Pull up a paving slab and plant something! Eco-theology expert Ed Echlin calls for some asphalt action.

The general lack of urgency about Cancun is a symptom of a dysfunctional society. There are three major powerful forces discouraging sustainable restraint, all linked to ‘growth’ economics and fossil fuel addiction: industry, politicians, and the media. These three work together and reinforce each other.

Obstinate obstacles to alternative approaches…

A good example is the Arctic. The battle for climate restabilization may be won or lost around Greenland. In Greenland itself, and in Russia, Canada, the US and Denmark, the fossil fuel industry, politicians, and the media are dismissive of alternatives to ‘drill, drill, drill’ and growth economics.

The exposure of the Peru asparagus scandal in The Guardian is an example of what can be achieved by the media. In addition to exploitation of Peruvians by exporting their soil fertility and virtual water, there is also the increase of fossil fuelled ‘food miles’, including imports by Peruvians themselves, deprived of local food and water by monocropping their soil and water for exports.

And flying beans means more food miles.

Kenyan bean exports is another example of loss of fertility and water by an indigenous people, combined with massive food miles, contributing to climate change. Small holders lose their land to mono-crop growers and exporters. Harvested beans are shipped by lorry to Nairobi where they remain overnight, are processed and packaged the next morning, flown to UK airports, trucked again to central distribution depots, trucked yet again to scattered supermarkets where ‘garden fresh’ Kenyan beans, three days old, appear on supermarket shelves. And Kenyans, like Peruvians, need to import more food, thereby contributing to yet more food miles and emissions.

So, what can we do?

In the UK we can counter some of this exploitation and climate damage by following the proximity principle here and encouraging it abroad.

Eat local legumes...

Link with local growers and eat produce from as close to home as possible. We need scores of small and family farms in the UK and northern Europe, as well as in other continents, with their local biodiversity, in this UN year of Biodiversity.

Dig for victory…

Here and abroad we need more agro-ecological farming, with living villages. We also need towns where food is grown in green spaces. The Sustain ‘nooks and crannies’ campaign for urban food production in London is a model we could promote and adapt.

At a local personal level let each of us remove a slab or piece of asphalt and plant a food tree, bush, or vegetable. In brief, a counterculture to the ‘groundforce’ syndrome.

And don’t be fooled by the big boys' toys. 

Finally, let us remind industry, politicians and our ‘political reporters’ on television that the current distraction of electric cars will require asphalt to park and convey those cars, and thereby more climate warming, with less soil for carbon sequestration, biodiversity, water permeation, and food production.

At Cancun all three big players should promote, as an alternative to chronic deadly ‘economic growth’, an economy of equilibrium within the restraints of earth’s ecosystems.  

Dr Edward P. Echlin is an ecological theologian, Honorary Research Fellow at University College of Trinity and All Saints, Leeds, and Visiting Scholar at Sarum College, Salisbury. He is author of Climate and Christ: A Prophetic Alternative, Colomba Press.