COP 26: Returning to where everything started

SCOTLAND-

Neddy Astudillo-

As people of faith concerned about the climate crisis, there are two origin stories that may guide and concern us as we ponder how we ought to live in the world today. One is the Genesis story, which establishes our faith in the God of Creation, and our particular role in nature. Another, is the story that started years ago on the same soil and the same river where COP26 is taking place today.

The city that now dreams of becoming carbon neutral within nine years is the one that 300 years ago straightened and deepened its shallow river Clyde to bring large ships and cargoes of tobacco, sugar and cotton coming from the ‘new world.’ By the 19thcentury, supported by colonization and the burning of great quantities of coal, oil and gas, Glasgow became a world leader in shipbuilding, heavy industry and engineering, shipping goods from and to every corner of the planet.[1] 

This place, where the industrial revolution set us on a path to climate change, is today where thousands of people, governments, non-governmental organizations, businesses, scientists, indigenous peoples and people of faith are deciding the future of the planet.

Which story will win at COP26?

The story of the industrial revolution with its insatiable false promises of profit and pleasures, or the story of a Creator God, who willed a myriad of peoples and species to life, setting them free to roam the planet and live abundant lives forevermore?

Faith leaders are saying: “It is time to act as if we believed God created the world.” Scientists: “While a warming of the planet of less than 1.5C is still possible, we don’t have much time.  Now, the question is how will we act in the next five years.”

The young are telling all of us and decision makers: “It is time to open our hearts” (Elizabeth Wathusi, Kenya). Black voices present at COP: “We can no longer wait for governments to do what is right. It is our role, through our individual and collective power.” Indigenous leaders: “It is time to change. It is time to reforest our thoughts, reforest our hearts, reforest our actions” (Sonia Guajajara, Brazil).

Climate justice is gender justice!
Climate justice is immigrant justice!
Climate justice is assisting  those who already suffer from loss and damage!
Climate justice is racial justice!
Climate justice is taking into account the rights of future generations to live on a healthy planet, where life can flourish!

From the early Scripture passages (Gen. 2:15) to the last (Rev. 11:18), we have heard this call and warning to care for God’s creation and the most vulnerable people. When we deny this call, the harmonious order under which God created life is threatened, and all creatures suffer the consequences (Jer. 14:2-7).

 Our Christian tradition also provides us a story (Gen. 39-41) where key sectors of society come together to avert a collective crisis. Only that this time the root of the crisis is not human sin.

In the story of Joseph and the Pharaoh’s dream, a vision announces an environmental crisis that threatens the lives of peoples and animals, unless people work together.  Faith and government leaders are receptive to this unprecedented revelation, and organize themselves without delay to lessen the impact of a reality God can not avert. They act even during good times, with a mind on the common good. Each sector does their part, using their power, resources and spiritual gifts. 

This is the unique opportunity climate change presents us. And I choose hope, in spite of the brutal facts. I choose hope, because faith communities are engaging in increasing numbers among those seeking solutions around the world, including the obvious rise of multi-faith collaborations at this COP. We are united by a sense of the sacred, and all our faith traditions are calling us to seek climate justice.

After 500 years of colonization and the church’s recognized complicity in colonizing minds, lands and people, this collaboration is healing for the planet and people, especially women, indigenous, black and other people of color.

While mindful of the changes still needed within our own faith communities to heal our relationships, we have a precious story, moral and ethical values, that can assist the world to face the climate crisis.  

With moral authority, we are rising with one voice to demand governments and decision makers to also do their part. The time of the industrial revolution powered by the fossil fuel industry must come to an end, or future generations will have to live under conditions humanity has never faced. 

Let’s hold tight to our faith, as Joseph did! Let’s do our part, so future generations can also experience a Loving God, and a good Creation! 


[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/extra/e8vkjmttbw/glasgow-scotland-the-last-best-hope-to-fight-climate-change

Source: WCC

Rev. Dr. Neddy Astudillo, a Venezuelan eco-theologian and Presbyterian pastor (PCUSA) based in the US; coordinates GreenFaith’s Latinx and Latin America Organizing and Training program. Neddy has a Doctor of Ministry in “Greening the Church”, and co-founded the Angelic Organics Learning Center, a farm-based nonprofit organization, where people connect with food, farming and caring for the earth. Neddy also teaches eco-theology at seminaries in the US and Latin-America. In 2019 Neddy was published on Kairos for Creation, Confessing hope for the Earth. In 2020, Neddy received the Presbyterians for Earth Care annual award for her commitment to Environmental Justice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *