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?

Now is the Sky Blue

Now is the sky blue!

Now is the verge blowsy 

with lady’s lace and buttercups,

and tousle headed  grasses.

The dog rose in the hedge 

the sheep beyond.

The burbling refrain of the curlew, 

the acrobatic swerve of the swift.

All is now, and now, and now!

But tomorrow, next week, next year? 

Merciful God will they still be there?

Will our apathy, 

our slowness to act, 

our aversion to change 

allowed all this 

to be threatened, 

diminished, and 

evicted from life?

Have mercy.

But not just mercy –

rather prod us, prompt us, 

push us into action.

Renew our hearts and minds,

reverse our expectations

so that we change the future 

and once more 

be restorers of creation.

Amen. 

Canal towpath, Gargr

Choose Life

We stand at a tipping point, O God,

teetering between life and death:

Shall we fall or rise?

“Chose life!” 

Shall we retreat into our shells, bury our heads in the sand:

Or shall we step forth into a new age of sustainability?

“Chose life!”

Shall we ignore the science, hide ourselves in the trappings of consumerism:

Or shall we openly embrace renewable lifestyles?

“Chose life!”

Shall we pointlessly mourn the loss of polar bears and elephants, bees and butterflies:

Or shall we live our lives so that all may live?

“Chose life!”

Shall we fly to the ends of the earth while ice sheets melt:

Or value the future by enjoying what is local?

“Chose life!”

Shall we disregard floods and droughts, storms and heat waves, as seasonal blips:

Or acknowledge them as already-present signs of climate change?

“Chose life!”

Shall we close our ears to cries of help from farmers and islanders as their lands disappear:

Or shall we join voices in calling for justice?

“Chose life!”

Holy God,

Prompt us and urge us, encourage and propel us,

to now change our life styles so that all may have life and live!

Amen.

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 

The Green Tau: Issue 1

Introducing COP26: the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties. 

What is its purpose?

“Uniting the world to tackle climate change” 

Why? The trajectory of rising global temperatures threatens the health and well being of all living beings on earth. The speed of change is such that most life forms will not be able to evolve fast enough to avoid extinction. The primary cause of these global temperature rises is human activity.

These climate change conferences have been taking place annually since the first in Berlin in 1995. Parties have been working on strategies and agreements to enable world communities to work together to limit the impact of this crisis.  

COP3 produced the  Kyoto protocol agreeing legally binding target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 6-8% below 1990 levels by 2012. This was not fully implemented.

COP17 held in Durban began negotiating a legally binding deal to keep global warming to within a 2C rise compared with pre industrial levels.

COP21 produced the Paris agreement requiring individual countries to produce their own plans (NDC – nationally determined contributions) to mitigate the impacts of global warming and to keep global temperature  below a 1.5C rise by 2050 – and at least 45% of these reductions of be achieved by 2030. 

Are we on target as we approach COP26 this November? (Deferred from its original date in 2020 because of Covid). No. The UN Emissions Gap Report 2019 notes an ongoing annual 1.5% increase in greenhouse gas (GHG)  emissions over the last decade. Global emissions for 2018 reached 55.3 giga-tons. To keep global temperature increases within 1.5C, GHG need to be reduced to 32 Gt. 

The World Meteorological Organisation has reported global average temperature rises of 1.1C since the preindustrial age, and of 0.2C  for the period 2015-19 above that for 2011-15.

What then are the stated goals of COP26?

  1. Finalise the Paris Rulebook and ensuring transparency 
  2. Require all finance, public and private to support the global economy transition to net zero 
  3. Protect communities and natural habitats 
  4. Keep global temperatures increases within the 1.5C  target and keep on target for net zero carbon emissions by 2050

What role can we play?

  • Adopting sustainable life styles
  • Using our purchasing power to change business practices
  • Campaigning to ensure governments and other authorities know what we actual want 
  • Supporting others throughout the world to make changes too

For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? (Romans 8:24) I cannot see how all the nations, and interested parties will at COP26 make the corporate and individual changes needed to avert the escalation of our climate crisis. Yet I have hope that things will right, and hope is a powerful thing, especially if it shared with others.

‘Hope is Power’ became the new (2019) campaign logo for the Guardian newspaper. 

“Hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:5).

About the Green Tau

The Green Tau blog comes from my love of life, of the natural world and of those human endeavours which are kind and generous. This love itself stems from my Christian faith which prioritises living life well and seeks to establish heaven on earth so all may live life to the full.

I want to use this blog to reach out to people, to inform them about the facts and the dangers of climate change, to point to changes we can make, and ways in which we can change the behaviour of businesses and governments,  to minimise the adverse affects of climate change and at the same time achieve fair and sustainable lifestyles that benefit everyone. 

In the short term the Green Tau blog will focus on COP26 climate conference, why it’s important and what it can achieve.

τ