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Let climate change unite not tear apart plea

FloodSignAs some campaign for the Government to divert funding from the overseas aid budget to help flood victims in the UK, Rev Philip Young warns of the great danger of retreating into tribalism in the face of climate change.

There is great danger looming ahead for us all.

In fact, it is already here, as, day by day, we experience more and more extreme weather events. The latest is the flooding of vast amounts of land in our own country due to the unprecedented rainfall this winter. But we also have to remember the recent flooding in Norfolk and around the coastline of East Anglia, due to a combination of high winds and high tides. And in the West Country too. Before that, the devastation of large areas in the Philippines due to Typhoon Haiyan. Add to this the extreme cold in the United States this winter and the extreme heat of the Australian summer and we realize that the impact of extreme weather affects us all on a global scale.

There is a great danger that the world falls apart for us and that each of us retreats to a new tribalism where each country or person looks after themselves and we become interested in self-preservation of just our own kind.

However, there is also the great opportunity to wake up and realize that we are all brothers and sisters in one great world family and that we have one precious world that we need to look after together.  The response to the Typhoon in the Philippines does suggest that there is a desire to be generous in our response to human suffering wherever it occurs.

I find it disturbing when I hear people say we need to stop or reduce foreign aid and just look after those in our own country.  It is as if generosity and love are rationed. It should be possible, and our desire, to look after all those who suffer from disasters wherever they may be. We are one family and all God’s children. We are all brothers and sisters.

There is a great need for us to respond to Climate Change with wisdom and with combined action. It is important for us to realize that the option of ignoring Climate Change and sticking our heads in the sand is not an intelligent or wise response.

Those who are suffering from the immediate consequences of bad weather need our help and it is right to divert resources to alleviate their immediate suffering. Then we all need to plan ahead for further extreme weather events and to make sure the experts can give us good advice on the intricacies of land drainage or coastal defenses, for example. And we need to put money and resources where a practical solution is available.

We need urgent action to reduce our carbon emissions and to change from our reliance on fossil fuels to more renewables. We need to reduce our own consumption of finite resources and make sure we recycle where possible. If we do not do this urgently then we will produce further rises of temperature and even worse Climatic Change.

What we need are transformed human beings who, in turn, can transform our world. It is not possible to go on living just with our own selfish agendas in mind. We have to love and care for one another in this finite and beautiful world.

So, I come to the conclusion, that what is needed, more than anything else, is our own transformation from selfish human beings into human beings who are willing to die to self and to live for others. A transformed inner world will lead to a transformation of the outer world. One will not happen without the other.

This is none other than what God calls us to, through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, who is the Cosmic Christ. Jesus lives for others and calls us also to die to self and to live for others. The wonderful good news is that when you do this, life begins to make sense, and you become a member of a worldwide family. This family consists of all people throughout the world, as we are all God’s children and therefore brothers and sisters in the same family.

As we face the dangers of extreme weather we do not do it alone. God cares for us and we, his creatures, need to take great delight in reflecting his nature through us, by caring for one another, and for the planet.

We need to use the challenges we face to bring us together. We must be careful that we are not torn apart by selfishness and by just looking after our own selves, or our own group, or our own country. In fact, of course, it is in our own interests to look after each other. Life becomes all the richer when we do.

We become that grain of wheat that falls into the earth and dies. (John12.24)
If we die to self we bear much fruit as we rise to new life.
We live in One World,
God’s beautiful world.                                                         
11th February 2014

Rev Philip Young is the Norwich Diocesan Environmental Officer for the Church of England. He is also a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and a Novice of the Third Order of Franciscans. His work for the Norwich Diocese is part time.  The rest of his time he reads and writes on spiritual matters. He is able available to give talks, presentations or to preach and can be contacted at Philip.young@dioceseofnorwich.org.

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Photo: Copyright Bob Embleton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

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