Being Human – Session Three
Being Human – Session Three
In this session, looking at week three of Advent, we will use the third line of the hymn Sleepers Wake to discuss the state of climate change today. Features an interview with Professor Julian Allwood.

In this session looking at week three of Advent we will use the third line of the hymn Sleepers Wake, written below, to frame a discussion about the situation we are facing in terms of climate change and the environment.

Come forth, ye virgins wise:
The Bridegroom comes, arise!

Watch the video below featuring an interview with Professor Julian Allwood.  Julian Allwood is Professor of Engineering and the Environment at the University of Cambridge. He worked for 10 years for Alcoa, prior to developing an academic career, initially at Imperial College, and from 2000 in Cambridge. In parallel with developing new manufacturing technologies for metals, he has built up a research group looking at environmental systems and production.

Watch the Video

From the Book – page 72

The most frequently used measurement of a country’s prosperity is gross domestic product (GDP). Per capita the UK ranks as one of the largest and most prosperous economies in the world. Ask whether we are the happiest society and we do much less well. Economic prosperity, it transpires, is not all that matters.

Study Notes

The book, on Tuesday of the third week, talks about ‘the richest of poor men’ and ask the questions, what is a good life? What makes us fulfilled and, in the deepest sense, happy? From a Christian perspective using the economy as a measure of wellbeing is not the best way. From a political perspective there is some use to the measure, in terms of setting a level of minimum requirements for survival, then a safety net to catch those who fall below. In the UK we have seen growth in the divide between the rich and poor even as the economy has grown. We have seen the rich get really, really rich but most people have not got substantially richer. This highlights how we must use something other than the economy to signify wellbeing.

In terms of reducing our carbon footprint we must focus on areas of the economy that we can grow. Julian uses the example of insulating houses, as a growth industry, that will have big impact on our carbon footprint. There are new technologies that can help us with this problem. The question is scalability – we are trying to change something that will affect emissions from all of us on Earth, not just one person, or one country. Things that can make a big difference, for example, a nuclear power station, take time and many hoops to jump through before even being built (thankfully). We need to be confident from a health and safety perspective where and when such things are built and operated. On the other hand, there are things that we could change quickly, for example, buying smaller cars, could have a big impact on emissions. We can utilise the technology we have now but just in a different way to help combat some of the issues of climate change. We can’t, however, wait for these magical new technologies to answer the problem of the climate crisis – we must act now with what technology we have.

We do have a problem and we must want to be part of the solution with a hopeful attitude. We can’t, however, have false hope – currently, we are consistently not acting because so many voices are telling us that the solution will come later; this is not sowing hope but rather denial. Hope is acting now; with things we can do now. The church can help send the right message to people now. In our churches, or in different social organisations and communities can we be the voice to help to sway decisions that benefit the climate campaign.

Helpful practical things we, as households, can do now are:
1) Giving up eating ruminants and dairy
2) Giving up fossil aeroplane flights
3) Changing your car to an electric car
4) Changing from a fossil boiler to an electric heat pump

From the Book – page 80

The problems of climate change and the environment do not have national boundaries. Even with a strong sense of individual and national moral purpose, we need a collective international effort to combat global problems. It is difficult to achieve this level of integration and co-operation. We are organized in nation states – geographical areas with their own histories, identities, and political organization. We learn to love everywhere by first loving somewhere. Devotion to our own country, patriotism, is good when it teaches us to love our neighbours as ourselves. Sometimes rivalries develop that spill over into conflict. We know from bitter experience how costly this is. Of course, it is better for us and for the planet when people live and work together.

Discussion Points

  1. What struck you from the material this week?
  2. What does it take for you to be happy? How do you feel personal happiness relates to the purpose of life?
  3. What would it mean for you and for others to have enough?