The Green Tau: issue 41 

6th April 2022

On Monday the IPCC produced the third and final part its reports assessing where we are as world vis a vis the climate crisis. The news is not good. “It’s now or never, if we want to limit global warming to 1.5C,” said Prof Jim Skea, a co-chair of the report. “Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, it will be impossible.” 

Clearly what is needed is system change. As previously discussed (https://greentau.org/2022/04/05/the-green-tau-issue-40/) governments are seldom willing – outside of emergencies such as war – to make system changes unless they feel that is the direction in which the voters have already moved. System change needs social change – and that means a change of heart at the level of the individual, ie the average person on the street. Is the average person on the street ready to accept the changes in lifestyle that ‘immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors’ will entail? And if not how can we bring about a change of heart?

Issue 40 looked at civil action  which, whilst making demands of government, seeks also to stimulate a pro-active response from the public. The action of groups such as XR and Just Stop Oil may raise awareness of the immediacy and scale of the crisis. Their action may embolden others to join in – reassuring them that they are not lone voices crying out in the wilderness. Certainly previous XR protests have seen support for the movement grow. But is it enough? Has it brought about the  widespread change of heart needed? Are there other ways?

  • ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world’ – to paraphrase Gandhi. If we live our lives as would be necessary to achieve net zero, making the cuts and changes that makes our life sustainable, then we are a living example of how a life could look – and others may follow. 
  • Walk the talk – a phrase used by John Gummer, the chair of the UK’s  Climate Change Committee, reflecting in the aftermath of COP26. We can only be credible in asking others to respond actively to the crisis, if we are already doing so. 
  • Climate anxiety, which notably is growing amongst children and young people, can only be genuinely assuaged by us if we are walking the talk. If we are not, then we are effectively deriding their concerns.
  • Bucking the trend – be proud, be confident that you are doing the right thing and more people will be interested in what you are doing. Don’t hide your light under a bushel but be upfront about the changes you are making to your lifestyle and why.
  • Have a dream – think, imagine, envisage what the ideal world world look if those ‘deep emissions reductions across all sectors’ had taken place. What would be the highlights, the sources of pleasure, the things of beauty?
  • Take strength from knowing that, even if not else is, at least you are doing the right thing. Living a counter-cultural life does need strength and confidence. For many it is where their Christian faith brings its own courage. 
  • If no one changed, change would never happen. There has to be the first one to take the first step, to set out on a new path – if it’s you, congratulations, you’re a star! You are the beacon for others to follow.
  • Strength in numbers – find others who are changing their lifestyle, maybe informally or through an existing climate/ creation care organisation. Support and encourage one another, gain strength from being part of a group, part of a community, part of a movement. 

Who can we make what we are doing attractive to others? How can we engage others in the conversation? How can we enthuse and encourage others? 

Talking about it – with friends and family, with neighbours and colleagues, with shop staff and sales people, with teachers and parents at the school gate,  with people in church, at the gym, in clubs and pubs – any time we might engage in conversation. Be a story teller. Write about it, share it on social media. Post photos. Wear it as a badge on your sleeve, lapel, bag, hat.

Flaunt it! 

Frequently we will find our efforts stymied by the system. When we are, we need to needle those who can effect change. Ask for the change needed when shopping. Contact the managers, the suppliers, the producers. Even if they can’t effect change immediately, the constant reminder that change is needed will spur them on. And when change does happen, acknowledge it gratefully and make sure others also know. Write to your MP and your local councillors. The more an issue is raised, the greater will be the incentive for them to take note and push for the system change we need.

Is it enough? I know I often feel that what I do is ineffectual, that it is energy expended for no positive outcome. Should I give up and just look after the plants and creatures that live in our garden while I can, and simply wait for the disaster that is coming?

Author: Judith Russenberger

Environmentalist and theologian, with husband and three grown up children plus one cat, living in London SW14. I enjoy running and drinking coffee - ideally with a friend or a book.

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