Today is the beginning of the church’s season of creation, part of our liturgical year which rolls around every year. And that is becoming a problem. We still have the feeling that there will be another chance, another opportunity. But the creation itself is already in the last chance saloon. There isn’t any time left, if we want future generations to celebrate a creation that looks anything like it does now. We have an emergency on our hands. (If you don’t believe me, read this.)
Human beings aren’t very good in emergencies, sadly, especially when it’s not obvious that it’s our own emergency. Even in much more immediate settings the bystander effect comes into play.
When a young woman was stabbed to death outside her apartment building while a number of people watched and did nothing has stimulated a study of how people react in an unclear emergency situation. The findings illustrated that the more people who saw the incident, the less likely they were prepared to act. This means that we not only rely on others to recognise the seriousness of the situation but we are also diffusive of responsibility.
So how can the global emergency of climate change, which everyone is watching, how can that possibly become my emergency? Only I think by becoming something that costs me, that I am invested in. If the woman being attacked had been the partner or daughter of any of those watching, i doubt if they would have waited for others to react.
So what is it that makes something important for you? For some, the destruction of the global climate does it. But for most people – as is obvious from the lack of action so far – it needs to be something much closer to home. And it needs ideally to be something that you are doing alongside others. If your friends, or family, or colleagues are doing it too, whatever “it” may be, then each of you reinforce the sense that this is worthwhile and important.
Do something now – something that costs. Money, time, energy, comfort: it doesn’t matter, really, as long as whatever you do is a commitment. Make yourself committed; make this your emergency. Don’t be taken in by the deceptive fact that your individual action won’t make much difference. Yes it’s true, but what will make a difference is when enough people think preserving our planet is their own priority, not someone else’s. Then change will happen.
It’s not going to happen from above, from governments, until they think it will affect their votes. So it has to happen from below, from the actions of millions of ordinary people who know we don’t have time left to wait for someone else to do something. This is your own planet that’s under attack. How will you help to save it?