Tuesday 7 November and I decided to participate in another People’s Climate Summit workshop: Interfaith Dialogue on Climate Justice & Faith. The main focus for this session was divestment – ie. encouraging the faith communities to remove their investments from the fossil fuel industries and to invest it into sustainable, carbon-free forms of productivity.
The first challenge was to find the venue, which was several kilometres out of the centre, handily near a couple of tram routes, at a place called Ermekeil, which turned out to be a co-housing project with a community centre for creative activities including a permaculture garden, tucked away behind the formal street facade. Walking through the gate into the garden was like passing into another world, which I suppose it was – a world of community-focused, sustainable urban living (http://www.ermekeilkarree.de/)
There were around 25 people from various faiths, predominantly Christian and Catholic, but with various Protestant traditions, and Buddhist, Muslim and atheist representation too. Three Fijian people talked about the significance of their being able to be here in Bonn, as witnesses to the effects of Climate Change NOW, not some abstract time in the future, as it is so often portrayed to people here in the West. Our (western) responsibility for the majority of the emissions which have brought climate disaster to their shores caused us to ponder in silence.
Then we had some good news stories; how the Church of Sweden had led the Christian advance on divestment (see online guide to fossil fuel divestment at: https://europeangreens.eu/handydivestguide) and so acted as an example to all the other churches. We also heard how, on St Frances Feast Day (4 October) this year, a whole host of Catholic organisations had agreed to divest from fossil fuels. Now to get the rest of the Catholic Church – and all the other denominations – to follow suit!
The most fervent and committed people present were three Liberation Theology students, all aged under 30, so had more future to face than the rest of us! They staed that they were committed to System Change not Climate Change, and questioned whether it was possible to make sufficiently rapid and adequately deep carbon cuts to avert climate disaster. They also affirmed the rightness of breaking the law, if the laws are undermining attempts to reach climate stability (a statement which was stated as over 2000 activists were occupying the nearby lignite coal mine to stop production albeit temporarily (see www.ende-gelaende.org) . Certainly their hard-line view was very consistent with recent thinking in Liberation Theology circles (see: http://www.nyuelj.org/2016/10/an-ecology-of-liberation-the-shifting-landscape-of-environmental-law-in-an-era-of-changing-environmental-values/).
Finally, it was encouraging to hear from the Muslim representative from the USA concerning the growing environmental concern from within the Muslim community. He was in the process of promoting a series of small personal steps that Muslims could take to reduce their carbon footprint – when I told him about Cornwall’s own Climate Vision project (http://climatevision.co.uk/), he was very excited that something like what he was planning for was already happening! A good opportunity for inter-faith environmental action-sharing?
In all, a good session of mutual encouragement and a shared determination to do more. Faith communities frequently talk about their vision for a bright new future – now to make sure that includes a sustainable carbon-free future – centre stage!
16 November 2017