Archbishop of Canterbury calls for eco-action to combat social crisis - news from ekklesia

By staff writers
March 13, 2005

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Archbishop of Canterbury calls for eco-action to combat social crisis


The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has warned that without a radical rethink of the relationship between environmental and economic challenges the world could face the spectre of ìsocial collapse.î

In a keynote lecture at the University of Kent in Canterbury this week, Dr Williams said that the separation, or even the opposition, of economic and environmental concerns had ìcome to look like a massive mistake.î

ìEconomy and ecology,î he warned, ìcannot be separated... To seek to have economy without ecology is to try and manage an environment with no knowledge or concern about how it works in itself ñ to try and formulate human laws in abstraction from or ignorance of the laws of nature.î

Dr Williams foresaw dire consequences for such an approach: ìWhen we speak about environmental crisis, we are not to think only of spiralling poverty and mortality, but about brutal and uncontainable conflict. An economics that ignores environmental degradation invites social degradationóin plain terms, violence.î

The Archbishop rejected the idea that technology itself would solve the ecological crisis: ìTo appeal to a technical future is to say our most fundamental right as humans is unrestricted consumer choice.î

Instead there needed to be big changes to public attitudes, habits and expectations, and Dr Williams urged grassroots support for environmental issues to be seen as major political and electoral issues: ìElection campaigns seldom give much space to environmental matters; but the perceived significance of these concerns is weightier now than it has ever been.î

Dr Williams also encouraged policy makers to embrace ìcontraction and convergenceî regimes in order to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

The archbishop went on to recommend new regulatory frameworks to protect the environment from economic depredation. He spoke of the ìurgency of some intensified international regime to monitor and discipline economic activity.î

He also envisaged a charter of environmental rights, adding: ìwe should be able to live in a world that still had wilderness spaces, that still nurtured a balanced variety of species, that allowed us access to unpoisoned natural foodstuffs.î

Dr Williams highlighted the significance of faith traditions in promoting a new approach: ìAll the great religious traditions, in their several ways, insist that personal wealth is not to be seen in terms of reducing the world to what the individual can control and manipulate for whatever exclusively human purposes may be most pressing.î

He added: ìThe loss of a sustainable environment protected from unlimited exploitation is the loss of a sustainable humanity in every sense ñ not only the loss of a spiritual depth but ultimately the loss of simple material stability as well. It is up to us as consumers and voters to do better justice to the ëhouseí we have been invited to keep, the world where we are guests.î

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