What is our motivation for saving the planet and tackling with climate change? At last, there is a cause which brings masses to the streets. It is important that we can give a collective response. Yes, people have come out from their ‘bubbles’ and are ready to demand and take action.
For us Christians, it is an opportunity for self-critical discernment. What are the main motives behind the individual and mass-reactions? Or, to be more precise, what is the existential motive governing our new insurgences? Are the newly emerging voices based on examined life? There is no reason to doubt that the new green-political-social actions are governed by a genuine care for nature.
Yet, we can fear this won’t be enough. Examined life is the precondition for effective action. Without it, we can end up in a collective depression and the climate of paralysing fear. The digital echo chamber in which we live can only give a free flow to ‘what is unexamined’ in us. The shadow side of our culture can easily surface together with the intention to redeem the situation.
The Christian discernment can be helpful here. Is our motive a genuine readiness for ‘self-sacrifice’? When we are ready to restrain radically the demands of our egos regimented to consume? Are we ready for kenosis, the self-emptying and re-training of our insatiable desires?
Or, our climate marches and activisms are merely prompted by our ‘fear of death’. That is, by the ego’s natural refusal of being deprived of the life we possess right now. It would be a narcissistic and natural reaction; yet that of an unexamined life. Surely, we don’t want to remain at the level of mass fear of extinction. Unexamined fears can liberate destructive forces – and unleash them to the streets and into our already fragile democracies. I do think, an educational element, examination of life, is needed.
For us, Christians, it is time to re-read our spiritual classics, like Saint Francis de Sales, who analysed how love, will, reason, and passions interact in our lives. Let us hope that facing the challenges of the ecological crisis and honest self-scrutiny will go hand in hand.
‘How often do we hate pleasures that our sensual appetite delights in and love spiritual goods in which it finds disgust! In this consists that war which we daily experience between spirit and flesh, between our outer man, who is subject to the senses, and the inner man, who is subject to reason, between the old Adam, who pursues the appetites of Eve, his spouse, that is, his concupiscence, and the new Adam, who follows close after heavenly wisdom and holy reason!’ There is a long way, even for us, disciples of the Lord, to root our actions in ‘a simple feeling that the soul has for God’s truth and will and its acquiescence therein.’ (St. Francis de Sales, Treatise on the Love of God, Vol I, Tank Books and Publishers, Illinois 1975, p.65)
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..