On 26th June 2019, my friend Rachel and I joined around 16,000 other people in central London for a mass climate change lobby The Time Is Now. I found the day profound on many levels, not least of all because it was a lobby not just a march. The main aim of the event was to call out MPs to meet with their constituents face to face. These days we hear so much about the democratic process, and yet feel ever distant from it, but here it was in real time. Folk had gathered from all corners of the UK specifically to engage with their elected representatives – to urge them to take seriously the concerns about our national role in climate chaos and to ask how the government plans to substantiate it’s promises over the UK’s carbon budget. It was about keeping our decision makers accountable, applying pressure through dialogue and interaction.
Along the banks of the Thames, overlooking the houses of Parliament, we met with our local MP Matt Rodda for Reading East and heard about his work on the Shadow Transport committee. Earlier in the day we had been to a Tearfund seminar which showed how, alongside food production, the way we move from place to place has a far greater impact on carbon emissions than things like recycling or domestic energy use. A particular issue for us locally (and nationally), is the building of new housing estates on the edge of towns and cities which are not effectively serviced with public transport, meaning the families who move there are inevitably car-dependent. If we are physically building our society in ways which don’t facilitate a shift towards environmentally sustainable lifestyles, then what does that reveal about our true priorities?
From what he said to the group, Matt is working really hard on these sorts of issues, and I was glad to hear that he is personally and politically invested in this. There were lots of other questions raised around issues of biodiversity, pollution, plastic and public policy that Matt could only empathise with as it wasn’t his area of specialist knowledge. He clearly cared, and would advocate more generally, but his influence is in transport for local communities.
Being a child of the 80’s, I have grown up worrying about environmental issues. When I was at school, it was CFC’s burning a hole in the ozone layer and commercial logging laying waste to rainforests. Decades later we are still in a state of crisis, and disaster is even more imminent – hence the name of the lobby “The Time Is Now”. On an emotional level, it is exhausting to think that in 30 years we have only made things worse. It can lead to an almost paralysing panic, or worse induce cynicism, and I must confess that despite my deep personal convictions I have at times fallen into both of these.
What has helped me to move on from despair is the realisation that we are not called to solve this problem on our own. When we face up to the big picture, it’s so extreme that it threatens to overwhelm us, but like Matt, we each have our role to play. The Bible talks about community as a body made up of many different parts, each dependant on the others to live life well. Our wider community can work in different areas to solve the problem together, but no single person can tackle the whole thing. Zero Waste Chef Anne-Marie Bonneau encourages “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly, but millions doing it imperfectly.” Small actions, individual convictions are essential in a cause such as this, both on a domestic level and to keep the political pressure up at a national level.
Since the lobby, I have been deeply convicted over how much I use the car, and have swapped to cycling or walking for short local trips. I discovered that getting the bus into town and back saves over 2500 g of CO2 compared to driving, which translates into charging my mobile 12,000 times! It can be a challenge to plan ahead and organise myself, and I’m sure it won’t be as easy on the rainy days, but right now, it’s my little bit.
Rev Susie Templeton
Susie is a Pioneer curate in Woodley, near Reading. Before training for the ministry, she studied Biology with Science Communication at Royal Holloway, and worked in marine conservation in Indonesia. She is now exploring how these two worlds intersect through eco-theology and encouraging local church communities to engage in the climate crisis.
All photos courtesy of Susie Templeton