Would you drive over this bridge?

Guest post by Green Christian member, Edward Gildea

Photo by Felix Berger on Unsplash

In May the World Meteorological Organisation forecast that global temperatures will most probably exceed the 1.5°C limit of warming set by the Paris Agreement within the next five years. This was supposed to be the decade in which we turned things around, but we are still accelerating in the wrong direction.

Years of international scientific research and political debate went into setting that safety guardrail, beyond which the chance of uncontrollable environmental catastrophe increases enormously.

It is easy to pick holes in any of the arguments and strategies around our climate and environmental crises. There are no silver bullets. Almost everything has a carbon footprint attached to it; it is just a case of finding ways to reduce those emissions as quickly as possible.

Of course nothing is certain about the future. Nothing can be proved about it. We can’t grab evidence from the future. We have to depend on what thousands of scientists are attempting to predict and model.

So imagine this: You are driving a car with your partner and children or grandchildren securely seat-belted into your air-bag protected car, when you are stopped at a road block by the bridge you need to cross. The police officer advises you that there is a 1% chance of the bridge collapsing into the ravine below if you cross it. The alternative is a 100 mile detour to the next bridge. This would mean that you would miss the special family occasion you had planned for the day.

Would you cross the bridge? You’ve got a 99% chance of surviving and enjoying your day out…  I wouldn’t, but maybe you would put your foot hard down on the gas and risk it?

Now imagine the same road-block and the officer saying that the bridge has a more than 50% chance of collapsing as you cross. I can’t imagine any sane person taking that risk, yet we are putting our children at far greater danger by our current lifestyles.

Some people would solve the problem by getting into their private jet. Others would say that their car is so small and light it wouldn’t bring the bridge down. These two forms of exceptionalism are serious barriers to action. Some celebrities, politicians and entrepreneurs regard themselves as exceptional because they are so wealthy and important. They feel entitled to their private jets and frequent holidays; it is for the rest of the world to make the difference because their disproportionate impact is still a small percentage of the whole.

Others are exceptional out of humility rather than arrogance. “I am not wealthy, I only fly occasionally and changing my lifestyle won’t make any difference to the planet.” And they are right. All the tiny things I do won’t make a difference either. But I don’t see that as an excuse for doing nothing. We all need to tread more lightly on the planet, with no exceptions!

So even if you have not been persuaded by my articles in this blog over the last year, do give a thought to that bridge and the precautionary principle!

Edward Gildea

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.


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Author: Ruth Jarman | Date: 2 June, 2023 | Category: Church Magazine Climate Emergency | Comments: 0


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