Live Earth – Beware Global Warming Overload
This weekend sees the launch of the global ‘Live Earth’ concerts, run on seven continents and featuring 150 artists.
Fronted by former US Vice President and now ‘eco-warrior’ Al Gore, the concerts will feature past and present hit-makers, streamed live to the world.
Scientists in many fields agree that we’ve got to change the way we use the earth’s finite resources. We have to find new ways to fuel the lifestyles and industries of tomorrow.
In a recent TV film for the EDGES series, we looked at this issue of fuelling the future and discussed the viability of some of the current alternatives to traditional fuels. (You can see the full 30-minute film at edges.tv).
The big question is, not whether we should be concerned about the environment, but how will we fuel the future without destroying the environment? And how can we do this without turning the important issue of global environmental change into just another political football?
Bob Geldof has already said that he thinks ‘Live Earth’ will do more harm than good – especially as powering such a huge enterprise will doubtless lead to the production of enormous amounts of greenhouse gases.
There’s another point to watch, too. When so much is incessantly said and written about global warming, especially in this age of wall-to-wall, 24/7 media news, people may soon begin to experience ‘activism overload’.
Charities have often warned of ‘appeal overload’, in the wake of major natural disasters such as the Asian tsunami. It seems that people can only take so much bad news and ‘awareness-raising’ before they turn off.
When you’ve seen concerts for this and concerts for that, with one celebrity telling you to support this cause and another promoting something else, you may end up thinking it’s all too much. In the end, what organisers had hoped would be a cry for revolution becomes a sigh of resignation: ‘…whatever!’.
We also need to beware of turning the issue of global warming into the next ‘Y2K’.
I’m sure you remember that one: scientists and others warning us of potential disaster in the wake of computer-meltdown as digital clocks registered the beginning of the new millennium.
Some very reputable people were predicting global catastrophe, with airliners falling from the sky and power grids falling apart. Of course, nothing of the kind happened.
When it comes to issues concerning the environment, we can’t afford to be complacent. But we shouldn’t let fear overtake our pursuit of more information, or the proper use of the often limited data we already have.
Fear can be manipulated. Science can be politicized and sensationalised to serve interests other than those of pure research. If knowledge is power, it is sometimes misused – usually in the name of public security.
It is precisely because environmental issues are so important that we can’t allow them to be hijacked in a sensationalist fashion, which usually ends up backfiring.
‘For the Church of the 21st century,’ said The Archbishop of Canterbury, ‘good ecology is not an optional extra but a matter of justice. It is … central to what it means to be a Christian.’
Some people think that the Christian Church has only recently formed opinions on ecology. The fact is, Christians have often been at the forefront of the call for ecological responsibility -- and their involvement goes back centuries, long before the word ‘ecology’ even existed.
That’s because a Christian response to these issues is not based on political expediency or even social responsibility; it is grounded in the teaching of the Bible.
The biblical Psalmist said ‘the earth is the Lord's and everything in it.’ As God is the creator of the cosmos, it ultimately belongs to him. The Psalms also tell us that ‘the highest heavens belong to the Lord; but the earth he has given to men.’ God has gifted the earth to us, but it is ours to lease, we don’t own it freehold.
This is reflected in the very first chapters of Genesis. God blessed humankind and told them to ‘be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.’ He told them to ‘have dominion’ over other living creatures (Genesis 1:28). God also told the first humans to ‘till the earth and to keep it’ (Genesis 2:15).
There’s a twofold responsibility here: we should act as overseers of God’s creation, but in a way that will preserve, protect and care for what he has made.
Theologian John Scott says that we are like the ambassadors of a King who has left us to rule his domain on his behalf. Our dominion is not a synonym for domination, let alone destruction.
It’s not based on exploitation, either, but on co-operation with the processes of nature. We cultivate what is already in nature; and God has made nature fruitful so that it responds to our efforts.
When it comes to how we treat the environment, we are accountable not just to ourselves, but to God.
Study the Old Testament, and you’ll find that God placed limitations on people’s ownership of land – and he gave clear instructions about how it should be used to help the poor. God’s law made it clear that all land should be used in a way that pleased him, because he owns it.
Most modern ecology talks mainly about the earth’s survival. But the scriptures go a step further; they talk more about redemption – not just for human beings but for the whole of creation (Cf. Romans 8:19, 21).
The Bible opens in Genesis with God creating the heavens and the earth and seeing that they are good. The Bible ends with the promise that the whole cosmos will renewed one day with the coming of a new heaven and a new earth. In between, we have the fallen world as we know it today – the ambiguous world with all its shades of good and evil. But the emphasis is one of hope.
There’s no room for complacency. Each of us must do all we can to bring out the best in God’s world.
If fuelling the future means that we make radical changes to our lifestyles, we should make them. But we should do so without succumbing to the power of sensationalist hype, or taking our eyes off an even bigger issue for the environment – the soul of man.
The biggest enemy to the natural world is not environmental degradation, it is human nature. We find it easier to subdue the earth than to discipline ourselves.
We need to find ways to become better stewards of God’s world, but we also need to declare and model his salvation plan for the inner man.
Watch ‘Fuelling The Future’, part of the new series of EDGES with Mal Fletcher. Click here or visit edges.tv.
Keywords: Live Earth | global warming | Al Gore | environmental disaster | environment | Y2K | Mal Fletcher
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I watch your EDGES programs in Finland. I think they are very thought provoking.
I think you asked the wrong question re climate change summit. The question is should it have been held? There are a lot more important issues they should have been discussing, e.g. people trafficking.
I watched Mal's inspiring EDGES presentation on bioethics. Scientists who do genuine research are a boon to humanity. Physicians do everything they can, fighting to save a life. This is based on the image of the Creator in every human being.
Rev Canon Dr Lakshman Peiris
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