Peter Johnstone and I went to ‘The Big Green’ environmental event recently held at Exeter Cathedral which had displays, discussions and workshops with a keynote opening address by Rt Rev Nick Holtam, lead Anglican bishop for the Environment. Amongst the several hundred attending were Martin Nicholls who helped lead the closing worship, and daughter Jess, who led one of the workshops – on Direct Action.
Peter writes, “A morning talk was about the work of an organisation called Climate Stewards, who provide data on their website, www.climatestewards.org, concerning energy production in this country and its use by industry. There are pages where you can enter data about your own personal energy use and your own travel. A realistic value for your CO2 production will be calculated – your ‘Carbon Footprint’.
The Church of England aims to be ‘carbon neutral’ by 2030 through ‘offsetting’ CO2 production with ‘carbon capture’. Tree planting by ‘partners’ in the tropics, where trees grow faster, will help towards achieving this.
An agricultural advisor with 40 years experience in many countries spoke about how developing countries can be encouraged to use ‘conservation agriculture’ (minimal soil disturbance, permanent soil cover with organic material, crop rotation). In Britain the NFU has a target ‘net zero’ by 2040 – by reducing greenhouse gases: from burning fuel and ploughing (CO2), from artificial fertilisers (Nitrogen oxides) and from livestock (methane) – and by tree planting.”
My own impressions coming away from the event?
• It will be a huge task to resolve the climate change/ environment crisis BUT
• There’s a huge desire from many quarters to put things right and action has at least now started in earnest AND
• There is hope – God has not given up on us!
In early March we held the second meeting of the Exmouth Churches Environment Group at Glenorchy, chaired by Martin Nicholls. We agreed to hold an open-air event for the churches at Point-in-View in late spring or early summer. However, the coronavirus means that it is likely to be pushed back until later in the year.
Earth Hour is a worldwide movement organised by the World Wide Fund for Nature. The event is held annually encouraging individuals, communities, or businesses to turn off non-essential electric lights. Millions of people around the world turn off their lights for an hour to show their commitment to protecting nature. This year it’s on Saturday March 28 th from 8.30 to 9.30pm. Something each of us might like to consider taking part in?
Readers of the Exmouth Journal will have seen an article about the recent planting of a new fruit orchard in the meadow at Point-in-View. I went along and learnt a lot about how to plant an apricot sapling! It was great to see so many people there including families and teenagers. Around a bonfire, after the planting, we reflected on what trees mean to us, and what they give us and future generations. Martin led us in a song “Welcome to the trees” on his guitar. The last verse was:
So thank you, sweet trees, for your generous gifting,
Filling our hearts with your life-giving air.
We hope that your roots find a home in our meadow –
giving our children a future to share.
We thank God for his created world, and pray for the earth and its precious resources and that these trees will indeed help improve the environment both for us and for future generations.
Some years ago I stood on the rim of the White Island volcano off the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand wearing a hard hat and a gas mask, just in case! I had flown out to the island by helicopter and spent 2 to 3 hours walking around the crater and marveling at the latent power as this very active volcano spewed out a continual spiral of smoke hundreds of feet into the sky above with an occasional minor eruption of hot steam and ash. This truly awesome experience was sharpened by the sense that just to be there was something very risky. Although assured by experts that an imminent eruption was unlikely there was nevertheless an awareness of unpredictability. Upon leaving the island I breathed a sigh of relief! I relived this incredible experience in December last year when I watched on the television the video of this same volcano erupting with the tragic loss of lives.
I suppose it is not so unusual for human nature to ignore danger or to deceive ourselves that it is exaggerated or does not exist. Warnings of imminent catastrophe are considered so remote that we ignore them because we feel powerless to affect any change. Is this not the case with the alarming predictions with regard to global warming? Sir David Attenborough has yet again sounded a dire warning that our planet faces an imminent crisis due to global warming. How do we respond to his warning? Do we write it off as an exaggeration? Do we refuse to believe that a catastrophe is on the horizon? Do we feel so powerless that we ignore the warnings and carry on regardless?
What action can we, ordinary citizens, take in response to this looming global crisis?
First, we need to take seriously the numerous warnings of those experts who warn us of the consequences facing our planet, to stop prevaricating and commit to change.
Secondly, it is imperative that we consider changes we as individuals make regarding our life styles and do everything we can to reduce our ‘carbon footprints’. This may involve switching to greener energy, changing our modes of travel, and what we eat.
Thirdly, we need to do everything we possibly can to persuade our ‘leaders’ to ratchet up efforts nationally and internationally to reduce carbon. If enough of us wrote to our local MP on a regular basis it would, if nothing else, remind them that this is a major concern upon which action is required.
Despite his warnings, Sir David remains optimistic that the world is at last waking up to the need to act urgently and that it is not too late to avoid catastrophe. “This is an urgent
problem that has to be solved and, what’s more, we know how to do it – yet we’re refusing to take steps that we know have to be taken.” Many of us take the view that the kind of action individuals can take to reverse the destructive path upon which our planet is heading is negligible. Perhaps that is one of the greatest dangers facing us for it leads to a paralysing inaction and despair and that will surely only accelerate the move to catastrophe.
We cannot know what the future will be like but we do believe that from death and destruction renewal is not only possible but certain because the Spirit of God is immersed in the whole creative process. There are no grounds for an easy optimism or for doing nothing but every reason to be hopeful.
Revd Michael Diffey
Eco Church – What’s Happening?
There are several events of interest happening over the next few weeks:
On Sunday 2nd February from 2pm Point-in-View will be planting a new orchard in their meadow at the Chapel in conjunction with Wild Exmouth. Members of all churches in Exmouth are invited to come and witness this, and take part too, to mark this commitment and cooperation in protecting God’s world. Please come in suitable gardening wear if you wish to participate!
On Saturday 22nd February at Exeter Cathedral there is a Big Green Event which runs from 10am to 4.30pm. Keynote speaker: Bishop Nick Holtam, Lead Bishop for Environmental Affairs, with displays, discussions and several workshops on such topics as biodiversity, climate science, food, worship and Direct Action. See www.exeter.anglican.org/events/the-big-green-event. This needs to be booked – details on the website.
On Sunday 1st March at 3pm there will be a second meeting of the Exmouth Churches Environmental Group – and for any others interested. Like the first meeting this will be held at Glenorchy and chaired by Rev Martin Nicholls. Further details to follow.
Exmouth Town Council has set up a Climate Change Working Group and the full Council has adopted ten initial recommendations to help combat Climate Change – it’s great to see they’re rising to the challenge and may we do all we can to support and encourage them.
Finally, we’re delighted that we have at last received money back for the electricity generated from our solar panels. Our first FIT (Feed in Tariff) statement covering the months mid April – mid December 2019 gave a ‘total generation’ payment of £324, with an ‘export payment’ (to the National Grid) of £216, making a grand total of £540. A very nice Christmas present for us!
I was recently alerted to this item on the URC Website:
“A United Reformed Church has been recognised for its commitment towards caring for the environment by becoming the first URC to win an A Rocha Gold Eco Church award. St John’s, Marsh Green, Edenbridge (in Kent) impressed judges on a site visit in October because they were inspired by the congregation’s teamwork. The church generates its own electricity, uses rainwater for toilet flushing, has its own nature reserve and wildflower meadow to improve habitats for wildlife, runs eco-events and encourages children and adults to be as ‘green’ as possible.
The Revd Rob Weston, URC Environmental Task Group Convenor, said: “’I’m delighted to see the first Gold Eco Church award within the URC. It is clear that across the UK the whole Church is waking up to the need for urgent action.”
Here at Glenorchy we are still some way from getting the points needed for our Gold Award but could we perhaps be the second URC to get one? (Having your own nature reserve is not a necessity!) Geoff Smith
NEWS: Glenorchy hosted an ‘eco’ meeting of Exmouth church folk on 24 th November to consider ways in which we as Christians together might make a difference. Revd Martin Nicholls gave a passionate talk on the reasons needed to take urgent action and the hope is that those present will galvanise their own churches into taking action, bringing God’s love to the urgent tasks ahead. While the overall number of 15 attending was disappointing, 9 different churches were represented. It is hoped that these people will form the nucleus of an Exmouth inter-church group acting together to express our Christian concern about these urgent issues.
Those of you who read the Exmouth Journal regularly will have seen a recent article about the future of Transition Exmouth which looked likely to fold prior to its AGM at Glenorchy in September. At that AGM several people came forward to be part of the committee, which has ensured that it can continue. The new Chair is Nicky Nicholls, who amongst other things has helped organise the Exmouth Festival and is the wife of Rev’d Martin Nicholls, a member of our church and the chaplain at Point-in-View.
Glenorchy is a Corporate Member of Transition Exmouth and so we have more than a passing interest in its future. One of the aims of the new committee or ‘umbrella group’ is to co-ordinate the many eco groups in the town, which of course includes us. (There are apparently over 25 independent groups in the town each making a stand for the environment.) This ties in very well with our involvement with the Eco Church scheme since one of its four sections is “Community and Global Engagement”.
A number of us can also see a need for a specific Christian ‘eco presence’ in Exmouth. Point-in-View is an Eco Church and at least one of the other denominations in the town is considering becoming one. Over the next few months we will be exploring how churches and individual Christians can be brought together, both from an awareness angle and as a witness, showing those outside the churches we are on the same side. If you have any thoughts or ideas on this please do let me or one of the other Eco Church Steering Group members know.
Climate Strike Exeter
A few weeks ago in our Sunday worship Martin Nicholls spoke to us about the climate emergency facing our planet and how we can respond as Christians. I was moved by the picture of Martin’s daughter Jess standing alongside the inspirational Swedish teenager and environmental activist, Greta Thunberg. As a lifelong environmentalist I feel humbled that the people to really turn up the volume on the issue have mostly been still at school.
On Friday 20 September I joined the Fridays for Future Climate Strike in Exeter. At time of writing estimates varied but between 3500-5000 people all marched from Bedford Square to County Hall, bringing our county town to a standstill.
What struck me was the huge variety of people in the crowd; young and old stood shoulder to shoulder, professionals taking time away from the office next to creatively attired green activists, people in sportsgear wheeled their bikes alongside others being pushed in wheelchairs. Why such diversity? Because this is not an issue affecting one group of people alone. It is the issue for our time. At Glenorchy we have already made a difference through our commitment to the eco-church scheme. Where next will our green journey take this congregation?
Jess Nichols first met Greta Thunberg in April in London when Jess was on her way to Brussels with other young activists from the UK to meet the EU for discussions on climate change. They met again at a summit in Lausanne on the “Fridays for Future” movement (picture: Jess on the left)
Jess first got involved with the movement in January, inspired by Greta’s speech at Davos and quickly joined others in Exeter in helping to organise the first school strike here in February. She soon became a leader in the growing campaign and found herself dealing with both local and national media. A remarkable achievement for someone who, like Greta herself, has Asperger’s Syndrome. In September Jess gave an address at Exeter Cathedral : https://www.exeter-cathedral.org.uk/news-events/latest-news/. She was very involved in planning the Exeter Climate Strike described opposite by Katie, and has also worked with her young colleagues to produce this very impressive document:
https://exeterobserver.org/pdfs/Exeter_Fridays_for_Future_Green_New_Deal_for_Devon.pdf Green New Deal is addressed to Devon County Council, but deserves a much wider audience.
In her book “Just Living”, Ruth Valerio writes that the Old Testament is a story of fragmented, broken relationships between God, humankind and the natural world. She points out that the state of the land acted as a spiritual barometer for the health of the Israelites’ relationships with God and with each other. She illustrates this by referring to Amos, where because the people had turned away from God and didn’t practice social justice, the land responded accordingly and there was environmental upheaval. In contrast, when people turn back to God, the trees, mountains and hills will rejoice (Isaiah 55). She adds that Jesus came to restore our relationship with God, to restore our relationships with each other and to restore the broken relationship between ourselves and the wider creation.
As I write, there is huge concern over the number of fires in the Amazon rain-forests, depleting the world’s supply of oxygen and devastating many species of insects and wild animals. Whoever is responsible, these have occurred through selfishness and greed – not necessarily that of the Brazilian people, since the fires have in part resulted from a world-wide demand for products which can be satisfied by clearing the forests for crops and cattle. Surrounding all this, we see broken relationships between people, people and God and people and creation.
At Glenorchy we’re doing what we can to care for creation, to improve the life of our community, to seek justice and to look after the needs of each other, in the context of a worshipping community. The Eco Church Award scheme we’re involved with is designed for churches like ourselves to do exactly these things. May we continue to do our best both as a fellowship and as individuals to restore relationships and bring harmony to our world out of love for our creator God.
At the Eco Church service in May, I challenged people to decide to do something for the environment that they weren’t already doing.
Thanks to those who told me what you have decided to do. Several of you remarked that you are going to eat less red meat – cattle and sheep emit methane gas which contributes significantly to global warming. And Brian Chapman suggested that on the church walks we take a bag round with us to collect any litter we come across. A great idea and let’s hope the weather improves next month to allow us to have our walk!
On 11th June the government announced it would be adopting a net zero carbon emissions target by 2050. If ratified, it would make the UK the first member of the G7 group of industrialised nations to legislate for net zero emissions, a huge step forward. Welcome news as this is, A Rocha (who run the Eco Church scheme) point out that the UK is off track to meet its existing emissions reduction targets. So we need the government to bring in much bolder policies and actions to match its words and end the UK’s contribution to climate change even earlier if possible.