It’s too easy NOT to be bothered about making a stand for what you believe in, or to be or live the changes that you want to see. I wondered whether I could really be bothered to give up a day, to go to London and join in with thousands of other climate change lobbyists when I knew that my MP was not going to see me and, frankly, I had such a lot of other things to do. But I went - and it was a fabulous day, for so many reasons.
It is thought that climate sceptics within the Vatican leaked the details, albeit sketchy, of Pope Francis’s Encyclical because they wanted to mitigate the impact of the paper. Bad luck! Here in the UK you certainly did us a favour with George Monbiot writing an excellent piece in the Guardian about why the concern of faith groups for the environment has real roots and is likely to last longer and make more progress than those campaigning for the planet on purely environmental grounds. It was a great read on the train to #ForTheLoveOf in London.
Mr Monbiot buoyed my spirits along with the fabulous news that FareShareUK had organised a conference for that day, looking at minimising waste, and making good food available to all. Most if not all of the major food retailers were involved along with the British Retail Consortium and produce companies, and there seemed to be real energy coming out of that meeting. Illuminating speeches were delivered by heads of companies such as Nestlé, talking about the power of change and what they have achieved to date. Many climate lobbyists might well ask Can a leopard change its spots? but it will be revised and improved working practices from just such multi-national giants as Nestlé that have the biggest mitigation impact on the environment. Some might argue that if you have caused the damage you should lead the clean-up. Sceptics might say it is all for PR gain. Faith-based groups should welcome such moves as an answer to prayer - but keep up the pressure for action. Farmers, internationally, need to ensure that they don’t foot the bill for the public relations and corporate social responsibility gains that could be made from being involved in this initiative. Scientists must keep developing ways of getting more yield from smaller amounts of land. YES! Why don’t we all collaborate and work together?!
Back to #ForThe LoveOf. I attended the ecumenical serve in the Emmanuel Centre in Marsham Street (what a fabulous building) led by my friend the eco-theologian Dr Ruth Valerio, Theological Director of ARochaUK. Packed out, the atmosphere was great and the Bishop of Salisbury, who leads for the Church of England on climate change, was an excellent speaker. Not his words, but the phrase “The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment” have stuck in my mind - and brought my thinking back to George Monbiot’s article. Then it was off to find our area mustering point, all very well ordered and organised by region on either bank of the Thames between Westminster and Lambeth Bridges. This was when we met up with groups like Surfers Against Sewage, Greenpeace, the WI and Friends of the Earth, and released just how far people had come for the day with all parts of the UK represented.
MP’s were deep in conversation with their constituents along the river and plenty more groups were hurrying to Westminster to meet there with MPs (“we are being taken to tea/being given a tour of the Palace” was frequently heard). This inspired Ruth, myself and 4 fellow lobbyists from Chichester to green card our MP. This involved going into Central Lobby in the Palace of Westminster (our placard and a panda on a stick were ‘looked after’ as possibly offensive weapons while we were inside) and filling in a form asking to see our MP. If the MP is in the building they should at least respond to you by ‘phone - which is what eventually happened to us. Not the best result, but Mr Tyrie knows that we cared enough to get that far in our attempts to see him.
I did not stay for the evening events but, walking back to Victoria Station, was humbled by talking to many people in their 70’s and 80’s who had travelled from Oxford and Wales to be at the event. What Troupers!
I felt that I was part of a democracy - albeit flawed - and was so pleased that I had made the effort to attend #ForTheLoveOf. Now the newspaper reports begin and they are favourable towards the numbers and wonderful atmosphere of the day. I shall be reading the Papal Encyclical and am delighted to be picking up pieces from it now on Twitter: “There is an intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet”; “There is a need to seek other ways of understanding the economy and progress”; “The throwaway culture of today calls for a new lifestyle” and “The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all”. I shall read and digest as I know millions of others, of faith and no faith, will too. Will you read it, Mr Tyrie?