God's will in allowing climate change to presently occur?

One if the great gifts of Lockdown was being forced to slow down. Neighbourhoods became quieter. Birds became louder. Actual birdsong by volume went up. The air in New Delhi cleared. Dolphins swam up Venetian canals. Mark Murphy wrote more poetry. Many people began a daily habit of walking in their neighbourhoods and noticing the bird and plant life sprouting here and there. Parents spent more time with their kids. Couples, gay and straight, hung out more and actually talked.

For others, there was more anxiety, more family violence, the threat of job closures, and eventually more suicide, psychosis, and depression. Stuff that people had been avoiding, that had been papered over with the compulsive rhythm of hyper-modern work life, came up for attention.

The fragility of not only our psychological, but also economic system emerged more clearly.

I remember when the lockdown was lifted, Jacinda Ardern's advice to the nation was basically: go forth and spend money. Our society needs you to do that.

Well of course it does. But it also reinstated the problem: our manic need for consumerism to keep the ship afloat - when actually, isn't manic exploitative consumerism, based on the absurd separation of human beings from nature, at the heart of our present eco-catastrophe?

Does a bishop need to visit his parishes every year? Do wealthy western nations need to have a five day working week? Could *every person* in NZ commit to at least one car-free day a week? Does a sustainable economy need us to keep spending every day, every week, of the year? Could Sunday become a no shopping day again? Does every house on a street need to own its own lawnmower?

Peter Carrell said...

To be clear and transparent, Mark (smile):

- I don’t visit each parish every year, even with a fine vehicle.
- I rather like having my own lawn mower (which is battery powered).
- I also rather like having mown lawns rather than a seed diversifying, insect breeding wilderness area to the front and rear of our house!

Mark Murphy said...

Mow away, Peter!

But the point of the question, as you may have guessed, is how atomized we are, how this individualism structures our desire, and how this is the existential basis for consumerism.

Everyone needs to own their own....lawnmower, power drill, car, washing machine, etc etc....sells a lot of products,

on the basis that it makes for convenient, modern living

largely because we are so unused to thinking and organizing collectively, and possessing the sort of relational skills we need to be *assertive and dependent* in a postmodern context.

Mark Murphy said...

During lockdown, the amount of premature births dropped drastically, and new born babies put on more weight.

That's how intrinsically, bodily, 'naturally', we are affected by manic modernity.

What of it's impact on our soul?

Mark Murphy said...

Is climate change a realistic goal?

Some ecological activists, exhausted from getting nowhere, have now accepted that our chances of staving off severe climate catastrophe are zero...it is already happening....and our goal instead should be "deep adaptation" - which includes becoming more collectively organized to face the severe economic and ecological catastrophes that are inevitable.

John Sandeman said...

"I happen to drive a hybrid diocesan car" This makes me wonder whether the car is a hybrid or the diocese. maybe it is both!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Mark, for your several contributions of recent weeks. I'm still pondering what complementarity there may be between Quanglicans and Anglikers.

Offhand, I'd guess that one *mazeway* will be found by those who find a deontological and ascetic rationale for simple, ubiquitous behaviours that are helpful or at least less harmful. With great affection, I expect nothing of note from good people paralysed by consequentialist ethics.

As medieval places became modern, Protestants rightly reacted from an extreme penitentialism rationalised with a bad theology to accepting any licit material pleasure as good if it is hallowed by gratitude to God. Only fools judge the past, and I particularly revere the best of that one, but a lot has happened in five centuries. Have we, of all brand-inspired generations, any serious objection to the perennial ascetic's insistence that, in persons, the material is always spiritual?

Another *mazeway* could be Romans 8 interventions like the conservation of the Amazon rain forest, the reforestation of the Sahara, the extinguishing of vast wildfires, etc Could these be as inspiring as the missionary movement of the early C20? The urgency of hell and that of mass extinction are not so different.

BW

Peter Carrell said...

Dear John
It depends where the source of spiritual power is coming from!

Mark Murphy said...


Hi Bowman,

Thanks for your interest. I am still exploring what complementarity there is between Quanglicans and Anglikers, now the former aren't flash-mobbing the other's sermons, and the latter aren't incarcerating and fining Friends en masse. I'm not really into either for the ethics, though the overlap there is significant. I'm such a newbie on this frontier, but I think Paul Oestreicher may emphasize the ethical overlap more, while Terry Waite seems to need the silence of the Quaker meetings as a way of honouring his post-hostage traumatized self (which experienced and learned to live with almost interminable silence and isolation). I suppose I'm closer to the Waite end of that spectrum.

"Another *mazeway* could be Romans 8 interventions like the conservation of the Amazon rain forest, the reforestation of the Sahara, the extinguishing of vast wildfires, etc Could these be as inspiring as the missionary movement of the early C20? The urgency of hell and that of mass extinction are not so different."

Wow, yes. Yes!

Anonymous said...

"the source of spiritual power"

Either an infernal combustion engine or a battery releasing wind power? The hybrid could have hybrid vigour.

BW

Anonymous said...

Why bother doing anything about climate change, will mass prayer not fix it and what did god say to Noah after the flood Bishop Peter?

Anonymous said...

"Why bother"

Love. Believers in God would spare the world mass famine, disease, war, and chaos.

Money. Commerce is adapting in myriad ways to expected changes supplies and demands. Vineyards down under finance some of the world's best research in genomics in an ambitious attempt to adapt wine grapes to new microclimates.

"doing anything about climate change"

(1) Some reduce the controllable causes. Architects design houses that use less power. Foresters work harder to contain and extinguish wildfires. Engineers design international super-grids that can move wind power to nations that do not have it. Where we do have wind and nuclear power, electric cars. Grocery shoppers are buying less meat and more plant protein.

(2) Some promote mitigations. For one example, farming algae for food in the saline water of oceans and deserts removes greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. And because it also desalinates the water under deserts, it makes adjacent agriculture and forestry possible where this has been impossible for thousands of years. Today's mitigations are relatively small, but visionaries believe that if markets scaled them up to their hypothetical maximum, the level of greenhouse gases would be almost manageable.

(3) Some engineer grand defenses against rising tides, higher temperatures, and more forceful wind. Do the United States need a levee on the continental shelf under the Atlantic?

(4) Some try to forecast the local, indirect effects of the new climate. Can there still be Burgundy from Burgundy or Champaigne from Champaigne? How will local ecologies accommodate invasions from other species fleeing their old habitats? Will there be more pandemics? When should farmers switch from grains to pineapples? Should dermatologists do more oncology?

(5) Some investigate complexity. In the way that boiling water is more complicated than merely hot water, the earth's systems of weather and life will be more complex at higher temperatures. Understanding this well requires some new mathematics, computation, and data visualisation.

(6) Some are thinking about how people will make decisions about all of this.

Most simply, natural forces do not always follow political boundaries, and environmental decisions are still human decisions that require some democratic legitimacy. Who, for example, should make decisions about the Great Lakes between Canada and the US? Bilateral treaties between the nations are not working.

Given that NATO's alliance has been more effective than the UN's superstate, might environmental alliances of neighbouring countries succeed where more grandiose treaties have failed? (I've long asked a cognate question about the Anglican Communion.) Locally, moving decisions to a different level of local government often improves the outcome but raises questions of democratic legitimacy.

Anonymous said...

"will mass prayer not fix it?"

No. Some oscillation in the earth's temperature is an *order of creation*. What belief could motivate a prayer that amounts to asking God to make another creation than the "heaven and earth" of the creeds and scriptures?

Traditionally, Protestants and Jews have also seen republics as an order of creation. The work of collective decision-making for a common life is as much the Lord's as farming or dentistry. What christian sense would it make to pray to be relieved of collaboration to govern the emerging climate? For all we know, the heavenly point of the earthly change may be precisely an advance in our thinking and cooperation.

Speaking of orthodoxy, all creation after the Creation destroys something and the Holy Spirit is not a little involved in conservation and innovation. It is belittles his holy name to attach it favourite causes but not to change that is in both senses global.

Overall, the same climate change that unravels old arrangements and poses some serious dangers is also already bringing new ones. Even given that some of the rise is cyclical and inevitable, there is flexibility and so agency in what we add, and gospel values are at stake in much of that.

So there is enormous scope for prayer-- adoration, blessing, contemplation, intercession, meditation, praise, thanksgiving-- in all of this, some of which could be petition. The sacramental blessing of water is among the most traditional and ecumenical of Christian prayers.

Anonymous said...

"what did god say to Noah after the flood"

Whatever answer the anonymouse has in mind, the question exemplifies a consequential innovation: using Genesis as a heuristic for *deep time*, the inconceivably long spans of geological and even astronomical time. From time to time, exegetes have read nature with scriptural spectacles-- St Ephrem of Edessa, St Francis of Assisi, Thomas Traherne, Jonathan Edwards, Pierre Teihard de Chardin are famous-- but only the last had our chronology in mind.

Children think that the story is about God saving all the animals from the rain in an ark. Adults think that the story is about God's flooding wrath and rainbow promise. The adults are right, but the children are not wrong.

The scriptures describe no salvation apart from a relation between humanity and nature. And given the start of the saga-- a world that needs tending; a steward shaped from the 'adam; Adam's irrigation farming and naming of animals; all before the differentiation of the sexes-- it probably could not have done otherwise. When Job protests to God about his injustice in the human order of things, the Whirlwind replies with a tour d'horizon of all the other visible orders of creation. When Isaiah speculates that the mount of Zion must be renewed, he sees on it a forest with all the kinds of trees the Lord has made. John who saw the New Jerusalem reports that a river runs through it.

The least orthodox feature of Western churches has been their tight anthropocentrism. (Arguably, the others-- patriphobia, weak pneumatology, mood-swing penitentialism, mechanical sacraments-- flow from that one.) SSM, a change in civil recordkeeping, paralysed the Communion for a decade or so whilst millions of species perished unnoticed. Very hypothetically, we have a national principle, and we fret about the relationships we think we have to our nations' societies. What if God has a bioregional principle, and our relation to the cosmos as a whole centres our relation to whatever human society is led to notice us?

(In the C18 here up yonder-- and down under from the C19?-- there was a time when colonists lived near aboriginal inhabitants of the land. To the consternation of our Enlightenment founders, Englishmen fairly often joined tribes, but natives seldom became colonists. Why? Among the nature-minded aboriginals, it is said that human relationships were warmer and more genuine. I am investigating.)

Our anthropocentric excess is not heresy-- no dogma is explicitly denied-- but it may be what Karl Rahner SJ called *crypto-heresy*, a way of life that ritually affirms catholic belief whilst living as though it were false. Western worshipers of the One who is "maker of heaven and earth...through whom all things were made...the giver of life" need a far better working theology of the created cosmos.


BW

Father Ron said...

On a day when I go to see the specialist about a lesion on my pancreas (no worries!), it is good to see this reminder of what we ought to be doing as Church in our world of today: -

"THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 2022

“How beautiful is a Church with a happy, serene and smiling face, a Church that never closes doors, never hardens hearts, never complains or harbours resentment, does not grow angry or impatient, does not look dour or suffer nostalgia for the past, falling into an attitude of going backwards.”
Pope Francis

Pope Francis is an old man, too. He understands what the Church and the World needs. Agape!

Father Ron said...

Dear Bishop Peter; in speaking about 'Climate Change', it might be possible to conclude that 'climate change' is also something happening within the discipline of hermeneutics. Yesterday, I found an article written by the O.T. scholar Walter Brueggemann, who speaks of the need to adjust our interpretation of the Bible to cohere, logically, with our revised understanding of our world at this time - rather that at the time of the writing of the Scriptures. I have put his article up on kiwianglo, but here is a representative pericope:

"The Gospel is not to be confused with the Bible.
The Gospel is not to be confused with or identified with the Bible. The Bible contains all sorts of voices that are inimical to the good news of God’s love, mercy and justice. Thus, “biblicism” is a dangerous threat to the faith of the church, because it allows into our thinking claims that are contradictory to the news of the Gospel. The Gospel, unlike the Bible, is unambiguous about God’s deep love for all peoples. And where the Bible contradicts that news, as in the texts of rigor, these texts are to be seen as “beyond the pale” of gospel attentiveness." (Walter Brueggemann)

Mark Murphy said...

Dear Ron, thinking of you today with the appointment.

Father Ron said...

Thank you, Mark. The climate has certainly changed- in a special way for me - over the last few hours. Having been informed by the specialist that my earthly life is likely to come to an end any tine from 3 months onwards, I am beginning to calm down and seek a new perspective. Learning of the death of our Dear Queen Elizabeth II, this morning, that perspective is already sharpened into a better understanding of the hymn: "Brief life is here our portion", I calmly, and peacefully, look forward to presiding at our Friday 12.30 Mass this morning - just that wee bit nearer to 'The Throne of Grace'. Thanks be to God! Introibo ad altare Dei!

(Apologies to Readers for this personal memorandum!)

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Fr Ron,
Thank you for sharing this deeply personal news, and for the faith, hope and love in your spirit as you both share the news and face the final stage of the journey to the loving heart of God.

Readers here will pray for you, as will I, and I hope to see you soon,
+Peter.

Mark Murphy said...

Oh Ron, this news is very sad for me. I'm also so touched by your sense of moving closer and closer into the heart of God. Holding you and your family in my heart and prayers.

Anonymous said...

Ron, I pray that you will be upheld in body, mind and spirit by the presence of the Lord with you on your journey home to the Father.

William

Peter Carrell said...

To the anonymous commenter who submitted a comment critical of God Save the King being sung yesterday in our cathedral:
1. I am not going to publish comments here which are critical of people hereabouts other than myself.
2. I note that within hours of God Save the King being sung in Christchurch, it was sung in no less a cathedral than St Paul’s Cathedral, London.
Perhaps you would like to write to the authorities in the UK about your concern that it is too early to sing God Save the King, even when a new sovereign is in place?

Father Ron said...

Thanks, Dear Friends, for your loving concern. Christ is risen, alleluia!

Father Ron said...

This podcast, which I found online today - from an aptly-named 'Church of The Redeemer' in the U.S.A. - expresses my own theology of God's Infinite Love and Grace towards sinners - all of us who are willing to admit our state of being sinners before the holiness of God. Only when we are willing to admit our need of God's forgiveness do we begin to understand its felicity:

https://sites.libsyn.com/19444/the-limits-of-his-mercy-have-not-been-set

(Paul; 'Why do I do ....." - Then Paul thinks again; "But thanks be to God for.....")

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Father Ron, for these gems at 9:50 and 11:34.

Together, they remind me of one or two comments you left at Fulcrum during the debate there on the Anglican Communion Covenant. I see history as a non-linear kaleidoscope, you see it as linear progress, so we differed on the ACC itself. But I remember loving the voice in which you commented along the way on grace and the Holy Spirit.

In them, and often here at ADU, you reached an emotional register that we often hear in Lutheran or Byzantine penitential writing, but rarely in our own. Like you, they speak to the heart with power, telling each particular sinner that God climbed on a cross and died to free YOU from bondage to the power of evil. At just this point, Anglicans are normally oddly reticent.

What is the difference? The others see Jesus's qualities as God in his gracious acts as a man. And for different reasons, they both treat penance as a dominical sacrament.

Early Lutherans discovered that a particular way of preaching law and gospel gave human words the power to do what sacraments do. For them, pardoning sin is not an expert declaration by a duly authorised representative but a deed done now for this particular soul by Jesus himself. By doing this deed, Jesus frees each soul from the despair that had put her justifying allegiance (pistis, faith) to him in jeopardy.

And the Byzantines? Violations of canons are a juridical problem handled juridically, of course. But repentance is the eternal matter, and that is ideally handled by a monastic who is, of course, a professional penitent. The desert fathers knew *therapeia* a millennium and a half before physicians imagined *therapy*. (Even in England, what was Walter Hilton talking about if not a way of contemplating the cross that heals and transforms the soul?)

In the Spirit-given tradition of the Philokalia, souls are presumed to be sick, and Christ has been seen healing the ones in union with him. And-- uniquely among major world religions-- spiritual direction is led by discernment of what Christ is already doing in each soul. So when a sinner feels reasonable remorse, Christ has done this to point the way toward a healing of the hardened passions that have kept her in the bondage that has been occasioning her transgressions. Here, the discerning words are surgical rather than juridical, but they are nevertheless Christ's intervention.

Anonymous said...

Sin happens.

Some readers of scripture have viewed this as regress from the New Jerusalem anticipated in the Decalogue-- a juridical view. To the reformers and to me, that reading must terminate in something akin to the Lutheran way of handling law and gospel.

Other readers have seen in sin the not unwilling addiction of creatures made for paradise and too frail for the temptations of the world but able to be strengthened in Christ-- a therapeutic view. To the Eastern fathers, and to postmoderns who cannot treat human subjectivity as a divine mistake, that no less pauline reading requires a ministry of discernment.

By either path and sometimes both, the Holy Spirit has been leading all the most diligent readers to the same clearing in the wilderness. The major reformers might have intuited something like this-- they all taught some kind of theosis-- but only to the pilgrim Body in our time have the facts and insight to make this complementarity explicit been given. After us, it may be forgotten until another opportune time.

Down the-- has it really been decades?-- I have most liked those of your comments that did the work given to us by putting That Topic immovably in this clearing. The Holy Spirit has given us this controversy, less to sort out modern sex for the world than to repair defects in our theory and practice of repentance behind the hedge.

These hinder all Christians more or less. But they only became obvious when a spin of the kaleidoscope showed that purely juridical thinking cannot help a few kinds of saintly sinners. Out in the streets, nobody cares-- how could they?-- but inside, we progress in repentance and help others to do so, or else we are, as you say, defunct.

You have led with testimony, an admirable and courageous candour, but some have had difficulty following. They are, after all, not in the garden of paradise but in the wilderness of the world with the rest of us. Each of us is *simul justus et peccator*, a saint in Christ but still a sinner in recovery.

I pray-- we all should-- that the Holy Spirit helps both your friends and your foes to adapt to the time that we have all been given by lighting the paths to repentance that too few have taken.


BW

Father Ron said...

Dear Bowman; precious words from you that mean a lot to me - a fellow sinner but 'en Christo'
Agape mou!