I know I said I would read this encyclical with assiduous detail like no other since Humanae Vitae but I got to about page twenty and lost interest. I can honestly think of better ways to spend my time than in the reading of a two-hundred page document, in translation, on a subject I have almost no interest in and expounded within an ecclesiology I reject. With the Gandalfian axiom "the wise speak only of what they know" firmly in mind, however, I venture to make a few comments on the general topic of global warming, climate change and anthropogenic human activity from the perspective of one who likes to be surrounded by green. I claim no especial knowledge on the matter; just the freedom to doubt what cannot be proved and to acknowledge that science is not an infallible oracle. Please be aware that I use the terms "climate change" and "global warming" interchangeably.
To be perfectly frank, I don't know what to think about the issue or theory of "Global Warming." All my conservative instincts tell me that this is a bogus, unscientific dogma thought up by left-wing, politically correct scientists, of the kind who promote sex reassignment surgery, to coerce governments and local authorities into investing in various forms of so-called green energy, subsidising those hideous and ineffectual "wind farms," and an excuse for cut backs in basic services such as the scandal of fortnightly waste collection. These pale satanic mills, apart from being an unreliable source of energy - they clearly depend upon strong winds - are singly and collectively a waste of productivity and resources; a blight on every hill, moor and sea; and are likely to cause more harm than good in the long term by sheer expense and reliance on auxiliary energy sources. We might as well rely on millions of hamsters on running wheels! And the sheer lunacy of bowing to this possibly mistaken dogma in this way is that here we are in the United Kingdom, sitting on huge piles of coal which is an incredibly cheap energy source which we produce ourselves, and we're not allowed to burn it because of successive EU directives that claim that it contributes to global warming. I don't know how many coal-fired power stations have closed down in the last twenty years but they are closed not because they don't work but because they burn coal, which emits Carbon Dioxide, which is a greenhouse gas and therefore, putatively, contributes to global warming.
At the same time, we have a national transport system which enshrines the motor car. With one exception, I hate cars. I cannot stand them. If it were up to me the vast majority of them would be impacted, melted down, with the metal and rubber used for worthier purposes. I hate motorways too. Why is this, you ask? Well apart from the irritation at seeing at almost every major junction in London some shrine of wilted flowers and a bittersweet photograph taped to a lamppost in memory of the latest crash victim and the kind of male plumage, bolstered by Hollywood, that goes with car ownership; motor cars are ugly, wasteful, dirty, bulky, noisy, over-used and altogether unnecessary and motorways have destroyed the peace, beauty and silence of the countryside - forever. Why should one of my neighbours personally own three cars? Why is it that I can't go for a walk in the country, as is my wont in the Summer, and stand and listen to the natural sounds of Nature such as wind in the trees, water falling over stone, and birdsong, without the interruption of the distant, but never-ending roar of a dual carriageway? Ten years ago, when I was learning to drive, I remember my mother's constant nagging about getting my driving license, and owning a car. It was so important to her as to seem a rite of passage, a kind of moral litmus test of adulthood. Needless to say I don't have a driving license, and have no intention of obtaining one, and the nagging eventually waned with the years but this attitude has not disappeared and is so widespread. A few years ago I was talking to a boy who had recently come into an handsome legacy, and I asked him what he was going to do with the money when he was old enough to spend it. Without hesitation he said: "house and car." But since when did taking one's place in society entail owning a car? These are just some of the moral questions that go with car ownership but it goes deeper than that, overseas and underground.
I cannot understand why we have made our transport system so wholly dependent upon supplies of oil from one of the worst places on earth. Petroleum supplies in Saudi Arabia are notoriously controlled by crude despots whose puritanical beliefs, morals and whole way of life are not dissimilar to the world's latest, greatest enemy - "Islamic State." Our loveless league with the Saudis, which came to an especially low ebb during the 1973 energy crisis (nicely done, Lord Balfour!), has significantly altered foreign policy and has ostensibly contributed to the irrational mess of the motorway and the suburban neighbour who owns three cars. Now, I said earlier that cars are unnecessary. This is ultimately true but I do appreciate that in some of the more remote places of the world, places with which I am myself familiar such as Inishowen and parts of Cornwall, cars are useful. But I cannot see the sense in the dominance of cars in dense, highly-urbanised, intensively-farmed landscapes for which cars are not built. At what point does this just become decadence and laziness? How it it excusable for someone to drive five minutes to their local shop just to buy milk? The fierce arguments I've seen between late mothers on their way to school with the bin men spring to mind. And now that fuel is so expensive I cannot see the sense in owning a car in suburbia at all!
I don't drive. I am clearly a moral and social failure so like the elderly and the weak I am forced to use public transport; in most day-to-day routines the bus. Now rural bus services, such as I have experienced in Cornwall, are infrequent, at odd hours (in some places two a day) and likely to be cancelled at no notice. Suburban and urban services are unreliable, due to the dominance of cars, not very welcoming and extremely uncomfortable. About three years ago, Stagecoach...who has anything to say about privatization?!...rolled out a new bus model. It's called the "enviro-bus." Well anyway, this new bus, a model of global-cooling efficiency in that it runs mostly on electricity and only partially on fuel, is slow, breaks down frequently, and the seats have only the thinnest cushioning which my brother, a bus mechanic, attributes to cases of vandalism and theft. With the wisdom of experience I can tell you that those seats are not for people with piles. Clearly the designers of these red monsters think that passengers deserve shabby treatment as opposed to selfish motor car drivers with leather seats and air conditioning. And as for being good for the environment, my brother says that that may be so in the short term, but what happens when the buses need to be scrapped after a five to ten year life expectancy? Apparently the batteries contain a molotov cocktail of toxic vapours and have to be professionally disposed of in a way that diesel-fueled buses do not, at considerable expense to the tax payer. So much for due economy! And all in the worthy cause of preventing global warming. And trams, which have seen a revival in France, are scorned for being uneconomical and hindering cars!
What would I see? I would see an earnest study of the economic and environmental benefits of switching, over the next twenty years, to a public transport rail and tram based system, nationalized, powered by electricity generated by home-produced coal. That means re-opening the coal mines stupidly closed during the Thatcher years. I would see car ownership restricted to one per family, with a greatly-expanded and increased congestion charge to discourage driving in major cities. I would see more people cycling and walking to work. And would it be too much to expect trains to have dining carts and proper carriages again?! Modern trains put me in mind of those poor souls shoved into high rise concrete flats (which should all be demolished); we're not cattle!
And that brings us to light bulbs. We've all seen how ugly and useless wind turbines are; what of these new light bulbs forced on us by the European Union a few years ago? Well, for a start you pay more for them and when you get them home, you fit them, they don't work with dimmers or with some old lamps, and even a 60 watt bulb gives off a "corpse light" and no more. They don't last as long as traditional bulbs either, despite claims to the contrary. There's nothing more to really say about this other than to observe that this is yet another example of the price we pay for fanaticism, and for being stuck with a political class of inept, self-selecting Bourgeois idealogues who spend their days systematically making the country less English, less British and less Christian.
And where is the empirical evidence for Global Warming? Why should we sacrifice so much for the sake of a theory contested fiercely within the scientific community? There are so many dogmatic exponents of this theory; shouldn't they bear the burden of proof? We've all seen their unfortunate mascot: the polar bear floating on a melting ice floe, trapped beyond hope of escape as it contemplates a watery grave. What is that but a yawning maw for the credulous? We see similar propaganda in the form of television adverts of negro children emaciated in parts of Africa as a celebrity reads a carefully prepared script in a spuriously concerned, melancholy voice. It doesn't wash with me, I'm afraid. Naughty, greedy, carbonic Man! In fact, these "doomed" polar bears prove nothing. How do we know that the melting ice is not due to some other factor, like volcanic activity? Perhaps the photos were taken in the Summer time? And do people expect us to believe that polar bears can't swim?
Eminent naturalist Sir David Attenborough presents the contrary view in favour of global warming. "A disaster," in fact. It is certainly not my place, or indeed anyone's, to gainsay people in matters of their expertise but I can't personally see the connexion between hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters and general climate change. It's like the claims I've seen about some islands that are (apparently) on the verge of submersion because of rising sea levels, as a result of "man-made" climate change. Surely there are true, scientific reasons for this such as litoral erosion or general tipping of the landmass? If the sea was really rising at an alarming rate because of melting polar ice I'm sure the people of East Anglia might be on to Whitehall about it! And as for one's "carbon footprint," by far the most important greenhouse gas is water vapour and NOT Carbon Dioxide, and, albeit I am not a scientist, I was not aware that water vapour contributed to a substantial change in the global climate.
Nobody can seriously deny that climate change occurs. It is a demonstrable scientific fact, proven historically. I expect you have all read about the "frost fairs" on the River Thames in the palmy days before industrialization and the rebuilding of Old London Bridge. What fun they must have been! The Thames hasn't frozen like that since the fell Winter of 1963, and not centrally because of the power stations at Battersea and Bankside. My father vividly remembers that Winter, when snow fell in the Autumn and Spring came late and cold. He described being wrapped up at night in every coat, blanket, towel and bag that my grandmother could find! Contrast that season of death with the famous Summer of 1976. My mother had a fun time everyday at the (now demolished) Danson Park lido. My grandmother complained that the heat ruined the garden. I'm not using these two years as the stimulant for a serious argument, just as an amateur observation that climate changes even within living memory.
What is in dispute here is rather the alarmist, majoritarian and intolerant zealotry with which the climate change lobbyists present their case and whether there is any substance in their argument that climate change is caused solely by human activity. And what I resent, and I expect you do as well, is the way in which we're forced to conform our lives to this possibly mistaken dogma. One major factor in my personal dissent from the accepted view is that it undoubtedly comes from the same source as multiculturalism and aggressive secularism. One might be more inclined to believe the lobbyists if we were not also told that "gay marriage" is right and normal. So I'll stick with this. I am skeptical, naturally, but I am open to wise, fair and true remonstrance from people who know better than I. But political partisanship on the part of the scientific community seriously undermines the case for truth. As the Scripture says, we all have a responsibility for Creation (Gen. 1:28) because we are part of it; indeed our part is enhanced by our unique covenant with God. In my own small way, I try to live as "greenly" as possible without making a song and dance about it. I do not need to march with any lobbyists to feel moved by felled trees, oil spills or ravaged countryside. My views, especially about motor cars, I believe to be objectively and eternally true but I think that the answer to the many and various environmental and meteorological problems we are faced with in this post-Christian world go far beyond that, but also beyond wind turbines and light bulbs. I suppose it rests ultimately upon the question of Modernity, and how to live an authentically Christian life according to the precepts of the Gospel in a post-Industrial world in which everything is so easy. In sudore vultus tui vesceris pane, God said; and this seems to be cruel, but natural.
I can end this only lamely by advising readers to be conscious of Creation because it is our collective responsibility under God to do so. If you recycle, for example, for any other reason than your sense of God-given responsibility towards the trees, grass and water whose beauty God made in antient times then maybe you're doing it all wrong? I suppose it's just as well that I don't know either way! I don't think about this issue much except in a general way of longing for the land about me that was and bemoaning creeping suburbia, and the fortnightly rubbish collection. Only a century ago where I am seated now was farmland, and all the lands about. No more, and it will only get worse. But to such days we are doomed. May God be with us.