2020 begins where 2019 left off (may sound obvious as there's only a second between the two …). One thing in particular is the pressure built in 2019 around our stewardship of the earth, and how that is seeing its consequences in 2020.
From Greta Thunberg's meteoric rise – and subsequent appalling treatment by individuals, businesses and the media – to Australia suffering its overwhelming bush fires, climate change has come tearing full force into our living rooms to try and make us change how we consider caring for our world.
And now there's the new coronavirus: a cheerful start to the year if ever there was one. Coronavirus joins SARS, Swine and Avian Flus as symptomatic of how humanity has for too long taken for granted our authority over nature. The expanse of 'wet markets' trading in exotic animals as food and pets has allowed disease to spread in ways it never normally would.
While climate change and the spread of infectious illnesses may not be immediately linked, they share the common theme of how we as humanity are being increasingly confronted with the knowledge that we are simply not caring for God's creation in the ways we must, and are expected to. It is our duty – and should be our joy – to see creation flourish, not be sucked dry for our pleasure.
Thankfully, the spread of greater awareness of these issues appears to making progress, even if it is slow. More and more people are realising how the smallest of alterations to our daily lives do not have to be onerous or troublesome. Yes, we do need to change certain aspects of our lifestyles if we want to be true and good stewards of God's resources, but that can actually lead to better lives.
Moving from petrol to electric vehicles has massive impacts on emissions, as well as domestic cost (I very much enjoy showing people who disagree not only the complete breakdown of KWh saved but money too!). Moving from wasteful and dirty energies to clean alternatives makes our lives simpler and healthier.
But it seems to be a constant battle to convince some people of this truth, not just its viability. That's not because proper stewardship has its mitigations, it is because some people just refuse to see what is staring them in the face, until it hurts them or they realise the true impact of their neglect.
Such is the situation with China. It has taken the spread of a deadly virus for the umpteenth time to make the Chinese government finally shut down certain trades. Hopefully permanently but even if only temporarily it may be enough to convince the whole world that our treatment of our environment extends to our fellow creatures, not just our forests or oil reserves.
Caring for creation is not about changing a few light bulbs or stopping buying petrol. It is about understanding our responsibilities to leave God's creation in the best possible state for our children and grandchildren to inherit. Taking for granted our advances in technology and energy have caused us huge problems, but these can be reversed, and must be, if we care about future generations.
When humanity was given the garden of this world to care for, it was left a mighty responsibility to love and not destroy, to tender to and not abuse, to uphold and honour, not to deplete and exhaust all that God has provided. We have more than enough for what we need and are able, if we are willing, to make this earth a safe and healthier place.
So, forasmuch as 2019 had a stream of stories which are potentially terrifying, they were merely warnings that things do not need to be this bad. Let 2020 be the time we collectively take those warnings seriously and honour what God has given us; that we are carers of, and tenders to, an earth made to flourish and reflect God's constant presence.