Statement for general releas
We are in the midst of a planetary mass extinction event, driven by human actions and sustained by unjust social structures and political institutions. Climate disruption, biodiversity loss, and the collapse of ecosystems now threaten the survival of much of life on Earth, including, potentially, human life. While lament and repentance are appropriate responses to these realities, it remains essential to push for rapid and far-reaching cuts to carbon pollution in order to minimise the damage. We face dangerous disruption to our societies, the extent of which still depends on the choices we make. Richer nations such as the United States and the UK should be making greater commitments that reflect our capacity to respond and our responsibility for the problem.
As ethicists we support the aim to be carbon neutral by 2025, which we consider to be a morally well-grounded target. To achieve this would require rapid social transformation as well as large-scale deployment of nature-based solutions. This would be enormously technically challenging, and is unlikely to be achievable within our standard political and economic frameworks today. The urgency of the crisis leads us to conclude that disruptive action is a proportionate response.
Christian public witness calls for solidarity with the poorest, who suffer first and worst as a result of climate breakdown. We therefore call on all Christians and churches to pledge to support, and where possible participate in, a range of actions that seek to counteract climate and ecological collapse. These include both redoubling our efforts in areas where our churches are already taking the lead, such as caring for climate-vulnerable communities and restoring creation, and undertaking new initiatives: to lobby government and other civic leaders; to build up communities of radical hope and sustainable living; to provide sanctuary and pastoral care for those experiencing ecological grief or despair, and to make and promote personal lifestyle sacrifices—including but not limited to embracing simpler living, reducing consumption of animal products and limiting fossil fuel intensive travel where possible.
But Christian public witness also includes visible protest and non-violent direct action where necessary. Civil disobedience has the power to disrupt habits of injustice. Churches have played historically pivotal roles in achieving rapid change in times of crisis, and renewing democracy in the process. For example: the movement for the abolition of slavery; civil rights in the USA; anti-apartheid in South Africa; anti-war and global peace movements to this day. In all these cases Christians not only lobbied and educated, but also engaged in peaceful, non-violent civil disobedience. This tradition stretches right back to the life and actions of Jesus, whose peaceful agitation was the paradigm of manifesting and anticipating the kingdom of God.
Extinction Rebellion, Schools Strike, and other peaceful mobilisations for action on climate change have renewed the call for mass, civil disobedience in defence of creation and its most vulnerable members. We call on all Christians to consider carefully how God is calling them to respond to this crisis, in light of their personal circumstances, gifts and vulnerabilities. And we call on all Christian churches to declare an ecological emergency and develop a plan of action commensurate to the risks we now face, to protect and care for vulnerable populations, endangered creatures and all God’s creation.
To be added to this statement, please email Tobias Winright at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Tobias Winright, Associate Professor of Theological Ethics and Health Care Ethics, Saint Louis University
- Jacaranda Turvey Tait, Honorary Post-doctoral Fellow, University of Chester
- Rachel Muers, Professor of Theology, University of Leeds
- David Clough, Professor of Theological Ethics, University of Chester
- Debra Dean Murphy, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, West Virginia Wesleyan College
- Vincent Miller, Gudorf Chair in Catholic Theology and Culture, University of Dayton
- Mary Jo Iozzio, Professor of Moral Theology, Boston College
- James P. Bailey, Associate Professor of Theology, Duquesne University
- Erin Lothes Biviano, Associate Professor of Theology and Religious Studies, College of St. Elizabeth
- Marcus Mescher, Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics, Xavier University
- Todd Salzman, Amelia and Emil Graff Professor of Catholic Theology, Creighton University
- Mark J Allman, Professor of Religious & Theological Studies, Merrimack College