It is an ancient Mariner…

Guest post by Green Christian member, Edward Gildea

In my constituency, we have re-elected our Conservative MP. It was never going to be me, but I stood as a candidate anyway to try to raise some sense of urgency about the climate crisis which is generally studiously ignored, and even more so by the media during this General Election campaign.

A few weeks ago, after giving my usual talk on Adventure, Activism and the Climate Crisis at a retirement home in Bury St Edmunds, an octogenarian asked me, “What hope is there?”

It is the toughest question I ever face, because I have so little of it left. I started by replying: “It depends on what you are hoping for.”

If you are hoping that climate crisis will go away, then I can assure you it won’t.

If you think that technology will enable us to continue business as usual, then I’m afraid that is a false hope too. There is great technology out there, but the levels of investment to get it scaled up in time won’t happen without political leadership.

And if you are hoping that it will all be over when we reach net zero (which we are not remotely on track to do by 2050) the fact is that net zero is just the start of the race your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren will have to run to start getting the CO2 out of the atmosphere, which will over decades and centuries start to cool the oceans.

My heart breaks when I see classes of young school children in their smart uniforms on the streets being shepherded by their teachers.

There is a better, fairer, more just and harmonious world out there, but we need the courage to choose it. An economy that works in harmony with nature. Where people don’t build their wealth out of other people’s poverty.

I am often accused of being unrealistic. But I know it is not possible to negotiate with storms, wildfires, droughts, floods and extreme weather events. Getting us out of this mess is going to be incredibly difficult, but let’s start by distinguishing between the realism of the basic laws of the universe and the complexities of human-made constructs and start addressing the ways in which our economies and financial systems need to change.

Nature recovers quickly, but only once we’ve stopped abusing it.

Sailing around the world in the Clipper Round the World yacht race, I experienced a profound, visceral connection with the energies of our small, overheated and deeply polluted planet. In the Arctic last summer, having witnessed the melting of icebergs and helming through waves thrown up by intense storms from Florida, my beard growing longer by the day, I began to see myself as The Ancient Mariner.

You will remember how he stops the wedding guest and “holds him with his glittering eye”. He has his tale of humanity’s abuse of nature, symbolised in the albatross, and the price he and his crewmates had to pay as a result. Like him I have a terrible truth to tell that nobody wants to hear.

The mariner found redemption when he blessed the watersnakes, seeing beauty in the lowliest and ugliest of God’s creatures:

O Happy living things! No tongue
Their beauty might declare:
A spring of love gushed from my heart
And I blessed them unaware;
Sure my kind saint took pity on me,
And I blessed them unaware.

I fear it will not be until we learn respect for the microbes in our soil and the phytoplankton in our seas, the creature at the bottom of our food chains, that humanity will find redemption.

So far humanity’s greed, arrogance and selfishness have determined our course. Until that changes, I will play the Ancient Mariner, telling my inconvenient truth to whomever will listen.

Edward Gildea writes magazine articles for his local church, St Mary’s, Saffron Walden in north west Essex, each month. He has kindly given permission to anyone to re-edit for your own parish newsletters. Please credit him and his church website.

If the grief and sadness described here chimes with you, do have a look at our Borrowed Time project, which has an online course starting in the Autumn.



Author: Ruth Jarman | Date: 5 July, 2024 | Category: Climate Emergency Opinion | Comments: 0

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