Saturday, February 10, 2007

Let us Be Human 1: Overture (Jeremiah) TRANSCRIPT

This is the transcript of my first talk on Christianity and Peak Oil. Powerpoint slides, notes and the audio are available via the sidebar link on the right.

This talk is an overview of a) the crises themselves, and b) why I think theology has something to say about the matter.

Welcome! I keep promising to people that this sequence is going to be the ‘unrestrained Rector’ – I’m going to let rip in certain ways – but as I’m basically a fairly sane, sensible and moderate person, don’t get too excited! But I do have some fairly strong views in some areas which I hope to share with you. This morning what I want to do with you is run through an overarching theme which will run through the next dozen or so sessions, and what we’re going to be doing is in fact a book – a book which I have been working on, off and on, for quite some time, and it should all hang together and make a single argument, which I shall go through at the end.

But to begin with I’d like to talk about Jeremiah, because he is going to be our companion and guide through this process. So who was Jeremiah? He was one of the great prophets of Ancient Israel, there were three major named prophets in scripture who have their own books, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, they are the real big news , and they are very, very different. Jeremiah we know much more about as a charismatic figure, we know much more about him than we do about Ezekiel or Isaiah, he is a very compelling person. In rabbinical tradition he is often bracketed with Moses, you know when Jesus talks about the laws of the prophets and then on the transfiguration on the mountain it is Moses and Elijah, well in rabbinical tradition it is Jeremiah who is the real representative of the prophets. He is someone who is tremendously important for the development of the Jewish faith, and his ministry dates roughly speaking 626 to 586 BC. He was probably born around 650 so he was in his early twenties when he began his ministry and he actually lived to a great age, possibly in his nineties.

Now the thing is, he did not want to be a prophet. A sane and sensible person! He did not want to be a prophet at all. The wonderful beginning of the book where it says “I am but a child” and God says “Don’t call yourself a child, I’ll give you the words to speak, don’t worry.” There is also a remarkable passage in the book where Jeremiah is objecting to the messages and so forth that he is being given to say, and he describes the way that God is overpowering his will in terms of a rape. He is accusing God of raping him. It is one of the most striking passages that there is in scripture and he experienced it as intense unhappiness, primarily because he loved the people, and he was given this task of pronouncing doom and judgement upon them and it made him really quite miserable.

Now there is debate about what the word Jeremiah means, but the one that I am quite persuaded by is that it mean Yahweh will cast away (as in reject), so his name is backing up his message. And as I say he lived to a great age, possibly even as much as ninety, and the tradition is that he went to Egypt, he dies in Egypt after the exile.

So what is the context in which he is working? Remember that after Solomon, the kingdom of Israel splits in two, you have a northern kingdom and a southern kingdom and the northern kingdom gets conquered by Assyria in the mid-700’s BC, so at the time that we are dealing with the only independent state of Israel is the southern kingdom which is called Judah, which is David’s place, centred on Jerusalem, and the people, the leadership in Judah felt themselves to be invincible for the simple reason that they had the temple. In the temple was the ark of the covenant, God was present there, and God would never let himself be conquered. So they thought Jerusalem was immune to attack, this was where the temple was the centre of the Jewish faith and ritual practice, they felt themselves to be absolutely secure.

But at this time when Jeremiah was active, there were threats from Egypt next door but also from Babylon, (there’s a quick map). Roughly, speaking Assyria is this bit, Babylon is this bit and you’ve got Persia here and what happens in sequence is that Assyria gets conquered by Babylon, then Babylon gets conquered by Persia. But for our purposes in terms of what Jeremiah is doing, Babylon is the growing empire which is beginning to loom above Judah. So, Jeremiah sees this process going on, he sees Babylon growing in strength and there is this bit where he talks about a vat being tilted away from the North to come and pour down on Jerusalem and Judah.

Now when Jeremiah begins his prophetic ministry and teaching it is in the reign of King Josiah, and King Josiah is seen as, , the last good King in Israel, because he is faithful and he clears up lots of pagan practices and idolatrous worship. He executes all the pagan priests and scatters their ashes on their pagan altars and he is quite vigorous, but he is the person who is really bringing back the people of Israel to the right worship of Yahweh. So he is obviously very sympathic to Jeremiah, so this is the context within which Jeremiah begins, and the most important thing to know about what happens under Josiah is that when he’s clearing out the temple of all the pagan accretions, he discovers a book of the law, a scroll of the law, 2 Kings 22 v8, and this is Deuteronomy, or the scroll which becomes Deuteronomy.

Now there is some academic debate over whether Jeremiah is in fact the author. I think this is a bit tenuous to be honest, but the reasons why are worth sharing. The language used in the book of Deuteronomy has a lot of parallels with the language used in Jeremiah and also the one person, or the group of people, who composed the book of Deuteronomy as we have it now, composed all the books in the Bible from Deuteronomy through to the end of 2 Kings. That great long sequence, that single story, was brought together at this point in time, and it is really giving a theological justification why King Josiah is the good king keeping faith with all that Yahweh has revealed before. So this is a very, very important time in terms of the development of Jewish identity. OK?

Under King Josiah they discover the second law, they become faithful again, at least for a short time until he gets killed in a battle with the Egyptians at Megiddo, Har Megiddo, which is where we get the word armegeddon from. That is the central battle. But this phrase the Deuteronomic history, this is where the sense of who Israel is becomes a bit more distinct. Now Jeremiah’s message in this context, the wrath of God is coming down upon you, because Israel, or Judah to be specific, is idolatrous because the people of Israel are unjust, and there is running through Jeremiah, but in particular chapters 30 through to 33, there is a strain of hope and it is expressed most clearly in the language of the new covenant, which of course Christians take great comfort from, it’s set in the background for the new covenant as we understand it. In this Jeremiah is simply being consistent with all the prophets that we have in scripture. They call the people of Israel back to right worship, away from the worship of the pagans, and back to social justice. The people, the members of the community, should not be excluded on grounds of proverty. That was the heart of their message and really they’re two sides of the same coin. When Jesus says the two greatest commands are love God and love your neighbour, he is articulating a summary of the prophetic message.

So you then get the exile and the exile is the great calamity which comes upon ancient Israel. It absolutely destroys their sense of who they are and the great genius of the Hebrew people is that they respond to this creatively. It is where a lot of their theology changes. As I say it is the defining disaster of ancient Israel. It happens in phases. First phase is actually when the Northern Kingdom gets conquered by Assyria, but that’s about 150 years before this. But the conquering of Jerusalem by Babylon takes place in two steps, in 597 initially and then 587 or 586, there is some debate, is the most important one. Because in 587 the King of Israel has been opposing Babylon and resisting where Jeremiah has been saying, “Hang on, no, just surrender.” So you can imagine that someone in a city under siege is advocating surrender, isn’t very popular, it’s one of the things that comes in, one of the themes.

But Jeremiah is advocating surrender, the King is reckless, frankly, Zedekiah, and he resists Babylon and provokes basically slaughter, slaughter and destruction. The Babylonian army conquers Jerusalem, it is raised to the ground and all the leading elements of the Israelite community are taken off into exile. All the scribes, the Pharisees, the Royal family is killed, Zedekiah’s two sons are murdered before his eyes and then he is blinded, taken off to Babylon and put into a jail until he dies. They are pretty thorough. They are really trying to destroy Judah as this independent entity.

This is what Jeremiah says on the tenth day of the fifth year of the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon …. He destroys Jerusalem. Now imagine that you are part of this society which sees God as present in the temple and therefore Jerusalem is inviolate, not to be touched and this disaster comes upon you. This is really where the great shift in Jewish thinking about God happens. Because up to this point the Jewish people had by and large been thinking of God as a tribal deity. “Our God is bigger than your God.” So they are thinking Yahweh as being one God amongst other God’s. OK, that’s by and large the dominant theme. And what happens now, because when you are faced with this sort of calamity you have two choices. You can either say, “Well our God isn’t as strong as the other God’s, therefore he is dead and the worship of Yahweh dies off, which actually happens in many times in ancient history, when one particular tribal society is conquered and their idols are destroyed, worship of that idol or god vanishes. But the genius of the Hebrew people is that they respond by escalating it, they say well hang on, God is faithful, if this has happened to us, God must also be in charge of the Babylonian armies, therefore God is the only God, God is the creator of everything. And you have a shift from God as a tribal God of the Israelites, to God as the creator of all things. This is where you get a real shift in Jewish understandings of God as a result of the exile. They are responding creatively and this is seen very much in Isaiah, but Jeremiah as well, this is the real genius, and I mean that in not a highly intellectual sense, but the spirit, the spirit of the Hebrews to be faithful, that they have this – that they are the chosen people. God touches them and gives them the way of growing into a greater understanding of the truth. So that’s just a bit of background.

Jeremiah is not happy, as you can understand. Quite often during the course of the book, and I’ll say something about the book in questions at the end because it’s not a fully coherent and simple narrative, but quite often in the book he pleads to God to have mercy, please don’t judge and condemn the people of Israel, and eventually God gets fed up and says don’t ask for mercy again and occasionally he keeps slipping it in, but God says stop asking for mercy. So the real presentation of God as being very angry with the people of Judah and Israel.

Now the office of the prophet at the time wasn’t simply that someone comes out of the desert, in the way that we see John the Baptist preaching it, there was a particular role for a prophet in court society, and there were lots of prophets. And there were lots of prophets in Jeremiah’s time who were supporting the King in being arrogant and confident, over-confident. In particular there was one called Hananiah, there is this wonderful description, I can’t remember exactly which chapter it is in Jeremiah describing the conflict, but basically Jeremiah says – “Doom, doom, doom – it’s all going to go wrong” and Hananiah says, “No don’t worry it’s all going to be fine.” And of course the court listens to Hananiah because they want to hear good news, and so various things happen to Jeremiah, he gets thrown into the cistern at one point which is rather unpleasant and he also gets imprisoned, and he still actually has a ministry from his prison and he actually ends up getting released once the Babylonians take control because they understood that he was the person advocating surrender.

But this thing about listening to the false prophets of Hananiah is really very strong. God says, “You will go to them, but for their part they will not listen to you.” I’m sure it’s half the reason why Jeremiah is so unhappy. He says, “Why are you getting me to tell them all these things if they are not going to listen to me?” but the Word of the Lord has to be proclaimed.

So why is this an overture, why do I think Jeremiah is our guide over the next few months over the themes that we are going to be exploring? Well, like him I think that a great calamity is coming upon us, and I think it is coming upon us because we are idolatrous as a civilisation and society and because we are unjust as a civilisation and society. So for exactly the same reasons that Jeremiah critizes his community and foretells destruction, I think we stand under the same judgement, and I think we can actually see some of the parameters in the way this calamity is going to descend upon us, which is really what I am going to spend the next several weeks going through.

I was very hesitant about putting in that word “unavoidable”. Calamity is unavoidable. I am temperamentally very optimistic and I believe in the grace of God, unearned mercy, but the more I explore the reasons why calamity is coming, and the more I consider our political arrangements, the state of the churches, the things that the church spends it’s time arguing about, the more I think people will not hear in time. I think there have been sufficient signs of what’s coming for those who have ears to hear, but have not become persuaded that calamity is coming. I still think we have various options of how to respond to it, which I will be going into, but I am convinced that calamity is coming. So really what I am going to be discussing in the coming weeks is answering the question “What is the path for the faithful?” For those who believe in a loving and merciful God, how do we respond in the face of calamity?

So we are going to be exploring various elements, and if you want to have a look at the plan, programme, I will run through it really. The first two, looking at peak oil again, because that’s where I think the calamity will start to bite, it’s not restricted to oil, oil is one instance of what I am going to be describing, so next week I am going to be looking at oil because I think that’s where things will become obvious soonest. The week after a bit more scene setting in terms of the accumulating crises of our time, looking at environmental elements but also social elements, questions of poverty. So that’s all describing the way that I see the calamity coming down upon us, those two sessions.

What I then want to go onto in the next three, is to explore what is meant by idolatry. When Jeremiah is critising the people of Israel for being idolatrous, in his time it actually meant small metal or wooden objects in the home or in temples and so forth. That’s not really what I’m going to be describing most of the time. But I think that the use of the word idolatry is very helpful and it has a very specific theological meaning which I will unpack and explain, because I think it is one of the most useful terms that we have for describing what is going on in our culture. So I am basically going to spend a session unpacking what I mean by idolatry, and using science as an example in that session. That’s the red or blue pill one. (A reference to the Matrix film if anyone has seen it.)

After that I want to talk about judgement, the wrath of God, which again is a theological phrase with a lot of weight behind it, which needs unpacking, because as I say I believe in a God of grace and mercy, I don’t really believe in a God who loses his temper with us, so I will explain what I mean by the wrath of God in that session and link it with elements within scripture with what’s going on in present society. And then the next one I want to explore what’s meant by apocalypse, because so often, particularly when we start to explore all these things like peak oil and so forth on the internet, you come across some really quite extraordinary claims made and extraordinary perspectives about the end of the world being around the corner, which I don’t fully accept, but a lot of it is simply using the language of apocalyptic. It is using the language derived from scripture but in a way which isn’t actually faithful to scripture. Now Jesus uses apocalyptic language so really what I want to do in that session is describe what apocalyptic language is and how it used correctly, including how it was used by Jesus, because I think it is very important that we have the language to describe what will be happening. So that’s again a bit of groundwork to introduce concepts and language and vocabulary which will help us describe what’s going on.

We are then going to have four sessions looking at specific instances of idolatry and how it impact on our world. The first one is going to be looking at the environment and environmental crises, with a unifying theme of biblical stewardship, but there are all sorts of wonderful things in the Bible, in the old testament especially, which are pro-enviromental concern. The differences between what Western civilisation has done and what it’s called to do through scripture is the difference between stewardship and dominion. So that’s what that first one is going to be about – 9 December – looking at the environment.

Then I am going to be looking at poverty. This is the most consistent theme in scripture, there is something like two thousand commands relating to poverty and poverty being abhorrent to God, and the existence and perpetuation of poverty within a society is what will bring down God’s judgement upon that society. So I really want to talk about the roots in scripture of the perspective and describe how the existence of such extreme poverty in our world today renders us liable to judgement. So talking about social questions in that session.

Then I want to talk about foreign policy; I put Isaiah with that one originally. I might stick with Jeremiah because all the implications are obvious, but there is actually a very strong thread in scripture, especially in the prophets about not putting your trust in princes, not putting your trust in the strength of a horse, but putting your trust only in God, because God is in control. Remember what the Israelites grew to understand as the result of the exile – that God was in charge of what Nebuchadnezzar was up to. This is I think how we need to see our world today, that God is in charge of all that is going on. But having said that, what is God up to with regard to things like terrorism, Islamism, and the American reaction to it. I mean you could say that what happens with the exile is that God uses Nebuchadnezzar to destroy the idolatrous understandings in Israel, and then a few generations later he destroys the Persian empire, and gives Israel a fresh chance. I have a suspicion that something similar might be happening with the West. That there are elements which God is putting in place which will destroy the secular West but then those elements themselves will in turn be destroyed and there will be a new opportunity for the West in time.

Finally, after that I want to talk about worship. The way that the religious message and particularly the Christian message gets distorted and in particular I’m going to look again, many will have heard me talk about the American churches before, but I am going to look specifically at American understandings of Christianity, and how as I say the message of scripture is not heard, it’s eclipsed. In just the same way as under the Kings before Josiah, there was lots of language used but those shifted towards idolatrous worship. I think similar things have happened in the churches today.

So those are four steps, environment, social justice, foreign policy and then worship. I am going to look at what idolatry means in practice. Lots of cultural criticism. But then at the end I really want to start exploring the question of what do we do and how do we do it. How do we as faithful people respond in this situation. So I am going to begin by talking about the tradition of the virtues. It’s roots are in Greek philosophy but as with many of the inheritances we have got from other cultures it’s been baptised and it’s been brought into the Christian tradition and especially through to give an example with people like Augustine and so forth but primarily Aquinas, and I’m going to talk about what the virtues are and how they function. And then the penultimate session I am really going to talk about the church – what the role of the church is, what the role of the Christian community is as being a place which incubates people who demonstrate these Christian virtues – that gives people the inner resources to cope with an environment within which God has seen fit to place us. And to talk about practice – the sorts of things which churches do. Not what they do but what they should do and what they give priority to. I think that’s one of the clearest moments when I am going to be unrestrained. But to talk about the way in which churches split, so you can see perhaps some relevance to what’s going on in the Anglican communion at the moment.

But the final session I am going to gather all the threads together and give a message which I think is not going to be without hope for our future, but under the sense of a plea to let us be human. God’s intention for us is that we should flourish as created human beings. That’s his consistent message throughout the Old Testament, expressed most clearly in the New Testament with the One who actually shows us what it means to be human. Jesus is the only person who is fully human. We are all each of us more or less deficient in being human. Because He is Son of God He actually shows us what it means, he incarnates human nature. He shows us what it means to be human and in particular a phrase which Jesus quotes twice from Hosea – “Go and learn what this means, I desire mercy not sacrifice.” And part of my concern is that in a time of extremes which is what we will be moving into, all sorts of distorted religious messages will be given greater and greater prominence. People will be pushed to the extremes and you’ll end up with people on both sides – it’s already beginning to happen in American churches, in the Islamic communities, where you get cries going up that God wants vengeance and justice and we will act with righteous violence. And that’s what I’m really going to be having a go at and saying – the Christian community can’t go to one of these two extremes.

So why is Jeremiah our guide? What are the key things? Why is it for example, that when the leadership of Israel was in exile in Babylon they drew great comfort from what Jeremiah had taught. He was seen as the great comforter and prophet for the exiled community. Well to begin with, in Jeremiah, in Deuteronomy and so forth you have as I say this understanding that God’s in charge of the whole process. That God is not a tribal God, God is the one creator of the universe and therefore God is present in this trauma, in this great calamity – God is present, God has not deserted the community. They understood it as God chastising the community. We have all this language of God like a father disciplining a son and the one who he loves in order that the son might flourish. Therefore through the calamity meaning is to be found. It is not a meaningless process, it is not that there is nothing coherent to be understood from what the people of Israel are experiencing, from what we as a society will experience. Therefore hope is present.

Now one thing I have said many times before but bears repeating – hope is a virtue and to summarise that what the session on virtue is going to be about – virtues are things that we need to practise. It’s not given by a feeling, it’s not “Oh today I feel hopeful” and “Today I don’t feel hopeful”. Hope is a virtue – it’s a decision made to live life in a particular way and to practice ways of seeing the world. But I think what Jeremiah can do is allow us in the face of the calamity that’s coming to practice our hope for what is going to come. Because just as with Israel – they were promised this new covenant, they were promised a restoration when the law of God wouldn’t be written on stone tablets, but would be written on our hearts, OK? This vision that guides the people through the calamity is I think one of the most important things that we can take from Jeremiah.

And so, next week I start into the detail under the heading “Let Us Be Human” – Prophecy, Peak Oil and the Path for the Faithful.” There we go, that’s the introduction. I think the next session is going to be on oil and really about energy, because I think that is what’s going to be the most obvious prominent issue which will trigger awareness of the calamity that is coming. But the next session, I’m not actually going to focus on one in particular, I’m going to talk about global warming, I’m going to talk about the erosion of soil, I’m going to talk about over-population, I’m going to talk about water. Really, there’s no place to stop, that’s why I use the phrase, the accumulating and in fact the accelerating crises of our time. There is so much going wrong and continuing to get worse and worse and worse and the thing is – we as a Western society are not fully aware of it because our newspapers and media don’t report it. Or if they do report it, it’s spun in a particular way that we don’t need to worry about it, it’s just for example because of bad government in the case of Zimbabwe. OK? But it’s not just about bad government that Zimbabwe society is collapsing. For example I read a report last week that many of the Vietnamese fishing fleets are not going out to fish because they can’t afford oil. So the rise in the price of oil is having impact in various places of the third world who can’t compete against the West in terms of the price of oil and it’s having impacts there, so oil is becoming effectively scarce or absent. Now I think I have my doubts about the particular Vietnamese boat fleets, I’m sure there are still people who are prepared to pay for fish, but I think, another thing I came across the other day about fish – did you know that the catch of cod worldwide is now 10% of what it was in the ‘70’s and a third of the worldwide catch of cod comes to Britain for our fish and chips. And it is the second figure that struck me most, I mean I knew about the 10%, that fish stocks worldwide are collapsing, so I what to look at oil in particular because I think that that’s the thing that will be soonest and most prominent but really it will illuminate the background of all these other crises that are gathering together in what you could call the perfect storm.

Now I think that I have got no sense really of the timing of these things, I mean Jeremiah was giving his message for thirty years before it became true. I don’t think it will take thirty years but I think that there is no clear sense of when it’s going to hit it’s climax. The thing about population is going to be the main burden really of the second session about accumulating crises. I am going to talk about exponential growth. Anyone who read “The Limits to Growth” that got brought out in the 1970’s, and then was generally thought to have been discredited, they were called Jeremiah’s. The book called “The Limits to Growth” came out with a group called the club of Rome, released I think 1972 originally, and it was saying that you cannot expect continual growth, sustainable growth in physical terms within a finite physical environment, and then it got rejected through the ‘80’s and ‘90’s and thought hang on they’ve been proven wrong, but actually they have been proven correct. I will be looking in detail at what their claims originally were in the ‘70’s and apply it to our present day. I think population is certainly the major contributory factor to everything else and I think one aspect of the calamity is going to be a decline in human population. Quite significant decline in human population. God is good – let us trust that Malthus is not completely right. I do think that we will see a drop in population, to what extent I don’t know, it’s just guess work, but the fact that in thirty years time we will have as much energy available as we did in 1900 and yet we have three times the population this is something that we need to be concerned about.

This is why I think it is unavoidable that we in this country don’t actually have the power to change anything. I hate to be really dispiriting about this but the fact that China for example is building a new coal power station every week and the impact that will have on global warming, the fact that it’s signing long term contracts with Iran for the supply of oil. All these things knit together. I had a conversation with a friend’s father, it must have been fifteen, twenty years ago – an ex-Colonel in the British military – with the Engineers was in the Falklands, building bridges and so forth – and he had read this club of Rome report and was persuaded of it even then, and I wasn’t at all, and I remember him saying there are perhaps four countries that will determine the future, which were China, America, Brazil and I think it was Russia. Now I would probably say India, but United States, Brazil because of the rain forest, China because of population and probably Russia because of resources. I mean do people realise that Russia is a bigger oil producer than Saudi Arabia. Because Saudi Arabia’s oil output is declining. Quite temporary. The thing is Russia has the resources, Russia’s strength is redoubling and there is this thing called the Shanghai Co-operation Council, some of you may have heard of, Russia, China, India, Iran, the central Asian republics have ten years ago formed a collective to work towards a multi-polar world and who is that aimed at do you think? And they have got oil, they are the people who are stopping any action being taken against Iran, for example. I’ll go into that in more detail when I do the foreign policy bit.

A lot of these issues, there is room for all sorts of debate, you know, what I am going to present to you is an argument and of course I could be wrong. Let us hope that I am. Because the more I explore it the more I understand the detail, the more pessimistic I get. I do think we are facing a serious calamity. As it happens I think that England/Britain is reasonably well-placed. You know I think we won’t actually experience the worst of it. I think America is well-placed although I think they are going to have a huge crisis to go through before they get to a better place. But I think one of the worst long-term issues is going to be an exodus of people from the third world, who cannot feed themselves or gain water and they will actually walk to the west and the north because their environments are going to be destroyed and I think, the train’s already left the station on that. We are going to be facing waves of immigration of starving people.

Let us be human. That is precisely my agenda. To outline a vision of what it is to be human that we don’t have to live in an economy which is constantly growing, because that is one of the idols. The idol which every politician in our system worships. We must have growth, because if we don’t have growth, then we won’t have jobs and you won’t vote for me. And we need to snap out of that idolatry. A medical definition of something which constantly grows, without regard for its wider environment, is cancer. Our system is profoundly cancerous and that’s why it will end up being expelled from the body which is one way of thinking about God’s wrath. Our whole society needs to change towards something which is in physical terms, not in cultural terms, I’ll say a bit more about that in a second, in physical terms something which is steady state. Not something which is growing, it needs to be steady state. And culture can grow, there is no physical limit on the richness of human civilisation, but there are physical limits on how many people the world can support, for example. If we want to actually have still a recognisably human organic existence.

If an argument gets put across that actually persuades me otherwise, great, no one will be more happy, I will go out and have a real party, trust me. But I have been looking at this for a long time and I think the more we actually explore the dimensions of it the more frightening it becomes. I think energy is the thing that will trigger it but there are too many other factors, there are too many of us, thinking about population. The earth cannot sustain this many people, and the only reason it is sustaining this many people at the moment is because of the use of fossil fuel. And fossil fuel is finite. Now there are ways, if we had creative and intelligent and faithful leadership in all spheres around the world, there are ways of mitigating the shift. Of saying that actually we could preserve most of the population of the world, we could take steps for example, shift our economies on to renewable energy. Not use fossil fuels, not cause global warming and so forth. But this is why I am persuaded that the calamity is unavoidable because our political leadership simply won’t do it and they won’t do it because the practices of our industrial society over the last two hundred years have become so embedded.

So I think we have to be hit over the head with something hard before people wake up and change behaviour. I hate to be really pessimistic about this, I’m optimistic in the long run but I think we are going to, I sometimes call it the great dislocation. I think we are going to be forced to shift from the present mode of industrial life that we have now into a steady state mode. And it is possible to plan for that and work towards that and do things like, you know, put up wind turbines near Bradwell. That’s the sort of concrete practical step which would be very helpful, especially locally. But its not going to happen because people don’t want to look at wind turbines across the Blackwater, they will get in the way of the sailing boats. What we are facing is a choice between having wind turbines, and therefore having electric cars that can take you to a hospital in Colchester, or not having wind turbines and having to resort to medical facilities on Mersea.

That’s actually the issue but that issue is not understood at all. But those are the choices we face. I think we are going to have to face choices between, do we grow grain to turn it into ethanol or biodiesel to keep our transport system going or do we grow grain in order to feed the starving millions in the third world? Well actually we have been facing that choice for a while and we are going to keep driving our cars because if we don’t have our cars, people can’t stay in their jobs and the economy will collapse, so our society is choosing to allow human beings to starve to death in the third world, in order to keep our economy going. That’s what God considers absolutely unjust and abhorrent and that’s why the wrath of God is coming. Sorry I’m going to jump on my soap box, start ranting. But that’s the sort of thing, as I say – unrestrained Rector time. God’s wrath is coming, I’m sure of it. Anyway that might be a good point to pause and end and invite you back next week. Some of you may not wish to come but oil next week and then the wider crises the next. Thank you very much for coming.

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