by LAWRENCE KO
There was an old adage I learnt when I was in the Boy Scouts movement which was helpful for predicting weather when we went hiking or camping:
It was a simple rule of thumb guide to anticipate the weather conditions for the day ahead as we prepare for our outdoor activities. This was in line with the Boy Scout’s motto, “Be Prepared” and it was an important lesson for our journey in life.
The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in December 2015 sounded a warning that the planet was heading towards a climate change disaster if we do not contain the rise in global temperature to within 2 degrees Celsius (since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution) by the end of the 21st Century (2100). It was a “Red in the Morning, Shepherd’s Warning” signal or “shout” to the world. The reality and challenge of climate change was supported by many scientific research groups, especially the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. Nearly 200 countries heeded the warning and pledged to support this historic Paris Agreement of 2015 to fight the 2-degree war to combat climate change.
Unfortunately, not many countries followed through with the ratification of the Paris Agreement, with the United States of America as a glaring example of the loss of political will in this 2-degree war. The “red morning” persists to continue warning the world of the imminent ecological disaster but few shepherds take heed, both shepherds of nations as well as shepherds of the churches.
The impact of the environmental crisis on the world is in fact acutely felt across the world, and especially so in Asia which has seen unprecedented population growth and rapid urbanisation resulting in rising prosperity and related poverty crises. Asia has witnessed the mushrooming of urban centres over the past four decades as part of the rising economic Asia-Pacific region and is on the throes of seeing greater rural-urban migration with more megacities developing in a hurry. The increased population pressures and rise of Asia’ middle class with its greater appetite for consumerist lifestyle has led to the widening rich-poor divide and also immense environmental pollution on every front.
China has borne the brunt of the urban pollution and environmental degradation the most as many developed nations moved their polluting factories to China as the “factory of the world”. Unwittingly China hence leads the world in carbon emission. The frustration of the Chinese populace living with toxic water and farm land, and contending with urban smog and grey skies for most parts of the year, has led to a Chinese journalist producing a long critical documentary entitled “The Dome” analysing the causes for the serious environmental problems facing the country.
Creative artistes have also addressed these environmental issues in their music. The acclaimed Chinese singer Tan Weiwei produced a brilliant Chinese song recently fusing folk with rock entitled, “A Little Colour For You”. The title is also a Chinese pun for the phrase “a little warning for you”. She screams her warning with anger and pathos in her song which sounds a timely warning and wake-up call for the world:
Why has the sky turned grey?
Why is the land not green?
Why is human heart not red?
Why are the snow on the mountains black?
Why does the rhino have no horn?
Why does the elephant have no tusk?
Why are the sharks without their fins?
Why are the birds without their wings?
Asians living in the present age resonate readily with Tan Weiwei and the Chinese public at large as they experience deep rage and existential angst looking at their own environmental predicament. The political institutions have bowed to economic institutions too readily and mortgaged the future of the earth to the rich and powerful of the present. This is not a challenge for China alone but for all of us in Asia and around the world. There is no escaping the onset of urbanisation and modernity. We are not opposing development and certainly not seeking a return to agrarian living. As China rises and makes a green shift, perhaps Asia can be impacted positively too in the environmental arena.
Can the City be Green? Why Not? We need a green urban vision and a green urban lifestyle. Perhaps what is needed is a new vision of desert spirituality suited to the urban environmental challenge, where we can live life more sustainably in the city. We need to develop a radically green urban spirituality which can help us find our way in the concrete jungle.
Excerpted from Lawrence Ko’s From the Desert to the City, published by Ethos Institute (2020). This book will be available from January 2020. Lawrence Ko will be giving the Ethos Lecture on 17 February 2020 entitled “From the Desert to the City: Environmental Stewards and Priests of Creation” at the Bible House at 7 Armenian Street. For more information, please visit https://ethosinstitute.sg/deserttocity/
 谭维维 《给你一点颜色》