A u c k l a n d A o t e a r o a N e w Z e a l a n d
a n g l i c a n c h u r c h
Agents for Life
September 6, 2020
Today in our liturgical calendar is the First Sunday in the Season of Creation. The Season of Creation is a time when we decide to be more intentional in our noticing of creation. Play closer attention to creation, the gospel directs us to learn from the birds of the air, the lilies and grasses of the fields. Each is beloved into being and is sustained by our creator. And for these things we give thanks and praise.
It is also a season we pay attention to our relationship with creation. Be reminded of our fundamental interconnectedness. We’ve the habit of considering that being human makes us superior to the rest of creation. We’re prone to forgetting we’re made of the same substance as the rest of creation. In so doing we overstate our significance, our irreplaceability in the schema of this fragile planet. It’s curious to consider – if humans as a species were to die out, in time the rest of life on this planet would flourish. If the insect population were to die out, life on this planet would also die within 50 years.
The life, the existence of planet Earth, our only place of home, is precariously endangered because of human excess, so we’re going to pay attention to that. Pay attention to the choices we’re making and the repercussions of those choices for the continuance of the life of our only home. We can choose how we live and what we do differently. Different choosing changes things. So, yes, we’re going to talk about climate change.
Climate change – I could give you a lot of information about that.
I could talk about the science of it, the intricate and complex proving of the catastrophe that is at hand. But I’m not a scientist. And as journalist Nathaniel Rich writes in his book Losing Earth, “There has been no fundamental change in climate physics since 1979, only refinement.”  Or Rebecca Huntley reflects, “Climate scientists … realise that when it comes to the climate change cause, the bulk of their work has been done. All they are doing is updating the data on a theory already proven countless times to be true.” 
But I’m not going to talk about the science of it. I’m sure you’ve heard it before.
I could talk about wildfires, ravaged landscapes, of melting ice floes, stranded and disappearing polar bears. Or remind you of unprecedented cyclonic storms and record breaking freezing temperatures. Or speak of the anger of the First Nation people of the Torres Strait, or the people of Fiji or Kiribati. Who are helplessly watching their ensouled lands being washed away, witnessing the tearing apart of their ancestral, intergenerational identity, their interconnected way of knowing who they are. Washed away, out of their hands through no fault, no thing they have done, at the mercy of the actions of countries and economies well beyond their shores.
But I’m not going to about the landscapes of it. I’m sure you’ve heard it all before.
I could talk to you about Greta Thunberg, about the rallies of our young people pleading, activating, staring us down about our reprehensible lack of care, our intentional denying of them a future out of selfishness and greed. Of your children or grandchildren who won’t enjoy the natural playgrounds you explored and celebrated. Who won’t know the world we’ve taken for granted, the animals and creatures, landscapes and seascapes, the world we speak of, for it will have disappeared.
But I’m not going to talk about the next generation impact of it. I’m sure you’ve heard it all before.
I could talk about the links of a pandemic such as Covid-19 with human over stretch into untouched landscapes. Of humans who, for commercial gain, breach natural boundaries that keep us safe from interspecies contamination. Of overcrowded animal farming demanded by human consumption that creates breeding grounds for viruses to adapt and change the species that hosts them.
But I’m not going to talk about the destructive greed of it. I’m sure you’ve heard it all before.
I could talk about finger pointing, scapegoating and blame transferring of responsibility to those who are worse offenders than me or them or us. Of those who deny or of a sense of shame or guilt that cripples anger, freezes us, cows us into inaction.
But I’m not going to talk about the psychological impact of it. I’m sure you’ve experienced this before.
We know these things.
Has any of this knowledge moved you in any fundamental way to change?
Has it moved you so deeply that you cannot imagine continuing to live as you have, if that way of living is truly destroying the world?
It can be hard to make the link between what we do, how we live and the life of the world. To understand how intimately we’re connected with creation. It’s hard to make creation out there personal in here. So I want to ask you to do something, don’t worry, it’s not arduous, it can be done where you are. I want you to hold your hand out in front of you, to look at it, consider it. Consider the complex beauty and utility of your hand, look at it, feel it, the pulsing of life in it.
How did it come to be?
This is not a religious or scientific or philosophical question. It’s more: did you earn it? Did you deserve it? Did you choose it? Did you have part in its creation?
Or did you receive it? A gift you’ve grown into the knowing of.
How do we live so to best honour the gift given us, to reflect the dignity and beauty and unique nature of this gift?
The response to such question will be unique to us.
There is much we take for granted.
So it is with creation. It is a gift we receive, how do we live so to best honour the gift given us, to reflect the dignity and beauty and unique nature of this gift?
What would move us to deeply comprehend the situation we’re in? To accept the way we live does contribute to and cause this, what would it take for us to be rewired? What would cause us to be willing to examine our expectations of what makes for a successful life? To ask questions, deep questions about what truly matters to us, what we most value and whether the way we live allows those to be expressed. Maybe Covid 19 has forced the issue a little.
Even so, when the crowding pressures of production and productivity, of time poverty and income necessity, of social influence and mass misinformation, of obligations and responsibilities rise to overwhelm us, then climate change becomes another thing – too much.
Let’s take a step back, a step down.
Climate change is now a part of the way things are, the reality of this is irrefutable. For all the pressures on us, for all that we want it not to be this way, for all that we don’t want to change the way we live, or disrupt our expectations of life or inconvenience our lifestyle. A climate changing world is our reality. We know this, we experience this.
Rather than it being a burden out there, another external force pressing on us, what if we understood and accepted climate change is a part of our world, our ‘what is real’, yours, mine, not other.
For when we know what we have, when we know our circumstances, the resources that are available to us, we tend to turn to make the best of the situation. We tend to want life to flourish, utilising what we have. We want our uniqueness to contribute to that flourishing. And we know we need to do this with others whose uniqueness complements our own.
Maybe, when we decide for this, when we accept this is the way things are and that we have what is needed for the world to flourish we might live differently. Rather than as oppositional teenagers resisting an inevitability imposed on us, we might decide to be active agents for life.
 Huntley, Rebecca How to Talk about Climate Change in a Way That Makes a Difference. Sydney, N.S.W.: Murdoch Books, 2020, 46