One World Week at Ealing Abbey

Ealing Abbey Personal Presentation for One World Week
Speakers : Bishop John Oliver, Laurie Michaelis, Jo Abbess

Hello. My name is Jo Abbess, and I get nervous when I have to speak in public, so please forgive me if I start to resemble cranberry jelly…

Over the last few years I have been busy reading and reporting on Energy Trends, Climate Change and Resource Depletion; and as a direct result I am morphing into an environmental campaigner. Along the way, I became a member of Christian Ecology Link, gratefully recognising there are others of faith who are on a similar journey.

My particular viewpoint is that Energy Reduction and Resource Adaptation, which people are committing to on a personal level, must be matched by rock solid policy in the public domain.

Research by the World Wildlife Fund indicates that about 50% of the changes required are at the private or household level, but that means that 50% of the changes required are in the public realm. Loading individuals with the burden of change is not ethical, neither can it ever be a complete solution !

As a nation, we are learning that we have to adapt our Energy and Resource use. This Adaptation has to happen at every level and across every sector.

In order to adapt, we need to ADOPT. It is exciting to see that there is a large groundswell of people learning and taking radical action, in their daily lives, their homes and communities. Business and industry are also moving, making a virtue out of necessity.

But it is becoming alarmingly clear to me that uptake on a voluntary basis is not sufficiently widespread, or emerging fast enough, despite extensive mainstream media and public education. The conclusion for me is that Adoption will need to be imposed through regulation, from the top.

The biggest problem is Carbon Dioxide. Many experts are concluding that a global cap on Carbon Dioxide emissions is necessary, and that the Global Carbon Budget will need to be fairly shared, and progressively reduced, in the coming years : this is Contraction and Convergence.

Beyond personal and corporate responsibility, we need national strategy and international cooperation. Currently there is the brave but faltering Kyoto. The United States is in a state of clinical denial.

Meanwhile, the UK Government seems to be suffering schizophrenia, as it continues to promote airport expansion, plan new roads and build energy-poor housing; whilst at the same time urging energy restraint and offering grant schemes for green energy systems.

I think the key questions are : Will we decide on Carbon Taxation or Carbon Rationing ? When will we realise that centralised energy provision is too wasteful ? How are we going to finance localised Renewable Energies and Biofuels ?

And if we refuse to consider changing our high maintenance lifestyles : How many Climate Refugees will it take before we admit there is a crisis ? How long will it be before the growing gap between energy demand and energy supply destroys the global economy ? How long before crop loss halts international
food trade ?

Over the weekend I was at a workshop in a public building, and on the notice board was a sign : “No Smoking”. And underneath, the sign : “Please Recycle Your Waste”. The first, an imperative, the second an invitation. How long does it take to move from “Please” to “No” ? If I think back, it has been about ten years between the first anti-smoking campaigns and the public buildings ban.

I expect it could take ten years to get effective Climate and Energy policy into the legal framework of this country. However, it might take less time to start Climate Justice proceedings in an international court.

My campaigning has to be focussed on influencing a faster move from voluntary change to institutional policy : ten years might be too slow, considering the fact that the Siberian permafrost is already melting. Everything I do from now on, making changes in my life, in my work and in my words, has to bring the future forward.

Global problems such as Climate Change, Peak Oil and Energy Security need global solutions and, happily, since each of us is a global citizen, we can all do something useful. This is One World Week, so make your promises to the planet. And don’t forget to sign the Climate Covenant with Operation Noah !

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