Perfect Planet: A Statement in Response

January 31, 2021

The final episode of Perfect Planet should have us on our knees – in thankfulness for the amazing people who are so committed to bringing hope to our world, and in sadness at how we have messed it up so terribly.

We need to stop and acknowledge the feelings stirred up in us. Don’t push them away. Don’t allow them to be drowned out by other pressing demands going round our heads. We need to stop and look full-on at the horror that is happening to the wider natural world, to people living in poverty, and to the other creatures that share that world with us.

And we need to acknowledge that, collectively as a species, we have failed. Particularly in the economically developed parts of the world, we have failed and fallen dismally short of the role we should have been taking to look after and cherish other creatures and tread carefully on the earth.

We have failed for decades to listen to the increasingly clear messages coming from scientists working in so many different fields, but all noticing and saying the same thing. Instead of taking the action that needed to be taken ten, twenty, thirty, forty years ago we ignored the warnings and continued recklessly on our path to disaster: governments focused on national self-interest and short-term popularity; businesses put their heads in the sand and focused on shareholder returns; and we as individuals have focused on our own selfish pursuits.

The Christian word for this is sin, but whatever word you want to use, the reality is clear: we have failed and it is time for us to humble ourselves and admit it.

The story of Jonah in the Hebrew Scriptures tells of a reluctant prophet who went to Ninevah to deliver the awful message that, because of their evil ways, God was going to bring destruction. The people and the king listened and responded. They covered themselves in sackcloth and got down on their knees, in the dust. Intriguingly, the animals did so too. And (much to Jonah’s annoyance) God saw their response and had mercy on them.

We need to act urgently, of course we do. As governments, businesses and in our own individual lives, we must make serious changes. I have written and spoken extensively about those actions and I urge us all to do that. But right now, we need collectively to get on our knees, acknowledge the part we have all played in the terrible scenes we have been watching, and pray that there will be mercy.

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  • Reply Mike Hill January 31, 2021 at 10:14 pm

    I’m delighted that you have felt inspired to respond to Perfect Planet final episode. My sadness is that the leaders of the Church (of all denominations) probably won’t say much about it. Just as they have said little about the current crisis of Covid. Surely Christianity has something profound that should be proclaimed about the most important issues of the day?! And proclaimed from the top. Can you have a word with the Archbishop?
    I watched Perfect Planet tonight whilst being ¾ through David Attenborough’s “A Life on our Planet”. They’ve much in common, indeed repeated. I’m finding it an inspiring book, though I shall have to read it again as I forget too much of the detail. It follows the same pattern as this tv film, describing how dreadful is some particular aspect of our Planet, but then offering a hopeful example of what can be done, and is being done, to counteract it. That just needs to be done a thousand times more and on a larger scale. I marvel at David Attenborough’s optimism. It puts my cynical pessimism to shame.

    • Reply Ruth February 1, 2021 at 1:00 pm

      Thank you ever so much for this, Mike, I’m glad you found it helpful. Be encouraged that the Archbishop’s Lent book last year focused on these issues, even though the pandemic changed the focus for a lot of people and churches. But yes, there is much more to be both done and said.

  • Reply Wendy-May Jacobs February 1, 2021 at 11:40 am

    Thank you Ruth for your tireless, long-term advocacy and commitment to this work. You are appreciated. x

    • Reply Ruth February 1, 2021 at 12:56 pm

      thank you, that’s really kind of you to say x

  • Reply Mike Turton February 1, 2021 at 12:30 pm

    Spot on Ruth. the programme pulled no punches in laying out the grave situation we are in. During the pandemic government keep saying that they are listening to the scientists, but they have been very lax in doing that for the environmental crisis which is far greater. We all need to follow your call to prayer, repentance and action.

    • Reply Ruth February 1, 2021 at 4:39 pm

      Thanks Mike! I wish I didn’t have to say it though…..

  • Reply Bruce Gulland February 2, 2021 at 10:25 am

    Thanks for this Ruth, and the Nineveh image is especially pertinent. I’m particularly keen on communicating this way, and on this topic, through poetry, story & other channels of the imagination – potentially powerful. Will keep following your work, and contribute any thoughts as I go…

    • Reply Ruth February 6, 2021 at 1:22 pm

      Thank you Bruce, I’m glad you found it helpful. All the very best to you

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