Something unpleasant fell into my inbox

By Mark Dowd
July 7, 2009

As an eye-catching way of drawing attention to the huge importance of the looming Copenhagen Climate Summit and the threat to God's creation, it was right on up there.

Two hundred and fifty children dressed as animals on a boat - the Bishop of London with five Carmelite friars - a brass quintet and Afro-Caribbean drummers and finally real alpacas, sheep, goats, rabbits and geese parading outside the Palace of Westminster (more on the event here).

And when the message behind our Operation Noah spectacle featured prominently on BBC Radio 4's "Sunday" programme three days later, we were delighted. But then, as if sent to guard against any temptation to smugness, in popped the following email message in my inbox:

"You're only doing this climate change crap for its political advantage. There is not a damn thing to worry about and not a damned thing you can do about it anyways. You people are such fools and are doing a fine job making Christians look foolish."

Dissecting this, I offer a couple of observations. First, this communication purports to come from a fellow Christian, so is the language used here appropriate?

Secondly, notice the contradiction at the heart of this. On the one hand, climate change is not happening. However, the writer is not all that sure because, if it is, there is nothing we can do about it. The lurch from denial to fatalism is one I have encountered on many an occasion working for Operation Noah. And although these positions may seem to occupy very different stances, let me offer an insight: they are closely related. Why? Because adopting either of these outlooks absolves the individual of responsibility, so even if you have a personal carbon footprint the size of a small African country it is either:

a) of no consequence, because climate change is an urban myth, or

b) too late to stop it because we have passed a tipping point and runaway global warming is a certainty.

At the heart of all this is a key question: what is faith's relationship to science? If God made the laws of nature, intelligible, then the Creator helps us use our intelligence to "read" the patterns and trends of our physical world to determine what is happening. The fact that every major academy of science on the planet endorses human-induced climate change makes it pretty well "game set and match" for me. But then, that is only the start. What then do I do about it? Facts can only get you so far: it is then that faith must fashion an ethical and moral response that comes from both head....and heart.


(c) Mark Dowd is campaign strategist for Operation Noah ( He is well-known for his TV documentaries on the environment and other issues.

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