The Green Room ~ Beyond Repair?


Beyond Repair?By the Revd Dr John Harrison 

As I sit here looking out over the South Tyne valley, snow and hail are hammering past the window in a furious westerly wind, and I am facing both reality and uncertainty.

The reality is that our Combi boiler has decided to break down so we have neither the central heating nor hot water. Our local boiler repair man, Phil, came out straight away to help us and after two long and seemingly agonising stints he seems to have restored heat to our lives. 

Two things have struck me over the last few days while this drama has unfolded. The first is that I have to confess to a disappointing dependence on warmth. As much as I would like to say that I am not unduly bothered by the inconvenience, without our hitherto trusty boiler the temperature in parts of the cottage has become uncomfortably low. There’s a nagging voice in my head which is saying “What if Phil can’t cure the problem?? I really can’t put up with the discomfort much longer”. It is at such times that our dependence on energy reveals itself as a stark reality.

The second is that Phil left us with the parting words “That should be OK for now but it may stop working if …” So the front casing and some of the inner bits are sitting there forlornly on the tile floor, and we worry that the cold could return at any time. “If it stops working, try re-booting the system like this...” Phil added. Uncertainty is so difficult to cope with as a raft of ‘what-ifs’ come in to our lives. Have you ever noticed that the pessimistic ‘what-ifs’ are fleeter of foot then the optimistic ones?

With the conditions outside my window little improved, I have in front of me a short report from the Met Office telling me that in the UK, and possibly globally, 2014 was the warmest year on record. So the warming of our world goes on. Can we fix it? What is going to happen next if we can’t?

Unlike our domestic boiler, we can’t call upon a mechanic to fix our warming world, nor are our politicians capable of offering hands-on assistance. Meanwhile we observe the effects it is already having on the poorest of our neighbours. We have to admit that we are becoming increasingly addicted to energy, to the extent that our personal comfort and peace of mind rest upon it. Unplug us from the grid and deprive us of a reliable source of energy and we open a can of negative emotions which threaten the stability of our society.

Add to this the extra ingredient of uncertainty as to what will happen around us as the climate changes, and we have a recipe for an unpleasant future, not of peace and brotherly love but of anxiety, frustration and anger which will gnaw at the very bones of society.

There is a platform here for the Christian voice should we wish to stand upon it.


  • Dr John Harrison FRMetS is the Bishop of Newcastle’s Environmental Adviser, and a former Vice-Dean of Natural Sciences and Senior Lecturer, Climate Laboratory, in the Department of Environmental Sciences at Stirling University.






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