Imagine, the next time that you fill your car with petrol, that you are pouring into this lump of steel, the ancient remains of billions of creatures that once populated this planet. And indeed that the car itself is also partly comprised of the same elements. Because that is essentially what we are doing.
I read a book a while ago called ‘Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight’1, an intriguing title I thought as I began to read it. The title refers to the last reserves of fossils buried in the earth that we call coal and oil, the fossil fuels that we use to power our lives that are contributing to the warming of the planet. Why the words ancient sunlight? Well, essentially, the author Thom Hartmann says, it is because the sunlight that radiates heat and light is the physical source of all life on Earth. This heat and light is energy embodied in the once living creatures that now fuel our cars, planes, and power stations. The sub-title of the book is ‘The fate of the world and what we can do before it’s too late’ and one of its reviewers calls it a wake-up call, loud and clear. But how many wake-up calls do we need I wonder. How many more scientific facts do we need, how many more days of 45 degrees, how many more extreme weather events before we wake up to the reality that our continuing use of fossil fuels is destroying the very life that we so cherish. We are so disconnected from the processes of the life systems of the earth that we are failing the lives that will follow us and the species that have already gone extinct. Who are we to do that? This is human arrogance in the face of the gift of the Creator to us; the gift of this planet. We live in an age that seems largely to have lost touch with any sense of the transcendent Mystery at the heart and source of life. As a consequence we imagine ourselves to be masters of that which is gift to us and so exploit the earth to the limits of her capacity to maintain healthy equilibrium.
So, we know that the planet is warming. We know that we are contributing to the problem. We know that we are so addicted to this form of energy that we will destroy pristine environments like the Tarkine in Tasmania or the tar sands in Canada to squeeze the very last drop of ancient sunlight out of the earth. What are we doing? And is there any hope?
Well the book that that I’m referring to suggests that there is and that the hope lies in our waking up spiritually to the power of the life of creation and the Creator. We haven’t got much time of course. But if ever there was one who was awake it was Jesus the Christ who calls us to wake up.
For some time I have heard the call of the black swans who fly overhead each morning and evening. I count myself blessed that I live somewhere where I can hear that call. Lately though I haven’t heard them. It may be that the work being done on the little concrete bridge over the creek where they rest at night has disturbed them. I miss them. But how much life are we missing without even realizing it? How many calls are being silenced by us? And how deaf are we to the call of Christ who wants us to wake up; is always, eternally, calling us to life.
One of the ways of moving away from our reliance on fossil fuels is of course to use the sunlight directly by way of solar energy. Yes, we need to work out how to store it and make it affordable. But, if we have any power surely it is the power we have as consumers and voters to signal to the market and to politicians that we want and demand that our human ingenuity and public policy be directed towards a non-renewable energy future now. Let’s wake up to the call of the One who is Light for the good of all before it really is too late.