The Diocese of Niagara has joined over a thousand governments and faith communities covering hundreds of millions of citizens around the world in declaring a climate emergency. The move happened on day two of the 2019 Diocesan Synod, back in early November.
The declaration of a climate emergency is meant to mobilize immediate action, drawing attention to the fact more must be done to avert a climate catastrophe. Although momentum has been growing for years as communities of all sorts and sizes increasingly make these declarations, the movement really picked up in 2019, partly in response to what has become known as the, “Greta Effect.”
Ever since Greta Thunberg, a teenaged activist, addressed the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference, student strikes and other actions have been taking place every week somewhere in the world and being attributed to Greta’s inspiration. Even Bishop Susan Bell was compelled to draw on the “Greta Effect,” when she released her statement on the climate crisis in response to Climate Action Week at the conclusion of 2019’s Season of Creation.
“I cannot help but respond to the urgency that is being expressed in the climate strikes, inspired by Greta Thunberg, happening around the world this week, including here in our own diocese,” wrote Bishop Bell.
As of mid-December there were 1,261 climate emergency declarations made in 25 countries covering 798 million citizens. Anglicans around the world have been part of action groups helping to make this movement mainstream. Canada became the 8th nation to declare a climate emergency on June 17, 2019.
The second part of the motion was asking Synod to phase out single-use plastics by 2022. This portion of the discussion became very interesting in a positive way. While there was an amendment requested to the motion, it was to ban single use plastics sooner than 2022. Along with Rev. Leslie Gerlofs and Sue Carson, we spent a long time on the stage of the Lincoln Alexander Centre, while the only scrutinized vote of the entire synod was held.
The amendment failed. One of the reasons we had given the time span of two years was to allow industry time to catch up to these new ways of living without plastic. For example, coffee cups are still largely refuse and not recyclable because they haven’t perfected one that keeps the heat without the use of a plastic layer in that cardboard.
The strength of the diocese making the climate emergency declaration and plastics ban was shown at a City of Hamilton council meeting in December. I spoke on behalf of Bishop Bell in response to a staff report identifying the proposed action plan after the city declared a climate emergency in 2019.
We were one of the more than 20 delegations presenting. While most of the delegations affirmed the city for taking some action, we also noted the report as deficient in targets and goals to measure proposed action. This was at the heart of the statement I prepared which also included references to Bishop Bell’s official statement (available at niagaraanglican.ca) on the climate crisis. Parts of that statement along with our recent synod motions to similarly declare a climate emergency and ban single-use plastic by 2022, formed the basis of the presentation.
While the Synod begins to enact the phasing out and eventual ban on single-use plastics, individual parishes are being asked to respond to the climate crisis in a similar way. A vestry motion has been composed for parishes to consider during the 2020 Vestry meetings across the diocese.
If passed, parish leaders would be required to take the following action:
a) assess use of single-use plastics, including rigid foam, for parish ministries, and take immediate steps to reduce the purchasing of these products;
b) commit to diminish the purchase of single use plastics, including rigid foam, and end the practice completely by the beginning of 2022;
c) arrange education for parishioners about the use of alternatives to single-use plastics in their homes; and
d) report progress on the reduction of single-use plastic to the diocesan Program Consultant for Justice and Outreach each year in September.
Members of Greening Niagara’s steering committee are available to help parishes take the required action on this vestry motion. In October we held a “Purging Plastics” workshop led by Rev. Dawn Davis, and we hope to do more of that in this new year. Please connect with me if you have any questions or suggestions.
May 2020 bring us the tenacity modelled by Greta Thunberg and so many others to make the changes we need to reduce our carbon footprint wherever we tread.
Deirdre Pike is Program Consultant for Justice and Outreach. To be more connected to the work in this ministry register for her semi-regular JUSTnews communication.