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From Paradise lost to Paradise regained

  • 01 September 2022
In Churches September is dedicated to reflection and action to do with the environment. It is called the season of creation. This September, however, may evoke less the technicolour vision of Creation and the making of Paradise than the black and white world of Paradise Lost. The Invasion of Ukraine and the rending of international relationships subsequent to it have cut many people’s access to food and to energy for heating, cooling, manufacturing and travel. As a result the demand and price kind of fuel have risen, plans for decarbonising have weakened to aspirations, and the grip of large corporations on a polluting future has tightened.

Surveying this scene we can recognise two levels of complexity that are in tension with one another. The first level lies in the myriad relationships that constitute the universe in which the health and the future of the whole depend on the harmony of those relationships. If the capacity of the earth to sustain and nourish life is spoiled, the task of halting the process of degradation, and still more of restoring the world to a better harmony, will also be complex. Our ignorance can mean that what we do to heal one wounded part can easily damage other sets of relationships. 

The human response to climate change reveals another level of complexity. It lies in the different conditions of people throughout the world, ranging from the massively wealthy to people starving and relying on charity or on the fortunes of climate to survive. These differences are perpetuated and heightened by the relationships built into legislation, administration and governance, and so into legal, educational, economic and policing institutions on an international and local level.

They are also maintained by the isolation of people who are poor from those who are wealthy. The human relationships that shape behaviour are grounded in the senses of sight, and hearing, touch and smell. When relationships are conducted at a sanitised distance the urgency of addressing imbalance is not recognised. This is not a matter of bad faith but of failure to see what is salient. Where a partial and blind view of the world reigns, those with power and wealth will not feel the urgency of healing relationships, nor of working in a coordinated way to address climate change. Sectional self-interest will ensure inertia.

'As we pay attention to small things, we can recognise more clearly the character of our culture with