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Leader comment: Rays of hope amid climate despair

22 September 2023

IN THE working life of the present editor, certain topics have demanded repeated attention. Each time the editorial staff must ask themselves: Is there anything new here? How tolerant are the readers for more on this topic? Is this as important to them as we believe it to be? Or, important as it is, are we making it boring by returning to it so frequently? The climate crisis is undoubtedly one such topic. There can, of course, be no more vital, mortal business, and yet climate news can be relentlessly grim. Many people have reached the point of despair, and no newspaper wishes to inflict that on its readers. We are aware, too, that our readers get quite enough preaching on a Sunday, and need none from us.

Yet, if we respect our readers — as we do — our job is to report the facts about climate change as straightforwardly as we can, keep exhortation to a minimum, and trust our readers to respond in the best way possible. And they do; for, alongside the grim news of the worsening climate, we are able to report on persuasive campaigning and sacrificial action to mitigate the climate’s effects. We believe that individual action is not nothing, and joint action is definitely better than nothing. We know how infinitesimally small is the difference that each individual can make when measured against the harms caused by nations and corporations. But nations and corporations will not change unless they perceive a groundswell of opinion, expressed in action, among their citizens or customers. Thus, we are pleased this week to launch the 2024 Green Church Awards, to acknowledge the good work being done in churches and religious institutions to combat climate change, and to enable practitioners to pass on their knowledge and advice to others who are a little further back down the path.

Much has changed since these awards were first run in 2007, and not all of it for the worse. In 2007, less that 1.5 per cent of the UK’s electricity supply came from wind power. The proportion has now reached more than one quarter, and churches and congregations can choose an energy supply that is 100-per-cent renewable. More can be recycled; more is biodegradable. Humanity is, perforce, more conscious of the challenge, and many churches are in the vanguard or action, through the setting of ambitious targets and — something lacking elsewhere — a willingness to make sacrifices to hit them.

There can be no complacency. The climate crisis demands an unprecedented degree of sobriety, collaboration, and investment. It requires that old enmities, ambitions, and even noble causes be set aside. But there is joy to be found in living in harmony with nature and our fellow humans, hope to be found on the journey to a more sustainable life, and companionship and inspiration to be found in learning of the fine work of others.

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