Church of England Diocese of Birmingham St. Alban and St. Patrick, Highgate

July Letter

1 Jul 2021, midnight
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In my last letter I wrote about the Pollock brothers and their concern for the living conditions of the people of Highgate in the 19th Century. Today we would say that some of those bad conditions were caused by pollution. I would like to think a bit more about that in this letter.

Global warming was not a problem that the Pollock brothers would have known about. The study of climate change was in its infancy. In 1837 Louis Agassiz had put forward his proposal that the Earth had been subjected to ice ages. The Serbian mathematician and geophysicist Milutin Milankovitch was born in 1879, but was yet to produce his work that related long term climate change to the Earth’s orbit. In 1847 Joseph Fourier wrote, "The establishment and progress of human societies, the action of natural forces, can notably change, and in vast regions, the state of the surface, the distribution of water and the great movements of the air. Such effects are able to make to vary, in the course of many centuries, the average degree of heat; because the analytic expressions contain coefficients relating to the state of the surface and which greatly influence the temperature. However, it was not until the mid 20th century that the effect of burning fossil fuels on the Earth’s temperature started to become a concern. In the 1980’s climate scientists came to a consensus that our human activity was causing global warming. Today nearly all scientists believe global warming is a massive problem and needs to be addressed urgently. We can’t know what the Pollock brothers would have made of the issues of global warming and pollution if they had today’s scientific knowledge. I think they would have been active in trying to do something and would recognise that concern about the environment is a continuation of their mission in the 19 Century.

The Diocesan Synod adopted the resolution that the Diocese of Birmingham should have net zero carbon emissions by 2030. So, what are we doing at St Alban’s church?

We are replacing all the easily accessible lighting in the church with LEDs or low energy bulbs. The quality of LEDs has improved dramatically since the lighting in church was renewed and it is now possible to get dimmable LED lights. Chris has recently replaced some of the lighting in church with LEDs and it is impossible to tell which bulbs have been replaced. The higher up spotlights will be more difficult to replace because they are not so easily accessible.

The contracts for electricity and gas supply are due for renewal and we have replaced the existing contracts with ones that provide 100% electricity and 50% of the gas from renewable sources.

Global warming is not the only environmental issue that we can tackle in our church. We can also manage the land round our church for wildlife. Some grass does need to be kept short but in other places we can leave cutting the grass until late August or September. This will allow wild flowers to grow and the grass and flowers will provide food for birds and insects. We can also plant or replace shrubs with native species that are better for wildlife.

Let us go forward to working for a better environment and let’s celebrate our work.

#environment