Last Saturday 18 June 2022 St Lawrence’s Church in Hungerford was full of curious and committed people attending Hungerford’s first Eco Conference to explore and better understand the issues around climate change. Some of the presentations can be downloaded or watched on St Lawrence’s Eco Conference Catch Up webpage here.
Bishop Olivia from Reading, due to kick off the day, was sadly absent. You’ve guessed it – she had tested positive for Covid..
However, no matter, Hungerford’s own excellent Dr Mike Morecroft set the scene with the latest science on the climate and nature crises. As lead Scientist at Natural England, and contributing author on the most recent IPCC report to the United Nations, Mike presented a powerful talk, demonstrating an easy mastery of complex issues.
He highlighted two key points. Remember, less than five years ago, all that debate as to whether climate change was real or indeed happening? Well, the evidence is in and it is ‘un-equivocal’. Climate Change is happening and it is driven by human activity. The result is quite simply that the future isn’t what it used to be. If everyone pulls together, it is just possible to keep global warming to a 1.5 degree increase. Currently, we are heading towards 2 degrees, which signifies frightening consequences. Already, rising sea levels and melting icesheets are ‘built into our future’.
Mike, however, concluded his talk with hope, which set the scene for the second speaker, the Rev Margot Hodson. “Why should we look after the Earth”? First, she drew attention to the unhelpful legacy of certain aspects of Christian Theology. When the book of Genesis describes human beings as having ‘dominion’ over the earth, we assume that we are being given direction to ‘control’ nature. We are painfully learning that we need Solomon’s wisdom, to take responsibility for caring for the Earth. Dominion is rather ‘leadership and stewardship’, avoiding selfishness and greed, and we need to ‘Re-earth our Christianity’. Revelation 22, inspires us to look forward to ‘restoration and renewal’. Recommended reading her book, A Christian Guide to Environmental issues by Martin and Margot Hodson.
Taking up the positive agenda next was Helen Stephens from Eco Church: A Rocha UK’s award scheme for churches in England and Wales who want to demonstrate that the gospel is good news for God’s earth.
‘How can we make a difference’? For Church Representatives, the big question was to consider becoming an Eco Church, and Rev Mike Saunders enthusiastically endorsed this scheme which St Lawrence’s has been working on during the past 2/3 years. He stressed the importance of partnerships, as he was presented with the Silver Award for the home Church.
Partnerships were very evident in the afternoon presentations; Hungerford Environmental Action Team (HEAT) led on EV cars, with a variety of makes, (including a WBC electric van) and also on Home Energy. Other popular subjects were the Woodland Trust, and Growing a Wild Flower meadow! John Tucker from WT pointed to thousands of trees planted jointly with Town and Manor, the Church and HEAT. He showed slides which illustrated the huge value of trees, not least to offer shade in hot weather!
Wild Flower Meadows and wild areas in our gardens was led enthusiastically by Charles Flower, with a dazzling array of native flowers recommended, beginning with ‘yellow rattle’ which helps to suppress grass.
So, the day ended on a very positive note. We can all do something to mitigate the impact of Climate Change – take some time to consider your contribution!