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By Greg Hughson in All Sorts

Will we repent and work for ecological resurrection and healing of our planet?

Earlier this week the United Nations visited New Zealand
Ten years ago during Lent 2009 I helped organise the Balclutha to Oamaru portion of a national “walk for the planet” . Hundreds of us marched through Dunedin as an expression of deep concern for the future of our planet. Things have continued to deteriorate since then, as a result of increasing greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. The main greenhouse gases emitted or generated by human activities are carbon dioxide, methane, several halocarbons, and nitrous oxide. The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide remained between 260 and 280 parts per million for the 10,000 years between the start of the present interglacial period (the Holocene) and the start of the industrial era two hundred years ago. Since then, it has increased dramatically and is now about 383parts per million (ppm) and continuing to rise. Our plea during the Walk for the Planet was to keep the concentration of carbon dioxide to below 350 ppm, which continues to be an urgent goal. See https://350.org/
Earlier this week United Nations Secretary General António Guterres visited our land. He shared breakfast with teenage school pupils and spoke with them about Climate change. He shared that the United Nations' main international objectives were to reach carbon neutrality here on planet earth by 2050, to stop the construction of new coal plants by 2020 and to start taxing pollution, not people.
"We must stop subsidising fossil fuels, tax payers money should not be used to boost hurricanes, to spread droughts, to bleach corals or melt glaciers."
He said it was up to future climate change policy makers, that is, the teenagers before him, and those currently in power to do it to make positive changes.
NZ has indeed recently committed to becoming Carbon neutral by 2050, but the future of our planet is largely in the hands of the big polluters – China, the USA and India.
We, all via our Government and the UN, need to continue to advocate strongly and passionately (alongside our young people) for policy changes to be made by the big polluters who are literally destroying our planet. There needs to be an urgent change of mindset and practice internationally if our planet is to remain habitable. Climate change is the most serious issue facing our world as a whole.
A hymn we often sing is “Touch the Earth lightly”. The music is by Colin Gibson and words by Shirley Erena Murray (Alleluia Aotearoa 143). “Touch the earth lightly, use the earth gently, nourish the life of the world in our care: gift of great wonder, ours to surrender, trust for the children tomorrow will bear. We who endanger, who create hunger, agents of death for all creatures that live, we who would foster clouds of disaster, God of our planet, forestall and forgive”
To forestall something is to prevent or obstruct it, to take action in advance to prevent a disaster. When we sing Shirley and Colin’s hymn we are asking God to forgive us our ecological sins. As people of God we can help forestall ecological disaster through taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Will we be agents of death, or agents of life? Will we work for ecological resurrection and healing or allow the disintegration to continue with disastrous consequences.
In Colossians 1: 16-17 we read that “For by Christ were all things created, both seen and unseen”. Christ’s creativity and healing action is ongoing in creation. Christian people can co-operate with this divine impulse and help restore creation at all levels (See https://www.arocha.org.nz/ )

The UN’s special climate report, released last October states that to prevent catastrophic warming, a global mobilisation not seen since World War 2 is necessary. We have reached the end of normal, in terms of climate stability and predictability. We have exited the window of environmental conditions that allowed humans to evolve.
Climate change is already happening. A warming planet will lead to melting ice in the Arctic and Antarctic. The whiteness of ice causes the sun’s rays to reflect back into the sky (the albedo effect). When ice melts and becomes dark ocean, it absorbs heat rather than reflects it so the planet warms faster still.
“Let there be greening, birth from the burning, water that blesses and air that is sweet, health in God’s garden, hope in God’s children, regeneration that peace will complete” (Shirley Murray).
May we all work together for “resurrection” from the multifaceted ecological deaths and processes currently happening as a result of inherently selfish human-caused (anthropogenic) climate change. This will require significant changes to our life-style. May we, as a species, transition from being agents of death to agents of life and healing.
Rev Greg Hughson - University Chaplain
A highly recommended book:
“Creation and Hope Reflections on Ecological Anticipation and Action from Aotearoa-NZ” 2018 Edited by Nicola Hoggard-Creegan and Andrew Shepherd.