The United Nations Environment Programme's Global Environment Outlook: environment for development (GEO-4) report claims to be "the final wake-up call to the international community," warning that the human population is living far beyond its means and inflicting damage on the environment that could pass points of no return.
This fourth such report in ten years concludes that unprecedented population growth combined with unsustainable consumption has resulted in an increasingly stressed planet where natural disasters and environmental degradation endanger millions of humans, as well as plant and animal species. It suggests that 250% more fish are being caught than the oceans can produce in a sustainable manner and that the overall demand for resources would have to be cut to 15.7 hectares per person from its present 21.9 hectares per person if we are to stay within existing, sustainable limits.
As this blog has argued repeatedly before, it is on this question of sustainability, not inconclusive arguments about unproven theories of anthropogenic global warming, where the environmental debate ought to be focused. But how should we respond? In a newly published work, Christianity, Climate Change and Sustainable Living, Nick Spencer & Robert White present a constructive and distinctive faith-based response to these questions and suggest eight principles for sustainable living:
- We should value and protect creation, seeing that as a joy rather than a burden.
- We should reflect the close bond between society and environment in our decisions.
- We should pursue justice for the vulnerable and marginalised.
- We should not confuse wealth and value; our goal should be relational health rather than money or personal freedom.
- We should favour regulated, market-based solutions that take account of natural, human and social capital.
- We should express commitment to our immediate environment and favour local solutions.
- We should aim to offer just and equitable access to natural resources.
- We should respond seriously and with hope.