The BBC should make Pagan voices heard!

Please sign my new petition: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/bbc-should-make-pagan-voices-heard

The BBC recently published a review of its religious programming however despite getting the views from a range of religious leaders, no Pagans were consulted. I wrote to Tone Hall the Director General of the BBC and had a response from their complaints team which clearly demonstrates their lack of interest. I have also been trying to contact their religion department over the past 6 months but despite an auto-response that promises to get a reply to me they have so far ignored me.

Thought for the Day (T4tD) goes out on Radio 4 and despite it being multi-faith it has no Pagan voices on it. According to the 2011 Census, Pagans make up 0.2% of all people in the UK expressing a religion (this will be understated given our natural reluctance to make ourselves know!). By comparison 0.6% identified as Buddhists but had 3% of T4tD broadcasts and 0.7% identified as Jewish with 5% of T4tD broadcasts. It is clear we are being discriminated against.

Nature based religions have never had more relevance than now with climate change hurting the world and plastic soup killing our oceans. Human animals are failing to honour Nature despite us being part of her. Having voices in the media that have a different regard to the world of which we are part is more necessary now than ever.

We may not have a hierarchical leadership that other religions have but we have plenty of leaders – people who are happy to speak out, people who conduct rituals, people who campaign. We also have a diverse range of views  but I believe that what we have in common is far greater – our reverence of nature.

So please sign the petition. We need to work in other ways too but getting Pagan voices hear in the media is especially important.

My letter to the BBC, December 2017:

Dear Mr Hall,

Thank you for publishing your Religion and Ethics Review.

I am keen to know whether Druid or Pagan stakeholders were consulted as part of the review especially as Pagans make up around 0.2% of the population who hold religious views according to the 2011 census and as I was unable to identify any Pagan leader in the list of names in the report. While 0.2% may seem a small proportion, Buddhists and Jews are both only around 3 times this figure with 0.65% and 0.69% respectively yet they were clearly prominent in your review.

If no Pagan voices were heard as part of your review I would be keen to know whether you would be prepared to rectify this.

On a related note I have emailed your religion and ethics department a number of times this year and have yet to receive a reply to any of my emails (other than the auto reply saying that I should expect a reply in 28 days). You can imagine that I am feeling ignored!

Blessed be

Stuart Jeffery
Druid, Pagan and Animist

The reply from the BBC, January 2018:

Dear Mr Jeffrey

Thank you for contacting us.

We understand you are unhappy regarding the findings of the recent review of our religion and ethics programming and news coverage. You can read the published report at http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/aboutthebbc/insidethebbc/howwework/reports/pdf/religion_and_ethics_review.pdf . We have included a summary of the audience research on page 33 which shows some of the challenges the BBC needs to address in order to make content that will appeal to a broad audience.

This research shows that our audience sees the BBC’s religion and ethics output as important. As society becomes more fragmented and more complex with passionately held but conflicting views, our programmes and news coverage are seen as important in making sense of the world and the belief systems that underpin it.

The research also tells us that there is a professed interest by audiences to learn more in this area. People of all ages, and of all faiths and none, think it is important to learn about and understand what other people believe. This is not only about religion as it is traditionally defined but about all beliefs, including non-religious perspectives.

We note your concerns regarding our findings, but we believe that these plans will ensure that the BBC better reflects the UK, the world, and the role that religion plays in everyday life. They will also raise understanding of the impact religion has on decisions made at home and abroad.

Kind Regards

BBC Complaints Team

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Utter garbage

As we leave the season of excesses and enter the season of sales it would be wise to take a peak into our wheelie bins, yes those overflowing bins that have become home to the waste packaging and wrapping that our food and presents came in. Until today much of that plastic would have found its way to China to be recycled.

China’s ban on imported plastic waste come into force today ending the half a million tons of plastic that we have sent them each year and forcing the UK to figure out what it will do with the waste instead. The Local Government Associate seems to think the waste will simply need to be incinerated in the UK but this just means that we continue to use plastic and emit more greenhouse gases to accelerate climate change.

David Attenborough’s recent Blue Planet 2 highlighted the extreme amount of plastic that has been dumped in our oceans and the effect it is having on the non-human animals that live there.

We have to drastically reduce our use of plastic but this is extremely hard to do. Our food is often double wrapped in plastic is it is processed, the supermarkets have no incentive to reduce this currently. Take a four pack of baked beans: we are encouraged to buy them in a four pack as the price is lower than 4 individual tins yet they are bound together by unnecessary plastic and this is the type that can’t be recycled at all (well done Heinz for a gimmick designed to maximise your profits at the expense of the environment).

Tackling this will require central government intervention. For the sake of our seas, our air and our Earth let us pray that they take the radical action needed.

 

BBC’s Religion and Ethics Review

This week the BBC published its Religion and Ethics Review which promises to increase the breadth of religious views covered by them. Obviously this is welcome. As part of the review the BBC consulted 150 “stakeholders” whose names are in the report. While I obviously don’t know of all the people listed it stuck me that there was no one that I recognised who holds Pagan or Druid views. I have written to the DG of the BBC to find out (letter below). It would be great if others would do the same! His email address is tony.hall@bbc.co.uk

A happy Alban Arthan and Winter Solstice to everyone!

My email to the DG:

Dear Mr Hall,

Thank you for publishing your Religion and Ethics Review.

I am keen to know whether Druid or Pagan stakeholders were consulted as part of the review especially as Pagans make up around 0.2% of the population who hold religious views according to the 2011 census and as I was unable to identify any Pagan leader in the list of names in the report. While 0.2% may seem a small proportion, Buddhists and Jews are both only around 3 times this figure with 0.65% and 0.69% respectively yet they were clearly prominent in your review.

If no Pagan voices were heard as part of your review I would be keen to know whether you would be prepared to rectify this.

On a related note I have emailed your religion and ethics department a number of times this year and have yet to receive a reply to any of my emails (other than the auto reply saying that I should expect a reply in 28 days). You can imagine that I am feeling ignored!

Blessed be

Stuart etc.

Polar bears

The video of the starving polar bear that has circulate the news this week is truly heartbreaking. Bears are animals of power associated with winter and the polar bear is one that defies the winter season that kills so many other animals.

Of course we know that polar bears depend on the snow and ice to live. They depend on the seals and their mobility across the frozen seas gives them access to food, so the warming climate is disastrous for them.

Of particular interest is the public reaction to the video. Yes, other climate impacts trigger in the media and have some reaction but this is a particularly strong reaction. People seem to care more about a polar bear than the 300,000 people who already die each year as a result of climate change but we should welcome any awakening of understanding that we get.

We are ploughing headlong into uncharted territory with climate change. Our CO2 emissions continue unabated despite some progress on renewable energy and green transport. Temperatures continue to break records and the impacts such as the starving polar bear, and also this week the wildfires in California, continue to hurt us.

The bear can help us though. It is an animal of power, its spirit is invoked by some of us at winter time and seeing it hurt during its season is difficult to accept. So let us focus on the spirit of the bear, be it the polar bear searching in vain for food or the Great Bear of the starry night or the grizzly bear that continues to be hunted as a trophy. Let us use the spirit of the bear in our fight for nature and against the stupidity of mankind that has brought climate change to our doorsteps. As we celebrate Alban Arthan, the winter solstice, let us invoke the spirit of the bear in our prayers that human actions will do less and less harm to our world.

Black Friday and the disaster of economic growth

OBR gloom, grim forecasts and growth slashed, shouted the headlines this week after Phillip Hammond’s budget speech. The IFS shouts that we are ‘in danger of losing two decades of earnings growth’ and the Labour opposition chancellor, John McDonnell, sets out how his budget plans would ensure much greater economic growth.

Yet today is Black Friday, the day when sales go wild in the pre-Christmas frenzy of impulse buys, discounts and the need to max out those credit cards. We get these messages and they urge us to spend, consume and borrow for the sake of the economy.

The world is transfixed by a worship and false need for economic growth. The Christians have a great word for this, Mammon – you cannot serve God and Mammon. I often think of Mammon as a huge demon that tempts even the best of us to worship him especially as it is so easy to get caught up in exuberance that comes so naturally when we have more income. Very few of us turn down pay rises.

But the Mammon cultists fail to acknowledge the very real dark side of economic growth. Economics has its etymological roots in household management and is the science of managing the supply and consumption of goods and services. Economic growth is the growth in consumption, resource usage and pollution.

So we live in a world which worships Mammon and screams when economic growth isn’t as high as we want it to be. We live in a world that cries out for continued economic growth every year. We live in a world where the economy is driven by consumerism championed by corporations who need to increase profits. We live in a world that suffers from the impacts of Mammon.

It is often said that suggesting that infinite economic growth, for that is what this means, on a finite planet simply is not possible. I go much further and say that it is utterly destructive to try to achieve it.

Economic growth will stop soon. Our economy is ultimately fuelled by resources many of which are at their peak and will start to decline. Many already have. Our economy is limited by the pollution it causes too. It will self suffocate.

We would be better to learn to live without economic growth, indeed to live with economic contraction for that is what we need, certainly in the west. Our economy is already grossly unsustainable for the planet yet we are part of the planet.

To survive we need to start worshipping different gods to Mammon.

 

Druidry and fracking

A couple of month’s ago I was challenged to write a piece on Druidry and fracking. Given the increasing direct action that has been happening in the northern half of the country I’m pleases that it has now been published on the OBOD website. I hope it is of interest!
I find it hard to believe that many people interested in an Earth centred spirituality are not aware of what ‘fracking’ is, but there are some who may not understand why those of us who campaign against it do so with such vigour…

Time of the dead: Samhain blessings to all

While my friends and I were busy tweeting Samhain blessings to each other, another terrorist attack was unfolding this time in New York with 8 dead and many injured as a lorry was driven directly at cyclists.

Samhain is not just the start of the Pagan and Celtic new year for many of us, it is also the time of the dead. A time when the veil between worlds is at its thinnest. A time when we honour those who have died, honour our ancestors and welcome their presence among us.

While we like to think that death is a natural part of life and should be celebrated, the reality of death can be violent and brutal. We rightly condemn the terrorist attacks whether they are the occasional ones in western countries that headline across the world or the regular ones in places like Iraq and Syria which barely make the news. Our prayers should be for a peaceful and natural death in the same way that we often pray for a peaceful and natural life.

But death is a part of life. We should celebrate it and we should welcome it when the time is right and fighting our mortality is as pointless as it is bizarre. Of course using death for political ends is so obviously wrong that it hardly requires mention but we should not forget that it is not only the terrorists that use death for political reasons. Wars are fought for politics and for resources, wars that are no better than the terrorism that we despise.

It was Peter Ustinov who said: ‘Terrorism is the war of the poor, and war is the terrorism of the rich.’

So as we move through the time of Samhain from the secular Halloween to the equally secular Remembrance Day, I will be wearing a white poppy to not only remember the dead but to reaffirm my calls for peace.

 

I hope you have a blessed Samhain.