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An Environmental Plan A – Caring for God’s Creation. John Sturges continues his series on Christian stewardship of our world

20 November 2018

Not long ago my friend Haddon Willmer lent me a book, as he shares my interest and concern for our world’s environment. It was the autobiography of Sir John Houghton, former Chief Executive of the Meteorological Office, and a committed Christian. I have indeed enjoyed reading it; it is interesting, informative and also challenging. Sir John was very much involved in setting up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), of which he served as Chairman while they produced their first three reports. He is a scientist, and his faith and commitment to truth shine throughout the book.

Inspired by John Houghton’s thoughts, in this piece I shall attempt to set out why I believe as Christians, we should take the stewardship of our world more seriously than we often do. The following points largely come from Sir John’s book.

  • The world faces serious environmental problems, mostly on a global scale.
  • Looking after the earth is a God-given responsibility. Not to look after the earth is a sin.
  • Christians need to re-emphasise that the doctrines of creation, incarnation and resurrection belong together. The spiritual is not to be seen as separate from the material. A thoroughgoing theology of the environment needs to be developed.
  • Our stewardship of the earth, as Christians, is to be pursued in dependence on and in partnership with God.
  • The application of science and technology is an important component of stewardship. Humility is an essential ingredient in the pursuit and application of science and technology – and in the exercise of stewardship
  • All of this provides an enormous opportunity for the church, which has too much ignored the earth and the environment and neglected the importance of creation and its place in the overall Christian message.

Some of you may have recently watched episodes of Blue Planet II, as I have. Two images stuck in my mind that illustrate the problems that we face through our neglect in caring for our world. Firstly, there was the carcass of a dead whale which had been struck by a large ship. It was being consumed by sharks. The second image was of the great floating masses of discarded plastic materials in the oceans, which are killing fish, birds and other marine life forms. This graphically shows us that nature can clear up and recycle its own mess, but not ours. Nature’s mess is protoplasm, ours is plastic.

Furthermore, nature’s clean-up systems are solar powered, ours are not; furthermore, our systems require us to burn even more energy which exacerbates the problem. This problem is becoming more dangerous by the day; besides the loss of fish and birds, the danger is that plastics will enter the food chain, and since we stand at the top of this food chain, they could end by poisoning us. Our neglect of the world and misuse of its resources is leading to the loss of many species of plants and animals and we depend on a biodiverse world.

I have not written any items for the website for about 12 months, as I have been engaged on a project to compare mankind’s current level of environmental impact with past episodes of volcanism which led to the five great mass extinctions that have occurred during the past 500 million years. I can say that the natural order that we are familiar with is now in peril.

What can we do?

  • Take more interest in how our world works.
  • Ask questions about issues such as how responsibly sourced are the foods that we consume.
  • Continue to minimise our consumption of plastics, and be very vigilant about disposing of them responsibly.
  • Remember that we all need to take responsibility for caring for our world.

John Sturges              j.sturges@leedsbeckett.ac.uk;

Julia Hyliger              Julia.hyliger@hotmail.com;

Haddon Willmer       willmerhaddon@gmail.com

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