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Out of the mouths of babes and grandfathers 

In the face of continuing news about the effects of global warming, younger (and older) people are increasingly campaigning for more action, writes John Weaver




Two weeks ago the BBC reported a new study that has found that rainfall is becoming more frequent in Greenland and accelerating the melting of its ice. Scientists from the GEOMAR ocean research centre in Germany have been surprised to discover rain falling even during the long Arctic winter. In a warming climate there will be more rain than snow, and it’s one more reason why the ice sheet can go into deficit instead of being in surplus.

This week the BBC reported that because of global warming, the ice sheet and glaciers of the Himalayas are melting quickly and dead bodies that have remained buried for years are now becoming exposed.

On almost every newscast there are reports of the effects of global warming.

Sixteen-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg made a passionate call to action in August 2018. She walked out of school and organised a strike to raise awareness of global warming, protesting outside the Swedish parliament. This action caught the attention of the world’s press.

In her address she confirms that she is autistic, but states that ‘I think in many ways that we autistic are the normal ones, and the rest of the people are pretty strange especially when it comes to the sustainability crisis, where everyone keeps saying climate change is an existential threat and the most important issue of all, and yet they just carry on like before.’

She states that emissions of greenhouse gases have to stop and questions why we are not reducing these emissions. She asks: ‘Are we knowingly causing a mass extinction? Are we evil?’ But observes that people keep doing what they do because the vast majority doesn't have a clue about the actual consequences of our everyday life, and they don't know that rapid change is required. 

She regrets that no one talks about it. There are no emergency meetings, no headlines, no breaking news. No one is acting as if we were in a crisis. 

She concludes her talk with this challenge: ‘…the one thing we need more than hope is action. Once we start to act, hope is everywhere. So instead of looking for hope, look for action. Then, and only then, hope will come.’ As we find in the Epistle of James: 'What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if people claim to have faith but have no deeds?’ and ‘faith (hope) without deeds (action) is dead’ (James 2:14, 26).

Young people around the world have heard this call: YouthStrike4Climate. In the UK young people are saying that they are choosing to rise up and take direct action where older generations have failed. They state that we are already facing devastating and irreversible impacts around the world. On Friday February 15, more than 10,000 students across the UK went on strike to protest at the lack of government action to combat our climate crisis, and on March 15, 50,000 participated. Over half a million young people took part worldwide. The next walk out of lessons in the UK will take place on April 12.

After the last march The Oxford Mail on March 18 reported that four students from Cheney School, Oxford have begun lobbying to protect the planet. More than 46,000 people have signed a petition arguing that climate change must become a compulsory and more prominent part of the national curriculum.

The government response is luke-warm if not antagonistic in the face of these protests, with comments such as children would do better to remain in school and read about climate change, and that climate change is already covered in the science and geography syllabuses.

At the other end of the age spectrum, grandfather, Sir David Attenborough, speaking at the opening ceremony of COP24 in December 2018, said that climate change is humanity’s greatest threat in thousands of years. The British naturalist was taking up the ‘peoples’ seat’ at the conference, acting as a link between the public and the policy-makers. He suggested that climate change could lead to the collapse of civilisation and the extinction of much of the natural world. He concluded that we are facing a human created disaster of global proportions. He stated that the people had spoken and that time was running out.

Later this year he is going to present an urgent new documentary about climate change for BBC One. The one-off film will focus on the potential threats to our planet and the possible solutions. The broadcaster says conditions have changed far faster than he ever imagined when he first started talking about the environment 20 years ago.

As Christians it is a responsibility, given to us by God, to care for the planet and to protect those least able to deal with the effects of climate change. As a grandfather this is an essential part of my love for my own grandchildren and for all future generations. 

The Revd Dr John Weaver is Vice President of the John Ray Initiative: connecting environment, science and Christianity. He was President of the Baptist Union of Great Britain 2008-9


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Baptist Times, 26/03/2019
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