I haven’t signed the Downing Street petition on congestion charges for a couple of reasons.

  1. Something has got to be done, not just because of traffic congestion, but also because of climate change. It’s just not responsible for car usage to remain at present levels, let alone the projected ones.
  2. The “chicken and egg” nature of public transport and private transport. In other words, do we have a poor record on public transport because people have opted for cars regardless or have people switched to cars out of frustration with public transport.

Finally, why are car manufacturers still making 4X4 vehicles costing £55,000 and doing, at best, 15mpg? Answer, because people are buying them. It has to stop.


One thing it’s difficult to escape in our culture is a pervasive cynicism.  Everybody’s good idea is subject to a scrutiny that quickly leads into criticism and hostility.

I reflect on the several media interviews I have heard on the really important issues related to the environment and climate change.  Typical of this was a radio interview which picked up on the efforts of Chris Martin (of Coldplay fame) to offset the CO2 emissions generated by their 26 million album sales by buying 10,000 mango trees in India.  One environmental campaigner made the point that they had burnt down (a fact disputed by another campaigner) and that he probably went to visit his mango trees in his Learjet.

Here’s the point.  HE DID SOMETHING!  It may not be perfect and he may drive a BMW, but he did something and there are others whose travel habits are equally profligate who have done nothing.  How many of us intend to do something to reduce our emissions and it’s always going to be ‘manana’

This is typical of the cynicism I’m on about.  Criticising everything and everybody is likely to stop people from having a go.  We all need to do something and the sooner we start, the better.  No one strategy is perfect, but a lot of imperfect attempts will make some kind of difference, which is what we need.  I don’t know Chris Martin and I doubt he claims to be perfect, but at least he’s made the effort. 

Of course it’s not just the corridors of environmental innovation that are haunted by cynicism.  We are cynical about almost everything, happier to decry than celebrate.  This is true in our churches and can apply to the “Fresh Expressions” stuff.  Sometimes, I sense, people are quick to leap in and make their criticisms (e.g. “it’s only an old way of being church in a new venue”). I’ve done it myself.

The first rule of innovation is to give people permission to fail.  God knows we need a group of out on the edge, entrepreneurial church leaders who are prepared to have a go.  Of course they will make mistakes; of course they will create some ideas which won’t work; little they do will be perfect.  But let’s get behind them rather than greet them and their outrageous plans with an unhealthy cynicism.

To that faithful, often exhausted and frustrated band of church leaders who, in their own way, are trying to make a difference, I simply say this: Thank you and please don’t stop what your trying to achieve!