Archive for June, 2007

Wrestling with having dominion

Monday, June 25, 2007

During my studies an undergraduate theologian fifteen years ago, I first became aware of the term sustainable development as a response to humanity’s negative economic, environmental and social impacts in and on the world. I was also alert to the relative institutional silence of, and lack of practical action by, the established church in response to the idea.

Things have been changing for the better since, and this evening I learnt of the C of E’s initiative – given the catchy name, ‘Shrinking the Footprint’ – to reduce its ecological footprint. Whilst committing to a 60% CO2 reduction by 2050 – this despite cutting-edge opinion suggesting a 90% reduction is more apposite – the initiative is a start. And what’s laid out in the document, Sharing God’s Planet (£5.99 from the church publishing arm, Church House, but free here!), seems fair – both as a general compass to guide decision making and as an introduction to ecological concepts. Here’s a quote from the section ruminating on human impacts:

Christians will acknowledge that although the image of humankind having ‘dominion’ over the earth is a biblical one, it can become distorted into a justification for abuse and exploitation of the earth God has created. Thus, for example, the confident engineers of the Victorian era saw themselves as exercising their God-given right to command and control the world around them. Chicago businessman W. P. Rend said in 1892, “Smoke is the incense burning on the altars of industry. It is beautiful to me. It shows that men are changing the merely potential forces of nature into articles of comfort for humanity.”

(And Rend’s perspective is hardly out of date today, what with industry occurring on an unprecedented scale – mind-boggling pictures from China here – from which we in developed countries are, most would say, benefitting. China, of course, isn’t Christian…)

I’m glad, too, the Archbishop (Rowan ‘Cantuar’, as he signs himself in the Foreword) has cottoned onto the notion of contraction and convergence, which is probably the only equitable and constructive way the developed and developing worlds are going to move forward together in addressing climate change. The initiative’s website has a good set of links for making practical steps.

Carrying clay instead of the gun

Sunday, June 24, 2007

This is more like it: an evocative short film about an artist revisiting a place where he fought as a soldier. For me this evokes something of what it means to engage with the wider world with heart and being, that’s to say, with more than just one’s eyes and head. I love seeing Mark Coreth mimicking birdflight whilst modelling the blackbrowed albatross on the cliff top. You can find pictures of some of his pieces online, for example, this pair of oryx, and the various outcomes of his trips around the world including to the Falklands.

The music hall magician

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Simon Jenkins writes of the political era that officially ends this coming Wednesday. I like his analogy of Blair’s leadership in relation to the civil service:

[Under Thatcher, the civil service machine knew what was expected of them. Under Blair, on the other hand, it has been different.] Everything was ceaselessly reorganised. […] Nobody knew what Blair wanted other than a feelgood headline. Like a music hall magician, he thought that a frown of concern and a smile of reassurance would cut the lady in half.

Cloud watching

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Some clouds on my journey south to Bury St Edmunds this afternoon:




I was surprised just how well these came out, given they were taken with my mobile phone camera from the car. Not that I was driving at the same time, of course.

I Sing of Change

Saturday, June 23, 2007

My brother has just written a beautiful reflection on his experience of encountering a poem on the London’s underground. You may or may not share his theology, and/or his analysis – for example, I think the poem is probably written from a different experience to that of ‘living in an apparently silent universe’. That said, his articulation of his theology, and his politics, is a good read and conveys sensitive handling of a lovely poem.

I can save this one.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Good story:

An old man once walked along the beach. Suddenly in the distance he saw colours on the beach. He went over to see what it was. It turns out that these were starfish. There were so many of them washed up from the sea. Though he was amazed, he didn’t think about it twice and just went further for a walk when he saw a child – this child was throwing starfish into the ocean. One by one. The old man walked up to him and said: “What are you doing? There are so many of them – you won’t be able to save them all!” To this the child replied: “I might not be able to save them all.” The child picked up a starfish and said: “But I can save this one. And this one. And this one.”

From a blog posting about small ways to improve one’s impact on the world.

*Ding* – here’s an idea

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Economist has just published an article about a new lightbulb that can potentially last forever. Fifty percent efficient (at converting electricity to light – compared to 15% for energy-saving, and 5% for conventional bulbs), it dispenses with the need for mercury used in energy-saving bulbs (/CFLs, compact fluorescent lamps).

Peanuts evangelism

Friday, June 22, 2007

This can apply to any conversation. Substitute ‘religion’ here for ‘point of view’ and you have a typical dysfunctional dynamic. Or at the very least, a non-conversation. Whenever we close ourselves off from someone else’s point of view, we obstruct the development of the human race.

Strategic steps to sustainability

Thursday, June 21, 2007

J. Porritt, the UK’s Sustainable Development Commission Chairman (etc.), lists the flights he’s taken over the last twelve months. I think his rationale is probably right, implying that how one defines one’s purposes (which inform strategies on how to achieve them) is critical:

I have spent 35 years getting quite good at articulating this sustainability stuff and (hopefully) inspiring others to get things sorted out themselves. I am nearly 57 years old now, and have decided to just ‘go for it’ for the next three years, to help press every (influential) button I can during that time. So, once I have judged that an opportunity is worth pursuing (strategically), then how I get there is a secondary – albeit still very important – issue.

Someone then has to discriminate between different sets of purpose, and interest groups, evaluating which are the more appropriate, and worthy of investment / funding / incentivising / privileging etc. Enter the politician… Am curious what will come of Porritt’s newfound opportunism, which has possibly been inspired by the reception to Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth. Will Porritt go back into politics, or is he being more effective flying here and there? (I wonder whether he’s finally found the right methodology to evaluate this one, perchance.)