Monday, January 01, 2018
Anno Domini Sustainability
Last evening -- New Year's Eve -- presented us with a unique reality. All adults on the planet (those over the age of 16) were born in the twentieth century, and all children on Earth had been born in the twenty-first century. As of the stroke of midnight that moment passed.
This is a statistical curiosity in some respects, reflecting how we measure years and define childhood. It also reminds us that we still calculate our years and centuries from the time of Christ. We speak of 2018 AD, which means Anno Domini, or year of our Lord. It is a regular practice now to use CE, which is Common Era. While it is more inclusive it still relates to the birth of a Jewish peasant baby in an outpost of the Roman Empire.
At the time Jesus was born the population of the planet was about 300 million, with 45 million as part of the empire. At the turn of the twentieth century, 1900 years later, the population had increased more than five-fold to 1.6 billion. In the next one hundred years it had nearly quadrupled again to a little over six billion. Today the population of the Earth is 7.6 million, an increase of what the calculation was for the entire planet in 1900. And the prediction for 2050? In the neighbourhood of 9.3 billion.
If your head is swimming in figures, I apologize. Except that this is an essential issue for all of us, including those of us who are Christ's followers. There is simply no way that Earth can sustain a rapidly growing human population where the aspiration is to live the supposed "good life" of unfettered consumption. We can't eat and travel and purchase as though there is no tomorrow, or there won't be a sustainable future for our children's children.
This will require personal commitment to simplicity, without our fingers crossed behind our backs. It will require new models for sustainability which may send shock waves through economies. It will require governments and scientific organizations to do far more than fly thousands of people to conferences where a lot of hot air is expelled and little more. Recently climate scientist Peter Kalmus, called out his 25,000 colleagues for flying to a conference in the US which he estimates produced 30,000 tonnes of CO2. Kalmus hasn't taken a flight since 2012 in a personal attempt to reduce his carbon footprint.
In this year of our Lord 2018, we can all ask what our Christian commitment to sustainable living will look like, even as we celebrate the beauty of our Earthly home.