A climate of hope

Wednesday 8 April 2015

Regardless of whether you’re a believer or denier, there’s no denying climate change is one issue that isn’t going away any time soon.

While the debates rage on, some groups of passionate Christians are getting on with doing what they can to positively shape their environment.

Bendigo Cornerstone Commuinty is a group of Christians who are responding to climate change in some innovative ways.

In 2009 three families moved to Bendigo, rented houses near each other and started to work part-time while trying to build connections with people in the community.

As part of their work, the group created a Community Garden that started with around 15 households in the neighbourhood, and has now moved to a disused church property on the top of the hill. Rose, who was one of the founding members of the group writes:

“This garden has become a key part of our…presence in town. We have been given many opportunities to speak about community development and gardening at the invitation of the local council and community groups.

“Every second Saturday afternoon there will be around 40 people of all ages harvesting the produce, sharing the workload, swapping skills, swapping yarns, sharing cake, having cuppas and growing community.

“Researchers from Latrobe University have wanted to discover why people are so highly engaged with our garden. They commented that people obviously come here for much more than gardening!”

Out of the garden has come a local food network aimed at improving food security, getting rid of food waste and feeding the poor.

This is just one of a collection of stories featured in new book A Climate of Hope, by meteorologist Mick Pope and accountant Claire Dawson.

The book which covers the science and history of climate change also seeks to address the compatibility of climate change with the Christian faith.

“We wanted to write a book that was broadly evangelical and spoke to the people who were fence-sitting and hadn’t really thought about the issue of climate change, or perhaps were aware of it but wanted to know a bit more about the history and whether or not it could fit into their faith,” says Mick.

Not everyone is convinced that caring for the environment is theologically justified. It’s something Mick says he regularly finds himself explaining from Romans 8.

“It’s clear from Paul’s argument that creation actually looks forward to the day we are raised from the dead when humans and creation will be free from suffering. Christ is coming back to put everything right. So it makes sense if things are going to be put right in the future, that I start living as if that were the case now.”

This future-orientation of the Biblical narrative is not just helpful for Christians. Mick say he regularly talks to non-Christian climate activist friends about God’s plan for creation and it resonates.

“I find when I speak this kind of language with people outside the church who have a concern for what’s happening in the world today, it scratches where they’re itching far more than a lot of the more abstract presentations of the gospel that are traditionally used.”

He says while non-Christians are often willing to hear about his worldview, Christians tend to dismiss the science of climate change too quickly, lumping it together with other controversial theories like evolution. But he says it’s wrong-headed to do so.

“We should be evaluating what scientists are saying on their own merits,” says Mick. “Not doing so uncritically, but not filtering things so much through our own worldview and not being aware of that filter.”

One way of helping people understand the science is to use analogies. Mick has a few ways of explaining climate change.

“I talk about greenhouse gases being like putting more blankets on a bed: the more blankets you add, the more heat you trap, therefore the warmer you get,” says Mick.

Mick says the hope is that Christians will read the book and be inspired to make changes in their lives and in the communities they are a part of. He’s particularly encouraging of people who have the desire to change things, but have struggled to find likeminded people at their churches.

“Sometimes you’ve just got to be the lone voice in the wilderness…If you’re not getting traction with your leadership it’s hard to make headway, but try to find people of like mind, TEAR groups and other things like that, and meet regularly and support each other.

“I know a group from a church which aren’t officially a church sanctioned group, but they meet up every fortnight to eat, share and pray. That’s a great idea.”

A Climate of Hope is out now through UNOH publishing.

Image credit: Climate Safety via Flickr

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