April 2019 - Climate Crisis

Climate Crisis


The news headlines usually come in order of perceived importance. Today, along with something tedious about Brexit, the BBC reports that 'Vegan sausage roll boosts Greggs'. It is good that all is so well in the world that there is nothing more substantial to report!

However, turn to the report released in the last couple of days by the Science and Security Board Bulletin of the
Atomic Scientists, and you will read that the Doomsday Clock, the notional signifier of how close we are to the symbolic point of annihilation, is set at two minutes to midnight (the closest since 1953 at the height of the Cold War. They say,

Humanity now faces two simultaneous existential threats, either of which would be cause for extreme concern and immediate attention. These major threats – nuclear weapons and climate change – were exacerbated this past year by the increased use of information warfare to undermine democracy around the world, amplifying risk from these and other threats and putting the future of civilization in in extraordinary danger.

And yet we have recently been told that the first parliamentary debate on climate change for two years is only just about to take place. Crisis? What crisis?

It is as though the immanent danger is so big and so close we just cannot comprehend it. Indeed, the cognitive dissonance between awareness and response (we all know what is happening to the world) is so great that it can only be an exercise in mass self-delusion. The hope of negotiating concessions from Europe, so far, has been like the optimism placed by the Titanic in getting better terms out of the looming iceberg, or like arguing over the merits of Manchester United's comeback against impending and catastrophic climate chaos. Really? Our current direction of travel is so ruinous that instead of turning the proverbial steering wheel away from imminent danger, we've collectively decided to retune the radio to a station that is more soothing and distracting.

So God bless our young people who are taking days out from their precious education to strike as a stand against climate change. The government's very poor response ('the disruption to planned lesson time was damaging for pupils') rather misses the point, not simply in terms of the scale of the disaster which our children want to see averted, but also in the meaning and purpose of education itself.

My friend has three girls. When they were small he would say; “when my girls grow up I want them to be assertive, articulate and self-willed. But why, oh why, are they like that already!” The purpose of education is to develop independent and curious minds, and children who will grow to be responsible adults who are good citizens. It seems rather pointless to be complaining that they are like this already, and have opinions on the state of God's good earth.

If we are finding the magnitude of the problems facing us too great, then perhaps we, the adults, need to be opening our ears to the demands of those who are brave enough to face the truth. What a resounding success our education system must be if our children are more clear-eyed and motivated than their parents and parliament.

Your Rector

This letter from Revd Nick Bird appeared in the April 2019 issue of The Grapevine