Climate change: Roots and Actions - A Manifesto


This is an early draft. It is offered here to stimulate debate. Most points are expanded in a separate 'arguments' page: click on the relevant hyperlink, from which you can return. Please note that many of the expansions have yet to be written, and others are in note form.

In summary (click on Paragraph for each part):

Paragraph I. Urgency and Importance

The problem of climate change is now both urgent and unavoidable because over the last few years the rate of greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere has been accelerating. This is likely to result in highly damaging changes in global climates in the coming years. In particular global temperatures will increase and global rainfall patterns change. Developments in climate science over the last decade have increased awareness of the danger of severe and self-reinforcing climate change (Committee Climate Change, 2008). The poorest regions will be most affected by climate change, also aggregate market studies suggest that the potential beneficial effects of small temperature increases will be exhausted at lower temperatures than previously estimated.

Here is a point-by-point version of this, with links to explanation, arguments and examples.

Climate change is both an urgent and an important problem. It needs both immediate action and also tackling the root causes.

But goal-setting and immediate actions on their own are not enough, because the structures of society and the reluctant attitude of some vocal people reduce the effectiveness of action and threaten to undermine governmental will. And even more radical action is likely to needed in the future. There is a deeper root problem which must also be tackled ...

The rest of this Manifesto addresses these deeper problems, on the understanding that we nevertheless need to maintain immediate action.

Paragraph II. The Problem that is Climate Change

Climate change is not just an environmental problem. There are four main levels at which it is inextricably interwoven with other problems. It can be argued that ignoring these four levels, or even ignoring just some of them, will already be decisive in a negative way for the outcome of our battle against accelerated climate change and continued environmental degradation.

1. Climate change interacts with other world-wide problems. For example with crop failures, the world's food crisis, the present economic crisis, the excessive use of energy, transport, biodiversity. For example, with non-Western world, political tensions, etc. Specifically:

2. The leading nations have set a bad example. Not only did leading nations benefit unbalanced==== from the resources in other nations in the past, but, now that this is recognised, there has been a lack of real sharing of resources with the poor nations, whether water, energy or markets. The poor in general are often directly excluded by the rich countries from the benefits of wealth creation. The West has demonstrated an attitude of selfishness, and, seeing its material and political success, other nations aspire to follow this example. It is no surprise that China and India want their share, and so add significantly to the level of greenhouse-emissions. See examples.

3. As it is currently constituted modern society is incapable of dealing with this realistically by current approaches. Especially Western society. Because:

4. We succumb together to powerful ruling illusions that prevail in society. These are are often carefully cultivated and maintained by vested interests and are offered to us in the cloak of pseudo scientific argumentations. Some of the more important ones are:

Attacking climate change requires addressing all these illusions and incapabilities by uncovering a deeper root of all of them: a spiritually disrooted society.

Paragraph III. Deeper Roots of the Problem

These problems of interaction, incapability, attitude, example and ruling illusions are not just abstract sociological facts. They all arise from a deeper root that is spiritual in nature, with characteristics of deeply-held belief and commitment amounting to what some have called idolatry. These are formed of:

As a result, our sense for responsibility, justice and morality has become distorted into an individualistic form. Awareness of the public aspect, and care for nature are forgotten, or assumed to be a task for government. Justice is focused on personal rights and ignores, e.g. protection of animals and species. (see examples). This determines our attitude and the example we set.

These components of a ruling illusion reinforce each other. So ruling illusions are very difficult to change. Ruling illusions in the way we see reality, aspirations, commitments, and what we see as saviour are spiritual in nature. Climate change is a spiritual matter, a result of spiritual dysfunction in society.

Biblically-directed Christian belief holds that this is because humankind is alienated from God, from itself and from the rest of creation. [Please comment: Is that useful?]

Paragraph IV. Where to Seek Solutions

1. Change in Structure of Society. This change of heart, of way-orientation, is not only for persons, but also for communities, organisations, institutions and society. The way organisations, institutions and society are structured tends to follow the path of the dominant faith or life view in society. Thus, for example, the structure of Western organisations betrays an unhindered trust in the progress-oriented capacities of money, markets and technological and organisational innovation. Instead, the structures should be reoriented to serviceability , sustainability and participation. If change in the structures of society is to be widespread and effective, there must be a commensurate change in the dominant faith or life view in society.

2. Spiritual dysfunction calls for spiritually-directed action. If climate change is a spiritual matter, it cannot be addressed solely as a 'scientific' (climatological), political or economic issue. These are required, of course, but on their own they will ultimately be ineffective because, unless the deeper spiritual root of ruling illusions is not dug out, all scientific, political or economic actions will be limited, half-hearted and resisted.

To unmask ruling illusions presupposes something deeper than any kind of goal-orientation (like the millennium goals, useful though they may have been). It asks for some kind of Way-orientation, a choice of new directions in which humanity is heading. The spiritual orientation of humanity determines the goals it sets for itself and the actions it tries to take. If climate change is to held back, then humanity must turn round and take the ways of love, stewardship, care, justice. In a way-orientation, the important thing is responsive obedience to the way, rather than effort to achieve goals. See example.

3. What is a spiritual solution? A spiritual solution involves a change in way-orientation, a reorientation of the human heart towards new assumptions, aspirations, expectations, commitments and saviours. Existential troubles or miseries ask for 'ways out'. It requires Conversion of mind-set and habits, so that we value the different way, desire and determine to take it, learn to be willingly obedient to it, and creatively discover how to take that way effectively. We need to say farewell to goal-orientations like GDP increases and instead set obediently some first practical steps on the Way of the everlasting commandments, like justice, love and stewardship of our Lord. Christian belief is that conversion removes our alienation from God, self and world. [Is it useful to add this?

4. Change in Way We See Things. Ruling illusions mean that we understand things in distorted ways. If this is so, then we need to change to understand things in a different way. We believe the following changes need to be made in the way we see things (See source of this.):

8. The actualisation of these purposes of life structures would do a lot to solve climate change. The challenge we face is that Western people today are *very* (but needlessly) reluctant to re-orientate themselves to such a vision. This is why a spiritual solution is required, a change of heart. But, if the Christian view is correct that God is committed to his creation, then if we do allow ourselves to change then he will bring blessing, and he will make the blossoming economy work so well that we wondered how on earth we lived without it.

Paragraph V. Actions to Take

In this last paragraph a number of actions have are indicated and formulated, which could bring us on the path towards a blossoming economy in the rich countries in the world and towards greater responsibility for climate change. Later on this can be formulated in more sharpness and detail. It recognises both that we need transition, but also that transition is urgent and cannot be delayed. It recognises that we need spiritual action in all sectors. The actions indicated should be all progressed in parallel, starting now.

1. Spiritual action. The aim is to bring about the necessary spiritual change. (This is from the authors' Christian standpoint, but this action can probably be undertaken by most; we believe the Holy Spirit of God is active in the world because of Jesus Christ.) We must approach God in humility and earnestness.

(The Holy Spirit of God is sometimes active even when people are not aware of it.) These things should be preached with passion and wisdom and knowledge and gentleness.

2. Spiritual action in each sector. Each sector of society should seek to work out the above. See the following draft table; it is not necessarily correct in its details, but may be used to stimulate us to honest thought and discussion.

Spiritual action by each sector.
(Click for more.)
To repent of? > Deep change needed? Lifestyle change? Structural change?
Politicians Aspirations: national or personal prestige; competition?
Illusion: economic growth GDP is the goal and bringer of benefits?
Attitude: Cowardly in facing environmental responsibility?
Seek shalom for all first.
Economy at service of shalom. Seek the Blossoming Economy.
Strong vision for shalom.
See yourself in office to serve. Taxes and policy should be redesigned to encourage shalom and to bring 'right relationships among all things in the created order'
Economists Aspirations: To increase GDP?
Illusion: That economics is the 'science of life'?
Attitude: Self-absorption?
Work out how economics serves shalom.
Purpose of economics is to help society manage resources carefully.
Be more outward-looking to all aspects of life.
Work out how economic structures can encourage shalom in the world.
Business Aspirations: To grow in size and prestige? To compete?
Illusion: That the purpose of business is maximise owner value? Or to generate jobs?
Attitude: Greedy in seeking more than is necessary?
Your products should maximize shalom.
Purpose of business is to help society manage resources carefully.
Be generous and confident.
Work less, be content, enjoy the rest of creation more. Ensure the structures in your organisation encourage shalom.
Bankers Aspirations: To grow? To have fun with people's money?
Illusion: Money is a commodity, and risk may be 'spread'?
Attitude: Cavalier attitude to others?
Seek to help the impoverished to regain dignity; see 'Lending'.
See money as symbol of value; risk to be clearly visible.
Be more modest in your remuneration. Ensure financial structures encourage shalom.
(especially information technology)
Aspirations: To increase productivity? To be technologically superb?
Illusion: Technology is neutral?
Attitude: Get as much as possible from the client?
See technology as helping to open up aspects of reality, so as to contribute to shalom. Enjoy taking account of all stakeholders, as well as technological creativity. Small example: Allow just switching off the computer, without having to go through tedious 'shut down' procedure - so fewer computers will be left on overnight!
Media Aspirations: Outdo each other; to get that 'coup'?
Illusion: Media have no responsibility except to themselves?
Attitude: Arrogance?
Seek to stimulate discourse about right relationships among all things in the created order.
Recognise your responsibility for shaping our worldviews.
Seek humility.
Us - ordinary people. Aspirations: More convenience, pleasure?
Illusion: We have a right to whatever we fancy? We expect ever-increasing convenience and pleasure?
Attitude: Selfishness?
Aspire to shalom for all others.
Joyful responsibility under God for all others.
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, humility, self-control.
Be content but creative. Look after the rest of creation and enjoy it. Arrange life-habits to encourage shalom for all.

This whole process would be helped immensily if a common acceptance of time-horizons could take place. HRH The Prince of Wales has said (early 2009) we have only 100 months left in which to tackle climate change. Let us get to it!

Paragraph VI. Hope

1. Is a spiritual solution possible? The spiritual depth of these problems seems to suggest despair. Is solution impossible? We believe solution is possible, because spiritual solutions have worked before. See examples from history.

2. Which type of spirituality? There is some common ground in the various religions and other spiritual approaches in struggling against environmental degradation, which all promote a way rather than goals (e.g. Buddhist sevenfold path, Tao means Way, Jesus Christ called himself The Way). We ourselves are followers of Jesus Christ, with a largely evangelical or reformed persuasion, who have experienced his power to change our deeper attitudes and aspirations. See outline of Christian Way. (But we recognise that a vast number of those who bear the label 'Christian' have been foremost in displaying dysfunctional attitudes, have not set example and are trapped in the illusions; they have not demonstrated the values of the the Kingdom of God; see further discussion.)

3. Hope? Is there hope? The Judeo-Christian revelation, at least, offers hope. It is that God is committed to His creation. In the Old Testament, God made a promise to both humans and animals that he would not again destroy with a flood. In the New Testament, we find the prophecy that evil will eventually be vanquished, and that the creation will be renewed and brought to completion in Christ.


The original ideas contained here came from Sir John Houghton and Prof. Bob Goudzwaard, with help from Andrew Basden and John Lockwood. This project began when AB and JL suggested that the West Yorkshire School of Christian Studies invite Sir JH to speak on climate change and BG on global economy, to explore the links between them. The idea of expressing it as a Manifesto came from Bob Goudzwaard, who also produced an early draft.

Other contributions have come from: John Henry Lonie,

This is part of a project involving Sir John Houghton, Prof. Bob Goudzwaard, Prof. Andrew Basden, Dr. John Lockwood to understand the links between climate change, global economy, spirituality.

Copyright (c) 2009 The CCGE Group.

Created: 1 February 2009. by Andrew Basden using Protext on Amiga.

Last updated: 22 February 2009 amendments from BG. 22 March 2009 rethought last two sections. 13 April 2009 changed to emphasise 'way', and replaced 'religious' by 'spiritual', in response to BG's comments. 3 May 2009 changes made in response to BG's and JL's comments. 17 May 2009 intro changed to affirm immediate action (asked for by JH) but draw attention to need address deeper roots; 'hope' moved to separate final section; problem §II rewritten, with 'attitude & example' moved earlier, and 'all sectors' and 'reinforce' added; table of spiritual actions, shifting some details to arg. 31 May 2009 Contents is now Summary; responded to comments by BG of 090529 by moving some stuff from §1.2, 1.3 to arg with rewriting; technology row in VI; xns.hinder. 5 June 2009 some errors fixed. 19 July 2009 began simplifying; idolatry moved to arg. 14 December 2009 science.