Updated: Sep 21, 2021
It was great to have Laura Young lead our Soul Talk conversation last night about living an environmentally conscious life. Laura did a great job of speaking engagingly and accessibly about what is an absolutely massive subject.
I know that for me, it can feel overwhelming as to know where to begin when considering this subject. Especially as it still feels that we - as human beings - are not embracing it with the determination and humility that it requires.
At the beginning of last year I received a letter from someone whom I had bought a gift for. I think it was meant to be a thank you letter but most of its content addressed the fact that the writer felt that I let my children down by not taking them on good holidays!
I remember thinking about this letter, as Facebook regularly alerted me daily to past ‘memories’. Many of which were photos taken on family holidays. Holidays that were predominantly in the UK - although a summer holiday to the Netherlands & France featured too.
Was it that we mainly holidayed in this country that had made the writer feel we ‘let our children down?’
My husband and I actually made a commitment a few years ago not to fly regularly. In fact, not to fly at all unless there was no other option. We all have a carbon footprint which could be viewed like a bank account. Flying spends a huge amount of that footprint. And so our decision to fly irregularly - we hope - is a lifestyle choice that puts our children’s future - and the future of other people’s children & grandchildren - as a priority.
As we came out of lockdown this summer it was interesting to watch the ways in which so many people instantly booked holidays abroad. It made me wonder as to how we will ever begin to put the climate crisis as a priority when - even though we are still dealing with a pandemic where travelling isn’t ideal - we immediately book flights, having felt that holidays have been denied us for too long.
The climate emergency asks us to look at our individual lifestyle choices and frankly, it is not comfortable. Recognising that big companies have the really massive changes to implement, we still - as individuals - have significant changes to make too. I spoke last night of how the climate emergency asks us to consider the hard words of ‘greed’ and ‘overconsumption’. It forces us to recognise that the lifestyles we demand and expect for ourselves come at a devastatingly high cost to our neighbours living in the Majority World. Ruth Valerio writes of how the out workings of a global system built on greed and overconsumption is violating God’s intention for his world. (Ruth also writes here as to how Covid itself is an environmental crisis, demonstrating the utterly broken relationship we have with the wider natural world.)
Some of us pledged last night to consciously make some significant changes to our lifestyles. Taking the words of Romans 12:1:
‘Take your everyday, ordinary life. Your sleeping, eating, going to work & walking around life and place it before God as an offering’.
We pledged, as an offering to God, in care of our beautiful planet & for love of our neighbour, to make lifestyle changes that took seriously the situation that our world is in. For me, I may be choosing to fly irregularly, but I still buy way too much plastic. Far too much food goes ‘off’ in my fridge & I have not yet mastered buying pre-loved clothes. I have a long way to go...
I heard someone speak a little while ago as to how they choose to not buy single use plastic as a way of worship. Their way of saying to God, “Because I love you and I love my neighbour, I choose not to buy this.” (Plastics originate as fossil fuels and emit greenhouse gases which are the cause of extreme weather conditions, sea levels rising, glaciers melting etc).
Because, as Laura reminded us last night, ‘God so loved the world’. He didn’t just love me, he loved you, he loved our neighbours in other countries, he loved the animals, he loved the plants, the mountains, the oceans, the plains. He loves this planet & what he loves, he asks us to love. In fact, right from the very beginning he asked us to care for it (Gen 2:15).
The creation that God called ‘very good’ has been deeply harmed by our greed, our materialism and our over consumption. My neighbour is drowning in the waste that I throw out thoughtlessly, and their lives are relentlessly hard due to my desire for comfort & ‘more’.
The climate emergency is not something I would usually write about - mainly due to my lack of scientific knowledge & the complexity of the situation! My humanities brain always feels terrified when faced with statistics & long, scientific words! These short words above do not even scratch the surface & they do not begin to share the whole picture. But I do feel that more of us do need to begin to speak into this situation and begin to take seriously the lifestyle changes this crisis demands. It could be that soon, we do not have the choice to reduce & simplify, it will be something forced upon us.
Surely, this time, right now, gives us some space (although listening to climate experts, time is very short) to think creatively about ways in which to reuse, reduce, repair & recycle? It offers us space to acknowledge the ways in which we have over consumed & been driven by greed. It offers us an invitation to see our consuming less, as a way of worship & as a way of loving our neighbour as ourselves. It asks us to take the time to learn about things like fossil fuels & the havoc that the greenhouse gases they produce, create. It asks us to think beyond ourselves.
My friend Tom Kirby speaks of how we need to learn to be producers rather than consumers. I like that. I would like to learn what that would look like. In the community where he lives it involves a huge community garden where local people can learn to grow food & where the community is also fed by the food produced. These things hold such importance.
This time, that we have now, won’t last for ever. We have an opportunity as life seems to demand a return to ‘normal’ to say ‘No’. Normal isn’t working. We need a new normal. For the love of God and for the love of our children and their children, may we be the change we long to see in the world. May we be willing to give up the things that need giving up & take up the ways & the tools that bring change & justice to our beautiful world.
Over the next couple of weeks we will share some of the ideas that Laura gave us at Soul Talk. Our hope is always that these conversations grow legs & arms & inspire & equip us for change. If you would like to keep in touch with all things Soul Talk, please drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will put you on our mailing list that will keep you invited to all of our conversations.