Climate Crisis and Creation Care: Eco-Economic Sustainability, Ecological Integrity and Justice

Dr Christina Nellist – (forthcoming mid 2021)

In my latest book, forty experts in a variety of disciplines and diverse cultures, interrogate various aspects of sustainable living and creation care in the era of climate change. They offer suggestions to policy makers and individuals alike, in the hope of steering us away from the cliff-edge and towards a sustainable and flourishing future, set within the confines of our planetary boundaries. That such a book is still necessary in 2021 is testament to the failure of successive governments across the world to: a) acknowledge the science and b) acknowledge the wisdom in the thousands of voices from across the world, which spoke and continue to speak, with knowledge and sincerity on this subject.

In the 70s and 80s many of us were teaching or producing scientific papers on various aspects
of what we now refer to as ‘climate change’. During this same period, some religious leaders,
like the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Christian Church, His All Holiness Demetrios 1st,
expressed concern on the misuse and abuse of the natural environment. He called for individuals to change their hearts and minds and to view the world not as something solely
to be used as a resource, but rather, as something to nurture, by enabling creation’s flourishing. In 1989 he established the 1st September (the first day of the new ecclesiastical calendar), as the day dedicated to the protection of the natural environment, calling for Orthodox Christians to pray for the protection and preservation of God’s creation. This work on behalf of creation continues under his successor, His All Holiness, Bartholomew (also known as the Green Patriarch), culminating at this present time in the Halki Summit 111 (2019) entitled: Theological
Formation and Ecological Awareness: A Conversation on Education and the Environment, which essentially called for ‘Creation Care’ to be added to Orthodox Seminary and Academic educational programs. Similar calls and practical guidance are also found in other faiths and these are included in the book.

In the 80s and 90s progress also began to be made in the political sphere, with the 1992 Climate Convention in Rio and similar Conventions and commitments of intent, continuing until today. Yet, despite the grand words and commitments, we continue to stumble to the edge of the cliff, as if we are in some form of collective psychosis, because these very same governments refuse to implement the necessary strategies to effect real change. They appear to be more concerned with re-election, than saving the lives of their citizens and more than that, the lives, indeed existence, of the myriad other creatures on this planet. This is one of the reasons why those from a faith-based worldview are vitally important to the present debate on sustainable living in an increasingly unstable world. They provide an alternative voice and vision for the future, based in many cases upon teachings from sacred texts, which inform us that the entire world is interconnected and sacred. They provide spiritual, moral and ethical arguments on the link between climate change, a flourishing creation and goals for sustainable living.

Today, the vast majority of people understand that climate change is real and that it is dangerous. Whilst their level of knowledge on the subject varies (and it is likely that the
majority need to know more), with children to grandparents demonstrating on the streets in
countries across the world, there is at last, an acknowledgment that climate change is real
and that urgent and immediate action must be taken. Societies better understand their global
interconnectedness to each other, to other creatures and to our planetary boundaries. Our
presence, level of consumption and misuse of the natural world, has negatively changed our
atmosphere, weather patterns, environments and the lives of the creatures within those
environments. This misuse threatens all forms of life via food insecurity, rising sea levels,
mass migration and social unrest, to name just four from the awaiting crises.

Whilst recent attention has been diverted to the Covid 19 pandemic, the spectre of climate
change reality continues. One good thing arising from the pandemic is our reawakening
to the important things in life – our families, our green spaces and the creatures in them,
clean air and our health systems. Increasingly, we hear disparate voices repeating the same
message – we do not want more of the same, we want a ‘new normal’ and ‘building back
better’ policy decisions.

Dealing with Covid 19 has meant dramatic changes to the way we live, resulting
in our industries and economies grinding to a halt. Most surprising of all, is that this
‘lockdown’ has been achieved with a level of civic compliance never thought possible outside
of oppressive regimes. This indicates that the prospect of attaining the ‘new normal’ has
never been more attainable. What is required now is for politicians and policy makers to ride
the wave of desire for real change, rather than lazily returning to the destructive policies and
economic strategies of the past.

It is however, equally important for us as individuals to realise that in order to achieve
these changes, we must play our part by changing our desires and demands. Cheap
meat, cheap clothes or cheap flights are not cheap, if the full social, environmental and
economic cost of production, transportation and GHG emissions are taken into account. Cheap
is a delusion fed to us by those with other agendas; the real costs – unstable weather
patterns, habitat loss and species extinctions, ocean acidification and rising sea-levels are
now only too apparent.

Some changes are relatively easy for the individual– turning off the lights, buying green
energy; flying less often or not at all, driving more slowly, cycling or walking whenever
possible; reducing, recycling, reusing; avoiding fast fashion, giving up or reducing animal food
products and buying from local farms with better animal welfare standards whenever
possible; growing our own food; digging up lawns and planting meadows; planting more
trees; avoiding plastic; lobbying our MPs and for those who can – having less children. The
list is long enough to cater for varying degrees of commitment to change.

In this latest book, experts write with authority and clarity on various aspects of sustainable living in an era where climate change is acknowledged as the greatest threat to human existence on this planet. They write from faith-based or secular perspectives but share a desire to explain why we are in this situation and how we might affect real change, both as individuals and as societies, in order to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. They write in the hope that we – either as individuals or as decision makers in government and civil society – will be guided to respond far more quickly than is currently the case; for without swift action, we condemn future generations of human and non-human animals to lives of intolerable instability, with little hope of regaining what humans have squandered by our collective arrogance.