Green Team Reflection

28 October 2017

We have a Green Team because the environment matters. A reflection on what we can and should do for nature. By Richard Bird


The starting point for this short reflection is a question. Why do we have a Green Team at All Saints?  We’ve had one for over 10 years. But we are not required to have a Green Team. We could be doing other worthwhile things with our time. 

We have Green Team because the environment matters. It matters because it’s about God’s creation. Our beautiful planet and the huge multiplicity of life forms living on it are a wonderful gift. We have a responsibility to look after the earth and make sure it is handed on in the best possible shape to those who come after us. 

It can be helpful to see ourselves not as freehold owners of particular parcels of land but as a community of leaseholders who in due course have to hand back what we have leased to our creator God who is the true freeholder.

Our generation’s responsibility to protect the world we live in is particularly onerous – for 2 main reasons. 

First with the earth’s population having more than doubled over the last 50 years and with huge recent technological advances which enable humankind to live, build and destroy at increasing velocity we are having a much much greater impact on our planet. We hear a lot about the depletion of oil and coal and other mineral reserves but potentially even more serious is the depletion of freshwater resources, the loss of forests and the build up of plastic and other waste on land and in the oceans. It has been estimated that we are already using between 2 and 3 times more of the earth’s natural resources than what is sustainable in the long term.

Second thanks to recent scientific advances we now know much more about the consequences of our life choices on the planet and can predict what the consequences will be for those who come after us if we don’t change. This is particularly so in the field of greenhouse gases where we now understand better how the atmosphere protects us against damaging solar rays and controls the earth’s temperature, how this is affected by the build up of certain gases notably carbon dioxide and methane and the likely consequences for the planet if the emission of those gases which are increasingly the result of human activity is not limited.

Climate change and reducing our energy use and promoting forms of renewable energy may be the biggest issue around but there are other challenges too. Improving air quality is a big problem for London and other large metropolitan areas as are protecting green space and getting development appropriately sited. Internationally other important areas are protecting bio-diversity, promoting recycling and halting the pollution of our seas.

These are great challenges and if we are going to address them everyone has to get involved. We can’t just leave it to others or to governments. Everyone’s contribution however small can matter. 

So our main role in the Green Team is to make sure those managing the All Saints estate and individual members of the congregation are aware of the environmental consequences of their actions and are encouraged to act in practical ways which help sustain the planet. In doing this we are recognising that “The Earth is the Lord’s and All that therein is”. In recognition of our efforts to date we have received an EcoChurch bronze award from the C of E’s environmental charity A Rocha. But this is only the start and we are now aiming at the next level up which is the silver award.

The exhibition at the back of the church nave contains lots of ideas about how we as a congregation can live in a more sustainable way. This is all summarised in the leaflet on sustainable living How can we reduce our footprint? which the Green Team has prepared. One very topical Green Team initiative is the collection of old garden tools for restoration by inmates of Wandsworth prison so that the tools can have a new life at local schools and in community projects. 

Also on the stand is an excellent booklet produced by USPG which explains in graphic terms the effect that climate change and particularly more frequent storms and rising sea levels are having on vulnerable communities round the world. There is also a succinct summary of the latest climate change science and some helpful prayers. Please do take one of these booklets – they are a very good and important read. The message in them will be reinforced by a short video you’ll see shortly. 

Finally how should we pray about the environment which as an Eco church congregation we are strongly encouraged to do?  It is wonderful to have this opportunity today for prayer on creation and environmental concerns. There are so many potential topics but a few areas you might like to pray specially about are

- on climate change that the 2015 inter governmental agreement in Paris to bring in measures to limit temperature increase will be given full effect, including by our own Government

- that the positive moves being taken in many parts of the US to switch to renewable energy and less polluting transport will continue despite the negative approach of the Trump administration 

- that protection against the damaging effects of climate change will be strengthened particularly in poorer and more vulnerable areas of the planet

- that measures will be taken to arrest the loss of biodiversity on the planet 

- that air pollution in our cities which is such a major cause of premature deaths round the world will be properly tackled 

- that following the leadership of Pope Francis the churches will play an increasingly prominent role in encouraging good environmental practice as the Church of England  is already doing by making safeguarding the integrity of creation one of the 5 marks of mission.

- for the Church of England’s environmental charity A Rocha, and the EcoChurch programme.

- that the All Saints Green Team should continue to develop initiatives to help promote good environmental practice here at All Saints and in the local area as part of our mission.

And finally we should pray for Bishop David Atkinson and all that he does throughout the Anglican communion to highlight the theological significance of sustaining God’s creation.

This is far from an exhaustive list and you may well have other aspects of the environment you want to pray about.

Richard Bird

All Saints Green Team leader

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