The Green Tau: issue 46

System Change?

4th August 2022

Steam Punk is based on the scenario of an alternative history in which steam power, steam engines and hand cranked machines reigned supreme, preventing the development of electrical power and the petrol engine. Might there be scope for Cycle Punk, an alternative history in which peddle power dominates with pedal powered kettles and mobile phones as well as the straightforward two wheel mode of transport?

The way economies and societies work -a product of convenience, economies of scale and inertia – is such that a preferred system will prevail whether that is the energy system, transport system, voting system, or  communications system. The systems or products that are not adopted are not necessarily a worse choice, just different as was the case between VHS and Betamax for video recorders. But once a system is established it is hard to change, because everything is geared to it, business and society have bought into it, lifestyles are built around it, and investment perpetuates it as the safe bet.

In the UK we have favoured a transport system based on private cars over one based on public cars, buses and trains. Our infrastructure favours the former. Our lifestyles have been shaped by the former. Our businesses are geared to the former. Our investment is predicated on its continuation. To change the system would need radical change in all these areas. 

Our energy system is based on the use of cheap fossil fuels. Our agricultural system is based on the production of cheap food, especially cheap animal products. Our manufacturing system is based in the use of cheap labour – as is our hospitality sector. Our investment system on the other hand is based on maximising profits for the few. 

The size and scale of such systems prevent us from seeing or experiencing anything different. Their market share precludes new entrants with alternative ideas. The systems prevent the use of better, more appropriate technologies.

In the UK fuel bills are rising out of all proportion to the cost of production, yet swopping to an alternative system seems nigh impossible. For people struggling financially, there is no spare cash to replace a gas boiler with a heat pump. There is no spare cash to install double glazing and reduce dependency on central heating. There is no comprehensive public transport network to remove reliance on the private car. There is insufficient investment in alternative energy and the odds are increasingly stacked against such investments as the return on fossil fuel investment sky rockets as fuel prices – but not costs – continue to rise.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo drawing on the power of the River Congo has the capacity to generate 100,00MW of hydro electric power compared with its existing capacity of 2792MW ( Yet this requires investment. The DRC is a nation struggling to meet the needs of its people, and the government is currently auctioning fossil fuel rights to explore and extract oil from under its rainforests, a move that will generate money now rather than longer term pay back of hydro power.

Africa as a whole has great potential for the generation of solar power, and which if provided via small scale projects can provide electricity to areas far removed from the grid. Yet whilst solar power has still to be developed in countries such as Algeria, Angola, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria and Tanzania ( the big oil companies are developing new oil and gas fields in Angola, South Africa, Ghana, Gabon, Egypt, Namibia and Kenya. 

Understanding that we are to a greater or lesser extent trapped in a system lets us be realistic about our situation, our predicament. It also helps us understand what will be needed to bring about change. 

Changes in government policy to favour the new system and tax changes and rules  to discourage the old.

Changes in global policies as advocated by the World Bank, the UN etc.

Changes in investment strategies and business plans.

Developments in new technology.

Changes in public opinion that will support all these. 

This is where we come in. We can, even in small ways, be the trigger or the irritant that initiates and propels change. We can make a difference – by talking with friends and neighbours, by loving as if we were already part of the new system, by campaigning, by pressing businesses and politicians, by voting with our money, by investing and by pestering those institutions investing on our behalf, by supporting charities, by standing up. As Christians we are well suited to this. We have that calling to be different, to be countercultural, to be willing to go the extra mile, to act for the wellbeing of the other.

The global system of slavery did come to an end when public opinion had changed. They did it then. We can do it now. 

Counting on ….day 261

30th July 2022

Yesterday I added an extra Count Down entry marking 100 days until COP27, and in these next 99 days I will be repeating some of the actions I noted last year. We are relying on governments and big businesses to effect the system change need to address climate change, but such organisations are ultimately responsive to social trends. In the hustings for the new Conservative party leader, we are seeing the two candidates trying to match what they have to offer with what they sense their voters (Conservative party members) want. If we want governments and businesses to take positive action vis a vis the climate crisis, then that needs to be the desire of society at large. As much as we petition and push governments and businesses to change, we must enthuse society in the same direction. Last year’s “action 2” was talking about the climate crisis with friends – raise awareness and interest, make the topic interesting and pertinent, make the need for action desirable. 

Counting on …day 160 

22nd April 2022

We are enmeshed in a economy fuelled by fossil fuel industries that are

reluctant – indeed highly resistant- to change. If change does not happen, we and the world will suffer increasingly the effects of the climate crisis. BP,  one such fossil fuel company, has been a sponsor of the British Museum for many years. Despite on going public opposition  and despite the move of most of other institutions away from fossil fuel sponsorship, the British Museum is currently negotiating with BP for a further five year deal. This weekend ‘BP or not BP’ will be continuing its campaign to dissuade the British Museum.   Find out more from their web site 

or sign their petition

Here is a piece from their Facebook page: 

“Why is BP sponsorship such a big deal? 

BP doesn’t sponsor cultural institutions out of the goodness of its heart. Its philanthropic image is a carefully curated marketing scheme, designed to distract from its appalling environmental and human rights record, its decades of funding brutal autocrats (including Vladamir Putin) and its huge contribution to climate change.

From covering up oil spills which harm oceans and animals, to dodgy deals with dictators and warmongers, BP has done it all. The company’s history is inseparable from colonial oppression and its endless quest for fossil fuels has wreaked international havoc for more than 80 years.

This sponsorship deal at the British Museum doesn’t just give BP a false veneer of respectability. It allows the company to use this publicly funded space to throw fancy events, schmooze with UK government officials, and cosy up to representatives of fossil-fuelled regimes from Egypt to Azerbaijan to – yes – Russia.”

The Green Tau: issue 40  

5th April 2022 

‘Just Stop Oil’?

A limited amount of press coverage has been given to the Just Stop Oil movement which is currently blockading various oil refineries and terminals around the UK.  Just Stop Oil are using the tactics of civil disobedience rather than civil resistance to push the government to stop permitting any new oil production. Explaining what this shift would look like, one supporter told the Guardian last month that it would mean “stopping pointing out what the government should or shouldn’t be doing [and instead] actively stopping government doing what they shouldn’t be”. The campaign, which has involved protesters being glued to roads, suspended on bamboo tripods, and locked on to oil drums and each other, is taking place in defiance of a temporary high court injunction banning protests outside oil terminals. Just Stop Oil has vowed to continue “civil resistance” protests until the government agrees a moratorium on all new fossil fuel projects and claims it has more than 1,000 supporters willing to be arrested for taking part. “We need the government to stop funding new oil projects and we need it now! Our only means of highlighting this issue is mass civil resistance,” they said in a post on Instagram. ,

Why is Just Stop Oil so committed to and adamant about, their demand? 

In August last year, the first part of the IPCC’s latest assessment (each assessment is the product of five to seven years by three different working groups) was published. This part of the assessment focused on the physical science aspects of climate change, and concluded that the world had on,h a narrow chance of limiting global heating to 1.5C (We are already at 1.1C). This limited window of opportunity needs everyone – governments, businesses, industries, farming etc – to stick to what their agreed 2030 targets.

The second part of the assessment focused on the effects of climate change, such as extreme weather, droughts, floods and temperature rises, and how humanity can adapt to these. This was published in February when it was sadly overshadowed by the invasion of Ukraine. It reported that  3.5 billion people are highly vulnerable to climate impacts and half the world’s population will suffer severe water shortages at some point each year. One in three people are exposed to deadly heat stress, and this is projected to increase to 50% to 75% by the end of the century. Half a million more people are at risk of serious flooding every year, and a billion living on coasts will be exposed by 2050. Rising temperatures and rainfall are increasing the spread of diseases in people, such as dengue fever, and in crops, livestock and wildlife. If global heating continues and little adaptation is put in place, 183 million more people are projected to go hungry by 2050.

Nikki Reisch, the director of the energy and climate programme at the Center for International Environmental Law, said governments should be clear: “There is no room for more oil and gas full stop. [Some businesses] want to perpetuate the myth that we can carry on using fossil fuels. But we need a just transition away from fossil fuels, not techno-fixes.”

The climate crisis is an imminent and highly dangerous. The task of averting this catastrophe relies on us all achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and at least halving them by 2030. Just Stop Oil is not demanding that the government stop all consumption of oil overnight. They are demanding that the government stops our increasing use of oil,  and takes action to cut back our use of oil so that we meet our 2030 and our 2050 net zero targets. 

The war in Ukraine has highlighted our unhappy dependency on fossil fuels, especially those we import from other parts of the world whose regimes are corrupt and un-humanitarian. The solution to this short term problem should be increasing renewable energy capacity – through investment in wind, tidal and solar energy – combined with a comprehensive programme to insulate homes and other properties. Yet there is a risk that the government will opt to escape this problem by allowing more oil exploration in the North Sea. To do so would make meeting our 2030 net zero targets an impossibility, consigning us to trauma of accelerating climate change. 

For Just Stop Oil what is needed is system change. A change from the current oil based system where the government (through taxation and policies) and businesses ( through investment and  practices) perpetuate the use of oil as the main source of energy and the mainstay of production. Consumers find themselves trapped in the system. Gas heating is cheaper than any other form of heating, flying is cheaper than travelling by train, driving is cheaper than public transport, imported food is cheaper than domestically grown, virgin plastic is cheaper than recycled etc etc. It is a system stacked against the environmentally concerned individual. 

Is it surprising then that for many environmentally concerned individuals the only option is civil disobedience? And where does that leave the more fainted hearted environmentalist?

Governments are seldom willing to make system changes unless they feel that is the direction in which the voters have already moved – in recent history one might include the over turning of the poll tax, reining back on nuclear weapons development, and gay weddings. Outside times of severe crisis such as war, system change also needs social change – and that means a change of heart at the individual, ie the average person on the street. Is the average person on the street ready to accept the changes in lifestyle that reducing our dependency on oil and achieving the halfway 2030 net zero targets demands? 

To be continued in issue 41

5th Sunday of Lent

3rd April 2022

Isaiah 43:16-21

Thus says the Lord,
who makes a way in the sea,
a path in the mighty waters,

who brings out chariot and horse,
army and warrior;

they lie down, they cannot rise,
they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:

Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old.

I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.

The wild animals will honour me,
the jackals and the ostriches;

for I give water in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert,

to give drink to my chosen people,
the people whom I formed for myself

so that they might declare my praise.

Psalm 126

1 When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, *
then were we like those who dream.

2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter, *
and our tongue with shouts of joy.

3 Then they said among the nations, *
“The Lord has done great things for them.”

4 The Lord has done great things for us, *
and we are glad indeed.

5 Restore our fortunes, O Lord, *
like the watercourses of the Negev.

6 Those who sowed with tears *
will reap with songs of joy.

7 Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, *
will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.

Philippians 3:4b-14

If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

John 12:1-8

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”


The passage from Isaiah tells us that war and military strength are not the solution to problems in the kingdom of God. They are not solutions that bring in God’s reign. God’s way is new, is different, says the prophet. Perhaps not new to God but new to humans who are slow to perceive it! Wake up humans! God’s way inhabits the natural world, creating what is needed for life – water in dry areas, paths where it’s rough, things that bring life to creatures and people alike. The psalmist knows that when we recognise these occasions of restoration and transformation – those occasions when we align our ways with God’s ways – they will be times of joy and laughter and flourishing. 

How is it that we can seem to slip in and out of God’s kingdom, or more accurately, in and out of being aligned with God’s reign, God’s way? 

Paul in his letter to the Christians in Philippi, recalls how in the past he had closely cherished his Jewish heritage and assiduously followed its practices which he had been taught would keep him in alignment with God. But all that guarantee he has now forgone having found something even better: the life he knows through Jesus Christ. Faith in Christ brings resurrection – and resurrection means new life, means a new way of experiencing life, means a new way of living. It is a life not limited to this world and our mortal time frame. 

The story related In John’s Gospel takes place on the eve of Palm Sunday, on the eve of the most momentous week. Jesus, in John’s gospel, is a figure confident of his own destiny, who sees and understands how that destiny is going to pan out. Jesus has already raised  Lazarus from the dead; Jesus has declared, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die”. This is the eve of the week in which Jesus will ride publicly in to Jerusalem; in which he will continue to  declare his message that he is the light of the world; that through belief in him, people will have eternal life – new life which is not of this world; that he will be raised up for all to see in what will be his culminating hour of glory.  It is a week that will end with his burial. 

In the scene John depicts, there are two contrari protagonists. On the one hand Mary who it seems understands how this week will unfold, and Judas who it seems is either oblivious, or wilfully ignoring, what the state of play. Mary recognises the importance of what is going to happen and pours out this expensive ointment as her best acknowledgement of who Jesus is and of what he represents. It is her expression of adoration and love. It witnesses to her belief that what is to come will be worth so much more than this perfume. Judas, on the other hand, just wants to come across as the good guy – the one standing up for the poor. What Judas has failed to understand is that what the poor need is not just extra alms now, but system change. 

“I am the way and the truth and the life”: Jesus is the true system change. 

System change is what the world still needs. In the UK where an increasing number of people are facing poverty, what is needed is not just increased benefits, but a system change in which everyone is  awarded a wage on which they can genuinely live, in which goods are produced and sold at a price that reflect their true cost, in which animals reared as food are given genuinely good lives, in which taxes paid genuinely reflect the person/ company’s ability to pay, in which the real cost of fossil fuels is recognised and in which economic policies really do focus on zero carbon emissions. 

System change is about aligning the world’s systems to God’s ways – not just some of the time, but all of the time!