The recently released report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius is more than a wake-up call for all of us. It is an alarm bell of a disaster going on. Our home, the Earth, God’s gift of creation, is endangered by the unlimited extraction of natural resources that is clearly disrupting the life-giving systems of our planet. Use of fossil fuels, unsustainable production of food, and deforestation, among other human economic activities, have raised greenhouse gases to a level that already has an unambiguous impact on the climate. The report states that the consequences of temperatures rising will be more severe than what was predicted earlier. Even a 1.5 C rise will place tremendous pressures on our global community – spawning droughts, famines, dislocation and hostilities – and with every fraction of increase, these threats are further amplified. Those who will suffer the most are those living with scant socio-economic means, the generations to come and many species of fauna and flora that face extinction.
As people of faith, we must always have the impoverished and vulnerable in the midst of our prayers and actions. We cannot be silent and stay passive. We all need to do what we can do. And we can do much more than what we are currently doing. Governments must stand up and take brave decisions to break up with a growth-obsessed development model that relies on an extraction. Businesses must radically transform their investment, production and distribution processes. And you and I have to do what we can to hold governments and businesses accountable and to significantly reduce our carbon footprints in our daily life.
We have to think and act “green” in everything we do. As general secretary of the World Council of Churches, I am just now leading a process towards a full-scale project of changing the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, and of plans for building several new buildings there (the “Green Village” project). I will use my influence to convince investors, as a condition of becoming owners in the Green Village project, to commit to attain a high quality ecological certification not only in energy efficiency, water management and biodiversity in the construction of the new buildings and park, but also in the ongoing operation of the Green Village as a community. The buildings are named after cities where significant global agreements for the environment have been reached (Kyoto, Rio, etc.). The One Planet Living label, initiated by WWF, would be such a certification, requiring committed effort from owners, including WCC, but also from tenants, local service providers and the local authorities in operating the site with ecological guidelines and targets, to be monitored as a community, with a sustainability expert. We will have a very limited number of parking places, as we are placed close to public transports, and we will facilitate new paths for biking and walking through our property as a part of the mobility plans in Geneva.
Lest the IPCC report drive us to despair and immobility, we remember the child who, amidst a hungry multitude, came to Jesus with a few loaves of bread and some fishes (John 6:9). It was dismissed as too little to do anything. But this small act was the start of the feeding of many. What you and I do in response to perhaps the biggest global challenge humanity has ever confronted may be seen as a mere drop in the ocean. But this can turn into a wave of change. Living the changegives us a chance to commit ourselves to take practical steps towards co-creating a more just and sustainable world. We do this together with people of good will and from many faiths to manifest that we are one humanity living in one world and that our common values and teachings impel us to work for climate justice.
With a defiant hope in a faithful God and with love for our neighbours and all Creation, we must act now. Come join us in a pilgrimage for justice and peace with and on Earth!