18—24 Feb 2008

Issue No. 7            

I read George Monbiot’s Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning (London: Penguin Books, 2006) in January 2007.


Since then I have been wondering about whether or not to review it for BTW. There are some good reasons against. First, to review a book on global warming takes me quite out of my area of specialization. Then, the author is not, I believe, a Christian, which again makes this book a somewhat unusual choice for BTW. And lastly, in the year since reading the book I have done next to nothing about it personally – I took cold showers for a while, decided I didn’t like that, started composting vegetable waste (which I find rather satisfying and have kept up), and made a resolution that I won’t fly anywhere by plane except to visit family or as part of my job (which I’ve also stuck to so far); not a lot, in other words.


A Disturbing Book reviewed ...

And yet the issue won’t go away. Only this week the Guardian Weekly had a picture of melting ice in Greenland on its front page. Earlier issues have featured the drought in Australia and the melting of the Siberian permafrost (large areas of peat bog that had previously been frozen all the year around).


The world does seem to be warming up, our climate does seem to be changing, and it may well be that this is due to the increasing amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) which we humans are generating. If these statements are true (not all would agree with them), then Christians need to pay attention: one of the main areas in which the character of our discipleship, and that of future generations of Christians, will be tested in the 21st century will be in how we respond to the issues of global warming and climate change. For that reason alone I think it worth pointing you in the direction of Monbiot’s book. Not that he’s necessarily right in all he says, or even claims to be (for his book is in part an essay in futurology, that notoriously imprecise science); but because some of what he says may well be on target.


Chapter 1 surveys the evidence for the claim that the earth is heating up and that this is due to human CO2 emissions. He notes some of the likely (catastrophic) effects that would be produced by a rise of 2°C in the mean temperature of the earth. He suggests that to prevent these things happening it will be necessary to reduce global emissions of CO2 by 90% between now and 2030. This leads him to the main question which the rest of the book addresses: given that we humans will not readily give up the benefits of our modern societies, which are largely sustained by the burning of fossil fuels, how are we to retain as many as possible of these benefits while attaining the desired reduction?


Chapter 2 (‘The Denial Industry’) addresses the arguments of those who deny the link between CO2 emissions and global warming. Chapter 3 considers the question of rationing: how are reductions in the use of fossil fuels to be equitably imposed (for they will surely not be voluntarily attained) among the nations of the world and among the citizens of each nation?


Chapter 4 (‘Our Leaky Homes’) discusses energy-efficient housing. Chapters 5–7 address the issues of power stations, renewable energy (wind, waves, sun, geothermal energy, biomass energy) and local production of energy (solar panels, small wind turbines, etc.).


Chapter 8 looks at transport systems and Chapter 9 looks at air travel (concluding with the stark sentence ‘If you fly, you destroy other people’s lives’). Chapter 10 looks at our shopping habits and the carbon they consume. Chapter 11 (‘Apocalypse Postponed’) concludes that, making changes along the lines suggested in chs. 3–10, a 90% reduction in carbon use is possible, but that it will take a concerted effort of will.


The argument in all these chapters is extensively documented, and the book concludes with a list of organizations which you can consider supporting if you want to do something about global warming.

Does any of this matter to Christians? If God is going to give us a new heavens and a new earth, why bother about what we do to the old one? Aren’t we supposed to ‘subdue’ the earth (Gen. 1:28)? If the Lord returns before 2030, Monbiot’s predictions are hardly going to matter, are they?


For myself, I think this would be a superficial (I would go so far as to say, near-blasphemous) response for Christians to make to the issues Monbiot raises. But if you are interested, obviously the first thing to do is to read the book itself. Monbiot writes clearly and (it seems to me) realistically and  honestly. I like the sense of humour he frequently displays and, more than that, the refreshing self-awareness regarding his own roles as energy-consumer and writer. He wouldn’t necessarily use these terms, but it strikes me that he knows quite a bit about human sinfulnesss, willful blindness and arrogance, having seen it both in himself and in others. This book is among other things a book which reflects a deep ethical concern, and I can’t see how it would do any Christian other than good to read it. It’s there in BGST if you want to.


Dr Philip Satterthwaite (carbon consumer).

Spider Spiel


Early this morning (Monday), a little girl came up to me and solemnly announced that there was a spider in the playground. The understanding appeared to be that I was to go out and get rid of it.


My immediate reply was: “That’s okay, It’s supposed to be where it is—outside.” A little later I went to check it out and the girl’s mother having received her daughter’s report of my reaction told me with much concern that it was a very big spider and wondered if it was poisonous. 


So I had a look, and was thrilled to see a absolutely stunning spider  working at building its web. The spider had strung up its initial threads from one end (on the green slide) to the other (the wooden column of the playstructure). It had begun to create a delicate net and was busy adding more threads with concentrated confidence. I saw how a thread came out from its behind and how it used the tip of a leg to push it onto part of the net that was already created. The precise way in which the tiny thread was caught and pushed into place by the spider was simply amazing.  Very soon it had made a perfect web.


It has always troubled me that parents so often regard little creatures such as ants, flies, moths and spiders with fear and think nothing of squashing the life out of them. Their children naturally pick up this negative attitude and so miss out on experiencing the wonder of the workings of nature.


All it takes is someone to point out that, hey, this is fantastic. You don’t get to see a spider spin its web every day. So this is a very special day, and we’re seeing something extraordinary. All morning, teachers were running out to take pictures of the spider, and kids were singing “Incy Wincy Spider” with new gusto.

So here’s sharing a moment with you:

             All things bright and beautiful

All creatures great and small.

All things wise and wonderful,

The Lord God made them all.

And that includes the spider, and the little child in whose eyes the wonders of the natural world are always fresh and delightful. Will you see a little of the wonder of God’s creation this week?


Pauline Koe (child-minder)


Text Box: St. Matthew's Eye
Weakest of the weak,
Like a candle in the storm,
A widow after another widow,
A gentile in the holy land,
The seed of the Lamb in her womb:
Was there no Ruth in Israel? 
Look at Tamar, 
Twice widowed and childless;
Instead of being stoned to death,
She stepped into the Messianic lineage
By seducing her own father-in-law.
Isn't it a blasphemy
That a prostitute should participate
In the conception of the Savior?
Yet Rahab, another gentile and sinner
Made it her story.
An abominable act of adultery
With 'the one after God's own heart,'
Bathsheba, wife of a murdered patriot,
Then mothered the wisest man
In the line of the King of kings. 
These 'unjustified' four
Surpassed the 'righteous' of their kind
And paved the way of the Cross.
Who can fathom God's ways?
Behold the eye of St. Matthew! 

Venusa Tinyi
(MCS Full-time Student)
Text Box: Announcements

The Chinese New Year break was a lovely breather but we do owe readers a word of explanation for the non-appearance of last week’s issue.  We rather suspect you already understand. It seemed  appropriate to allow all involved to enjoy the holiday without the pressure of getting BTW out. Do remember that Prof Paul R Stevens is with us conducting  his courses to full-houses! He will speak at Chapel this Wednesday. Don’t miss this chance to catch him!

31 Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore 088454   Tel: 62276815   Fax: 62276816   Email: bgst@pacific.net.sg


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