I’m almost embarrassed to admit that this is the first Earth Day that I have taken seriously – but at least there has been some good preparation. It includes encountering the writings of Thomas Berry and his students and followers last August and becoming immersed in the works ever since. It includes attending the 2018 Parliament of World Religions and meeting the diversity of faith-based groups head on. It includes attending book launches, student research presentations and a day long Symposium on reducing our carbon fossil fuel dependency. It includes encountering the Deep Time Network and joining it. Finally it includes reading two recent books – Tony Clarke’s Getting to Zero, Canada Confronts Global Warming and Paul Hawken’s Drawdown – the latter that encouraged me to join the Toronto team this past month.
Clarke knew about the change of government in Ontario but the recent election in Alberta would be concerning when it is so opposes his case for reframing a Canadian economy hugely dependent on extracting bitumen from tar sands with its subsequent effects on economy and ecology. He faults the national government for its oxymoronic aims to protect the planet and grow the economy. He does provide a clear strategy to wean ourselves from our fossil fuel addiction, but cautions how much that depends on a bottom-up advocacy from a consortium of citizens’ groups. I admire his emphasis on dealing with the human side of the economy to drive the process.
I am convinced nevertheless that the greatest challenge faces traditional religions because what is required is a drastic re-framing of their cosmologies to include what we now know from science. Western Christianity has played a key role in both encouraging the growth of science and technology but also by ignoring it. As Thomas Berry says:
The solution then is not a case of restoring a religious, spiritual, moral or humanist tradition. It is a case of reordering the human in its entire relationship with the planet on which we live, a mission for which Christians are not especially suited, since we have seldom shown any extensive regard for the creation process, dedicated as we have been since the thirteenth century to a primarily redemptive task. (The Christian Future and the Fate of Earth)
There are a growing number of people who accept global warming and its implications for climate change and the active advocacy of the young is a sign of hope. There are a much smaller number that recognize the need for a new role for religions. Theirs is a crucial role – and they must encounter one another with humility and work together to create that role.