January 2, 2023 Over the weekend I spotted an article about the disappointment of developing countries with the slow response of rich countries to the climate crisis. Disappointment may be too weak a word. Developing countries, the article in the Guardian newspaper said, "are feeling increasingly angry and 'victimized' by the climate crisis," the writer said, "and rich countries must respond urgently." In all of this, Africa's stands out prominently because it bears a disproportinate share of the negative impact of climate change. "Seventeen of the 20 most affected countries in the world, by climate change, are in Afirca, and yet 48 sub-Sraharan countires total 0.55% of all emissions." It's a stunning imbalance.
Now, I am sure of two things. First, specialists, who get into the weeds, as we say, of all the details involved here will have a lot to say, especially about what can realistically be achieved. Second, what I read may not be news to anyone reading this. We've seen this, or something similar, before and still don't know what to do. A certain kind of despair can set in, because the issue is complex and complicated, and we have little power to effect any change.
To this, we might at least begin by reminding ourselves that, as Christians, we have a responsibility for the world--and even a heightened responsibility. The world is God's creation, in which we are to act as wise stewards, as good shepherds of its resources and its potential. In no way are we to use our privileged status to exploit the creation for only our own interests and desires. Even more, we are to shape the world, as best we can, for the good or others. Love, in the Christian sense, agape, means self-sacrificial concern for the well-being of others. (This cannnot be said enough, given the many false notions of love that abound, but that's for another day.) So, in acting responsibly here, justice and love come together. We are leave the world a better place, as much as possible, for future generations and, in the present, do the right things as wise stewards.
We are, admittedly, at the mercy of the experts in much of this. Some will be called by God, as a matter of vocation, to work on policy and implementation at the macro level. For most of us, however, our heightened responsibility will take the form of lowering consumption levels; being frugal, less wasteful; using greener forms of energy, and supporting moves in these directions. These are our obligations, honestly. But we might find a greater motivation to do the right things if we can see all of this not as just another burdensome set of requirements, but as a way to make a gift--of justice and love--to others whose names and faces we do not know, and still more, as gift to our God.