Welsh hymnists’ work holds blueprint to tackling climate crisis argues former MP
An 18th century Welsh hymnists’ body of work is a blueprint for helping humanity tackle the present-day climate crisis, according to a former MP.
In a new book Cynog Dafis argues that Welsh Christians such as William Williams Pantycelyn had a special reverence for nature which is missing in society today, and that we must recapture that ethic in order to thrive as a species.
The former Plaid Cymru MP for Ceredigion argues in Pantycelyn a’n Picil Ni Heddiw (Pantycelyn and our Current Predicament) that “as well as technological solutions humanity will need a new ethic based on reverence for nature”.
“We need to cultivate the same sense of wonder and meaning that we find in the epic poetry and hymns of Pantycelyn,” he said. “We need to rediscover the values of the Christian myth which dominated Welsh culture for two hundred years but is now in steep decline.
“At the heart of Pantycelyn’s vision was a sense of awe at the immensity of the universe and at what he called ‘amrywioldeb natur’, the very biodiversity which now faces an unprecedented threat as a result of human exploitation.
“There is an opportunity today to fuse the key elements of the Judeo-Christian ethic with the radical demands of the Green movement. I hope that my booklet will help stimulate a discussion about how this might be achieved.”
Cynog Dafis was a Member of Parliament for Ceredigion from 1992 until 2000, having been supported by a coalition of local Plaid Cymru and Green Party activists.
He said that he hopes to encourage a new interest in the work of Williams Pantycelyn and open a dialogue with the younger generation on redefining Christianity.
William Williams of Pantycelyn was a leading figure in the 18th century Methodist Revival which transformed Welsh Society, with far-reaching social, cultural and political effects. He was a preacher, author and poet and Wales’ chief hymn writer.
Pantycelyn a’n Picil Ni Heddiw investigates the credo of Pantycelyn and Richard Price, a contemporary and fellow student of Pantycelyn. By studying the two figures, and by considering the ‘predicament’ that mankind finds itself in today Cynog Dafis suggests that a redefined Christianity could contribute to developing a new ethic for the 21st century.
“Richard Price was a passionate advocate of Progress, a notion that emerged with the scientific revolution of the 18th century Enlightenment,” Cynog Dafis said.
“Progress has certainly transformed our lives for the better (though not for all everyone) but has also led to the environmental crisis in which we now find ourselves.
“Global population has increased from 1 billion in 1800 to 4 billion in 1950 to nearly 8 billion today. At the same time, the needs and demands of mankind in terms of food, homes, space and commodities have also increased inexorably, driven by an economic model based on continuous and increasing economic growth.
“The transition from this unsustainable model to sustainability will present a major challenge.”
Pantycelyn a’n Picil Ni Heddi by Cynog Dafis is available now (£4.99, Y Lolfa).