Monthly Archives: October 2015

Family Parade and Climate March – Sunday 29th November 2015, Princess Square

Download: Family Parade and Climate March Flyer and text

Sunday 29th November 

Be there! 

As negotiators in Paris begin their tussle with the text of a climate treaty, enmeshed in legal jargon and political manoeuvres, our job is to inject some passion, determination and hope!

Join us in Newcastle on Sunday 29th November, the day before the climate summit convenes:

PRINCESS SQUARE 

(upper entrance to Central Library)

1.30pm, Children’s activities – face painting & placard making 

    2.00pm, ‘FAMILY PARADE & CLIMATE MARCH’, to the Civic Centre

 To be led by families with children and young people

The Paris conference will be crucial. For decades, governments have dithered as the planet has continued to warm. web page monitoring We now need an ambitious climate agreement as a matter of urgency.

Come and stand up for life in Earth – for the world’s poor now and for the life and welfare of your children and grandchildren in the future! Bring your family, friends and colleagues. Be part of a worldwide demonstration that mandates our representatives in Paris to get the job done!

***

We need you!

Come to the People’s Climate March and Rally in Newcastle on Sunday 29th November.

Even better, sign up to help with the event. Help us to:

  • Organise kids’ activities (such a placard making)
  • Act as a steward
  • Transport our public address equipment
  • Make or carry placards and banners
  • Keep our equipment and materials safe
  • Give a (brief!) speech
  • ‘Flash’ singing, dancing or music
  • Arrange press/media coverage
  • Hand out badges and green caps
  • Photograph the event
  • Suggest how we can make this event fun!

Go to: act-ne.org

 

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Climate Change – Encouragement, Reproof and Challenge to the Christian Community

Climate Change – Encouragement, Reproof and Challenge to the Christian Community

Dr David Golding CBE
Honorary Chaplain at Newcastle University
And Development Coordinator, North East CALL TO ACTION

Author’s note: This article provides the text of an address given in the Cathedral Church of St Nicholas, Newcastle upon Tyne, courtesy of Very Revd Christopher Dalliston, on Sunday 15th November, which was entitled “Faith, hope and love in an age of climate change”. The service was led by Revd Canon Steven Harvey, the singing by Gareth Davis-Jones. The scripture lesson was Isaiah 58, 1-8, and was read by Veronica Golding.

Readers should note that North East CALL TO ACTION is not a religious grouping, still less a specifically Christian one. However, many of our supporters are practising Christians and this article is an attempt to show them that both their faith and the great heritage of Christian advocacy provide an ample basis for their engagement with the campaign on climate change.

Contact, david.golding[at]ncl.ac.uk

Download Word document here: DWGolding_Encouragement, reproof and challenge 

– – – – – – –

Zewdie Tamirat’s eyes were swollen shut through malnutrition and her delicate skin was no longer able to mask the skeleton beneath. Brushing away flies from her face with a small twig, the little girl stood quietly as, in 2000, her father explained how three years of crop failure in Ethiopia had left his family facing starvation. Pitiably, she attempted a smile for the cameraman.

Some images remain in the mind and little Zewdie’s was one such and helped keep me going with debt and trade campaigning for the first four years of the new millennium. Four years of frustration, of grief, of anger, – and most of all of slog, without a shred of progress to show for it. You want an easy ministry? Avoid campaigning!

Zewdie’s tragic story leads me to my first heading, which is that, “Christian faith, hope and love stand in striking contrast to the injustice of climate change”.

It came like a bolt from the blue when, after I retired at the end of 2005, I had the chance to read up on climate science. I read that global warming, “largely caused by a rise in greenhouse gas emissions from human activities, may already – note: may already – be responsible for an increase in drought and famine, in Ethiopia and neighbouring countries since 1996” (Lord Robert May, then President of the Royal Society).

In other words, the burning of fossil fuels – oil, gas, coal – by the rich countries is probably already doing terrible damage to the world’s poor. I then went on to discover that this is just one of a multitude of examples. Indeed, Revd Peter Harris, the founder and president of A Rocha, the world’s leading Christian environmental agency, says, “We now recognise that environmental causes, more than any others, are contributing to human suffering.” 

Pope Francis, in his game-changing encyclical, puts it this way: “Never have we hurt and mistreated out common home as we have in the past two hundred years”.

We all know the parable of Jesus about the Good Samaritan, and the priest and levite who, seeing the injured man, “walked by on the other side of the road”, are often said to correspond in our day to the leaders and people of the rich world. But Pope Benedict said that rich countries actually correspond to the thieves, who attacked the man and left him close to death. And the former pontiff is correct:

Poor countries lose far more from unfair trade rules than they receive in aid; and the same applies to tax dodges by Western companies, and to inherited debts!

But even that’s is not the worst of it, because climate change is potentially an injustice surpassing all others. Whereas each person in Ethiopia emits on average one tenth of a ton of carbon dioxide each year, each of us in the UK emits over 7 tons – 70 times as much. [World Bank data for 2011.]

So we treat the atmosphere as an open sewer into which we feel at liberty to discharge our pollution, but little Zewdie and her family – and the poor and vulnerable throughout the world – suffer the consequences.

Small wonder the anguish of Veena Khaleque, Director for Practical Action in Bangladesh. She says, “I find it almost impossible to imagine how the poor of Bangladesh will cope”, given that tens of millions of them will be displaced by rising sea levels.

But it is not only ‘the children of the poor’ about whom we should be concerned. ‘Tomorrow’, the catastrophe will certainly engulf our own children and grand-children, and generations yet unborn, unless we change our ways.

“How could I look my grand-children in the eye and say I knew about this and did nothing?”, asks Sir David Attenborough.

“I urge everybody to work together to find sustainable solutions to avert a catastrophe that will exacerbate human suffering to a magnitude that perhaps the world has not yet seen”, said Desmond Tutu.

So there you have it and, as William Wilberforce put it in his first, great speech to Parliament, “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know!”

Firstly then, “Christian faith, hope and love stand in striking contrast to climate change”, which is repugnant to the Kingdom values of justice and compassion.

Second, “Christian faith, hope and love have brought immeasurable benefits to humanity”.

I haven’t the time to do justice to this aspect, but I recall that my pastor and teacher in the days of my youth, Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones, stated that, “The Christian church has been the greatest benefactor in human history”, and, utterly shameful lapses notwithstanding, I agree with him.

Let me remind you of just a few highlights. Faced with the obscenity of the slave trade, the Christian community led the fight for its abolition. And what a fight that was! According to Adam Hochschild,

“If you had stood on a London street corner in 1787 and insisted that slavery was morally wrong and should be stopped, they would have laughed you off as a crackpot… Ending slavery was wildly impractical: the British Empire’s economy would collapse.”

But Hochschild goes on: “Within a few short years, there was an abolition committee in every major city and town. Parliament was flooded with abolition petitions… Public opinion had undergone a sea change.”

William Wilberforce first proposed the abolition of the slave trade in Parliament in 1789. Eighteen long years later, having had his bill rejected on no less than twelve occasions, his bill was carried overwhelmingly. The great majority of the MPs rose to their feet and cheered him, whilst William sat with his face in his hands, tears streaming down his face. It was, said the great historian, G.M. Trevelyan, “one of the turning points in the history of the world”.

Similarly, the Christian community took the lead in support of Lord Shaftesbury, to reform the appalling conditions in our factories and mines in the 19th century; and its backing was key to the success of Josephine Butler, that wonderful woman from our own region, in her battle against legalised child prostitution in the Victorian era.

In the lifetime of many here, churches led peacefully by Martyn Luther King fought back the evil of racism in the US.

Similarly, “the secret of the success of Jubilee 2000 (now Jubilee Debt Campaign) is simple, but unfashionable. It is the Christian churches” – and that’s according to Madeleine Bunting, who does not share our faith, in an article published by the UN.

As a result of this and other campaigns, child mortality (the number of children dying under five each year) has been reduced from 12.7 million in 1990 to 6 million last year, a reduction of more than 50%. And this is only one of many examples. There’s never been such progress in the history of world – although we could have done even better!

It’s so wonderful that North East campaigners have been able to play a significant part in all this, leading Archbishop Desmond Tutu to write to us in 2006 to say,

“Thank you, thank you, thank you! Thank you for wanting to make poverty history. Well done. Go on to the Jubilee, on to Trade Justice and on to make poverty history!”

And this from Justin Welby, when he was Bishop of Durham: “I want to make clear my strong support for the issues and the remedies promoted by North East CALL TO ACTION.”

So, second, “Christian faith, hope and love have brought immeasurable benefits to humanity”

But third, and less happily, “Christian faith, hope and love have generally (and I stress, “generally”) been less than conspicuous in the fight against climate change”.

Some time ago, I was asked to write a brief summary of my current work for the website of my church, Whitley Bay Baptist Church. When I looked at it again, sometime later, I was quite shocked to find that I’d concluded my statement by saying that,

“My greatest ongoing burden is the widespread, studied indifference within the Christian community to the monstrous threat and injustice of climate change.” Ouch! Did I really write that? Yes, it seems so.

You may well find this message unpalatable, but if so, I direct your attention to Isaiah 30, verse 10:

“They (the people) say to the prophets, ‘Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions!’”

Well, I’ve told you some “pleasant things” – very pleasant things indeed – I’ve done so because they are “right”, because they are true. But if you want “pleasant things” from me on the subject of the Christian community’s stewardship of creation and protection of the poor, you’ve asked the wrong person to occupy the pulpit. You’ll get no such “illusions” – delusions – from me.

And before you shut off and conclude I’ve got a bee in my bonnet about this, listen to what Richard Woodall said last year in a major feature article in ‘Idea’, the magazine of the Evangelical Alliance:

“The words ‘climate change’ are increasingly on the lips of humanitarian and environmental groups, but rarely on the radar of the church. Why?” he asked.

And he quoted, Dr Katherine Hayhoe, a committed Christian and one of America’s leading climate scientists, as saying, “How can we call ourselves Christian if we bury our heads in the sand and ignore the reality that God’s creation is telling us?”

Susan Durber, from Christian Aid, Ben Niblett, from Tearfund, and Ruth Valerio, from A Rocha, all expressed concern, in one way or another, at the lack of Christian interest in the same article. So it’s not just me! Incidentally, the Christian relief and development agencies, Cafod, Christian Aid and Tearfund, have been exemplary in their commitment to this cause!

In a letter published by the Guardian newspaper in March, I said that, “As a regional climate campaigner, I salute The Guardian for its big new push on climate change, the greatest moral challenge of our age! How strange then, the relative lack of engagement by the Christian community.”

I continued, referring to Christian believers, “These are people whose Scriptures command humanity to “care for the earth” (Genesis 2, 15), and warn that the Almighty will “destroy those who destroy the earth” (Revelation 11, 18). They are followers of the one who brought “good news to the poor” – whose protection is among their foremost responsibilities and who are already being hit, and who will be hit hardest in the future – by what is surely a crime against humanity surpassing all others.

“National church leaders”, I wrote, “in the UK have generally said the right things, but I doubt if the subject gets so much of a mention in sermons and intercessions in most churches, from one year’s end to another!”

I don’t get the impression, either, that most practising Christians give so much as a passing thought to their responsibilities for creation care or to the damage their lifestyles are doing to the world’ poor.

The leading evangelical theologian, Chris Wright, says this: “Creation care is an urgent issue in today’s world… Only a wilful blindness worse than any proverbial ostrich’s head in the sand can ignore the facts of environmental destruction… To be unconcerned about it is to be either desperately ignorant or irresponsibly callous.”

So how is it with you? Are you guilty of “A wilful blindness worse than any proverbial ostrich’s head in the sand”, or are you “desperately ignorant or irresponsibly callous”? 

In the final section of my letter in The Guardian, I queried this lack of interest and engagement, given that very many believers make real sacrifices of their time and money for the good of others. “Could it be”, I asked, “that we’re good at ‘charity’, but lack commitment to ‘justice’? Or, worse, that our attachment to comfort and convenience now amounts to idolatry?”

These are real and pressing issues. Let every man and woman examine themselves, as I will myself.

“Yet all is not lost!”, says Pope Francis, “human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start.”

And that leads me, finally, to “Faith, hope and love – expressed in dependence on God, responsible living and courageous advocacy.”

First, we are called to faith: to trust God to help us live lives which honour him, as we embark on a journey towards a responsible, non-polluting, non-destructive lifestyle.

Note that I said ‘a journey’! Because none of us can possibly get to where we need to get to today, next week, or even next year – it simply isn’t possible, however committed we are. And that means of course that none of us can point the finger at anyone else who hasn’t got as far as we have, because there are almost certainly many other people who are a long way ahead of us!

But don’t take that as a convenient get-out! What matters is this: have you set out on this journey and are you pressing ahead on it with commitment and determination?

We are also called to have faith, trusting God to bless our efforts as we use every opportunity to press our leaders to take action at a national level.

Living with hope is more problematical! I’m certainly no starry-eyed optimist – along with other campaigners I’ve been disappointed too often and too bitterly by the blinkered folly of world leaders. Some of you will have heard me repeat the biting denunciation of the latter by an outraged young Anjali Appadurai, at the UN Climate Conference in Durban, in December 2011: “You have been negotiating all my life!”, she thundered at the negotiators, to roars of approval from the rest of the youth delegation.

Wishing to help me, my wife, Veronica, bought me the book by Jonathan Moo and Robert White, entitled “Hope in an age of despair” and it really is a wonderful book. It points out that Christian hope is an assured hope that Christ at his coming will make ‘all things new’.

The coming glorious kingdom, in the new creation, will be characterised by shalom – peace, health and justice – in the relationships between God and humanity, between human beings, and between humanity and the rest of creation.

But the kingdom is here right now, albeit in its infancy, since it was inaugurated by the coming of Jesus, and believers are members of it right now – and are part of the new creation right now.

Consequently, imbued with Christian hope, we should personify the values of that coming kingdom, and exemplify the characteristics of that new creation, in all we do right now!

What we do right now will include reforming our polluting and gluttonous lifestyles, and stirring ourselves to raise a clamour of righteous anger against a gathering crime of climate injustice.

And anything we do now in this spirit, to live out the values of the coming kingdom, is of lasting significance! Even if the impacts of reformed lifestyles, restored environments, or climate advocacy, are swamped by contrary developments, such lives are “not in vain in the Lord”. In ways we can barely imagine, lives lived now which reflect the character of the coming kingdom, in the renewed creation that is to come, have enduring value and their echoes will sound on into eternity!

Finally, we are called to love. “And now these three remain, faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 

Love for God’s good creation; love for the world’s suffering poor; and love for generations yet unborn. Love expressed in lives characterised by frugality, generosity, bold public advocacy, and joyful service – note “and joyful service” – I’m not talking about some self-denying, miserable-as-sin existence!

Tearfund’s new ‘Ordinary Heroes’ campaign combines commitment to lifestyle change and sending a message to the Prime Minister – so you’re able to say, “Please do this, Mr Cameron – and please note that I’m trying to do my bit!”

In one of its mailings, it showed a picture of a young mother, Philippa Strickett, and her son, and provided a ‘testimony’ of how she and her family have responded to God’s call:

“Four years ago being Christians changed our eating habits! [Exclamation mark!] We gave up meat during Lent as part of our worship, wanting to reduce the impact our lives were having on God’s creation and therefore also on those living in poverty. Since then, our family of five has eaten a lot less meat as this helps reduce our carbon footprint. We considered what else we could do [you see, they gave it some thought!] and now drive less, have written to our MP, turned our thermostat down and switched to a 100 % renewable energy provider.”

But the ‘icing on the cake’ were her final words: “We certainly fail sometimes, but step by step, with a spirit of generosity and grace, we’re trying to follow Jesus with our whole lives.” Does that sound like some self-denying, miserable-as-sin existence? Not to my ears it doesn’t!

“Step by step, with a spirit of generosity and grace, we’re trying to follow Jesus with our whole lives.” 

I was going to finish with that, but then I came across these words from Pope Francis’ encyclical: “Let us sing as we go. May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope.”  Amen to that, brother! So help us God!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Live Simply – and Responsibly!

Live Simply – and Responsibly!

The NE-CAP Committee have been sharing ideas as to how we can all, at a personal level, reduce the damage we do to the poorest and most vulnerable in the world, and to the planet we all share. In other words, how can we ‘care more for creation’?

This is not to side-line the overriding importance of campaigning (see Appendix 1 below). However, as the Coordinator puts it, “Hypocrites make bad campaigners!”

Our suggestions are summarised below, and we are open to supplementing them with ideas from our supporters – email david.golding[at]ncl.ac.uk.

The Coordinator suggests you give priority to the items underlined below, although all are worthy of your consideration.

Home – Buying and using electricity

  • Switch to Ecotricity, a 100% renewable electricity supplier (see Appendix 2, below);
  • Fit energy-efficient light fittings;
  • When replacing your TV, refrigerator, washing machine, etc., buy the option with the highest possible energy efficiency;
  • Fit solar panels on your roof;
  • Kettle – add only enough water for immediate use;
  • Don’t leave appliances on stand-by;
  • Use backed-up computer memory, rather than paper.

Home – Heating

  • Bring your home up to the highest possible standard of insulation – contact Energy Saving Trust (0800 512 012) for independent advice on grants and suppliers;
  • Fit an energy-efficient boiler, or if possible fit a heat pump;
  • Turn thermostat down 2 degrees (and wear a fleece!);
  • Draw curtains at dusk;
  • Use a shower or the basin, instead of the bath;
  • Keep a plastic cup over the hot tap to remind you not to use it when cold water would do (e.g., for rinsing);
  • If you use the bath, share the bath water (or the bath!).

Home – Sundry

  • Recycle everything you can, even if it means taking it to the supermarket or local authority waste unit. [One of our members uses pieces of old carpet as innersoles for his shoes, and finds them very comfortable!]
  • Compost green waste (but don’t include food unless your bin is vermin-proof);
  • Store rain water in a butt for garden use, or to wash the car, etc;
  • When drawing hot water, store the initially cold water in a jug, rather than wasting it;
  • Turn off the tap when cleaning your teeth;
  • Instead of new plastic bags, use lunch boxes, or re-use bread bags or cereal bags.

Travel

  • Avoid air travel as much as possible – it is grossly polluting;
  • Minimise use of car – walk, cycle, or use public transport;
  • When replacing your car, buy a modest-sized, low-emissions model;
  • Try holidaying in the UK (‘staycation’);
  • For continental holidays, try making the journeys part of the enjoyment, by combining high-speed rail travel with overnight stays in, for example, Paris or Brussels. [https://www.eurostar.com; http://uk.voyages-sncf.com/en/voyages-sncf]
  • Food
  • Buy certified Fairtrade products wherever possible (e.g., tea, coffee, bananas, sugar, rice);
  • Reduce meat consumption, particularly beef, and replace it with vegetables (e.g., lentils, beans) and meat substitutes (e.g., ‘Quorn’);
  • Reduce dairy consumption and replace it with vegetable-based products (e.g., soya);
  • Don’t buy bottled water – the tap version is produced with far less energy – and is probably safer!
  • Don’t waste food!

Appendix 1. Live simply and campaign courageously!

“To relax the pressure [on governments] now, when the fierce urgency of NOW is stronger than ever before, is absolutely the wrong thing to do.” Similarly, “Any amount of action by individuals is not going to solve the problem without government doing the things and taking the responsibility that only it can do… It is absolutely essential that pressure on our leaders to increase commitment and action continues to be applied” (Professor Sir John Houghton FRS, one of the world’s most distinguished climate scientists).

Appendix 2. Ecotricity

“People of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change” (Archbishop Desmond Tutu).

Just so, and organisations ranging from the Rockefeller Foundation to the Church of England and the Guardian newspaper are doing just that – withdrawing their investments from companies involved in the production and use of fossil fuels, and switching them to renewables and low-carbon sectors. Among the many reasons this makes good sense, as well as good ethics, is that we now know that most of the fossil fuel reserves already discovered are going to have to be left in the ground, if we’re not to suffer catastrophic and irreversible climate change! So why invest in companies which are ‘hell-bent’ on finding such fuels in ever more sensitive environments (the arctic, for example) and on developing ever more polluting fuel sources (tar sands, for example)?

But what about us, personally? Can we “break our ties with corporations financing climate change” – and do so AT LITTLE OR NO COST TO OURSELVES? Cafod, Christian Aid, Tearfund and Global Justice Now (formerly WDM), which together launched Jubilee 2000 as a major public campaign in 1996, and all of which have supporters on the NE-CAP Committee, are unanimous in their reply:

“Switch you energy supplier to Ecotricity, the 100% renewable energy company!”

Furthermore, since Ecotricity has a partnership arrangement with each of the agencies listed above, it will make a donation to your chosen agency if you ask them to do so when you switch. BUT MAKE SURE YOU ASK!

Ring 08000 302 302, or General Enquiries on 01 453 756 111.

You can learn more about Ecotricity by going to www.ecotricity.co.uk/ – you can switch on-line also, but I can’t see how you can ensure your chosen agency gets its cut if you do so!

[Note: Veronica and I are with ‘Good Energy’, also 100% renewable, and have been for nearly 10 years. I can’t see any good reason for us to switch.]

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Good News! MDGs AIDS targets exceeded

Just three months ago, the UN announced that “the goal of 15 million people on life-saving HIV treatment by the end of 2015 has been met nine months ahead of schedule. The world has exceeded the AIDS targets of Millennium Development Goal 6 and is on track to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.”

15 million people! That’s as compared with about a quarter of a million in 2001 – 60 times as many!

Michel Sidibe, Executive Director of the UN’s AIDS body, said recently, “We have halted and begun to reverse the epidemic. Fewer people are becoming infected with HIV and fewer people are dying from AIDS.”

At a day conference in St John’s Hebburn, last Saturday, I first recalled the truly shocking situation in relation  to AIDS in Africa at the turn of the Millennium, which caused Carol Bellamy, the Director of UNICEF, to say that, “We believe AIDS is the worst catastrophe ever to hit the world”. Yes indeed: “They die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.”

Next I described the transformation that has taken place since then. Then I gave the audience ‘a good telling off’, demanding to know, “Why aren’t you on your feet, cheering?! If you can’t see that this is one of humanity’s greatest  achievements of the new millennium, I simply don’t understand you!”

And yes, I know we have far to go with HIV/AIDS, with the obscenity of 200,000 babies still being infected at birth p.a., for example, and other daunting challenges, but…

D.W. Golding

6 October 2015

 

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‘Keeping the Lights on: How can we ensure that tackling climate change doesn’t damage energy security in the UK?’

This is a fringe event sponsored by Newcastle University at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, 4 October 2015 at 5.45pm. The debate will be chaired by Guy Opperman MP, and he will be joined by Professors Richard Davies and Phil Taylor; Trevor Hutchings, Director of Advocacy and Matthew Knight, Director of Energy Strategy & Government Affairs at Siemens.

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