I only gradually became aware of climate change, and for many years it was kind of in the background. I certainly don’t recall hearing about it at school or in university in the 1970’s. When I began my academic career I was pretty focused on plant anatomy and physiology. Later, when I arrived at Oxford Polytechnic (now Oxford Brookes University) in 1989, I added soil science to my repertoire, and some aspects of pollution. Climate change though, remained on the periphery of my vision. In 1990, I was one of the founder members of Sage, Oxford’s Christian environmental group. That led me to join A Rocha. Since we were near Oxford, A Rocha asked us if we would represent them at a big climate change meeting organised by JRI and Au Sable, and held in St Anne’s College in the summer of 2002.
It was there, hearing Sir John Houghton and other senior climate scientists, that climate change finally emerged for me as an important, even crucial, issue. Shortly after the meeting my wife, Margot, was asked to join the JRI Board. Little did we know then how much JRI would impact on our lives. At one of her first Board meetings, Margot volunteered me to write the soils section of the Physical Environment module for the new distance learning course, Christian Rural and Environmental Studies (CRES) that JRI were developing in collaboration with Christian Rural Concern. That was the first time that I collaborated with Sir John, as he wrote the climate section for the module. I soon found myself as Principal Tutor for the course and I still am. Meanwhile back at Oxford Brookes University, the arrival of Adrian Parker on the staff led me into a long collaboration looking at palaeoecology and palaeoclimatology in the Arabian Peninsula. So climate change finally arrived on my academic radar!
In February 2007 Margot was chaplain of Jesus College, Oxford when the Fourth IPCC report came out. Shortly after that she led a service where Sir John spoke for BBC Sunday worship on Radio 4. The theme was “Creation held together in Christ”. I gradually reduced my commitments at Oxford Brookes and spent more time on Christian environmental work. In 2008 and 2009 I collaborated with Sir John on writing the climate change science section for the “Hope for Planet Earth” national tours. In the end I did over 100 presentations and never missed one! Around that time I was asked to become Operations Manager for JRI. I also started teaching climate change in the Institute of Human Sciences at Oxford University. Later I was even asked to teach it at Oxford Brookes, long after I had left the full time staff.
My work with JRI frequently involves climate change, although I try to keep a broad focus. In recent years the politics of climate change has occupied a lot of my time. With Margot, I wrote “The Ethics of Climatic Scepticism”, and then a briefing on the Paris Agreement in 2015. For a brief time after Paris it looked like the world was finally getting focused on dealing with climate change. But then came the election of Donald Trump in November 2016. And so to 2017……
Continued at Stormy Weather (Part 2)
Dr Martin J. Hodson
JRI Operations Director
Photograph: Members of the South Carolina’s Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team (SC-HART) perform rescue operations in Port Arthur, Texas, August 31, 2017. The SC-HART team consists of a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from the South Carolina Army National Guard with four Soldiers who are partnered with three rescue swimmers from the State Task Force and provide hoist rescue capabilities. Multiple states and agencies nationwide were called to assist citizens impacted by the epic amount of rainfall in Texas and Louisiana from Hurricane Harvey. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel J. Martinez)