• The Cross & Climate Change Part 5: Water

    Posted by The Hope For Creation Team

    12 December, 2013

    I thirst (John 19:28)

    Jesus’ physical thirst, part of the agonies of dying, is a reminder of his humanity and his vulnerability. Like all of us, he was dependent on God’s good gifts in creation – water, air, and soil. And, just as God did not conjure up a legion of angels to defend him from arrest and crucifixion, so too God did not rescue Jesus from this vulnerability, but rather allowed His beloved Son to pass through extreme deprivation and into death. Dependence and vulnerability are two key markers of what it means to be human that God-With-Us, Emmanuel,Jesus came to know intimately, painfully and tragically.

    Water is a powerful symbol of this dependence and vulnerability. Without water, we perish and die within a matter of hours.

    Water is, also, a powerful symbol in Scripture for renewed life and the gospel’s message of hope.

    So exploring the connections between climate change and water open up ways for us to reflect on both our common humanity and also on our Christian hope and our obligation to bear and share “living water” in a world impacted by climate change (John 4:14).

    Water is of particular relevance to Australia, which has the lowest average annual rainfall of all inhabited continents, but extremely variable rainfall patterns. Australia has always been a country of ‘droughts and flooding rains’. Yet clear trends in rainfall have emerged in recent decades, with large swathes of Eastern and South-Eastern Australia as well as South-Western Australia experience a drying trend while parts of North-Western Australia has become considerably wetter.

    More intense rainfall also appears to be part of the trend, with fewer rainfall days in Southern and Eastern Australia but with heavier rainfall when it does rain. It is likely that the most intense rainfall events in most places will become more extreme, driven by a warmer, wetter atmosphere.

    The increase in global temperatures has also substantially affected rainfall around the world. Wet areas are generally becoming wetter, while dry areas continue to parch. This trend is likely to continue, although with some variation from region to region.

    Combine changes to rainfall with accelerated melting of glaciers and it becomes clear why this is not merely a matter of abstract changes to weather indicators or climate statistics, but issues of vital concern to everyone, and particularly to the poorest and most vulnerable people.

    Around the globe, some 370 million people live in places where rivers derive at least 10% of their seasonal discharge from glacier melt. Glacier melt provides water for drinking and for irrigation. Glaciers around the world are losing ice mass, a negative trend that has been ongoing for twenty-one consecutive years. Long term, this suggests severe water stress in many countries such as India, Nepal and Bangladesh, or those that rely on the glaciers of the Andes.

    With hundreds of millions of people around the world already experiencing increased water stress and facing greater water shortages in the future, we must consider how this affects our understanding and sharing of the gospel, the water of life (John 4).

    It is not a simple matter to be and bear good news in the world when our actions and the addiction of our economies and politics to the unrestrained extraction, export and burning of fossil fuels, are feeding cycles of intensifying extreme rainfall patterns in some places and reducing water availability in others. Is not our commitment to sharing the good news of Christ with poor and vulnerable people deeply compromised by an indifference or lack of action against the harm our emissions inflict upon them?

    Yet, churches and Christian organisations in the developing world work with and stand alongside poor and vulnerable communities, earning the right to share the living water of the gospel because they are working to ensure that people have sustainable access to clean water and are resilient in the face of water-related disasters.

    Talking about, preparing for, and responding to, the threat of climate change and its impacts on water, is normal work for Christians around the world – in Africa, Asia, Europe and South America. This is a real challenge to Australian Christians, among whom the conversation on climate change has been derailed by shrill politics, a powerful fossil fuel lobby, and sadly diminished theologies of care for creation and love for neighbour.

    Remembering our shared dependence and vulnerability, and repenting of the way we are contributing to greater vulnerability for the world’s poorest people, Christians in Australia will need to treasure, conserve and share both the flowing liquid on which our lives depend, and the living water of the presence of Jesus. Loving our neighbour requires no less. “Whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward” Matthew 10:42.

    This is the fifth in a series of posts on The Cross and Climate Change, focusing on Jesus’ “seven words from the cross”. The other posts are: IntroductionForgivenessHeavenFamily, and Despair.

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    This blog is the second in a fifth part series on 'The Cross & Climate Change' originally posted by Hope for Creation. You can read the other blogs in this series here.