My friend and colleague with Generation Zero in Auckland, Isabella Lenihan-Ikin (Issie), recently turned 17 years old and has been an activist since 2006, when she was 10. In her recent TED Talk, part of a one-day event held at Auckland’s War Memorial Museum, Issie said that although she wants to be a mother one day, she can’t see this being feasible given the continuing rise in CO2 levels in the atmosphere, and the projected 4°C global average temperature increase that the world is heading for by 2100 under business-as-usual. Issie’s 11-minute talk is well worth taking the time to watch (post continues after the jump):
While I understand the outlook of Issie and many other environmentalists who are advocating for zero population growth, I have grave concerns about a world where demographics reflect the apocalyptic Children of Men. That’s not just because ZPG tends to be favoured more by the Left than the Right, although the skewing of political demographics in a more rightward direction is obviously a concern. I’m more saddened by the loss of hope that we can turn things around and create a world that we all want to live in.
The issue of global climate change and its impacts was brought home more than ever by the recent Super-Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in The Philippines, with the most powerful winds ever recorded and a death toll well over 5,000. This is the third super-storm in as many seasons – Irene on the eastern seaboard of the US in 2011, Sandy in the same area in 2012, and now Haiyan/Yolanda in East Asia. I find it mind-boggling that those most opposed to action on climate change and for a safer, healthier environment tend to be those who identify as Christian (although attitudes among Christians towards what might be called “creation care” are changing). Making the world a safe place for the next generation, and all the generations to follow us, should be top priority for those of us who are called to love our neighbour as our very own selves. Jesus made it abundantly clear that in calling us to love our neighbour, He would admit no limits in the definition of who is our neighbour (cf Luke 10, the parable of the Good Samaritan). The Filipino orphan is every bit as much our neighbour as anyone living in our street. The very least we can do for our global neighbours is to make life possible for them. As Issie so eloquently points out, in making life possible for our global neighbours, we are also making life possible for ourselves and our own children.
It’s long past time, then, to call all Christians – indeed, all people – to the Consistent Life Ethic. What is the use of all our “Christian” politicking around so-called “life issues” when EVERY OTHER POLICY WE SUPPORT, from healthcare to transportation to gun laws to military belligerence to environmental and social responsibility are so utterly DARWINIAN and destructive to life that our creating Hell for our global neighbours gives the lie to everything we ostensibly support?
Yesterday, Sunday 1 December, was the first Sunday in the season of Advent. This Advent, I have chosen a theme for my personal reflections, “Building for the Kingdom, Waiting for New Creation.” The “Building for the Kingdom” part is taken from Professor N.T. (Tom) Wright, who says that we build for the Kingdom knowing that it is our Creator and Redeemer who will take ultimate responsibility for making all things new. In many Church lectionaries, the theme for the first week of Advent is that of hope, specifically the hope for redemption and new creation.
I want to give hope to Issie and others like her, and indeed to all people everywhere, that another world is indeed possible. I want to maintain the hope that it’s not too late to turn things around so that we can make life possible for ourselves, our children, our grandchildren and all the generations that follow us. Yes, of course there will be sacrifices to make for some of us, but we as followers of a crucified Lord who gave Himself up for us all should be the first to make those sacrifices. Not to sacrifice ourselves for the greater good of all humanity would necessarily call into question whether we really love one another as God Himself has first loved us.