World Environment Day
In a post specially written for World Environment Day, Dr Dave Gregory, contributor to our newly published Messy Church Goes Wild asks which side are we on in the battle against climate change.
Fifty-fifty. How do you like those odds?
Six months after COP26, the United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Glasgow, these are the odds scientists place on keeping human-caused climate change at the end of the century to 1.5 degrees centigrade. Scientists have been warning us that the earth will warm as levels of greenhouse gases accumulate in our atmosphere from the use of fossil fuels.
While we have struggled to hear them speak, the whole earth is now crying loud and clear. Observations of the earth’s temperature show that the past decade has been the warmest on record. The facts tell us that the earth is already one degree warmer than 200 years ago, and we are increasingly hearing of the consequences for humans and all living things around the world.
Fifty-fifty. The same as a coin toss. But this is not heads-or-tails, some random decision which we cannot influence; although with the enormity of it all, it can feel this way. Yet, like a coin toss, there are two-sides of the coin.
Keep in step with the Spirit
Paul, writing to the young church in Galatia, now part of Turkey, encourages them to ‘keep in step with the Spirit’ (Galatians 5:25, NIV). The same Spirit of God described as hovering over the dark, chaotic waters at the start of the Bible’s story of creation. The same Spirit whom the psalmist declared in wonder creates life and ‘renew[s] the face of the earth’ (Psalm 104:30, NKJV). The same Spirit that ‘formed [Adam] from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life’ (Genesis 2:7, NIV). The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead and whom God has sent ‘into our hearts’ (Galatians 4:5, NIV) so we can ‘live by the Spirit and… not gratify the desires of the flesh.’ (Galatians 5:16, NIV).
Paul describes the two sides of the coin of human life. The stark contrast between selfish ambition, factions, envy and overconsumption which have led us to the brink of catastrophic climate change on one side and, on the other, life and relationships shaped by ‘love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control’ (Galatians 5:22–23, NIV).
This is no fifty-fifty chance happening, but a choice. The choice to ‘keep in step with the Spirit… [and] not become conceited, provoking and envying each other’ (Galatians 5:25–26, NIV).
In 2022, on World Environment Day, we are faced with a fifty-fifty chance of averting dangerous climate change. Stepping back from the brink or stepping towards a world three or four degrees warmer by the end of the century, with catastrophic consequences for humanity and the whole community of creation with whom we share the planet and to which God gives life.
How we choose to live in the next ten years will shape the next century. The cost of living and the energy crisis affecting our lives may motivate us to act. Perhaps through it, God may speak to us of the struggle that climate change is already bringing to many, many people’s lives. Yet, we need more than a reminder. We need God’s renewing and empowering.
This World Environment Day – 5 June 2022 – coincides with Pentecost. A day when Christians celebrate God gifting the Spirit to those who follow Jesus. A day to celebrate the work of the creative, life-giving Spirit who seeks to renew the whole of the earth.
Fifty-fifty. Which side of the coin of God’s history will you choose to be on? Will you choose to ‘keep in step with the Spirit’ who brings life to the whole earth?
Dave Gregory is a Baptist missioner in science and the environment. he is a former president of the Baptist Union and conducted research in meteorology and climate. He leads Messy Church Does Science and has contributed to the new Messy Church Goes Wild and forthcoming Messy Adventures enabling Messy Churches to engage with the environmental crisis and gain new appreciation of the wonder of creation and wonder of the creator.
Reflections and practical suggestions from Messy Church on how we live well in God's world Messy Church Goes Wild is the movement within Messy Church which aims to encourage Messy Churches to meet God outdoors, love the natural world, experience a sense of awe and wonder there and be more eco-aware in all we do, both inside and out, as gathered and dispersed church, for the good of the planet. Edited by Messy Church founder Lucy Moore, this unique collection of wisdom and practical materials covers a range of topics from caring for animals and birds through living as an eco-friendly household to greening up your Messy Church activities and running an online session on Jesus in the wilderness. With chapters by Dave Bookless, Crystal Goetz, Dave Gregory, Graham Hartland, Jane Leadbetter, George Lings, Martyn Payne and Rachel Summers, and case studies from international contributors of all ages.