Spirit Sightings

May 31, 2015: What We See


Paul Turley

“This ice shelf has existed for at least 10,000 years, and soon it will be gone.”

I picked up this comment, from Ala Khazendar of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, at random from the mountain of climate change news that was online this week, and that is available every week.

The ice shelf in question is the Larsen B, on the Antarctic Peninsula. We know that the melting of the polar ice caps is a major effect of global warming and a contributor to sea-level rise.

According to a new report published in the science journal Nature Climate Change, sea levels have risen more in the last 20 years than in the whole of the 20th century.

CSIRO is Australia’s national science agency. CSIRO fellow John Church, who coauthored the report, predicts that sea levels will rise by up to 98 centimetres in the next 85 years, affecting more than 150 million people living in low-lying coastal communities.

But do we care?

In April 2014, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its Fifth Assessment Report – a major work on the science of climate change, based on seven years’ work by hundreds of scientists. The report warns of various ills connected to climate change: rising sea levels, greater scarcity of food, slowed economic growth, and greater poverty.

Yet apart from some newspapers reporting the release on the inside pages, little attention was given to the report and still less has been done in response.

According to a recent poll of 22,000 people in 22 countries, “Fewer people now consider issues such as CO2 emissions, air and water pollution, animal species loss, and water shortages to be ‘very serious’ than at any time in the last two decades.”

In response to the findings, Doug Miller, chairman of public opinion research company GlobeScan, who undertook the poll, said, “Evidence of environmental damage is stronger than ever, but our data shows that economic crisis and a lack of political leadership mean that the public are starting to tune out.”

From Greenpeace, Graham Thompson, said, “The public can see that the response of our politicians is completely inadequate to the threat scientists have revealed, and that dissonance is reflected in these polls.”

What are we to do?

Explore... Isaiah 6:1–8

  • What does it mean to be “a man of unclean lips among a people of unclean lips”? What metaphor would you use for this experience?
  • What might it have meant for Isaiah’s commitment to his task to have experienced the call of God. How do you see that experience in your own life?
  • If climate change is becoming a less-welcome topic of concern, what do you think the national and international Church’s response should be? What should your local congregation’s response be?

Prayer links...

God, forgive us for our blinkered and myopic vision. Teach us how to see your world as you do, one universe, one whole, with everyone and everything interconnected. Give us courage to face the truth of our situation and to speak it out. Give us hope to shape a different future. Amen.


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