The sun was shining brightly and the birds were singing as Christian Aid and CAFOD volunteers set off for the annual Humber Bridge Cross. There were many friendly faces greeting us as we passed each other walking to the Barton side. You could see for miles all around from the elevated vantage of the bridge as we made the first crossing. I think Sam the dog could sense a change was coming!
The thing about walking across the Humber Bridge is you are exposed to the elements. Grey clouds were descending as we set off again, soon turning into a heavy downpour driven by a gusty wind! Bernard was walking with the aid of two sticks when we met Margaret, who’d left her coat at home but bravely continued the first cross and lapped us on the way back to the Hessle side! For us, it was a real case of heads down into the wind and endure the torrent until it abated – we were soaked through!
As we got back to where we started, the rain stopped and the sun came back out! The other walkers had already left for home as we claimed our certificates from Teresa and Norah and bid farewell to the friendly teams in the registration tent as they packed up for another year. No doubt we’ll be back to do it all again next year!
Climate change affects our homes, our health, our heritage and our beautiful landscapes. We have already made huge progress on climate change and scientists know more than they ever have but things are urgent now.
Ten years ago, the UK Government took a global lead and passed the pioneering Climate Change Act, committing us to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. We have come a long way since then and recent research by climate scientists has stressed this is no longer enough.
We need to go further, faster. Unless we make dramatic changes, the damage caused by climate change will be irreversible. We know that to avoid the worst effects of climate change, we must limit global temperature rise to 1.5C. Going above this could multiply hunger, migration and conflict.
We are calling on the UK to reach “net zero” emissions by 2045 at the latest. This means only putting the same amount of emissions into the atmosphere as we take out. Did you know that since 1990 the UK has cut emissions by 42% while our economy has grown by two-thirds?
CAFOD hosted a recent visit by three Pacific Climate Warriors who are drawn from across the Pacific region and represent grassroots, frontline and indigenous communities. With support from around the world they build capacity among young people in their communities and abroad to respond to climate change.
Joseph said, “There is that imagery of the canary in the coalmine. The Pacific is the canary in the coalmine right now. So, we’re the first to go, if nothing happens but eventually it’s going to affect you guys too if you don’t curb these habits of consumption which is driving your addiction to fossil fuels.
We would like our parish communities to start a climate conversation by holding a Creation Celebration, a great opportunity to bring your parish and community together to act on the biggest issue of our time – climate change. We are all part of God’s creation and we are called to care for, protect and restore our common home, the earth. By organising a Creation Celebration, you will be joining a global Catholic family, campaigning for change.
I visited St
Gabriel’s parish in Ormesby and met with parish priest Canon John Lumley.
He explained that a talk last year given by CAFOD’s David Cross on the papal encyclical, Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home to the parish, had got them thinking about what they could do practically, in response to what they had heard.
“David did a great job of getting us all thinking and explaining how caring for God’s creation and stewardship of the earth is all part of our worship of God and our relationship with him.” Parishioners were also given a copy of the new environment policy which was recently published by the diocesan Justice and Peace Commission.
These became the main agenda of a parish pastoral council meeting, who identified ideas for action. Canon John said, “I hoped we would decide on three projects we could adopt but we ended up with ten!” These initiatives involved the whole parish, making people aware of ways in which they can make a difference in their own lives personally and in how they are treating the earth.
Last November the plans were put into action. These included clearing overgrown areas around the church buildings and planting a wildflower meadow, putting up bird boxes, increased recycling in the parish, using reusable glasses instead of buying plastic ones, investigating having solar panels installed on the church roof and including a monthly tip in the newsletter that people could easily adopt at home.
The children’s liturgy group got involved by constructing a home for hedgehogs and planting daffodils, while the children preparing for Holy Communion this year planted 100 snowdrops.
Margaret and Peter Carey, CAFOD parish volunteers, have been busy supporting the activities and Peter was tasked with researching having solar panels installed on the church roof. He found a company who gave them a really good price to put up a group of 14 solar panels that were compatible with the single-phase feed in of the buildings.
“The company were very helpful with getting the right forms to apply for the government scheme and worked hard to make it a simple and painless process, completing the installation in one day in February”, said Canon John adding, “We managed to install the panels discreetly on the south facing presbytery roof which means we haven’t detracted from the lovely roof line of our church”.
Fortunately, the work was completed just before the closure of a government buy back tariff scheme, meaning the parish will receive an income for the electricity it produces, as well as benefitting from reducing its own bills! The solar panels are now providing power for the presbytery, church and church hall.
Proudly he told me, “Within ten years the panels should have paid for themselves but more importantly, we will be reducing our carbon footprint throughout that period”.
I asked whether he would recommend it to other parishes and he said, “Definitely, it was a really simple process.” With all the work that has been completed and as a next step, I suggested they could think about becoming a Live Simply parish too! Canon John agreed to consider the proposal – watch this space!