Maggie Durran: Should churches have to adapt to global warming?

30 April 2008

Are we wise to spend so much time, effort, and money on adapting our churches for climate change, when global warming is not proven? We might even be heading for a cold period, similar to that in the mid-20th century.

YOU ARE one of a minority of sceptics on the global-warming issue. My own view is similar, in that I can see that the world is warming, but I am not sure that human activity is either the primary cause or the primary solution. But I am willing to go along with the measures that are being taken.

For generations, the Western world has been greedy with the world’s resources — and our churches are guilty of the same greed. So the measures we are now taking to reduce our consumption are certainly worth while. Saving energy, stopping waste, and considering the needs of other people in the world can only be good.

Since I deal mostly with buildings and money in this column, let’s be pragmatic. Stopping draughts and heat-loss is good for churches and good for the world’s resources. We should all be engaging in fair trade, as well as in changing the boilers.

Another great Western scandal is the waste of food. It is estimated that one third of all food purchased in supermarkets is thrown away unused. Churches could begin to monitor their own food wastage, and encourage members to address the issue at home. Making this amount of food available to the world’s poor would save millions of lives each year.

We could help to prevent a world food crisis by not changing to biofuels: this is taking food from the mouths of the world’s poor in order to feed our cars; so do not expect me to be driving an alternative-fuelled vehicle yet. Perhaps we should turn our church car-parks into gardens and encourage the congregation to walk; or we could organise a church bus to collect those who are infirm.

We in the West have drifted into some bad habits. The power of the Church in the present world dilemma is that it can organise and take collective action among a wide cross-section of people. Dioceses who have declared themselves fairtraders are influencing churches, and these in turn can influence families and individuals.

These are vitally important issues, and I would be happy if they — together with action plans — were the primary issues being publicised as a result of the Lambeth meeting of bishops this summer. Global warming may yet prove to be the myth that jogs us into reflection, repentance, and action that we should have been taking anyway.

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