The ‘Bhopal Gas Tragedy’ as the incident is widely known, happened in North India in 1984 as a result of the leakage of toxic gasses from a chemical plant. The Indian public was awakened on a large scale for the first time to the dire consequences of disregard for the environment. The incident took the lives of more than 2,000 people; over 200,000 were blinded or permanently injured. Several major calamities following that, such as the accident at the nuclear power plant at Chernobyl in 1986, the oil spill from the grounded Exxon tanker causing devastation along the coastline of Alaska created a global awareness in the 1980s leading to the rapid growth of the ‘green movement’.
In a significantly short period of time, ‘Green ideas’ with peripheral origins have now made strident inroads into the mainstream of society to such extent that at present it influences every area of concern whether social, industrial or political. More and more people are becoming aware of the destruction of rain forests, the depletion of the ozone layer, the greenhouse effect, the need for preservation and protection of forests and wildlife. Even as I write this, there is a commercial on television announcing the opening of the world’s largest ‘green’ hotel in South India.
Active Hope: How to face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone is a very timely reminder of pressing issues relating to the environment, climate change, depletion of natural resources of this earth which is our ‘home’; and an affirmation that every individual effort, no matter how insignificant, can bring about an enormous change. The book contains several illustrations of individuals who through small steps and seemingly inconsequential and tiny strides have wrought remarkable changes, proving that “Even when we don’t see a visible result from our actions, we may be adding to an unseen change that moves the situation closer to a threshold where something crystallizes (Macy and Johnstone 2012,190).”
Individually, anyone can easily despair in the face of distressing global issues of such magnitude; nevertheless, the authors offer hope and encouragement. The latter part the book contains positive information and practical ideas enlightening readers of the possibilities for individuals and communities to intentionally live in ‘Active Hope’ which is a way of life; they rightly point out that “Active Hope is a practice. Like tai chi or gardening, it is something we do rather than have (Ibid, 3).”
The faith and action of cultures are guided by three stories that are termed as
1. ‘Business as usual’ where people generally go on with life unconcerned, believing that economic progress and technological accomplishments have no end and that they will make life better.
2. ‘The Great Unraveling’ which is living in constant awareness of the depletion of resources, climate change, economic injustice, economic decline and mass extinction, and
3. ‘The Great Turning’ that provides an alternative vision of life on earth, realizing that mere activism against anything is deficient and alternatives should be provided.
I am led to ask the question: As a Christian leader, what should be my personal initiative and contribution? The Church in India has not played much of an active role in relation to addressing these issues or even creating a extensive awareness among its constituents. I believe it is time to take a stand and to be more expressive in its commitment. It is my conviction that Christians have a unique contribution to make because of our faith and theological mandate. The Bible teaches that the earth belongs to God (Ps 24:1) and that He has entrusted its care to us (Ge 1:28); and one day its recreation in the form of a New Heaven and a New Earth will be realized (Is 65:17). Macy’s description of community as having different levels, “each progressively widening our sense of belonging, receiving and sharing and acting for” (Macy and Johnstone 2012,), is an alternative description of the Biblical ‘Oikos’ (the household/ family of God). “Communities don’t just involve humans; they include all that we belong to, feel part of, identify with, and act for (Ibid., 135). To this statement I would add that God’s reign extends over all of these. This Christian conviction, faith and doctrine have a deep impact on our perspective and commitment to concerns pertaining to the environment and ecology; compelling us to more proactive involvement.(Stott1999)
Growwny.org. December 07, 2012. http://growwny.org/whats-new/2141-
book-review-on-active-hope (accessed January 23, 2014).
Macy, Joanna, and Chris Johnstone. Active Hope:How to Face the
Mess We’re in without Going Crazy. Novato, California: New World
Stott, John R. W. New Issues Facing Christians Today. London:
Marshall Pickering, 1999.