Is it possible….

…to be in a position of institutional authority in the church and also to be holy?

Just something I’m thinking about at the moment. Reading this (pdf file; h/t Maggi) helped to clarify the question for me.

I’ll probably write something more substantial on the question in the next few days, DV.

Hauerwas on Leadership

Found here; two key quotes:

“It was a bad innovation when the revivalistic structure overtook the church’s primary liturgical form in a way that charismatic preachers replaced the centrality of Eucharist…”

“People called to administrative positions have to undergo a deep ascetical discipline. You’re dealing with people who have possibilities and limits, the limits sometimes will drive you crazy, and you cannot take it personally.
…You do this to provide space for the different gifts of the community. I’m very Pauline in this. Communities have diversities of gifts. Part of your responsibility as an administrator and leader is to help members of the community own them as contributing to the overall good of the community. To be in a position of power means that you recognize how fragile the power is. You wouldn’t have it otherwise. And you have enough confidence that you don’t have to win all the time. That’s a real ascetic discipline, a discipline of the ego, which is absolutely crucial for being an administrator and to allow the institution to go on once you’re no longer there…
… For any person that wants to be in leadership, if they try to lead in a way that means they don’t have to deal with people, they automatically defeat community. It is everyday interactions that make it possible for there to be people who tell the truth to us one at a time in the hopes that in that process we will be a truthful community…”

Where does our energy go?

Just doing a little research on how much energy the UK uses, and where it goes – with a view to wondering what we are going to be able to hang on to. This is where we get our energy from (here)

Units are Million tonnes of oil equivalent
Coal: 37.9
Oil: 74.4
Gas: 93
Nuc: 11.9
Hydro: 1.1
Imports: 0.9
Renewables: 5.3

Total: 224.4

On an individual basis this works out at 3,814kg per head (here)

The fossil fuel elements of that are going through the peaking process, so we can expect them first to become more expensive, then to become increasingly scarce (over what I would guesstimate as a twenty year period, see my post on UK gas supply here).

Balance of payments questions
It has to be said that the UK is not best placed to withstand a constrained energy context. We import most of what we use and we are running out of ways to pay for it. This graph is from this post:

End use:

This is where household fuel goes:

Some rapid tentative conclusions from the household level:

  • the most significant thing we can do to reduce our energy consumption and prepare for the shift is to insulate our homes;
  • normal electrical use (eg TV, internet, fridge) is small beer compared to the two heating functions;
  • therefore I’m still mildly optimistic that my geeky gadgets have a future, especially if the government succeeds in building new nuclear
  • this is also why combined heat and power is important

This is where the transport fuel goes (source):

Rapid tentative conclusions:

  • by far the greatest share goes to private transport;
  • there is massive wastage in private transport; therefore
  • there is a lot of room for comparatively painless squeezing (eg carsharing) as an initial reaction to stress;
  • in the longer run private transport (electrical?) is likely to be the preserve of the wealthy
  • I’m sure there will be a lot of efficiency gains in the wider transport sector but in part that will be through shifting to slower modes of transport (eg the canals)
  • we’re not going to be flying in green beans from Kenya anymore; though we may well still import chocolate
  • I think the truck sector will shrink the most
  • there will be much less road transport on the other side of the bump – this will be a very good thing

I don’t know much about the industrial use, so I’ll find out more about that.

Of course, all I’m doing here is thinking about an energy descent action plan. Which is what the Transition Town movement is for. Next step might be to find out more information about Mersea and how these broad patterns apply locally.

Copenhagen was (mostly) irrelevant

I know I said I wasn’t going to post anything further about AGW – and, really, this isn’t – at least not in the same way. For the purposes of this post I’m going to assume that the mainstream consensus (ie disregarding the extremist forecasts) is basically true, and, in particular, that the models have some connection to reality.

Click ‘full post’ for text.

The first point is to do with the amount of fossil fuel resources available, and the way in which the IPCC overestimates how much there is. I’ve linked to these articles before, but as I suspect the links are often not followed I’m going to set out some of the key claims. (The graph above is taken from this post which is one of the key ones).

The point is a simple one: the IPCC, in their reference scenarios, use estimates of the availability of fossil fuel derived from the IEA which are seriously implausible. The most recent article spelling out why is here. I quote: “Our conclusion is that the assumptions of coal use that the IPCC recommended that climate researchers refer to in calculating their future horror scenarios are completely unrealistic. The question is why at all these gigantic volumes of carbon dioxide emission are to be found among the possible scenarios. The IPCC bears a great responsibility for the fact that thousands of climate researchers around the world have dedicated years of research to calculating temperature increases for scenarios that are completely unrealistic. The consequence is that very large research resources have been wasted to little benefit for us all.” Aleklett points out that the burning of even as much coal as there is is unlikely, due to the political context (Montana in the US) and the lack of local need (Siberia).

The second point is the one underlying the graph above: if human society continues to burn all the fossil fuels that are available, ie including Montana and Siberia, until they are economically exhausted (ie the net return on energy is close to 1:1) then carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will peak at around 480ppm in the second half of the twenty-first century. According to the MAGICC model used at the Oil Drum, this translates into around 1.7ºC above 1990 levels.

The third point that I would make is that ceteris paribus makes morons of us all. The human economic system is dynamic, and, especially in the more free-market oriented societies, there is room to respond to changed circumstances. What I take this to mean is that a) peak oil and associated limits will cause havoc to our economies well in advance of our accessing all the coal, b) the truth of the Limits to Growth perspective will by then be unavoidable for all except the most wilfully obtuse, c) we will as a human community either shift towards sustainable habits of life or we will slaughter ourselves fighting for what is left – in either case the coal will not be accessed.

Which makes me think that the rather extravagant boondoggle proposed in Copenhagen was somewhat besides the point. Moreover, I can’t help but feel that the doom and gloom being put about is counterproductive. It is as if the Victorian clerical cliche of ‘You’re going to burn in hell’ has been resurrected in a green dress; it turned people away then and it is turning people away now. The truth is that we are not in control of the system (any complex system) and we need to leave room for God to be God, and to avoid continuing the intellectual, scientistic and technocratic hubris that drove us into this mess in the first place.

What we need to do is to prepare for the great dislocation. Over the next ten to fifteen years we are going to be jettisoned from the sinking luxury liner and we need to get ready for a much simpler existence in the lifeboat. We need to ask ourselves what is worth saving from our present cornucopia, and work to save what we can. Doing that properly requires rather more prayer and listening to God than is presently in display. I am more and more persuaded that it also requires the adoption of a Ninevite attitude if the lifeboats in their turn are not to sink.

I’ll write something more about the nature of these choices in due course.


Some links:
A good THES article on AGW.
A high-powered video on climategate including Richard Lindzen and other academics (warning: 2 hours long).
Interesting FT overview of what top climate scientists actually think.
A critique of Obama’s Nobel acceptance speech re: Just War theory. (H/T Grandmere Mimi)
Obama’s ‘Predictably Irrational’ economic policies.
Stanley Fish’s review of Going Rogue. Related: a Huffington Post article on ‘Dissolving the Palin prejudice’.
Some interesting world maps.