Just under 30 years ago I met Margaret Thatcher. Well almost – I was in the same room. Whatever you may think of her, she was a scientist, and thankfully understood at a pivotal stage that we humans may be changing our climate. She was therefore a strong advocate for new government funding of research, and
the creation of a centre to do this: the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research at the Met Office. In 1990 she formally cut the ribbon. My first Met Office job was in the Hadley Centre.
Roll on nearly 30 years. Two Anglican Bishops from the South Pacific islands of Melanesia visit Feniton in February. They speak of how climate change is affecting lives on their islands. Rises in sea-level are changing the shoreline. Fish stocks are depleting partly because the local sea temperature is changing. For them climate change is a living reality. Those who live on the ‘margins’ of our wealthy world are usually the first to suffer when things go wrong.
Do we listen enough even now to the vigorous voices of scientists sounding the warning bells? Did we listen back in the colonial era to the voices of indigenous peoples who understood the Earth better than us Westerners, as we confidently rolled out our programme of industrialisation and cultural and religious ‘advancement’ across the world? The voices of aboriginal cultures – in Australasia, the Americas and elsewhere – were usually ignored. They spoke of God differently, but they had spiritual antennae still sensitive to the sacred nature of the Earth, its fragility and its interdependence with us.
Thankfully there is fresh listening, and young people are leading the way. In February, children across the country took part in the first ‘climate strike’ in the UK, missing a day’s school to protest at the low level of serious government action on climate. Any detriment to their schooling and inconvenience to their schools are surely mere ripples compared to the tsunami that is global warming.
Artists have also responded. ‘The Last Fish Supper’ is the wonderful title of a recent satirical painting. Based on Leonardo da Vinci’s famous ‘The Last Supper’, artist Gina Parr has superimposed on the heads of Jesus and the apostles the heads of fish. Dwindling global fish stocks is her focus; many of the apostles were fishermen, of course. Yet in the middle of the picture is Christ. With arms outstretched – and with fish and chips in place of bread and wine – he still places himself at the heart of the world’s brokenness, and offers redemption for our warming world.
Rev David Carrington
Team Vicar of Escot, Feniton and Payhembury
The Rectory, Station Road, Feniton 01404 850905