Posted in climate change

Whose emergency?

Today is the beginning of the church’s season of creation, part of our liturgical year which rolls around every year. And that is becoming a problem. We still have the feeling that there will be another chance, another opportunity. But the creation itself is already in the last chance saloon. There isn’t any time left, if we want future generations to celebrate a creation that looks anything like it does now. We have an emergency on our hands. (If you don’t believe me, read this.)

Human beings aren’t very good in emergencies, sadly, especially when it’s not obvious that it’s our own emergency. Even in much more immediate settings the bystander effect comes into play.

When a young woman was stabbed to death outside her apartment building while a number of people watched and did nothing has stimulated a study of how people react in an unclear emergency situation. The findings illustrated that the more people who saw the incident, the less likely they were prepared to act. This means that we not only rely on others to recognise the seriousness of the situation but we are also diffusive of responsibility.

So how can the global emergency of climate change, which everyone is watching, how can that possibly become my emergency? Only I think by becoming something that costs me, that I am invested in. If the woman being attacked had been the partner or daughter of any of those watching, i doubt if they would have waited for others to react.

So what is it that makes something important for you? For some, the destruction of the global climate does it. But for most people – as is obvious from the lack of action so far – it needs to be something much closer to home. And it needs ideally to be something that you are doing alongside others. If your friends, or family, or colleagues are doing it too, whatever “it” may be, then each of you reinforce the sense that this is worthwhile and important.

Do something now – something that costs. Money, time, energy, comfort: it doesn’t matter, really, as long as whatever you do is a commitment. Make yourself committed; make this your emergency. Don’t be taken in by the deceptive fact that your individual action won’t make much difference. Yes it’s true, but what will make a difference is when enough people think preserving our planet is their own priority, not someone else’s. Then change will happen.

It’s not going to happen from above, from governments, until they think it will affect their votes. So it has to happen from below, from the actions of millions of ordinary people who know we don’t have time left to wait for someone else to do something. This is your own planet that’s under attack. How will you help to save it?

Posted in climate change, Poverty and Justice

for the love of …

An intriguing name for a day lobbying parliament about the dangers of climate change.

For the love of – the world? humanity? God? … well, it depends what you really love, doesn’t it? other options suggested on the website include, chocolate, heron, farming in Ethiopia, coral reefs, cheese and – picture of a young father with a baby  -‘my son’ (and there are lots more).

Human beings, very naturally, tend to love what’s close, what’s immediate. We love (most of us) our families and friends; we love places – if we’re lucky, the places where we live; we sometimes love our jobs. We don’t really love people we’ve never met, or places we’ve never been to. And not all of us connect the future lives of our children or grand-children with the sort of car we drive or how we heat our houses

So how can we love the world of the future, and the people of the future, enough to do something now which is difficult, costly and extremely inconvenient: like stopping burning carbon-based fuels? What can possibly give us the energy to make such a change? At the moment, the answer would appear to be, nothing very much. Politicians reckon, probably rightly, that if they were to implement the sorts of measures which would actually demonstrate that love for the distant future, they would lose their own jobs in the immediate future.

the for the love of … website tries to make the connections for almost anyone to something they really love – something worth doing something about. But it’s really like trying to get water to run uphill. Let me share with you the one response we got on twitter when the Diocese of Southwark shared this photo:


It went: ‘the good Lord stuck the Sun up there to keep us warm by another 2 degs get over it’. Not so easy for those who will lose their land, or their livelihood, or their life.

What can we do? Well, those of us who preach can preach – unashamedly. We can sign up to the Lambeth Declaration, launched today, and use it to provoke our churches into discussion and action. And we can encourage our MPs that they’re more likely to get our vote, not less, if they support meaningful action, soon.

I’m very much looking forward to reading the authorised version of Pope Francis’ encyclical. (Incidentally, has no one told those Republican Catholics that they’re meant to be obeying the Pope, not the other way round? Yes, even when he talks about things they don’t like.) I hope he brings this whole issue back to love: the love of God. In both directions: the love God shows in creating a world of such beauty and richness; and our love which should be shown in taking up the gift given to Adam and Eve – of being stewards of such a great gift. It’s not a job we’ve done very well up to now, but for the love of God …