Looking at Global Issues from a Biblical Perspective

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Start Here! There are some big issues affecting millions of people in the 21st century. War, food and water shortages, poverty, illiteracy, overpopulation, unemployment, crime, changing patterns of disease, financial crisis, natural disasters, and more. But for millions of others, the world has never been a better place than right now. Opportunities and wealth abound, as do natural beauty and natural resources. Where do you fit in?

What is reality? And what guiding principles enable us to have a balanced, meaningful and solution-oriented perspective on global issues? This site proposes that the Bible holds meaningful answers. Not religion per se – that can be part of the problem – but going right back to the Bible.

Join us on a journey exploring real-life issues, with a practical, everyday, evidence-based approach that makes sense to millions of people. Evaluate for yourself whether the Bible has answers that make sense to you too.

Does Right Trump Left? Navigating Polarised Public Policy

Refugees, Islam, gun laws, trade, globalisation… We end up feeling so strongly about such global issues that we tend to see all other issues through the lens of one side of politics. But does that approach to public policy make sense?

For me, it doesn’t. Quite simply, I’m not sure whether I lean left or right overall. I do know that on some particular issues I lean left, while on others I lean right. But for many issues, I take a different view altogether.

My approach to public policy issues is based on my own personal values, following after the values of spiritual leaders such as Jesus.

The below table is a summary outline of my response to the issues that are dividing public opinion. I hope readers will resonate with the balanced wisdom of biblical spirituality. I’m not saying my opinions are all the final word here, or balanced or wise. I’m trying to reflect a greater wisdom that transcends partisan politics. There are many people who understand that transcendent wisdom better than me, so feedback and correction are welcome!

NB this is not an endorsement of any particular party or policy even within each of these policy areas. I’m not even focused on one country. I’m just saying in general, this is the direction that I lean to illustrate the limits of partisan ideological thinking. (The colours happen to be aligned with US politics, but opposite to those of Australian politics.)

left-right-politics-vs-christianity-001

The author’s personal policy leanings in various categories

Social Issues & Civil Rights

Abortion

I believe in the rights of unborn children just as much as the rights of children after birth. I am happy to put my vote, mouth and money into protecting the unborn. I accept that some see this differently, and I recognise there are some major issues for some expectant mothers. I don’t condemn anyone.

I don’t agree with all far-right rhetoric about this issue. I’m simply going into bat for the unborn. In general, I lean “right” on this issue.

Gay marriage

Marriage is a foundational institution for society and for raising children. I believe the ideal marriage is the life-long exclusive union of one man and one woman. However, I recognise that there are plenty of less-than-ideal situations, many of which are not the fault of those in them.

There are inconsistencies in the arguments of both the “left” and the “right”. E.g., to consistently uphold traditional marriage, the “right” should also oppose no fault divorce, and legislate against adultery. But that is an extremely impractical position to successfully legislate. There is some wisdom in the extreme libertarian view that the state simply should not get involved in the institution of marriage.

In the absence of predominant Christian values in society, it is potentially an imposition of religion to attempt to uphold only the traditional view of marriage in legislation. However, arguing for ‘marriage equality’ from an atheist point of view has no strong logical basis for restricting ‘equality’ to two consenting non-related adult humans.

Health care

The right view makes health care only affordable to the rich. While the left view, in seeking to make health care affordable to all, neglects the most economical and fair approach to health care. The best health policy is to avoid subsidising the epidemiological transition to lifestyle diseases, yet make acute healthcare accessible to all. There is a lot of government health money wasted on propping up diet and lifestyles that are inherently unhealthy and wasteful in themselves.

Minorities, blacks

I tend left here, based on biblical injunctions to care for the disadvantaged (Micah 6:8, James 1:27, etc). We are all of equal value before God. I believe in the example of Jesus to positively discriminate to help those who are historically disadvantaged. E.g., Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman (John 4) and the story of the Good Samaritan are examples of Jesus positively discriminating to assist a downtrodden race.

Welfare state

I tend right here, but not because I don’t believe in helping the disadvantaged. I think welfare is more effective and efficient when done at the grass roots by churches and community groups. This is not necessarily the thinking of free-market idealogues, so I could also easily put this one in the “neither” category – i.e., I neither lean left nor right.

Inequality

Neither left nor right have a good track record in any country for preventing inequality of wealth and power. Greed (for both wealth and power) is a fundamental flaw in human nature no matter what systems are put in place to share wealth and power.

Democracy, capitalism, communism, fascism… All have solid arguments both for and against.

The only antidote to human selfishness I see is practical Christianity. But I also believe in separation of church and state. So I cannot argue for state sanctioned Christian beliefs and values.

On evidence to date it seems the best of bad options for political systems is liberal democracy.

Gender equality

The current polarisation is between women being downtrodden (left’s portrayal of the right) and women being upheld as functionally equivalent in all respects (feminism of the left).

The biblical view that I hold is that both genders are of equal value but are created to be different and complementary both ontologically and functionally.

While I don’t believe women should be actively prevented from doing things that men traditionally do, I also don’t believe that an objective of 50-50 splits in all functions and roles is helpful. Men will never be able to perform the incredible functions of women in bringing children into the world.

Freedom of speech

Freedom of speech is a difficult one, as speech can be hateful and hurtful. But so can thoughts, facial expressions and body language. With history being full of persecution of religious minorities for speaking their beliefs, I tend to side with the libertarians.

Economic Issues

Economic libertarianism, capitalism, free trade

In today’s capitalist economy, free trade and the absence of tariffs and subsidies makes more sense if everyone is producing and consuming things that are not socially and environmentally harmful. Unfortunately subsidies and tariffs are often used to prop up harmful industry. The tragedy of the commons is often not successfully and fairly dealt with by either left or right.

It does not make practical sense to legislate against greed. However, if everyone lived according to biblical principles, people would still be hardworking (e.g., the Protestant work ethic); but there would be no greed. The foundation of free market capitalism is the maximisation of self-interest – the idea of homo economicus. This is counter-biblical. If the world followed biblical principles, we would live far more natural and simple lifestyles. This would result in less production and consumption of material things, though not in less activity or productivity.

Progressive thinkers such as Clive Hamilton and Naomi Klein have proposed alternative humanist systems (e.g., ‘eudemonism’) that sound good but don’t have any track record of success. Nevertheless some of their critique of western capitalism resonates. E.g., from Hamilton’s Growth Fetish:

“Modern consumer capitalism will flourish as long as what people desire outpaces what they have. It is thus vital to the reproduction of the system that individuals are constantly made to feel dissatisfied with what they have. The irony of this should not be missed: while economic growth is said to be the process whereby people’s wants are satisfied so that they become happier… in reality economic growth can be sustained only as long as people remain discontented.”

 

“Economic growth does not create happiness: unhappiness sustains economic growth.”

Given the fundamental selfishness of human nature, it makes sense to legislate on the assumption of homo economicus even though this presents a less-than-ideal foundation. I still believe that free market capitalism, with regulatory intervention to protect externalities, is the best of bad options in current circumstances. Only the permanent and complete removal of selfishness and greed will present a better system, but we have to wait for God’s final perfect solution for that.

Trade unions

While trade unions have achieved some beneficial outcomes, their modus operandi is often built on coercion and corruption. The left side of politics often has murky ties with unionism. In general, I lean right. There are other better ways of achieving improved working conditions.

Size of government (regulation / deregulation)

Some government is necessary. But government is, by nature, less efficient than private enterprise. I lean right: where possible, minimise government. But there are plenty of areas where markets fail – e.g., externalities, natural monopolies and the tragedy of the commons.

Tax cuts for wealthy

The right has often been demonstrably unfair in its tax cuts for the wealthy, but the left doesn’t have a much better record of establishing a fair tax system. Both sides give tax cuts to the entities whose political support they rely on for power.

Environment

Climate change

There is overwhelming evidence that anthropegenic global warming is a real issue. The right, with its ties to the energy and resources industries, has manufactured unreasonable doubt and successfully obfuscated the evidence.

With strong links between evangelicals and right-wing politics, Christians have fallen for twisted logic to believe that humans could not possibly alter earth’s climate. Sorry to put it bluntly, but the left is far more realistic on this issue, even if not all their proposed solutions are ideal. For a balanced conservative view on climate change, check out Katherine Hayhoe.

Environmental proection, sustainability

There was a time when both sides of politics embraced environmental protection as a worthwhile value. Nixon (a Republican) started the USEPA. But the right (in many jurisdictions) has allowed business interests to cloud better judgment.

Violence & Conflict

Guns

The NRA and its ties to conservative politics in the US (actually, both sides for that matter) has totally warped American perspectives on gun violence. Far too many homicides by firearm occur each year in the US for me to think that the American right-wing view on guns has anything to offer the rest of the world. Not that any other place has the ‘silver bullet’ answer. One American’s personal stance on never touching a gun speaks volumes: the story of Desmond Doss.

Terrorism, war, conflict, military defence

The aggressive foreign policy stance of right wing politics seems, from my perspective, to trigger far more terrorism and anti-American / anti-Western sentiment than the softer stance of the left. A softer stance happens to also be more in harmony with biblical principles of “turn the other cheek”, “love your enemies”, etc. I’m not saying there is never a place for the use of armed forces, but I resonate with stories such as that of Desmond Doss.

Nationalism / Immigration

Border security, immigration, refugees

Jesus told the story of the good Samaritan as an example of showing open friendship and love to foreigners, who Jesus preferred to call neighbours. Given that we are all children of God, it follows that having open borders and sharing our wealth and resources makes a good deal of moral sense. The example of modern Germany, being prepared to take in Syrian refugees, is much more similar to the principles of Jesus than aggressive border protection policies of other Western countries.

Nationalism vs globalisation

I believe there are problems with both extremes. Nationalism – putting self first – is against Jesus’ principles of open friendship and sharing (as above). But globalisation can easily entail attempts at coercive central government control.

Globalisation is also inherently socially disconnected and isolating. To the extent we embrace global connectedness, we lose local connectedness. We simply do not have the capacity to maintain loving close relationships with that many people.

Neither extreme is healthy or in harmony with biblical counsel and the wisdom of Jesus.

(This is not typically a left vs right issue, although the extreme right is prominently nationalist, which doesn’t address the human connectedness cost of globalisation in any case.)

Foreign aid

I personally prefer to give my contribution to foreign aid through NGOs. Having worked for both NGOs and government, I observe NGOs to be more efficient and effective at humanitarian interventions. There is, however, much debate as to the erstwhile effectiveness of any type of foreign aid.

In any case, I believe the total amount of foreign aid as a proportion of our government spending is pathetic. It is a far cry from the compassionate service of Jesus for humanity.

Religion

Islam

The left sees nothing wrong with Islam; while the right sees many things wrong. Yet the conservative right is unable to see own faults. Jesus called out the faults of those who claimed to be God’s followers far more vehemently than He called out the faults of the ‘heathen’ religions outside of Israel.

Secular state, separation of church & state

The right wants to impose religious values on society. The left correctly separates church and state.

Religious freedom

However, the left imposes secularism and makes it difficult for people to uphold their religious values. For example, it is increasingly difficult to uphold traditional marriage without being treated as a bigot, even in court.

Coherent & reasonable basis for moral laws

Finding a basis for moral laws is a philosophically fraught area. It is difficult to argue for any version of foundational morality without appealing to religion (e.g. the Judeo Christian moral law). There does not seem to be any better alternative.

Abandoning the foundation of Judeo Christian law usually diminishes law and order. However, I would only make a pragmatic appeal to a solid foundation of morality rather than attempt to impose religion.

If morality was solely defined by consensus or utilitarian ethics, it seems doubtful that there would always be protection for the basic human rights of minorities or the voiceless – e.g., the unborn.

However, this is only very provisional support for the ‘right’ as they are very inconsistent in application of this foundation. E.g., they argue that marriage can only be heterosexual, but forget that according to the Bible there are various other essential criteria for a sacred marriage. These include the absence of adultery and ‘no fault’ divorce. To me it seems hypocritical to fight against same sex marriage while not fighting, to the same extent, against the legal provisions for ‘no fault’ divorce.

While I do think that the last 6 of the 10 commandments are the best basis for upholding morals in society, the challenge is finding an appropriate extent to legislate these. For example, it makes sense to outlaw rape, in harmony with the seventh commandment (against adultery), but probably not to outlaw consensual adultery. Similarly, it makes sense to outlaw perjury, but probably not lying about the size of the fish you caught. And I can’t think of any reasonable legal application of the commandment against coveting.

So I’m only just leaning right on this, at a foundational level, but not necessarily at an application level.

Origins curricula

I’m against pseudo science. But atheists who are respected scientifically get away with spectulative, even unprovable, ideas such as SETI, the multiverse, etc. So it seems reasonable to let Christians get away with the idea of “God” being the answer to SETI or the multiverse.

Science has ‘caught up’ with religious writings in the area of health science. I anticipate similar in the area of origins.

Moral Integrity

Honesty & integrity

Neither side of politics has a good track record in recent years of speaking or acting with any integrity or honesty. Neither do their echo chambers in the more-polarised-than-ever media. ‘Marriage equality’ is an example of the left’s echo chamber, whereas climate change is an example of the right’s echo chamber.

Machu Picchu Documentary – A Lesson in Sustainability

Like other wonders of the world, Machu Picchu was only briefly inhabited. Why? What happened, and what lessons can we learn about the sustainability of today’s civilisations? Watch this video to find out what this amazing ancient landmark, along with the wisdom of the ancients, can tell us about life on earth today and in the future.

Presented, Researched, Written, Directed & Produced by: Daniel Livingston, PhD

Sources: see end credits.

Daniel 2, The Prophecy

There is an ancient prophecy that gives us hope in these modern times of rapid and unsettling global change.

This prophecy has good and bad news. The good news: There is a state of civilisation coming that will be sustainable – forever! The bad news: It’s not our current civilisation. The best news: we can still be a part of it, and it’s not that far out of reach.

Where is this prophecy? It’s in the Bible, in Daniel chapter 2.

Daniel 2 Prophecy

One thing I love about the Bible is that it is intellectually reasonable. It does not require us to leave our brains outside. Daniel 2 provides evidence so that faith need not be blind.

What’s in the prophecy of Daniel 2? The prophecy outlines the major world empires from the time of writing (Babylon) through to today, and into the future beyond. The prophecy has got it right for everything up to now (6 out of 7 predictive elements), with only one main event remaining.

Let’s look at the predictions:

  1. Babylon would be overthrown by an inferior kingdom which would rule all other nations.
  2. The second kingdom would in turn be overthrown by a third kingdom which would again rule the nations.
  3. The third kingdom would in turn be overthrown by a fourth kingdom which would again rule the nations.
  4. But the fourth kingdom would not be completely conquered by any further world-dominating power. It would be divided, along with other kingdoms, but still continue in some form.
  5. There would be efforts to reunite the divided kingdoms, including through intermarriage.
  6. These efforts would not succeed.
  7. In the time of the divided nations, God would establish an eternal kingdom.
Let’s recount what has actually happened:
  1. Medo-Persia overthrew Babylon and ruled the nations (538 – 331 BC)
  2. Greece overthrew Medo-Persia and ruled the nations (331 – 168 BC)
  3. Rome overthrew Greece and ruled the nations (168 BC – 476 AD)
  4. Rome was never completely conquered and its influence has extended until now.
  5. There have been several attempts to unite Europe through intermarriage and military campaigns. At one point Queen Victoria was the “grandmother of Europe“. Military campaigns have been led by Charlemagne, Charles V, Louis XIV, Napoleon, Kaiser Wilhelm II, and Hitler. Some of these knew they were fighting prophecy, such as Kaiser Wilhelm, who removed the head from a statue of Daniel at the Metz Cathedral and replaced it with his own.
  6. All attempts to reunite Europe under one rule have failed.
  7. God’s kingdom has not yet been established. If and when this does happen, it will truly be earth recycled!

When was this prophecy actually recorded? Many critics have taken the view that it must have been recorded after most of the events actually happened. But there is good evidence that it was written prior to most, if not all, of these events.

According to the text, the prophecy was recorded at the height of the Babylonian kingdom – the 2nd year of Nebuchadnezzar’s rule (603 BC). It would be reasonable to ask for corroborating evidence that it wasn’t written much more recently, when most or all of these kingdoms had come and gone. There are three strong external pieces of evidence that all date it at least before the fall of Rome, or earlier.

  1. The widely regarded historian Josephus provides an account of Alexander the Great’s conquests in establishing Greece as a world empire. When Alexander invaded Judah in 332 BC, Jewish priests showed him the book of Daniel. Daniel chapter 8 clearly predicts that a Greek would overthrow the Persian rule. As a result, Alexander treated the Jews very favourably. This places the prophecy at least before all but the first predictive element – i.e., prior to Greek rule. Source: Flavius Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews, Book 11, ch. 8, in W. Whiston, Editor, The Complete Works of the Learned and Authentic Jewish Historian Flavius Josephus (London: J.F. Tallis, undated), p. 237-238.
  2. Large portions of the book of Daniel were found in the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran. This places the prophecy at least before all but the first two predictive elements – i.e., prior to Roman rule.
  3. Numerous New Testament manuscripts record Jesus quoting from the book of Daniel, placing the prophecy at least before the fourth to sixth predictive elements – i.e., prior to the fall and division of the Roman empire.

This prophecy predicted accurately around 2,600 years ago that there would only ever be another three world empires (focusing on the then-known world). After that the nations would never completely unite, but with Rome’s influence continuing in some form. Quite remarkable!

Since all that has happened accurately, is there any reason to doubt whether the future will follow how the prophecy concludes? This gives us hope that the present rapid global change, and the seeming insurmountable global issues, will have a resolution – and a good one at that!

Does it matter what I believe about anthropogenic global warming (AGW)?

We’ll look at this question from a number of perspectives: the Christian, the scientist, and the entrepreneur.

Christian

If you are a Christian, what you believe about anthropogenic global warming (AGW: i.e., are humans causing global warming?) probably does not really impact your Christian faith as much as, say, what you believe about the inspiration of the Bible, or the Creation-evolution debate, for example. But it is still a very important question for the Christian today.

If you believe more in evolution than Creation (acknowledging, of course, that there are many positions along a continuum), then this poses several challenges for Christian faith. For example, the doctrines of the original sin, nature of man, death, and salvation from sin are all affected.

But if you believe man is or isn’t significantly impacting on global climate, then your position need not challenge your faith or belief in any biblical doctrine. It may (but need not) suggest that your beliefs may lie at a different point along a continuum between emphasising natural or human cause and effect versus supernatural intervention. For example, are major catastrophes acts of God, natural events, or the results of human actions? Most Christians would argue that all these options are possible in certain circumstances. The disagreement would be over specific examples and a matter of degrees.

Some people suggest that the idea of global warming is incompatible with a biblical worldview because the Bible promises that:

“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” (Gen 8:22)

Such a conclusion is unwarranted, because it forces a needless choice between false options. The false options are: no human impact, on the one hand, and on the other: catastrophic human impact to the point of completely revolutionising the natural order of seasons and so on. Nobody is proposing that man has successfully overturned the seasons – or that we will any time soon. Not even the most alarmist proponents of AGW would see a conflict here. The argument simply does not hold any weight.

While one’s view on AGW need not threaten one’s own faith, there are real impacts on others, and eventually oneself, that are very important. This is in contrast to one’s belief about origins, where one’s view of origins has strong implications for theology but the link to one’s day-to-day life choices is less obvious. There may be multiple indirect impacts that extend throughout life, but the point here is that nobody can blame my belief in Creation or evolution directly for my making the world a better or worse place. But it would be more reasonable to highlight my beliefs concerning AGW in evaluating actions that have a significant potential impact on the lives of others.

You see, one’s belief or otherwise in AGW can make a very significant impact on the lives of billions of people. Let me explain. If I believe in AGW, presumably I will make reasonable efforts to curtail the emissions within my sphere of control. If you vote, your sphere of control is very large, even though your vote may only be one of, say, millions.

This is simply the logical outworking of the biblical Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” According to the scientific consensus on AGW, uncurtailed greenhouse gas emissions necessarily threaten the livelihoods and even lives of millions of people today and in future generations, through sea level rise, extreme weather, species extinction, crop failure, etc.

If you do not believe in AGW, presumably you will not make any effort to restrict emissions, and you will probably not encourage others to do so either. The point of the Golden Rule is actions more than beliefs. However, beliefs are a strong predictor of actions. And verbalising your beliefs on AGW also makes a difference to your and others’ actions.

If AGW is truly a significant reality, it makes sense for Christians to be aware of it, and to do their part in protecting the planet. The Bible indicates God gave humanity the role of stewardship in caring for the Earth (Genesis 1:28), notwithstanding the promise that God will recreate a perfect world in the end (Revelation 21:1-4). Given that we don’t know how long away that restoration is, it only makes sense to protect what we have in the meantime.

Christians casting doubt on the scientific consensus on AGW serves only to weaken the appeal of Christianity – making belief in the Bible seem at odds with reality.

I believe it is strongly in the interests of Christians to accept the scientific consensus on AGW – not as required ideology, but as a reasonable engagement in public life on a matter of global consequence, while continually following the Biblical advice to “Test all things. Hold fast what is good.” (1 Thess 5:21)

Scientist

In scientific circles, it doesn’t really matter what you believe – only that you have reliable evidence and sound reasoning to come to a defensible conclusion. If you don’t believe AGW, you’ll be in the minority, but you’ll win great acclaim if you can overturn the established consensus by somehow exposing flaw(s) in the current scientific consensus of AGW.

If you express doubt concerning AGW but cannot substantiate your opinion – or use outdated, debunked myths as the basis for your objections – then you will probably gain notoriety for being on the wrong side of the evidence.

If you can find someone to fund your contrarian views, you can still forge a career. There are potential sources of funding – e.g., free-market think-tanks and fossil fuel interests.

There is a lot of grant money going to fund researchers trying to better understand AGW and its impacts. While it may be harder to find funding from mainstream sources for contrarian research, this is probably more a function of the low reliability and validity of contrarian conclusions to date rather than a mass conspiracy.

However, if someone did manage to successfully overturn the established understanding of AGW, presumably funding for climate science in general would diminish. This is assuming that under such a new state of affairs there would be realisation that there would be no policy implications arising out of such revised climate science, where human activity would be irrelevant to global climate.

Entrepreneur

An entrepreneur can make money regardless of his or her own belief on AGW. What would make more difference to the ability to generate income is the prevailing beliefs and policies concerning greenhouse emissions.

For example, any price on emissions would increase costs in the energy sector. This may drive business to other markets. Some businesses and/or industries would become less profitable, while others (such as renewable energy) would benefit.

It makes sense for those with a vested interest in fossil fuels to oppose action on AGW, and to disseminate doubt, regardless of the personal beliefs of company directors. However, actions and interests tend to end up driving, and thus correlating with, beliefs, even if there was once a disconnect.

It also makes sense for those with a vested interest in renewable energy to express alarmism. The truth is usually not as simple as black or white. In the case of AGW, my observation is that those manufacturing doubt have been far more vocal and successful at influencing opinion and policy than those manufacturing alarmism. They have been so successful that their version of reality comes across in mainstream media as though it were clear cut reality.

How can you know what is the truth regarding AGW? That will be the topic of another post.

Who’s to blame for greenhouse gas emissions: China or the States?

China now emits more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year from human activities than any other country. It overtook the United States in 2006 or 2007.

Many argue that until China does something to significantly address its emissions there is little point in other countries doing anything.

There are some challenges with this way of thinking, however. For example, it is easy for everyone to find a statistical reason to absolve themselves of responsibility, based on boundary definitions.

China may argue that the boundaries should be drawn at OECD / non-OECD countries. As OECD countries still emit more CO2 than non-OECD countries, there is a legitimate argument that the focus should be on OECD countries.

A more absurd boundary definition could be gender-based: males are responsible for far more emissions than females, so females need not bother about their emissions.

Or perhaps the focus could be on the type of activity, absolving land-use changes of their responsibility – or perhaps natural gas.

Now, it makes sense for the boundaries to be defined along the lines of jurisdictional boundaries, assuming that the best way of addressing the problem of greenhouse gas emissions is regulation.

But does it make sense to assume that national boundaries are the logical place to draw comparisons, regardless of respective national populations? Probably not, otherwise the implication is that until tiny Luxemburg overtakes China’s total annual emissions, the inhabitants of Luxemburg can do whatever they want with nobody entitled to ask any questions.

So which countries are the biggest emitters per capita? According to the Energy Information Administration, Gibraltar tops the list with 152 tonnes of CO2 emitted per person in 2009. This is somewhat meaningless, however, as Gibraltar’s total emissions are negligible.

The top 20 big emitters, contributing 80% of global emissions, all emit between 1 and 20 tonnes per person per year.

Out of these top 20 emitters Australia tops the list of per capita emissions, with 20 tonnes per person per year. China only emits 6 tonnes per person per year.

Of course it would not make sense that global focus should be on Australia – or on Gibraltar for that matter – in terms of actually mitigating the risks of climate change.

If only one country could be chosen as the focus of attention, it probably would make sense to pick China on the evidence presented so far.

That probably wouldn’t be very fair, however, from another point of view, and that is the historical perspective.

Since industrialisation, the United States has by far emitted more CO2 than any other country. It will take many decades for China to overtake the US in total cumulative emissions. Up to 2006, China had emitted a grand total of 101 billion tonnes of CO2 compared to the United States total of 334 billion tonnes.

But again, in terms of minimising emissions going forward, it wouldn’t make sense to cap all countries at the level of total cumulative emissions (or per capita cumulative emissions) of the United States, as the result would be excessive emissions.

There is yet another complicating factor, and that is the patterns of global trade, production and consumption. Much of the emissions in China and India are associated with production of goods consumed in the United States and other OECD countries. This factor also tends toward shifting the focus toward the United States and OECD countries for action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

How can we begin to work together to address this major global issue? This question has occupied many of the greatest minds and international negotiators through several rounds of international negotiations. There have not been any significant results to date.

What could the Bible contribute to this question? There is a biblical principle of united action, valuing diversity, that could very well be applied to this problem. It is found in 1 Corinthians 12:

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

To conclude, I believe that each part of global society is responsible for reducing emissions within its sphere of control, working together with other parts to ensure the best outcomes for all. Each household can do all it can to reduce its emissions, whether the household is in China, the US, Luxemburg or somewhere in Africa. Likewise each organisation, corporation or industry. Again, each district, province, state or region. And of course each country. Some need more help than others. Rather than pointing fingers of blame, let’s work together on this at all levels where we have control or influence.

Thankfully God promises a future planet where we won’t be worried about greenhouse emissions and climate change. But in the meantime, it makes sense to be wise stewards of the planet in its present reality.

But isn’t the planet too big and timeframes too long for us to make an impact?

Many religious people argue in one way or another that God is too powerful, the Earth is too big, and timescales are too long, for tiny us to make any significant impact on global resources, the environment, climate or temperature.

Let’s examine this, first from the Bible, then from empirical evidence and reality.

The Bible says that God “will destroy those who destroy the earth.” (Revelation 11:18)

According to the Bible, individuals will be held individually accountable for having a destructive impact on the earth. Individuals, then, can have a significantly destructive impact in their lifetimes, let alone all of humanity combined over the timescale of multiple generations!

Now let’s see if that squares with the empirical evidence of observed reality.

Let’s put aside slowly accumulating and relatively imperceptible environmental impacts, for a moment, and look at the drastic impacts of nuclear weapons.

Hiroshima was wiped out with a 15 kiloton nuclear warhead in World War II. The US alone currently has over 5,000 nuclear warheads, ranging in size from the Hiroshima bomb to thousands of times bigger. Extrapolating for countries with unknown nuclear capability, simple maths suggests there currently exists more than enough destructive power to completely destroy humanity multiple times over.

If such destructive impact is possible using available nuclear energy, it is irrational to think that there could be a biblical, philosophical or ideological reason why similar destruction isn’t possible with conventional forms of energy. Of course there could be a scientific reason, however.

So let’s go to science to answer that question. The best available science says that human caused CO2 emissions are causing global warming, sea level rise, ocean acidification, and a range of other related adverse impacts.

NASA climate scientist and head of the Goddard Institute of Space Studies, James Hansen, says that the current energy imbalance caused by human greenhouse gas emissions is 0.6 watts/square meter. This does not include the energy already used to cause the current warming of 0.8°C. This energy imbalance sounds small, but the total imbalance across the whole earth is equivalent to exploding 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs every day!

I believe that God will intervene before humanity succeeds in destroying the planet and ourselves. So my outlook is not one of alarmism, but actually optimism. My optimism, however, is not placed in some inherent capacity of nature to always come up trumps against the onslaught of human activities, or in human ingenuity to always result in progress and improvement. (The Bible indicates the opposite.) My optimism is in God’s ultimate power and plan to recycle the earth.

Earth Hour: When an Hour of Darkness Saved the World

Millions of people in over 100 countries will be turning their lights off over the next 24 hours or so, as part of Earth Hour.

What for? To help save the planet from environmental threats such as climate change.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am all for avoiding any waste of resources – especially non-renewable energy sources. And I do believe humanity is doing much that is needlessly environmentally damaging.

But there’s some great news about Earth Hour that deserves much greater focus and attention.

An hour of darkness has already guaranteed the best possible future for Planet Earth! When Jesus died to save the world, there were three hours of darkness.

44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. Luke 23:44-46

While I commend people for turning off their lights to do their bit to help save the planet, I am ever so much more grateful to Jesus for His death – and the three hours of darkness that surrounded it – that has already saved the planet. Completely. Forever.

1 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away… And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:1-4

The Prodigal Planet Parable

by Daniel Livingston (Luke 15:11-24 modified)

  1. Then He said: a certain Creator made humans and put them on planet earth.
  2. And the humans said: “Give us the treasures and wealth of the earth.” So He gave to them a fair country across the ocean.
  3. And not too many years after, the humans had gathered all together, and journeyed to a far country, and there wasted all the beauties of the earth with prodigal living.
  4. But when they had run out of fossil fuels, there arose severe price wars over oil, and they began to be in want.
  5. Then they went and conspired with foreign militaries causing wars and invasions, and they stole of the wealth of foreign nations.
  6. And they gladly filled their stomachs with McDonald’s burgers that had been produced on slave labour and at great environmental cost.
  7. But when they came to themselves, they said ‘How many of our fathers had bread enough to eat and to spare, and we perish with mad cow disease, terrorism and Asian bird flu?’
  8. I will arise and go to my Creator and will say to him, “God, I have destroyed the earth and humanity, and offended You.
  9. “and I am no longer worthy to be called a human or live on planet earth. Make me like one of the lower species.”
  10. And he arose and came to his God. But when he was still a great way off, God saw him and had compassion, and ran back to planet earth and fell on his neck and kissed him.
  11. And the human said to him “God I have destroyed the earth and humanity and offended You, and am no longer worthy to be called a human or live on planet earth.”
  12. But God said to his angels “Bring the best robe from heaven, and put it on him. Give him all the riches of the heavenly city, combined with a new planet.
  13. “And bring more wealth, luxury and beauty than he could ever have imagined possible, and let us have a great celebration and reunion.
  14. “For this, my human race, was destroying itself, but has now stopped looking for meaning in material wealth, and has come back to Me for life.” And for the first time in his life, the human was truly happy.