So much is being written about the startling altered climate around the globe and rightly so. Reports of heatwaves leaving forests tinder dry and soon alight; rising sea levels from melting polar ice caps flooding low lying regions of the world; raging monsoons and heavy rains making so many destitute, homeless and hopeless.
This beautiful earth and all its wonders. God given to us to share and nurture in all its beauty with one another, the fish in the sea, the beasts of the field and the birds of the air. How God must weep at creation in torment.
One of the great metaphysical poets, a priest of profound faith and connection with nature, Gerard Manley Hopkins, captured man’s impact on the world as long ago as 1877 and wrote (ending with hope):
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
As ordinary folk of faith, we are reminded by Archbishop Justin Welby of our responsibilities to act and not to be passive observers in these challenging times:
“Reducing the causes of climate change is essential to the life of faith. It is a way to love our neighbour and to steward the gift of creation”.
Our Church of England is bringing sharp focus to our prayers, our understanding and our actions to the climate agenda ahead of COP26 hosted in Glasgow this year through its Climate Sunday on 5 September.
But these things often seem so much greater and beyond our control than our individual actions, voices and prayers can influence. Yet we know this not to be true. Our knowledge and understanding of God through prayer in action can deliver profound change.
And our faith compels us to recognise that because climate change disproportionately affects the poor and vulnerable, those already most at risk in our world, and because of our custodianship of God’s creation, caring about and acting on our climate is a way to live out our calling to love others as we’ve been loved ourselves by God.