Friday, 22 October 2010

The Kumar at the UoG

Satish Kumar came to the University of Gloucestershire this afternoon for what he called a fireside chat: no open log fire there, unlike at Dartington Hall - though plenty of fire in the belly.

"My pet theme is about soil, soul and society - a new Trinity for the age of ecology." It avoids, he said, the dualism of the Christian Trinity; the anthropocentricity of the American life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and the all too personal "mind, body and spirit".

We are not separate from nature: we are nature, that is "to be born". What we do to nature, we do to ourselves: there can be no healthy society on a sick planet. From one, bitter-tasting pip, the apple tree grows, yielding year after year an abundant harvest, not discriminating between those who enjoy its fruit, whether they be saints, sinners - or grubs.

A body without a soul is only good to be buried. We need to put the soul back into society, for its well-being. You can be rich and not be well - and many of us are exactly that. Without beauty, the soul will starve.

"I'm going to Pakistan," Satish told a fellow-Indian. "Take some food with you," came back the advice. "No, I am foremost, not an Indian, but a member of the earth community. Your parcels of food are parcels of mistrust."

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Climate Stewards

Brendan Bowles, Director of A Rocha's Climate Stewards, paid a visit to Cheltenham last evening, to speak at a meeting of Christian Ecology Link. "Christian responses to climate change" was his theme - what is the particular vision Christians have to offer? What example are we able to set?

Brendan began with the two greatest commandments: love God and love your neighbour as yourself. Loving God means working in his direction: he said of his creation, that it was good. And creation is sustained by Jesus. Can it be a good idea, therefore, to trash it?

Our neighbours all round the world are in need of good soil and good rain to feed themselves. Just as being the League Champions doesn't cause you to win a football match, so climate change doesn't cause floods or drought; but if climate change is due to our human behaviour, then that behaviour needs to be looked at - in just the same way as Christians have championed fair trade, and (in the past) the abolition of slavery.

Brendan used to think that the way was for us to reduce our own emissions, before we started to get other people on board. But whilst moral purity is impressive, it makes it difficult for some ever to start on the journey: you hear the reaction, "Anything I can do is never going to be enough. In order to be really green, I need to be dead."

A Rocha has been planting trees in the arid North of Ghana, to act as a barrier against the encroaching desert; to encourage biodiversity, and to enhance the rainfall pattern in that part of the country. £40,000 a year or thereabouts has been pledged by people in other countries towards this scheme, as a way of compensating for their carbon use being so much greater that that of Ghanaians and others under similar climate stress. Planting a tree has its parallel in Jesus's parables of the sower and his seed; of the mustard seed that grew into a large tree; of the yeast that raised the whole loaf, and the candle that shines in the dark. "You are the salt of the world." (To learn more about Climate Stewards and offsetting, see here.)

What goes on in our churches affects the whole of society: we need a huge response to the challenge that climate change brings. It is never going to be sufficient to have just a few really committed people. The power is in the multiplication. Like Jesus, we each have to talk to the bad guys, to get them to make a symbolic change. Like baptism.

Our vision is of a better way of living on low carbon. What we need is, not to accuse people, but to make the good, normal.