All this has to change – A sermon from Bishop Olivia

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Reading Minster YCCN Climate Service

Bishop Olivia gave the following sermon at a climate justice service at Reading Minster on 31 July 2021, to mark the presence of the Young Christian Climate Network during their Relay to COP26. You can read all about that here.


Welcome

Let me add my welcome to Sonya’s. Thank you for coming to join us this morning, from near and far, and thank you to those who are going to continue on the relay to Twyford later on today, carrying the Relay baton, the flag which started in Cornwall and will end in Glasgow. When we arrived at Wesley Methodist Church from Aldermaston Wharf on Wednesday, David Shaw reflected on the importance of passing on the baton, and as it moves towards Glasgow, we think not only about this journey of protest and advocacy, but about the baton of responsibility which has been given to us by God for the care of God’s creation, and passed down the generations.

My generation has mucked this up badly, and in sorrow we stand alongside the younger ones to witness together to the damage done, and to work for climate justice and a more sustainable way of living. We stand alongside those who are already bearing the cost of climate change, whose lives and livelihoods have been destroyed, while they contributed very little to the root causes.

And we are motivated by love – for God, for our brothers and sisters across the world, and for creation.

A stark picture

Such an inspiring poem from the great Amanda Gorman. We know, with greater clarity every day, that we are heading for more than 1.5 degrees of planetary warming. We know, without a shadow of doubt, that this is part and parcel of a more vast biodiversity crisis. The numbers tell their own story:

In the last half century, about 50% the world’s animals have been lost. Of all the mammals left on Earth, only 4% are wild mammals, 36% are humans, and a whopping 60% now are livestock. 70% of all birds on the planet are now poultry. Insects have declined by 75%. Three quarters of the crop types we grow rely on insect pollination.

These numbers present a stark picture of the effect we are having on the web of life which sustains us and provides for our needs. Ecosystem collapse and climate change are a real and present threat to our continuation as a species.

Climate finance

We know the crucial importance of the COP26. It simply cannot afford to fail. And yet one of the greatest stumbling blocks to getting global agreement is the turning of ambition into firm commitment.

The issue of climate finance is crucial. Finance for the developing countries, not only so that they can meet the costs of mitigation and adaptation, which is underfunded, but also to pay for the loss and damage which they are experiencing as a result of climate change. These countries have not developed their economies using vast quantities of fossil fuels. And they are now trying to develop their economies and raise the standards of living for their populations, but they simply don’t have the economic resources to pay for green development, or for the loss and damage caused by our decades of inaction.

Without firm commitments to this finance, not only will the losses mount up, the damage get worse, and the costs rise, but there will be no political goodwill from these countries when it comes to international agreements on carbon emissions.

It is essential that this funding comes from those who have accumulated wealth through polluting activities, not from those already struggling.

Justice

The four asks of YCCN, which they are taking to Glasgow, are:

For reinstatement of the foreign aid budget to 0.7% of national income.

To get firm agreement from rich countries to double the commitment of $100bn a year for climate finance.

Work with other governments and international organisations to develop a loss and damage mechanism

Push for the debts of the world’s poorest countries to be cancelled.

These are all issues of justice.

Justice lies at the heart of the discussions about the climate crisis.

The Bible paints a picture of a God who is very very keen on justice.

So many times, we read of God’s concern for the poor, the marginalised, the vulnerable, the stranger and the refugee. So many times we hear of the cause of the wronged being righted; the hungry being fed; those who wield power needing to have a special care for the weak.

The costs of climate change are not evenly spread. According to the IPCC, climate change will not only affect the different regions of the world differently, but also the different generations and genders. The poorest populations will be most affected. 70% of this population, according to the UN, are women, and a large percentage are young women.

We face lots of transnational challenges in addition to climate change: public health, inequality, social and political polarisation. Only if we build bridges of human solidarity will we survive as a species. That’s what we have learnt from Covid. The principle of social justice must be at the heart of the conversation, and how to put it there is one of the defining questions of our era – brilliantly highlighted by this Relay.

Raise your voice

Here is an issue which links directly to our faith. As people of faith, we have a responsibility to raise our voices for those who cannot.

And we also have a responsibility for our own actions and the example we set.

At its heart, we are dealing with spiritual issues. We have disrupted the ecological balance of all that God created on Earth, and we owe it to God and to each other and to all the species we share the planet with to restore the balance.

A senior academic scientist recently said:

“I used to think that the top global environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought that with 30 years of good science we could address these problems, but I was wrong. The top environment problems are selfishness, greed and apathy, and to deal with these we need a spiritual and cultural transformation. And we scientists don’t know how to do that.”

But we people of faith do know how to do that. This is the greatest physical and spiritual challenge humanity has ever faced. And we have the tools and the understanding to go right to heart of it.

Love the Lord your God. Love your neighbour. Be good stewards of the earth and all that is in it. This is the challenge we face, because we recognise in ourselves our greed, envy, laziness, indifference, and our insatiable desire for more and more stuff.

There’s no putting the genie back in the bottle. We are not going to return to a life of simple hunter-gathering, back to nature and very basic consumption. That ship has sailed. We are bound up in a highly complex financial and economic web with global reach.

Religions are deeply implicated in this crisis, and they are deeply implicated in the way out of it. But we have so far mostly failed to integrate scientific and ecological findings into our preaching, teaching and living.

Religion’s got the power to appeal not just to our minds, but to our souls, and that’s where change is most needed. Conversion even.

Our actions are the true indication of our commitment. We have known about this looming crisis for decades, and for decades we have continued to assume that it is someone else’s problem.

We have collectively taken millions of plane flights and driven billions of miles using fossil fuels; we have eaten a tremendous amount of food cultivated through unsustainable and even dangerous processes; we’ve wasted unbelievable quantities of energy and water; we’ve thrown away billions of tons of non-biodegradable materials, polluting our oceans and our land; and we’ve created personal coatings of Teflon so that no responsibility has stuck to us.

Time to change

All this has to change. We can make choices which are good and not bad for the environment; we can do it visibly; we can talk to others about it, and spread the word and the message, and if enough of us do it, there is a real probability of a critical mass leading to wider behavioural change.

We saw it in the way in which driving while drunk has become more and more socially unacceptable. We’ve started to see it in many aspects of environmental awareness and care – we turn lights out more often; we sort our rubbish; we grow bee-friendly plants in our gardens or leave parts of them a little wild, and so on. And we live in a society and a world which is powerfully networked; so there is a real possibility for traction.

What messages shall we hold in our hearts? Here are some:

To consume in moderation. To think about how much is enough? How much do I need, as opposed to want, knowing how much I am conditioned to want what I do not need.

To be farsighted, to keep the far distant future in sight – the future of my children and grandchildren and their grandchildren– so that I will see the effects of my actions, or the consequences of my inactions now.

Not to lose hope. We can do this if we act now. If we act personally, locally, nationally and globally, and if we each play our part – the part we have been given, in this planetary drama which is being played out principally in the next decade.

So I salute and stand in solidarity with the young Christian climate activists and all who join them. We support you, congratulate you, pray for you and thank you for what you are doing. May God bless you who have walked this road to Reading from Cornwall, and you who will walk on from Reading to Glasgow, and may God go with you and guide your way.

Amen.


You can follow all the action from the diocese during the Young Christian Climate Network’s Relay to COP26 on our website.

YCCN Relay to COP26

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YCCN Rise to the Moment logo

The Young Christian Climate Network (YCCN) are organising a relay walk/pilgrimage which started at the G7 in Cornwall in June and will end in Glasgow at the end of October, ready for the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties 26 (COP26) in November. The purpose is to #RiseToTheMoment and raise awareness of the climate crisis and the urgent need for action, requiring bold commitments at COP26.

YCCN has organised the Relay to call upon the UK government to:

  1. Reinstate the foreign aid budget to pre-COVID levels;
  2. Secure agreement from rich countries to double the commitment of $100bn a year for climate finance;
  3. Develop with other governments and international organisations a new regulated climate loss and damage mechanism which not only saves lives but livelihoods;
  4. Push for the debts of the world’s poorest countries to be cancelled so they can better confront the climate crisis and other urgent priorities.

The webmap here and below shows the approximate route, which comes through the south of the diocese at the end of July, with a residency in Reading from 28-31 July on its way to London from Salisbury, then comes back through in mid-August, moving through Aylesbury, Oxford and Banbury before heading on to Birmingham. Some stops are still being confirmed so check for the latest details on the YCCN website.

YCCN Relay webmap screengrab with link

We are encouraging parishes to get involved and support this. There are many opportunities to help on the YCCN website and not just by walking – churches are needed to host walkers overnight or provide lunches as they pass, individuals are needed to be on-call support drivers in case of need or to check the routes make sense to those with local footpath knowledge. Register on their website.

Bishop Olivia, Reading Minster and other churches in Reading are involved in the Reading residency, when the relay stays from 28-31 July in Reading. Reading Minster is hosting a Climate Justice Weekend and other events are on the poster below. Join in if you can.

Reading Climate Justice Weekend Events

 

Reading Green Christians are organising an art exhibition as a chance for children and young people to tell political leaders and those in power what they want done to protect the environment and the climate. Entries from those age 6-18 are to be delivered by 20 August. Information below and more details here.

Art Call Out poster with link

 

When the route enters Oxford on Sunday 15 August ,Christ Church Cathedral will welcome the walkers. Bishop Gavin and Bishop Steven will be involved the following day as the Relay moves on from Oxford and arrives at Kidlington on Monday 16 August.

We know of some youth groups joining the walking for a day and churches hosting lunches or providing accommodation for walkers. Thank you to those for your involvement. It would be good to have a complete picture, so please email us if your church is involved.

Let’s #RiseToTheMoment and support this courageous, youth-led initiative and show that the church is deeply concerned about climate justice.

Biodiversity loss and climate change

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Bishop Steven speaks at the Lords Select Committee for the environment and climate change

Biodiversity loss and climate change are inextricably linked. In a Lords Select Committee for the environment and climate change earlier this week, Bishop Steven put his questions to the Rt Hon the Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park, Minister for Pacific and the Environment, Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs.

Their discussion touched on COP15 and COP26 and the links between climate change, poverty and pandemics. Watch the video on Bishop Steven’s Facebook page and see more of his work in the House of Lords.


Big Clean Switch

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A very simple step that we can take to reduce the carbon footprints of our homes is to switch to a renewable – otherwise known as a “green” or “clean” – tariff.  This change need not cost more and can sometimes save us money.  So definitely worth investigating!

Choosing a new energy supplier and switching may sound daunting – but our partners at Big Clean Switch have done the background research for us and make the switching process very simple.

Big Clean Switch vet every supplier they work with and every tariff offered to ensure the customer service and green credentials meet BCS’s required standards.

Why not give it a go?

On your bike!

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Could you consider cycling?

Why not give it a go when you return to travelling more. Here are some tips and inspiration from three regular Church House Oxford (CHO) cycle commuters.

Steven Buckley, Director of Communications

How long is your commute?

I live near Reading in Berkshire, about 35 miles from the office and a couple of miles from the local train station. Prior to lockdown, I commuted daily via the train and my trusty Brompton foldable bike (which is over 16 years old). If I’m feeling fit, I cycle in from central Oxford. Otherwise, I get off at Oxford Parkway and cycle from there.

What do you gain from cycling?

The great days are when the journey by train and bike is faster than it would be by car. Oftentimes it only takes a little longer. The big thing for me is getting to work and read on the journey, rather than dead time in the car, and I’m getting my daily exercise too while doing my bit for the planet.

What’s your top cycling tip?

Just start – sticking with anything new for only a few weeks will quickly become a habit, and you’ll be amazed at the difference in your energy and happiness levels. If you’re new to cycling or unconfident, remember it’s OK to ride ‘defensively’ about a foot away from the kerb. It means you’re safe and easily seen. A common worry is arriving sweaty at work. Avoid this by wearing natural fabrics, dressing in layers, and not cycling too fast. As long as you shower before you set off you won’t be smelly, even if you do sweat. If you do want to don some Lycra and race in, then the shower facilities at CHO are fab. cycletoworkday.org has some great tips if you’d like to find out more.

Any essential equipment?

Punctures do happen from time to time, so carry a spare innertube and pump. Good lights are important too, even in the summer months.

What about bad weather?

There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes. I always have a rain jacket and waterproof trousers with me.

Best moment?

Cycling out of CHO and sailing past lines of traffic on a summer evening is always a special moment!

Steven's folding bicycle

Rhodri Bowen, Parish Development Adviser (Berkshire Archdeaconry)

There have been times in my life when I have commuted by bike most days. Since becoming a PDA those opportunities have been more limited, but (outside of lockdown) I cycle when my meetings are local, and I’m always using the bike to get to the post office or the shops: definitely my preferred form of transport…

What do you gain from cycling?

I love cycling, but I’m not a recreational cyclist: you’ll find no Lycra here! Ever since I was a child trapped in a rural village with limited public transport I’ve always viewed cycling as the most efficient, environmentally friendly, cost-effective way to get places – with health benefits! I like my car, but I take great pleasure in leaving it untouched. I guess it’s also turned into a bit of an unintentional challenge to keep my road bike on the road without consuming more resources. The bike itself was saved from years of disuse languishing in someone’s shed and has been repaired using reclaimed parts. I was annoyed recently at having to buy a new spoke, but since then I’ve pulled a discarded wheel out of a skip so I won’t ever have to do that again! I’ve often picked up tyres from the tip with years of use still in them – some people think they need a new set when the tread is a little bit worn like on a car: they think it improves grip (it doesn’t).

What is your top cycling tip?

You don’t need to spend any money. I haven’t ever bought any special clothes for cycling. I’ve never bought a bike, for that matter: my last two bikes were both given away by their previous owners – one through Freecycle – and if you’re a bit resourceful you can maintain them with minimum cost. I know that most people won’t want to do the repairs and maintenance themselves, and taking bikes to a repair shop is pricey. Maybe you know someone who’ll be happy to do the work for a beer! When I returned my daughter to university recently I pumped up the tyres, adjusted the brakes and oiled the chains of all the bikes that belonged to her shared house. No beers though, sadly…

Any essential equipment?

A lock. Even my rusty old rat bike will disappear at some point if I don’t lock it up. It doesn’t need to be an expensive lock unless you’re leaving it anywhere overnight or at a railway station, in which case go for a strong U lock plus a chain/cable for both wheels and, ideally, the saddle, and lock it to a post. Oh, and a set of basic LED lights, preferably rechargeable.

What about bad weather?

I get wet. But waterproof trousers are the business. A set of mudguards can make things more pleasant. I was once cycling back from a church service in a thunderstorm with a guitar on my back that was acting as an (unhelpful) sail, so I don’t recommend that. On that occasion another member of the church really kindly stopped and took my guitar home!

Advantages of cycling?

When you’re in your car you can’t just stamp on the brakes and look at a butterfly, whereas I do that sort of thing all the time when I’m on the bike, and stopping to chat is easy. I used to regularly bike across Newbury, from the logjam of the A339 on one side to the busy A4 on the other. You went from the freneticism of the road to the oasis of the canal towpath, with the opportunity to hear birdsong and greet people on the boats. For that five minutes, the pace of life just slowed, giving space for breathing and listening.

 

Rhodri on his bicycle

Tracy Makin, School Support Officer

How long is your commute?

The most direct route for me is about 10 miles from home to office, but I tend to do longer to avoid town and in summer usually make my commute home into a long training ride. Currently I am also commuting off road a lot because of the race I am training for.

What’s in it for me?

Time to clear my head.

What’s your top cycling tip?

Just get out and enjoy it.

Essential equipment?

Helmet, lights and puncture repair kit.

What about bad weather?

With the correct clothing it doesn’t matter.

Best moment?

Crossing Port Meadow on a morning with hardly anyone around and enjoying beauty and quietness.

 

Tracy with her bicycle

Bishop of Oxford appointed to Lords select committee

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The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, has been appointed to the Lords Select Committee for the environment and climate change.

Environment Action Internships for Spring 2021

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Four students from the University of Oxford share their experiences from internships with the diocese’s Environment Action Programme.

Diocese of Oxford divests from fossil fuels

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Diocese of Oxford announces disinvestment from the fossil fuel sector in strive to become carbon net zero by 2035

Keeping Easter flowers green

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The Wantage Parish share their environmentally-friendly Easter flower display, featuring locally grown greenery.

Top tips for an eco-friendly Easter

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Top tips for an eco-friendly Easter

With Holy Week almost upon us, our Environment Action Programme share their top tips for Easter crafts and decorations that are planet-friendly.


Lower impact Easter tip 1: Use decorated hard boiled, free-range eggs or make papier-mâché eggs for your garden Easter egg hunt rather than plastic ones.

Lower impact Easter tip 2: Make your own Easter cards, use scraps of paper, old envelopes etc. We love these ideas.

Lower impact Easter tip 3: Choose Fairtrade chocolate items and those with plastic-free, recyclable packaging. We love the Real Easter Egg from the Meaningful Chocolate Company. This Fairtrade Foundation video shows the benefits of choosing Fairtrade in just 30 seconds.

Lower impact Easter tip 4: Try baking your own hot cross buns or buy in bulk and freeze them to reduce packaging use.

Lower impact Easter tip 5: Make your own Easter garden – you could gift it to a neighbour as a pretty container garden after Easter.

Lower impact Easter tip 6: Add some onion skin, red cabbage or spinach to your Easter morning boiled egg pan to decorate them naturally!

Lower impact Easter tip 7: Blow real free-range eggs and decorate those for an Easter wreath, nest or basket, use the egg in Easter baking or as corn scramble (try stirring in some frozen sweetcorn before cooking!)


Let us know your best tips and make sure to visit our EcoHub for ideas and resources to help you care for creation throughout the whole year.

The Climate Sunday experience in Reading

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Two Reading churches share their experiences of hosting Climate Sunday services in the run up to November’s COP26.