Martin Charlesworth
The environment - a central issue

Last month I was walking through the shopping area near my home during the working day, minding my own business and going from appointment to appointment. I glanced across to the local primary school and noticed, to my surprise, that the children were marching around the playground during their break as if they were on a political protest – chanting and holding up homemade banners. Suddenly I remembered – it was a major school ‘climate strike’ day. Looking more closely I saw large numbers of parents and other passersby standing outside the school fence and cheering on the children as they recited their demands for action on climate change.

I walked on, thinking about this. Then I noticed something else unusual. One of the local traders had closed his shop for the day and left a sign outside expressing his support and solidarity with the school climate strikers.

These things would not have happened ten years ago.

These small, seemingly insignificant local actions in a quiet market town in rural England are far more important than we might think. They are a tiny part of a worldwide movement. The Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg started it all in August 2018 when she took time off school to start protesting outside the Swedish parliament on a weekly basis. Her simple message, clear conviction and fearless determination have won her followers all over the world.

The climate strikers were out in force on that Friday in September – preparing the way for the ‘climate summit’ that was coming up at the UN.

Meanwhile, Greta Thunberg arrived in New York for the climate summit by sailing boat – amid wide media coverage. It was a deeply symbolic gesture – she had avoided flying deliberately to make a point.

However the really big event came on the following Monday. Sixteen-year-old Greta was invited to address the UN. It was sensational. A speech of passion, clarity, emotional intensity and profound challenge. She accused the whole worldwide political establishment of failing to take appropriate radical action to slow down climate change by reducing carbon emissions and building an effective green energy infrastructure. Many nations pledged further action on climate change at the summit.

The environment has become a central issue of our day. Specifically, awareness of the impacts of global warming has become more and more widespread. Many people are genuinely worried about climate change. The media is talking about climate change. Politicians are making grand statements about climate change. The scientists are reporting on the impacts of climate change. Christians need to take these concerns seriously and offer a biblical response.

Jubilee+ considers the environment in general and climate change in particular to be urgent issues that should be central to the social engagement of churches today. At a conference this summer I explained the scientific, biblical and social justice reasons for this conviction. You can listen here. If you would like to access the paper I have written on this subject, it is available here.