Monday, March 30, 2015

Murderous beginnings to the anthropocene

While I planned my latest post to be about the book launch of A Climate of Hope: Church and Mission in a Warming World at the Surrender conference, I've just been reading a paper from the journal Nature about the anthropocene, the idea that humans have so modified the planet that we should be speaking about a new geological age.

The article entitled Defining the Anthropocene by Simon Lewis and Mark Maslin examines a variety of possible definitions. Bill Ruddiman developed his Early Anthropocene Theory to suggest that the origin of modern agriculture has helped control greenhouse gas concentrations. For example, the onset of rice agriculture has meant more regions where methanogenic archaea (a primitive form of bacteria though of a different branch of life altogether) could thrive and increase atmospheric methane.

Ruddiman also suggested that plagues could result in a dip in CO2 concentrations when population reduction led to farmland reverting to forest. One of the rather sobering ideas in Lewis and Maslin's work is that the arrival of Europeans in the Americas saw a drop from about 61 million in 1492 to 6 million by 1650; the result of diseases, war, famine and enslavement. From ice core studies, a drop of 7-10 ppm in CO2 concentrationswas observed about 1610. This was a cool period during the Little Ice Age, a largely Northern Hemisphere phenomena.

It's a sober reminder that human hubris, violence and ignorance damage both human flourishing and that of the planet, and that all of our theorising in theology and the social sciences (as well as natural sciences?) need to be firmly post-colonial.

Even if 1610 isn't the best candidate for the beginnings of the anthropocene, it still marks a significant change in the state of affairs of the Earth.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Meanderings of a budding ecotheologian

I've taken to calling myself an ecotheologian because I've been thinking in this space for a while. Drawn in over a decade ago by being asked to write a paper (unrefereed) on climate change (I have a PhD in meteorology and teach a subject on climate change and natural variability), I've been thinking about climate change specifically and more generally about human/non-human creation relationships.

From the standpoint of the field, I'm very much an amateur, and pragmatics is the reason why I haven't started a Masters in Theology yet - this is to happen within the next couple of years - but I've plenty to do in the mean time with a second book slowly bubbling, a couple of contributed chapters and a few papers to write up.

Recently, an established academic Anne Elvey described me to someone as a budding ecotheologian. It's funny to think of oneself as budding at 45, but I like the phrase for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I like a good pun, and secondly it picks up on the fact that there is a process (one could argue a life long one) of becoming someone in the field. The growth has begun, but there is a flowering that is yet to come. Time to get growing.

I was able to give a couple of papers in the last week, firstly at the Conference on Science and Christianity (COSAC) run by ISCAST, I gave a paper on geoengineering. I think there are 2-3 potential papers in what I said. COSACs are always good - lots of diverse papers and thoughts, and the Geelong Conference Centre is a wonderful venue in the middle of the botanical gardens.

The other conference was the Graeme Clark Research Institute conference on rediscovering the spiritual in creation. An amazing lineup of Australian and international ecotheologians at the Serafino winery in McClaren Vale south of Adelaide. Much to follow up on. There, I presented my published work on a theology of wilderness. A few ideas to chase up from that as well.

This weekend are Surrender I'm giving a workshop on putting the Earth right and launching my book with Claire Dawson, A Climate of Hope. Keeping busy.