It seemed as if everything could turn for the better, that behaviour and attitudes of the privileged could change and that those most vulnerable would be duly given their rights and the assistance they require and deserve. Our World Council of Churches (WCC) delegation to the Climate Change Conferences has consistently called for a metanoia, and a change of heart. At last we thought and prayed that call was heard.
But then! The resistance to change became real, from the doubling down by fossil fuel power brokers, to the consumerism of the comfortable middle classes, to laissez faire government action, and we feared that business as usual would prevail—as we saw emissions actually continue to rise. It was frustrating and disheartening.
A climate emergency was declared in many of our cities and towns and institutions—including the World Council of Churches. Youth rose up around the world, joined by many of us seniors, parents and grandparents, to call out the laggardly action of governments and corporations and to demand change—but often with little response or effect. Indigenous Peoples intensified their actions to protect the land and waters and to enact the principles of UNDRIP.
And then! COVID-19 hit and the world experienced mandatory and enforced lockdowns and rapid behaviour change. We were astonished at the positive environmental impact at the same time as economic and social impacts were harsh and deeply felt. But we learned that we could rapidly turn on a dime if necessary, and pivot with clear leadership. This was hopeful and meant that just maybe there was a chance that we could also see the same kind of courageous leadership to respond to the climate crisis.
The pandemic revealed the deep cracks in our societies and there was hope that any recovery could be just and sustainable and green. That true equality and mutuality could move us in new directions where dreams of a new Heaven and a new Earth could be glimpsed and even fulfilled. But that won’t happen without hard choices and dedicated work. Will we see the moral courage come forth and be exercised to the high degree needed? How will we make it happen?
Today I am joining with Fast For the Climate for the success of COP26. The sacrifices of the pandemic response were mandatory. Food insecurity and the lack of access to nutritious food and water are outside the control of many experiencing devastating climate impacts. Fasting is a personal decision, and is voluntary. It is a way to demonstrate the discipline of constraint, to help us examine our needs over our appetites and wants, and to offer ourselves as living testimonies following God’s Law of Love. Fasting from food and drink, from carbon, from frantic activity, from thoughtlessness gives us new insights into what really matters to sustain life.
The time saved by not having to secure the daily bread can be devoted to prayer and advocacy, to reaching out to those making decisions beyond a materialistic end and towards climate justice. It is a way to acknowledge and confess my own privilege and to begin to be reconciled with others whom that affects or oppresses. I ask: what have I to give so that others may live? The money and resources saved from fasting can also be contributed to good causes that advance the reign of God.
As a grandmother, I am wanting to teach my grandchildren to be brave and generous as they face the world they are now inheriting, full of uncertainties and risks and crises. They need to know the truth of our situation to be resilient and adaptive, to join the movement for justice and reconciliation, and to maintain hope in a better future. The task ahead is on this generation’s shoulders and we must do now whatever we can to avert the worst catastrophes ahead.
If we truly love God with all our heart, mind and soul, and love our neighbour as ourself, Mother Earth and all her creatures being included in that love, then we have no choice but to make the principled decisions and the actions for change we know so very well that are required, The science has clearly shown us what lies ahead, and human willpower and creativity can again pivot towards justice and truth, and above all love.
May this COP, and all who uphold it, and engage with it, find the ways to make it so. May trust and generosity of spirit move us forward in unity and peaceful deliberation to a sound conclusion and a clear determination to get on with the work of building climate justice. May the promise of Paris be fulfilled in this kairos moment, and a new dawn arise on this hurting and beautiful planet, this Earth, our island Home.