I was delighted to be asked to attend an Environment Service at St. Bart’s Lostwithiel, and to answer questions from the local community. Here is a summary of them, but you can watch the full answers here.
COVID The world is currently suffering from the worst global pandemic in our lifetimes.
Q. Do you think there is a connection between the outbreak of Coronavirus and human stewardship of the earth?
We are tapping deeper into nature, striving to build houses, feed the masses and this has happened so many times before. William Ruddiman says 8000 years ago plague caused depopulation & reforestation, contributed to a cooler climate. Although some (Lamb) think cooler climates e.g., the Little Ice Age (Frost fairs on the Thames, Eskimos kayaking to Scotland because of extended ice pack, Crete with hot winters) caused famine, depopulation & disease. Whichever camp you are in, we make an impact. Glaciers hold stories of deep time, providing temperature records and climate information. For example, A lot of our Saints came here in the 6thC, making a brave and exciting journey, but actually –it was a bit of a miracle. At that time dreadful plague, famine and dust that had wreaked havoc with their lives. Agriculture stopped, cities collapsed, as 5-10000 people died every day. To read more and to realise how we impact see https://climatevision.co.uk/considering-the-climate-for-the-saints/
Pledge 2 will help you understand how agricultural practices had to adapt to the climate and loss of land in the past and is top of the agenda today, thanks to a great 25 Year Plan and Environment Bill coming soon (of course things can always be better, but why not get behind what we have)?
Pledge 3, I recommend some nice bedtime reading Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum: How Humans Took Control of Climate by my No1 hero William F. Ruddiman. It’s an excellent read for any level, by a truly great man.
HEAT 2020 was notable not only for the outbreak of Covid-19, according to NASA it was also the ‘hottest year on record’, prompting Dr Paul Johnston, founder of the Greenpeace Research Laboratories, to state ‘If we fail to keep global warming from rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius as per the Paris Agreement, the world will cease to exist as we know it!’
Q. Do you agree?
YES, we already cease to exist as we knew it recently. While we were in the first lockdown, at the end of April, 1,470 households were still displaced from their homes as a result of the February 2020 flooding. We also are quite clear it will change, but so are we planning to – it’s just whether everyone else gets into it and helps, or just waits for someone else to do it or legislation. Why are those able still waiting for that?
Q. If so, what should people do to mitigate against global warming?
Understand it first, talk about it second – imperative.
I do not believe we will get anywhere unless people take personal time to sit down and consider the radical change that needs to happen to clear up the radical mess WE have made. We have to look at ourselves and ask why haven’t I got an electric car – charging it from the sun, and really think about those responses? Of course, some can’t, but many can that haven’t yet.
Let’s be kind to ourselves, it’s like asbestos, fags, Richard Trevithick’s ground-breaking industrial revolution- we didn’t know. We do know this – but we also know it needs quick attention from every single one of us, and for leaders to show by personal action today.
The climate has flipped in the past as quickly as within a decade – do we want to be part of making that history again? No.
Pledge 1 So, the biggest deal is – where are you buy your electricity from? It needs to be 100% renewable now.
If you have taken the time to understand it first, you will know what this means. Many don’t = Fact. So, if you have done it, thank you, but PLEASE can you carefully and kindly explain to someone else? Around 3 double decker busloads of emissions are going to atmosphere every year if you home is buying from fossil fuels still. That is exacerbating flooding – remember those local who weep when it rains – 10 years ago, last month even. Time for action & to respect others.
WATER Clean water is essential for life. The world population is increasing as is the demand for water, but the world’s rivers and oceans are becoming increasingly polluted with macro plastics and micro fibres affecting many forms of life.
Q Is there a connection between water pollution and the way more developed countries use synthetic products? If so, do you think water companies should do more to dissuade people from using synthetic fibre clothing and excessive shower/bath gel and shampoo use to reduce any negative impacts of water usage?
Yes of course, first look at their emissions. We need low hanging and important fruit – FAST. Every litre of water has a carbon emission value and price on the planet. As you extract it, transport it and treat it, all costing emissions to go up into the atmosphere exacerbating the problem.
You £pay a profit-making company for this. You can exercise your right to ask them about leaks, cutting emissions, cutting use and the things you have asked in this question. Recently, Sir James Bevan bravely declared he wants to see wasting water become “as socially unacceptable as blowing smoke in the face of a baby” and that “We all need to use less water and use it more efficiently,” he said in around 20 to 25 years, England would reach the “jaws of death – the point at which, unless we take action to change things, we will not have enough water to supply our needs”. I admire him for doing this, we need ‘the people’ to be aware of the risks we all have to manage. In 2019 SWW were only declaring a worst case aim to reduce leaks in total by 25%, by 2050, which is 10 years after reaching the “jaws of death”. The SW has plentiful water supply, others do not. Thames Water have actually costed out getting ice from the artic, to bring to London due to water shortages, details of which I share in my power point talks. So, get writing on your next bill, keep it short and simple and send it back asking the right succinct, kind questions.
DEFORESTATION Douglas McMeekin, founder of the Yachana foundation estimates that 27 football pitches worth of forest is lost to deforestation every minute!
Q. Do you think that maintaining rainforests is the most effective solution climate change available today?
Most effective? hugely important, BUT the most effective I have said is to take out emissions from the mix – never lose sight of this. After that yes, this is SUPER key and would be a by-product of your purchasing changes. When you take out emissions, markets move, industry changes and people wake up and start to make connection with their coffee and the rainforest. What causes deforestation? I had to use remote sensing to explore the worst hit areas in South America and why those areas were in that state and it was shocking, it’s not just the obvious, there are other growing dangerous markets that need fixing.
Pledge 2 & 3 You can affect those markets, so do your research. We have seen lots of things this month alone whereby BP are buying up EV chargers, Shell managers are at Climate Change Committee webinars talking about change and KANSKA huge developers are publicly saying we have to move away from concrete & steel! When you get out your debit card, stop and think, are you paying for the local flooding to happen? (Have you written to your bank to check they are on track – see https://www.facebook.com/ClimateVision 2/2/21 for latest list and what to say, you could even gift them the 10 pledges and ask them to invite their staff to do them, following their leaders’ example)?
Q. How is the carbon footprint of a parish church calculated, and should each PCC have an environmental officer?
We have a new energy footprint tool, so when the parish returns are done, there is now a column that calculates what the footprint is from the energy use. Churches just need to keep their bills and a scheme we piloted in Truro Diocese (thanks Treasurers that helped) is being developed and improved all the time.
Q. Should each PCC have an environment officer – YES!
Truro & London Diocese effected that motion at General Synod to request every diocese has a resourced eco program. However, anyone can be an environment champion (EC) and the idea is to grow ECs so there isn’t just one or two in each church doing the net zero work, but slowly building many. So, of our already established ECs, many are on the PCC and feel good being supported by the DEO. It’s usually a bi-monthly online meet up with a chance to do what we need to do – discuss ideas, hurdles, EMOTIONS, pains, goals achieved etc. Where else can you do this? It is super essential.
XR In 2018-19 the Extinction Rebellion (XR) protests occurred, which involved many hundreds of Christians, including clergy and even Archbishops protesting on the streets of London! The demonstrations were disruptive and not all together popular – not even among Christians!
Q. Do you think non-violent, civil disobedience protests used by organisations like Extinction Rebellion are effective and have any influence on the Government’s agenda for climate change?
Ok you are asking someone who has worked for Greenpeace in 2 countries and protested a lot and changed things through peaceful reasoning with positive alternatives, so I hope you don’t mind my answer. Everyone has a different way of looking at this and resolving it. Never will everyone be on the same page at the same time, which is why it’s hard to build out of it together and the simplicity of the robust 10 pledges has been formed. You didn’t have to be a Christian to support it or not support it – it was the same for everyone
Of course, it made a difference. The key is to bear witness to what is happening. Greta, Attenborough and the IPCC continue to make a difference.
A little lady in Falmouth who is an ordinary person, who is an IPCC author – makes a difference, when she goes into a room with leaders from all over the world and can’t leave until they all reach a consensus…they are tired, they are looking at already old science…. but now, we do have hope, as many of the worst countries are at it with us now.
If you can’t be active = do Pledge 3 and join something like Greenpeace that does, they will it do it for you while you sleep. It is the common voice that really has made a difference. We have a 25-year plan – wow! That was amazing. We have an environment bill coming – yes, its delayed, we have covid, but its brilliant. Do you know who will police it? Have you checked out Dame Glenys? She’s got a big smile and a big stick – this could be good! It won’t be if we breed a negative angry culture, we need to help those in the jobs of change and if not get in alongside them and help.
If you can’t be active = do Pledge 4 and write to your MP – BE KIND – George Eustace MP has done really good things, as well as things we are not happy with, is an angry letter going to make him change his mind? – of course not, let’s treat others how we would like to be treated.
Q. Is there a more effective way for Christians to make their voices heard?
- Understand it first (Pledge 3)
- Talk about it second (Pledge 4)
- How can we open our purse and buy so much that causes so much trouble? (Pledge 2) How far displaced are we from the reality of our spend? Can we live in simplicity all week, or just a part of the week?
- Can we persevere to follow the path that will transform unjust structures? (all 10 Pledges) Or is it a bit difficult?
SEA LEVEL RISE The National Geographic Organisation has predicted that from the Paris Agreement in 2015 to when the stated commitments end in 2030, sea levels will have risen by 4.5 inches.
Q. Based on that prediction, what advice would you give to coastal communities, including Fowey, Lerryn and Lostwithiel?
For businesses in Devon & Cornwall, you can book the April 1 hour Defra funded online workshop to start the 5 part resilience journey, with some cracking options to be really innovative about avoiding some grim situations here with Eventbrite. This DEFRA funded opportunity is a Pathfinder so what you say afterwards helps us to pave the way for everyone else through policy making, as we really hope to help businesses become more resilient to climate change. If you wish to see a 1minute film explaining, it is here, note: we moved the January workshops to start in April.
To ask others to do the 10 pledges and gently share why – the connection between trauma and emissions contributing to the problem.
THE ECONOMY According to Sciencing.com. the world’s current use of fossil fuels is a contributing factor to air pollution, climate change, and rising sea levels, and according to Statista U.K, Britain is one of the world’s highest consumers of fossil fuel!
Q. What impact will eradicating the use of fossil fuels have on the world’s economies?
The economy can cope, it already is. What is important (for Pledge 4), is to stress this importance to have a strong signal from government to investors to build on current momentum. This is one of the good things about Covid, in short, illustrated by last summers stranded assets; the only technology that worked well throughout lock down was renewable energy, you cannot fire up fossil fuels efficiently with such low and infrequent demand. It was every environmentalists dream to see oil tankers stranded at sea and to hear Mark Carney (the ex-Bank of England Governor) say in the middle of it “Firms that align their business models to the transition to a net zero world will be rewarded handsomely. Those that fail to adapt will cease to exist”. Industry is already responding and investing – we heard that from the Climate Change Committee the week before Christmas, when they presented their 6thCarbon Budget (Pledge 3 delight). This topic was covered in detail in one of the EC events last summer and everyone felt really inspired afterwards – you need to know this as many will always say – “it won’t work until the big companies” …well they are, hang onto your hats! More here
Q. Are modular nuclear power stations viable alternatives? (by creating sustainable energy resources and reducing global carbon emissions)
I’m not a nuclear fan, with so many with cancer because of accidents, nuclear waste issues, radioactive leaks and risk of cooling and flooding issues of plants unresolved and growing. Can we honestly say we have cut our emissions before needing another technology? No. Are you buying electricity from sun/wind? (Pledge 1) Are you buying local seasonal produce? (Pledge 2) Have you made sure your house is fully insulated (Pledge 7) and done everything you can to cut emissions? Are you driving an electric car? (Pledge 10) Please check these before choosing the dangerous option, because if everyone did, even a decade ago when we knew as much, we would not need these technologies that have hurt so many. That is a fact, we worked on it at University. Many will say we don’t have enough money; it is not quite true, it is a fact electric cars have been cheaper, grants are available for technologies, local food can be cheaper. I don’t think we can move on in the debate, until you check the answers and reason with the risks and those hurt today by it.
Q. Are solar panels and wind farms really greener solutions?
Of course, emission free, clearly broadcasting the need, currently a good investment and secure way to boost jobs – I would prefer to see them on every south facing roof rather than in fields, but mistakes, like asbestos and fags are made! Locally created and managed projects are great too.
Q. Are the Church Commissioners (CC) doing enough to divest from fossil fuels?
YES! It’s the best thing I ever saw in my whole career. At General Synod (GS) 3 years ago in July 2018, in the midst of a hard heat wave, a long debate occurred, and I sat there with wet cheeks, FULL of pride and admiration, as GS instructed CC to disinvest from fossil-fuel companies by 2023 unless they showed they would tackle climate change. This not only makes things robust but gives an industry that knows only too well what the problem is, a chance to make it right. Last year the Commissioners & Pensions Board started to disinvest from companies that are not taking seriously their responsibilities to assist with the transition to a low carbon economy and will ensure that by 2023 they have disinvested from fossil fuel companies that they have assessed as not prepared to align with the Paris Agreement’s well below 2º goal. Check out the Transition Pathway Initiative, over 50 investors globally have already pledged support for the TPI, jointly they represent $15 trillion.
BIODIVERSITY Kirsten Campbell from Sciencing U.K suggests that biodiversity has never been stable, rising and falling in natural cycles spanning tens of millions of years. Even so, as the global population has grown exponentially in recent centuries, so has humanity’s impact on biodiversity.
Q. How can governments and local agencies alike balance the issues of biodiversity with housing, and essential community infrastructures?
That is a massive question! The answer is to communicate. Try asking 10 people about biodiversity, what do they know, where does it fit in their lives? Then carefully communicate the risks. Followed by (& not without), communicating the opportunities.
I think it’s important we carefully talk population – overcome the barriers, talk about it, in terms of risk, help people lever into certain choices (preferably that you have led and demonstrated by simple, basic example – check).
CHURCHYARDS The loss of natural habitat has catastrophic consequences for many of the worlds most endangered animals, including pollinating insects.
Q. Is the use of churchyards a reasonable contribution to the problem of biodiversity?
You have to start somewhere, what a great opportunity to wave a flag and say look, look at what we are doing, come and join us? With 10, 000 yards across the country it is a great opportunity for boosting wildlife, linking up with social prescribing (ease the logistics there’s one in a village near you!). Pop it on the notice board, which is one of the green church award criteria, put it in the newsletter, invite your community to enjoy it, get involved, get fit and be delighted by nature (aka natural capital)!
DEOs The Church Commissioners exist to support the work and mission of the Church of England by investing funds in responsible and ethical ways. In their 23-page dossier on Climate Change, they state
‘’The relationship between energy, society and development is complex. Effective action on climate change requires that we take account of the wider consequences and impacts of our decisions. For example, we recognise that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is not simply a question of increasing investment in renewable energy, but also requires that attention is paid to wider issues around energy supply and energy demand. Similarly, we recognise that keeping global temperature rises below 2°C is only part of what we need to do to protect endangered ecosystems and to address the needs of the world’s poor who are particularly vulnerable to climate change and disasters’’
Q. Should an Environmental Officer be appointed in each of the 43 dioceses as part of that national mission? (reducing the number of Archdeacons to find the funds if necessary)
This is largely the result of the Truro & London Diocese General Synod motion asking for that. There is a huge network of DEOs now, with a huge, shared number of resources and work going on. It’s really efficient and there are webinars anyone can attend to learn about all aspects of greening up church and life.
FARMERS We are all familiar with large areas of farmland in Cornwall being given over to Solar Power or Wind Turbine farms.
Q. How would you advise a farmer who might be considering such a change of use in light of the following questions?
To first of all get a complete handle on the new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) immediately. (Pledge 3)
Q. Will the conversion to wind and solar farms help Cornwall achieve a carbon neutral status by 2030?
Yes. As above, I would prefer to see them on every south facing roof, mostly because it’s a quick way for people to become more energy efficient, regardless of barriers. (Pledge 7 + Green Homes Grant)
Q. Is it really feasible that renewable energy sources will produce enough energy for our requirements?
Absolutely key we first insulate, buy energy efficient, buy renewable electricity, cut emissions properly, then of course yes, but we haven’t, yet have we? So, we really have to ask ourselves why. We have to have one or the other. Are we precious or going to wait for government to legislate or are we going to pull our finger out? Check the 10 pledges to check yourself – everyone, it’s a warm welcome, these questions are fantastic, but it is time to get down and direct. Please don’t underestimate how many do not know what switching to renewable energy means.
Q. Would planting large areas of trees and hedgerows as part of the Forest for Cornwall initiative sufficiently reduce carbon dioxide levels?
Absolutely key we get them in the ground quick. We do not want them to suffer in the predicted heat waves. This has happened in the deep past and then the effort is wasted. So, if you cannot plant trees, you MUST excel on Pledge 4 and invite your family and friends to cut emissions to slow down the mix causing heatwaves. Please take this very seriously, thank you.