The Green Tau: issue 10

A question of justice: what is climate justice? Part 2

What then of climate justice?  What is the upright behaviour, the righteousness behaviour that God expects us to show vis a vis the climate?

Photo by Tobias Bju00f8rkli on

And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars.  God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.  And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day. (Genesis 1:14-19)

The writer of Genesis tells us that the climate and its seasons, shaped by the sun, is a key part of the world God created. Both creation stories in Genesis give humankind a key role in occupying and caring for and tending the world that God created. Humans are given a role of responsibility vis a vis the fish of the sea, the birds of the air and all living things that move on the earth. They are given the task of cultivating the land and the plants which God intended should transform the earth from the bare form with which it began. And they are instructed to multiply and be fruitful ensuring generations of humans to come. 

Have we looked after all the fish, the birds and living things? The decline in biodiversity with a third  species threatened with extinction, suggests not. 

Have we cultivated the earth and maintained its greenness? The expansions of deserts, the destruction of rainforests and temperate woodlands, and the loss of native plants suggest not. 

Have we provided for the well being of generations to come? Currently the world is on track for an increase in global temperatures of some 3 to 5°C by the end of the century which would render large parts of the earth uninhabitable for humans – so no!

If we were to hold up a plumb line to measure how upright our living on the earth has been, we would see a world that is on the verge of collapse, a world which will be in a worst state than when we inherited it, and a world in which life for our children and grandchildren would be very bleak. 

The diagram below is the equivalent of Amos’s plumb line. It was put together by the government’s Climate Change Committee  an independent, statutory body established under the Climate Change Act 2008) is part of their review of the progress being made tickling the climate crisis. It shows with a blue dotted line the target reduction in carbon emissions agreed by Parliament. The grey band shows the levels of emissions that  current policies will achieve. The gap between the two is the shortfall where new, firmer polices are needed. Just as plumb line measure how true a wall is, so this diagram shows how adrift we are of doing what is right for the climate and the world. 

Prophets like Amos and Jeremiah called out to those in power when  they were not meeting God’s standards. They also called out examples of wrong behaviour by merchants/ business leaders and those who abuse their power to oppress the vulnerable. They also called out those who falsely prophesied that all would be well and that no one need to repent and amend their patterns of behaviour! 

Climate justice requires us to call our government and business leaders  to account when policies and actions fail to address the climate crisis and rather allow the state of the earth to decline. We can write to our MPs and our local councillors asking what they are doing to avert the climate crisis, asking not just for wishful statements, but for concrete actions with measurable results. We can write to businesses, both multi nationals and our small, local businesses and ask  what they are doing to achieve net zero carbon by 2050. Kiss the Hippo, coffee roasters in Richmond is a carbon negative coffee company – we can  sign petitions  and join one of the many groups campaigning on the climate crisis issue – eg Friends of the Earth, XR,

Climate justice requires us to look at our own lifestyles and measure whether they improve or damage the earth and the heritage that we will pass onto future generations. There are numerous suggestions on the internet about what we can do. This will be the topic of the next issue of the Green Tau.i

Author: Judith Russenberger

Environmentalist and theologian, with husband and three grown up children plus one cat, living in London SW14. I enjoy running and drinking coffee - ideally with a friend or a book.

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