This summer I was asked to chair a panel on Climate Change at the Greenbelt Arts Festival – the festival has been our family home over the August Bank Holiday weekend for more years than we care to remember, so that bit was fine, and chairing the panel didn’t worry me unduly, but I did feel ever so slightly ill-equipped for the subject in hand.
Truth is, embarrassingly, I’ve fairly successfully stuck my fingers in my ears about the whole issue, at most I’ve changed our light bulbs to energy efficient ones and been better about recycling….and momentarily been sad about lonely polar bears on shrinking ice floes. Then I’ve got on with my life.
One of the people on the panel was the bestselling author and global environmental activist Bill McKibben who in 1989 wrote the first book for lay people about the imminent dangers of climate change. It’s clear that, back then, he didn’t remotely imagine that nearly 30 years later the planet would be in its current pickle.
Bill McKibben is inspirational. And he’s angry (albeit in an often fairly measured Methodist way).
I won’t go into the main issues here, but in listening to Bill, and to the UK Policy Advisor for Christian Aid, I realised that I can’t…don’t want to….put my head in the sand any longer.
Climate change is the enemy of development…..one of the big reasons the world’s poor are getting poorer.
And I’m the mum of a 9 year old. I want him to have a healthy functioning planet on which to live and bring up his children. I don’t want him to turn round in 15…20 years time, when things are even worse for the earth and its people, and ask why I didn’t do more.
So, this ostrich is having a go at becoming an activist!
Step 1 was surprisingly easy. I changed my energy supplier to Ecotricity.
(Concentrate now….here comes the science bit…)
As I understand it, my electricity still comes off the National Grid, like everyone else, but the money I pay for it enables Ecotricity to buy 100% renewable electricity to feed into the grid. As more people do that, more and more of the available electricity will be renewable. Marvellous.
Gas is trickier, but at the moment, through Ecotricity, the percentage that’s renewable is currently around 5%, I think the highest of all the energy companies. They do this by bringing in gas created via anaerobic digestion, and have plans to create gas themselves, by growing a particular type of grass on fields farmers can’t use, and breaking it down in one of the 3 Green Gas Mills they have planning permission for. They're aiming to hit 12-15% with these first 3 mills and expand on that in the future.
Honestly, I don’t entirely understand the finer points, but it all feels pretty cool.
And a sensible first response.
And it’s nice to be able to say my studio is powered by 100% renewable electricity!
Step 2 is to have a go at persuading others to join me on the journey.
With a neighbour, I’m trying to do that in our street. A few people are interested, but not much enthusiasm yet. I get that. It’s taken me a long time.
But in the midst of discussions with this neighbour, he asked me to clarify something.
‘You’re a Christian, right?’ Yes.
‘So you believe that God created the world?’ Also, basically, yes (though 6 days is pushing it…..)
‘So, if that’s the case, why aren’t Christians and the churches at the front of this whole campaign?’
Er….. good point….it’s a fair cop.
The church should absolutely be leading the charge on this one. It’s….we’re….not, and frankly, it’s embarrassing.
So, donning my newly fitted (if slightly skewiff) ‘woman of action’ hat, I find myself leading the charge to become an Eco Church.
More on that another time.
I know what I’m doing constitutes just the tip of that poor old polar bear’s iceberg. But now I’m taking hold of some of the issues, and of their urgency, I’m aware that I can’t stick my head back in the sand. This is one road I’m going to have to keep walking.