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Eco-congregation: the rural view

Categories: Articles:Environment, BLOG | Published: 16/12/2016 | Views: 1600
A personal view from Marian Pallister, Justice & Peace Commissioner for the Diocese of Argyll & the Isles.

I live in a small village to the north of Lochgilphead in Mid Argyll. Like all local authorities, Argyll and Bute has had to make interesting choices to balance its books, and one of those choices was to limit still further our refuse collection.

I think there was a bit of panic at the start of this arrangement. Interestingly, that wasn’t over the possibility of over-flowing, stinking green bins or plagues of rats. It was whether we’d remember which week was which – and so far, in this village we must all have the council’s refuse collection calendar stuck on the fridge door, because on the appropriate days, the rumble of bin wheels to the pavement heralds the positioning of the proper bin of the week.

Being a bit of a control freak, I use my bright blue bin for paper only and after Mass on a Sunday I make the pilgrimage to the local dump with plastics, glass, cans and the occasional dead (low energy) light bulb. This has become something of a social event – the place is hoaching with folk bringing everything from garden waste to white goods, empty cartons to cast-off clothes. There is also a local Facebook page where unwanted goods are sold and swapped.

This is an area that recycles with a vengeance. Awards have been won.

We are far from perfect, but a lot of people in this mainly rural area seem to be answering Pope Francis’ plea in the encyclical letter Laudato Si’ that we should care for our common home.

It could be because there’s an active eco group in the area. And if that is a contributory factor, then I am right with the Scottish Bishops’ Conference, which is urging more Catholic parishes to become part of the Eco-congregation Scotland scheme.

In November, Ardrishaig Church Eco Group held an open meeting to discuss how best to encourage our politicians to focus on the commitments made at the Paris Conference on climate change held in December 2015. The guest speaker was our MP, Brendan O’Hara, and representatives from St Margaret’s RC parish turned out in force to add their voices to the on-going battle to care for our ‘common home’.

Argyll and the Isles Diocese is as aware of the issues as any urban area polluted by exhaust fumes and industrial output. We want the Paris Agreement to work and we are as worried as anyone that President-elect Donald Trump might scupper progress with his denial of human blame for climate chaos.

At the Ardrishaig meeting, the swap of ideas and information at the meeting showed how concerned people are. The issue was discussed on every level, from local recycling to the effects on developing countries that produce the least emissions but suffer the most.

Brendan O’Hara said he’d explore whether the dumping of a surplus stock of 1980s cars in developing countries means that a new form of tied aid is emerging. Yes – the issues are more complex than sorting out the plastics we can recycle.

The voice of the Eco-congregation Scotland movement is an evolving one.  It’s not (as one misconception still has it) a matter of putting eco-friendly heating systems into churches (although churches such as St Margaret’s have done so). It is about changing our lifestyles – our voices and actions can help to care for our common home. With representatives from both Justice and Peace Scotland and SCIAF on the board of Eco-congregation Scotland, the percentage of Catholic parishes taking up the challenge should rise – but we can’t leave it to others.

Parishioner power can convince politicians to act. SCIAF’s Caring for our common home booklet is good for practical advice (0141 354 5555, email or download a PDF (and conserve the forests) on

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