Easter was a Zeitenwende too!

 Published in May Parish News


Germany, 50% of whose gas comes from Russia, is facing a massive energy crisis. Its other primary sources of energy are lignite, a particularly polluting form of fossilised peat, and coal. Austria imports 65% of its gas from Russia and Poland: 70%. They are major contributors to the £217 million that Europe sends to Russia every day which funds their appalling war in Ukraine. Something has got to change.

Germans have a word for this sort of change: Zeitenwende. The changing of eras. The turning from one epoch and entering another. Just as Easter was.

The Resurrection of Christ was a Zeitenwende for the whole world. But in many ways, the change is still a ‘work in progress’. There are still the mighty who need to be put down from their seats; the hungry still need to be fed with good things and the proud still need to be scattered in the imagination of their hearts. 


Europe has learned its mistake in thinking that trading with Putin might help bring Russia into the democratic fold of nations. It merely empowered him and gave him licence to behave with ever greater narcissistic megalomania. So now European leaders find themselves going cap in hand to the leaders of Qatar, which has been repeatedly accused of sponsoring terrorism or turning a blind eye to terrorist finance; to Saudi Arabia, whose leader was responsible 81 executions in March, in complete defiance of international standards of justice and humanity and was responsible for the grotesque murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and to Dubai, whose princess Latifa was abducted in the Arabian Sea in 2018, and whose first daughter, Shamsa, was abducted from Cambridge in 2000. Neither of them has been seen since. 


There seems to me to be a pattern here between immense fossil fuel wealth and frighteningly unethical, if not corrupt, behaviours. But herein lies the opportunity of our Zeitenwende:


We could turn to a world in which every country is self-sufficient in clean, renewable energy and we no longer have to trade with dictators and kleptocrats. A world where we don’t have to sell them armaments in order to balance our immense spending on oil. A world where most energy is generated locally is and owned by communities, especially in Africa and India, where they can leap-frog the need for massive electricity and gas grid systems owned by faceless multinationals and derive direct benefits from God’s gifts of sunlight and wind.


It almost sounds like Eden! The problem is getting there. 


For now, the race is on to get Liquified Natural Gas shipped unsustainably from the US, Venezuela (another corrupt state) and the Middle East. But LNG terminals will have to be built first. Germany will increase its levels of coal and lignite extraction, with the consequent increases in Greenhouse Gas emissions. This crisis is set against the backdrop of the calamity described in this year’s IPPC report, which painted an ever more vivid and urgent picture of  the damage we are doing to our own prospects of survival on this planet. The frightening announcement of temperature rises of 30-40 °C at the poles is a stark warning that the emergency is accelerating and that there is no instant ‘OFF’ switch available once we finally decide to take the threat seriously. 


I only hope that we take the right turning at this Zeitenwende, and that the terrible suffering in Ukraine forces governments to take the decisions they have been avoiding for decades.