Climate change is 'God holding a mirror up to us'

Mark Dowd

Mark Dowd

Climate change “is God holding a mirror up to us,” according to Mark Dowd of Operation Noah, the churches ecumenical climate change campaign. In a talk at the Westminster Diocese Annual Justice and Peace Day on 24 October, he explained that the relationship between human society and the natural world has become “disconnected,” with global warming  the biggest symptom of destructive development, unrestrained economic growth and increased consumption of the Earth’s natural resources. He challenged around 100 parish justice and peace contacts to consider that “we know all about economic debt, but what about ecological debt?”  He reflected that “we are scoffing oil, coal and gas that has taken millions of years to form without any regard for future generations”. And he felt that with so many taking the view that climate change is a bigger security threat than terrorism, we should consider “why we in the UK are spending £33bn a year on defence and just half a billion on climate change and development, which includes research into renewable energy technology”.

In the lead up to December’s Copenhagen Climate Summit, the day focused on issues of Climate Change, Credit Crunch, Christ and Community. Dowd said he would be travelling to Copenhagen by electric train, a journey nearly five times more expensive than flying there, but ten times less polluting to the atmosphere. He urged the group to attend ‘The Wave’ on 5 December in London, where Archbishops Vincent Nichols and Rowan Williams will lead an ecumenical service in advance of a mass rally to urge world leaders to agree to a tough climate deal with significant reduction in carbon emissions.

The second speaker, Tricia Zipfel, a consultant on neighbourhood renewal, spoke about effective community organising and actions ordinary people can take to lower their carbon footprints. “We must redefine who we are” she said “for we are not simply individual consumers but citizens aware of the common good, which is an important feature of Catholic Social Teaching”. She spoke of projects in London where people are using common land to grow food, recycling initiatives and clothes swaps. But she also felt that we should be campaigning for legislation that will force people to be more energy efficient and less wasteful.

The event was held at St John Vianney Parish at West Green, North London, whose parish priest, Fr Joe Ryan, is Chair of the Westminster Diocese Justice and Peace Commission.  In his report, he said the Commission Team is pushing for a diocesan-wide programme on energy reduction and offering to attend deanery meetings to discuss the issue. There is also a push for Westminster Diocese to become a Fairtrade diocese. CAFOD, Progressio, Pax Christi and Columban JPIC were amongst the organisations supporting the event and running stalls.

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