Whatever happened in the Boat Race?

Guest post by Green Christian member, Edward Gildea

Image by Peyman Parsa from Pixabay

Traditions are an important part of any culture and one tiny part of our national identity is the throwing in of the victorious coxes at the end of the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Races. They were particularly dramatic races this year, but neither the cox of the women’s race nor the men’s was thrown in. Why? Because levels of E. coli were far too dangerous and several crew members had suffered from sickness before the race. In 16 tests around Hammersmith Bridge there were an average of almost 3,000 E. coli units in each 100ml of water. Ten times higher than the level graded as “poor”!

This is symbolic. Symbolic of a deeply damaged relationship between humans and nature; humans and God’s creation.

Christianity is not alone in the religions of the world in attaching profound importance to water: Moses striking the rock for water to supply the Israelites in the desert; the baptismal water of Jordan; the water used by Christ to wash his disciples’ feet; the water that flowed from His side alongside His blood, which we now mix with communion wine.

Water is about cleansing, purification, spiritual healing, life and rebirth. When we send rockets to the moon or distant planets of Jupiter, the search for water is often at the heart of the mission. It is fundamental to our existence.

So what has happened to make our rivers and beaches so dangerous? I remember when the water boards were being privatised in 1989, I decided not to buy any shares. Apart from some ethical scruples I thought, “Our water and sewage infrastructure is largely Victorian. It has done brilliantly but is now a liability. It will cost a fortune to replace. How will shareholders ever make a profit?” How incredibly naïve of me!

Taxpayers generously wiped out all existing debts so the new companies could start with a clean sheet. Since then, shareholders have taken £57 billion in dividends while at the same time running up debts of £60 billion. Last year, when the Environment Agency reported half a million discharges of raw sewage into our rivers, averaging 3 billion litres a day, the companies blamed the rain. We have all witnessed increased rainfall and flooding as a consequence of climate change, but this has been widely known for 25 years and predicted by scientists for far longer. There has been ample time to prepare.

The issue is deeper than politics. It is about the mismatch between the care we should show for nature and God’s creation and the fundamental trajectory of capitalism. The prime objective of capital is to make profit. Massive profits have indeed been made, whether of water or oil – but at great expense!

Timothy was profoundly accurate when he wrote: “The love of money is the root of all evil.” Somehow, if we want to live in harmony with nature and build a future for humanity, we will need to take the greed out of capitalism. That is going to take a great deal of prayer!

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.


Author: Ruth Jarman | Date: 1 April, 2024 | Category: Climate Emergency Opinion | Comments: 1

Comments on "Whatever happened in the Boat Race?"

Colin McCulloch:

April 1, 2024

Good comments! And Oxford lost both races! (I admit to bias...) Would that it were so in the field of economics and government policy, where free-market 'neoliberalism' is the overwhelming approach taught to Oxford graduates, who occupy the leading roles in both the current and the prospective next UK governments.

Add your own comment to "Whatever happened in the Boat Race?"

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.