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CEL home > Resources > May 2007


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Cynicism is our worst enemy

Some comments on the 2007 Reith Lectures by Audrey Bryant of Polruan, Cornwall.

Audrey Bryant was one of the founder members of Christian Ecology Link and served for many years on Steerring Committee. This article was originally written in June 2007 for the 'green column' of the Lanteglos Parish News (Cornwall)

1. Not a Spectator Sport!

      I made time to listen to this year's Reith Lectures* with difficulty but was glad I did. They were full of hope for our future but Jeffrey Sachs was not saying we can wait hopefully on the sidelines and see how things turn out; he said this was "not a spectator sport".

Sachs is an economist and was UN Secretary General and advisor to Kofi Annan. He is the author of the bestseller, ' The End of Poverty' , and Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University .

He underlined three priorities for our action:

  1. the environment,
  2. preventing war and
  3. the needs of the poor,

and he said very clearly, "There is a role for everybody and every community!"

He quoted Robert Kennedy; "Each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others or strikes out against an injustice, he sends forward a tiny ripple of hope and .. those ripples build up a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls," (think of the fall of the Berlin Wall).

Jeffrey Sachs said that if we undertake or support small-scale projects, these can be expanded and scaled-up to solve global problems and he gave several examples; his own is durable bed-nets for Africa to end the appalling death-toll from malaria. We have one on our doorstep, the thrilling Shelterbox achievement in responding to disasters as far away as Indonesia and Pakistan

  2.  His first priority is the environment

      His first priority is the environment and Sachs said action is cheaper than inaction, as Sir Nicholas Stern (our own economist) has advised; it is another way of saying, 'prevention is better than cure.'

If we ourselves, as Polruan people and as British citizens leave the small things that cause climate change to others, it will be very costly for all of us later on, maybe too costly.

Shrug our shoulders and leave it to someone else - to whom? Our young ones?

Sachs said that cynicism is our worst enemy today. Cynicism can often sound very sophisticated and grown-up but I know it is deadly to faith and cynicism can kill hope and even love. Cynicism about 'green issues' will not let us off the hook. No wonder Jesus said, "Whoever is a cause of stumbling to one of these little ones who have faith in me, it would be better for him to have a millstone hung round his neck and be drowned in the depth of the sea!" ( NEB , Matt 18:6) Cynicism is quite foreign to a child's outlook and we know we must not destroy the faith and hope of our children in their futures, they need all the love and support we can give them.

3. There is a lot we can do

      Of course there is a lot we can do. If we have money, ethical investment (as Malcolm Dodd said in the last issue), support for local 'green' initiatives, regular gifts to good charities so they can plan ahead, equipping schools for environmental projects and even making our own homes as 'carbon neutral' as possible and then showing others what can be done, are all possibilities that will spread ripples of hope.

If we have no money to spare, we can save the environment and money - and petrol, electricity, gas, water, clothes, holidays and a lot of other things by sharing, repairing, re-using, recycling in the ways that our grandmothers took for granted. Lisa Jardine (Radio 4) said her son looked up from his book and asked her, "What's darning a sock, Mother?" She commented that there are lots of things our children just don't know - those three Rs for instance. It made me smile but I realised that she had a point!

Audrey Bryant.

THe Reith Lectures can be read and listened to on Radio 4 website

If you would like to use this article in your parish magazine, that is fine but please credit the author

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Copyright ©   2012 Audrey Bryant and Christian Ecology Link
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