Listening to Jeremiah at the Climate Parade of Promises

Parade float at night
November 08, 2021

Photo Credit: Cayetano Gil, unsplash

Listening to Jeremiah at the Climate Parade of Promises

“See how the siege ramps are built up to take the city. Because of the sword, famine and plague, the city will be given into the hands of the Babylonians who are attacking it…[and] you, Sovereign Lord, say to me, ‘Buy the field with silver and have the transaction witnessed.’” (Jeremiah 32:24-25) With disaster looming, the prophet Jeremiah called for repentance, with disaster immanent, Jeremiah invested in the land.

Today is day 7 of COP26. For me it’s been a week of juxtapositions. There is a world stage both in Glasgow (and virtually) where heads of state have been parading policies in carefully worded statements. Statements that are as impressive for what they leave out as for anything they say. Each statement is prefaced by an example of climate calamity, a vivid reminder of urgency.

It floats by like this. For example, Canada warns the world a whole town can burn down in minutes, like what happened in Lytton this summer. Then, Canada presents a promise. For example, to “end international public financing for fossil fuels” by the end of 2022. (Canada’s public financing for domestic fossil fuels hovers unsaid over the announcement). Everyone present claps politely. The head of state exits stage right. A quick Covid clean and then next official in a business suit steps up to give graphic details of their country’s Climate catastrophe to establish that the urgency is understood and another set of promises presented like a parade float. All pretty on the outside but usually the same old trucks underneath.

Meanwhile in quiet rooms, most of which are private, negotiators, scribes and officials have been diligently negotiating international agreements. I do not doubt that each person is working in good faith. I do not doubt that each person there understands the urgency. And as I look at the list of closed rooms on the schedule my heart is full of the compromises I make when I work to stop my own emissions. And I am a negotiating party of one. I hold their work in my prayers.

All the while in series of side events available to the world but only attended by a couple hundred people show what is already possible. Artists share real world examples that the world is already changing. Favienne Rodrigues says, “I believe our systems are broken, and we need to use art to open up our imaginations about what is possible and how we organize” and then the artist gives real examples of alternative systems.[1]  Dana Tizya-Tramm of the Vantut Gwitch’in First Nation talks about “disruptive business models[2]  and then shows what that looks like in Old Crow, Yukon.

Today, as I recover from too much time watching the “political show” Ron Graham former astronaut reminds me, “only awe and wonder inspires long term action. Only awe and wonder inspire cooperation, rational thought, and self-sacrifice to a higher good. The remaking of our world for the better will not happen by declaring war on global warming. War is fear based. It’s divisive its self-limiting and counterproductive.”[3] He says that today as protesters take to the streets of Glasgow and all over the world to howl a reminder at all those quiet negotiators that climate crisis is burning.

As I flick from screen to screen and the scenes jumble in juxtaposition I wonder where God is.

If we trust that God is present, where is God in this? My heart turns to the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah, also called the weeping prophet. Jeremiah who called for repentance while desolation and destruction marched ever closer.

And I remember that when the crisis was so close you could see it from the city walls. When catastrophe was mere moments away, the Lord commanded that Jeremiah to purchase land. Which means, make a commitment to the land even if Jeremiah will never so much as step foot on that place. In the face of every reason to flee, God told Jeremiah to commit to the land.

I acknowledge all our language and systems are flawed.  Jeremiah bought the land with silver. It was a transaction. Today we hear Jeremiah bought the land and we can be distracted by our assumptions about ownership. Assume ownership means control and the possibility of extractive returns. In a world where our norms of ownership have been a justification for injustice especially internationally, these are dangerous assumptions.  But that’s not how I read this passage. I read it as a commitment to a relationship. By bringing our silver to the gate and making our commitment public we show our community that we stay faithful to land.

Today, I foresee the calamity of insufficient promises by official national sources.

And still I trust.

I trust God is present even though I am not certain where, or how.

And still I have faith.

I have faith in our spiritual practice of repentance. Jeremiah called for repentance with rhythmic regularity and we know how to practice that. I have faith God hears our repentance.

And so it is time to bring my silver and show my community that my commitment to the land remains unwavering.

Out my front door, looking up. Photo Credit: Author

Rev. Alecia Greenfield, Vicar of Holy Cross Anglican (Japanese) Church and Chair of the Diocese of New Westminster’s climate emergency working group is a member of the joint United Church of Canada and For the Love of Creation virtual delegation toCOP26, the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

You can follow the delegation #UCCanCOP26 and #FLCCOP26 and check back here for personal reflections from the delegates in the coming days.

[1] How can Art and Culture Accelerate a Just Transitions

[2] Just Climate Energy- Indigenous Renewable Energy Microgrids for Energy Transitions

[3] Planetary Consecration: How to Effectively Preserve and Safeguard the Natural World