The Green Tau: Issue 9

A question of justice: what is climate justice? Part 1

What is justice?  

The Central Criminal Court of England and Wales, more commonly known as

the Old Bailey, is surmounted by a statute of Lady Justice. In one hand she holds a sword, and in the other, a set of scales. The scales remind us that justice requires the evidence of the case to be weighed and only if the evidence of guilt is more than the opposing evidence, is the accused found guilty. The sword symbolises the implementation of the judgement made – ie what punishment or reparations are due. Many images of Lady Justice also show her wearing a blindfold as a reminder that justice if to be given impartially, ie favouring no one person more than another.

But how do you know when an offence has been committed, something that requires the salve of justice? Most/all? countries have laws: laws that  lay down what is right or wrong, what is acceptable or unacceptable. Typically such laws will embrace not killing or injuring people, not stealing from others nor damaging what belongs to someone else.

Laws exist to both prevent certain actions and to prompt certain actions: driving at excess speeds and buying car insurance. Laws exist to protect rights and to impose obligations: House owners have the right to forbid someone to enter their property but if they do invite someone in, they have a  responsibility to ensure their safety. Laws exist to protect those who would otherwise have no rights: refugees have a right to safety, wives have the right to be protected against abusive husbands (and vice versa). Laws exist not just to protect the rights of humans: animals, plants, buildings can all be given legal protection.

Justice is the process by which laws are enforced. Justice judges whether or not, on the balance of evidence whether a law has been broken and whether or not the accused is guilty of that offence. Justice serves to maintain harmony in a nation by ensuring that the law of the land is followed.  But what if those laws have been chosen by a minority and applied to a majority who do not favour them? Will sticking to such laws create a contented society? Will they work to achieve the good of all society? What if those laws are out of date and support a social order that no longer exists. What if these laws support an economic system that is no longer viable? Good laws are as important as justice. Good laws tell us what is right.

The Greek word for justice, ‘dikaiosyni’, also has the meaning of equity and righteousness. Hebrew has two words that can be translated as justice, ‘mispah’ and ‘tzedaqah’. Mispah has more the meaning of executing justice or giving judgement, whilst tzedaqah has the meaning of righteousness and fairness.  In a similar way in English justice can also have the meaning of fairness. 

In the Old Testament justice and righteousness are frequently paired together as if you can’t have one without the other.:-

But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5:24)

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you. (Ps 89:14)

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. (Jer 23:5).

I think that righteousness means God’s laws, God’s standards. Not just – or not even always – the laws laid down in the Old Testament, for they were laws given at a certain time and to a certain group of people – but something far greater than that.  God’s laws are holistic, an everlasting set of principles that are shaped by God’s love and rightness. They can be summarised, as Jesus did, as loving God and loving one’s neighbour – including all that is commensurate with love, and that takes a life time to discern!

Here I would like to backtrack to the idea that justice might have the meaning of fairness. Lady Justice wears a blindfold to ensure fair and impartial justice. With her blindfold on, her judgement is not influenced by the character or background of one on trial. Whether the accused is rich or poor, popular or despised, low class or high class, the judgement made, the justice received will be the same. But is impartiality the same as fairness? No, which is why when it comes to sentencing, the character and circumstances of the accused are taken into account. It is why fines may be proportionate to the accused’s income. This partiality is applied when sentencing not during the trial when the evidence is weighed in the scales. Justice can thus remain impartial – and I would like to suggest – sometimes unfair. 

If a person is so deficient in funds that they cannot buy food but instead steal, justice will find them guilty of theft. But if one were concerned with fairness, one might want to weigh in and ask why the person is so deficient of funds that they cannot afford to eat? And to ask in all fairness, how it is that society allows someone to go hungry when edible food is daily thrown away as waste?

God’s righteousness would suggest something very different. God’s righteousness would expect us to ensure that everyone has the means of earning or deserving sufficient funds, and would expect that come what may, all would be fed.

Thus says the Lord:   Maintain justice, and do what is right, for soon my salvation will come, and my righteousness will be revealed. (Isaiah 56:1) The word given as justice is mispah, and the words given as right and righteousness are tzedaqah. 

What then is justice from a theological or God-viewpoint? If secular justice is represented by Lady Justice and her weighing scales, then the biblical image of justice is, I think, the plumb line. A simple tool comprising a string and a weight which when suspended vertically uses gravity to show whether or not the things being judged – usually a wall – is true and upright and not in danger of collapsing. Amos sees this image as God shows him the short comings, the wrong doings of the nation of Israel.  

Here justice is not just a case of weighing up the evidence to see if the accused is guilty, but of measuring the quality of the accused’s behaviour. Has their behaviour been upright, morally correct, righteous even? Have they followed the precepts and the tenor of God’s will? Justice only has value if it is linked to a divine standard – an uprightness – of behaviour. Justice is doing what is right in accordance with God’s righteousness.

“I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line” (Isaiah 28:17).

The Green Tau: issue 8, 18th July

Live Local: the Fifteen Minute City

People Street Como City Walk Friends Couple Road

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?

Climate Justice and Activism

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. 

I am in the blue coat sat in front of the green banner

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?

The Green Tau Issue 7 11th July 2021 Are extreme weather events here to stay?

Extreme weather conditions – floods, droughts, wild fires, heat waves, hurricanes, blizzards -are now more frequent and more severe. 

http://www.max pixel.net Orange Heat Danger Blaze Smoke Blazing Wildfire

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. 

The Green Tau Issue 6, 4th July 2021 Plastic: the pollutant we live with daily.

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!

 (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/dec/27/revealed-microplastic-pollution-is-raining-down-on-city-dwellers

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.

https://www.plasticfreejuly.org/get-involved/what-you-can-do/category/getting-started/

https://friendsoftheearth.uk/sustainable-living/how-go-almost-plasticfree-kitchen

The Green Tau Issue 5

27th June 2021,

Tipping Points

In Alan Stoppard’s play Jumpers, George Moore, a philosophy professor, muses that at some point in history, the balance of believers versus non believers tipped from the former being the majority to the latter. He suspected it was the decline in woollen socks in preference for nylon ones that precipitated this tipping point: woollen socks kept the wearer in mind of the link between nature and daily life and thus a link between a divine creator and daily life. 

We have seen a number of social issues reach a tipping point: the acceptability or not of smoking, the acceptability or not of drink-driving, the use of plastic bags versus reusable versions, and most recently the wearing of face masks. At some point social pressure, social acceptance and/ or social understanding shifted in favour of a new status quo. Social norms are not fixed and what interests me is what initiates and sustains the sequence of changes that lead us to change our patterns of behaviour and belief. 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is increasingly concerned that the current rate of global warming could reach a number of tipping points. One such scenario centres on the Arctic. As temperatures increase so the frozen soil have melted – not just the surface levels which is ‘normal’ but also the deeper levels of the permafrost. As they melt they release methane locked away for thousands of years ago. This flammable gas has led to outbreaks of wild fires across the Arctic destroying large areas of the tundra’s flora and fauna. Methane is one of the greenhouse gases and has a warming effect on the climate 80 times that of carbon dioxide. The melting of the permafrost in the Arctic disproportionately adds to the heating of the global environment and to the consequential further melting of frozen soils as well as sea ice. In other words the rise in temperatures that allows the Artic to thaw triggers a sequence of events that leads to a further upward spiralling of temperatures. 

Other tipping points have also been observed: in Greenland where the more the ice-sheet melts the faster is the rate of melting in subsequent years, leading both to rising sea levels and a likely reversal of the Gulf Stream; in the Amazon the loss of rainforest (due to commercial felling) is expanding the area of land covered by Savannah grass lands causing rising air temperatures and depleting levels of rainfall which both threatened the natural regeneration of the rainforest; in the tropics rising sea temperatures bleach coral reefs as plant and animal life grows more slowly or dies off completely. As these living forms die so they absorb less carbon dioxide which in turn compounds rising air and sea temperatures. 

Worryingly the danger presented by such scenarios doesn’t become apparent until the tipping point has been reached! This means preventative action needs to be taken before the affects of the danger are felt. We have in recent months learnt the lesson that the way to limit rocketing covid infections is to follow lockdown procedures before the number of cases becomes unmanageable. Can we do the same to prevent the extreme effects of climate change? Can we as individuals rapidly decarbonise our lifestyles now to safeguard the future for ourselves and our grandchildren? Can we create the social groundswell needed to make a carbon neutral lifestyle the norm? Can we create the popular groundswell to change the direction of our political leaders?

The Green Tau: issue 4 & a half

Me and /or future generations?

How we solve a problem depends upon aims for the future: are we seeking a short term or a long term fix? The nature of democracies is that governments’ timescales limited to the time remaining until the next election. In the UK that time scale is now 3 1/2 years. In France the next presidential election is less than 12 months away. Governments want to be re-elected so opt for policies that will win the favour of their most important voters. It is not surprising that at the G7 Summit President Macron has shied away from banning the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles in the near future. The UK’s Department of the Environment released a press statement that “…all [G7] countries committed to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050…” but gave few details or commitments as to how that target is to be achieved. 

2050 is that beautiful place in the future when all things will be both green and rosey. But if we are to live in that future (or rather if our grandchildren are to live in that future) we need to tackle action now. Like the Covid virus, global temperatures increases and climate change will not hold back until we’re ready to tackle the problems. We need to be radically changing the way we generate energy now, the way we farm – now, the way we use energy to transport our selves and goods – now, the way we heat and/or cool our buildings – now, the way we consume – now! Otherwise our carbon emissions will continue to accelerate global warming and we will have no chance of keeping global temperature rises below 1.5C. 

There is a real conflict of interests between politicians with a five year view of the future and the rest of us  who see the future as somewhere to enjoy our old age and where our grandchildren will thrive. This is why it is important that we a) make all the changes we can in our own lifestyles, and b) campaign, sign petitions, write to our MPs and do we all we can to make climate change and carbon emission reductions the most important political issue of this Parliament. 

Hands Up! We’re all guilty protest: London October 2019

The Green Tau: issue 4

The G7 2021 summit has come and gone. What did it achieve?
Where does it lead us in relation to the COP climate talks in November? Below are some of the outcomes of the talks that relate to the global tackling of the climate crisis.

The G7 committed to accelerating efforts to cut green house gases so as to keep the temperature increases below 1.5 C – ie  a commitment to try harder to stick to their previously agreed target. The G7 agreed to end by 2021 all new government funding for unabated coal fired power stations whilst at the same time Australia plans to continue to support its coal mining industries. 
The G7 committed to the phasing out of petrol and diesel fuelled vehicles, although no date was agreed – the UK government has proposed ending the sale of all new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030, but similar plans in France are proving unpopular at a time when President Macron faces an election in 2022 and the current earliest date for ending the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles is 2040. The G7 agreed a 2030 Nature Compact with commitments to lead the transition to sustainable use of natural resources; investing in a nature positive economy; protecting, restoring and conserving nature with a target of 30% of the globe’s lands and oceans by 2030; and prioritising accountability for their commitments to nature. The how and where and finances have yet to be species.
The G7 pledge to provide $100,000 a year to support climate change action is the continuation of an existing pledge. And at the same time India is reluctant to do more to avert climate change without receiving further financial support. It was the first summit to be net carbon neutral but that example was marred by Boris Johnson’s decision to fly to Cornwall rather than to travel by train.

The G7 Summit may have confirmed the various government’s intentions to tackle the climate crisis but failed to produce any concrete plans as to how these might be achieved. The parable of the two brothers comes to mind. There once was a father who had two sons.  He asked  both to help him in the vineyard. The first said, Yes I’ll help! but then did nothing more. The second said, No, not me! but later changed his mind and helped in the vineyard.  If governments, organisations or individuals say Yes, I’ll help tackled climate change, then can we rest comfortably knowing that the crisis is going to be averted? If governments, organisations or individuals say No, I shan’t do anything – is climate change even real? do we feel that’s our own individual efforts are pointless? Clear leadership is needed! And if such leadership is lacking then we need to encourage one another, being clear about what we can and what we are doing to tackle the crisis. If you cycle rather than using the car, say so. If you take the train rather than the plane, then say so. If you are eating plant based meals, then say so. If you have solar panels, a heat-pump, an energy monitor, then say so. Let’s be outspoken about what we can and are doing!

NB Many organisations such as WWF, Friends of the Earth, the BBC,  all offer advise on how we as individuals can take action to tackle climate change. 

Woodlands are natural carbon stores as well as places for refreshment

The Green Tau: issue 3

Solidarity and knowing our place in the ecosystem


What is a green ‘tau’? Tau  τ is the Greek letter similar to the English T. Tau itself  developed from the Phoenician letter  Tāw X  (from which the  Hebrew letter  Tav ת is also derived).  In ancient times, tau was used as a symbol meaning eternal life or resurrection. In Hebrew tav means mark and this was the sign marked on the foreheads of those who lamented their sins (Ezekiel 9:4). For early Christians tau became an apt symbol of the cross on which Jesus  was crucified. 

Francis of Assisi used the tau as his mark when signing his letters and other writings. The tau cross, often made of wood, is worn by many Franciscans across the world. Francis is widely known as the saint who spoke with the birds, and to the hungry wolf in Gubio – he worked out a deal between the wolf and the people of Gubio such that they could live together in harmony. Francis was the author of the canticle ‘Brother Sun, Sister Moon’ – probably the first piece of literature written in Italian.  Francis understood that everything in creation had been made by God and was deserving of equal love and respect and should be treated as brother or sister.  In 1979 Pope John Paul II declared St Francis as the patron saint of ecologists,   reflecting not only Francis’s love for all creatures, but also his intuitive understanding of the interconnectedness of the whole of creation.  I therefore chose a green tau to represent my desire to live sustainably, protecting the earth.  

Brother Bee Sister Wasp

It is easy to love Brother Bee if only because bees produce honey.  We think of them as round, fluffy happy-go-lucky creatures and hold them up as paragons of productivity. Yet over the last 70 years their numbers have declined rapidly because we have not seen them as brother. Instead we have allowed them to be decimated by the use of insecticides and pesticides both on fields and in our gardens. We have ignored their loss of habitat through mono culture farming and the destruction of hedgerows. And we have shown little concern that climate change is happening so rapidly that bees cannot  adapt to these shifting seasons. But the story doesn’t end with the end of the bees. Worldwide three out of four food crops rely on successful pollination by bees and other insects. We humans may be facing a dire future.

Sister Wasp is less loved! Towards the end of the summer, we and she compete for sweet sugary fruits to satisfy our appetites. Would we be better off without Sister Wasp?  We forget – or perhaps never knew – that for the rest of the growing season wasps need a high

protein diet and are hugely important as predators who keep ‘pests’ such as caterpillars, aphids and greenfly,  in check. 

If you have a garden, you can be a generous host to our brother and sister pollinators – planting bee friendly flowers and ensuring an availability of flowering plants all year round including from late autumn through to spring: https://friendsoftheearth.uk/nature/10-easy-ways-help-bees. Or find out more about wasps: https://youtu.be/YnOK5KPNV3I 

The Green Tau: issue 2

COP26 is preceded by the G7 2021 Summit, the 47th such annual meeting.  It takes place   between 11 – 13th June in Cornwall under the presidency of the United Kingdom. The G7 is an intergovernmental grouping of the leaders of seven industrial nations: UK, USA, Canada, Japan, Germany, France and Italy. The President of the European Union also attends. In addition other leaders are invited as guests –  being this year from Australia, India, South Korea and South Africa. The leaders, accompanied by other ministers and advisers, meet for ‘close knit’ discussions on global issues with the aim of coordinating agreements and policies in response to them. 

The UK government aims to use “to unite leading democracies to help the world fight and then build back better from coronavirus and create a greener, more prosperous future.” Decisions made here will influence subsequent decisions that will be made at the COP. As with pandemics, the climate emergency is a crisis that needs to be tackled internationally. (It is no good eradicating Covid in the UK if the virus is still spreading and mutating in Cyprus. We are no longer  separate islands but part of one global village. Similarly reducing carbon emissions in France but not in the US would not prevent global temperatures escalating still further. This is why it is important that the US has now rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement). The UK Secretary for Business, Kwasi Kwarteng, aims to coordinated G7 action on issues such as carbon border taxes, green finance, phasing out coal power, and helping poorer nations develop zero carbon economies. 

But will there be sufficient commitment to the long term future and sufficient cooperation and the willingness to put national  well-being below global well-being? It is in all our interests that the government leaders meeting in Cornwall do indeed prioritise the needs of the whole world about national needs, and the future safety of the climate above short term profit. Whilst the G7 Summit may feel remote and irrelevant, we should be telling our own leaders as well as world leaders what we do want! Governments can be swayed by popular opinion and by pressure groups.

Crack the Crises is a coalition of some of the UK’s biggest charities (including Christian Aid, Cafod, Tearfund, Save the Children, Traidcraft, Global Citizen, RSPB, Islamic Relief, the WI, Shelterbox, and Action Against Hunger). Its aim is to tell politicians that we want them to work together for a better world, and in particular, addressing four major crises:

  • Covid 19
  • Systemic poverty and injustice
  • Climate change
  • Biodiversity decline

In advance of the G7 Summit, Crack the Crises is calling on people to join the “Wave for Hope”. By creating images or photo opportunities using hands we will be waving to catch the attention of our friends and neighbours. By sharing our images on social media we will be waving to catch the attention of world leaders: we want – we need – change!

Cracking the Crises is hopeful that change can happen. Over the past 18 months we have seen how, faced with an overwhelming crisis, people like you and me, people like Captain Tom and Marcus Rushford, the many NHS staff, care home workers and other key workers, neighbourhood groups, churches and mosques…. have all adapted and worked together to support one another, to create good outcomes, to contain the spread of the virus, to keep our spirits up, to give us hope for the future. Human kind is an inherently kind being.

If you would like to be part of the Wave of Hope, use this link –  https://crackthecrises.org/wave/?utm_source=G7_wave_of_hope_2021&utm_medium=email&utm_term=&utm_content=4&utm_campaign= 

Waves:

The gentle to and fro of the wave, 

back and forth, 

soothing,

gently rocking, 

Loving God, calm us, and

move us as peace-makers.

The persistence of the wave, 

never stopping, 

never quitting, 

gradually wearing down all resistance

Loving God, sustain us, and 

make us a force for good.

The power of the wave, 

building up, 

growing in size, 

acquiring energy as it moves 

Loving God, strengthen us, and 

harness our energy to do what is right.

The breaker, poised but still moving, 

ready to break – 

to break out, to break up, 

to break forth

Loving God, contain us, and 

prepare us to spill out into the world.

The crest of the wave, exploding, 

releasing energy 

that breaks down barriers 

and undermines obstructions

Loving God, free us, and 

use us to reform the structures of the world.

Storm wave, tidal wave, 

tsunami,

that brokers no discussion, 

that overwhelms all

Loving God, override us, 

and free the world from its own vices.

Amen.

Info recommendation: do watch the BBC’s The People v Climate Change which covers the working of Britain’s first People’s Assembly set up by Parliament to review and recommend actions that should taken in response to the climate change emergency. It’s available on iplayer – https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p097sbzc