“Somewhere my love there will be songs to sing
Although the snow covers the hope of Spring
Somewhere a hill blossoms in green and gold
And there are dreams, all that your heart can hold.”
~ Lara’s Theme from the movie, Dr. Zhivago
Yesterday at 5:24 p.m. ET spring officially arrived in the Northern Hemisphere of planet Earth. I let out an audible CHEER. Coincidentally, it was also the day upon which the IPPC sixth climate change assessment report was released. Turns out, to no one’s surprise, that there is little to nothing to cheer about there.
This is the final ‘synthesis report’ building upon prior reports of the Working Groups I (physical science basis), II (impacts, adaptation and vulnerability) and III (mitigation of climate change) from 2021 and 2022. I predict that along with most politicians and CEO’s, you and I will not read the full report. It’s OK. We can at least hear the assessment of someone who has read it. The simple takeaway of UN Secretary General, António Guterres, is that “the climate time bomb is ticking.”
Over the years, our Creation Justice blog posts have often made note of reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This post will once again draw attention to the latest report, which once again comes with dire warnings. This is not ‘breaking news.’ We’ve heard it over and over again, like a broken record. Yet most of the world’s power brokers that could actually do something to turn the tide continue for the most part to ignore the warnings and the solutions in favor of business as usual. Damn the reports, full speed ahead as we continue to kick the oil (fossil fuel) can down the road to oblivion. (Reuters reports that “Big Oil more than doubled its profits in 2022 to $219 billion, smashing previous records in a year of volatile energy prices where Russia’s invasion of Ukraine reshaped global energy markets and, in some cases, the industry’s climate ambitions.”)
But on this occasion, in response to the usual dire findings that these assessments so matter-of-factly reveal, I want to use the timing of the report as a ‘spring’ board. May springtime with signs of new life springing forth launch us into a HOPE-filled season motivated by LOVE for Creation, rather than a DREAD-filled season in response to FEAR of gloom and doom if we don’t quickly change course. However, to begin this springtime launch, I want to begin long ago in the cold and dark of winter.
In December of 1965 I was a college freshman with an English 101 assignment to view a newly released movie based on a 1957 novel by Boris Pasternak (for which he was awarded the Nobel prize for literature). Dr. Zhviago was the story of the life and loves of a poet/physician, Yuri Zhivago, during the turmoil of the Russian Revolution. An epic historical romance, it tells the story of Russian people forced to live through the many tragedies of the first half of the twentieth century, and it tells of the emotional trials of love in its most complex forms.
Much of the drama takes place in the dead of the Russian winter, which sets the backdrop for the haunting sound track that captured my emotions, and to this day still tugs at my heart strings any time I hear Lara’s Theme (aka Somewhere My Love).
“Somewhere my love there will be songs to sing
Although the snow covers the hope of Spring…
Someday we’ll meet again my love
Someday whenever the spring breaks through.”
It was in his poem Locksley Hall that Alfred, Lord Tennyson gave us the famous line, “In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” Remembering back to my youth, I can attest to Tennyson’s assertion. It felt like love was all around in the fresh, fragrant air of spring. That lovely, loving feeling was an elixir breathing life into one’s body, mind and spirit. It is to “thoughts of love” followed by acts of love that humanity must turn, not lightly, but mightily, and not only in spring, but all seasons if we are to instill hope for a hospitable and sustainable life on planet Earth. Out of the wellspring of LOVE (Eros, Phileo & Agape), HOPE springs eternal.
This is where religion, and especially that rooted in the Judaeo-Christian tradition, has such a critical role to play in restoring Creation for ecology and justice. In her comments of the latest IPCC report, I was pleased to read of a scientist who speaks to the power of love and hope in addressing the climate crisis. Heidi Steltzer is an ecologist and mountain climate researcher at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, who was a lead author of a mountain chapter in the IPCC’s 2019 report on the oceans and cryosphere. There is no more fitting way to close this post than to leave you with a series of qoutes from her that show the important role that communities grounded in love and hope have to play in salvaging a viable future. (source: an article by Bob Berwyn in the March 20, 2023 edition of Inside Climate News)
“More reports aren’t going to do it,” asserts Ms. Steltzer. “We’ve already done that… Reaching global climate goals may require a transformational vision of science that starts to consider values, like love and hope, because they aren’t easily measured… The IPCC calls for dramatic societal transformations in the way we eat, work and move about, and science isn’t excluded from those changes… Whatever goals the world sets, we don’t get there without love… We can’t get to 1.5 C or whatever target we set without love for ourselves, without knowing ourselves, and without connecting to, and caring for one another, our planet, and the universe.”
She said the IPCC does an “incredible job” with the material world that can be seen and measured. But, she asked, “what is the next step that connects this to the quantum and virtual worlds, the ones in our hearts and souls, where we can experience and know that which can’t be measured?”
That includes hope, which she said is likely another key ingredient to sparking societal changes. “The hope for something different is in that space of the quantum and the virtual, because how do we quantify hope?” she said. “Hope is in the grassroots activism that we see taking place across our planet. So then I think, where and how can the IPCC better support grassroots activism? Because that’s the space for the hope and the love and the building community that needs to take place.”
People won’t come together by telling the worst of what can be. Humans have thrived because of their ability to work together to solve problems, she said.
“It’s telling the stories of how we, as a species, managed for crises in the past,” she said. “We find solutions by coming together and finding space for understanding, and not for numbers and data. Creating space for, and attention to, compassion matters more.”
A Benediction: Tennyson’s prophetic vision from Locksley Hall – 1835
For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see, Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be; Saw the heaven fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails, Pilots of the purple twilight, dropping down with costly bales; Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and the rained a ghastly dew From the nation’s airy navies grappling in the central blue; Far along the world-wide whisper of the south-wind rushing warm, With the standards of the people plunging thro’ the thunderstorm; Till the war-drum throbb’d no longer, and the battle flags were furl’d In the Parliament of men, the Federation of the world. There the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe, And the kindly earth shall slumber, lapt in universal law. Amen! May it be so!