Thought for the Day - 19/11/2013 - Canon Angela Tilby
Good morning. Japan is on the naughty step. Its government has admitted that they won’t make their targets for reducing greenhouse gases. Their emissions will actually increase by 2020. Most climate change campaigners are furious and their anger is reflected in criticisms from the Warsaw climate change summit. But the Japanese are not alone. In spite of strident efforts and noble examples from Europe and elsewhere there doesn’t seem to be enough will among the nations to fulfill the targets set by the Kyoto protocols. Some countries, of course never signed up in the first place. So has the effort to reduce emissions and change to renewable energy sources been a waste of time? It was once heresy to say so, but, as we herd earlier, the Japanese and others are beginning to suggest that we might have set ourselves the wrong goal. Harnessing the power of the sun, wind and waves sounds wonderful in theory but in practice many argue it has so far turned out to be hugely expensive and not always efficient.
To have to think again does not mean giving up on the planet. Climate change is real and for many of us the threat to our environment has sounded a moral and spiritual alarm bell which has changed our behaviour. I remember grumbling when the green bins replaced the old black ones, thinking what a bore it was going to be to recycle stuff; but I don’t think I could ever now not separate out my rubbish, and the reason is - I don’t quite know how to say this - it would feel sinful. But I am not sure however that if targets do prove to be impossible giving them up would be sinful - my own faith tradition tells me that the cure for sin is not self-condemnation but a fresh start.
Scientific consensus has always stated that reducing greenhouse gases is essential. But the Japanese are committing billions to research into innovative green technologies in the hope that they will make fossil fuels redundant. If they succeed we all gain. The policy is daring and perhaps risky; but it springs from vision rather than despair.
A sense of sin seems to be built into the human psyche. We know when we have fallen short of the standards set for us and we suffer from knowing it. It is meant to prod us into what the Bible calls repentance, a change of mind. There are always those of a legalistic temperament who set us tasks of reparation which are too daunting; commitments which drain our energy and destroy our hope. Perhaps the problem with concentrating on restricting our greenhouse gas emissions is that it simply leaves us guilty as charged. A policy of looking for new ways of generating energy might release that moral regeneration which comes when sin is acknowledged and forgiven. Repentance does no good at all if it does not bring hope.
Available since: Tue 19 Nov 2013
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