Leeds University made headlines last week with its controversial report into climate change and the measures required to mitigate this, notably recommending food and fuel rationing. To gauge public opinion, TCWDF sent our roving reporter to Scunthorpe to see what the locals were saying and thinking. Here is his report:
WITH a population of more than 84,000, Scunthorpe is a typical industrial town in Lincolnshire. Scunthorpe United is a well-supported football team for which Ray Clemence and Kevin Keegan played in the 70s. While unemployment and social deprivation are never far from the surface, the residents are optimistic about the future.
I head over to talk with the Reverend Jonathan Coirmat, the go-ahead vicar of St Godfrey’s, a small yet well-attended parish church five miles from the town centre. As a community leader he is well placed to channel public opinion. I start by asking him about his parishioners and their views on climate change in the light of the Leeds University report.
‘Firstly, may I simply take issue with your use of the phrase “climate change”; it is a climate emergency and, make no mistake, it is a clear and present danger that humankind is facing. I am fortunate to have in my expanding congregation a group of worshippers who seek not only spiritual guidance via the church, but also guidance on pressing social issues. Yes, God is important, but nowadays much more of my and my flock’s time is taken up with more urgent matters, such as the climate, and our activities reflect this.
‘Last week, for instance, we had a wonderful and uplifting Black Lives Matter service in church followed by a trans toddlers’ awareness session in the adjacent hall. This busy week was capped off with a tea and cake fundraiser for Ukraine and a climate study group.
‘Ours is a diverse multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, muti-cultural, multi-vitamin and multi-grained congregation and that is where our strength lies. The Leeds University report was a long overdue wake-up call to humankind that the planet is dying: without immediate action we will all be drowned by catastrophic flooding.
‘Rationing fuel seems like a perfectly sensible idea to me and one that I know my congregation would wholeheartedly embrace. Why should people feel free to drive where and when they want? It is simply anti-social and damaging; the same goes for meat. For far too long people have felt it acceptable to go and buy some rashers of bacon or possibly half a dozen sausages without a thought to the damage their activities are doing to the planet. What is wrong with rationing meat? If only more people were aware of their carbon footprint, the world would be a better place.’
I ask Dr Coirmat if holidays should also be restricted to minimise the harm caused to the climate.
‘Of course, of course. Whilst the Old and New Testament have numerous reports of people travelling between countries, they didn’t have Boeing 747s!’ (He laughs loudly.) ‘Seriously though, we should have a restriction if not an outright prohibition on anyone leaving their neighbourhood simply for pleasure, but especially on those inconsiderate individuals who seek to gratify themselves by having a fortnight in the sun at the expense of Gaia’s wellbeing.
‘As a church we support wholeheartedly the introduction of Climate Card Allowances which allocate each person a set number of carbon credits which they are free to use as they see fit. Someone might, for example, spend a half year’s credits on a two-day break in Grimsby; alternatively they might use the credits on a small cooked chicken. The individual is entirely responsible for how they enjoy themselves, and I think that can only be a good thing.
‘Put simply, if we could only turn the clock back to the 18th century, we would all be in a better place.’
I leave our encounter with mixed emotions. Clearly, this man of the cloth is a passionate advocate for change, change that he feels sure will lead to a happier and more satisfied society. As I board the train back to London, I cannot shake off the feeling that not all of the country feels quite as passionately as the go-ahead vicar of St Godfrey’s.