Deadly, green distraction

It is not right – the thrust of the green movement displayed around COP26 is deadly in many ways. It has become a pagan cult, we have long known that, but worse: it is displacement activity, preventing the world from taking real action. Virtue signalling kills.

We have seen the central focus of COP26, of Extinction Rebellion, namely the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and that this focus has overwhelmed all other considerations. It is today’s scare, and has become the touchstone for measuring virtue – but all that is nonsense. This is not to say that carbon dioxide and other gases do not heat up the world, but a moment’s thought should throw it into shadow. If we turn to gaze at this one issue to the exclusion of all others, we cannot hear the weeping in the shadows. Perhaps that is the point: we do not want to hear it.

If the whole world were to go “carbon neutral” overnight, it would be two hundred years before the composition of the atmosphere will rebalance. The world will continue to heat up, mildly. Arguing over going neutral in 2030 or 2060 is not irrelevant – it is the build-up over many years which would matter – it is that this is not an on-off switch. If the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere is enough to heat the world by a degree or two on average, it will continue to heat up long after we have all gone over to clean energy. What are we doing in those years and centuries?

If the changing climate is harmful to vulnerable parts of the world, why is everything being done on the possible cause, but nothing being done to alleviate the results?  I suspect because the latter requires actual work involving actual people – just deindustrialising for carbon dioxide neutrality  is a matter of charts, laws, statistics, and it is something you can scream about in the street – actually helping societies to adapt to a change in the weather is unglamorous and might involve doing something practical. That is too horrible for an individual to contemplate.

That many churches should have abandoned the Gospel for this Gaia worship is revolting. (Not all have, and thank goodness for the fixed lectionary on in these times to keep them to a course.) I take it as  a way to be seen to do something while not actually doing anything, or making an actual effort.

Worse than this: the practical solution to many of these issues is to lift people out of poverty so that they can make their own solutions and protect their families, but the actions demanded by those in ivory towers in wealthy nations would be to close their economies and drive them into poverty.  It is no wonder if those in the developing world think that the West is saying “we became rich through burning coal and oil to lift ourselves to unprecedented wealth, but you are not allowed to.” Farmers in the developing world will be harmed by a changing climate, but they will be harmed even more by being forced into poverty. Just seeing one problem and not all the others is  lethal. It is like those comic books where Batman saves the girl but destroys Gotham City and presumably kills thousands to do so. The world is not a comic.

If we then take it that the climate is changing, which we must because the climate is always changing. then the first duty is to determine where it will change and how, and to adapt for it. Blame is just a harmful distraction. If rainfall will lessen, then hardier crops are required; if rainfall will increase, then again a change in agriculture, and building techniques may be needed. This should hardly be a challenge – mankind lives across the whole face of a world with endless variations of climate. We can always ask a neighbour. Where then were those questions at COP26?

There may be positive effects too, but it may be mankind’s ingenuity which finds them. Why in the Roman Empire, when the climate was warmer than now, was all North Africa’s coastland a garden for growing wheat and barley for the empire?  Or was it (as I have heard asserted by an agricultural botanist) that this monoculture denuded the soil and created the desert: mankind’s destroying hand. Or maybe the warming climate heralds the return of the endless cornfields? That is a worthy job for science to examine.

The greatest practical step forward at COP26, if it can be made to stick, is an agreement against deforestation. That is not something which we would have to wait 200 years to feel the benefit of: it is here and now.  Mankind can and does change the climate locally, and hewing down the trees is the most devastating way we do. Deserts have spread where trees once stood, coast have been washed into the sea, and where monsoon rains are no longer swallowed up by eager tree roots, floods plunged down, scouring all before them, destroying villages and farms over thousands of square miles.

There is no doubt that mankind changes the environment and the climate. The causes of short-term destruction must be dealt with. Slow, long-term changes might or might not be halted in two hundred years or so, but in that time each community must learn and adapt.

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Celebrate COP26

To celebrate the opening of COP26 we’re holding a big village bonfire: every family bring a  sack of coal and we’ll build it high and wide.

We’ve got burgers and a hog roast laid on, and to mark the internationalism of the event, food from all over the world.

There is so much to be done that everyone can see our commitment. I flew home from Provence for this, and friends and neighbours drove in from their holiday villas. We sent teams around the village to help neighbours to dig up their front gardens and lay down concrete so they have somewhere to charge an electric car, when they get one.

Glasgow holds the hopes of the world, and no one has ever said that before – so we have a festival of Glasgow culture in the local pubs, and sing-songs with the music familiar from the city – the children have learnt this week how ‘Ye cannae shove yer granny aff a bus’, while the village choir have been practising their Glaswegian choruses concluding “Well the famine is over; why don’t you go home?

As we all roll home, no famine in sight after we’ve roasted a herd on the green, we can be satisfied that this one night we have signalled our virtue so high the fire could be seen from space.  Those meeting in Glasgow are our last best hope for peace (or is that Babylon 5?). I hold in my mind the motto which this village has always stood by: ‘Any excuse for a good nosh-up’.

Postscript

That you to all who took part, and who made it such a memorable night. We went away maybe not with a wider appreciation of issues but certainly wider personally. That is what it is all about.

Thank you also to the Fire Brigade for joining in the fun after you had finished putting out the trees and the grass, and The Lodge. Without you, we would have a less of a village this week, and would not have had the bass section of the singalong. The vigour of your singing will long be with us, and your enthusiasm notwithstanding that the song for Glasgow was not a familiar modern piece: it is old but it is beautiful.

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An interview with Greta

Meeting Greta Thunberg in the run-up to COP26 in Glasgow was a fascinating experience. We discussed the project over meatballs and I was impressed by her single-minded approach – she would not be deviated by a millimetre.

Her English, by the way, is pretty good for a foreigner. A learned professor I read observed that Swedish and English are barely different from each other after a few sound changes (I don’t know if he had made a lifelong study of Germanic linguistics, or he had just been watching dodgy films.) The scheme she laid out though could be followed by both of us.

It all seemed too complicated to my unfamiliar eyes, but the way Greta laid it all out made it look achievable for the first time. All the pieces I would be tempted to gloss over, she grasped the significance of each one and ensured the pieces joined in exact alignment. ‘Every dowel to its hole’ as they say in Swedish apparently (which is enough to get you cancelled on the whackiest of  campuses, or the Guardian).

The complex became drawn together into a logical whole, a thing almost of beauty. She spoke the minimum to get it all together and would not be distracted even for a moment. I could not ask about her family, art, food, music, her school friends – we were here for a reason, as she made very clear, and she would not speak of anything else until she was done.

(I asked later as diplomatically as I could why she was not yet back in school. She has a withering scowl. Little girls can be like that.)

By the time she had finished I was all admiration. She might not know much about science or geography, but I sincerely admire her, because that was the neatest flat-pack chest of drawers I have ever seen built. No wonder they want he at the conference, with all those ‘Ingolf’ chairs they will need built.

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No, XR, I don’t believe you

They have a right to peaceful protest, and I have a right to mock them relentlessly, and point out the rank dishonesty.

It must be a fun week out for the protestors, like Glasto in the West End. Soon the holiday will end and school-teachers and students must return, but for now it is the Extinction Rebellion free festival.

That’s not a Lambeg drum I have heard banging all day: too tuneless. Whoever have been bashing it must be having a great time: he hasn’t been able to dress in a funny costume and bang a big drum in the street since his primary school days. How could he resist? They built a giant table in the middle of the busiest junction in London! Who hasn’t dreamed of that?

Be honest, lads and lasses, it’s not to do with the environment is it? It never was. It is just having a fun time and doing all those forbidden things before someone forces you to be responsible. Beware though: it can get very dark, as I observed once before:

The sun is out, and that’s not all that’s out, is it miss?  I’ll bet you’ve been wanting to do that in public for years, cheeky girl, and it brought the cameras to you, which is what it was all about.

All around the noise and the flags (all the same – so conformist of you). You have cameras coming to look at what little Jack did at playtime, just like the old, innocent days.  There has been a helicopter overhead all day, spewing carbon dioxide just for you. Doesn’t it make you feel important? Rather that than realise how ordinary you are, as we all are, and drip back into  mediocre anonymity. That’s next week.

We all laughed when we found out that your founder drives a car that spews diesel smoke, just as we chuckled at the academics forming your intellectual respectability when they spluttered and showed themselves dimmer than the remedial class they somehow escaped.

(Do you not have bins?  Dropping your rubbish all over the place like animals! Pick it up, please – some of us care for the environment, you know.)

The term begins soon, and back to class you must go, to do no good maybe but to slot you back into the order of life.

For now though, in the sunshine the festival can go on.

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Maddening the priests

How most vicars stay sane I do not know. There is a special blessing in the knowledge of the love of God: without it, Bedlam is close at the heels.

To reach out to touch the divine, the awe must overwhelm the mind, and it is easy to be misled down other paths.

A minister of the established Church has a position without easy parallel. He is a public official with all eyes upon him because he is expected to display a special insight into the mind of God, but with a doctrine reminding him that he has none.  He knows he is inadequate to the task. To be an elder of the church is to accept impossible responsibilities in which you are seen as what you can never be. The process of striving to achieve spiritual  improvement may destroy it.

Understanding anything of the vastness of God, and the divine is impossible to approach. Martin Luther when first ordained as a monk-priest shook uncontrollably when he first performed the mass, because he had been told that he was physically creating the body of Christ, which is to say he was quite literally making God. No man can do this.

Most vicars, level-headed and understanding as they are, know their own inadequacy at impossible task, and they fail only when they forget that they are mortal. Whatever vision Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel were shown on Sinai, we are told that none, not even Moses, can see The Lord and live. We though have Jesus, which is why any attempt by a minister of the church to understand his called must be by learning at the feet of Jesus, and being content there.

A temptation may creep upon one to believe that there is a special insight given to vicars, that any inspiration in the mind, notwithstanding that it is not scriptural, must be from the throne of the Most High. This is particularly evident in those vicars who take up political causes and will not be swayed from them, as all who disagree must surely be evil.

Vicars should keep busy at their actual calling: we know who makes work for idle hands.

For as in the middest of the sea, though a man perceive no sound of that part of the water next him; yet he is well assured, that part contributes as much, to the Roaring of the Sea, as any other part, of the same quantity: so also, thought wee perceive no great unquietnesse, in one, or two men; yet we may be well assured, that their singular Passions, are parts of the Seditious roaring of a troubled Nation. And if there were nothing else that bewrayed their madnesse; yet that very arrogating such inspiration to themselves, is argument enough. If some man in Bedlam should entertaine you with sober discourse; and you desire in taking leave, to know what he were, that you might another time requite his civility; and he should tell you, he were God the Father; I think you need expect no extravagant action for argument of his Madnesse.

This opinion of Inspiration, called commonly, Private Spirit, begins very often, from some lucky finding of an Errour generally held by others; and not knowing, or not remembring, by what conduct of reason, they came to so singular a truth, (as they think it, though it be many times an untruth they light on,) they presently admire themselves; as being in the speciall grace of God Almighty, who hath revealed the same to them supernaturally, by his Spirit.

Thus we have vicars who preach sermons devoid of spiritual content but fiercely passionate on climate change, those who condemn racism, which could be done with a simple word, and consider they work done, with not a word from the charge given to them in the Great Commission.

It is displacement activity, just like the Pharisees of old following invented rituals and painting tombs rather than following justice and mercy.

It s hard to condemn such behaviour knowing we are all flawed. Modern life is too complicated to take it all in. The Christian faith is actually very simple so some ministers may be looking for something to fill in, to bulk it up, but that would be mixing the iron with clay.

In a more dangerous trend, a minister may turn away from the actual requirements of his calling, knowing it to be too hard and the awe too frightening, replacing the living faith with a dead, secular  doctrine drawn from his own Private Spirit, which is a form of madness. It is unsurprising then to see a minister sew his own lips together, which must be a sign of deepest madness in itself, not in the cause of the faith but in a purely secular idea of environmental eschatology.

If the secular cause has gained such traction as to displace actual Christianity, it is a heathen religion, an idol, to be condemned and cast out.

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