It seemed natural to take our drinks upstairs, away from the crowded bar. Three men were cosily huddled around a table, leaving the other for myself and my sister Emily. We’d only drunk the top two inches of our beer and cider when two of the men got up, leaving the other as our lone companion.
Emily and I were reflecting on our emotional afternoon visiting the grave of our mum in Northumberland. She died exactly a year ago. We’d arranged flowers, walked in a circuit around the village, then spent time with some of her friends. Our conversation in the pub prompted me to remember a piece of biblical wisdom, which caught the ears of Stephen as he was named. Stephen described himself as a ‘Christian goth’ (yes, they do exist!). The next hour turned out to be utterly bizarre, not quite the civilised exchange of views that Emily and I would have enjoyed.
It turned out that none of us held a similar worldview. Stephen’s ‘Gospel’ was about God’s dystopic judgment and was distinctly lacking in ‘Good News’. Emily, like me, passionately believes in taking action on climate change and poverty. She can’t see the signature of a loving god who’d allow our present mess. As for myself, I believe God loves this world, but I’m looking forward to a time when it’s transformed into his ‘new creation’.
I hope Stephen got a taxi home; he was determined to lug all his gear to a bus stop despite having his leg strapped up, and wouldn’t accept help. But then he seemed more than a little disconnected from the real world, the one where climate change is a reality…
The following morning dawned bright and clear. Emily and I set out to enjoy this doomed planet while it lasts. We walked in brilliant sunshine along the coast path and the pristine beach, from Craster via Dunstanburgh Castle to Newton by the Sea. We laughed at a flock of sanderlings, little white birds that skip comically between the waves and the shore looking for insects. The crab stotties at The Joiners’ Arms tasted fabulous. Back in Craster, we bought some kippers from Robsons smokehouse shop before enjoying tea and out-of-this-world ginger and pumpkin cake at the deceptively humble-looking Shoreline Café. We both agreed it had been a perfect day out, remembering places where we’d come with Mum whilst she was still mobile.
But, as we drank in the sights, smells and sounds of the shore, some thoughts disturbed me. What exactly is going to happen to our beleaguered world? Are we condemned to a dystopian future? And how can I answer Emily when she observes that what we’ve got now is exactly what you’d expect if there ain’t anyone up there; instead, we’re in the hands of Warmonger A, Dictator B and Populist C? I think there are three possibilities.
Firstly, it may be that we can’t head off disaster. You can imagine sea levels rising by several metres, weekly floods, hurricanes, droughts, large parts of the world uninhabitable, wars caused by food and water shortages, forests all logged or burnt up…only us and the insects left alive…It doesn’t bear thinking about. Almost certainly the human population will shrink to a fraction of today’s. Sadly, too many people haven’t faced the facts. [Nearly half the electorates of Brazil, the USA and Australia have recently voted for candidates who don’t support conservation.] Could God allow this? A reading of Isaiah, for example, suggests ‘Yes’; the passages make clear that God allowed the decimation and exile of ancient Judea. But I believe the indescribable suffering would be matched with amazing acts of kindness, courage and compassion, the sort shown by Christian prisoners in WWII as told in Ernest Gordon’s book, ‘Miracle on the River Kwai’. It doesn’t sound a fun world, however.
Secondly, it may be that the prophecies of Jesus Christ’s return are fulfilled before this nightmare fully unfolds. Just as his first coming was predicted, so is his second, and there are warnings it’ll be preceded by wars on a scale never so far seen, and of a meltdown in the climate system. He won’t be born in a stable, but ‘every eye shall see him’ as this present order comes to an end. I’m not expanding further in this article…
Thirdly, it may be that, after all, humanity acts to save our planet. Many, many people around the world are praying urgently for clear, decisive outcomes from COP27, and are campaigning for climate justice for those poorer nations that are most affected. I draw comparisons with the ‘Make Poverty History’ campaigns of 20 years ago which achieved enormous success in reducing the debt burden on developing countries. One of the keys here was to establish a broad coalition which maximised the pressure on world leaders. In another sphere, I am encouraged to read of inspired scientific inventions, for example a process to manufacture aviation fuel from household waste is being commercialised.
Christians are focusing on God’s compassion for the whole of Creation, for both the natural world and humanity. At the New Wine gathering this summer we listened to testimonies of how our miracle-working God acted remarkably in the lives of individuals. We now need miracles in achieving consensus, in reversing ‘business as usual’ policies, in solving scientific problems such as making nuclear fusion viable. I am praying that, in humanity’s hour of greatest need, we shall see the tide turn on Climate Change before it’s too late.
The theologian Tom Wright was brought up just half a mile from the pub where we had our debate. In his book ‘Surprised by Hope’, he shares his belief that God takes every one of our noble, creative, loving acts and uses them as building blocks for his New Creation. Whichever scenario unfolds, I believe the end result is not in doubt. “Though the mountains move and the hills shake, My love will not be removed from you and My covenant of peace will not be shaken,” says your compassionate Lord.” (Isaiah 54 vs 10)
5 thoughts on “COP27…The Eleventh Hour?”
Thank you John, I agree with you all the way. You expressed it so clearly. Have done the same walk and love it Sue
Thank you, Sue. It’s nice to meet fellow walkers along the path – literally and figuratively, too!
Wish this blog could reach a larger audience. It is expressed so clearly as Sue says, and should be available for many more readers.
Very thoughtfully written – a clear presentation of three of the most likely scenarios. Thanks, John