These are real complaints received by Thomas Cook the travel agents:
“On my holiday to Goa in India, I was disgusted to find that almost every restaurant served curry. I don’t like spicy food.”
“They should not allow topless sunbathing on the beach. It was very distracting for my husband who just wanted to relax.”
“The beach was too sandy. We had to clean everything when we returned to our room.”
“We found the sand was not like the sand in the brochure. Your brochure shows the sand as white but it was more yellow.”
“No-one told us there would be fish in the water. The children were scared.”
“Although the brochure said that there was a fully equipped kitchen, there was no egg-slicer in the drawers.”
“I think it should be explained in the brochure that the local convenience store does not sell proper biscuits like custard creams or ginger nuts.”
“The roads were uneven and bumpy, so we could not read the local guide book during the bus ride to the resort. Because of this, we were unaware of many things that would have made our holiday more fun.”
“It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England. It took the Americans only three hours to get home. This seems unfair.”
“I compared the size of our one-bedroom suite to our friends’ three-bedroom and ours was significantly smaller.”
“The brochure stated: ‘No hairdressers at the resort.’ We’re trainee hairdressers and we think they knew and made us wait longer for service.”
“When we were in Spain, there were too many Spanish people there. The receptionist spoke Spanish, the food was Spanish. No one told us that there would be so many foreigners.”
“I was bitten by a mosquito. The brochure did not mention mosquitoes.”
“My fiancée and I requested twin-beds when we booked, but instead we were placed in a room with a king bed. We now hold you responsible and want to be re-reimbursed for the fact that I became pregnant. This would not have happened if you had put us in the room that we booked.”
We are an ungrateful lot! Most of us would once have been happy just to get a foreign holiday, but now we are not satisfied with that. It has to be more.
I want to talk to you today about the biggest threat to world security of our times, and I don’t mean the Trump. I’m talking about a threat that affects every occupant of this planet, from the Arctic to the Sahara, from Carlisle to London. That threat is the unprecedented change of our climate caused by human activity.
Now you may be tempted to think that firstly this is not a subject for church, and secondly it is not that serious for us, or perhaps not even proven. So let’s examine those ideas, in case they are here.
- It’s not a subject for church? Why not? The New York Times carried this report in 2014:
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations group that periodically summarizes climate science, concluded that ice caps are melting, sea ice in the Arctic is collapsing, water supplies are coming under stress, heat waves and heavy rains are intensifying, coral reefs are dying, and fish and many other creatures are migrating toward the poles or in some cases going extinct.
The oceans are rising at a pace that threatens coastal communities and are becoming more acidic as they absorb some of the carbon dioxide given off by cars and power plants, which is killing some creatures or stunting their growth, the report found.
It continues: “Throughout the 21st century, climate-change impacts are projected to slow down economic growth, make poverty reduction more difficult, further erode food security, and prolong existing and create new poverty traps, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging hot spots of hunger,” the report declared.
The report also cited the possibility of violent conflict over land, water or other resources, to which climate change might contribute indirectly “by exacerbating well-established drivers of these conflicts such as poverty and economic shocks.”
And in case you think that this report is produced by some fringe lefty group, this same group was awarded the Nobel prize in 2007, for its work on climate change. So that is their conclusion: climate change is going to make it harder to eliminate poverty, make wars more likely, and make more species extinct. Poverty, war and avoidable death – aren’t these the things that we pray about every Sunday in church? Why not talk about the cause?
But you may say, the cause is human greed. Yes, of course, and ignorance. Greed and ignorance drive climate change. It is not a natural phenomenon. It is caused by greedy, ignorant people.
But what does the bible have to say about this? Of course, the bible has much to say about poverty, war and death, but the science of climate change is something more recent. Nonetheless, a reading like today’s from Matt 5.13-20 has ramifications in this respect.
“You are the salt of the earth”, says Jesus, “but if salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?” I used to think Jesus was talking about table salt, NaCl, which of course cannot stop being salty. But then I read that the word can also mean saltpeter, a form of fertiliser, which can lose its efficacy. The active ingredient can leach away, so that it becomes useless, inert, barren, and unable to act as fertiliser. Like soil that has been overused it has no life in it. It is useless. The link with climate change is clear enough, as deserts expand due to deforestation and lack of rainfall. But that is not the main point of the analogy.
Jesus says that his followers should be like fertiliser, or in the next verse, like a light on a stand or a city on a hill. In other words they should speak out, shine out and stand out. They should stand up for what they believe to be true. They should infect society. They should make it fruitful again. They should turn the wastelands and deserts into fields, both metaphorically and literally. It’s not an optional extra for Christians to get involved in politics and feeding the hungry. It is their raison d’être. Our raison d’être.
But maybe you think I have sold out the spiritual meaning of the Gospel to a social gospel. You may think that what I am spouting is just worldly wisdom, not the wisdom of God. Isn’t this what St Paul talks about in our other reading?
I think not. Worldly wisdom is self serving cleverness, like when somebody finds some reason to question to scientific consensus just because they want to make money from fossil fuels or let themselves off the hook for taking that holiday in Goa. Worldly wisdom is when we use our intellect to avoid our moral responsibility, when we justify short term gains and long term losses. It is worldly, not because the world is bad or science is not to be trusted, but because it is too human, too individualistic, too narrow, too selfish. Whereas the cross of Jesus is the opposite: divine, universal and selfless.
So that brings me onto the other point: perhaps we ignore climate change because we think it won’t affect us here in North Hampshire – after all, who wouldn’t like a few hotter summers? We wouldn’t need to fly to Goa if we had Goa-like temperatures here, would we?
Tell that to the residents of Carlisle, who last year were flooded out of their homes by unprecedented rainfall. Say that to the residents of London and most other big cities, who are more likely to die by air pollution than we are here – but how many of us work in the big smoke? Tell that to the residents of Kent, who are only too aware of the numbers of people trying to reach this country due to violence or economic failure. Imagine if that trickle became a flood, as it would if climate change displaced millions.
We might joke about a warmer July (although wetter is more likely) but in fact climate change is no joke, and is already perhaps responsible for some of the global insecurity that we are witnessing.
So what are we to do? You’ve probably already changed your light-bulbs for low energy ones. And if not, why not?
Here are some ideas from David Suzuki, a climate change activist in Canada:
- Get involved
Take a few minutes to contact your political representatives and the media to tell them you want immediate action on climate change. Remind them that reducing greenhouse gas emissions will also build healthier communities, spur economic innovation and create new jobs. And next time you’re at the polls, vote for politicians who support effective climate policies.
- Be energy efficient
Unplug computers, TVs and other electronics when not in use. Wash clothes in cold or warm (not hot) water. Dryers are energy hogs, so hang dry when you can. Install a programmable thermostat. Look for the Energy Star® label when buying new appliances. And a home energy audit is cheaper than you think — book one today to find even more ways to save energy.
- Choose renewable power
Ask your utility to switch your account to clean, renewable power, such as from wind farms. If it doesn’t offer this option yet, ask it to.
- Eat wisely
Buy organic and locally grown foods. Avoid processed items. Grow some of your own food. And eat low on the food chain — at least one meat-free meal a day — since 18 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions come from meat and dairy production. Food writer Michael Pollan sums it up best: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
- Trim your waste
Garbage buried in landfills produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Keep stuff out of landfills by composting kitchen scraps and garden trimmings, and recycling paper, plastic, metal and glass. Let store managers and manufacturers know you want products with minimal or recyclable packaging.
- Let polluters pay
Carbon taxes make polluting activities more expensive and green solutions more affordable, allowing energy-efficient businesses and households to save money. They are one of the most effective ways to reduce the country’s climate impact. If your country doesn’t have a carbon tax, ask your prime minister and MP to implement one.
- Fly less
Air travel leaves behind a huge carbon footprint. Before you book your next airline ticket, consider greener options such as buses or trains, or try holidaying closer to home. You can also stay in touch with people by videoconferencing, which saves time as well as travel and accommodation costs.
- Get informed
Follow the latest news about climate change. Join our community.
- Green your commute
Transportation causes about 25 per cent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, so walk, cycle or take transit whenever you can. You’ll save money and get into better shape! If you can’t go car-free, try carpooling or car sharing, and use the smallest, most fuel-efficient vehicle possible.
There is a great biblical word for what he proposes, it’s called repentance – changing our lifestyle.