31st August 2021 | Dave Bookless | 2 comments

‘Code red for humanity’: Can we, and the world, still flourish?

In early August, the IPCC (Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change) released its latest assessment report (AR6, WG1), an agreed synthesis from hundreds of scientists and multiple computer models, from every major scientific institution in the world. Headlines quoted UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who described the report as “code red for humanity. The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable”.

Having read the Summary for Policy Makers (SPM), what I’ve found shocking is the scale and speed that these cautious academics are predicting. There’s no doubt about the cause of the extreme climate events we’re experiencing around the world (fires, droughts, floods, cyclones, hurricanes, coral bleaching, melting glaciers and ice-caps): “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land” (SPM, p.5). Words like “unprecedented”, “widespread”, “rapid” and “irreversible” abound in the report. It is sobering to read that we may reach 1.5°C temperature rise in ten years and, however fast we move to Net Zero carbon emissions, some changes, including melting ice caps and rising sea levels, will continue for thousands of years.

So, how do we react, as Christians who believe God cares about creation?

We should certainly grieve and lament deeply as we digest this report, and its implications for vulnerable communities, future generations, and the natural world. We should also pray, speak out, and act, as our political leaders gather in November for COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland. A Rocha is involved in a number of important initiatives including Climate Intercessors, Climate Sunday and the Christian Climate Observer’s Program, and there are many others, including the inspiring YCCN Relay of young people walking to Glasgow. All of this is important Kingdom work.

Yet, we also need to capture the imagination of those who are either in denial about or overwhelmed by the climate crisis. Talking about a terrifying future and how to avoid it isn’t enough and may be counter-productive. We need a biblically based vision of hope beyond disaster linked to a practical pathway demonstrating good news for a wounded world. Crisis can become opportunity when it allows us to imagine a different future.

So, I am greatly encouraged by Micah Global’s triennial consultation, hosted virtually from Africa from 5th-10th September, which includes talks and participations from several A Rocha folk. It is based on the theme Kushamiri, Swahili for Flourish. It’s not too late to book! Micah’s global network brings together Christian organisations seeking to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8), addressing poverty, gender, political advocacy, peace-making, business, agriculture, health, biodiversity, integral discipleship and much more. A Rocha is proud to be involved, because the vision here is a profoundly biblical vision of flourishing.

Running through the Scriptures, from the Garden of Eden in Genesis 1 to the river of life in Revelation 22, God longs for all creation to flourish. Abundance, fruitfulness, harmonious interdependent relationships, and blessing are at the heart of the Old Testament concept of shalom and Jesus’ teaching on the Kingdom of God. Both are practical, earthy, profoundly relational, and based on a holistic vision of flourishing. Amongst the keynotes of this vision are some that can guide us practically as we seek a better world even amidst the climate crisis:

The recent IPCC report states bluntly that our decisions now will affect directly whether our future is one of runaway climate disaster, or whether urgent and radical cuts in emissions, finance for nations worst affected, and changed priorities for all of us, can prevent complete catastrophe. As António Guterres said in his response, “inclusive and green economies, prosperity, cleaner air and better health are possible for all, if we respond to this crisis with solidarity and courage.” As Christians, we have a clear vision of God’s Kingdom on earth as in heaven, of a river of life with fruit-bearing trees, of a new community of people from every race and nation. That vision’s not just for eternity. It is to guide us into hope-fuelled action now.

Photo by Maja Petric on Unsplash

Categories: Reflections
About Dave Bookless

Dave is Director of Theology for A Rocha International, where he works to embed creation care into international Christian organizations, theological institutions, and mission movements. His past roles with A Rocha include being an International Trustee and the co-founder of A Rocha UK (with his wife Anne). He has a PhD from Cambridge University on biblical theology and biodiversity conservation, and has contributed to many books and articles, including Planetwise, available in six languages. Born and raised in India, Dave has a love for Indian food, Indian culture and Indian Christianity. Dave is also a qualified bird-ringer and loves birding, islands, running and mountains.

View all posts by Dave Bookless (73)

2 responses to “‘Code red for humanity’: Can we, and the world, still flourish?”

  1. Nelson Lee says:

    Well said Dave! I wholeheartedly agree, but my experience in reaching out to churches is they have other priorities. Even the committed take action at a leisurely pace – Christians for Climate Action excluded. First Nations are gaining respect in the secular world as having wisdom to address climate change. I am praying for the faithful to gain that same respect. Help me articulate this “clear vision of God’s Kingdom” (perhaps limit the salvation part for now) and focus on the Christian way to climate action. For example, denying ourselves, sharing with those in need, providing justice for the sojourner (refugee?), not muddying the waters for others and not besieging the fruit trees. Can you flesh this out for me? thanks and blessings to you and A Rocha!

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