The Times They Are A Changin’

“As the present now will later be past,
The order is rapidly fadin’.
And the first one now will later be last,
For the times they are a-changin'”.

From “The Times They are A Changin'” by Bob Dylan. 


I have these beautiful snapshot memories of crisp early morning car rides along gritted rural roads with shards of sunshine penetrating the densely planted bare trees either side.  This would give way to the thrill of arriving in other-worldy Scottish ski resorts ready for a day of pushing myself and being rewarded with hot chocolate, chips, aching leg muscles and sore feet.  It seemed we could go there pretty much every weekend between December and April.  24 years on and the Scottish Ski industry is barely viable.

22 years ago a report from the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development produced a document called “Our Common Future”.  It placed environmental issues firmly on the political agenda and aimed to discuss the environment and development as a single issue.

17 years ago the first Earth Summit convened and this was largely built upon “Our Common Future” and the work of the World Commission on Environment and Development.  This lead to the adoption of the Commission on Sustainable Development.

15 years ago I read “Our Common Future” and the outcome of The Earth Summit as part of a module I was studying at University.  It pressed upon me the urgency of the environmental agenda, albeit I found it hard to think of what a 20 or 50 year timeframe could look like.  I also couldn’t really see how it would fit into the career I was studying for other than in personal lifestyle choices.  Back then I thought that amounted to aspiring to buying deodorant from The Body Shop and not using CFC spray cans.

14 years ago I started my first post University job.  I would attend lunchtime Continuing Professional Development (CPD) seminars which were all firmly focused upon the key building blocks of the profession.  These tended to address mathematical models, market analysis, planning or legislative changes.  This past week alone, I spent 3.5 hours at CPD events focused specifically upon climate change despite my area of work having not altered particularly since 1995.

13 years ago someone in my church posed the question as to why we always looked for Christian equivalents to things rather than, say, joining a Greenpeace march with a banner for our church in order to make a stand and show that we want to be involved in the debate?   I think it was met with mixed responses and some concern of what we would be aligning ourselves with and whether Greenpeace was really something that all of the congregation felt comfortable being associated with.  As we now look to reorganising our congregation around missional expressions, the first suggestion is one such cluster loosely connected around social justice issues.  Surely this will incorporate environmental concerns. 

9 years ago I chose a Land Rover Freelander as a company car.  I loved having a 4×4.  It felt safe to drive in an elevated position.  I felt that it said something about our lifestyle – the ability to chuck snowboards, our bikes or a drum kit in the back.  6 years ago the Government changed the way in which company cars are taxed, essentially with part of the tax burden linked to the Co2 emissions of the car.  My annual take home pay was significantly reduced as the Freelander was a particularly bad offender.  It was enough to change my behaviour, to give up the car and swap it for a surplus company car which looked boring in comparison.  6 years on, I can’t believe I was so ignorant.

9 years ago some would say that Al Gore was elected as President of The United States of America.  George W Bush took residency in the Oval Office.  3 years ago Al Gore released a book and film entitled “An Inconvenient Truth” which has probably been one of the single most powerful resources in educating my generation and the ones above and below mine.  How different might the world have looked if the Florida seat count had been determined differently in 2000?

Last week the UK government declared that no new coal powered power stations would be built unless Carbon Capture and Storage technology is Incorporated.  This basically means collecting carbon emissions, transporting them to sea and burying them in former oil or gas fields where we have already extracted mineral resources and fossil fuels.  In a strange state of play Ministers, Environmentalists and Power Companies seems to have embraced the decision.  Greenpeace, whilst supportive, have raised various concerns about existing plants or the situation should the new technology not work.

6 years from now the first such new power stations may be operational in the UK.  These will be the first new power stations to be constructed in 30 years.  The suggested locations are the Thames Gateway, on the rivers Humber and Tees and in the Firth of Forth. They will have to be capable of burying 25% of the carbon they produce.

16 years from now any of these new power stations must be capable of burying 100% of the carbon they produce.

41 years from now the net UK carbon account for all six Kyoto greenhouse gases is to be at least 80% lower than the 1990 baseline by reference to the Climate Change Act 2008 which aims to enable the UK to become a low-carbon economy and gives ministers powers to introduce the measures necessary to achieve a range of greenhouse gas reduction targets.

The times they are a changin’.


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"The priest in the booth had a photographic memory for all he had heard. He took all of my sins and he wrote a pocket novel called "The State That I'm In"". From "The State I Am In" by Belle and Sebastian
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