Keith looks at the impact of Climate Change and what we can do to improve matters
After what seems to have been a heavier winter than we have been getting used to in recent years, the Spring is really here - really welcome. But how welcome also to have had a good winter, where some heavy frosts have been at work, as they should do. I have even heard that it is possible that the bees will be a little healthier and more numerous this year because of the cold winter -wouldn't it be good to reverse the trend of decline in the honey bee population?
I wrote last month about the Hue & Cry and Beating the Bounds and we want to revive an old custom in May - but just for fun! I certainly would not want to wish the Dark Ages or the Middle Ages back again they were brutal times, where life was short and hard for most people and very nasty for many (especially women). So I welcome the changes that have brought us to where we are. And for all the things around that I get annoyed with or irritated by, there are so many more for which I should be grateful, but often do not even think about. In general, it would seem that change has been good - it has been positive progress over hundreds of generations. When it happens very quickly it can be very painful and result in casualties. Often good changes come as a result of terrible events. Is it possible to say with certainty that over 60 years of relative peace in Europe (the longest period in recorded history!) is a result of the horrors of the Two World Wars -or even of the incredible horrors of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Who knows - but we have got used to the peace time and would find it difficult to envisage going to war against the French or Italians or Germans again.
The problem is relativity! I enjoy a good life in a rich country, largely unthreatened by anything worse than nuisance phone calls from people trying to sell me Broadband. It makes it too easy for me to see that all the changes in the history of humankind have led to the state of affairs which I find so comfortable. Others (in Africa or Afghanistan, etc) might not find it so easy to reach the same conclusions.
So, what is the reality? The reality is that we are making our climate change just a little bit too quickly. It is not good enough for some to refer to times in history when the planet has been warmer and others when the planet has been cooler. Geological and climactic changes usually happen sufficiently gradually for life in all its forms to adapt or just to move, so that they can continue to live. I don't know why the honey bees are disappearing (especially in the USA), but it is as likely to be part of a chain of reactions to climate change as not. And because it is happening so fast, there is not time for adaptation to be effective. It's OK for us. If you think it's too hot here, move to a colder clime and vice versa. If Bangladesh is flooded, then the people can move to higher ground - if they have time! But other plant, insect and animal species can become extinct if their habitat changes too suddenly (look at the Black Rhino and the Orangutan).
Many of us saw the 9 intrepid climbers of Mount Kilimanjaro, who raised millions for Comic Relief. How many of you noticed in one or two shots in the video the wonderful unique giant flora that grow up there? They say that the snow on Kilimanjaro will finally disappear in less than a decade - what will happen to those flora, that cannot send their seed winging to other viable habitats - there isn't one within thousands of miles? They will all disappear, except in some horticultural museum.
I am as bad as any of us - leaving the TV power switch on all the time, rejecting the low energy bulbs, because I can't read by their useless light, driving when I could probably cycle. But I do believe in the search for more efficient engines - especially those that do not produce Carbon Dioxide. I do believe in us learning to extract useful energy from low or zero polluting sources, if we can. We need to make sure that in 50 years time, people will have forgotten about the energy/climate crisis of the first decade of the 2l~~ century (as surely as we seem to have forgotten
about the ozone hole crisis of 20 or 30 years ago - is there still a hole in the ozone layer - does it not matter any more and, if so, why not?
One of the biggest polluters that the world supports is the War Industry. But if all wars were abolished tomorrow and all the armies and the factories that supply them were disbanded, there would actually be chaos. There would be a massive increase in the world's unemployment levels and a massive decrease in the world's economic output (ie income). I understand the economic theory, which I am not capable of explaining in a few words, which shows why this would happen. We could only avoid that outcome if we found productive use for all the ex-soldiers and armaments workers, which could not happen overnight - but we need to move towards that state of affairs as fast as we can. It's like taking an addict off drugs - gradually but as fast as possible.
That raises the biggest question of all - how do we aim for a truly planetary state of peace. The apocalyptic films that (especially out of the USA) show impersonal worldwide dictatorships forcing a world into peaceful but rebellious submission are not the answer. The only answer is the creation of states of true goodwill. In Western Europe, we do now have that level of goodwill. A war between France and Britain seems as unlikely as another war between Lancashire and Yorkshire or even England and Scotland. We have not yet reached that state of mind with Africa or Asia or even Eastern Europe, but I am not alone in being really optimistic that we are on the right path. We have to rebuild bridges with the Russians and with Arabs (bridges that have existed in the past), but which are difficult at present. We have to find a way of extending hands of true friendship to Africa, which remains so suspicious of the motives of the ex-colonial powers and their friends.
As a Christian I have no problem knowing how to do all this. If I can be generous to all my neighbours - that is to all those with whom I come in contact, be it my local neighbours in fenland villages, or the friends of my daughter's in Dubai of my son's in Massachusetts or the stranger who I bump into, from whatever land he or she comes - then I am making all the contribution I can to this progress, to creating the change that will make life comfortable and pleasant, not just for me, but for everyone else. It cannot be instantaneous but it can be positive and unstoppable. A larger proportion of the world's population is unhappy today than at any time in history - that is because change has been too fast and too many have been left behind or run over. Now is the time for all of us to quieten down and reach out. No one of us can change the world, but all of us can. What we cannot do is wait for someone else to do it first.
Licensed Lay Minister