Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Stimulated by some recent books - and, of course, by my Learning Church programme - I'm pondering the question of pledges. As in - what can we commit ourselves to, what can we bind ourselves into, what disciplines can we employ to structure our lives around - in such a way that leads to life for all? I want to end up with ten or a dozen that I can use at the end of the Learning Church sequence, by which time I hope I will have made the case that signing up to these pledges is a) the Will of God, and that b) if you knowingly turn your back on them, you are walking into the darkness. (This is the 'path for the faithful' bit of 'Let us Be Human').

So this is a first draft, not in any order other than what I think of first.

1. Repudiate the aeroplane.
This means not simply not using the aeroplane directly, for foreign holidays etc, but not using the products of aeroplane transport, principally fruit and veg that is flown into our supermarkets. It's remarkable just how damaging the aeroplane is.

2. Never step foot inside a (major?) supermarket.
I was very struck by the point made by Monbiot in 'Heat' that, in carbon terms, one of the worst things about supermarkets is the stores themselves, which are terribly profligate sinks of energy. If we switch to home deliveries, most of this is overcome. There are still lots of problems with supermarkets (see, eg, pledge 1) but turning the superstores into warehouses would, in Monbiot's view, almost on its own contribute to the 90% reduction in carbon needed in this sector.

3. Learn to grow your own vegetables.
Not just to get zero-carbon vegetables but to change the manner of our lives. This I see as much as a spiritual as a practical point. It will change our relationship to the earth.

4. Transport priorities: Walk, Public Transport, Carpool.
Obviously - try and not use a car at all, for all sorts of reasons. But where walking or public transport is not possible, share journeys. Accept a small loss of autonomy for the sake of other people's lives. There are all sorts of ways this could be done - something that a church might reasonably get involved in I think.

5. Entertainment: share, and pursue low-carbon options
I keep thinking about the number of DVDs I see in people's houses (and in mine!), which are very energy intensive to produce, and which mostly spend their time gathering dust. In the early church they had all things in common - what's to stop us pooling all our DVD collections into one place and sharing them? Like a library... Beyond that, why should people have as the default setting for entertainment lots of separate sitting in front of the glowbox? Get people together to watch a film! Or sing songs! Or just sit around sharing a bottle of wine! LET US BE HUMAN!!!(This is what I've started to push towards here, but it hasn't borne much fruit yet. A deeply rooted individualism. Protestantism has so much to answer for.)

(Have to admit - partly my thinking on this is driven by my possession of big plasma TV etc - which Monbiot says uses five times as much energy as a normal TV. I think the only way to square my conscience is to share it(!) But it's also a source of great pleasure, and I'm not a Puritan.)

6. Switch to a non-carbon electricity supplier.
Simple really. Might cost a few more pennies, but it will save a few more lives. Can any Christian argue against this??

7. Eat less meat.
I don't agree with going veggie 100% - though I think 90% or so is unarguable - but the meat should only come from land which would otherwise not be used (eg Welsh lamb). The figures for how much water is needed to produce a steak are frightening. Eat less meat so that others can simply eat.

8. Vote Green.
Not because that party has all the answers, but because the more votes they get, the more the other parties will gravitate towards a position which gains these votes.

9. Conserve energy in the home.
Especially insulation; turning off at the wall; compact flourescents - you know the drill. Get used to wearing a thicker jumper.

10. Pray.
This'll be number one in the eventual list. We need to pray in order to stay God's hand. Prayer is what tunes us in to the will of God, which shows us the way forward, and it is the essential discipline underlying all the others. It's also the only means of sustaining hope in the darkness which is coming down upon us.

11. Church
By which I don't just mean worship (the other Learning Churches will spell out why this is essential) but the simple gathering together with other human beings. Socialisation. Community. Becoming a sign of the Kingdom which is coming.

That'll do for now. Any and all comments welcome.

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