However bored you might be by Thought For The Day — the obligatory ‘God slot’ on BBC Radio 4’s Today — be assured that your frustration is nothing to that of the programme’s journalists, who resent this encroachment of a pre-recorded three-minute moral lecture into what is meant to be a lively forum for debate.
As one of the show’s presenters, Justin Webb, complained a few years ago: ‘They’re all roughly the same, saying: ”If everyone was nicer to everyone else, it would be fine.”
‘If we had red-in-tooth-and-claw religion, I could see the point. It really annoys me.’
Now, remarkably, something like that is happening — although the new apocalyptic daily lectures are being delivered not by an old-style fire-and-brimstone preacher but by its modern equivalent: the fanatical Chris Packham, who wants us all to change our wicked ways to avoid the planet being engulfed in flames through (he says) excessive use of fossil fuels.
Members of the public stage a ‘die-in’ protest at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow, Scotland
Last week, the Today programme launched a daily Packham mini-lecture in which the broadcaster — who wore a tie with the Extinction Rebellion logo when collecting his CBE from Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace in 2019 — tells us how to behave so as to avert Armageddon via carbon emissions. I heard the first two.
In one, Packham proclaimed: ‘We still have time to save the world.’ (In reality, the planet has billions of years left, regardless of whether we humans, Today listeners or not, switch from diesel to electric cars.)
In the other, Packham intoned that we were heading for ‘climate meltdown and a sixth mass extinction’, while denouncing what he called ‘my adversaries’ as ‘vicious’.
One old BBC hand has told me he felt his employer ‘crossed a line’ in giving Packham such a privileged platform and seeming to endorse it, adding: ‘He’s a contentious campaigner.
You don’t need to dispute the science of human-influenced climate change to find him over-the-top.’
Naturally, the BBC man would never dare say this publicly.
And, just as we would ask of religious zealots, the question arises: does Chris Packham practise what he preaches?
Not according to Lord (Ian) Botham, the stupendous ex-cricketer and fundraiser for leukaemia research.
Chris Packham wants us all to change our wicked ways to avoid the planet being engulfed in flames through (he says) excessive use of fossil fuels
Greta Thunberg definitely knows how to communicate her own terror at the alleged imminence of a planet in flames
Lord Ian Botham said the Springwatch presenter ‘promotes holidays for the rich that encourage people to go on very long flights’
Two months ago, Botham hit Packham for six with an article pointing out that the Springwatch presenter ‘promotes holidays for the rich that encourage people to go on very long flights to places like Botswana, Peru and the Falkland Islands. Flights which create eye-watering emissions’.
Botham continued: ‘Take the holiday he is currently endorsing in Papua New Guinea for £13,600 per person. For that price you can ”follow in the footsteps of Chris”. The tour company also assures us that Chris is a ”Travel Hero”. But is he a Carbon Hero?’
Packham responded that he will not be going on any more such trips.
The same question might be asked of Alok Sharma, whom the Prime Minister appointed ‘president’ of the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, known as COP26.
As the Mail revealed last week, this so-called ‘climate tsar’ has over the past seven months jetted to at least 30 nations (never once quarantining, although many of them were on the Government’s red list) and covering about 200,000 miles.
The same question might be asked of Alok Sharma, whom the Prime Minister appointed ‘president’ of the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow
The PM’s spokesman defended Sharma’s globetrotting: ‘Travel to key countries for face-to-face talks is essential. For example, immediately following his visit to Japan and South Korea, the governments there committed to ambitious net zero targets.’
No 10 really expects us to believe that such commitments emerged solely as a result of Sharma’s amazing personal presence — which would come as a surprise to his underwhelmed parliamentary colleagues.
And yesterday, Sharma told The Sunday Times that online meetings would have failed, describing them as ‘the doom of Zoom’.
Wait: I thought it was meant to be excessive plane flights that would bring about doom for the planet?
No, that’s only when it’s being done by the rest of us. Truly, some of the most powerful proselytisers of ‘zero carbon’ are reminiscent of those Renaissance Popes who preached against lust and professed celibacy while enjoying the favours of sundry mistresses.
The Christian churches, however, also had good news to offer: if you behaved well, loved your neighbour and so forth, then there was a prospect of avoiding hellfire and instead proceeding to the heavenly afterlife. There is nothing like that from those warning of a fiery apocalypse on Earth.
This was pointed out brilliantly by the French philosopher Pascal Bruckner in his book, The Fanaticism Of The Apocalypse.
The Bishop of Liverpool, Paul Bayes (centre), led 20 vicars in reading the complete Book of Revelation — on the same platform as various XR doomsday cultists had been performing a ritual they called a ‘die-in’
He saw the more extreme ‘Greens’ as rather akin to the Jesuits who educated him: obsessed with the idea of salvation through leading a pure and simple life.
But he said that at least the preachers of his youth had a passionate belief in man as well as God.
By contrast, the green prophets see mankind as a blight on the planet, and the fewer of us the better: exactly the reverse of God’s injunction to ‘be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it’.
Weirdly, however, a number of figures in the Church of England have made common cause with the neo-pagans of Extinction Rebellion.
So, for example, during the XR demonstrations of October 2019, the Bishop of Liverpool, Paul Bayes, led 20 vicars in reading the complete Book of Revelation — on the same platform as various XR doomsday cultists had been performing a ritual they called a ‘die-in’.
And this cult has its own equivalent of an Old Testament prophet, in the teenage Swede, Greta Thunberg.
In this context, she is also redolent of Sister Lucia, one of the three youthful ‘visionaries of Fatima’ who, in Portugal in 1917, claimed among other things that they had been shown a vision of Hell by the Virgin Mary.
Thunberg definitely knows how to communicate her own terror at the alleged imminence of a planet in flames — and she has nothing but contempt for the likes of Alok Sharma.
Like her followers in XR, Thunberg regards the governments of the West as too wedded to the wickedness (as she sees it) of perpetual economic growth to take the necessary steps to ‘save’ the planet from apocalypse.
Unfortunately for her, it is the people as a whole, and not just those who govern them, who are quite unready for the asceticism and privation that her own austere vision demands.
It explains why the British Government is quailing at enforcing any of the measures to which it has, in effect, committed itself by promising net zero emissions by 2050.
This is in any case parochial: the UK contributes little more than one per cent of global CO2 emissions.
China not only produces 27 per cent of the total (fair enough, given the size of its population) but has almost 250 gigawatts of new coal power in planning or development — an increase which itself exceeds the entire U.S. coal-fired energy capacity.
Extinction Rebellion protesters dressed as zombies outside Queensland Parliament House in Brisbane
Demonstrators stand outside the Bank of England in London and protest against the role of banks in the climate crisis
China is definitely not buying Greta’s sermons, regarding them with almost as much hostility as it did those of Christian missionaries, whom it often slaughtered.
When Thunberg told China to ‘change course’, Beijing’s state-backed English language newspaper, Global Times, quoted one of its ministers that this was ‘an attempt to deprive Chinese people of the right to improve their quality of life’.
And this Chinese equivalent of the BBC’s World Service went on: ‘Thunberg, who started skipping school for her climate protests, is merely 18 years old. She is short of sufficient academic knowledge and study.’
You couldn’t imagine anything like that ever being allowed to be spoken on the BBC, which ranks Thunberg along with Packham as ecological prophets whom the laity should not presume to question. (Thunberg guest-edited the Today programme in 2019.)
Say what you like about the pious platitudinisers of Thought For The Day: at least we are allowed to mock them.