Stephen Pennells's Letter

Helen, Siblings, Children, Grands and future generations if there be any, together with friends in South Africa,,

I apologise for typing what should be a personal letter but this is written obliquely to you and to the PM and Leader of the Opposition as part of a project called “Letters to tomorrow”.

The elder ones amongst you will know that I am very concerned about the state we are already in and making worse. Our environment is changing from that I enjoyed as a child and climate likewise- though in the weather UK it is aways - I remember the winter of 63, sliding on the ice of the dew ponds in Knole a few years later, the Cam being iced over when Rose was a baby in 81/2 and summer of 76 when I saw stand-pipes being tested in Accrington on my way to see Helen.

In consequence of this I am mentally preparing to take up Civil Disobedience as so many evenings of letter writing and days of campaigning seem not to have sufficient effect in getting wilfully myopic politicians promote selfish short term policies and complacent ones challenge them effectively. I’m sorry if this causes you any problems; please don’t worry about me.

I could go on and on about how nice it was as a boy in Sevenoaks with craneflies in my bedroom or in Zululand in the 80’s, but one’s personal experiences are rose tinted. More striking however are the thoughts of the world you face with ecocide wiping out species, disrupting food webs and the change to the physical and visible landscape due to increased weathering as plants die.

As currently 68 I may well be dead by 2030 and not see the worst aspects of the crash as they unfold. But whilst Helen and I may be cutting our emissions radically over the winter by minimising our use of fuel and I’m already getting obsessive about turning things off, the reality is that as consumers in the Global North, we are disproportionately responsible for this mess. Not only in our travelling (though perhaps I’ve taken my last flight, coaches don’t run on moonbeams, and we still use a car) but through our lives (including using this computer) we are responsible. I’m sorry for this.

Please consider what you can do where you are here and now for any future generations. “Exceptionalism” and pointing to others is a feeble buck-passing. My parents’ generation didn’t and couldn’t indulge themselves in this when facing the existential threat of Nazism and the threat you face is much more profound. As has been said with reference to the new government’s “economic growth” agenda: “There are no jobs on a dead planet”.

In my youth I loved the cosy (monocultural) world epitomised by the English song tradition, both hymns and folk. I still do. You are growing in a different and alien to me world. In the next few decades it will become alien to your youth as well as nations have to migrate from uninhabitable regions. Receiving peoples must welcome them likewise unless they are to lose their humanity and moral integrity.

We can’t push “Climate Justice” issues to the side or “back burner”. If we do not radically change now our and your future will be nasty, deprived, and short. It is my hope and prayer that our society wakes up from its sleep. To (mis)apply the words of Eph. 5:14:
Ἔγειρε, ὁ καθεύδων, καὶ ἀνάστα ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν, καὶ ἐπιφαύσει σοι ὁ χριστός. (Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light., A.V.)”

And this must be done not just in terms of our own emissions and lifestyle, but also in ensuring e v e r y o n e has a fair cut- our “growth” cannot be made at the expense of others- indeed we need to contract so that others can simply live.

This is a big task, so I leave you with another scripture- Jn. 11:16: “...Ἄγωμεν καὶ ἡμεῖς ἵνα ἀποθάνωμεν μετ' αὐτοῦ”. This seems to me to be a clear call in the early church which I hold as a personal vocation. You can’t life the life we are called to in a time of change simply sitting on your backside.

I’ll stop now. We know what to do. Let’s do it.

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