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Home > World

It's the end of the world as we know it (and I feel hot)

"I've asked my advisors to consider approaches to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including those that tap the power of markets, help realize the promise of technology and ensure the widest-possible global participation...."

- President Bush, speaking in 2001. (The same year that he withdrew the US from the Kyoto treaty).

8 August 2003

Of all the big issues the environment is the easiest one to forget about - like Michelle Williams out of Destiny's Child. It's not sexy like war, or new like cloning. It practically lives on the back burner; which is ironic, seeing as how itís the one issue that requires the most forward thinking.

But the problem with forward thinking is that it presupposes a responsibility to the future, to people that don't even exist yet. And why give a toss about them? Why give such a toss about anyone other than ourselves, living right here right now, drinking this bottle of crisp white wine. Cheers! We live today. We live here. What's the problem? Everything's fine. Have you looked outside your window? The weather's gorgeous! Tomorrow is someone else's problem. Let's go to the beach!

Our failure, as a race, to stop ruining the environment is a failure of a responsibility: we are denying a relationship with future generations (with our future selves even) and we are failing to *respond* to our world: we objectify it, de-animate it, treat it as 'stuff' to be used, bulldozed or burned as and when we choose; we close our minds as we cut down a swathe of the rainforest to lay a gas pipe.

Itís all in how you see the tree. Do you see it as an 'it'- a thing to be chopped up to make a rather nice CD rack - or as a living whole, to be respected. Of course, seeing the tree as a 'thing to use' is not wrong in itself - unless thatís the only attitude you have. As Donald Berry, writing in 1985, said:

Our standing in relation to the natural does not preclude our using the natural as a means for the satisfaction of our needs; that using, however, must be consistent with allowing the natural now and again to be what it is apart from our purposes for it. In the grace of this attitude we are thus able to grant the natural appropriate freedom to be and to enter into relation with us, without the confusion of quantitative language.

(As an aside: wouldn't it be fascinating to know how George Bush thinks about when he looks at a tree. Probably has a mild feeling of resentment that if he squeezed it oil wouldn't come out).

The Jewish philosopher Martin Buber talks about "the living wholeness and unity of a tree" as that to which we respond and are responsible, and this is how we need to start seeing our world: as a living wholeness. But we simply cannot do his unless a sense of global responsibility crystallises - and we're stuck in a situation where America has fled the Kyoto treaty, and Russian won't ratify it either. Too many important businessmen will lose too many important energy contracts, and too many important politicians will lose too much important support.

So how can we achieve this global responsibility? How can we, as a race, begin to relate differently to our world? What has the ability to unite Washington, Moscow, London and Jo'burg, and get them pointing in roughly the same direction? Try not to tut or sigh - but it occurs to us that it might just be Christianity. After all, it might not stretch into North Korea, but it's got a bloody good reach. And most importantly it has a stronger influence over the brain of George W. Bush than anything else on earth. Stronger even than that of the oil companies.

The Christian Church is currently doing its best to tear itself into even smaller pieces, but if it once looked outside itself and stopped quacking about internal politics, and started living in the real world, the Bishops of all denominations could unite in this one essentially supra-political issue. Surely they could agree on this. No one wants a fucked up planet. Jesus wouldn't want it. Mary and Joseph and the little donkey wouldn't want it. So let's get together and make a fuss. Get the Pope on board - he must be desperate to talk about something other than kiddy-fiddling. Start applying pressure on governments. Get political. Flex a bit of muscle. It could absolutely be done.

It would be a miracle, but it could.

But for now, the world sits quietly in space, gently warming up, while we gently fuck it up, and nothing much is done about it because it can always be done tomorrow. Or the day after, or the day after. The sun will still rise tomorrow, even if it seems a little hotter in the sky.

For some interesting sources and links, go here:


Or if you fancy something a bit less acedemic, here's a personal statement of Christian Environmentalism.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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