Sunday, April 17, 2005

A Planet on the Brink

For quite some time now I've been frustrated by a church so caught up in its own internal quarrels that it has not been speaking to the most serious issue of our age - that of the impending ecological disaster. But I was pleasantly surprised today to see that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has published an article in the UK Independent entitled, A Planet on the Brink. Here's an excerpt:

We need to start by recognising that social collapse is a real possibility. When we speak about environmental crisis, we are not to think only of spiralling poverty and mortality, but about brutal and uncontainable conflict. An economics that ignores environmental degradation invites social degradation - in plain terms, violence.

It is no news that access to water is likely to be a major cause of serious conflict in the century just beginning. But this is only one aspect of a steadily darkening situation. Needless to say, it will be the poorest countries that suffer first and most dramatically, but the "developed" world will not be able to escape: the failure to manage the resources we have, has the same consequences wherever we are. In the interim, we can imagine "fortress" strategies (with increasing levels of social control demanded) struggling to keep the growing instability and violence elsewhere at bay and so intensifying its energy.

And we are not talking about a remote future. There are arguments over the exact rates of global warming, certainly, and we cannot easily predict the full effects of some modifications in species balance. But we should not imagine that uncertainty in this or that particular seriously modifies the overall picture. On any account, we are failing.

Frankly, I think the right thing for the church to do is to drop all concern with lesser issues and harp on the ecological matters until the nations of the world (mainly the US) finally pay attention. I suppose that is too much to hope for but this article is a beginning.

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