To me – and I think to most people – the word energy has scientific connotations. Only recently have I began researching the different types of disciplines that work in the energy sector, broadening my own understanding of the world of energy (all of which you can see on our Energy Blog). Still, the topics are often related to something technical or corporate and very rarely do they touch on subjects that are a little less capitalist. Recently I attended a lecture titled ‘Religion and Climate Change’ – given by Professor Mike Hulme of King’s College London – and it was here where I feel like I have learned the most within a 90 minute period since arriving in Groningen; I only hope my professors don’t end up reading this confession.
The first point he made, is that while it may not seem to be the case to those of us in a secular Western society, the majority of the world population right now – roughly two thirds – identifies with a particular faith and therefore to ignore the role of religion in tackling climate change and the energy transition makes no sense. He continued by saying that while science can help us to understand what is happening, it will not motivate people to change their behaviour; a point I think that is well made. Currently we know a lot about how our behaviour is affecting the environment around us, yet people are still unwilling to act in a sustainable way.
It is perhaps better to appeal to a person’s faith given that it is an intrinsic part of their world. Until recently people still thought that our weather was controlled by sky dwelling Gods; the residual effect of such a strong belief like this doesn’t just disappear overnight, just look at supporters of Donald Trump despite the most recent outrage. However after speaking to Mike, he told me that he would be surprised if there was a direct correlation between strength of religious identity and energy usage but that some religions do teach the modest use of materials; by appealing to this, there is potential for motivating change.
The most interesting thing that Mike said, was how each person should be able to define climate change in their own way. While to me and my colleagues at Energy Academy Europe it is an issue relating to the scientific, to others it could be a completely different kind of experience. By involving more people and more ways of thinking, it will be easier for us as a species to come to a solution about our changing climate that works for all of us, not just those of us in a secular society. Only together can we leave a world that is fit for habitation in future generations, and it is here I leave you with a quote – given by Mike in his lecture – by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children”.