Considering the climate for the Saints, today & 550AD

In the part-time role as Diocesan Environment Officer (DEO), I get to enjoy the many connections between my usual day-to-day job considering climate change and those celebrating the gift of creation.


Last week, I got to swap the office desk with the Cornish Celtic Way footpath, taking the opportunity to have a chat with Dr Chris Goldsmith, the Bishop of St. Germans as he completes his 120-mile pilgrimage. The journey criss-crosses Cornwall and takes in St Michael’s Way, (Lelant to Marazion), and the Saints’ Way, (Fowey to Padstow), as well as numerous other historic, holy sites.

I talked with Bishop Chris about my plans as DEO, to encourage everyone across the whole Diocesan community, to consider what they do to live in closer harmony with Gods intentions. To make it easier for people I would provide the tried and tested easy to use 10 pledges, which, if they did them slowly, perhaps one a month, to lessen their impact on climate change, they would also boost their resilience to it.


We talked about why this is needed and the many reasons we find to avoid contributing to earth’s fruitfulness and sustainability, but the stark facts for me, recently published by the Government’s Committee on Climate Change, prevail over all reasons and somehow, I need to find a way to enable people to get a firm grip on the subject to make their own decisions.


I see the 10 pledges enabling people to boost health, save money, combat loneliness, have less impact on the planet, take steps to consider impacts on family, church and congregations. I shared with Bishop Chris, my view that I have long seen the Church as the agent for this change and I’m quite excited about the possibilities.


As I started my mindful walking, after having stopped at St. James Well, I started to think about the times St. Cadoc, St. Mawgan and St. Brioc had as they walked the same route around 550 AD. It must have been so brave and exciting, but actually –it was a bit of a miracle. I remembered (from two fantastic Exeter University climate change degrees) that significant events around then, signalled in the ice cores, told stories of dreadful plague, famine and dust that had wreaked havoc with their lives. Apparently, they experienced the biggest volcanic dust clouds and climatic consequences observed in the last 3000 years.1 Having survived to tell the tales, to arrive in Cornwall, back then when a third of the European population had been wiped out by the Justinian Plague, was a significant deal. Perhaps a super eruption of Krakatoa some 15 years before? Reduced Solar radiation? A comet or cosmic swarm? Had the atmospheric make-up caused the plague? 2

During its peak, agriculture stopped, cities collapsed, as 5-10000 people died every day, with increasing outbreaks which didn’t stop until 590AD. Nature laid its signal in the ice cores as the people fell and it took back its role and turned croplands into forest. Bill Ruddiman talks about this dynamic and how it pulled carbon out of the atmosphere which allows us to think about the impact and response times to our activities.3

Mike Hulme talks about why we don’t want to relate to all of this in his brilliant book. Yet he knowingly suggests “climate change can help us bring the physical and the cultural, the material and spiritual, into a new realignment”.


Great, let’s get on with it, click on the Well and start your valuable journey, thank you









1 Stothers, R.B., 1984: Mystery cloud of AD 536. Nature, 307, 344-345


2 Baillie, M. 2007. The case for significant numbers of extraterrestrial impacts through the late Holocene. J. Quaternary Sci., Vol. 22 pp. 101–109. ISSN 0267–8179.


3 Ruddiman, W.F. (2005). Plows, Plagues and Petroleum: How Humans Took Control of Climate, Princeton.


4 Hulme M. (2009). Why We Disagree About Climate Change. CUP.