I would say that, wouldn’t I? -Thoughts if I had the time, when introducing a Hustings.

This is the year when the UK as a whole, and Scotland in particular are on display to the rest of the human world.

We have the immense privilege to be playing host to the biggest -and one of the most ponderous – of global talking shops, which we call COP – the United Nations Climate Conference.

And I’d be here all night giving it it’s full name, so let’s just stick with COP.

Whilst we’re on shorthand, we might also use the word ‘climate’ and mean thereby the whole interwoven stack of environmental crises: free-fall extinction of key species and those whose place we do not yet understand; the loss of biodiversity and the habitats that facilitate it; the rise of the seas and the change of their chemistry. Not just elsewhere. Here as well. Then there’s Carbon dioxide and its hyperactive greenhouse gas friend methane, let alone the pervasive presence of plastic in the tissues of almost every living creature on Earth.

Every walk of life, every sector of activity has change to embrace, to acknowledge this, though do bear in mind that life could be cleaner healthier, better, happier, rather than just harder.

Everything about this crisis has in common that it emerges through injustice at every level of a global economy naively predicated on endless growth as if a single-use planet could still be imagined when the population of our species is approaching eight billion.

But don’t blame the poor, when the education and empowerment of women is shown to result in rising welfare and falling birth-rates. Overseas aid can cut the carbon footprint of nations like ours.

The difficulty is, of course, in measuring that, and making the case for it.
Or could you take it on trust from a leader you trust?

No approach to the climate emergency which neglects inequalities, and injustices either in the human or non-human realm, can now be taken seriously.

Greed and excessive wealth – it’s now clearer than ever – are toxic to the planet.
In Christianity as in other traditions, the onus is on those to whom much is given, to intervene most, though we also need the courage to act in ways which will impact on our neighbours, for the greater good.

Jobs at a ‘factory for poison’ might be music to the voters’ ears in the town where it is built, but the voices of those it’s directed against should also be heard. Thanks to science, the voice of the Earth is now translated for us with greater than ever clarity. We can’t look away, or stop our ears.

Horror films love to use the word ‘Biblical’ to describe catastrophe that gets out of hand.
They’re not wrong.
This is what the Bible was written for, and in common with most great faith traditions of humanity, a spiritual approach is one which provides wisdom and resilience, rather than, as Karl Marx naively supposed, an anaesthetic without relief, for those who suffer.

Faith is of course shockingly undersold where anyone imagines it’s about keeping your head down. People of faith are obliged to be the most subversive of all when they see injustice – even where they themselves are implicated. Politicans – you have been warned. In love, you understand!

The COP conference in November is an opportunity unlike any other huge event, and I’m getting tired of reminding some folks in Glasgow that it’s not just like the Commonwealth Games. For a start, all the issues it brings to a head will continue.

All the things we have alarmingly shelved during the last year, most of which are so scary that politicians don’t always speak clearly about them for fear that people might shoot the messenger, as it were.

When I offered the ‘Time for Reflection’ at the Scottish Parliament, the MSP who had invited me anxiously took me on one side and spent twenty minutes establishing his environmental credentials. Bless him. Maybe I should just have said early on: it is for the voters, for the people, to convince politicians, few of whom are badly informed, to act for the common good. How do we give this sort of courage to those we chose?

In my own free church tradition we are clear that God alone is in charge: which means : we wholeheartedly support and encourage leaders when they seek justice and peace; we hold them to account when they lack integrity, or when they seek their own or their cronies’ advantage.

I’m not particularly bothered about motivations: whether our leaders do the right thing because it’s right or the right thing to look good, but neither Scotland nor the UK is going to gain anything anything by anything other than setting an admirable example of embracing transition with justice.

It’s also unlike any other great natural or wartime disaster, in that everyone is involved. We may not all be in the same boat, but we’re on the same planet.

The farmland – and coastland of Dumfries and Galloway will be increasingly affected by climatic changes, including the rise of sea levels, as time goes on.

The coasts of Scotland advance and retreat with greater speed; the rising acidity of the seas begins to affect shellfish and those who deal in them.

As of course do our relations with the close European – and UK – neighbours who were the most obvious markets for fresh produce. And with whom the closest and most ambitious environmental co-operation makes sense. Climate knows no boundaries, either at Gretna Green or the coast.

So, always, unless those with power and influence have the boldness which voters alone should give them to act with love and justice, it will be the poorest that suffer first and most, (even though history has a habit of catching up with those who neglect these things. )

As church people, we have spent the last few decades getting very well connected – for instance with friends in the Pacific, whose homelands are already suffering directly from salt water inundation. And of course, being aware through Christian Aid and others of the number of entirely genuine refugees seeking sanctuary from the environmental and social effects of climate change. Are these human beings entitled to our help, or not?

The other difference is that these changes are -without any remaining reasonable doubt whatsoever – so let’s not waste anyone’s time at all by trying to deny it – are happening alarmingly faster due to human activity than any measurable natural processes. I hope that those in the chair will feel free to pull anyone up who would choose to insult this gathering by that sort of conscious dishonesty.

It’s also substantially different from other global crises – even world wars – in that the momentum is so colossal that even if every nation on Earth were to do the right thing in terms of adjusting their economies to be carbon neutral or even carbon positive, climate crisis will be what everyone here is living in for the rest of their lives.

The easy, crass, thoughless thing to demand is, or course, draconian legal measures to enforce what needs to happen. History doesn’t support this as an effective strategy either for governments, or those like Christian missionaries, who, lacking the clout of armed violence, have to convince and convert, rather than compel.

The best outcome of this election is a parliament and government that lives in dialogue with the people: that tells the truth about challenges, and challenges where there is a need for powerful truth.

The best outcome of this evening is that someone – with no exceptions on the platform – actually does change their mind or shift their position.

Perhaps we proceed with a minute of silence, to let the Spirit of Wisdom get in.


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