Some years ago I stood on the rim of the White Island volcano off the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand wearing a hard hat and a gas mask, just in case! I had flown out to the island by helicopter and spent 2 to 3 hours walking around the crater and marveling at the latent power as this very active volcano spewed out a continual spiral of smoke hundreds of feet into the sky above with an occasional minor eruption of hot steam and ash. This truly awesome experience was sharpened by the sense that just to be there was something very risky. Although assured by experts that an imminent eruption was unlikely there was nevertheless an awareness of unpredictability. Upon leaving the island I breathed a sigh of relief! I relived this incredible experience in December last year when I watched on the television the video of this same volcano erupting with the tragic loss of lives.
I suppose it is not so unusual for human nature to ignore danger or to deceive ourselves that it is exaggerated or does not exist. Warnings of imminent catastrophe are considered so remote that we ignore them because we feel powerless to affect any change. Is this not the case with the alarming predictions with regard to global warming? Sir David Attenborough has yet again sounded a dire warning that our planet faces an imminent crisis due to global warming. How do we respond to his warning? Do we write it off as an exaggeration? Do we refuse to believe that a catastrophe is on the horizon? Do we feel so powerless that we ignore the warnings and carry on regardless?
What action can we, ordinary citizens, take in response to this looming global crisis?
First, we need to take seriously the numerous warnings of those experts who warn us of the consequences facing our planet, to stop prevaricating and commit to change.
Secondly, it is imperative that we consider changes we as individuals make regarding our life styles and do everything we can to reduce our ‘carbon footprints’. This may involve switching to greener energy, changing our modes of travel, and what we eat.
Thirdly, we need to do everything we possibly can to persuade our ‘leaders’ to ratchet up efforts nationally and internationally to reduce carbon. If enough of us wrote to our local MP on a regular basis it would, if nothing else, remind them that this is a major concern upon which action is required.
Despite his warnings, Sir David remains optimistic that the world is at last waking up to the need to act urgently and that it is not too late to avoid catastrophe. “This is an urgent
problem that has to be solved and, what’s more, we know how to do it – yet we’re refusing to take steps that we know have to be taken.” Many of us take the view that the kind of action individuals can take to reverse the destructive path upon which our planet is heading is negligible. Perhaps that is one of the greatest dangers facing us for it leads to a paralysing inaction and despair and that will surely only accelerate the move to catastrophe.
We cannot know what the future will be like but we do believe that from death and destruction renewal is not only possible but certain because the Spirit of God is immersed in the whole creative process. There are no grounds for an easy optimism or for doing nothing but every reason to be hopeful.
Revd Michael Diffey