At our benefice PCC supper this week we agreed to sign up for the A Rocha’s “eco church” award. A Rocha is a Christian charity working for the protection and restoration of the natural world and they have created web-based award scheme designed to motivate churches to care for God’s earth as an integral part of their everyday work and witness. The award scheme challenges us to look right across our church life and see where we can make small changes that will help preserve and sustain the creation.
“Small changes” sounds easy doesn’t it? But we know that changing behaviour is one of the hardest things to do. Jonathan Haidt in his book The Happiness Hypothesis used the analogy of an elephant and a rider. Our emotional side is the Elephant and our rational side is the Rider. Perched on top of the Elephant the Rider holds the reins and seems to be in charge, but the Rider’s control is precarious because the Rider is so small compared to the Elephant. Any time the 5-tonne Elephant and the Rider disagree about the direction of travel the Elephant is going to win.
You’ve experienced this if you’ve ever over-eaten, tried and failed to do Dry January, paid for gym membership and never used it, said something you regretted, abandoned your French lessons, or refused to say something in a meeting because you were scared.
We know that our Rider gets tired quickly: our will power and resolve in the face of an overwhelming emotional need or response quickly crumbles. If we don’t feel an immediate pay off, we can get bored or demotivated quite quickly.
We do better when the way forward is well sign posted and the direction of travel is clear. If the Elephant and Rider are trundling through the jungle, facing a dense thicket of undergrowth saps the energy of both of them. Seeing a cut path sends a clear and easy sign as to which way to go.
So our environmental challenges will be well signed, hopefully easy to do and not things that overwhelm us. We know our actions are damaging the planet so the motivation to do something different and concrete will stay high. We will build new habits into our lives that we can see making a difference.