Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Trouble Brewing — Stirring Times

Great Missenden’s Big Brew took place a couple of Saturdays ago in the Parish Church. Its context was Living Hope, an environmental day conference organised by the local Church. It brought together national and local leaders from green organizations like A Rocha, CAFOD, CCOW, Christian Aid, Christian Ecology Link, Tearfund and Traidcraft with an audience of 130 people. There were three keynotes to kick proceedings off:
  1. Paula Clifford argued for a passionate realism about where we stand, including an awarenss that others around the world are paying a heavy price for our indecision. One thought for the day was that “politicians are a renewable resource”. She suggested three prime sources of hope in torubled times:
    Community: The Body of Christ is a central NT concept, but can be an elusive ideal. We need to re-estabish what this means for ourselves locally, nationally and internationaly
    Interdependence: is a pragmatic reality which is often underestimated or abused. How are we interdependent in a global world, and how shuld we be?
    Mission: Christians have, since hte beginning, been turning the world upside down; but how would a carbon-neutral world look and feel, and how do we bring it about?

  2. Chris Sunderland of Earth Abbey told us that in his lifetime world population had grown from 2.5 billion to 6.7 billion, and we need to re-imagine our way of life. Some people are sharing their land and working fewer days to reconnect with each other and the land, and he commended local projects and ideas like GrowZones.

  3. Dave Bookless of A Rocha believed that since Copenhagen concern about climate change had slipped down the political agenda. We had also missed the opportunity of the financial crisis to reboot our banking system and returned to business as usual. The environment isn’t the problem — we are! Lord May, an atheist, wants Churches to invoke fear of a divine punisher to make people act. This aspiration is understandable, if a little nutty. Dave argued that, like St Francis, we need to open our eyes, minds and hearts to God, the Earth, and the other person.
    — We are fallen, with a propensity for idolatry. God’ first commission in Scripture was to steward the earth.
    — We need a Copernical reeconfiguration of our attitudes — earth doesn”t revolve around us.
    — The other is a significant figure in Scripture. The alien within our gates matters, and with the prospect of serious migration driven by climate change we need to get our heads and hearts arund the consequences.
There followed smaller meetings on a variety of topics from greening school buildings to liturgy, the practicalities of ground and air-source heating, to the latest climate science. This event certainly showed that local churches and groups can put on top notch training events around the issues facing us. Congratulations to Margaret Dixon and her local team for pulling it all together. The event has now gone on to a website for follow up and sharing of ideas — earthingfaith.org.

There’s no getting away from the fact that getting real about our environment involves choices for us all, and has an inevitable political dimension. Therefore, to wrap things up, I chaired an afternoon session with David Lidington, our local MP. His thought-provoking review of the major issues and realities brought in experience of the national and international scene and demonstrated, to my mind, courage and leadership in two potentially awkward areas:
  1. David mentioned what would otherwise have been one dreaded elephant in the room — the new high speed rail link across the Chilterns. This issue could turn into ignorant armies clashing by night, stigmatising the other lot as NIMBY’s or Tree-huggers. We actually need some light as well as heat, here. There is no cost-free way of maintaining a high tech society, but by the same token there’s no point saving the environment by mucking up the local environment unnecessarily. There are some cute calls to be made. Public Consultation on the £17Bn scheme begins in earnest this autumn, and people need to lock onto the global and local realities closely and imaginatively.

  2. David very helpfully discussed how the process of politics actually works for jobbing MP’s — genuinely personal communications arising from real experience are, inevitably, more helpful than name-calling bulk productions, which are more helpful than nothing, perhaps, but don't actually give MP’s much to go on. The message I heard was (my words not his) “Be personal, be real, and above all, get involved!”
This is a troubled time to be green. There is a fair amount of disappointment from Copenhagen. Powerful vested interests are manning the bar on the Titanic with glad tidings that the icebergs are illusory and the party must go on. What I don’t get is, even if it could be proved scientifically that pumping tons of needless crap into the sky doesn’t actually affect anything that matters, where’s the fun in dong that? Wouldn’t it be even more fun to tread lightly and with self-awarensss towards habits of living that go with the grain of life?

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Alan,

Disappointment with Copenhagen? The Green lobby, dependent on huge research grants, intent on making money from indulgences (ie carbon trading) in the new world climate religion, seeking world government (read the draft treaty), and busy covering up the scientific facts about climate change, are the powerful lobby with vested interests to watch out for.


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