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Climate Breakdown & Exceptionalism


A few thoughts....


We are not the masters of the universe, nor even the masters of nature. Our collective behavior, from the industrial revolution to late-stage capitalism, is now coming home to roost.


We cannot bend the fabric of reality; we will reap what we sow. Indeed, we already are, as climate breakdown manifests with global temperatures 1.2 degrees above those of the pre-industrial age.


This might not sound like much, but already we face a world with an increase in droughts, extreme weather, and rising sea levels.


More concerning, we are on a current trajectory of 2.7 degrees above pre-industrial temperatures. This is a future that will be unlivable for many millions, marked by mass starvation, mass migration, and societal collapse.


The coming decades will be extremely difficult; many will die. This is not the way it was meant to be, yet it is a future which we may still perhaps be able to avoid.


This possible future is driven by both matter and myths, both the physical and the ideological.


From a physical and biophysical point of view, it is well established beyond doubt that the burning of fossil fuels - coal, oil, and gas - since the industrial revolution creates greenhouse gases that result in rising temperatures.


From an ideological and mythic point of view, we may say that there are controlling stories, myths, which have seduced humanity and have brought us to this point where learned people in mainstream settings are talking about the likelihood of collapse and the possibility of virtual extinction.


Let’s explore one of these myths,.


The 'myth of exceptionalism' posits that our species, human beings, reign supreme in the biological hierarchy, asserting ownership over all the Earth's resources and exempting ourselves from the ecological laws that regulate the growth and consumption of other species. In this belief, we've lost sight of our true nature, elevating ourselves to a godlike status.


Looking from one perspective, we can observe that this 'myth of exceptionalism' gains power from the ancient scriptures, where humanity is exalted with honor and glory, created in the image of God to serve as stewards of the universe (Psalm 8).


However, it's essential to recognize that our divine calling is priestly; our responsibility is to nurture and protect creation, not to dominate, devastate, exploit, or despoil it. We are God's creatures, not rulers of the cosmos—caretakers alongside other non-human worshipers, summoned to love our neighbors—both near and far, present and future—just as we love ourselves.


The church, functioning as a prophetic community, is entrusted with resisting the temptation of exceptionalism by narrating and embodying an alternative narrative. It's a narrative where we are not masters of the universe but fragile mortals and humble beings, intimately connected within creation, sharing in its sighs and yearnings for completeness and restoration.



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