Faith and relevance in the 21st century

Category: Environment (Page 3 of 4)

Our framing story

Brian McLaren, in his book Everything Must Change, talks about our framing story – the ultimate story we tell ourselves about how the world works. For example, if our framing story tells us that the purpose of life is to have as much stuff as possible and to have the greatest pleasure possible in our short lives, then we will have little reason to manage our consumption. Our framing story determines how we live. Call it our worldview if you like.

framePostmodernism says there is no framing story. What is right for you may not be right for me. Truth is relative. The problem with that ideology is that, as the global village becomes ever smaller and we all realise how much our lives are interlinked, what is right for me also becomes right for you. Take climate change as an example. Climate change is a challenge to postmodernism because more and more people are realising that, if we are to ultimately survive as a species, we have no choice but to have a framing story that says we have to manage our resources better and look after the planet. A philosophy of ‘what is right for you may not be right for me’ just won’t cut it in the real world of climate change. In my post on our addiction to growth I said the following:

“As long as the world remains fixated on the idea that we must grow our economies, we will inevitably fall into the same trap, and probably worse than we are in now.

In the mid-1980s, our planet passed a tipping point. It was then that we started going into debt in terms of the available resources that we have to survive. It was then that we started to consume more than we could reproduce. So while we remain addicted to economic growth, we continue the slide into debt. Our way of living is unsustainable.”

Truth can no longer be relative in a world where we have the choice of continuing our current way of life or making serious changes that will save the lives of untold millions. We can no longer hide behind the warm and fuzzy – but ultimately fatal – idea that there are no universal standards to live by.

Everything on this planet is interlinked. That is the beauty of how God made it. It all works together. David Suzuki, the Canadian environmentalist, describes how, if all of humanity disappeared off the face of the earth, then the rest of life would benefit enormously. The forests would gradually grow back, and relative stability would return to the ecosystems that control global temperature and the atmosphere. The fish in the oceans would recover and most endangered species would slowly come back. On the other hand, for example, if all species of ants disappeared, the results would be close to catastrophic. There would be major extinctions of other species and probably partial collapse of some ecosystems. The functions of the creatures living in the air we breathe, and beneath our feet, all work together to keep us alive. We need to, like our indigenous brothers and sisters did for 40,000 years, pay respect to the land we live on.

Our framing story needs to be one in which we all work together to bring in the kingdom of God – a kingdom of love, of justice, and of beautiful butterflies fluttering majestically over summer flowers. A kingdom where love finally reigns and where all of God’s children, in the words of Martin Luther King, will be able to shout ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’.

Book Review – Now or Never

Now-or-never-1It has become noticeable that the tone of recent reports, articles and books on climate change is becoming increasingly urgent. This book by 2006 Australian of the Year, Tim Flannery, continues the theme of urgency, with its desperate sounding title, and it’s picture of a clock showing just a couple of minutes to midnight on the cover.

This volume, which first appeared in Quarterly Essay in September 2008, outlines the desperate situation the earth now finds itself in, and Flannery’s solutions to the crisis. It is then followed up by a series of replies by others in the field of climate science or research (the one exception being Richard Branson who, through his Virgin group of companies, is making his own attempt at limiting his carbon footprint). One of the responses is from Ian Lowe, current President of the Australian Conservation Foundation. As Lowe points out, “the fundamental message of Flannery’s essay is that we need to recognise the limits of ecological systems and build that recognition into our planning”.


International Day of Climate Action

No, it’s not today, but today is a great day to spread the word on this global movement that will culminate in millions of people the world over gathering to wake up the world on action to prevent dangerous climate change.

As you would probably be aware, today is World Environment Day. And the way time flies these day due to the busyness of our lives, the International Day of Climate Action on 24 October will soon be upon us.

An organisation called 350 have put this campaign together. The name has been given as a result of, as the 350 website states,

“NASA’s James Hansen and a team of other scientists recently published a series of papers showing that we need to cut the amount of carbon in the atmosphere from its current 387 parts per million to 350 or less if we wish to “maintain a planet similar to that on which civilization developed.””

The folks at 350 have put together a cool clip that seeks to explain the science of climate change along with how to deal with it, in today’s universal language of visual media. Check it out:

Get the Flash Player to see this content.

As the science becomes clearer, the sceptics are getting more desperate. The recent Washington conference of climate sceptics seemed like just another rehash of the same old tired, worn out arguments that our own journalists like Andrew Bolt can’t let go of. The message that action is needed more than ever needs to be screamed from the mountain tops. And thankfully, it is people like those at 350 who are doing it.

The website for the International Day of Climate Action has plenty of information on how to organise to get together on the day and make your own show of solidarity with others on the planet in calling for urgent action.

For those of you with a Christian faith interest in the importance of dealing with climate change, can I direct you to this article I wrote a few years ago on why care for the earth is such a crucial aspect of following Jesus.

Response to Ian Plimer's 'Heaven and Earth'

Great to see The Australian giving air to a thoughtful and considered response to Ian Plimer’s recently released book, Heaven and Earth. Plimer, a noted climate change sceptic, tries to make the assertion that human emissions of CO2 have not changed the climate. As usual though, his arguments are the same old, tired, worn out arguments that have been refuted again and again by the vast majority of climate scientists.

Photo by Larrie KnightsI really wonder what people such as Plimer are trying to achieve with their assertions. I can only think that there is a another agenda at play. Like Andrew Bolt, Plimer implies, as Ashley says, that “the work of literally thousands of oceanographers, solar physicists, biologists, atmospheric scientists, geologists, and snow and ice researchers during the past 100 years is fundamentally flawed.”

A colleague of mine, Brett Parris, has laid out some useful references, in addition to Ashley’s, that debunk, yet again, the points that Plimer makes. Here they are:

Kurt Lambeck president of the Australian Academy of Science and professor of Geophysics at ANU:

Read Prof Barry Brook’s blog review:

Read Ian Enting from Melbourne Uni’s point refutation:

Read Tim Lambert’s debunking at Deltoid:

In debunking the sceptics, it is crucial that we listen with respect to them as they lay out their claims. As St Peter says, let us respond with gentleness and respect to the allegations of people we disagree with.

Victorian bushfires are a sign of things to come

We owe it to those who perished, as well as their families and other loved ones, to get the message out to our Governments that climate change is upon us now. We can no longer put up half-baked solutions. See the article below from David Spratt, author of Climate Code Red. And, as the link to Professor David Karoly’s article further below says, these fires will be more frequent in 10 or 20 years. This is climate change. Some might see this as taking advantage of a tragedy. I think it is a responsibility. This is not a politicial issue; this is a moral issue, indeed as Kevin Rudd pointed out, the great moral issue of our time. A moral issue demands a moral response. I believe that these fires expose how pathetically inept Kevin Rudd’s 5% target really is. Hopefully after these fires, this timid target will no longer be politically feasible. The article and links below are sobering reading.

Living in Victoria, the bushfire apocalypse of the last few days has brought a curious response from politicians, who are keen to be seen and heard about everything except the elephant in the room: climate change. Last Sunday when Victoria erupted into flames, it was the hottest day on record at 46.4C in Melbourne and 48.8C was recorded in Hopetoun, following almost immediately after 35 days without rain. This is beyond all lived experience in this part of the world.

Record temperatures and more extreme events are consistent with the projected impacts of global warming, and the horror of the last few days with up to 200 people likely to have lost their lives may be a grim warming of life in the Australian countryside with elevated temperatures, less rain and generally drier conditions, and more extreme events.

Twice in the last two weeks the Victorian premier has told us that two separate extreme weather events are “one-in-1,000-year or one-in-500-year” events. But his chief climate change advisor, Prof. David Karoly politely corrected him on the first occasion, noting that the 43C+ temperatures of 28-31 January would be “much more like the normal experience in 10 to 20 years”.  By today premier Brumby was recognizing that: “There is clear evidence now that the climate is becoming more extreme. Those people that doubted it… we have had temperatures of 48 degrees.”

We know from the research that what we now find extraordinary will become almost everyday in a heated world, and then it will be too late. 

Now is the time for extraordinary political action, as happened a week ago in Canberra when 500 people at the first Australian Climate Action Summit took a courageous stand and declared: “We face a climate emergency. Our vision is to work together at emergency speed to restore in a just way a safe climate in time for all people, all species and all generations.”

Just days later that climate emergency materialised in one form across regional Victoria.

The lived experience of this terrible event may have one positive outcome: to bring into wider debate the effects of global warming and why radical mitigation measures are so necessary now. It may also cast light on the limits of adaptation. 

The planet cannot be traded off. There are absolute limits that should not be crossed, and doing something, but not enough, will still lead to disaster. 

The following material may be of use in the next days and weeks.

David Spratt, 9 February 2009



“The heat is unusual, but it will become much more like the normal experience in 10 to 20 years” – Prof. David Karoly, University of Melbourne, AAP 30 January 2009


“But you know, unless you want to spend … huge amounts of money … you can never guarantee something against a one-in-1,000-year or one-in-500-year event. To do so would cost huge amounts of money for something that occurs just one day in 100 years.” – Victorian Premier, John Brumby, 2 February 2009

Fires the deadly inevitability of climate change

Freya Mathews, The Age, February 10, 2009

The disaster challenges the Government to accept evident truths.

Dr Greg Holland and Professor David Karoly join Lateline

ABC TV Lateline, 9 August 2009

Dr Greg Holland of the US National Centre for Atmospheric Research and the Victorian Government’s chief climate change adviser Professor David Karoly join Lateline live from Melbourne.

Fires, floods pressure Australia government on climate

James Grubel, Reuters, 9 February 2009

Australia’s deadliest wildfires increased pressure on the national government to take firm action on climate change on Monday as scientists said global warming likely contributed to conditions that fueled the disaster.

It will only get worse as climate changes

Jonathan Pearlman, Canberra Times, 9 February 2009

Australia faces “a very dangerous decade or decades” as climate change increases the intensity of fires and lengthens the bushfire season, scientists and environmentalists warn.

Are we underprepared for the bushfire threat?

Bushfire Co-operative Research Centre (CRC) and Australian Science Media Centre briefing, 29 January 2009


Climate change and its impact on the management of bushfire

Bushfire Weather in Southeast Australia: Recent Trends and Projected Climate Change Impacts

C. Lucas, K. Hennessy, G. Mills and J. Bathols,  Bushfire CRC and Australian Bureau of Meteorology 

September 2007

Victorian briefing

Fatal mix of high heat and drought,25197,25026939-5013404,00.html

Asa Wahlquist, The Australian, February 09, 2009

Weather experts have blamed record temperatures, a sustained drought and climate change for the bushfires that devastated Victoria and are expected to have claimed up to 100 lives over the weekend.

Is there a link between Adelaide’s heatwave and global warming?

Barry Brook, bravenewclimate, 3 February 2009

Of droughts and flooding rains

Dorothea Mackellar’s famous poem has been brought to mind again in our sunburnt land. While half of Queensland is under water, Victoria and NSW are still trying to deal with the worst day of fires in the nation’s history. This is now worse than the Ash Wednesday fires of 1983.

Call 1800 811 700 to donate to the Victorian Bushfire Appeal

Call 1800 811 700 to donate to the Victorian Bushfire Appeal

This post is for those who have lost loved ones and homes. Our prayers and thoughts are with you. At the time of posting, 84 people have died in Victoria. This is a disaster on a massive scale for us, and I have to say that I think the response of the Victorian Premier, John Brumby, has been admirable. He has been visible, he has been compassionate, and he has sought assistance when it has been needed. The true heroes though are the firefighters, many of whom are volunteers from the CFA. If you see one of them on the road somewhere, give them a donation and let them know what a fantastic job they do, often at risk to their own lives.

The ABC has also set up a page for people who would like to help. They say they have already been inundated with offers of assistance. This is the great thing about Australia. When disaster strikes, we rally around each other and help each other out. When you watch the news over the next few days, take a minute to think and pray for the victims and everyone involved.

Why isn’t this being given more coverage?

With all the talk of bailouts and tax cuts to stimulate growth in the economy, the silence about the enormous opportunity these financially difficult times present is somewhat deafening. Why isn’t there a lot more coverage about the need for massive investment in the green economy? The Obama Administration has recently announced that it plans to take the lead on dealing with climate change and not block the initiatives of the states, of which the Governator’s California has been a strong leader. Arnie’s enthusiastic response to Obama’s call for cooperation with the states shows that this must go beyond predictable party politics. This is a moral issue. Indeed, as Kevin Rudd has said, the great moral issue of our time.

green-energyIn my opinion – and I am no economist – massive infrastructure investment in green technology is by far the best solution to get the economy going again. What better time to do it than now? And at the same time it will show that we really are serious about mitigating dangerous climate change. Bailouts are only short term solutions, and tax cuts are not only short term but are not likely to work as people tend to want to save in times like these. Green investment will create thousands of jobs, and Australia of all countries has the resources to invest heavily in solar, wind, geothermal, and wave technology.

Various sources (I won’t list them here, check them out) are saying that Australia could be powered entirely from renewable energy. If you take solar alone, there are few, if any, countries in the world with the amount of sunshine that we have. Why aren’t our journalists talking more about this? The only one I have noticed who has said anything recently is Jill Singer in this article in the Herald Sun.

To me this shows again how crucial it is for grassroots movements like GetUp, and many others made up of people like you and me, to pressure our Governments like there is no tomorrow. Because if we don’t, there just might not be any tomorrow for our children.

Spot the Difference

GetUp have been able to get their brilliant new ad about Kevin Rudd’s climate cave-in on TV. Watch it here:


There was also a very good article in today’s Age about the importance of people power in the climate movement. I wrote about this in a post back in November. Throughout history real change has come through the movement of concerned people who had had enough and took a courageous non-violent stand.

10 Big Energy Myths

wind_farm1In case we think that saving the planet is going to cost the earth, that electric cars are a waste of time, and that the most efficient power stations are big ones. This article is not from some lefty, tree-hugging magazine, but from none other than The Guardian.

It puts paid to many of the myths being propagated about how to tackle the great moral issue of our time. Alot of great stuff is happening throughout Europe, and in many, many cities across the US. But alas, Australia still lags behind on many fronts.

Wouldn’t it be great if these technologies caught on in Australia to the extent that we actually became a world leader in this area. We are a privileged country and we have the resources to show the way in renewable energies.

This article is drawn from Chris Goodall’s new book, Ten Technologies to Save the Planet.

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