11 December 2011
Why Christians should be green
by Dr Nicola Hoggard-Creegan
Christians should be green because we are made of green stuff, cells and water and oxygen and other by-products of the death of stars. We share kinship with all life and we believe all life is God-breathed. Therefore we must respect all life as coming from God, as participating in God, as being turned towards God.
We must be green for our own selfish ends. Because we are a part of the great interconnecting web of life, our future and our flourishing and that of future generations depends on the vitality of the earth. And yet, the earth is largely silent. It does not cry out. It does not vote. It does not stand on its rights. We must be the guardians and voice of the earth. This means we have to know the earth, and feel and breathe with the earth, get to know it, bear with it and even try to love it and all God’s creatures.
We must be green because our social life together depends upon it. Being green and being at peace are entwined together. The health of the land and the health of the society are interconnected because societies rest upon our biological existence. The prophets warned about one side of this mutuality when they declared that the earth was bleeding because of the violence of the people who lived there. Ezekiel said, for instance, “Say to the people of the land: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says about those living in Jerusalem and in the land of Israel: They will eat their food in anxiety and drink their water in despair, for their land will be stripped of everything in it because of the violence of all who live there” (Ezek 12:19). Shalom covers both people and the ecosystem. A barren earth leads directly to violence and violence to neglect of the earth.
We must be green for reasons of justice. As the earth heats up and the earth fails to produce, it will be poorer and more isolated communities, islands and countries that suffer first. They suffer for the effects of our advanced technologies and the impact we have had on the earth, in erasing habitats, poisoning the ecosphere and filling the atmosphere with carbon.
Lastly, we must be green as a form of repentance. Christian civilisations have long adopted a stance of taking control and objectifying nature, using it only as a means towards human ends. This was the charge of Lynn White Jr. 40 years ago, and his answer then was to find and to recover the Franciscan consciousness within Christianity, as a resistance to the too easy appropriation of the concept of dominion. Even in Genesis, Christians are told to nurture the garden and not only to have dominion (Gen 2:15). St Francis loved the animals, tamed the animals and was their companion.
How can we be green? Apart from being conscious of our carbon footprint and trying to use less energy, we can also start by installing insulation, solar energy and efficient heating. Just as importantly, though, we must have green businesses and green government policies. The solution to the problem of carbon and overpopulation and scarce resources is collective. We have to be prepared to be taxed in order to solve these problems fairly. The other way in which we can help is by imaginative reorganisation of our businesses and places of work and our homes and lives so that more energy efficient practices can be developed. Imaginative low impact technology can also be exported to less developed nations.
We should also garden. This keeps us in touch with our sources of food, and with the cycle of life and production, with the shared green stuff of which we are made; collective gardens are places of refreshment and nourishment and conviviality for us and the creatures. We can also practice just being in nature, whether in the garden or the bush or the meadow.
Christians must practice being green!