Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London (right) joins James Jones, the Bishop of Liverpool, to launch the Carbon Fast. (Photo: Press Association/Tearfund)
Two of the Church of England's most senior Bishops are calling for its members to give up carbon...for Lent. Host Bruce Gellerman speaks with Paul Cook. He's with Tearfund, the Christian relief and development organization that's leading the 40-day carbon fast.
GELLERMAN: It’s Living on Earth, I’m Bruce Gellerman. Many Christians around the world are observing Lent, representing the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert, where according to the New Testament, he endured temptation by Satan through fasting and prayer.
Well today, Christians mark the liturgical season, giving alms, and traditionally make symbolic sacrifices—perhaps giving up chocolate, candy or alcohol. But in an era of global warming, two of the Church of England’s most senior Bishops want members of the faith to follow in the footsteps of Jesus—and cut their carbon footprint.
Joining us from Teddington, South West London is Paul Cook head of policy with Tearfund, a Christian relief and development organization, which is leading the Lent Carbon Fast.
Hello, Mr. Cook. You have some high authorities weighing in on your effort: the Bishop of London, the Bishop of Liverpool.
GELLERMAN: How has the flock of the faithful reacted to this?
COOK: We’ve had a very positive response. We’ve already run out of the 50,000 carbon fast booklets that we produced on renewable materials of course. And we know that millions more people have been made aware of the carbon fast through the media profiles received. I should say the reason Tearfund’s got involved in this is we are a Christian relief and development agency, and so we’re working with some of the poorest communities around the world in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. And over the last few years we’ve seen these communities being impacted by the change in climate. So climate change really hits the poorest hardest. But of course, the causes of climate change are back in the U.K. and the U.S. and other developed countries where we emit much more greenhouse gas than we should. And so, you know, this Lent the carbon fast is a great way to kind of challenge us to do something about that, to rectify some of that injustice.
GELLERMAN: So, what are some of the other 40 ways?
COOK: We’ve got a number of things lined up. As I say, there’s some basic stuff like checking your home for drafts, taking a little feather and running it along the side of your window—seeing are there are drafts there. Other things are things like insulating your roof, to make sure again that you’re using less heating. We’re getting people to replace their old light bulbs with new energy efficient light bulbs. And we estimate that if you took these actions, then you could reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of your household by up to 50 percent.
COOK: Myself and my family, we’ve been doing the carbon fast as well, so yesterday we unscrewed our light bulb, which is the first act of the carbon fast and this morning we have been checking our house to see actually are there any drafts, is there excluders that we do need to fit. So we’re looking at it in our own house, in our own lifestyle, and one of the things we’ve also been looking at is how many flights we take and where we go on holiday and whether we could be reducing that. We feel it’s really important for us, actually, if we’re calling on others to do this we need to be doing it ourselves as well. And it can be fun as well and help you to get a bit fitter, as you cycle a lot more and drive your car less.
GELLERMAN: This is a presumptuous question, but what would Jesus give up do you think?
COOK: Wow, that’s a really challenging question. I think Jesus would want to be at the forefront of seeing how he could live a much simpler and basic lifestyle. I think people sometimes wonder why are Christians getting involved in issues like the environment but as I say we look, as a Christian development agency, we see the impact that climate change is having on some of the poorest, most vulnerable communities in the world, and if there’s one clear message that comes through the Bible it’s that God loves the poor, he loves the vulnerable and the marginalized. And so I think Jesus would want to be at the forefront of making sure his actions were having a positive action on the poor, not hurting them.
GELLERMAN: I don’t mean this as a facetious question, but the beginning of Lent is Ash Wednesday, right?
GELLERMAN: You have to put ash on your forehead. That’s carbon!
COOK: (laughs) Yes, that’s a tradition I think which goes back long before the science that identified the carbon as being a major cause of human-induced climate change.
GELLERMAN: Are bishops telling priests to preach the gospel of conservation in their churches?
COOK: I think this is a message that the church is putting out in many different ways, and certainly the Bishop of London, the Bishop of Liverpool we’re doing this carbon fast with, it’s a very strong part of what they see as their mission and their calling, and it’s certainly something they’re promoting within their churches as well. So yes, I think this message is going out loud and clear from the church, that to be a Christian in the 21st century, means you must engage with this issue. And the carbon fast is one way that you can do that.
GELLERMAN: Well Mr. Cook, thank you very much.
COOK: Thank you.
GELLERMAN: Paul Cook is head of policy with Tearfund. You can find a link to their web site and more information at our web site L-O-E dot O-R-G.
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