Below, “Psychic News” Editor, Tony Ortzen, interviews Spiritualists’ National Union President, Minister, David R. Bruton on Climate Change
Union tackles hot topic of climate change
One of the various pressing problems world leaders discussed at the G7 conference last month in Cornwall was climate change.
In this special interview with “Psychic News,” Minister David R. Bruton, President of the Spiritualists’ National Union (SNU), describes the part it is playing in helping to halt a worldwide environmental catastrophe.
First, David makes some opening remarks. Further points put to him appear in italics.
THE Spiritualists’ National Union has designated 2021 as the Year of the Environment.
It is clear that all parts of humanity need to act now if we are to secure the future of our planet for the generations which will follow us.
Our faith communities have to step up and take part, encouraging their congregations to engage with the greater whole.
As a major religion, we need to work to inform our communities, so they in turn can take positive action both at a church and individual level to change the way we live.
The clock is ticking. The fundamental changes we need to make cannot be delayed any longer. Spiritualists well recognise their personal responsibility to be part of the process of change to help bring benefit to everyone.
Recently the union posted online how trees at Stansted Hall, which houses the Arthur Findlay College, are benefitting the environment. Can you tell readers something about this?
In the grounds of our headquarters at Stansted Hall, Essex, the trees on the estate alone offset 18.5 cubic tonnes of CO2 each year and generate enough oxygen for almost 2,000 people.Many of the trees are both historic and iconic, inspiring a respect for nature in so many people who visit. Arthur Findlay purchased the Stansted Hall estate back in 1924 as his retirement home. One of the major factors in his decision to move from Glasgow to Essex was the fine collection of trees on the estate, which was designed in the 17th century by the renowned landscape designer Humphrey Repton.
Inside our buildings, economy and ecology go hand in hand to preserve resources and limit our impact on the environment.
The Arthur Findlay College is set in acres of grounds. Have you thought about creating a wild flower meadow, which would not only please the human eye, but also attract pollinating insects like bees and butterflies, and help nature generally?
Yes, over the years we have scattered wildflower seeds throughout the meadows and woodlands, and continue to do so.
We have many varieties of flora and fauna on the estate including red clover, primroses, wild thyme, field scabious, honeysuckle, meadow vetchling, buttercups, alder and buckthorn as well as lots of other meadow and wildflowers to attract butterflies and pollinating insects.
We also have a substantial amount of lavender planted around the grounds and are pleased to report that we have a healthy amount of bees which both nest and regularly visit our gardens.
In addition, we often regularly see tiger moths, stag beetles and an abundance of various butterflies of all colours. We allow nettles to grow to protect their eggs and give shelter.
This shows that UK wildlife thrives in our grounds and is equally welcome, abundant and happy to be here.
We have also scattered wildflower seeds in the British Legion meadow which leads to the SNU’s memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.
This provides a stunning environment for pollinating insects and human visitors alike.
Are there any plans to reinstate the organic vegetable garden outside Redwoods, the union’s HQ?
The garden is still used to grow fruit, which is used at the college. We established a project some twelve years ago to use the garden to grow fresh vegetables again on the estate very much as the Findlay family had throughout the war years.
After initial trials, the scheme was withdrawn because it was simply not economically effective.
However, the College Committee keeps all aspects of the college’s operations under review. Just because something has failed in the past does not necessarily mean it will not work in the future.
Does the hall try and order locally sourced produce for guests to eat and choose those which are grown in the UK rather than transported from mainland Europe and other parts of the world?
Always. We use organic and locally sourced produce wherever we can. In addition, the market garden offers us apples, peaches, pears, figs and summer fruits that we pick and serve to our students.
Our main supplier is just seven miles from the hall. Vegetables and salads are supplied from the local village shop, which sources its produce mainly from the UK and local farms.
Earlier this year, the UK’s Committee on Climate Change suggested that people should eat much less beef, lamb and dairy products.
This always causes a snigger, but it’s no laughing matter that the beef and dairy cattle industry is one of the main contributors to global greenhouse gasses.
In fact, livestock generates more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transport sector, such as cars, trains, ships and planes.
Will the college start offering more vegan dishes and actively encourage guests, tutors and staff to choose this option?
The answer is a firm “Yes!” The college manager and chefs have been working on vegan recipes for some time, aiming to balance nutrition with tasty options where you do not even notice that a meal does not contain meat, fish or dairy.
The college manager has switched to a vegan diet in order to cook, test, balance, explore and see for herself the health benefits of a vegan lifestyle.
Based on first-hand knowledge and experience, we are able to offer our students a much wider variety of vegan options that will entice and benefit them to embrace this healthier, responsible and compassionate way of eating.
Meat-free days are promoted to encourage our students to reflect on the link between our plate and our planet.
Whilst some are very hesitant to convert, we agree that there is an increasing number of people who are steering towards veganism for benefits to health, the environment and to prevent animal exploitation.
Veganism is a sustainable option to look after the planet. There are so many health benefits to live this way. We feel that eventually it is going to be understood and embraced as the norm.
Sadly, vegans and vegetarians are few in number within Spiritualism. Isn’t it time that more Spiritualists put the planet before their palate and adopted a vegan or vegetarian diet?
For everyone, Spiritualist or not, we know that the move towards a plant-based diet is a powerful and increasingly accessible way to reduce our environmental impact. It’s something we can all do.
Spiritualists might also look to our teachings for support and confirmation, in particular those of Silver Birch, who advocated compassion towards animals. We can express our spiritual understanding through our consumption.
Reducing our reliance on animal agriculture and moving towards plant-based and vegan lifestyles can be part of an ecological and spiritual journey, and bring greater balance and compassion into the world.
Is leftover food at the hall collected by the local council and turned into compost?
Essex Council collects all of our food waste. It is sent to an anaerobic plant that produces a biogas to generate electricity and creates a rich soil which farmers use for their fields.
Does the hall recycle as much as possible?The local council also collects our recyclable waste for recycling paper, cardboard, glass, cans, plastic and more.The hall manages its own garden waste; nothing is burned. We compost and shred garden waste, which all goes back into the garden and grounds.We operate safe disposal for other waste such as oil and paints in conjunction with our nominated suppliers and the local council.
Does the hall use cleaning products which do not harm the environment?
In one simple word “Yes.” We carry out risk assessments on our products annually and are forever looking for and switching to environmentally friendly solutions and balance products versus efficiency.
In addition, the hall receives its chemicals in large containers and decants them into smaller containers, recycling the bottles, so we help avoid a tonne of plastic pollution.
Whatever we can do to make the world a greener place is fine by us. We recognise the need to do our bit and make it happen.
Would it be feasible to install solar panels at the hall? If the roof isn’t an option, what about panels somewhere on the estate?
Sadly, previous applications to add solar panels onto our roof and into our meadows have been refused, as we are an historic building with many planning restrictions.However, as laws change, we will pursue applications, as it would be both cost effective as well as an environmental success.
Is the hall centrally heated? If so, is the method currently used kind to the environment?
Yes. We have both gas and electric heating systems. We are currently exploring new ways of supplying heating to the hall.
This includes looking at converting our current heating systems to ground source heat pumps, pellet biomass heating systems, solar energy and many other options.
Our research is ongoing. We will do what can for the environment wherever possible.
Are the many windows at the hall double glazed?
No. Due to the listed nature of our building, the college has the original sash windows.
Previous applications and discussions with the local planning office were rejected. In addition, the hall simply does not have the funds to replace all of its 365 windows.
However, when funds permit, this remains firmly on the agenda. As requirements for energy efficiency are becoming more of a requirement, then perhaps more owners of conservation properties like us may be granted permission to adapt their buildings to make them more energy efficient.
At some point in the future, will the hall have power points for electric cars?
We already have some students with electric cars. Naturally, we allow them to charge their cars at the college, but as most of our students arrive from overseas, there is not a big demand as yet.
In the last year of trading before the pandemic hit, there were only three instances of students using these power points. However, as the demand rises, we will of course adapt to be ahead of the curve and a demand for this facility.
To churches. The union has published “Caring for the Environment – a checklist for churches.” What are its main points?
This publication was issued a little over three years ago and provided a simple checklist for church committees to highlight a range of issues they needed to consider with a view to making their church more environmentally friendly for the future.
It demonstrated how by making some simple changes, the church and its community could make a difference which long-term would have wider benefits for the community and the environment. Examples of some of the questions for churches to address were:· Are light fittings throughout fitted with energy saving bulbs?· Is your boiler serviced annually?· Is roof insulation fitted? Are the toilet cisterns fitted with double flush systems?· Have you considered investing in solar panels?
Is one problem finance? For instance, many churches simply cannot afford double glazing or their buildings are not suitable for cavity wall insulation due to their age and construction.
We hope that our Year of the Environment will encourage churches to look at their buildings and see what can be done to make them more environmentally friendly.
As part of this year’s initiative, the union is providing grants to its churches up to the value of £2,000 per church on a matched funding basis provided the grant is used for environmentally friendly projects like double glazing, a new boiler or solar panels.
People often say, “But what can I do?” How can the average Spiritualist play a meaningful part in his or her daily life to help halt climate change?
With over seven billion people on this planet, if we all make a small change in our consumption and lifestyle this will have a large collective impact on the whole.
Individually, we can all make a difference either by changing our diet to reduce the consumption of meat products and work to conserve water. Taking a shower rather than having a bath can make a big difference and save water.
Then there’s looking at the way we travel and choosing public transport or walking short distances if we are able to.
All these small efforts will help to reduce the effects of climate change on our planet.
We have just launched a regular online gathering to explore social justice issues from a Spiritualist perspective. These are the types of areas that participants are exploring and acting on.
Without being overly political, would you agree that too many politicians and governments have fiddled around for years about reducing climate change when we need urgent and far-reaching action now and not in 20 or 30 years’ time?
Anyone who has taken the trouble to research this subject knows that time is running out and humanity needs to act now if we are to protect the planet for future generations.
It is encouraging to see that some of our political leaders are finally recognising the need to act.
I am sure the COP26 meeting in Glasgow in November will serve to press home this crucial message to every politician and citizen alike.
Spirit guides like Silver Birch often referred to nature and natural law. Would you agree that Spiritualists should be at the very forefront of helping to combat climate change?
Spiritualism has often led the way on major international issues whether that be the abolition of slavery or the right for women to vote. Bringing us up to date, we also strongly support LGBTQ+ rights
As a movement, we led the way to create equality through electing our first woman national President back in 1923 and ordaining women to the ministry from the 1930s.
This was years ahead of orthodox religions in the UK. Currently, women outnumber men within the ministry of the SNU.
There are some well-known words within Spiritualism – “All are but parts of one stupendous whole, whose body nature is, and God the soul.”
Through them, we are given a lens to look at the life within us and the life around us. We feel connected to God’s presence within us and recognise it in each other, in all life and in the world around us.
When these words are understood, to act responsibly and protectively towards nature becomes second nature.
Taking action to limit and reverse the harm done by humanity to the climate and the environment is important on many levels, but when our motivations and actions embody the power and presence of God, we are brought into a closer and deeper relationship with God, each other and our planet.
Relationship and responsibility make us co-creators with God – co-creators of a necessary future where our spirituality and environment are fundamentally intertwined.