August 2003: Christian Ecology Link: A Daily Prayer Guide for the Care of CreationHome What's on? Ideas About CEL Resources Sustainable Transport Magazine Links Tourism GMOs Climate Change ChurchLink News Search Sitemap email CEL
" . . We know that suffering produces perseverance;
perseverance , character; and character, hope.
And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." |
"Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the life of others, or strikes out against injustice, they send a tiny ripple of hope, and those ripples, crossing each other from a million different centres of energy build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."
(Robert F. Kennedy)
"Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out. It is Hope, above all, which gives the strength to live and continually try new things."
Friday 1st AugustAt Cancun, Mexico, from September 10th to 14th the World Trade Organisation (WTO) will hold its 5th ministerial meeting. On the agenda will be proposals for a new WTO Investment Agreement designed to enable corporations to move their businesses to any part of the world without restriction or regulation by national governments. Many are asking:
Saturday 2nd AugustThe British-based multinational BAT, the world's second biggest tobacco company, is a major investor in Burma, whose military dictatorship is charged by the UN with a "crime against humanity". BAT's cigarette factory employs child labour, while adult workers are paid around £68.52 a year. In Burma unions are banned, there are limited and rarely enforced health and safety laws and the minimum working age is 13. Would a WTO investment agreement address such abuses? Or would it give firms like BAT power to operate without control?
Sunday 3rd AugustFather, 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 our sin and folly and blindness. Turn us back to yourself, for the sake of your Son, who died to save us all.
Monday 4th AugustMetalclad, a US company, bought land in Mexico for a hazardous waste facility. The Mexican Government, however, created a protected ecological zone which included the site. Metalclad sued Mexico for $90 million for "expropriating" the company's property and investments. If similar rules were to be applied throughout WTO member states, the rights of governments to protect their environment could be curtailed everywhere.
Tuesday 5th AugustA new WTO investment agreement would put legally-binding restrictions on the right of elected governments to protect their people and environment.
Businesses invariably claim that the "voluntary approach" is the way to encourage best practice. Yet the existing OECD guidelines for countering the social and environmental impacts of foreign investment contain no enforcement or sanction mechanism and no effective means for citizens to seek justice.
What is needed is a UN-backed system of legal rights for people adversely affected by foreign investment, including the right to be consulted and to seek redress, and an obligation on corporations to ensure transparency and accountability around the world.
Wednesday 6th AugustForeign investment had grown spectacularly - without any WTO agreement. For example, China in 1999 attracted 20% of all foreign investment in developing countries despite its tight governmental controls, and has continued to draw such old-established businesses as Hornby the toy manufacturers and Waterford Wedgwood the glass and china makers.
The problem remains: how to attract foreign investment to countries which lack China's large market, basic infrastructure and good skills base. Even the World Bank believes that a WTO agreement is not the answer, since "countries get the most positive growth stimulus from unilateral reforms tailored to local conditions, and these reforms should not be held hostage to international agreements."
Pray for more constructive thinking and action about the best means of attracting investment to developing countries.
Thursday 7th AugustAccording to Kirkpatrick Sale, industrial capitalism rests on two principles that fly in the face of ecological sanity:
Economists ignore this information not because they are idiotic, cruel or dumb, but because they are conditioned by their training to see the natural world only as resources; they do not understand the complexities of the science of ecology."
Friday 8th AugustKirkpatrick Sale notes two obstacles to the process of addressing the environmental crisis: " We are so conditioned by fictional depictions of environmental disasters that we don't really believe we are headed that way ourselves; " We believe we can fix it before it comes. We are smart and rich, and getting smarter and richer. We can create any technology we want and there is no environmental problem to which there is not a technological solution. Never mind that techno-fixes such as nuclear power, DDT and thalidomide turned out to be disasters, and that Bill Joy (one of the giants of Silicon Valley) has cautioned against the potentially disastrous consequences of continuing research into genetic engineering, robotics and nanotechnology: our belief in the techno-fix is solid and beyond challenge. Compare Isaiah 30. 1, 2 and 15.
Saturday 9th AugustPolitical leaders across the developed world tell us that globalisation is inevitable. But, as Zac Goldsmith points out in his Schumacher Lecture, the global economy is the result of human decisions and rests on three flawed assumptions:
Sunday 10th AugustFather, I cannot bring about justice worldwide, but help me to begin where I am. Make me honest and just in all my dealings, true in my words and actions. I cannot alter the course of a suffering and unjust world, but help me to light candles in the darkness in the name of Jesus Christ, who will bring the dawn of righteousness and peace at his glorious Day of Justice and Judgement.
Monday 11th AugustThe UK Government in its White Paper "Our Energy Future" adopted the IPCC target of a 60% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. Typical power stations waste at least half of their energy input, and motor vehicles much more. Better building insulation, wider use of thermostats, electronic timing controls and fluorescent lighting, all offer enormous opportunities for reducing dependency on fossil fuels. A US report called "The New Mother Lode" found that high efficiency measures could reduce electricity consumption in six US states by 33% by 2020 and carbon dioxide emissions by 28%, while saving taxpayers $28 billion. Now, in Britain, a network of Energy Advice Centres has been set up to provide householders with advice and support.
Tuesday 12th AugustIn the Netherlands half the nation's electricity is generated by Combined Heat & Power (CHP) which is twice as efficient as separate production of heat and electricity. Southampton now uses a mixture of geothermal energy (derived from hot water pumped from a city centre borehole 1,800 metres deep), fuel oil and natural gas. This powers a heating and cooling system which covers the city centre shopping malls, hotels, offices etc. The city has plans for an anaerobic digester to produce methane from household waste: the resulting biogas will be used in further CHP generators. In addition the Royal Southampton Hospital has won a £93,000 grant from the Government's Community Energy Programme to build a community heating network run on methane.
Wednesday 13th AugustThe use of crops such as willow, sugar cane and beet, elephant grass, agricultural residues and domestic rubbish (collectively known as "biomass")as an energy source has increased both in America and Europe in order to reinvigorate agriculture and reduce dependence on imported fossil fuels. According to the American Biomass Association, biomass now accounts for 4% of energy use in the USA and could easily provide 20%. "Biomass has not entered the market more widely because fossil fuels have been cheaper. However, valuing the environmental benefits of biomass or the negative impacts of fossil fuels more highly will allow biomass to compete economically."
Thursday 14th AugustWorld use of wind energy has been increasing by 20-30% a year, reaching $7 billion in value by 2002. At 5 cents per kwH it is now competitive in price with traditional sources. The Arklow Bank Wind Park, now being built on an offshore sandbank near Dublin, will comprise huge 3.6 MW turbines capable of generating 520 MW, i.e. 10% of Ireland's total energy needs. Britain's contribution, recently announced, will be a series of offshore wind farms in the Thames Estuary, the Wash and the North West, providing enough electricity to power 9 million households, i.e. enough for the needs of Greater London or twice the population of Scotland. The programme will generate more than 20,000 jobs and is expected to be completed by 2010.
Friday 15th AugustArrays of solar photovoltaic (PV) cells are seen as an economic solution in rural areas not reached by the electricity grid, but the high cost and lack of storage capacity are major drawbacks. In Japan a programme of government subsidies aims to increase PV capacity from the current 254 MW to 400 MW by 2010. The cost of PV-generated electricity is expected to fall to 15 cents per kwH by 2005.
Saturday 16th AugustWater seeping down through the earth reaches boiling point at about 4 kilometres depth. On the way it may become trapped in chambers and fissures of impermeable rock, forming an underground reservoir of geothermal heat. In Iceland 86% of homes are heated by geothermal hot water pumped directly from the ground. Elsewhere the challenge of tapping the energy in hot rocks deep within the earth (called "hot dry rock technology") is being tackled by Shell in France and El Salvador and by the Swiss Government near Basel and Geneva using boreholes up to 5 km. deep.
Sunday 17th AugustFather, we thank you for the world we live in, for the water which gives us life and for the food which sustains us. Help us to look after nature, to watch it and to learn from it. Weed out all in our lives that hinders peace, so that your Kingdom may be spread through us and that we may become channels of your peace.
Monday 18th AugustHydro-power provides 17% of the world's electricity generation and 87% of all electricity generated from renewable sources. Norway, Ghana, Zambia, Angola, Brazil and Uruguay all derive more than 90% of electricity generation from hydro-power. Yet large dams have acquired a bad name for their impact on local people and the environment. Also, stillwater reservoirs can become breeding grounds for malarial mosquitoes and billharzia. Nevertheless, small-scale hydro is seen both as environmentally benign and as offering potential for local water management and electricity generation, being both pollution-free and cheap to run.
Tuesday 19th AugustThe key to the further spread of renewable energy lies in the pattern of government and EU subsidies. Between 1947 and 1999 the US Government spent $145 billion on subsidies to the nuclear industry and less than $5 billion on solar and wind energy.
However, last year the EU agreed to phase out all coal subsidies by 2010, but the oil industry continues to draw huge subsidies, while British Energy (Britain's main nuclear plant operator) survived on a £650 million government loan, to which must be added the £9.8 million spent on consultants and financial advice to keep the company afloat.
Tax systems, too, need to be tailored to give incentives for companies to produce, and customers to use, green energy. Only then can we hope to meet our target of a 60% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.
Wednesday 20th AugustA Christian Aid report, "Fuelling Poverty: Oil, War & Corruption", shows how 90% of Angola's revenues come from oil, yet two-thirds of the population have no access to safe drinking water.
Likewise, Kazakhstan earns billions from its oil, yet one-third of Kazakhs live below the £1 a day absolute poverty line. The oil fund is administered by the President, the richest man in the country, who has put his relatives in most of the positions of power.
In the West African state of San Tome, after the discovery of oil reserves in its territorial waters, a recent military coup will ensure that the island's generals reap any benefit, while America is considering a military base there to defend its growing African oil interests.
Thursday 21st AugustThe University of St. Andrews has awarded its 2003 Prize for the Environment to Bunker Roy, the founder of the Barefoot College of Rajasthan. His programme trains illiterate and semi-literate people to install and maintain solar power equipment. It is transforming the standard of living and independence of the communities involved and is drastically reducing their use of environmentally-harmful fuels. For more information visit www.thestandrewsprize.com
Friday 22nd AugustA revolutionary new tidal power station is to be built in Swansea Bay. Costing £35 million, it will provide half the power needed for a city the size of Swansea. It will consist of a large, circular rock-walled lagoon between high and low water marks. The turbines are operated at high tide, when the lagoon is allowed to fill, and at low tide, when it is allowed to empty. There are no emissions and migratory fish simply swim around the structure. Offshore tidal power (OTP) can produce electricity as cheaply as a conventional gas-fired plant. A small number of OTP plants could replace the Hinckley Point nuclear power station, which is due to close in 2011.
Saturday 23rd AugustAn all-party committee of MPs has called for the expansion of Heathrow and Gatwick at the earliest opportunity and accused the opponents of growth in capacity of ignoring the importance of air travel and seeking to deny to many people the "social benefits" of flying.
They dispute the claims of environmentalists that increasing capacity would simply enable the rich to fly more. "It is neither possible nor desirable for the Government to dictate how much we should fly. Artificially pricing the poor out of the sky is no answer to equity concerns." It also rejects the idea of encouraging more people to holiday in Britain in order to reduce demand for flying.
Any concern for the health of Planet Earth is notable for its absence.
Sunday 24th AugustLord, we are all yours - conceived in your mind long ages ago, brought to birth through the patience of evolution, redeemed by the love of Jesus. Help us to realise the neighbourliness of creation. Forgive us our desire to exploit and destroy. Bring us to new horizons of kindness and service. Restore in us reverence for all your works, for you are the same God and Father, both Maker and Redeemer. Amen.
Monday 25th AugustA Cabinet Office report on the economics of GM crops said that there was little economic value in the current generation of GM crops and warned that continuing public opposition threatened their profitability to farmers. The Government's scientific review published last month reported that there were still too many gaps in scientific knowledge to assure the public that GM crops were entirely safe for their health or the environment. Each GM crop and food must be assessed on a case-by-case basis. The results of the three-year field trials of GM crops are expected this autumn.
Tuesday 26th AugustIn a new book "The Real Green Revolution" the authors Nicholas Parrott and Terry Marsden detail case studies round the world showing how agricultural productivity can be increased without dependence on costly or environmentally-damaging inputs. For example, the System f Rice Intensification (SRI) in Madagascar has led to farmers producing 8-10 tonnes per hectare compared with the national average of 2 tonnes. SRI involves transplanting seedlings after only 6 days, spacing them widely for easy weeding and stressing the plants with too little water so that they produce more tillers. SRI is now being tested in 14 countries: in China yields in excess of 14 tonnes per hectare have been achieved. So why is not every rice farmer using this method?
Wednesday 27th AugustWater, according to the UN, is a "human need", not a "human right". Thus, unlike a human right, it can be bought and sold. The next 25 years hold a prospect of severe water shortages for between half and two-thirds of the human race.
Transnational corporations, backed by the World Bank and IMF, are scrambling to buy up water resources worldwide. Three of them - Suez, Vivendi and RWE-AG - already deliver water services to nearly 300 million people in over 100 countries and, at the present rate of growth, will control over 70% of water systems in Europe and North America by 2013.
Their annual revenue totalled $160 billion in 2001 and is growing at a rate of 10% a year, outpacing many national economies in countries where they work.
Most international finance for debtor countries comes with the condition that they privatize their water services. Increasingly corporations are constructing long-distance pipelines and supertankers to transport water to paying customers. According to the World Bank "one way or another, water will soon be moved around the world as oil is now."
There seems to be no understanding of the environmental implications. If governments have squandered or polluted their water resources, there is an alternative to selling them to the highest bidder: it is to institute good governance with local control.
Thursday 28th AugustSuez, the world's biggest water corporation, is to build a water plant outside Delhi for the production of 635 million litres of water a day to sell to the rich people of Delhi. The water will come from the huge Tehri dam through the Upper Ganga Canal and then through a giant pipeline to Delhi.
The canal is the main source of irrigation for the Ganges Plain, so (according to Vandana Shiva) the Ganges waters, the lifeline of northern India and India's food security, are being handed over to Suez to quench the thirst of Delhi's elite.
Last August over 5,000 farmers gathered to protest against the laying of the pipeline from the River Ganga to Suez's Sonia Vihar Water Plant, vowing to defend the freedom of their sacred river. Pray for the peaceful resolution of conflicts over water and for a corps of mediators to be appointed by the UN to resolve such conflicts.
Friday 29th AugustFrom last month 320 pesticides will be phased out in EU countries, though 49 are given a "stay of execution" for "essential uses". The Government will shortly publish a draft plan to put into effect the EU strategy, which requires member states:
Saturday 30th AugustA PAN UK survey of householders indicates that almost 60% of them have unwanted pesticides, most of then stored in garden sheds, though 20-30% are disposed of down the drain or in the bin. Less than 10% were aware of local facilities for pesticide disposal, though these are widespread. Pesticides put down drains will inevitably enter the water supply. Those put into bins may end up in landfill sites not licensed for hazardous waste. Lawn weedkillers have been detected leaching from most landfill sites in Britain.
Sunday 31st AugustForgive us, Lord, for the damage we have done to the earth.
Forgive us that the rivers and seas have been polluted by the waste of our civilization.
Forgive us that the air as been turned foul by fuel and radioactive emissions.
Forgive us that flowers and animals have become extinct through our relentless invasion of their natural habitat.
Forgive us that we have so often valued profit more than the quality of the environment in which people have to live.
Help us to see the links between our lifestyle and the damage to your creation. May repentance lead to change, and change set a pattern for others to follow.
Sources:Beyond Petroleum (UGI)
The Organic Way
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