Our failure to act is costing the Earth
Parts of my maiden speech to General Synod have been reported in the media, so I thought some people might like to read the whole thing. Certainly, I was pleased to speak on a topic that has been important to me for a long time now – and that was also the subject of work that was going on within the diocese before I arrived. This is what I said:
I’m honoured to make this maiden speech on a subject that’s been close to my heart for many decades. And I’m delighted therefore that Truro is sharing this motion with London.
Climate change cannot be a matter of indifference for any of us – not least in Cornwall, where it is already having a significant impact on coastal communities and where the main railway to London was cut not so long ago by what would once have been described as a freak weather event, but the like of which is now all too common – thanks, quite simply, to climate change.
In my work with CMS I witnessed already marginal communities in the Chaco of northern Argentina living yet more marginal and precarious lives through flooding events of increasing severity inundating the land on which they depend for their very survival. I saw migrants from sub-Saharan Africa forced to migrate not only through conflict but also through increased food insecurity – caused by climate change. And behind that conflict too there is often, of course, the issue of ecological degradation destroying traditional ways of life
Prophets of our age
And who are the prophets of our age who are sounding the clearest warning about this? It is not, I fear, the church of God. I suggest it’s rather the schoolchildren who were out on the streets last week: children who were chided by senior politicians and patronised by political commentators for doing so. Well I do not want to chide them or patronise them. I want to say that I’m with them, 100%.
Behind this motion is a fundamental desire to see us as a church recover our prophetic edge. And for that to happen I believe we need prophetic people to stir us up: people like our own environmental officer in Truro – someone whose purpose is not to chide but rather to envision and to excite.
Just this last Monday, our environmental officer, Luci Isaacson, took us to see the Deep Geothermal Project which is tapping into the hot rocks beneath Cornwall (amongst many other superlatives we have the hottest rocks in the country beneath our feet). This will produce clean, renewable, sustainable and abundant power for years to come. And what’s more the project is wholly replicable across the county.
What’s not to like?
Then again, we have ideas for using glebe land to house batteries for electricity storage. The grid in the SW is at capacity so often wind turbines stand idle because there is simply nowhere for the generated electricity to go. But this idea would both help Cornwall reach its target of 100% renewable energy by 2030 – and generate income. So what’s not to like?
But the point I want to make is that I would know nothing of the geothermal project and its very significant potential nor of the idea for battery storage if we did not have an environmental officer who can not only point out what is already happening but also open our eyes to potential and possibilities – in other words to play a truly prophetic role for us, so we as a church can play a prophetic role for the communities we are called to serve, awakening them in turn to significant potential and possibilities. And in turn again, through such programmes and people, we can pool our imaginative potential across our dioceses to imagine a better and more hopeful future for the whole country and the wider world: we can become, in other words, truly prophetic.
Costing the earth
So I urge you to support our motion. And in closing let me just briefly address the financial issues which too often it raises. Far too much of our debate about all this has been framed around the question as to whether we can afford to do this. I say how on earth do we think we can possibly afford not to? This is literally costing the earth. And at present we are massively failing in our creation mandate to care for the planet, and we will be held liable before God for doing so. So I urge us all to take this issue with the full seriousness it surely demands and to support this motion. Thank you.