Fact and faith, some episodes

This blog follows on from a number of recent blogs, emphasising the importance of facts for faith.

It seems ages ago but its only a year since I was hillwalking in Glen Prosen, Angus, and saw two mountain hares in their winter white. There was extensive snow, and the animals were visible only by their shape and movement. As usual, they moved away from me, but not very far, and sat observing my slow progress through the snow.

Mountain Hare

I was reminded of this by a climate report this week detailing the difficulties imposed on this species and others in Scotland, by global heating. Lack of snow on the higher mountains meant that the hares’ camouflage was becoming an invitation to predators, especially to foxes and large birds of prey. The Ptarmigan which also turns white in the winter is suffering from the same problem; being white against a brownish background. In fact, at present there is ample snow, but recent winters, being mainly mild, have not provided it nearly as often as they did in the past. Certain creatures find that their basic survival strategy is no longer effective.

This fact of course is just one of thousands showing the effects of climate change on living creatures, which together with millions of facts about its effects on the ecosystems of the world, lead to my conclusions a) that human beings have caused an increase in the temperature of the planet and b) that the consequences will be catastrophic.

How does my faith deal with these facts?

1. God will not intervene miraculously to save the humanity. If human beings have determined that they will fry, they will fry. God has commitments beyond human beings. The extinction of homo sapiens will not be the end of the world.

2. As there is still time, but not much, to limit global overheating, and prevent human extinction, people of faith should do everything possible to do so and to encourage others to do so. Because of their shared faith, they should especially try to encourage fundamentalist believers to abandon their sinful rejection of the facts of global heating.

3. As nobody will be convinced by people whose way of life remains unchanged, believers must make the changes that science regards as necessary. At the very least those include a decisive move away from all habits that depend on fuels or foods which emit carbon dioxide and other harmful chemicals. There are clearly other ways of cutting down on carbon emissions, such as insulating our houses, but fuels and food are the main ones. So, what about me? If I and my wife were younger, I would try to do without a car, but as we are in our 80’s, the availability of personal transport is important. I hope therefore to buy an electric car, which is by no means an ideal solution, but will be better than my present car which uses diesel. Getting a useful second hand electric car is still expensive, which may put it out of the reach of many. I have already ceased to consume meat and dairy products, which are responsible for a large proportion of harmful gases. But my house is heated by a gas boiler, and some of my provisions come in plastic which emits harmful gases in the course of recycling. So there’s plenty room for improvement. Oh, and yes, I still intend to use a short-haul air flight once a year. Habits are hard to break but we all have to try.

4. Personal changes are vital, but public changes will be determinative, so political commitment is also necessary. It is important to look carefully at whatever “green” policies are put forward, as most political parties are allied to large international companies who want very slow changes in fuel and food. On the other hand, Green parties at present have little direct power. In Scotland Greens have held a balance of power, and have had some influence. Protest as well as parliamentary means will be needed. I don’t like protests but I may have to get involved.

5. Churches as organisations should look at their own fuel and food policies, and must be ruthless in deciding against emissions.

6. So far, most of these requirements could apply to anyone regardless of faith. For Christians, the threat of global heating and destruction of ecosystems, should be viewed as an arrogant human attack on the Creator God, a blasphemous rejection of God’s gift of world and life. In faith, as always, there has to be recognition of sin, confession, receipt of forgiveness, change of heart and practical reformation. This issue must become central to the life of congregations.

7. I think it’s worth doing all this to save the beautiful mountain hare; if you don’t, you may still feel it’s worth it to save a beautiful world and its inhabitants.

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