God Doesn’t like Climate Change Either – Words of Wisdom from Archbishop Desmond Tutu
By Daniel T’seleie
Today the Pope called on the leaders of the world to reach an agreement here in Durban to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and stop climate change. Let’s hope they listen.
I’m spiritual, but not into organized religion. And I’m suspicious of authority figures.
But I’m in a faith-based mood today after hearing an inspiring speech from Archbishop Desmond Tutu at a multi-faith rally for climate justice.
I could gripe and complain for days about the small details of the rally I disagreed with (and I will to my fellow delegates), but in this blog I want to focus on the words of the Archbishop.
His message was very clear, “you are members of one family, the human race. There is only one race on earth, the human race. Learn to live together harmoniously … live as members of a family. Care for one another as members of your family.” This jives well with the concepts of climate justice, which puts a focus on the human impacts of climate change, and the gross infringements of human rights caused by it, instead of treating it as an “environmental” issue that is detached from our daily lives.
It’s no surprise the Archbishop is well versed in issues of social justice. He helped lead the struggle against the “vicious system” of South African apartheid. That battle was won (although I have noticed obvious signs of systemic racism that seems to linger here, which seems typical of settler states), but as Tutu says Africa and the world must now face another “huge enemy.” And, “no one nation, no one country can fight this particular enemy on it’s own.”
Of course he is talking about climate change.
But it’s not like we are waging war on the earth’s climate itself. The root causes of the climate crisis lie in the greed and corruptness of corporations and governments, and in the perverse power structures that allow these interests to control our society and our lives.
For the powerful interests that would rather see profit than justice, Tutu had a simple yet grim truth. “This is the only home we have. Whether you are rich or poor, this is the only home. And if we destroy this home, we have had it.” Even the rich will eventually die because of climate change (more likely their grandchildren, but the point that no one is immune was quite clear).
His words to the rich were largely directed at the nations who are working to prevent an ambitious and fair agreement from coming out of these negotiations. That includes Canada.
I think it’s fair to say that he was speaking to Canada’s federal government, which has close ties to the oil industry and is more concerned about protecting their profits and power than about human life in Canada and elsewhere.
Tutu is a wise man, with much more life experience than myself. Unlike me, he was cordial instead of confrontational. “For your own sake, you the rich, we are inviting you, come on the side of right.”
I would also like to extend that invitation. Canada’s government and negotiators still have a chance to be productive players in this process. Part of that means making sincere efforts to reduce emissions and dependency on fossil fuels in Canada. Part of that means putting an end to exploitation and extraction of the tar sands.
I’m not going to hold my breath though. I fully expect Canada’s negotiators to do what they normally do and protect the interests of big oil.
If they won’t accept the invitation of Archbishop Tutu then it means we have to resort to other tactics to reclaim power and implement real solutions to end the climate crisis.