Multiplex: The Environmental Crisis – Dr Denise Thompson – Cape Town 2010

>>I am a Manufacturing Engineering professor.
Beyond that I teach Technology Entrepreneurship so I teach engineers how to start businesses,
big capitalism from their research knowledge-based businesses that will transform the economy
of Trinidad and Tobago into a knowledge-based developed society by the year 2020, so I stand
convicted of much of what he has spoken. And yes, even at the university in the academic
setting there are those of us Christians who can take what we’ve done academically and
use it for transformative purposes in our world. So the environmental crisis, the Gospel
and Christian witness at the university. We’ve heard some of the biblical mandates for the
care for creation. We are called by God to care for the creation. Whether we’re running
down a hole or not, our mandate is to care for that which God has given us. So yes, that
includes the church. Implications for Christian witness in the university. And I know I have
just ten minutes because Professor Gnanakan has already told us we want some discussion.
Why do we care for God’s creation? It’s a mandate from him himself. How do we care?
On an individual basis and on a corporate basis. Local, regional, national and international
care. On a corporate basis, individual, community, church, state and transnationally. We’re
called to care. My task this afternoon is just to transform your thoughts a little around
the role of education in creation care. There are two things I’ll talk about quickly.
Education and sustainable development, which is what I do at the university. And education
for energy consumption and renewables. I teach business. So this morning because
I know many of us would not have had a chance to check what’s happening in the world,
the Bank of America resumed foreclosures in 23 states following a temporary hold. BP,
British Petroleum is going to sell1.8 billion in assets to pay for damages from the April
rig explosion in the Gulf, 200 million gallons of oil. The Convention on Biological Diversity,
a UN organization, is meeting in Japan as we meet here in Cape Town to work out why
governments have failed to stop the rapid rate of extinction and loss of habitat. They
had promised to do this by 2010. It’s far from being done.
Why should we care as Christians? Because God has called us to care. Education for sustainability.
What is sustainability anyhow? What I teach my students, we talk about triple bottom line.
I require my students to think about the businesses they start, not just from an economic point
of view, how much profit am I going to make and how quickly can I do that, but from a
social point of view, what happens with the people around me? And from an environmental
point of view, what happens with the earth? What kinds of materials do I use, what kind
of design am I contributing to the business? So it’s triple bottom line. And my engineers
think of people and the planet as well as profits. Christians making a difference in
academia. For many years, the church, in fact historically
the church has been involved in education. And we have wonderful universities as the
heritage of that today, the Yales, Princetons, Cambridges of our world. I’m from the University
of Trinidad and Tobago, a secular 5-year-old university. Six-years-old. I’ve been there
five years. I was there one year after it started. 7,000 students. Attempting to transform
the region, the Caribbean region in the next – we haven’t given ourselves a limit of
how we do that. The church has been involved in education in the Caribbean from the beginning.
So we were discovered. He laughs, we were. That’s what they tell us. And then we transferred
hands, Spain and Britain and France fought over us but each one of our colonial owners
brought with them education. And that did a lot of good.
What are the major challenges in the Caribbean? Forgive me for being very personal and I am
aware that I’m speaking to the global church and those sitting in front of me this evening
are the leaders of the global church. I’m just using my own experience to challenge
you as Christian leaders of churches around the world. 189 countries gathered here. What
are we going to do about our environmental crisis as a church? As the church of Jesus
Christ. The major challenges in the Caribbean: disaster management, energy security, sustainable
economic growth, environmental protection, the development and use of renewable energies
appropriate to our situations. And I know I speak for everyone here. That could have
been you talking about your own country, your own region, your own world.
I should be the last one speaking this afternoon because I’m from Trinidad and Tobago. And
Trinidad and Tobago is the oil-producing capital of my region, so we’re 1.3 million people
on an island 35 miles by 48 miles. We have thousands of miles, however, of gas and oil
transmission pipes crisscrossing our island. In 2008 we had two natural gas liquid processing
facilities, LNG facilities. We are the world’s largest exporter of methanol. We have a urea
plant, direct reduced iron plants, power generation, petroleum refineries, I go on. On an island
35 miles by 48 miles. Which means we’re also the second largest
per capita emitter of greenhouse gases. We will tell you, don’t tell us anything, because
you developed nations spewed greenhouse gases to get where you are. Come by hook or by crook
we’ll get to where we need to be. So what do I as a Christian in a secular university
have to do with that? Well, we’re all inhabitants of this global island. All of us: rich and
poor, weak and strong, whether citizens of great power or tiny ethos, we are linked in
webs of opportunity and vulnerability. We should have known this already. The question
is whether we will act over the long term not just in small islands but everywhere in
the same Spirit of unity that characterizes the current moment. Thank you.

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