Saturday, July 5, 2014

I don't want the future to be a museum - climate extinctions

Today I took my family to the museum here in Melbourne to see the Aztec exhibition. Reflections on that are for another time and another of my blogs. But for here I want to reflect upon what I saw in the impressive room where they have their taxidermied animals.

I really wanted to yell out lines from Psalm 104 "Lord, how many are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all;the earth is full of Your possessions."

What I did do was raise my hands in the air. And then I walked over to the stuffed polar bear and apologised. Odd I know, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. In Ice, ice baby I looked at Arctic sea ice loss. We know this is having an impact on polar bear hunting. They may yet disappear in the wild.

And then it struck me, museums are awesome places of learning, where species past and present are on display. I'd just walked briefly through the dinosaur section. I don't want the museum to be the only place (zoos notwithstanding) where you can go and see the species on display. Sea level rise, ocean acidification, loss of habitat, rising temperatures shrinking cloud forests, declining rainfall, and so on. So many species could disappear in a warming world. If we can say with the Psalmist "Let the glory of the Lord endure forever; Let the Lord be glad in His works", then we can only assume he'll be just a little point out if we add more to the list of creatures God can no longer be glad in, to say nothing of ourselves and the many related issues.

Museums are a great place to visit, but I don't want to live in one.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Harmony in Diversity - speaking on community TV about eco-theology

A little while ago I had the chance to appear on community TV channel 31 program Harmony in Diversity about my work in eco-theology. The programs are now on their YouTube Channel.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Human need or human greed? Jane Goodall & Michio Kaku

I recently had the opportunity to attend a couple public lectures on consecutive nights; Jane Goodall, celebrated primatologist and Michio Kaku, futurist and co-founder of string theory. Both were very different talks.

My caveats were that I was more tired for Kaku, not with my family and not impressed with the organisation. But I have to say all that aside, there was far more appeal and power to what she said that Kaku's polished performance and glib answers.

Both of course are great scientists in their own fields, and both told stories of childhood inspiration to take their paths: for Jane it was a childhood love of animals, for Kaku the desire to complete the book on the "theory of everything". Both show how childhood nurture of curiosity is essential to breed scientists - all kids start as scientists!

Yet as well as a scientist, Jane has become an advocate, not just for the chimps of Gombe but all of God's creatures, including us humans. Our minds may be finite but we have undergone an explosive development in intelligence that does separate us from other creatures and gives us a great responsibility. Yet we threaten our own self destruction and are stealing the future of our children.

Through her Roots and shoots program, she seeks to promote the idea for a new generation that we can all make a difference in our choices. I note too she thinks there must be political issues, and noted that Tony Abbott didn't really believe in climate change, Jane is all about reconnecting to the Earth so we might not lose it.

In contrast, apart from some amazing ideas on the nature of reality, Kaku was all about technology. He rightly notes that "science is the engine of prosperity", commenting on steam, lasers and transistors (the last two being applications of Quantum Mechanics, the former really coming before the theory of thermodynamics, contrary to what Kaku tried to say). In another aside at Abbott, Kaku suggested that Western countries had forgotten where our prosperity came from, and lamented the spending cuts in science.

Kaku I think though accepts technology too uncritically. He claims that Twitter threw out dictators, and that the internet brings democracy - at a time when many countries crack down on it in dictatorial ways (and some companies too)? The claim too that democracies don't go to war with each other seems somewhat naive as well.  He looks forward to uploading who we are to a "library of souls", not understanding the importance of continuity (though maybe resurrection is a similar idea?). He sees a time when we are connected 24/7 with the net on our contact lenses.

His interview finished with question time, and he deftly dealt with odd or inarticulate questions. It was however, how he dealt with the last question that set him apart from Jane Goodall. Someone asked a prosaic question about adopting a connected life that separates us from nature. Indeed, a technology that satisfies our need and not simple our greed (as Jane spoke of, quoting Gandhi). He answer was, this is what people want. No reflection on whether or not it is best for us, just a technological fatalism.

While technology is not always an ill (clothes, houses, electricity are all goods), it seems to me that the more they separate us from our humanity and from everything else, the more our rushing to techno-heaven will end us up somewhere else.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Wannabe ecotheologian on community TV

Yesterday I had the opportunity to record two weeks of interviews for the Channel 31 program, Harmony in Diversity. Norm, the program host, and David the producer were great to work with.

I talked about my childhood journey and into adulthood about my ecological and Christian conversions, and about ecotheology and ecomission, including this blog, and the book that I'm co-authoring with Claire Dawson entitled A climate of hope: church and mission in a warming world (I may not have the subtitled 100% correct). It will be published by Urban Neighbours of Hope (UNOH) and should be out by Christmas.

I'm introduced as an ecotheologian and meteorologist. I realise that one is my profession, but the more and more I read I realise that the former is purely aspirational, but necessary to describe what I'm trying to achieve: reflect theologically about our relationship with creation.

The programs that were recorded will be screened in Melbourne over the next two weeks, and will also appear on the program's Youtube channel.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Earth day as doxology

Ok, I've used a fancy word in the title. A doxology is a short hymn of praise to God. So how does Earth Day achieve that?

The Earth Day webpage says its rationale is to motivate people to "act to secure a healthy future for themselves and their children". Now what is wrong with this from a Christian perspective?

Some will argue that the future is in God's hands. I can't argue with that. It strikes me though that such a statement is any more at odds with acting to preserve what we have been given, than me trying to be more holy even though I know in the future my sanctification (being made holy) will be completed by God, and that even now God is working through me to achieve that.

Why can't God use humans now to look after his Earth, just as he commanded? Now I'm not offering a view that says humans will "save the Earth" in some final sense, Romans 8 tells us that creation groans in longing for the renewal of all things, the eschaton. It is not as if we will build some eco-utopia and then Christ comes back with a "good job". But if the Earth is to be one day renewed, that tells me it has value to God, and that I should live now in light of that future.

Christians should not over look the justice aspect of Earth Day's rationale - to love our neighbours as ourself means neighbours in time as well as in space. Climate change will hit those near the bottom in both developing and developed countries the hardest. Indeed, the larger the warming we create, the more likely it is we will all be affected.

If climate change and other environmental crises are a judgment on our idolatrous way of life, how much more in lament and repentance should we join all people who are concerned for our future way of life, whether they share our eschatological hope or not?

Although it is now Earth Day in the US and not in Australia as I write, it is a reminder that our witness to the world as Christians will have far more credibility and relevance if we take our Earthy natures seriously, our past sins against creation and neighbour seriously, and we get along side people for the common good. No pie in the sky when we die, but incarnational mission. Just like our Lord and Saviour.

And ecological mission (or ecomission) is an act of worship (doxology), precisely because to know God and honour him as Lord is to know him,and make him known. Making God known is to live in the reality of his present and coming rule - when all things will be put right, including our relationship to creation.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Thinking through the liftime of products

This Ted talk is fascinating. Think about what happens to things over their entire lifetime. Landfill in general is bad for the environment, even if what is being dumped is biodegradable as an anaerobic (airless) environment produces methane and not carbon dioxide. Watch this talk and start to see how complex solutions need to be, since the problems are complex.