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Rev. Henrik Grape reflects on a broader understanding of climate change

Rev. Henrik Grape reflects on a broader understanding of climate change

Rev. Henrik Grape. Photo: Sean Hawkey/WCC

20 March 2019

Rev. Henrik Grape is coordinator of the World Council of Churches Working Group on Climate Change. His reflections below appear in an abridged format. For his full-length text, please click on the link below this interview.

Q: Do you believe we have finally entered a time when the threatening consequences of climate change are sinking into our shared consciousness?

Rev. Grape: After being active in the climate debates, in the ecumenical and interreligious discussions, and in advocacy work with not so much of a visible impact on policies and action, I am wondering if we are getting closer to the point where we should have been 20 years ago, a point that says that humanity needs to choose another way if we are going to secure a decent future for coming generations and save ecosystems and people. It seems clear that we need a fundamental shift of how we build societies on planet Earth. We have to change our focus from “canwe decrease emissions of greenhouse gases to what we must do to decrease them. It is time to leave the concepts of competition and market forces as the models for development since they are never going to work on a planet with finite resources.

Q: Hasn’t it become more and more clear that humanity’s impact on our climate is for real?

Rev. Grape: More and more people are starting to understand that we need to do something big. We are about to start the largest transformation since the start of the industrial era in the very late 19th century. Sometimes people of faith are accused of exaggerating with the biggest word they can find. And to talk about a fundamental transition could be exaggerating if the situation was not so urgent and particularly severe for the whole planet.

This is the time to use those words. Humanity has never been of such a huge importance to the future of planet Earth. But when more people are actually seeing the worrying path we are walking, those who cling to the industrial concept of development become more and more loud. This is not surprising since their power and influence over the economic agenda are threatened. And nationalistic movements often tend to romanticize the golden days of industrial development and point to this concept as the future.

Q: Can you reflect on what you have termed “the Greta effect?

Rev. Grape: When a Swedish teenager, Greta Thunberg, with full attention to climate change goes outside the traditional way of activism and goes on school strike, sitting outside the Swedish parliament every day before the general election in fall 2018, it is a sign of the times. It is a starting point for a movement among young people all over the world.

After years of years of people getting more and more anxious over climate change and more worried about the effects of environmental destruction, this seems to be the time to give space for the protest against the madness of a society of grownups who dont pay attention to the serious and urgent situation. What we see today in school strikes on every continent is not possible to ignore anymore. It is not about the innocence of the youth that will go away when they will learn what real life is about. They are actually pointing at what a future real life is about. And it is not the way that most of those in power are pointing.

Read the full text of Rev. Grape's reflection

Learn more about the WCC's involvement on Care for Creation and Climate Justice