People’s stories: Isabel Jones

Isabel Jones I’ve connected with so many people and felt the love for our planet…that is in so many hearts.

As soon as I heard about the Camino, I knew I wanted to take part. The climate and ecological emergency is so all-encompassing in its tragedies: loss of biodiversity; loss of human life; unnecessary suffering and gross injustice – that for me, the only appropriate responses are big ones. As part of Extinction Rebellion Malvern group, I’ve taken steps I would never have previously imagined. The Camino is another big step for me to take towards connecting to the future we must all face together. Already, in helping to organise the Western Camino, I’ve connected with so many people and felt the love for our planet and passion for justice that is in so many hearts. What a privilege!

I wish I could do the whole Camino! But work and family commitments mean that I will be walking the western leg from Bristol to Birmingham, and then the last 9 days into Glasgow. I don’t expect it to be easy: it is an expression of our collective need. And I am conscious of the far, far greater sacrifices made by activists in other parts of the world at the sharp end of this crisis.

What will carry me through, in addition to human kindness, will be connection to the natural world. I don’t follow an organised faith but I know the essence that others might call ‘God’ whenever I pause to watch an insect, examine a flower or listen to a bird. I do like identifying wildlife- as an amateur, I’m quite proud of the fact that I can identify several species of grasshopper and cricket by their song – so I’m hoping to be able to share some nature knowledge along the way, as well as our urgent need for climate justice.

The Rev Dr Paul Smith is involved in our outreach while we are staying in Milton Keynes. Paul has invited us to visit the remarkable Tree Cathedral there. 

Camino for me, means the experience of pilgrimage on the way to Santiago de Compostela in north western Spain. That’s what first caught my attention about the Camino to Cop. I love being on pilgrimage and my first experiences of pilgrimage (first to Canterbury along the North Downs Way) and then to Santiago have taught me to see my whole life as a pilgrimage. Unlike tourism, which is travelling purely for pleasure, pilgrimage is travel with a spiritual purpose in mind. So Camino to Cop is aptly named. Pilgrimage is also inclusive. Not all pilgrims have the same religious or spiritual convictions, but all experience the beauty of nature as well as the hardships of daily walking and shared overnight accommodation along the way. And all share the same destination.

My work as an Anglican priest for the past 35 years has brought me to encounter people of many different faiths and beliefs, including people of non-religious moral convictions. We are all on pilgrimage towards more responsible care for our planet. During the period of my ministry the Church’s awareness of the vital importance of caring the planet and our responsibilities about climate change have gradually grown. I now teach about what the Bible has to say on these matters and promote green awareness and action in parish life. This includes observing the newly created “Season of Creation” (first Sunday in September to first Sunday in October) as well as encouraging “green champions” and Eco church policies in each congregation. I look forward to meeting “eco pilgrims” as you pass through our beautiful community of Milton Keynes and hope you’ll feel encouraged along the way!

Steph’s story: “A time of personal growth…”

Steph is involved with Extinction Rebellion Birmingham as well as Animal Rebellion and will be walking the whole Camino from London to Glasgow. “We will all be affected by the climate and ecological crises. Here in the UK we are already seeing increased flooding and extreme weather, and in the Global South people are already suffering in much greater ways. This is only going to get worse, with mass food shortages, deadly air pollution and mass extinction of species that are vital for maintaining the balance of our ecosystems all on the horizon. We need our government, as well as those of other powerful countries, to step up and make the changes needed to help us minimise the deadly effects of climate change and adapt to the challenges it brings. COP26 is a key opportunity for world leaders to do this and so I am walking the Camino to help tell people about it and encourage them to engage with it.I love nature, and whilst I don’t follow any religion, I love the idea of living monk-like, wandering from place to place, accepting the hospitality of different communities along the way, sharing stories and ideas. For me the Camino will also be a time of personal growth, where I can step back from my busy life, live simply, and reflect on the beauty of the living world.”

Your daughter has been been arrested.Sandie Stratford’s story

My eyes were rudely opened to the urgency of climate change when my daughter went through the courts for boarding a coal train in 2008.

Our carbon emissions are harming people who least deserve it. Since 2008 I have voted, lobbied, nagged, marched and cried. To no avail: emissions have increased.

During lockdown, I joined an online praying community in Christian Climate Action.  Sitting in grief with others somehow helped me to kindle hope that things could be different.  So we are going to embark on a journey to COP 26 in Glasgow, sharing stories as we go with communities which will offer us floor space.

Other people have cruises or parachute jumps on their ‘bucket list’. This is mine.

Melanie’s story:
The people most affected by ecological and climate breakdown are not being heard.”

Melanie Nazareth: Strategic and Spiritual Lead

I see God in all of creation and believe that I am called to love this creation in all its richness and diversity. This is fundamental to my identity as a Christian and the key reason why I am involved in the Camino to COP.

My ethnic roots are in the small Indian coastal state of Goa and I grew up in the Solomon Islands. What is happening in these two places connects the ecological crisis and the climate crisis straight to my heart. The people most affected by ecological and climate breakdown are not being heard. In Goa, a campaign to preserve the ecological integrity of a national park called Mollem in the Western Ghats in the face of state efforts to drive through a four lane highway and double track railway to carry coal, is being led by young people. In the Solomon Islands, the Pacific Island Students Fighting Climate Change are leading young people in taking action to help prevent and mitigate against climate change. I hope that we can amplify voices like these.

Lorraine’s story: ” I can face myself in the mirror and say that I tried.”

I am not religious but I do feel a strong sense of connectedness to mother earth. Each day I am struck by the extraordinary magic and beauty of nature, combined with a deep anger and grief that we seem hell bent on destroying it. At times, I feel helpless in the face of the scale of the climate and ecological emergency. But I refuse to give up hope – and it is this that fuels my Camino to COP. The scientific evidence on the climate crisis is painfully clear: we may even have reached the tipping point already. Our politicians have failed us. Fossil fuel billionaires act to protect their profits above life for all on earth. Glaciers are melting, seas are rising, islands are disappearing, biodiversity is diminishing and increasingly threatened, intense agri-farming is destroying our world, the deforestation of the rainforest continues unabated – and we are sleepwalking towards a disaster on a scale never previously experienced. 

Do I think the Camino to COP alone can change this? No. But if we all take small actions, perhaps together, we can forge an unstoppable momentum for change. If we rise up, together in a movement of movements, we are strong. 

And when my life comes to an end, at least I can face myself in the mirror and say that I tried. 

Hope dies last.

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