We Are All Connected
His was a clarion call: we need to move away from fossil fuels dependence towards cleaner and safer energies that protect the people and the planet. Foremost in his mind was the impact of climate change already being felt by vulnerable people and communities, whether here, in Indigenous communities, in Fiji, in Iceland, or on the continent of Africa. Despite his abiding hope, he also expressed a deep concern for the future, for young people and the integrity of creation: “I am 82, but you are babies. Do you want to live in a desert?” And he didn’t mince words about the devastation of God’s creation, about the perilous path we are on, about deep failures to care for one another. There was a sense of crisis and immediacy, and the moral requirement for urgent change.
But the place it came from was a generous one. He called for those doing harm to acknowledge their role in that harm, whether in South Africa’s apartheid, the process of colonization, or in our current ecological crisis. But there was also a call to a magnanimous response by those so deeply affected, even to the point of forgiveness, and a clear invitation to transformation and working together. For Tutu, connection to each other, in one humanity, is the true bottom line, not the profit motive. It becomes both the profound reason that we should care about the impact of fossil fuel extraction on people and the planet, as well as the means by which we are going to respond, to make the huge shifts needed to bring about another future.
For Tutu this transformed future is “fulfilling God’s dream.”
Tutu ended his address in a most unprecedented way for a legal conference. At his urging, and with the words “we are all connected,” he compelled the audience to hold hands–lawyers, Chiefs, industry representatives, community members, faith communities, elders joining hands. A little awkward, but still poignant and powerful, African “ubuntu” intertwined with “all my relations.” He would not prescribe the way forward, but affirmed our capacity to bring about transformation, citing the way different communities came together in powerful coordinated action to end apartheid.
His deep faith, his joy in life and people, his moral clarity, his hope—all embodied in his person, with the history of struggle and commitment imprinted on his body. It was a privilege to be in his presence. May he stir us to deep conversation, powerful solidarity and hopeful action.