Praying in the sea for climate change justice
Members of seven Dublin Churches, including the Church of Ireland parishes of Whitechurch and Rathfarnham, recently held an act of worship on Killiney beach, Co. Dublin, to express solidarity with people throughout the world who were suffering from the impact of climate change.
The worshippers, who also included members of the Roman Catholic and Lutheran Churches and the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), joined in prayers, hymns and a Celtic lament to remember all affected by rising sea levels, floods, droughts, poverty and famine caused by extreme weather conditions.
The service – sponsored by Eco-Congregation Ireland (ECI) – was one of dozens of similar events held around the world in the run-up to the UN Conference on Small Island Developing States held in Apia, Samoa, South Pacific, earlier this month.
The United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has indicated that there is strong evidence that the global sea level is now rising at an increased rate and will continue to rise during this century. The NOAA has said that, while studies have shown that sea levels changed little “from AD 0 until 1900”, sea levels began to climb in the last century, the two major causes being “thermal expansion caused by the warming of the oceans (since water expands as it warms) and the loss of land-based ice (such as glaciers and polar ice caps) due to increased melting”.
While the former Stockholm University scientist, Dr Nils-Axel Mörner, who retired in 2005, is critical of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and of the view that the global sea level is rising, NOAA indicates that “sea level has been steadily rising at a rate of 0.04 to 0.1 inches per year since 1900”. National Geographic paints a somewhat more pessimistic picture, quoting a rate of 0.14 inches per year during the same period, and adding: “The trend, linked to global warming, puts thousands of coastal cities … and even whole islands at risk of being claimed by the ocean.”
It was against such a background that the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States was held earlier this month in Samoa in the South Pacific (report, page 1). It is clear that small island states, and especially developing ones that may lack the resources to counter the effects of rising sea levels, are especially at risk. The UN points out that, as the population, agricultural land and infrastructure of small island developing states tend to be concentrated in the coastal regions, a rising sea level will have “significant and profound effects on their economies and living conditions”, adding that for some low-lying such states, their very survival is threatened.
Our striking picture on page 1 shows a group of members of seven Dublin Churches praying while standing in the sea. The purpose was not only to pray but also to express solidarity with people across the globe who are threatened by such developments as rising sea levels and extreme weather events. Indeed, to do precisely the same thing, representatives of Churches, ecumenical organizations and the United Nations stood together in the sea at Apia, Samoa; many of those taking part were attending the Conference on Small Island Developing States.
One of the effects of prayer is to raise awareness of particular issues in ourselves. That in turn, hopefully, leads to solidarity, and solidarity must lead to practical help for those at risk and in need, not least by playing whatever role we can in terms of protecting the global environment, God’s creation.
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