This is USPG Monitoring and Evaluation Officer Emma Bridger’s second report from last weekend’s climate change conference organised by the Church of Scotland Wold Mission Council…
On day two of the conference, one of the speakers said: ‘Very few in the western world are willing to talk about climate change as a justice issue.’
This struck me as quite surprising.
The average person in USA or Europe is responsible for the emission of 20 tonnes of carbon per year. By comparison, the average person in the developing world is responsible for an average of four tonnes per year.
So those nations who suffer the impact of climate change the most are the least responsible for causing it.
So if climate change isn’t a justice issue, I don’t know what is!
The link between climate change and justice was clearly highlighted by Mable Sichali, from the United Church of Zambia, who spoke about rural life in her home country, where climate change has caused drought many years running. With crops failing, livestock dying, and land becoming unfertile, families are being forced to migrate.
Some families move to the city, where they face new hardships. They have no crops to sell for money and there are few jobs available, yet they must pay for clean water and food. All members of the family must try to find work if they are to survive, which means children drop out of school.
Mable told the tragic story of one family who moved to the city. The eldest daughter got swept up in urban life and became pregnant. The youngest child fell ill through drinking dirty water. Frustrated at not being able to find work and support his family, the father started to drink, then took his frustrations out on his wife.
This kind of story is becoming more common every year. Where is the justice in this story?
Our consumerist culture’s excessive burning of fossil fuels is impacting on the most marginalised in our world. We need to change our lifestyles.
Of course, we don’t just need to change because of our impact on others, but also because of the impact on ourselves.
As Rowan Williams said: ‘In a society where we think of so many things as disposable; where we expect to be constantly disregarding last year’s gadget and replacing it with this year’s model, do we end up tempted to think of people and relationships as disposable? Are we so fixated on keeping up to date with change that we lose any sense for our need for stability?’
So if our current model is not good for anyone, why is there still no change?
What kind of development are we aiming for?
Are we rushing to our ecological ruin or is there hope in communal action?
I choose to believe there is hope and that the church is a symbol of that hope. I believe the church, as a global community, is able to come together in the face of adversity to fight against the injustices of our current systems.
We need to stand strong as a global church and try to understand what it means to love our neighbour and ensure that our lifestyles, our actions and our shopping habits are always a vote for justice.