FACING THE REALITY OF A CHANGING CLIMATE WITH KATHARINE HAYHOE
In November 2017, I organised an event where more than 200 people gathered in Edinburgh to hear US climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, human ecologist Alastair McIntosh and leading mediator John Sturrock QC discuss the importance of finding hope in the climate crisis.
Amazingly, this event only came about through a chance encounter I had with two climate scientists, James Rae and Andrea Burke, who I met on a train while working on my climate talk (see below). They gave me further references to explore and praised Katharine Hayhoe’s work as a scientist and for bridging the wide, deep gap between science and many Christians in the US. During our subsequent Twitter conversation, as we went our separate ways, Katharine responded from Texas… and I offered to set up an event for her to speak in Scotland. I contacted John, knowing his skills, who very kindly offered to chair and asked Alastair to join the discussion.
As Katharine Hayhoe says, “the only reason I care about a changing climate is because it affects everything on my list of the things I care about… Figuring out how we can work together to fix this problem… because there is no hope in the science, there is no good news in the science. Where there’s hope is looking at what others are doing… the enormous strides already being made, the hope that there is for a better future for all of us… We need to understand what we can do and how we can help and how we can participate because that is what gives us hope. And we cannot move forwards without it…”
She goes on to talk about how, if we don’t have hope, then we’re paralysed by fear… and the very things we fear the most will then come about.
In the recording below you can hear Katharine delving into the issues further and talking about two myths – “I’m not that kind of person” (i.e. a climate activist).. and “it won’t really affect me as it’s a distant issue”. These two false myths make people think that the climate crisis is not important enough, is not urgent enough…. it becomes a barrier to people engaging.
Alastair talks about the Isle of Lewis as the birthplace of Donald Trump’s mother, who emigrated to America and was torn away from her community and the sense of connection to the land and the soul… Alastair posed the question, when this happened to so many, is this why so much of American conservative evangelicalism (as almost the only sector of the worldwide community of faith) is disengaged when it comes to climate change? Has their attitude affected evangelicals here in the UK? A fascinating discussion followed.
Katharine has been named by Time Magazine as one of the world’s top 100 most influential people. Her peer-reviewed work is included in UN climate reports, has been featured in the Emmy-award winning documentary, Years of Living Dangerously. She introduced Leonardo Di Caprio’s documentary film, Before the Flood, at the Whitehouse with Obama.
You can listen to the talk here:
Thanks to Tearfund, Eco-Congregation Scotland and Core Solutions for sponsoring the event. Thanks too to the Edinburgh Network of Eco-Congregation Scotland, Inke Milligan, Joanne Baker and Pete Entwistle for their help.
Finally, special thanks to James Rae and Andrea Burke, the two climate scientists we found ourselves sitting beside on a train to London in January.
In autumn 2016, we hosted dinner for friends who were also worried about climate change to see what we could all DO. Green Spot was one result… a series of 3-minute Green Spots in the service each Sunday at St James’s in Leith, our church community. Each focused on one subject and always ended with an action point, creating a sense of hope.
Green Spot 1: Liz (myself) played Elegy for the Arctic by pianist Ludovico Einaudi to set the big picture for Green Spot: the melting polar ice caps. https://climate.nasa.gov/
Green Spot 2: Gisela opened a bottle of her family’s wine from Bavaria, while talking about being careful about where we buy our food and what we buy, to sustain the earth that sustains us. You may know Gisela through her wonderful book, The Spirituality of Wine.
Green Spot 3: via Elspeth, Bridget the Badger talked from her watery burrows to highlight flooding and the threats to other creatures as a result of the climate crisis. You may know Elspeth Murray as a performance poet and puppeteer and via her work with her husband, performer Richard Medrington. Thanks to Bridget for her photo leading this piece
Liz (myself) shared a 15 minute reflection about the failure to communicate the climate crisis and the various factors at play, from my point of view as a writer.
Green Spot 4: Margaret and her young daughter shared a quiz they devised, “Here’s the answer, what’s the question?” about the progress that Scotland has made towards its climate targets, encouraging us all to switch to green energy providers e.g. Good Energy.
Green Spot 5: My husband Rupert made a green smoothie live on the communion table, complete with chaotic liquidiser and ingredients, while talking about methane, cow burps and how cutting our meat consumption is one easy, big way to help lessen the climate crisis. Rupert Smith is the poet in the theatre behind The Pit Ponies’ Penultimate Life Drawing Class.
Green Spot 6: Danielle talked about connecting the dots with other people, showing how the climate crisis directly impacts on things, people and issues we care about the most today. https://uk.whogivesacrap.org/ You may know of Danielle as a leader at Sky or through her new inspirational organisation, Somebody Inside.
Green Spot 7: Hannah led prayers for people at the frontline of the climate crisis, for the Dakota Access Pipeline protest, for charities and everyone engaged in trying to create change.
Green Spot 8: Flick and Odrhan gave us a light-hearted, dramatic piece about the fracking public consultation open until May. https://act.foe.scot/take-action-ban-fracking-now Flick worked at Friends of the Earth Scotland.
Green Spot 9: Odrhan hosted a passionate, fantastic mock debate about the levels of awareness of climate change today. Odrhan is one of the young people in St James’s.