Author: Paul Cook, TearFund, UK
Category: Creation Care
This is a THEME PAPER ABSTRACT; the paper will be presented at the Jamaica Consultation on Creation Care and the Gospel in October, 2012. Comments are welcomed! View all abstracts.
Poverty declining, environmental destruction increasing – paradoxically both driven by the global economic system
The past forty years or more have seen huge progress in tackling global poverty (http://hdr.undp.org/en/data/trends/ & http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbkSRLYSojo). This has overwhelmingly been driven by the policy choices developing nations have made to grow their economies and what they have chosen to do with the wealth generated as a result. However, all this progress is now in danger of going backwards. On multiple fronts (land, food, fresh water, climate change, deforestation, biodiversity loss etc.) we are over consuming the natural resource base of the planet with potentially disastrous consequences (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QkkKZgKmdP4). The same global economic system which has driven so much progress in tackling poverty is also driving this over consumption (http://vimeo.com/39048998). We are heading towards a cliff.
The choice – collapse or a green global economy
A growing number of historians, environmentalists and economists point to civilisations which have collapsed in the past and conclude that this has primarily happened when those civilisations over consume their natural resources (Jared Diamond, Collapse, 2005; Ian Morris, Why the West Rules – For Now, 2010). They warn that we now have a global civilisation and face this challenge at a global level. We are at an incredible pivot point in human history, we either continue as we currently are resulting in a global collapse (mass starvation, marginal land turning to desert, mass migration, war, economic collapse and the death of billions) or we figure out a way to shift to a green environmentally sustainable global economy that keeps the benefits of poverty reduction but loses the down side of over consumption of natural resources. The science indicates that we are now right up against these natural planetary boundaries, and so it will literally be this generation that faces that choice and will make that decision.
What does the Church have to say?
A growing number of politicians, business leaders, academics, NGOs, think tanks, scientists, environmentalists and economists are recognising this challenge and beginning to wrestle with what that environmentally sustainable green global economy might look like. It dominated much of the discussions at the recent UN Rio Earth Summit (http://www.earthsummit2012.org/). All of this is taking place during the present climate of unprecedented global financial upheaval. Should the Church have a voice in this critical debate of our time? What is a coherent, Biblical, theologically grounded and economically realistic vision for the global green economy we would like to see? What does the Church have to say about the issues of materialism, stewardship, greed and consumerism that are so bound up in answering this question? Do we have a positive vision that will be a witness to the world? Do we have an economic vision that others will want to buy into, one that lifts the poor out of poverty without destroying the planet? How do we begin to prayerfully explore this and develop it together?