Andy Atkins, A Rocha UK CEO, comments on the unique opportunity approaching.
This is a tumultuous time few of us would have predicted six months ago. The world economy is in turmoil not because of international armed conflict, a trade war, an oil-price rise or a financial crash, but a microscopic organism, the coronavirus. As a result, it is also a period of great anxiety for many readers, serious hardship for some and deep mourning for any who have lost family members or friends. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.
Yet, in the midst of the current darkness there are some chinks of light.
We Christians, who care for creation, must hold both terrible and good before God. Many people are experiencing a sense of neighbourly care and community, that they have not known previously. A generation who have never given a thought to God’s book of ‘works’ in nature, are amazed at the birdsong – now they can hear it above our usual motor traffic. Urban air pollution, which in a normal year kills 40,000 people in the UK alone, has plummeted, making the basic act of breathing much easier for hundreds of thousands of people.
While some will say ‘this is no time to talk about the environment’ others are waking up to its importance for them individually like never before. Scientists too are making the connection between environmental and public health at big picture level: they warn that pandemics, caused by pathogens ‘jumping’ from animals to humans (believed to be the origin of Covid-19 itself) will increase in frequency if we continue to destroy wild animal habitat.
While Covid-19 has postponed COP26 it has not cancelled the existential threat of catastrophic climate disruption, itself a growing contributor to habitat destruction.
Christians and churches are called to usher in more of God’s Kingdom, on Earth, as it is in Heaven. We do this in the way we respond now, to the pain of the current situation, and in the way we discern future opportunities for good, work for and pray them into being.
A unique opportunity is approaching. The eye-watering expenditure and radical actions by governments in response to Covid-19 shows what is possible. Further gigantic sums will be borrowed and spent on rebooting the economy post Covid. The fundamental question facing society is not whether we rebuild the economy, but in what form? Will the government waste taxpayers money and more years we just cannot afford, to go back to dirty ‘business as usual’? Or will they invest in moving fast-forwards to a green and fairer – low carbon, low pollution, high nature, high health – economy?
Christians and churches, as citizens and institutions, through our actions and our voice, have a critical role to play in making the latter happen. Nothing will replace the loss of those who are grieving loved ones. But converting the evil of Covid-19 into a powerful impetus for establishing an economy which respects God’s creation will at least make life safer for future generations and nature.