Welcome + Worship + Witness

The Rector: What can I do?

The Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity
04 October 2020
10.30 Morning Service

Revd Nicholas Mercer

It goes without saying that this is the first Harvest festival that any of us have celebrated in the midst of a global pandemic

Masked, distanced and unable even to bring produce to Church, this is a Harvest like no other

We live in extraordinary times

But in the past couple of weeks some overarching themes seems to have emerged in our national life

The first is the seeming absence of any coherent plans

The rules surrounding COVID- 19 were described this week in the House of Lords as being “inconsistent, incoherent, confusing and entirely disproportionate”

No one seems to have planned for the pandemic and no seems to have planned for the predicted second wave either

It is all over the place

Secondly, the return to schools and University has highlighted an intergenerational divide

Students who want to party and live their lives, now find themselves locked down

The older generation seem to divide between those who resent their loss of liberty, whilst others shield themselves from risk

It is sometimes hard to discern the social cohesion needed to defeat this pandemic together

In the midst of this chaos you could be forgiven for having missed Climate Week

It ran from the 21st – 27th September and was punctuated by a three day Climate Summit at the United Nations in New York

The purpose of the Summit was to urge countries to re-double their efforts to curb their carbon emissions. 

The Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres sent a letter to every head of state, setting-out his expectations for the summit,

He urged Governments to come with concrete and meaningful plans for action.

“Bring plans, not speeches,” he told the nations of the world

Plans that “will reduce greenhouse gas emissions for 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2050”

The challenge was laid down to all the nations of the world

The United Kingdom was, unusually, represented at this Summit by Prince Charles

As requested by the Secretary General, he did indeed set out his plan

Calling for a Marshall-like plan for “nature, people and the planet”

He suggested that the world be placed “on a warlike footing” to tackle the “comprehensive catastrophe” of climate change

He pointed out that the “threat of global warming and the degradation of biodiversity will “dwarf the impact of the coronavirus pandemic”

Just think about that for a moment – this pandemic is nothing compared to what is to come

The world he said “has been pushed beyond our planetary boundaries”

Whilst at the same time, the crisis continues to be “decried, denigrated and denied” by those in power

We can only hope that this situation begins to change after November

This stark warning by Prince Charles came hard on the heels of another warning, just a week earlier

This time from the country’s leading naturalist David Attenborough

In a programme called “Extinction” he warned not just of the threat to the climate but also to bio-diversity

Today 1 million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction

“We are facing a crisis”, he warned “that has consequences for us all.”

The programme pointed out that our species has done immeasurable damage to the natural world.

Threatening our food, water and climate

As he put it “we are the asteroid”

And unless immediate action is taken this crisis has grave implications for us all

Harvest festival is traditionally about celebrating the harvest and God’s plentiful bounty

However, we face the very real prospect of this bounty being jeopardised both now and in the future

Global warming and the loss of biodiversity will have a dramatic effect on farming across the world

Climate change affects the growing conditions for fruit, vegetables, cereals and livestock

Heat increases lead to a loss of productivity and health in cattle

And the increasing frequency of weather events already damage, not only crops and livestock, but also farming infrastructure and livelihoods

All this impacts in turn on food security, which leads to starvation and migration

If this continues much longer, then the land of plenty described in the Book of Deuteronomy, will be a bygone memory

At the same time, it is highly likely that the sower will be casting his seed on scorched stony ground alone

But the pandemic we are facing at the moment does give us some clues as to how we approach the far more serious threat of climate change

The first thing is the need to plan

Unlike COVID-19, we are not being taken by surprise and we can clearly see this coming

What is more, we know how to solve it

Get this wrong and we are deeply dangerous territory/Get it right and we still have the ability to pull this back from the brink

The second issue is about pulling together as generations

This is not about competing interests but about the mutual interest of the whole human family

It is incumbent upon us all, both young and old to put this to the top of our agenda rather than displace this issue with moans about China or Extinction Rebellion

The veteran campaigner Jane Fonda wrote this in her recent book about climate change entitled “What can I do?”

She said as follows

When I was young, I thought activism was a sprint and I worked around the clock hoping for a quick change

When I was older, I learned that activism is a marathon and I learned to pace myself

At eighty two, I realise that it is neither a sprint nor a marathon; it is a relay race. The most important thing we adults can now do is join and support the next generation of climate activists ready to lead the movement