Published on 19 November 2019
Church goer, Christian Aid supporter and campaigner, Ken Pattison, reflects on why he’s pushing for climate justice and asks what we can do as citizens and communities to bring about change.
I’d never been on a demonstration until I was 50 years old. Since then I’ve attended the Jubilee ‘Drop the Debt’ demonstration in Birmingham in 1998, anti-poverty marches in Cologne and Genoa and ‘Make Poverty History’ in Edinburgh in 2005, not to mention several lobbies of parliament.
Each of these moments were large peaceful demonstrations by people of all ages. I was there because Christian Aid was there, along with other like-minded organisations such as Oxfam, Tearfund, Cafod, War on Want, Save the Children and others. Lots of people, like me, were church members including many church leaders (some even sporting their dog collars).
Over the years the emphasis has broadened beyond debt to issues such as fairtrade, tax evasion and latterly, climate change. Like debt, these are all issues that maintain poverty for millions around the world. The idea behind all these campaigns has been to show to the governments of richer countries, including our own, that these issues are important to the people they represent and that these governments should act accordingly.
There has been some progress, but there is still much to do.
That’s why I was more than prepared to accept an invitation from Christian Aid to attend the ‘Time is Now’ lobby of parliament to talk to MPs about climate change in June this year. I contacted my MP, Darren Jones, in advance and asked him to meet me and others from my constituency in Westminster. I discovered there would be 20 of us lobbying Darren and that I would know at least one other person there.
It was a relatively easy task as Darren was well briefed and sympathetic on the issue and offered to meet people locally on the issue of climate change as well as on Lambeth Bridge at the Mass Lobby. I think that most MPs are impressed when their constituents take the trouble to 'beard them in their den'.
I was impressed yet again by how accessible our MPs are to the general public. Long may that be so. We all know of many countries where this is not the case.
I believe we need to address climate change urgently. But I do have a car, (a hybrid, for what that’s worth) although I try to use public transport or walk or cycle when I can. I eat less meat than I’ve ever done, and I have had a provider of “green” electricity for many years. I try to avoid single use plastic, although it’s very difficult! I do use planes when going abroad.
So, I’m a hypocrite. I’m also a sinner, as we all are.
But I do try to do what I can, and I do believe that if we all do what we can, that it can add up to something substantial. I can also remember, as many of us will, when I lived in a non-centrally heated house with both coal and electric fires. The electricity was probably generated by coal, with a cooker running on coal gas from the local gas works.
Things can change, and they need to for the world, my grandchildren and for those already living in poverty.
So what will we do to bring this change? As individuals, as citizens, as a community, as a church?