Time for Reflection

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at on 18 June 2013.

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Jon Cape (Fair Trade Stirling and Central Scotland InterFaith):

Please close your eyes. Imagine that you are in bright sunlight. In front of you floats a beautiful bubble, glimmering in the sun. You put out your finger to touch it, but the bubble bursts. Now wake up.

Last month, for the first time in human history, carbon dioxide in our atmosphere passed 400 parts per million. Climate change is for real and climate is just one of nine factors where we are pushing up against planetary boundaries. We need a game changer.

In his seminal book simply called “Collapse”, the author Jared Diamond outlines the stories of many societies that have faced huge environmental challenges. He examines their responses and distils the success factors, looking at which societies survived and which collapsed. What did the survivors have in common? Two big things. First, societies that survived saw the problem early enough and planned ahead, before the challenge became overwhelming. Secondly, they shifted their values to be in tune with their new environment.

All of those environmental challenges were local to one society or to just a few societies. For the first time, the challenge is global. For the first time, it affects all human societies and all other species on earth.

Let us reflect on that. On the first point, on planning, Scotland has led the United Kingdom and the world by setting a tough statutory framework for carbon emission reduction by 2050. The United Nations Durban talks followed that lead. If they stick, the world will follow Scotland in setting climate change targets that have legal force. Scotland still faces challenges in meeting its targets, as does the UN in setting its, but let us celebrate Scotland’s lead.

Can Scotland now rise to the challenge of leadership in responding to the second success factor? How do our values need to change? Big moral and economic values such as climate justice—where Scotland has taken a lead—and everyday values too, such as what the media industry calls news values. Wasn’t climate change just a big story some five years ago?

Is there scope to deepen the dialogue between Scotland’s Parliament, our faith communities and our other opinion formers—the dialogue on values for a vulnerable world? At the UN, Ban Ki-moon has called for just such a dialogue, to

“make sustainability the rallying point for action in the 21st century”.

Let us do that in Scotland. It is time to reflect and time to act. Together, let us keep that bubble safe, before it bursts. So be it. Amen.