That sinking feeling
Having spent the morning fishing for kingfish and barracuda in the turquoise water between reef and open sea, I now sat with the elders of the island of Fanalei. We were in the chief elders home discussing the challenges they faced in their village. The main issue was the rising sea level. They could no longer grow crops. For three months of the year (November to January) the island was completely covered by the sea. That was why the houses were all 8 feet off the ground on stilts. Earlier that morning, I had watched the children paddle a mile across the lagoon to school on the main Island of Malaita. After school, they had nowhere to play during those three months. Livelihood prospects for young adults on the island were so poor that many were leaving. The future for Fanalei looks bleak.
Three miles north, the story was worse. The island of Walande, that had a thriving village community just 14 years ago, was now abandoned to the waves. The whole community has had to relocate to the island of Malaita. If you search online for Topsham TV and type in Walande you will get the full story on Youtube. On my sabbatical, I visited the Solomon Islands with a view to serving as the chair of the Melanesian Mission UK. An important part of our trip, however, was to record evidence of climate change. Alex Leger, a former producer of Blue Peter and lifelong supporter of the Melanesian Church, had video recordings going back to the 1990s so this was going to provide rare video documentary evidence of the huge changes that have been taking place over 25 years.
Although scientists cannot yet draw a direct causal relationship between the burning of fossil fuels and rising sea levels, the evidence is becoming overwhelming. What we do in the global North affects the South. In 2005, I listened to Melanesians, here on mission in the Britain, tell me that their islands were disappearing. In 2016, I saw it with my own eyes.
Our scriptures remind us of our need to care for Gods creation: Adam and Eve were asked to till, tend and be stewards of the earth; When John records Jesus saying, God so loved the world that he gave his only son… we are reminded that the word for world is Kosmos. Jesus is declaring how God longs to save the whole of creation, as well as people. Johns vision in Revelation sees heaven coming down to earth and speaks of The Lord making all things new. The biblical vision of the New Creation is of a world transformed, restored and renewed. So, as Gods Kingdom people, we had better look after it!
In Creationtide, we delight afresh at the bounty of Gods creation and commit to being good stewards of it. Yet, as I witnessed in the Solomon Islands, we need to act now because our inaction is costing livelihoods and lives. Christian Aids resources and its Big Switch campaign show how we can make a difference.