‘Look, daddy, deer!’ Mossy, our son, pointed up to the rocky ridge to where the mountain met the grey sky; there they were, stationary, a whole line of red deer, staring down at us in the thin rain.
There are precious moments in the life of every family and friendship. These are some of mine:
When our daughter Libbi, then aged two, held a conversation with a lamb. The lamb said ‘Me’e’eh’. ‘No, you say “Baaa”’, said Libbi.
When our dog Safi first saw snow; refusing to alight from the train onto this unfamiliar substance, he waited until I had descended, then placed his paws carefully on my shoes.
When Nicky, my wife, touched my arm and mouthed ‘stop’, because a badger was staring at us from five yards away.
It’s a marvellous world. I want my children, all children, and their children, to experience its wonder, to love, care for and cherish it, and discover in its beauty the mystery and awe of the hidden presence of God.
I therefore feel great anguish, impassioned concern for this earth. That is coupled with boiling turmoil little short of fury at the political leaders who show contempt for the numerous scientists across the globe who compiled the UN IPCC report published this week. What right do the heads of state of Australia and America, among others, have to ignore, deride and set short term interests before the future of… simply before the future of anyone or anything? Why are endeavours to protect the huge rainforests of South America, Africa and Indonesia so often entrammelled in local corruption? What can be done?
Then the questions turn into: What can we, what can I do? What influence can we bring to bear and how do we best accomplish this?
There is nothing more urgent than establishing and following the political, technological and moral guidance which will lead us back from the threat of disaster towards a sustainable relationship with the planet on which we all depend.
I know too that I am also part of the problem. So I plan to fly less, use fossil-fuels less and waste less. (I can’t add eat far less meat, as I’m vegetarian already, but I’m committed to eating less dairy.) I will continue to be passionate about planting trees and cherishing the wellbeing of earth, water and air. I welcome guidance on what will enable me to look children, God and even the trees and birds around me in the face without having to turn away in shame.
It takes God just five chapters in the book of Genesis to regret making human beings. The angels warned God, our rabbis explain in a typical moment of phantasy:
‘Don’t do it’, the angels say, ‘humans are full of lies. Don’t do it; they’ll spend their whole time fighting’. ‘While you’ve been busy arguing’, God tells them, ‘I’ve gone and made humans anyway’. (Bereshit Rabbah 8:5)
God defies the angels and instead puts immense trust in us, placing the whole world under our stewardship. But stewardship means respectful care, not simply the application of power. We are yet to prove ourselves fitting for this role.
I respect and love this world, its wonder, beauty, balance, and intricate interdependence. I want it to be there for my children to love, and for their children and children’s children too. I want to conduct myself, and for all humanity to conduct itself, accordingly.