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May 2003

         "Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.
He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow,
Will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him."

(Ps. 126.5-6)

"Goodness is stronger than evil;
love is stronger than hate;
light is stronger than darkness;
life is stronger than death;
victory is ours through Him who loves us."

(Desmond Tutu)

Thursday 1st May.

Modern industrial societies need oil for transport, agriculture, electricity generation, plastics, fertilizers, textiles and cosmetics. World demand was 77 million barrels a day (mb/d) in 2002 and is expected to rise to 105 mb/d by 2020, with US demand at about 26 mb/d. Pray that increasing competition for oil resources may be resolved peacefully and that local people and their environment may not suffer from the demands of the oil industry.

Friday 2nd May

China's burgeoning car industry is producing cars at the rate of a million a year, yet it has to import 75% of its oil. Japan has to import almost 100%, mostly from the Middle East in convoys of tankers which carry 4 mb/d on the long sea route from the Persian Gulf. Devastating oil spills are comparatively rare, but the increase in tanker traffic and the development of pipelines to carry oil from Russia and the Caspian will inevitably increase the risks. Pray for strong international regulation of this traffic and for the protection of God's creation.

Saturday 3rd May

Oil is transported by about 3,300 tankers worldwide, most of which have to pass through "chokepoints" such as the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, the Bosphorus, the Malacca Straits and the Panama and Suez canals. Sinking or hijacking a tanker, with its small crew, would not be difficult for a well-armed and determined group. Pipelines and refineries are also prime targets for terrorists. The whole network of oil extraction, refining and delivery is vulnerable to interruption by terrorism or military activity. Renewable resources, by contrast, are widely dispersed, often locally-based and less vulnerable to sabotage.

Sunday 4th May

Father, we thank you that out of the sea and from the earth we receive provision for all our needs.
We thank you for the skills in harvesting the earth's resources that people have passed on from one generation to another.
We thank you for those through whose vision and work the products of our harvesting are channelled into areas of need.
Help us to use your gifts for the extension of your kingdom here on earth and for the benefit of humankind.

Monday 5th May

Saudi Arabia and the five other members of the Gulf Co-operation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates) control 45% of the world's oil reserves. Middle Eastern countries as a whole, including Iraq and Iran, control over 66%. Much of their oil wealth is spent on weapons or on foreign investments rather than on building modern democratic societies. High birth rates and unemployment have led to discontent and a turning to Islamic fundamentalism as an outlet for their frustrations. Pray for a peaceful transition from autocratic government to a truly democratic society where initiative is rewarded and dissent tolerated.

Tuesday 6th May

The projected oil pipeline from Baku on the Caspian via Tbilisi on the Black Sea to Ceyhan on Turkey's Mediterranean coast will, according to Greens, involve massive disruption of land and communities and, when completed, will account for the release of 170 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year. The oil companies, however, argue that its route largely avoids villages and archaeological sites, that the zone of disturbance will be less than 30 metres wide and that its construction will avoid adding to the tankers (now 4,500 a year) passing through the narrow Bosphorus straits. Others argue that the root cause of the problem is our addiction to oil, and that the development of locally-based renewable energy is the only long-term solution. However, until the oil companies invest big money in renewables, governments have little choice but to acquiesce in the expansion of oil.

Wednesday 7th May

President Bush in his State of the Union Address announced a $1.2 billion program to develop hydrogen-powered vehicles. Now, even the US oil industry, led by ExxonMobil, has begun to undertake research into fuel cells. However, as long as US and European public opinion resists paying the hidden costs of oil (the health effects of pollution and the climate effects of greenhouse gases), and continues to demand gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles, the oil and car industries have little incentive to research the alternatives. The choices lie with the consumer.

Thursday 8th May

A study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology finds that gas/electric hybrid vehicles will be more environmentally-friendly than hydrogen-powered fuel cells at least until 2020, the reason being that most hydrogen is produced from natural gas - a fossil fuel emitting greenhouse gases - rather than from renewable sources. Meanwhile, the world's first hydrogen filling-station has opened in Iceland, which aims to become the world's first "hydrogen economy".

Friday 9th May

According to Amory and Hunter Lovins of the US Rocky Mountain Institute, if Americans increased the fuel efficiency of their light vehicles by a mere 2.7 miles per gallon (mpg), the US would not need to import any oil from the Persian Gulf, so saving the enormous cost of protecting the oil supply route. The fuel efficiency of US cars sold in 2001 averaged 20.4 mpg, whereas today's hybrid-electric cars can achieve over 40 mpg. The choice is between an economic system based on fossil fuels, centralized technologies and vulnerable supply lines protected by a worldwide police force and, on the other hand, a shift to a decentralized economy based on renewable energy, sustainable agriculture and regional food systems impervious to terrorist threats. The technology already exists: all that is needed is political leadership.

Saturday 10th May

In March, consent was given to the construction of 120 offshore wind turbines with a total capacity of 397 MW. - more than all the wind power installed in Britain during the 1990s. Meanwhile Britain's oldest nuclear power station, Calder Hall, is to close, while the whole nuclear power industry is in deep trouble owing to the high costs of generation. In addition, 14 of Britain's coal-fired power stations are to begin burning crop residues, such as olive, straw and woodchips, so earning green certificates which entitle them to a guaranteed market under the Government's Renewable Obligation.

Sunday 11th May

Almighty God, who alone canst order the unruly wills and affections of sinful men, grant unto thy people that they may love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise; that so, amongst the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

(Book of Common Prayer)

Monday 12th May

During the fuel blockade of 2000 John Nicholson found that his car would run on cooking oil instead of diesel. He has set up the Bio-Power Network to provide information and encourage others to produce bio-fuel from recycled fats. Best results are obtained from modified waste vegetable oil which has been cleaned and treated with organic solvents for use in normal diesel engines. The current price of this bio-fuel is 65 p. a litre. The Bio-Power Network consists of 300 members and 20 potential bio-power trading companies. For further details ring John Nicholson on 01286 830312 or e-mail

Tuesday 13th May

Following the sinking of the "Prestige" and the capsizing of the "Tricolor" last November, 44,000 oiled birds have been picked up, but according to Birdlife International many more birds were lost at sea. Now, single-hulled tankers carrying heavy oil will be banned from EU waters from July and there will be a total ban on all single-hulled tankers more than 23 years old. Give thanks to God for these measures and pray that such devastating oil spills may never occur again.

Wednesday 14th May

According to a report from Key Note, a market research firm, Britain produces enough waste every hour to fill London's Royal Albert Hall. If current trends continue, UK household waste will double by 2020, costing a further 1.6 billion a year to dispose of. Only 11% of our waste is recycled, as compared with 47% in the Netherlands and 64% in Austria. Currently we use over 6 billion glass containers and 23,000 tonnes of aluminium foil packaging each year. We also use 500 million plastics bags each week. Most of this is used once and then binned. The Municipal Waste Recycling Bill now going through Parliament proposes a target of 50% of municipal waste to be recycled or composted by 2010. It is a huge challenge.

Thursday 15th May

70% of the UK's waste goes to landfill, which currently produces up to 25% of all methane gas emissions - a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Landfills have been associated with a rise in birth defects in nearby communities and also threaten to pollute the groundwater in neighbouring areas. Last year the Environment Agency warned that landfill space in South-East England could run out within seven years. The Regional Waste Management Strategy for the South-East (where the problem is most acute) sets a target of 35% of municipal waste to be recycled or composted by 2010, but also proposes the building of new incinerators. FoE believes that a 50% target can be achieved and opposes incineration as it undermines recycling and composting.

Friday 16th May

9% of UK waste is currently incinerated, but the by-products of incineration can include dioxins, furans, lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium, arsenic, particulate matter, benzene, phenols and polyaromatic hydrocarbons. State-of-the-art incinerators with filter systems can stop some of these getting into the air, but only by turning them into fly-ash, a hazardous waste. Britain currently has 12 incinerators, but many more are planned. These regularly breach safety standards: in 1999 and 2000 there were 546 breaches. However, according to Waste Watch, if Britain recycled just 30% of its waste, 45,000 new jobs would be created.

Saturday 17th May

Monsanto is set to release its controversial GM wheat within a few years, though research by a professor at Iowa State University found that there is a high risk that the wheat industry will lose 30-50% of its foreign markets for spring wheat if GM wheat is grown. The Canadian Wheat Board, which sells Canadian wheat worldwide, in a survey of its customers, found that 82% of them did not want and would not buy GM wheat.

Sunday 18th May

Lord God, we live in a world where things have gone badly wrong because we have forgotten you and left you out of account.
We have worshipped other gods and have not hallowed your name.
We have adopted our own way of life and have not served your kingdom.
We have chosen what pleases us and have not done your will.
Lord, forgive us our sin and folly and blindness. Turn us back to yourself, for the sake of your Son, the only Saviour of mankind.

(Frank Colquhoun)

Monday 19th May

In Scotland, the British Medical Association, which represents over 80% of doctors there, in a submission to the Scottish Parliament, urged that GM crop trials be stopped immediately to safeguard public health: "There has not been a robust and thorough search into the potentially harmful effects of GM foodstuffs on human health. On the basis of the precautionary principle, farm-scale trials should not be allowed to continue.

Tuesday 20th May

This month the GM Public Debate re-opens with meetings on 27 May, 12 June, 17 July, 19 August and 16 September at 1, Great George Street, London.. Public contributions may be sent to the GM Debate Steering Board, Bay 479, 1 Victoria Street, London SW1 OET or e-mailed to:
Meanwhile the Food Standards Agency (FSA) is holding its own GM public debate at a cost to the taxpayer of 120,000. Sir John Krebs, its chairman, is a committed supporter of GM foods. Three of the largest consumer groups, the Consumers' Association, the National Consumer Council and Sustain, have sent a joint letter to the FSA criticizing its website: "The FSA is failing in its remit to protect consumers. Our research shows that over half of consumers have concerns about GM, yet the regulator has failed to give any consideration to this."

Wednesday 21st May

The Government's GM Science Review, chaired by its chief scientific officer, Professor David King, will meet in public to review papers on the science of GM crops, studying food safety, gene flow and environmental impacts. Questions can be put to the panel via the website:
Questions and/or papers may be submitted to the GM Science Review Secretariat, Bay 484, 1 Victoria Street, London SW1H OET. Anyone may send in papers as long as they are referenced. Closing date: 30 June 2003.

Thursday 22nd May

Dr. Robert Muller, former UN Assistant Secretary-General, has drawn up a 25-point World Peace Plan, which he presented to the press on his 80th birthday, with the aim of ridding the world of international conflict for ever. He proposes a new Marshall Plan to help poor countries with the savings from disarmament and demilitarization. The creation of nuclear-free zones and demilitarized areas would be guaranteed by the UN, with total nuclear disarmament by the year 2010. Total disarmament would follow by the year 2020. The full plan is available on: or write to Barbara Gaughan-Muller at 7456 Evergreen Drive, Goleta, CA93117 USA or e-mail:

Friday 23rd May

Cluster bombs are containers that, after exploding, scatter a huge number of "bomblets" across a radius of eight football pitches. These either explode on impact or when touched. Many fail to explode immediately and so form a lethal hazard, especially to children, for years afterwards. Large areas can become no-go areas and cannot be farmed. In the run-up to Gulf War II the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Trust asked the UK Government not to use cluster bombs but to support a new international convention forcing combatants to clear areas after military action. Both Tony Blair and Geoff Hoon refused to rule out the use of cluster bombs in Iraq. Indeed, the world's biggest producer of cluster bombs is a UK-based firm called INSYS. Use of cluster bombs is increasing globally as firms such as INSYS seek new export opportunities.

Saturday 24th May

On June 11th at the European Parliament in Brussels there will be a seminar for policymakers, civil society and the press on Nanotechnology, described as "The ability to manipulate matter at the level of atoms and molecules". In 2001, global spending on nanotechnology was $4 billion. Over 30 governments have launched nanoscience initiatives, with Europe, USA and Japan competing for the lead. The hard questions have still to be asked:
  • Who will control nanotechnology?
  • Who will determine the research agenda and who will benefit from it?
  • What mischief can synthetic nanoparticles create when floating around in our ecosystem, our food supply and in our bodies?
  • What happens when human-made nanoparticles are small enough to slip past our immune systems and enter living cells?
  • What might be the socio-economic impacts of this new industrial revolution?
  • How will countries in the South be affected?
  • Should governments apply the precautionary principle?
Details of the seminar are available from Jim Thomas, ETC Group c/o The Ethical Property Company, 9 Park End Street, Oxford OX1 1HH, or ring 01865 207818 or e-mail or visit:

Sunday 25th May

"All of Creation God gives to humankind to use. If this privilege is misused, God's justice permits Creation to punish humanity".

(Hildegarde of Bingen)

We offer you, Lord, the fruits of all who work in science and technology;
We pray that man-made machines may not crush mankind with their overweening power;
We praise you for your great gifts of freedom and inventiveness, and we pray for wisdom that we may use them aright in your service and in the service of all your creation.

Monday 26th May

A nanometer is 1 billionth of a metre: the width of a single human hair is 100,000 nanometres. Nanotechnology, the manipulation of molecules, is already applied in the manufacture of sunscreens, cosmetics, clothing, military weapons, bandages and dressings, rechargeable batteries, tennis rackets, tooth fillings etc. Last year the US government published its Nano-Bio-Info-Cogno (NBIC) report on "Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance". The benefits promised in return for a $1.2 billion investment include a doubled life-expectancy, wrinkle-free ageing, massively expanded intellect etc. Whatever benefits NBIC may bring, they will neither be cheap nor equitably distributed. What will happen to those of us who remain unimproved? Will physical enhancement become a social imperative? How long before democratic dissent is viewed as a correctable impairment?

Tuesday 27th May

According to Mark Modzelewsky, Director of the Nanobusiness Alliance, "The importance of nanotechnology to the future of mankind cannot be overstated. Nanotech's promise is clean industries, cures for disease, nearly unlimited energy supplies and perhaps the end of hunger."
However, according to Patrick Mulvaney of Intermediate Technology Development Group: "Nanotech accelerates a technofix that looks to technology as the solution to the world's most pressing problems. Nanotechnology will offer governments broad opportunities to avoid enacting necessary social, political and economic changes. Nanotech threatens to divert funds, knowledge and political will away from the research necessary to address society's problems and from policies that will tackle the root causes of hunger, the misery of most human livelihoods and the degradation of the environment."

Wednesday 28th May

"Even a safe, benignly-governed nanotechnology, if developed in the way its proponents hope for, would overwhelm the scale of human life. If growing and making really are replaced by pushing the buttons on the side of a universal provider, then there will be no need for us - a fact acknowledged by those techno-utopians who predict a "fast-forwarding of evolution" to a "post-human world." On such a planet, the spiritual and ethical and moral ideas that have grown in the course of human development would be drained of meaning."

(Bill McKibben, author of "Enough: genetic engineering and the end of human nature")

Thursday 29th May

Greenpeace and Ecotricity are challenging in the European Court the Government's decision to rescue British Energy, the nuclear plant operators, with over 600 million of taxpayers' money. They claim that the lack of aid would not have compromised nuclear safety or the security of power supplies. According to Grenpeace "This is about ensuring that renewable energy companies do not find themselves in a position of having to compete against a company such as British Energy which has been provided with an unfair advantage through state aid funding."

Friday 30th May

An expedition to Lomako Forest Reserve in the Democratic Republic of Congo has found that the population of bonobos (relatives of chimpanzees) has suffered a 75% decline in four years owing to a dramatic increase in hunting for bushmeat. Jef Dupain, the expedition's leader said: "Hunting will only stop if people start agriculture again. Only when you offer people an alternative to hunting, such as an assured income through the selling of crops, does law enforcement start to make sense.

Saturday 31st May

The Woodland Trust has set up a Community Woodland Network to advise people who want to own and manage their local woodlands. Andy Beer, their spokesman, said: "We will provide equipment and training, eventually set up an on-line support system and offer guidance notes for new groups. We know that the two things that groups tend to want is to meet others, learn from them and get cash for training and tools. Now we're providing both." A Community Woodland Network conference will take place on July 11-12th at the Oxstalls Campus of the University of Gloucestershire in Gloucester. For details ring Christina Joachim at the Community Woodland Network on 01476 581155 or visit their website:


The Battle for Oil (Understanding Global Issues)
BBC Wildlife
The Ecologist
Living Earth
Positive News
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Philip Clarkson Webb
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