Climate change debate spurs warm feelings in London

October 29, 2009

china-climateIt is rare that religion and science find agreement, but that is what happened when Britain’s Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks spoke at a meeting on saving the earth from climate change.

“The great Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson published a book in 2007 called “Creation”, subtitled An Appeal to Save Life on Earth,” Sacks told leaders of all the major faiths meeting at Lambeth Palace in London on Thursday.

(Photo: A partially dried reservoir in Yingtan, Jiangxi province, China, 29 Oct 2009/stringer)

“I thought that was a very good book. E.O. Wilson is known not to be religious, but what this book was was a call to religious people and scientists to call off the war between religion and science and work together for the sake of the future of life on earth.

“And I felt that was a very generous and appropriate call by a non-religious scientist.”

He said “that science and religion despite their apparent friction actually converge on a profoundly scientific and at the same time religious idea that there is a kinship of life and hence a covenant of life”.

Not only did such a high-profile religious figure agree with the scientific world, but faith leaders found harmony among themselves at the same meeting.

Sitting next to Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual head of the Anglican Church, was the Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, who only days earlier had delivered the Pope’s offer to disaffected Anglicans the chance to convert to Rome.

sacksAlso attending were faith and community organisation leaders including Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Baha’i, Jain and Zoroastrian.

(Photo: Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, 23 July 2006/Paul Hackett)

Organised by Williams, the leaders issued a joint statement in which they “recognised unequivocally that there is a moral imperative” to tackle the causes of global warming.

They agreed to work together to raise awareness about the effects of “catastrophic climate change”, saying it was the poor and vulnerable who most suffered from the ensuing droughts, floods, water shortages and rising sea levels.

Quoting from the book of Genesis, Sacks said man was placed on earth to serve it and protect it. “Man was a guardian, not the owner using and abusing the good things on earth,” he said.

“We are taken from the earth and therefore owe it a sense of kinship and responsibility. We believe our very existence as human beings come wrapped up in environmental imperatives and ecological responsibility.”

Drawing on the story of Noah’s Ark where all animals, including the lion and the lamb, had to survive side by side, he said we would all drown if we failed to work together.

Of course, if everybody kept the Sabbath, when nobody drove cars, flew by plane, or switched on any electrical appliances, the environmental problem would be solved, he said.

But more realistically, a new set of rituals would have to be devised that recognise the importance of the environment.

“What religion allows us to do is take the big ideas and translate them into daily rituals,” he said.

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