Monday, 22 September 2014

Religious leaders called upon to help planet

Does our earth have a prayer? If some scientists have their way, not only does it have a prayer, but the religious forces of prayer will be an integral part of stopping the global destruction of our climate and become a partner for restoration.

Science and religion have not always seen eye to eye. The Christian church has, over the centuries, punished scientists whose discoveries were at odds with church teaching of the day.

No longer. Some scientists are now saying that science and religion must work in partnership for the common good to stop the relentless destruction of this planet.

In an article published recently inn the distinguished Science magazine, Prof Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a climate scientist at the University of California, San Diego, and Prof Sir Partha Dasgupta, an economist based at St John’s College, Cambridge, say "Humanity is at a crossroads. Do we continue trends of preceding decades that lift people out of poverty and extend life spans, but in the process run down the planet's natural capital? Solutions to this profound problem will require greater cooperation among people. The rise of market fundamentalism and the drive for growth in profits and gross domestic product (GDP) have encouraged behaviour that is at odds with pursuit of the common good. Finding ways to develop a sustainable relationship with nature requires not only engagement of scientists and political leaders, but also moral leadership that religious institutions are in a position to offer."

The scientist invite the full weight of religious leaders and especially Pope Francis and the Roman Catholic Church to join them in specific actions to limit climate change.

"Natural and social scientists have done their part in documenting the irreversible environmental damages (albeit with large uncertainties) that we have inflicted and in spelling out specific mitigation actions," they write.

"The transformational step may very well be a massive mobilisation of public opinion by the Vatican and other religions for collective action to safeguard the well-being of both humanity and the environment."

They go on to argue that the "invisible hand" of the market, the term coined by the philosopher and economist Adam Smith to describe how economies can regulate themselves, can never achieve the kind of change needed to protect the planet.

"The rise of market fundamentalism and the drive for growth in profits and gross domestic product (GDP) have encouraged behaviour that is at odds with pursuit of the common good," they write.

In a companion editorial, editor Marcia McNutt says, "The problems that motivate the Vatican are no different from those that concern the scientific community: depletion of nonrenewable resources, loss of ecosystem services, and risks from changing climate. But what the Vatican contributes is the rationale for taking action: because it is our moral responsibility to bequeath a habitable planet to future generations."

These are not ivory tower issues. Climate change and sustainability are matters that concern us here in Grey Bruce. Our issues are the Deep Geologic Repository and wind turbines and their effects, among others.

Climate change has an impact on each and every one of our lives. Religious groups can provide the framework, the rationale for taking action and offer the moral framework for a sustainable climate, community and planet.

We are all in this together. It is time for religious and faith groups to step up and offer a moral framework to help restore the planet.

Science can’t do it alone. For our common good, our common future, it is up to all of us.

Rev. David Shearman is the minister of Central Westside United Church, Owen Sound and host of Faithworks on Rogers TV - Grey County