It appears philosophers at Oxford have hit upon the idea of genetically engineering humans to better adapt to the challenges presented by climate change.
In a nutshell, they suggest that ‘humans could be modified to be smaller, dislike eating meat, have fewer children and be more willing to co-operate with social goals.’
Sheer genius! Why didn’t anyone think of this before? Humans responding to climate change by modifying their behaviour… Great idea! My hammock sways a little as I digest the rest of the article with a series of delighted snorts and snuffles. Among other things, ‘eating eco-unfriendly food would induce unpleasant experiences’, treating people with the ‘love drug’ oxytocin could encourage them to act as a group and boost their appreciation of nature, and the whole thing could be incentivised with tax breaks.
Sense of the absurd happily fed for the day, I drift off into a pleasant otherworld…
“Have you seen this?”
It's early on Easter Saturday, and Jesus is energetically waving a copy of the Sydney Morning Herald at the Spirit and the Father. His face is glowing with enthusiasm. “I think they may finally have hit on a solution to the Climate Change problem!”
The Holy Spirit sighs. She’s used to Jesus’ wild bursts of passion- and He’s an avid Herald reader. “I saw it. It’s a crazy idea.”
“What’s crazy about it?” Jesus is indignant. “It’s exactly what’s required. Real change. A response! Something has to be done about this- it’s not just the polar ice caps that are at risk. People’s lives are on the line. It’s time people made a commitment to actually doing something concrete about Climate Change before it’s all too late!”
“I know that,” the Spirit says patiently. “It’s the method they’re proposing. Completely impractical. I bet a man thought it up. Give a bloke a simple task- like cleaning a bathroom- and he has to go and complicate the whole affair. Powertools. Hydraulic hoses. It’s just a simple cleaning job!”
Jesus looks baffled. “What’ve bathrooms got to do with it?”
“You don’t need genetic engineering to change people’s behaviour, that’s all. You do it the way it’s always been done, the way we’ve always done it. From the mind. From the heart.”
Jesus rolls his eyes. “Well, you would say that. You’re the Spirit. That’s your job. I like things with a bit more…action.”
“Yes, we know.” The Spirit says wryly. “It’s Easter. We all know where action gets you…”
“People!” God interjects mildly, smoothing out the offending article for a closer look. “We’re all in this together, remember? It takes all types…”
I wake suddenly with my arm numb and a dripping child standing over me, requesting lunch. I wonder guiltily whether I’ve committed some form of sacrilege having pictured the Godhead engaged in such robust speculation? It’s an issue that is surely close to their hearts, especially considering the world’s poor are hit hardest by climate change. The UN estimates that floods, storms and droughts will all increase as a result of climate change in coming years, and it’s women and children who will find it hardest to adapt.
Rolling out of the hammock, I consider my own children. They’re lightweight, work well in groups, don’t eat much meat and will grow up to be well educated members of society who understand quite a lot about the impact of human consumption on their environment. Hopefully they’ll actively work to reduce their carbon footprint. They produce very little methane (okay, one of them produces a bit more than the other, especially after Beans.)
We’re working hard on their hearts and minds, in touch with the Spirit, and we’re helping them take action. We talk to them about their nearby neighbours in the Pacific- men, women and children who live with salt water rising in their homes, unable to grow the food they need to survive, threatened with forced migration because their home may become uninhabitable before they grow up.
But is it enough? Because unless our children are your children and your children are other children, do we have enough children to make a change? And will our children grow tired and cynical and selfish and lack lustre…?
It’s Easter Saturday. Somewhere out there, a tomb lies quiet and cold, awaiting a new dawn. And while cloning my children on their good days may not be such a bad idea, on the whole I think between you and me, and the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we can probably bring about change using more conventional methods.
Education. Sharing resources. Living more simply.
At least it's worth a shot.
You can support people living in poverty and dealing with the immediate impact of climate change, here and now, by giving to the Climate Change Response Project in the Pacific.
Watch video from Tuvalu.