Stewards of the Earth, not its Destroyers

Faith and the Problem of Global Warming


After an unusually warm winter we are now beginning to feel that spring is in the air.  The flowers are coming into bud; the blossom is on the trees.  It’s a wonderful, beautiful time of the year and in all probability we are set for a very hot summer.

And yet mild winters and hot summers remind us of the ever pressing reality of global warming.  It may be a caricature to attribute every rise in temperature to global warming, but that the climate is being affected by the ‘green house’ gases that our ever more intensely industrialised world churns out relentlessly is a fact that we must face.  Greenhouse gases are produced by the burning of fossil fuels, by land clearing and agriculture.  In other words by what we human beings have been and continue to do.

The climate and whole environment of the planet we live on is changing for the worse. An increase in global temperatures is set to have terrible results for the natural world and for peoples of the earth, especially those who are vulnerable and unable to protect themselves against it.  An increase in global temperatures will lead to massive changes, such as the melting of the ice caps, the rise in sea levels, holes in the ozone layer. It will lead to an increase in the intensity and frequency of extreme weather conditions, such as floods, droughts, heat waves and so on.  It will lead to the extinction of species of animals and increased disease spread. 

Our Christian faith tells us that we are stewards of the world we live in, not its owners.  We do not have the right to do with it as we please.  We certainly do not have the right to destroy it.  We should place the needs of the human family and protection of the environment above commercial and industrial concerns.  As Christians we must be the first to commit ourselves to developing renewable forms of energy that can be made available for all people and will provide alternatives to the use of fossil fuels.  By so doing we show how Christian faith is not just about other-worldly goals but about the concrete realities and concerns of living well in this world. 

There are many ways in which the Church is now recognising the need for us to take seriously the responsibility we have to work for a sustainable environment for all the earth’s peoples.  This year the Vatican is holding its first conference on climate change.  In his message for the 2007 World Day of Peace, Pope Benedict said that a genuine desire for peace "must be increasingly conscious of the links between natural ecology, or respect for nature, and human ecology." In Britain Catholic Church in England and Wales has just set up a Committee for the Environment.  In Catholic parishes throughout England and Wales people are taking up the Living Simply campaign launched by Cafod.  In showing that we as Christians care about the environment and the world as a whole we are connecting with concerns and enthusiasms that all our neighbours in our society share.