Fighting consumerism key in fight against climate change

  • March 30, 2011
Dorothy McDougallTORONTO - Climate change deniers aren’t what worries KAIROS’ Dorothy McDougall. She worries about Christians who can’t let go of a lifestyle that contradicts the Gospel.

“This is about the accumulation of stuff and the planned obsolescence of stuff,” said McDougall, the ecumenical church-based group’s climate change expert. “For Christians to be in solidarity with those who suffer the ravages of climate change in Africa, in Latin America and in the north means transitioning to a carbon-free economy.”

But most of us don’t want to give up our throw-away lifestyles and don’t want to ask what Jesus would think of houses full of stuff, she said.

“For too long we’ve been told our only identity is as consumers,” said McDougall.

McDougall, Anglican priest and University of Calgary academic Mishka Lysack and Kenyan development expert Joshua Silu Mukusya discussed the practical and religious implications of climate change with a small audience of university students at Trinity College, University of Toronto, March 24.

It’s not a big jump from unsustainable to sinful, said Lysack.

“Sustainability, social justice and spirituality — for the prophets these were not separate things,” he said.

For the prophets, holiness was doing the will of God. From Jeremiah on, the prophets emphasized that Israel would know it was doing the will of God because the land would flourish and bear abundant fruit if Israel could remain holy.

If Christians learned to read their Bibles with climate change in mind, they would learn there are ways out of the culture of consumerism, said Lysack.

“We can provide an alternative to the vision of endless growth for its own sake,” he said.

Rural Kenyans already know the cost of making the wrong choices, said Mukusya, the chief executive officer of the Utooni Development Organization. Utooni is trying to re-establish traditional farming practices in the Kenyan countryside, but Kenyans face a permanently altered environment, he said. Rains that farmers once relied on fail to come and soils have yielded to a process of desertification.

“We decided to cut. We decided to burn. We decided not to replace what we take,” he said.

He warned the Canadian students that they should not be complacent about the future of their environment.

“This country is very lucky. You have all the rains you want,” he said. “Don’t take it for granted.”

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