Julia Stephenson: Green Goddess

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The Independent Online

Although this is officially the most depressing week of the year, heralded by Blue Monday, I find my blues somewhat blasted by the nation's bishops. The bishops are filling the void absented by our elected leaders, whose sole consideration seems to be a desire to be liked and a need to grin pointlessly at inappropriate moments.

I want gravitas from my leaders, not pointless grinning. None of the bishops grin much at all, which gives them a head start. Just before Christmas the Bishop of London said that it's a symptom of sin to fly. Richard Chartres, who chairs the bishops' panel on the environment, declared that contributing to climate change by flying on holiday, driving a "gas-guzzling" car or failing to use energy-saving measures in the home is sinful. He emphasised that it is a moral obligation for Christians to lead an eco-friendly lifestyle, and encouraged vicars to preach more green sermons.

Chartres said: "There is now an overriding imperative to walk more lightly upon the earth and we need to make our lifestyle decisions in that light. Making selfish choices such as flying on holiday or buying a large car are a symptom of sin. Sin ... is living a life turned in on itself where people ignore the consequences of their actions."

The Church of England is doing its bit, having just published "Treasures on Earth", a booklet on environmental matters to be sent to every diocese for distribution detailing practical ways for Christians to cut their carbon emissions.

In a recent Thought For The Day, the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, said he was going to cut back and live and eat more simply. Good for him for making a personal sacrifice, something our elected leaders show no interest in doing. For while Blair, Brown and Cameron make speeches about the dangers of global warming, they do nothing to stop its escalation. Their environmental concern is pure spin.

Aesop wrote: "He who pleases everyone pleases no one". Blair and Cameron are reaping the truth of his words with a disillusioned electorate.

Blair says that it's his and everyone else's right to fly as much as they like. Cameron makes woolly green speeches but flies to Antarctica for pointless photo ops. He flew to Edinburgh with 15 shadow cabinet members and their staff rather than take the train. Surely that would have provided a more effective photo op than the trip to Antarctica. When Tim Yeo suggested taxing domestic flights heavily and using the money to improve the railways, Cameron slapped him down. With politics inspiring disillusion and distrust, perhaps it's time to welcome a benign dictatorship of bishops. Let's replace the paucity of politicians with a blaze of bishops. Yes, the purple party has got my vote.

www.shrinkingthefootprint.cofe.anglican.org - The Church of England's national environmental campaign