‘Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him, that His glory may dwell in our land.
Love and faithfulness met together; righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven.’
Psalm 85: 9-11

Human civilisation and the conveniences of everyday life in technologically advanced parts of the world are founded on the conversion of fossil fuels into energy and other resources of our planet into ‘stuff’ we buy in shops.  The by-products, carbon dioxide and other ‘pollutants’, are overwhelming the inbuilt recycling processes of our planet, leading to subtle changes in the behaviour of our atmosphere.  That we are spewing out carbon dioxide is indisputable, the effects on climate and on weather continue to be disputed.  Which is where sunspots come into the picture.

Sunspots are ‘places’ on/in the sun where there is intense activity for short periods of time throwing out material and radiation.  Observations over the past few hundred years have led to theories about their regularity and the nature of their impact on earth’s climate.  Concern has been expressed recently that the expected peak activity of sunspots has not occurred and that if this ‘abnormal’ behaviour of the sun continues, there will be colder winters in parts of Europe including the UK (Click for BBC News article).

And so to the floods in south-west England in recent months.  We want both to apportion blame and to understand why these have happened.  To what extent are Government, developers – whoever – to blame for permitting and building houses on floodplains (and failing to provide adequate flood protection)?  Is climate change involved, particularly in producing storms laden with wind and rain for so many weeks?  And if sunspot activity is unexpectedly low, potentially leading to colder weather, does this not simply cancel out the warming effects of humanity spewing out waste gases into the atmosphere?

Let’s go back again to look at the sun.  All life on earth is dependent on light flowing out from the sun, its constancy believed to be secure for many millions of years to come yet “…..we don’t really understand the star that we live with” is the conclusion in the BBC report in the link above. Thus humility along with thankfulness and compassion should be our response to the abundance of God’s provision for us with the materials of earth and light from the sun, to the vagaries and challenges of an active planet with its boisterous climate and its intrinsic disasters.  But have we come to value what we create, i.e. our ‘stuff’, to such an extent that we are disabling ourselves?  To what extent have we invested our sense of self, our souls, in our material well-being?  The endless discussion about the financial cost to those directly affected by the floods and to local and national Government and its agencies suggests that this is the case.

There is fault to be allocated, there are improvements and changes to be made in construction of houses and protection against floods.  Repair and restoration of affected properties are possible to some extent, but how are people changed by living through and with the floods and their aftermath?  Fear, anger, insecurity are justified but are we expecting too little of ourselves, our souls?  Where are repentance and forgiveness?  Where are love and faithfulness?

Thankfully there is hope.  The selflessness of many volunteers who, like the train-driver who took unpaid leave to come and help, shows us that kindness and goodness have not been crushed by our increasingly materialistic society.

Ethel White.

Dr Ethel White is a research scientist in agriculture.