Happy green New Year

green-holiday.jpgAllow me to join the venerable Archbishop of Canterbury in wishing everyone a Happy, and green, New Year.  The Archbishop has just released his New Year’s message to the faithful on, yes, YouTube (the times, verily, are a-changin’). 

As reported by The Guardian, Archbishop Rowan Williams calls for a “more balanced future”, criticising our modern culture of “vast material waste and emotional short-termism”.  There is of course a spiritual facet to this:  

“In a society where we think of so many things as disposable, where we expect to be constantly discarding last year’s gadget and replacing it with this year’s model – do we end up tempted to think of people and relationships as disposable?”


Now there’s some food for thought in developing those New Year’s resolutions.  Evidently, the Archbishop is not alone in seeking a greener faith.  Indeed, as the equivalent in the Anglican Church to the Roman Catholic Pope, the Archbishop now joins Pope Benedict himself in going on record with the teaching that (I’m paraphrasing here) greenness is next to Godliness (although the Pontiff’s New Year’s message today has been seen in some quarters as back-pedaling on the importance of environmental stewardship).

biffi.bmpAlas, these distinguished men of the cloth, along with a growing number of American Evangelicals, still carry the burden behind them of a benighted rearguard gang of paranoid Christian leaders who appear to believe that those concerned about the environment are the incarnation of Satan come to destroy the righteous of the world.  As perhaps the most bizarre example, retired Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, who delivered the Lenten Meditation at the Vatican this past March, warned of a coming Antichrist who is “a pacifist, ecologist and ecumenist”. This is in 2007, not 1307.  Honestly, you could not make this stuff up.

falwells.jpgThen there is the incomparable, late Jerry Falwell, who back in February massaged the talking points from Senator Inhofe’s global warming denialist screed into a Sunday sermon, but added his own flourish by stating that the growing concern among Evangelicals for environmental issues is, and I quote, “Satan’s attempt to redirect the church’s primary focus . . . the idea is to divert your energies from the message and the mission and the vision of the church, to something less.” (for an interesting progressive Christian reaction to this stuff, see here).

But the late Rev. Falwell, and the pseudo-retired Cardinal Biffi appear to be somewhat out of step with their flocks, 63% of whom agreed in a poll that “while global warming may be a long-term issue, the problem is being caused today, so we must start addressing it immediately.”

As the great physicist Max Planck is alleged to have said, somewhat indelicately, “Progress happens, one funeral at a time”.

So at this New Year, I look with optimism to the rising generation.  Happy New Year to all.

About Emmett Duffy

I am a Natural Patriot and an ecologist with expertise in biodiversity and its importance to human society. My day job is Professor of Marine Science at the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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