We recently watched the BBC series Planet Oil. An interesting story about the history of oil, but with a depressing ending. Our addiction to fossil fuels has thoroughly disrupted the ecological balance of the planet. It is frustrating to see how slow alternative energy is developing, mainly because nothing happens at the policy level. In this way, concentrations of CO2 continue to break records.
We aren’t done yet. Greater concentrations will be achieved, thanks to all the existing coal-fired power plants, more than a billion cars powered by internal combustion on the roads today and yet more clearing of forests.
Scientific American, 5 maart 2015
The latest report of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) shows that the risks of climate change are not evenly distributed. The people who are most affected are the disadvantaged groups in society. These include small-scale farmers in developing countries whose existence depends on what they produce on their land. Through droughts and floods these communities are driven to the brink of despair. The problems are related to large migration flows, political instability and armed conflict.
Someone who personified the link between environmental protection and social development was Wangari Maathai. This woman from Kenya was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. Her organization, the Green Belt Movement, cooperates with female small-scale farmers to improve their environment. Their most iconic activity is planting trees. Through the work of Maathai, men and women became aware that they depended on nature and that they could take action to care of their environment. In addition to their ecological impact, the trees became a symbol of peace.
This Lent series is about the fact that Christ is our peace. A liberal or feminist look at the concept of peace includes concepts like human rights, gender equality, democracy, economic prosperity, health, education and environment. It is interesting that we also encounter this vision in the Bible. Belousek says the following:
Shalom denotes a fundamentally “all right” situation in which everything has its proper place and function; it implies right-relationship — each person within him- or herself and with one another, humans with the earth, and humans with God.
This is not a pie in the sky for after the apocalypse or something. The peace mission of Jesus takes place in the world where I type this now, where 748 million people lack access to clean drinking water and where Justin Bieber has been celebrating his birthday for a week. Harmony seems further away than ever.
Watching Planet Oil once again confronted me with the facts. It seems as though our individual choices don’t make a difference. But they really do. We can reduce our own carbon footprint. And we can take action to compel politicians to take concrete measures. “Faithfullness will spring up from the ground” — starting in our own backyard!
- Scientific American, CO2 Levels for February Eclipsed Prehistoric Highs, 5 March 2015.
- IPCC, Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report.
- Wangari Maathai, Nobel Lecture, 10 December 2004.
- Darrin W. Snyder Belousek, 2011, Atonement, Justice and Peace.
- Picture Wangari Maathai: Charley Gallay/Getty Images