As rescuers struggle to reach the victims, the death toll from the tsunami in Indonesia keeps rising. Our screens are filled with pictures of devastation and grief, and we wonder how on earth anyone can bear it any more. We seem to be hearing about extreme weather events too frequently these days, and too many people are dying. Thanks to the aid agencies, we can offer practical assistance to the communities affected, but our over-riding reaction to this news is often a sense of powerlessness in the face of natural disaster. Tsunamis and hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires, are all considered ‘Acts of God’, even by insurance companies, who often won’t pay out for them, because they’re not caused by human hands.
So we turn to our religious leaders, seeking soothing words about meaning and purpose, and we observe with relief the inspiring outpourings of humanity that tend to accompany life’s worst episodes. And sometimes religious words help. There’s even a specialism within theology that devotes itself to making sense of the evils that happen, in spite of a loving God. But I wonder how much longer we can continue to blame all of this weather on God.
Yesterday saw the publication of a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, commissioned by the United Nations. 3 years in the making, it involved 86 lead authors from 39 countries. They’ve combed through all the scientific literature, on the feasibility, impacts and costs, of achieving a 1.5 degrees centigrade ceiling on global warming. The good news is they reckon it can be done, if the world takes some very tough steps, which will require massive global governmental consensus and action. But the report also asks us to look again at our lifestyles, to try to make more of a difference through our own everyday choices. In the olden days, God made the weather. Well, we’re making it now, and that’s a rather sobering thought.
Meanwhile, this dreadful news makes us all think about what it must be like to lose everything. In sending all love and strength to everyone suffering in Indonesia, let’s also hold our own loved ones close today.
I have been delivering “Thought For The Day” pieces on BBC Radio Scotland since November 2016. By kind permission these pieces are reproduced in blog posts here on my website. To find my other pieces click here go to my Thought For The Day index page.