Advent conspiracy 21: Advent is urgent…

Today Steve Broadway finds connections between the waiting season of advent and the wait for genuine action on climate change. I find myself very much in agreement…

One of the resources I’ve been using during Advent is the Archbishop of York’s Advent Book 2022, by Nicholas Holtam (he retired as Bishop of Salisbury in 2021), entitled “Sleepers Wake: Getting Serious About Climate Change”. Holtam was the Church of England’s ‘lead bishop’ on the environment (and chaired the Environmental Working Group 2014-21). As one might imagine, given that background, the book is well researched and an excellent source for both information and reflection.

I’m finding it a challenging read but a very apt subject for Advent. In his introduction, Holtam describes it thus: “

Advent is urgent. We are getting ready for Christmas and there is a lot to do. We are also reminding ourselves that Christ will come again (do I personally really think that?). We do not know when that will be so we need to be prepared. Most of the time we just get on with life and live without much urgency, but that feels less possible in a world that is becoming more and more alarmed by the climate and environmental crises”.

Lunchtime sketch in a local bar: ‘we just get on with life and live without much urgency’

The sad thing is that, as the book’s sub-title infers, we’re still only starting to get serious about the environment… it seems that we’re very good at the thinking and writing bit but, when it comes to action, we’re pretty inadequate. For example, in 2020, the General Synod of the CofE recognised the climate emergency (a little late in the day, one might think?) and committed the Church to becoming ‘net zero’ by 2030. Holtham was quick to point out that this constituted “an impossibly ambitious target”.

Another case of yet more talk and inadequate action perhaps?

We can all recall the early days of the pandemic and the dramatic effects it had on our daily lives – quite apart from the horrible business of thousands of deaths, the overstretched NHS et al. The planes had stopped flying, there was very little traffic, the streets were empty, the sounds of nature were all around us. Many people resolved that “we must never go back to the way it was before” (or words to that effect)… but, of course, we have.

And, of course, it’s not just a ‘technical fix’, there are morals involved too… it cannot be acceptable for the carbon footprint of the richest 1% to be equivalent to that of the poorest 50%.

Holtam provides MUCH food for thought. Take this, for example: “It would help if we were more fearful about the damage we are doing to environment by flying… Aviation makes up 7% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, yet few people are aware that aviation kerosene is NOT taxed, due to international agreement. The missing tax is made up for, to some extent, by the level Air Passenger Duty… but, in 2021, the UK’s Chancellor cut this by 50% on domestic flights to encourage us to fly. It is crazy that it is cheaper to fly from Manchester to London than to go by train”.

This is an extract from the wonderful John O’Donohue’s ‘Blessing On Our World’ (Benedictus)… which seems somehow appropriate:

“Believing ourselves to be helpless, we hand over all our power to forces and systems outside us that then act in our names; they go on to put their beliefs into action; and, ironically, these actions are often sinister and destructive. We live in times when the call to full and critically aware citizenship could not be more urgent”.

It’s a depressing, slow-moving world when it comes to taking action and legislating on environmental issues… especially when governments frequently seem happy to be paying ‘lip service’ to it all.

One of the positive outcomes of the environmental crisis is that it’s highlighted the need for us all to nurture the planet… to be far more mindful of its resources and to take on board sustainable policies that avoid the kind of damage caused by past actions. Sadly, there are still powerful and influential people who continue to follow strategies that reward themselves at the expense of the environment.

Photo: nuclear fusion: ‘a near near-limitless, safe, clean source of energy’? (Damien Jemison/LLNL/NNSA).

Given all our concerns about the Climate Crisis, the recent, remarkable announcement from the US about a breakthrough in nuclear fusion which could mean “a near-limitless, safe, clean source of energy”, comes as a potential ‘game-changing’ discovery. No doubt, it will take several years yet before we know the full implications of this research and the impact (or not) it might have on the future of the planet… but what a remarkable life-changing breakthrough this could be.

I only hope that such possibilities don’t mean that all those ‘climate sceptics’ will effectively tell us “we told you that science would be the answer… so, forget all that talk of having to nurture the planet, we can now pursue stuff that will simply maximise financial rewards, increase our influence on the world and its people”.

Power, greed and riches for the few… at the expense of the few (and the planet)?

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