25th May 2022
Over the last 24 hours I spent about 6 hours supporting the Christian Climate Action vigil outside the Methodist Central Hall, the venue for this year’s Shell AGM. I didn’t stay overnight as some brave souls did but came and went in stints. My companions were deeply committed to the environmental cause: that we humans need to wake up to the damage we are causing to the wonderful creation God has provided and of which we are an integral part: truly we are brothers and sisters, kith and kin with every other living thing. Yet our human unabated consumption of fossil fuels is producing carbon dioxide in such quantities that we are changing the climate, wiping out plant and animal species, melting ice caps and glaciers, and consigning our fellow humans to poverty, ill health and death.
Our presence, as well as being peaceful and prayerful, was intended to raise people’s awareness of the climate crisis and the role that large oil companies, such as Shell, play. To put this in context, CO2 emissions for the entire globe in 2021 were 36.3 bn tonnes, and of this Shell contributed 1.299 bn tonnes. To avert the worsening affects of climate change, CO2 emissions need to be reduced by 43% by 2030, and to zero by 2050. This is a huge challenge for us all but one which will be hard to achieve if the fossil fuel industries continue to invest in expanding oil and gas production rather than shifting to the production of renewable energy.
As I prayed, I admit I had little hope that my prayers were going to effect an about-turn on the plans that Ben van Beurden, the Shell CEO, has for the company. However I did have a slither of hope that our prayers and our presence might influence the hearts and minds of the shareholders. Perhaps there might be a stirring in their conscience about the effects that fossil fuel are having on the planet. Perhaps they might begin to ask questions about the sense of pursuing profits from oil if it results in a world that becomes uninhabitable. Perhaps they might question why the company was not protecting their future by investing in renewable energy. Perhaps they would question the leadership being offered when such a large CO2 producer choose not to follow the global strategy agreed at COP26?
So I prayed. In my mind I envisaged the Holy Spirit like a dove flying around above the heads of the shareholders in the Methodist Central Hall, perhaps pausing to whisper in someone’s ear. I envisaged a scene similar to that of Pentecost, of the room where all the disciples were gathered, with the wind of the Spirit inspiring and energising those present. I imagined little flames might hover above people’s heads and that they might have the experience of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, of something warm burning within them.
Outside the building drums and the call and reply of protestors rose and fell like a storm. Inside the hall, the sound would, I guess, be deadened and I thought of the still small voice in the storm encounter by Elijah. And I thought of the story of Jonah and the storm he encountered and which manhandled him (with the help of a whale) to the shores of Nineveh. There to his surprise and chagrin, the people listened to the message and repented.
And I prayed. I envisaged the call of the evangelists, repent and believe. Repent – a change of heart, a turning around of the way we think, a conversion of the way we do things – and believe. Believe that there is a better future, that we can look forward to a new and brighter future, where things will be green and beautiful, just and fair, where we will live in peace together. As well as seeking a new way of living – repentance – we need to offer a vision of the better world in which we can all live: the kin-dom of God.