Faith gives our everyday life depth that takes us beyond the material boundaries of the world. We live in relationship with a living God and we have ethical ground to stand on. Still, we are confined to the natural world of wonder and beauty, but also of uncertainty. While every living being on this planet is affected by the changes in our climate, we are still the only creatures with the power to respond to the climate challenge.
Unintentionally we have used our imagination and power to cause irreversible damage to our planet’s bio-systems. It is tempting to wonder what we could achieve if we would intentionally channel this energy to manipulate and possibly heal the systems that make our world habitable.
This was the topic of a discussion at COP 24 hosted by GreenFaith, an environmental coalition that actively addresses questions of sustainability and climate matters from a faith perspective. Panelists focused on geo engineering, explaining how we are able to manipulate the Earth’s natural systems on a large scale for our own benefit. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the UN science committee on climate change, has stated that we will need to use geo engineering technologies in order to keep global warming below 1.5°C. Natural mitigation efforts alone like reforestation won’t be enough.
The already available technology to suck carbon out of the air and store it in the ground would yield some success and be vital in our efforts to slow down the warming. But it works slowly and is expensive compared to other theoretical and experimental possibilities. The science community is already working on spraying particles in the stratosphere that would reflect sunlight away from Earth and supposedly lower the pace of global warming dramatically and manipulate the weather to form bright clouds that reflect sun rays.
We have the power to respond
The title of the discussion led by GreenFaith was “Playing God,” a fitting description when discussing the possibility of trying to alter our planet’s natural systems. From a faith perspective we must ask ourselves who we are and why we are here. We have the power to respond to climate change, we are the first generation to realize the problem, and the last generation that will be able to act on it. Will we change our minds, and lives, or will we try to play God and put our efforts into manipulating and changing nature?
The words of Mary, mother of Jesus, come into mind: “He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the humble.” (Luke 1.52)
As people of faith we cannot settle on technical attempts to fix a problem that is rooted in our culture and economy. Our power and imagination must rather lead us to see and work towards a different future of harmony and peace with earth.
Let us come together in prayer for the world leaders and policymakers that are gathering at the COP24 climate summit in Katowice, Poland:
Lord give them the sight to see how to act,
Let them hear the cries of the oppressed,
And give them the courage to walk humbly on this earth.
The author is an Icelandic theologian working for the YMCA in Iceland and The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland environmental project. He is one the seven young people who make up the LWF delegation to the 2018 climate conference in Katowice, Poland.
A delegation of young people from the member churches has been representing the LWF at the annual conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change since COP 17 in Durban, South Africa. At COP 24, the seven delegates from each of the seven LWF regions, come with different experiences and expertise in climate action, climate advocacy and theology of creation.