Montreal’s Carolyn Walsh-Dawson (centre) protests global warming with Rev. Wendy Eyre-Gray and David Dranchuk of New Westminster.
Braving gusty winds, Anglicans joined tens of thousands of marchers in Montreal Dec. 3 to lead a worldwide protest against global warming – demonstrations that coincided with the United Nations climate change conference, held Nov. 28 to Dec. 9, during which delegates discussed the future of the global fight against global warming.
Companion marches were held concurrently in 29 countries around the world.
The historic meeting was the first to be held in North America and the first since the Kyoto Protocol – an international agreement requiring industrialized countries to reduce their global warming pollution – went into effect a year ago. The United States has never ratified the Kyoto Protocol even though it produces almost 25 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases.
The march in Montreal was high-spirited, fervent, and family-friendly, drawing bundled-up parents pushing strollers as well as middle-aged and elderly activists and a large contingent of young adults.
Communities of faith were well represented at the march. Near the trio carrying a banner “Anglicans for Eco-Justice” walked a group with a banner for the Canadian ecumenical justice group, Kairos.
The World Council of Churches (WCC) sent a significant delegation to the conference, including representatives not only from Canada, the U.S., Fiji, Finland, Jamaica, Argentina, Russia and the Philippines.
The march was preceded by a workshop on climate justice for faith communities that was held at the Anglican Church of Canada’s Christ Church Cathedral.
Bringing greetings from Archbishop Gregory Venables, primate of the Anglican province of the Southern Cone of South America, Argentine ecumenical patriarch Elias Crisostomo Abramides described the effects of climate change in Argentina, from melting and receding glaciers to eroding coastlines, as well as intensifying desertification and increasing outbreaks of tropical diseases such as malaria and dengue fever in formerly temperate zones.
“We are dealing not only with a technological issue,” he said, “but with a spiritual crisis that has taken us to the present situation.”
Joan Masterton, who spent 30 years working with Canada’s meteorological service, presented findings of the 2004 Arctic Climate Assessment Report, which include evidence that the Arctic is melting and that trans-Arctic shipping will likely be common within the next 50 to 100 years.
Because of increased exposure to storms, melting permafrost, and coastal erosion, 40 communities in the Arctic are already seeking to be relocated. The melting of the Arctic is not only creating a humanitarian crisis, it could also affect the global circulation of ocean currents, she observed. “The Arctic is the canary in the mine.”
The voice of faith communities was also expressed at the interfaith celebration “Un Cri de la Terre/Call of the Earth” held Dec. 4 at St. Joseph’s Oratory. The celebration drew almost 2,000 people and included dance, prayer, multi-media presentations, and the testimony of climate witnesses. Among those who attended were Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.
Its climactic moment was the invitation to the assembled congregation to sign “A Spiritual Declaration on Climate Change,” which included a commitment “to help reduce the threat of climate change through actions in our own lives, pressure on governments and industries, and standing in solidarity with those most affected by climate change.”