One hot July

 

As I write, I confidently await the arrival of headlines declaring this July the hottest ever.  No doubt tabloid reports will be liberally scattered with both exclamations and exclamation marks.  .  .  ‘Phew!’

I suppose, like me, you may have suffered a few sleepless nights, but spare a thought for the farmers.  Many are resigned to low yields and are beginning an early harvest; I have even heard of one dairy farmer now using his winter feed because this year’s grass is so poor.

Naturally, many thoughts turn to climate change.  But whilst I do not wish to underestimate environmental issues, I do think that having an eye to history will bring a sense of perspective.  Samuel Pepys’s diary for 5th July 1666 describes a spell of weather so warm that ‘Oranges were ripening in the open in Hackney.’  Perhaps it is reasonable to suppose this weather contributed to the rapid spread of that September’s Great Fire?  In addition, the summers of 1707, 1516 and 1252 were probably hotter, and some estimate late Neolithic or early Bronze Age summer temperatures were consistently a full two degrees Celsius warmer than today’s.  Placed in this context, it just seems too easy to come to doom-laden conclusions after the experience of just one hot month.

Similarly, some people believe the current philosophical climate of our society is too harsh and arid for the Christian faith to thrive in.  Church decline has been a recent fact but, dangerously, many have concluded from this that the renewal of the Church is an impossibility.  I remain completely unconvinced.  History is in fact full of stories of Church growth despite the harshest and most irreligious of environments, so may I encourage you to reject such lazy and fatalistic thinking.

Christians could learn from the stoic attitude of Sir Mortimer Wheeler.  In 1944 he was appointed to be director-general of Archaeology in India and declared his intention to excavate in the Indus Valley that August.  One interviewer objected, ‘But Sir Mortimer, August?  The climate!’  Sir M. resolutely replied, ‘I propose to ignore the climate.’

 

Jeff Cuttell

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