In principle, the issue of climate change is spiritual. We can see that from our over consumption and our accumulation of material wealth in our society. We can also see it in our lack of compassion for other people. And so God will judge the world in ways that we can learn about from reading the book of Revelation. Many of God’s judgments we see there may not come directly from God’s actions but indirectly as a result of mankind’s actions.
In other words, everything is spiritual, or at least has a significant spiritual component.
That became clear during our years in Nigeria. The Sahara Desert is encroaching on the Sudan, a geographical band across Africa south of that desert. Primary contributors to that encroachment are overgrazing and denuding of the trees to use for cooking fuel.
One of our friends in Nigeria developed an alternative to the use of wood for cooking. The solution was a solar oven that could be made using readily available materials—a half of a large gourd lined with aluminum foil with a glass top sealed by using a strip of foam insulation. It really worked, except . . .
The Muslim women lived on their family compounds in Northern Nigeria. They were restricted to that compound unless there was some need to leave it. So the only social interaction they had with other women was going out daily to collect firewood. The foraging was done in groups of women sometimes walking several miles to find the wood they needed. So none of them were interested in a solar oven; they needed the social interaction. So a cultural and spiritual change needs to be made. For the trees to be spared and desert encroachment to stop, the men in that Muslim society need to value their wives and recognize their needs more than they value their control over the women in their society.
Most of the people in that same area are also Muslim Fulani nomadic cattle herders. Their wealth is in the number of cattle they own. So cattle are not raised on a sustainable basis, or just to provide income and feed their animals. They are kept as a symbol of wealth and status. Severe overgrazing results. And as the population of nomadic peoples increases, they are pushing farther south and encroaching on farming areas. They claim that the land was always their own, and so they burn villages, destroy crops and slaughter the (mostly Christian) inhabitants to reclaim the land they claim is theirs. So it takes on a measure of jihad as well.
Maintaining their nomadic lifestyle and wealth and status based on cattle ownership in a world that can no longer sustain it at a cost of other peoples’ lives and livelihoods is again a spiritual issue. If everyone involved first loved God and their neighbors, then solutions could be worked out even though the cultural cost is high.
And of course, we in the West are not exempt. We have our own consumption issues. But it does seem a bit incongruous to say the least that we welcome people from low consumption areas to our high consumption society only to make them excessive consumers as well. And let’s be frank. Not all of the “refugees” coming to America are coming because of climate change and violence. Many are drawn by the economic “benefits” of consumption that we so highly value here. Again—a spiritual issue.
Ultimately the solution is also spiritual—repentance and turning back to God. God is in Christ, reconciling the world to himself:
2 Corinthians 5:1 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ . . .