WE have just entered the season of Lent, 40 days during which we prepare ourselves for the zenith of the Christian calendar, the Easter Triduum, when we remember the torturing to death of Jesus and celebrate His resurrection. I know that this season is upon us because Easter eggs and hot cross buns are on display at Tesco (as they have been for months). Of course, I also know because I go to Mass at my Catholic church.
Lent is a time when we are supposed to give something up for the duration or deprive ourselves regularly throughout to emulate the 40 days of fasting – and temptation – that Jesus endured in the wilderness. This is a time of spiritual preparation; the fasting and deprivation in themselves are only part of the preparation. Some additional spiritual exercises, principally prayer, are encouraged. So far, so good.
Then we have CAFOD (Catholic Agency For Overseas Development) – the subject of a previous article – which gets in on the act and sees Lent as a time to exploit the good intentions of Roman Catholics for political ends. Contained in the hymn book that I was handed at Mass this Sunday, along with the parish notices, was the inevitable Lenten envelope from CAFOD. I normally discard these immediately, but I glanced at the envelope this year and saw that it was advocating a Family Fast Day on March 3, the point of which is that ‘you can help families around the world to cope with the climate crisis’. Almsgiving is encouraged during Lent, and CAFOD is undoubtedly playing on that. The envelope has printed on it: ‘£10 can provide four palm trees to protect Dristy and Rupali’s land from extreme weather caused by the CLIMATE CRISIS.’
Dristy and Rupali are two ladies pictured on the envelope (see here) on their haunches doing something agricultural among plants. Their country is not specified but their dress suggests South Asia, where everyone needs our help. Precisely how four palm trees, or even four hundred, is going to protect their land from climate change is not specified, nor is which aspect of climate change is causing them a problem. Are they getting hotter, colder, flooded or hit by drought? These things are left to our imagination, and the minimalist message suggests that CAFOD knows well how it can play on the imagination, ignorance, guilt and gullibility of the average pew-filling and well-intentioned Roman Catholic.
We all know there is a climate crisis. The BBC, the Royal Family and St David of Attenborough remind us constantly. Witness the panic when temperatures reached 40 degrees Celsius in the UK last year. What used to be called ‘weather’ is now invariably referred to as ‘climate’; we are told to drink more, wear less and stay out of the sun (pretty much what sensible people do when it is hot), and the meddlers and modellers at Imperial College London return to their computers to enter garbage about changing climate and, in turn, get garbage out. Mirroring the Covid-19 pandemic, when we expected to see piles of bodies at the ends of our streets, the warm weather was supposed to put an end to many a granny if she didn’t take care and stay indoors for yet another prolonged spell.
Yes, we all know there is a ‘climate crisis’. But do we all know the extent to which we are culpable, and the extent to which it is a disputed concept? We rarely hear the other side without the perpetrator being labelled a ‘climate change denier’ (read ‘crank’). Sensible and well-informed commentators such as Bjørn Lomborg are given no opportunity to air their views or even to debate on the mainstream media. Lomborg, who is sceptical about the causes and the extent of climate change, is a credible scientist who researches his field meticulously and supports his case with hard facts, as his recent interview with Winston Marshall shows. Moreover, Lomborg is not a climate change denier, he merely questions – as do many others – the wisdom of zero-carbon policies which are costly, damaging and for which evidence of effectiveness is scanty to non-existent.
Back to Dristy and Rupali who, I am sure, have a hell of a life in a region where extreme heat, drought and then flooding have been regular features for centuries. If CAFOD could tell me honestly why they need palm trees (I imagine it is to maintain topsoil and prevent desertification) I might send them a tenner. But by both using a spurious issue to gain my attention and using Lent to push a political agenda, they have ensured that my money will go elsewhere. I would write to Pope Francis, but I’m afraid he is part of the problem.
This article appeared in Country Squire Magazine on February 28, 2023, and is republished by kind permission.