Call a halt to “light green” approach to climate change

Published June 14, 2011

Climate change is “the greatest challenge facing humankind,” says retired professor and former MP Lynn McDonald. Photo: Marites N. Sison

Don’t just pray. Act! That was the message sent by retired professor and climate activist Lynn McDonald to attendees at a recent seminar in London, U.K., sponsored by Operation Noah, a faith-based and science-informed organization for slowing climate change and preserving the planet. The seminar was called “The Climate Crisis: Why is nothing Happening? A Social, Political and Moral Perspective on Obstacles to Action.”

Mcdonald, a former MP and a co-founder of JustEarth, is also editor of the Collected Works of Florence Nightingale and shares the 19th-century nursing icon’s passion for causes, a passion informed by facts.

For McDonald, climate change is “the greatest challenge facing humankind,” and she drew on the example of indomitable Nightingale to inspire her audience. Nightingale believed that heeding the laws of health could save millions of lives and had no patience with Christians who prayed for healing but ignored the lack of disease-reducing drains and sewers. “Remove the causes of cholera–don’t pray for deliverance!” was her call.

“Christians concerned about the climate crises can learn much from Nightingale,” said McDonald at a presentation to Operation Noah supporters. Like her, we need to “have the laws of nature” at our fingertips and be able to provide accurate facts and figures to back up our concerns about climate change. Like her, we should have no patience with the gentle green Christian viewpoint that “prays for us to be better stewards” while ignoring the need for urgent action.

But unlike Nightingale, she said, we do not have time on our side. She battled away for the whole of her working life to improve the health of the poor. We live in a fast-changing world where oceans are acidifying, species are facing extinction, and population growth, rising temperatures and carbon dioxide emissions pose a threat to all.

Our legal and political systems, our underlying morality and our manner of response were formulated before this crisis struck. Here there is no external enemy, no evil personified but rather our normal lifestyles that are causing the harm. Experts tell us we need a paradigm shift in our behaviour. “We need repentance; not a simple tweaking of the guidelines,” said McDonald.

The time for a “light green” approach to climate change is past. All citizens need to become literate and numerate about climate change, she said. Few people take the shocking facts seriously enough.


  • Diana Swift

    Diana Swift is an award-winning writer and editor with 30 years’ experience in newspaper and magazine editing and production. In January 2011, she joined the Anglican Journal as a contributing editor.

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