Summer is with us at last and, as I write, and after a very wet few weeks, Europe is in the grip of a heatwave, with Catalonia experiencing its worst wildfires in 20 years and France today hitting its highest recorded temperature of 45.8ºC. Given that I tend to lose the will to live at about half that temperature, it sounds unbearable to me. And it’s clearly dangerous. A heatwave in 2003, which peaked about a degree below today’s temperature, resulted in thousands of deaths. Even if this period of extremely hot weather is short-lived, I fully intend to take the French Health Minister, Agnès Buzyn’s advice very seriously: I most certainly will not be jogging in the middle of the day. Or at any other time.
Of course, jokes aside, whenever we experience extreme weather events, the subject of climate change will usually be raised. Experts tell us that linking a single event to global warming is complicated and that some such events occur naturally. They also repeatedly tell us that they will happen more often because of climate change. I’m no scientist but the evidence appears to be overwhelming and ignoring it seems to me to be an act of folly. It also suggests that we’re not taking seriously enough the “stewards of creation” role that humanity is gifted with by God in Genesis.
Whatever we believe about climate change, the fact that we need to live more sustainably is surely incontrovertible. I don’t know if you saw any of the recent War on Plastic with Hugh and Anita series on BBC One. I caught the second episode and found it absolutely frightening. I was already aware that plastic can take up to 1000 years to decompose but I had never fully appreciated the scale of the problem. So for example, I was horrified to discover that 85% of each wipe (baby, facial, cleansing, etc., etc.) is plastic, whatever claim is made on the packet. Over the years with young children, we’ve used thousands of these things and yet they are clogging up our drains and oceans and/or producing landfill that we’re struggling to deal with. I will never buy another one. I was also disturbed to learn that we’re breathing in particles from synthetic clothing - plastic - all the time and that, every time we wash synthetic clothes, particles of plastic enter the water cycle, ultimately polluting species that may well end up on our plates. Lovely huh?
Sadly, there isn’t an easy solution for this one. Years ago now, we bought a book called A good life: the guide to ethical living by Leo Hickman. Reading it was (and is) a deeply unnerving experience. Covering such things as food and drink, the way we use energy and water in the home and garden, how we choose to travel, our personal health and hygiene, the clothes we wear, the investments we make and so on, the reader is continually shown how his or her choices affect the world around them and, with it, some of the world’s poorest people.
The information it contains is now as old as our eldest daughter but I doubt that much has changed. Did you know that driving an SUV instead of a 'normal' car wastes more energy than leaving your fridge door open for 6 years, or a television switched on for 28 years; that over Christmas as much as 83 square km of wrapping paper will be thrown in the bin – enough to cover an area the size of Guernsey? Or that 20,000 litres of water is needed to produce just one t-shirt?
So what’s it to be - a plastic shedding synthetic item of clothing or a drought-causing cotton one?
Watching programmes like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Anita Rani’s or reading books like Leo Hickman’s is very much like eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (again in Genesis). Even the smallest bite and you feel pretty exposed. But at least, with this knowledge comes the opportunity of making informed decisions and hopefully better choices.
If we could all challenge ourselves to at least considering such matters when we shop and maybe if we could all commit ourselves to making one small change in our lifestyle choices in order to make them more sustainable, perhaps then our enjoyment of the summer won’t have to cost the earth.
With every blessing,