29 May 2021
Creation Care and Carbon Footprint
Climate Change, the impact of it and the narrative about saving the planet is familiar to us all from the media. The Christian perspective is slightly different to this, not in the ‘what’, but in the ‘why’. Why should we be concerned about Climate Change and therefore in looking after our planet? And how does this impact all that we do at WorldShare?
A biblical imperative
Well let’s start with Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”
Psalm 24:1 reminds us, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”
So, God created our world and it belongs to him. As Margaret Thatcher (perhaps surprisingly) said: “No generation has a freehold on this Earth. All we have is a life-tenancy – with a full repairing lease.”
So why should we care? Psalm 19:1 reminds us:
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
So, a brief summary; God created our world, it is his world; we have a life tenancy of it, but he created it to show his glory. So again, using the tenancy analogy, we need to look after it and hand it back in good order. There are many much more detailed and helpful explanations of this; e.g. ‘Planetwise’ by Dave Bookless or ‘A Christian Guide to Environment issues’ by Martin and Margot Hodson.
What does looking after God’s world mean?
Reduce, recycle, reuse, CO2, global warming, greenhouse effect, carbon footprint. Just some of the words that are now in our everyday vocabulary. But how do we fulfil our responsibility to look after God’s world?
It all starts with carbon dioxide (CO2) and how we are upsetting the natural balance in the earth’s atmosphere. As we generate more CO2, we increase the concentration in the earth’s atmosphere, causing both the atmosphere and the earth to heat up, further leading to changes in weather patterns and impacts such as: droughts, floods, rising sea levels, extreme weather and loss of crops. This then results in a limited supply and increased cost of foodstuffs, resulting in food insecurity, especially impacting the poor and vulnerable. Something which is all too familiar to the communities our ministry partners serve.
It is important to be realistic, we can’t fix everything on our own. However, there are steps we can take, as individuals, churches and organisations which can make a difference. There is help also, Christian organisations such as A Rocha and Climate Stewards can also help by signposting some of the practical steps we can take.
At WorldShare we’ve started to engage with some of the resources produced by Climate Stewards to see what steps we can take, as an organisation, to reduce our carbon footprint and make a difference. More on this later.
How is Climate Change affecting our ministry partners?
As I write this blog, ministry partner JKPS in Kolkata, India is awaiting the landfall of super-cyclone Yaas, said to be a worse than Cyclone Amphan which caused significant damage to JKPS‘ Premenand boys’ home last year. Climate Change is a reality as the earth heats up, not just hotter summers, which some in the UK would like, but extremes of weather. I’ve heard the term used for these extremes as ‘Climate Weirding’, which probably sums it up very well. Over the last few years, our ministry partners have seen first-hand the impact of heavy rainfall, high winds, leading to flooding and loss of crops. Some of the particular events that our ministry partners have responded to include: Hurricane Eta, Cyclone Idai, South Asian floods and tsunamis.
Maybe, we shouldn’t be surprised, our ministry partners work amongst the poor, vulnerable and marginalised in the world’s neediest places, where the impact of these extremes is the greatest.
What practical steps can we take?
At WorldShare, we’ve begun to investigate, what we might do to reduce our impact on the environment by looking at our carbon footprint and measuring it. The saying ‘what gets measured, gets managed’ applies here. Climate Stewards produce some helpful and practical tools which we have used to set a baseline of carbon usage for 2019. Needless to say, 2020 was not a typical year, apart from the office being closed for much of the year, we didn’t make any overseas visits and so using the 360-carbon tool now and comparing against 2019, has helped us clearly see what changes need to be made.
Travel followed by the normal operations of the office are the biggest contributors to our footprint. Apart from helping us to reduce our carbon footprint, the tools also give us the opportunity to consider how we might offset the carbon we generate and contribute towards some carbon reducing development projects.
This is not job done, nowhere near, but just the beginning of a long and ongoing journey. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at some of the steps that our ministry partners are taking.
A challenge to our readers - Might you be able to use these tools to help you consider these issues in your home and your church? Do take a look, they are quite simple and intuitive to use. As Christians we need to act, to be an example to others.
By Alan Butler, Chief Executive