Greenbelt 2016: three cheers for the challengers and pioneers


In our third blog post from Greenbelt 2016, Josh Evans reflects on the conversations from the weekend.

Josh Evans.

This weekend we’ve been asking Greenbelters to join us in asking the Church of England to divest – to take its funds out of fossil fuels and put them into alternative sources of energy – and I am exhausted!

As we talk to people about energy, it also takes energy to greet people with energy and to two particular groups I’d like to say a big THANK YOU!

To the pioneers:

Thank you for everything that you are doing. Whether you are a pioneer in a church that doesn’t feel receptive, a small green blip on the map of your local area, or even now witness to a flourishing of sustainability in your area, we salute you – especially those of you who have pledged to go back and become Bright Now Champions in your church.

Many of you have been visiting us this weekend and sharing stories that encourage us in the work we are doing. One example made very real to me is meeting one festival goer living in Cumbria who experienced four episodes of flooding in a matter of weeks.

We’ve heard about people softly treading the first steps in their communities, right up to one person who has been part of planting nearly two thousand trees, promoting environmental education and setting up the first wind turbines locally.

Keep. It. Up. You are an inspiration and the sharp edge of God’s advancing Kingdom. Let’s push on now and see a world where people ask “Is the church invested in fossil fuels?”, and with gusto we reply “Of course not: it’s the church!”

The Operation Noah stand at Greenbelt 2016.

To the challengers:

You probers, question-askers and inquisitors are the bedrock that stops this movement folding into the sand on which it could otherwise have been built. Like many before you, you have been asking this weekend “Is this really the most effective approach?”,  “What exactly is the impact you’re aiming to have?” and saying “I need to go away and think about this before I sign up to anything”.

It’s just this sort of pragmatism – and pursuit of the best solutions to the problems that really matter – that is behind the incredibly successful divestment campaigns globally along with Bright Now.

A lot of people I’ve been speaking to have been surprised to hear that the Church of England is invested in ExxonMobil, which has infamously been covering up the evidence on climate change for decades. Exxon has rejected every single resolution on climate change since 1990.

We don’t have time to plod slowly on with an industry that accepts business as usual while continuing to invest heavily in extracting oil and gas in ever more difficult locations – fossil fuels that need to stay in the ground. The Chief Executive of Shell recently said that if the shift to renewables was too fast, they would go out of business.

But fast is exactly what we need, and divestment is the method that is delivering change. It has already led to the end of the Keystone XL pipeline, as well as Norway’s $900bn Sovereign Wealth Fund being taken out of coal.
Such divestment sends a signal more powerful than words alone. It says: “The future is here. The future is zero carbon”.

So to the challengers, thank you for the journey so far and thank you for the journey to come.

Kind regards,

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Josh Evans

Josh Evans was an Operation Noah volunteer at Greenbelt and a Pilgrimage2Paris walker.