People should use the climate change
crisis as an opportunity to become human again, setting aside the
addictive and self-destructive behaviour that has damaged their souls,
the Archbishop of Canterbury said today.
Dr Rowan Williams,
head of the Church of England and leader of the worldwide Anglican
communion, told an audience at Southwark Cathedral that people had
allowed themselves to become "addicted to fantasies about prosperity
and growth, dreams of wealth without risk and profit without cost".
The consequences of such a lifestyle meant the human soul was "one of the foremost casualties of environmental degradation".
changes, such as setting up carbon reduction action groups, would help
them reconnect with the world in addition to repairing some of the
damage to the planet, because it was too much to expect the state to
provide all the solutions.
"Many of the things which have moved
us towards ecological disaster have been distortions of who and what we
are and their overall effect has been to isolate us from the reality
we're part of. Our response to this crisis needs to be, in the most
basic sense, a reality check."
Williams added: "We need to keep
up pressure on national governments; there are questions only they can
answer about the investment of national resources. We need equally to
keep up pressure on ourselves and to learn how to work better as civic
In the lecture, sponsored by the Christian environmental
group Operation Noah, Williams outlined a Christian response to the
"When we believe in transformation at the local
and personal level, we are laying the sure foundations for change at
the national and international level.
"If I ask what's the point
of my undertaking a modest amount of recycling my rubbish or scaling
down my air travel, the answer is not that this will unquestionably
save the world within six months, but in the first place it's a step
towards liberation from a cycle of behaviour that is keeping me, indeed
most of us, in a dangerous state - dangerous, that is, to our human
dignity and self-respect."
In a message to heads of state
attending the Copenhagen summit, Williams said leaders had to create a
"suitably serious plan" for the speedy implementation of protocols on
"We have had unexpected signs that the east
Asian countries are readier than we might have imagined to put pressure
on the economies of the US and Europe. The idea that fast-developing
economies are totally wedded to environmental indifference because of
the urgency of bringing their populations out of poverty no longer
seems quite an obvious truth."
Earlier this year Williams said
that God was not a "safety net" that would guarantee a happy ending and
that human pillaging of the world's resources meant the planet was
facing a "whole range of doomsday prospects" that exceeded the results
of global warming.
Humanity faced being "choked, drowned or
starved" by its own stupidity, he said, and he compared those who
challenged the reality of climate change to the courtiers who flattered
King Canute, until he proved he could not command the waves by going to
the seashore and trying to do so. "Rhetoric, as King Canute
demonstrated, does not turn back rising waters," said Williams in a
lecture in March.
Tonight's remarks came days after research
suggested that Britons had little appetite for shrinking their carbon
footprint by reducing the number of flights they took.
from Loughborough University, showed that the vast majority of the
public would rather cut energy use at home than go without flying for a
year. While 88% of participants in the Propensity to Fly survey said
they were willing or very willing to "reduce how much energy I use in
my home throughout the year" only 26% said the same when asked if they
would "not fly in the next 12 months".