Letter from a Member of the Ministry Team. Iffley Parish Magazine, November 2021.

By the time you read this, the leaders of over 100 nations as well as the Queen will be meeting in Glasgow for COP26. The scientific evidence that unprecedented and sometimes irreversible and damaging climate change is already happening is overwhelming. The fundamental reason for climate change is that since the industrial revolution human ingenuity has allowed the wealthy part of the world to live more and more comfortably and conveniently, with more and more possibilities for travel, and with more choice in what we buy and do, without serious regard to the consequences.  

In Paris in 2015 196 nations agreed to a binding treaty to limit global average temperature increases to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. Specific pledges in 2015 to reduce greenhouse emissions were seen to be inadequate, and pledges to more ambitious reductions are the intended outcome in Glasgow. However, at the time of writing many key nations have not yet submitted their hoped-for pledges, and there is considerable doubt that the target will be reached.

Decarbonising is a complex process with vast economic as well as geopolitical ramifications. Developing nations emit far less that wealthy nations, yet already suffer far more from climate change. Agreed levels of compensation for developing nations by richer countries has not so far been achieved. The scale of what is required by the world as a whole is enormous, and it is clear that the targets can only be met with world-wide agreement. The fundamental question is whether there can be agreement that current priority for endless economic growth and personal wealth can be replaced by the priority for immediate and very radical measures to save the future of the human race, and life on our planet.

There are a number of already very well-publicised ways in which we can play our own part in reducing carbon emissions now: less travel, less flying, less consumption of food and meat in particular, smaller cars, more cycling and walking, cooler homes, and better home insulation. Though these points are very well known it is clear that we have hardly changed our behaviour in recent times. It is easier, more convenient and more comfortable not to change our ways, but the time has come for fundamental change to happen.

It is also clear that we need to look ahead at other measures that will be necessary for the long-term future of human wellbeing. Among them is the challenging (and controversial) need for population reduction so that the earth’s natural resources are not over-used and further damaged, sometimes irreversibly, as is already happening.  

The fundamental change that is needed can described by the Greek word Metanoia, meaning a complete change of one’s way of life, a turning away from the past to something new and very different. Some pointers to what this change means are expressed in the poem The Kingdom by R.S. Thomas. In this kingdom the poor man is king….the consumptive is healed….the blind see themselves and love looks at them….industry is for mending the bent bones and minds fractured by life…It’s a long way off but getting there takes no time and entry is free….if you will purge yourself of desire, and present yourself with your need only and the simple offering of your faith, green as a leaf.

Graham Low

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