Bishop John Arnold Calls for Urgent Action on Climate Change, including a Move to More Plant Based Diets

Bishop John Arnold

By Bishop John Arnold

Last week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a special report on the expected impacts of an increase in 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, with an urgent call to action.

The report is clear that we are seeing the consequences of a warming world (having already increased 1°C), resulting in more extreme weather, rising sea levels, diminishing sea ice and the loss of coral reefs, among other changes. In his encyclical Laudato Si’, Pope Francis laments that our Mother Earth “now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her (2).”

Pope Francis reminds us in Laudato Si’: “Climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all (23).” We have a duty to recognise the need for changes in lifestyle, production and consumption. I’m proud to say that 20 Catholic Dioceses in England and Wales have already made the switch to green energy, that 45 Live Simply Awards have now been presented, and that we recently launched a new film-based resource called Global Healing to help parishes, groups and individuals respond to the damage being done to our planet.

According to the IPCC “unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” are required if we are to keep warming below 1.5°C, and that this change can go “hand in hand with ensuring a more sustainable and equitable society.”

In 2015 the ‘Paris Agreement’ brought world nations together in agreement that we need to keep the global average temperature rise to well below 2°C and endeavour to keep it below 1.5°C. The IPCC report explores the impacts of both scenarios, and it is clear that the difference between the two is substantial. For example, by 2100 we would have 10cm higher sea level rise at 2°C than 1.5°C. Small Island Developing States are the most vulnerable to these effects, despite being amongst the least to blame for climate change, with a very real danger that whole communities will be displaced. Coral reefs are expected to decline by 70-90% if we limit warming to 1.5°C, but virtually disappear if we reach 2°C. According to the World Wildlife Fund, more than 450 million people live within 60 kilometres of coral reefs, with the majority directly or indirectly deriving food and income from them. This human impact is deeply concerning.

Another major report published last week looks at the impact of food production as a major driver of climate change. It shows we cannot ignore the need to move to more plant based diets if we are going to meet emissions targets, alongside a reduction in food waste and some changes in farming practices. A 2013 report on food waste showed that globally we produce about 4 billion metric tonnes of food a year, but that between 30-50% of this never reaches a human stomach. They suggest that in developed countries, 30-50% of food is thrown away by the purchaser. In July, Pope Francis encouraged us to think about these habits. “I am thinking about the many hungry people and how much leftover food we throw away (…) I will give you some advice: speak to your grandparents who lived through the post war period and ask them what they did with the leftovers. Never throw away leftover food (…) This is a piece of advice and also an examination of conscience: what do we do with leftovers at home?”

Pope Francis emphasises that we cannot rely on technology to resolve the issue. We must accept that the problem we face is both social and environmental. To try and fix it without accepting that we need a change in heart and lifestyle, to become ‘ecologically converted,’ is to avoid dealing with the underlying causes. Just because we buy green energy does not mean we can use as much as we want! “A person who could afford to spend and consume more but regularly uses less heating and wears warmer clothes, shows the kind of convictions and attitudes which help to protect the environment (Laudato Si’, 211).”

I highly recommend reading at least summaries of the reports mentioned here and continuing to engage in this very important topic so as to be better able to hear the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.

Key references
The Global Healing film resource can be found here
Laudato Si’ – On the Care for our Common Home is the Pope’s Encyclical Letter on the environment and human ecology.

More information on Live Simply parishes can be found here:
The IPCC report can be found here, and many useful summaries are available online.
The 2013 food waste report can be found here
The food production report can be found here or a summary here

CCA Ecumenical Animal Welfare Retreat 2018

Retreat Group Photo 2

The 2018 CCA Ecumenical Retreat was held at Hinsley Hall in Leeds from Monday 10th to Thursday 13th September. As well as masses and thoughtful liturgies and prayers which focused on the animal creation, there were a number thought-provoking speakers. Dr Deborah Jones spoke about ‘Faith Food’ explaining what foods people of different faiths ate and the reasons for their preferences. Dr Clara Mancini spoke about her work at the Open University with animals as co-designers, where researchers are using a new ethics for working with animals when designing technology that animals have to interface with, to encourage the animals they work with to tell them what their preferences are. This is a game-changing breakthrough in ethics in animal research. Clara also gave this talk at the Norwich Conference and it is the subject of her article in this edition of The Ark. Dr Richard Ryder spoke about advocacy, speciesism and painism, a talk also presented at the Norwich Conference and the subject of his article in this edition. Barbara Gardner spoke about The Animal Interfaith Alliance (AIA) and its work with Animal Advocacy and the Law, particularly the ground-breaking work of the Nonhuman Rights Project that AIA is supporting, where animal lawyer, Prof. Steve Wise takes cases to court in the US to argue for the recognition of legal personhood for chimpanzees, elephants and whales in law and to give them the right of freedom. This was the subject of a talk that I gave at the Animal Law Conference in Berlin in the summer and is reported on in the autumn 2018 edition of Animal Spirit.

The guest speakers were Fr Denis Keating who spoke about his experiences as a Roman Catholic priest and Sue Malcolm, founder of Friends of Baxter Animal Care who spoke about her new organisation which provides Reiki healing to animals.

Prayers were held in the morning and evening and were led by Ken Kearsey, John and Wendy Brayshaw, Judy Gibbons and Wanda Oberman and Fr Denis Keating who also held the masses. A wonderfully uplifting event was the Musings, Meditations and Music, designed and led by Irene Casey. Finally everyone made merry at the Musical Interlude on the last day.

The Retreat was, as always, a spiritually uplifting and refreshing and re-energising event. When, in one session, we went around the room asking people why they came to the Retreat, most people agreed that they often felt isolated, as people who were concerned about animal suffering, in their home communities and they needed the comradeship of like-minded people. This comradeship was certainly found here. With that comradeship and the ability to share in some wonderful vegan catering provided by the staff of Hinsley Hall, we all left refreshed and renewed.