Action 2: Have a talk with your best friend about the climate and your concerns. The more we talk with each other, the greater the awareness will be of the problems and the solutions and the more prominent the climate will be as a national issue. And that will prompt politicians and business leaders to take notice.
The Glasgow COP Climate Conference will begin in 100 days time. Are the nations, the leaders, the civil servants, the interested parties, ready? Are they equipped with ideas and proposals? Are they ready to negotiate and encourage and take bold steps to reach an agreement that will see carbon emissions reduced to net zero by 2050? Will they be sufficiently pragmatic to be generous in funding support to enable poorer countries to be part of the movement to net zero? Will they be clear sighted, seeing the bigger global issues rather than being blinkered or distracted by individual agendas? Are they going to be supported by overwhelming popular support for those policies and actions that safeguard our shared future?
Can we be part of that popular support? Can we also take action regarding our own lifestyle to contribute to the net zero emissions target? Are there 100 actions we can take between now and the Conference?
Action 1: Write to your MP and let them know why you think this Conference is important and why you hope it will be a turning point in addressing the global climate crisis.
NB What does ‘net zero’ mean?
Net zero refers to achieving a balance between the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere. There are two different routes to achieving net zero, which work in tandem: reducing existing emissions and actively removing greenhouse gases.
A gross-zero target would mean reducing all emissions to zero. This is not realistic, so instead the net-zero target recognises that there will be some emissions but that these need to be fully offset, predominantly through natural carbon sinks such as oceans and forests. (In the future, it may be possible to use artificial carbon sinks to increase carbon removal, research into these technologies is ongoing.)
When the amount of carbon emissions produced are cancelled out by the amount removed, the UK will be a net-zero emitter. The lower the emissions, the easier this becomes.
Live Local: the Fifteen Minute City
Imagine living in a neighbourhood where everything one needed on a daily basis lay within a fifteen minute journey – on foot or cycle – of one’s home. A neighbourhood where you can safely walk or cycle to the shops, school, medical centre, park, gym, swimming pool, office, cafe, the pub. A neighbourhood with (largely) traffic free streets, where children can cycle safely and those with impaired mobility/ sight/ hearing can easily cross the road. A neighbourhood where you know your neighbour, the barista at the cafe, the coach at the gym. A neighbourhood where you know you are part of the community.
How far can you walk in 15 minutes? 3/4 or even a full mile.
And by cycle? – maybe 2 to 4 miles.
Could you get much further by car?
The average speed of traffic in London is around 7-8mph, suggesting one could travel 2 miles in quarter of an hour. But then one would have to find somewhere to park, so the distance you could travel by car might well be much less than 2 miles.
Imagine a whole city made up of such neighbourhoods and you have the Fifteen Minute City. This concept is being a actively pursued in Paris by the mayor, Anne Hidalgo. Hidalgo proposes to have a cycle lane in every street and to remove 60,000 parking spaces for private cars whilst at the same time spending €1b per year for on greening both streets and school playgrounds. She has already added some 50km of cycle paths and banned high polluting vehicles. Similar projects are being trialed in Milan, Madrid, Seattle and Ottawa, whilst Melbourne and Edinburgh are pursuing twenty minute neighbourhoods.
What are the benefits?
Benefits social cohesion and community strength.
Supports local business and enterprise.
Less time spent commuting. Fewer traffic jams.
Less air pollution. Reduced CO2 emissions.
Option to repurpose road space as green spaces. Greater biodiversity.
Improved levels of mobility for everyone. Better health.
Increased quality of life.
If you want to hear about the Fifteen Minute City from its creator, Carlos Moreno, tune into the following YouTube episode:-
Can we as individuals go some way to creating our own fifteen minute neighbourhood? We can choose to patronise local shops and businesses, use local leisure facilities and green spaces. We can choose to walk or cycle to each destination, and we can seek out routes that green and interesting – and perhaps discover paths we didn’t know existed!
If we become accustomed to walking or cycling 15 minutes on a day to day basis, we will find we can transfer to a lifestyle that doesn’t need a private car. For those longer but less frequent journeys we can as easily walk to the station and take the train, or book a taxi or hire a car. If that becomes the norm just imagine the effect it will have on local neighbourhood and on carbon emissions.
This pictogram shows my 15 minute neighbourhood: why not have a go at drawing one centred on your home?
Transcript of a talk a church group about my experience of being arrested during an XR climate crisis uprising.
Micah 6: 1-8 (abbreviated)
Hear what the Lord says: Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the Lord, and you enduring foundations of the earth; for the Lord has a controversy with his people, and he will contend with Israel. “O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me! …”
Has he not told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you? Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.
But what is justice?
That is a question I would like you to hold in mind, and I will ask it again at the end.
I have always had a Christian faith and a concern for justice. As a teenager I restricted my diet to 1000 calories a day in solidarity with women in India. When I was at university in the early 80s I was aware that human production of green house gases plus our excessive use of raw materials was damaging the world’s environment. That knowledge together with my Christian faith has shaped the way I lived. As a family – Paul and I have three children, now all grown up – we have constantly been adjusting our lifestyles to try and mitigate the damage we were causing to the earth.
As the internet age developed, so I have signed more petitions, written to and spoken with our local MP, joined marches and protests. Yet nothing seems to change. The world is continuing to grow warmer, extreme weather events occur more frequently, ecosystems are being destroyed, the poor are being disadvantaged – and yet the human output of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases continues to rise. I felt that nothing was going to stop this crisis.
In the spring of 2019 I went to Cornwall with my daughter to walk the Celtic Pilgrim Way. We returned on Good Friday when the XR Easter uprising had begun and we stopped off at Marble Arch. Pitched tents, crèche, a stage, workshops, a welcome desk, sunshine, smiling people, even the drivers of vehicles whose routes had been diverted were cheerful. The same in Waterloo Bridge which had been transformed into a garden bridge with trees and pot plants, a skate board ramp, sofas and easy chairs, and story-telling circles. It was all a vision of what the future could be!
When I heard that the October uprising was to include a Faith Bridge I wanted to be a part. The Faith Bridge was conceived as a coming together of different faiths – Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, Quakers, pagans, Christians – to express our joint concern for the well-being of the earth. We were to occupy Lambeth Bridge for the duration where we would set up a tepee for worship (which would be led by the different faiths throughout the day) a stage for talks and music and drama, places to meet and share with others our hopes and fears, and as the centre piece a large wooden ark.
To secure the bridge we would need a small group of people willing to be arrested whilst a larger group of people set up these bases. Drawing inspiration from both my Christian faith and from the example of the Suffragettes, I volunteered to be an arrestable. For this XR provides training and on going support.
The first day of the uprising dawned – literally -as we gathered by Lambeth Bridge. Initially we blocked the slip roads leading onto the bridge. Another group of protesters were doing the same at the other end. Once the traffic had been brought to a standstill we moved onto the bridge itself. The police had pre-empted us. They were massed in lines across the bridge such that each group of protestors was confined to small area at opposite ends of the bridge. At the same time another group of police saw the ark being delivered in its flat pack state and confiscated each part as it was unloaded.
Undaunted we sat on the tarmac surrounded by banners and prayer flags, facing the police line. We were a mixed group – all ages, backgrounds and faiths – and together we sang and prayed and shared our stories. Faith leaders and CEOs of charities and NGOs came and told us their stories as to why the climate crisis was such a critical issue. And still we sat and sang and prayed. It was a uniquely special experience of being in the presence of God.
Around mid afternoon, the police gave us the option of joining our fellow protestors at the other end of the bridge – provided we walked round the long way, via Westminster Bridge. We gathered up our banners and flags, our musical instruments and the remaining box section of the ark and set off along the road past St Thomas’s hospital, singing as we walked. We must have looked like the Israelites setting off for the promised land. Having negotiated our way through the blockades on Westminster Bridge and we’re almost in sight of the north end of Lambeth Bridge, we were stopped by another group of police who wanted us to divert with the ark to Horseferry Road. Negotiations took place. Whilst we waited we sat and we sang. Then a whisper spread round and looking behind us, a double line of police officers were advancing towards us. On arrestables drew back, the rest of us sat firm holding onto the ark. Arrests began. A police officer tried to persuade me to let go, and when I did not, I was physically lifted up and back, ending up on my back in the road – time send to stand still. Them everyone was crowding round. The police officer cautioned and handcuffed me. The XR legal observer wanted my details. People were shouting abuse at the police; others were cheering and applauding those who were being arrested. My mind went into a blur and my body into shock. My arresting officer was considerate and concerned and helped me across to the pavement where I joined others who had been arrested. We sat there for a couple of hours with our arresting officers whilst police stations were contacted to find spare cells. Four of were loaded into the cage compartments in the back of a police van and taken to Walworth. And still the wait continued, as we waited to be processed by the custody officer. Finally I was put into a police cell, given a vegan meal and a blanket.
At 2 in the morning I was released pending further investigation having been charged with obstructing the highway and causing a public nuisance. As I left the police station I was greeted by an XR volunteer who offered me chocolate and looked up the night bus time table so that I could get home and to bed!
My day in court was delayed by Covid. After numerous postponements, the case was heard in March of this year at the City of London Magistrates Court. I was represented in court by a barrister – the cost of both the barrister and the lawyer were met by XR funds. I could have pleaded guilty – I had indeed been obstructing the highway – but as a matter of principal I wanted to present the counter arguments: that I had been exercising my right of peaceful protest; I had done something that would ordinarily be criminal but in the circumstances it was necessary to draw attention to a greater danger vis the climate crisis. The example usually given is that one would not be prosecuted for breaking a window in order to sound the alarm for a fire. I also wanted to explain that my actions were motivated by my Christian faith and my belief that I – we – have a duty to care for and protect the earth.
The court staff were helpful and courteous. The XR observers were encouraging and supportive. Only the three magistrates seemed to be set against my defence. I was found guilty, fined and given a conditional discharge of 9 months.
Whose rights should have prevailed?
My right to protest or the road users right to use that particular public highway? Had I merely sat on the pavement would anyone have taken notice?
Do road users have an unlimited right to use use the roads? What if the volume of vehicles on the road causes an obstruction either to other vehicles, or to cyclists? What if the volume of vehicles prevents emergency vehicles getting through? What if the volume of traffic creates levels of pollution that endanger people’s lives, or increases the risk of dementia? What if the volume of traffic increases CO2 emissions such that global temperatures keep rising? What then of the rights of people both here and in other parts of the world to live lives not affected by rising sea levels and extreme weather events?
To return to my original question, what is justice?
Readings for proper 11: Jeremiah 23:1-6; Psalm 23; Ephesians 2:11-22; Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
“Woe to the shepherds”. What is the role of the shepherd, what do they do?
They look after the sheep, providing them with food, water and health care. Hopefully there is empathetic care such that shepherds see them not as any old sheep, but as their sheep. Shepherd as provide security, protection from danger: wild animals, thieves, bad weather. Shepherds hopefully plan ahead, ensuring that when they move their flock they will be moving them to new pasture with plenty of grass, or in the winter plenty of shelter and in the summer plenty of shade. Shepherds need to pre-empt situations requiring extra input: lambing time, shearing, the rut. Shepherds need to keep their flocks together, not letting the sheep stray apart, becoming lost or isolated.
Good shepherds do all this with love and willing self-sacrifice (because it is their raison d’etre). Bad shepherds on the other hand are uncommitted to their flock, distracted by self-interest and easily loose the plot. The message that Jeremiah preaches is that God sees the short-comings, the wickedness of the bad shepherds and their treatment of God’s flocks. And in response God will raise up new, good shepherds and God’s flocks will be revived and will flourish.
In the next paragraph, Jeremiah’s words speak of the coming messiah, the one we know as Jesus who is the ultimate good shepherd. This image of good shepherding is reprieved in today’s psalm.
But what does good shepherding look like today? Who are our shepherds? What if our shepherds were our political leaders?
Do our political leaders ensure that everyone has enough food and healthy food? Or do they let some people go hungry and malnourished? Why are there so many food banks? What standards of nutrition are provided in schools, hospitals, prisons etc?
Do they ensure we all have access to clean water and do they ensure safe disposal of sewage (even if they have contracted this out to the private sector)?
Do they ensure everyone who is ill, whether physically or mentally, receives prompt treatment? Do they provide preventative treatments and programmes to promote well being?
Do they ensure the security of their ‘flock’? Do they have resources in place to prevent race and hate crime, to prevent traffic accidents, house fires – and fires in tower blocks? Do they maintain a properly funded system of law and order that offers everyone the right to justice?
Do they plan for the future? For the knowns such as climate change, and the unknowns such as pandemics?
Are they motivated by self interest or by a desire to care for their flock? What is the source of their motivation, their vocation?
Maybe it is not just politicians that are our shepherds, what about our business leaders, our civil servants, diplomats? The police and emergency services, the armed forces, medics and Carers, GPs? What if they are our farmers, environmentalists, teachers, researchers and scientists? What if they are our neighbours – and if so are we their ‘shepherds?
I rather suspect that God must look on us with dismay. If in Jeremiah’s day, God called out prophets to speak the truth, to expose the shortcomings of those in power, I am sure that God is today calling out to those willing to become prophets. Those prophets maybe you and me, for even if onl9y in small ways, we can call out the short comings of those in leadership roles, we can sign petitions, join marches, we can create prophetic actions in the tradition of the Hebrew prophets and in the tradition of the actions of Jesus – who fed the hungry, healed the sick, questioned the authorities and challenged unjust interpretations of the law.
If in Jeremiah’s day, God was promising to raise up new, good shepherds, ones who would be in due time be followers of the Son of David, then I am even more sure that today God is still seeking out and raising up new leaders who will follow the example of Jesus, who are willing to commit body and soul to the well being of their fellow beings – both humans and creatures, flora and fauna. And it may well be that you and I are being called to be such leaders or shepherds, even if only in small ways. A Shepherd is perhaps the better image as it links us back to the calling that God gave Adam in Genesis 2, to tend and care for the earth and all that it contains.
The passage to the Ephesians reminds us of the importance of inclusivity. Jeremiah talks of God bringing together disparate, scattered flocks to create one unified whole. When we look around us, we see the damage caused by separating people into them and us groups, of pushing people into haves and and have-not groups, of working against each other rather than cooperating, of seeking self interest rather than the common good. So it is good to be reminded that it is by working together that we create God’s dwelling place on earth.
The passage from Mark’s gospel records how the disciples returned, having completed their mission to preach and bring healing to the inhabitants of the neighbouring towns and villages – of which we heard a couple of weeks ago, when they went out in pairs with neither purse nor spare clothes. It would seem that they return tired but perhaps also with lots of stories and questions that they want to share with Jesus. So Jesus takes them away to a quiet place – admittedly they don’t get long there before their rest is interrupted – as however much we want to be good shepherds, good missioners, good disciples, we are not superhuman, we need time to rest and recharge, to unload our burdens and to be refreshed.
Take time to unburden yourself with God – as in today’s psalm, God wishes to let you rest in green places and walk by quiet waters.
- Drink lots of fluids.
- Dress in loose light coloured and light weight clothes. Go bare foot. Wear a sun hat.
- Close curtains and open windows to keep the sun out and air moving through the room. Open windows on different sides of the house and different floors to encourage air to move through the house.
- Turn off unused electrical appliances, even those on sleep may be emitting extra heat into the room.
- Hang wet towels over or near an open window, or place a bowl of water or ice by the window. Air moving through or across will absorb the moisture and cool the room.
- Shade the outside of the window to prevent the glass from heating up and radiating heat into the room. You could use a sheet or towel as an ad hoc shade. Or place a gazebo or sun parasol to shade the window. Longer term consider fixing an awning to shade south facing windows. Or erect a pergola outside and allow climbing plants to shade the window.
- Sit with your feet in a bowl of cold water. Keep damp flannels in the fridge for a cool wipe.
- Freeze a plastic bottle of water (don’t completely fill the bottle as frozen water expands) and use it as a cold ‘hot’ water bottle. To avoid ice burns wrap in a towel before placing it on your skin. Alternatively place in your bed at night.
- Fill a sock with rice, secure the end and place in the freezer. Use as a cold pad or as cold ‘hot’ water bottle in your bed.
- Have you a tip to share?
Extreme weather conditions – floods, droughts, wild fires, heat waves, hurricanes, blizzards -are now more frequent and more severe.
The energy that creates weather comes from the sun. The sun’s heat warms land, sea and air where differences in temperature create ocean currents and air currents – winds. When air moves across the seas it picks up moisture which ultimately becomes rain. The hotter the air the more water is taken up and held in the air. Again heat becomes a determinate of rain fall patterns – both quantity and intensity of rain fall (or snow etc) – eg monsoons in India after their hot season.
Air, land and sea are all heated directly by the sun. They are also heated indirectly by radiant heat from the earth. During the course of a day, in the absence of cloud cover, air temperatures will rise further as the heat from the sun is supplemented by heat radiating back from the earth. If the lack of cloud cover persists overnight, the radiant heat is lost into the upper atmospheres and the air temperatures drop. If however it is a cloudy night, the cloud will act like insulation keeping in the warmer temperatures.
Given that the sun has always been there, why are temperatures now increasing at a rate that are creating extreme weather events?
The Earth’s atmosphere is a mix of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide plus smaller quantities of other gases. Of these carbon dioxide is particularly good at absorbing heat and thus preventing extremely low temperatures when the earth’s surface is not receiving direct sunlight. Since the beginning of the Industrial Age we humans have been burning increasingly large amounts of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas. As these burn they release carbon dioxide. As levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have increased so the insulating effect has also increased, and with it global temperatures – and with that an increase in extreme weather events.
|Global annual average temperature (as measured over both land and oceans) has increased by more than 1.5°F since 1880 (through 2012). Red bars show temperatures above the long-term average, and blue bars indicate temperatures below the long-term average. The black line shows atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration in parts per million (ppm), indicating a clear long-term global warming trend.|
(Figure source: 2014 National Climate Assessment, updated from Karl et al. 2009)
The UN reported that across the world, between 2000-2019, there were 7,348 major disasters, claiming 1.23 million lives, affecting 4.2 billion people and causing £2.3tn in economic losses. Whilst in the UK flooding affected the Midlands and northern England in 2019 after the wettest November on record, and again in 2020 affecting Wales and southern England. The freezing temperatures of the ‘Beast from the East’ in February 2018 were followed by a heat wave from May to July with wild fires in areas near Manchester.
Since 1950 carbon levels in the atmosphere have risen from 311 parts per million to the current level of 414 ppm whilst average global temperatures have risen by just under 1C. The Paris Agreement set out to keep global temperature rises below 2C max and ideally below 1.5C, requiring global carbon dioxide emissions must be reduced to net zero by 2050. As this is not going to reduce temperatures below where they are now, extreme weather events are something we have to accept and adapt to.
Adapting to our new climate is one issue that will be addressed at the COP26 climate conference. It is also something that we can work at too. Insulating homes not only keeps them warmer in colder months, it also keeps them cooler in hot months. Win win plus reduces energy needs for cooling / heating. Planting trees creates shade and because of the way they ‘breathe’ reduce temperatures further by absorbing heat. In Rotterdam a 10% increase in tree cover produced a 1.3C reduction in temperatures ( Klok et al. 2012). Trees also lock away carbon dioxide and slow the rate at which rain water fills soils and drains so reducing the risk of flooding. A further win win solution.
Urban areas heat up faster than others because they have large areas of concrete and tarmac which readily radiate the sun’s heat back into the atmosphere. Reducing these or replacing them with grass or vegetative cover again reduces high summer temperatures. Creating cool areas around buildings with verandas, planting in trellises and planting in general will cool the air coming into the buildings as well as providing areas of shelter from the heat.
Amos 7:7-15, Psalm 85:8-13, Ephesians 1:3-14, Mark 6:14-29
The wonderful image of a plumb line: a standard of the upright, a measure of vertical rectitude, a gauge of righteousness! I have long admired this sculpture “The Plumb Line and the City” by Clark Fitzgerald, which is to be found in Coventry Cathedral.
A plumb line is a length of string weighed at one end with a plumb bob. The latter could simply be anything that is heavy enough to pull the string taught, but can be a beautifully created shape such as in this sculpture with a sharp point that allows the viewer to see with greater accuracy how true the plumb line is hanging. Plumb lines were first used as a practical tool to ensure that walls were vertically straight. Walls that are not vertically straight are likely to collapse and/or fall over. Amos is shown a plumb line in a vision by God with the warning that God has held the plumb line up against the people of Israel and found them well short of true. Much of the Book of Amos is taken up with records of how different peoples and nations have sinned – abused the poor, greedily taken more than their due, killed and murdered, despised the righteous – and have carried on sinning, continuing to live immoral lives, even though they have suffered the consequences of their wrong doing. The people, to whom Amos must prophesy, seem ‘hell-bent’ on ignoring their plight, complacently living as if their actions will never be judged. But they have been judged by God and have been found to be astray of what is true. They are like a badly built wall that is listing and is about to come crashing down. It is a message that even the priest at Bethel doesn’t want to hear.
This second half of Psalm 85 tells us of all the benefits that come from aligning our lives with God: peace, salvation, righteousness and faithfulness, mercy, and a plentiful harvest of good things. The focus of this Psalm that these benefits pertain to a people, to a community, rather than just an individual. Often we think of wrong doing and judgement in terms of the individual rather than the community. Maybe it is a western focus or a modern focus; it is certainly one that is made manifest in the question ‘Have you been saved?’ and in the ideal of the ‘self-made man’. But as we know, ‘no man is an island’ and (as Covid has so clearly taught us) no one is free from the repercussions of the actions of their fellow compatriots.
The passage from the letter to the Ephesians is also about ‘we and us’, rather than ‘I and me’. The letter goes on to talk about Christ being the head of the church which is his body. If in the Old Testament to be an Israelite is to be part of the House of Israel, then so it is in the New Testament that to be a Christian is to be part of the body of Christ.
The plumb line is not measuring the trueness or uprightness of an individual, but the trueness of a whole community, be that a local community, a city or a nation. It is certainly possible that one can have an individual who is entirely true and honest but whose goodness is overwhelmed by the falseness, the criminality, the carelessness and/ or deceitfulness of the social structures within which they live. That one person’s goodness does not stop the overall character of the community, city or nation being less than true. I think that is where we find ourselves today. We cannot hold up a plumb line against our nation and say that what is measured is true and right. We have only to look at the number of people reliant on food banks, the quality of treatment being dished out to the homeless, prisoners, and migrants, the growing differential between the incomes of those at the top and the bottom of the jobs market, the difference between the amount spent on fossil fuel subsidies and that spent on government support for green infrastructure – to see how far short we fall.
We have therefore a responsibility to be prophetic like Amos and to call out when we see that our government, our institutions, our businesses, our society, our churches, are not in line, are not true to God’s ways.
Organic September, Movember, Veganuary, No-Mow May and now, Plastic-free July. Most months have a focus on changing habits to create a better future. Plastic-free July advocates remove all plastic from our daily lives – from the tooth brush in the bathroom, the plastic fruit packet from the supermarket to the once ubiquitous plastic carrier bag. The use of the latter has fallen by 85% since the introduction of the plastic bag tax! Why is it desirable to get rid of plastic?
Plastic is made from oil, one of the main sources of carbon dioxide emissions causing global warming. Producing one tonne of plastic generates up to 2.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide (Material Economics, 2018). As the world’s use of plastic rises, so does its consumption of oil. In 2014 we the world produced 311 million tonnes of plastic. This figure is expected to triple by 2050. (World Economic Forum)
One way of reducing the carbon footprint of plastic is to reuse existing plastics. Some items such as PET bottles, widely used for soft drink, can be recycled repeatedly. This is closed loop recycling meaning that the plastic is recycled to create an identical replacement item. (Open loop recycling recycles plastics but produces a lower grade plastic for which an alternative use must be found). To be effective closed loop recycling depends upon consumers ensuring that they do put their plastics – washed and clean – in the correct recycling bin and upon manufactures using exclusively that recycled plastic. In the UK only 30% of plastics are recycled!
Plastic rubbish pollutes our streets, rivers, woodlands, and oceans. It doesn’t naturally decay and instead remains intact for 100s of years. Plastic that does tear and break down into smaller and smaller pieces still doesn’t decay. Micro plastic particle have been found polluting glaciers and icecaps, and polluting oceans where it is being ingested by sea birds and fish. Micro plastics are also found in the air we breathe and in the water we drink!
Current estimates suggest that 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in the oceans every year adding to the 150 million tonnes already there. Projects are now being set up to remove plastic waste from the oceans. In 2020 a 48 day expedition by the Ocean Voyage Institute removed 103 tons from the Great Pacific Garage Patch. Other projects are being developed to process such waste into reusable plastic based materials: Patagonia uses recycled marine polyester in its clothes, Parley Ocean Plastics supplies material for Adidas shoes and Waterhaul in Cornwall uses marine plastic to produce sunglasses.
This is till only ‘a drop in the ocean’! The better solution is not to use the plastic in the first place. Hence Plastic Free July! Why not start now?
Plastic Free July’s own web site is a good starting point as is that of Friends of the Earth and City to Sea. You will also find plenty of web sites looking to sell you plastic-free products – and possible more than you need! Our own personal experience of shifting to a – largely – plastic free lifestyle began by collecting all the plastic that came into the house over a two week period. Then for each item we looked to see if there was a plastic free alternative for the product itself or of buying the same product without the plastic packaging, or whether we actually could manage without the item altogether. Over the next few months we looked for tried different ways of shopping – going to farmers’ markets, refill stores, buying in bulk, taking our own washable box to the butchers or coffee jar to the roasters – until we found the best fit for our lifestyle. Even today we are still making adjustments as new options become available. We have also written to suppliers asking them to use plastic free packaging. Whilst I don’t often have anything positive to say about Amazon, they have developed a simple straightforward cardboard packet for their deliveries!
Our own shift towards plastic-free and zero waste living has reduced both the amount that goes into our recycling bins as well as what goes into our dustbin. The latter is currently needs emptying twice a year.
Ezekiel 2:1-5; Psalm 123; 2 Corinthians 12:2-10, Mark 6:1-13
Today’s readings describe different ways in which people encounter God. Ezekiel is filled with God’s spirit with a view to his becoming God’s prophet. The track record of prophets in the Old Testament suggests that this will not be an easy role, especially when God tells him that he is to prophesy to those who are rebellious. That introduces another type of relationship between people and God: those who ignore or are ignorant of God and/ or who chose to rebel, ie to live not according to the ways of God.
The Psalmist likens the relationship between God and his faithful people as being like that of a servant, of one who is alert and dedicated to the desires of the one they serve. These are contrasted with others who deride God and pour contempt on God’s people. These sound familiar, similar to the characters in the Wisdom of Solomon (one of last week’s readings) who only focused on themselves and saw nothing at the end of life other than death.
In the reading from Corinthians we hear of someone who is caught up in the spirit, someone who has an ecstatic experience of God. Although he is diffident, it is likely that Paul is talking about himself. His is a deeply emotional and spiritual relationship in which Paul lives at the extreme opposites of life: absolutely against Christ then absolutely for Christ; energetically travelling from town to town then staying put for several years; toughing it out in the front line, winning converts and enemies in equal numbers. It is likely that his spiritual highs were counterbalanced by lows, perhaps associated with Paul’s ‘thorn in the flesh’.
So to Mark’s Gospel where the home crowd in Nazareth have a very clear idea of what someone who is anointed by God – ie a messiah – should look like and it doesn’t look like Jesus. They cannot believe how someone like them – artisans from a small hill town – could be a conduit for the healing power and wisdom that comes from God. Jesus was too ordinary to be such a person! Yet they are the ones who loose out. Their view of Jesus prevents them from relating to God, they are not able to be open and receptive to the power of God, and their hurts and sufferings go unhealed.
Jesus, disappointed with the response of the people in Nazareth, commissions his disciples – another group of everyday people: small scale fishermen, tax officials, fellow artisans – and sends them out to be conduits of healing power and preachers of God’s message. Again the ability of those they encounter to recognise God’s presence determines whether they receive God’s blessing.
What then is it to be a child of God, a believer, a seeker of God?
It is to be open minded, to curious, to be alert, to be trusting, to be ready to risk ridicule. It is to set aside both self reliance and self doubt. It is to be ordinary and it is to be faithful. You don’t need special clothes, or special training or even special equipment – not even bread, bag, or money! But there is no guarantee that it will be an easy or effortless existence – but God will be with you all the way!