by Cat Jenkins
In the midst of a pandemic, it’s easy to forget a potentially greater danger – the ongoing climate crisis.
In 2020, the world took a hammering from weather-weirding. America battled drought and heat; California and Colorado especially were beset with thousands – literally – of wildfires, and UK blazes were up a staggering 600% since 2018.
Elsewhere, things were similarly alarming. China, Japan and Bangladesh coped with floods which, once remarkable, are increasingly the norm. As for the Antarctic and Arctic – don’t get me started….
So, whilst COVID-19 may have occupied our attention and prayers, let’s not forget climate issues. It’s striking to see how fast governments responded to one “existential” emergency, whilst remaining painfully inert to another.
One area of progress was the continued digitisation of data. Generally, creating things in digital format has a lower footprint than in analogue/physical form; it’s usually “greener” to stream movies than buy DVDs, to read e-Books than buy hardbacks. And how can it not be (ecologically) better to worship via Zoom, rather than burn fuel driving there – and more, heating draughty churches?
In theory, yes: lower environmental impacts may be a sliver of silver lining among the worries and losses of COVID19. Nonetheless, data has it impacts – did you know that you increase your carbon footprint every time you “bcc” your email or copy people in ‘for information’? And whilst we’re building and maintaining relationships via online video-tech – seeing expressions, sharing smiles – spare a thought for those with their cameras off. They may not be rude; they may have social anxiety, or a dicey connection. Alternatively, they aren't being rude; they may be managing their CO2.
A recent study from American university Purdue found that turning off the video on a call cut the carbon impact of the call by a whopping 96%. Using standard definition rather than HD also cut the ‘burn’ by up to 86%.
Perhaps churches should factor in Climate Impact into their digital strategies…
Cat Jenkins is a Director of Positive News (www.positive.news), and a member of the Editorial Team at Deep Adaptation (www.deepadaptation.info). She is a Methodist, a Committee Member of Church Action for Tax Justice (www.catj.org.uk) and a second year student on the MA Digital Theology being run at Spurgeon’s College (www.spurgeons.ac.uk). She lives in the Isle of Man.