“The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.”
“One foot in Eden still, I stand
And look across the other land.
The world's great day is growing late,
Yet strange these fields that we have planted
So long with crops of love and hate.
Time's handiworks by time are haunted,
And nothing now can separate
The corn and tares compactly grown . . .
Evil and good stand thick around
In the fields of charity and sin
Where we shall lead our harvest in.”
Tuesday 1 st June.
The Hollywood film “The Day After Tomorrow” has alerted many to one possible effect of climate change, namely the interruption of the thermohaline circulation (loosely called “the Gulf Stream”) which gives Northern Europe its temperate climate. There is insufficient data to show how likely this is. The Natural Environment Research Council in 2001 invested £20 million in a 6-year study of rapid climate change including the thermohaline circulation. We can only guess at some effects of climate change. For example, March 2004 saw the first-ever recorded cyclone in the South Atlantic : cyclone Caterina hit the Brazilian coast causing considerable destruction and loss of life.
Wednesday 2 nd June.
The 2003 Energy White Paper estimated that, for the UK to implement appropriate measures to combat climate change, the cost would be between 0.5% and 2% of GDP in 2050. Yet according to Sir David King, Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government: “If just one flood broke through the Thames Barrier today, it would cost about £30 billion in damage – roughly 2% of today's GDP.” Because of the uncertainties, Swiss Re, a major reinsurer, now includes questions on climate change measures in all policy renewal notices, so providing a powerful incentive to reduce carbon emissions. When will British insurers follow that example?
Thursday 3 rd June.
A new report called “Sea Wind Europe ” by wind energy consultancy Garrad Hassan has analysed wind speeds, sea depths, economic infrastructure and advances in offshore wind technology. It concludes that up to 50,000 wind turbines could be built in the seas around Europe , generating enough power for over 150 million homes and providing 3 million extra jobs by 2020. Last year the amount of energy generated from wind rose by more than 25% to 39,294 MW.
Friday 4 th June.
Drawn from a group of over 80 countries, the Johannesburg Renewable Energy Commission is currently meeting in Bonn to drive forward the development of renewable energy. This requires a re-direction of subsidies away from unsustainable sources such as coal, gas and nuclear power, and towards research and development of offshore wind, wave, tidal and other renewable energy technologies. Recently our Government announced an extra subsidy of £48 million for nuclear fusion; the German Government provides 2.5 billion euros a year to its coal industry.
Saturday 5 th June.
Today is UN World Environment Day. Its theme is “Wanted! Seas and Oceans – Dead or Alive?” The main international event is in Barcelona , but there will be many events in Britain . Derby is launching an Appeal for Tools in a move to encourage recycling and re-use and to provide practical help to people in Africa and Derbyshire. For details of all events visit www.unep.org/wed/2004/
At Dartington Hall in Devon a panel of experts including James Lovelock, Mary Midgley, Sir Crispin Tickell and Satish Kumar will discuss “Gaia and Global Change”. Tickets at £10 from the Schumacher College tel. 01803 865934.
Sunday 6 th June. Environment Sunday.
Father, we thank you for a new awareness among many people of the need to care for and to heal your world. Show us, we pray, the actions we can take to play our part in the healing process, to lead by example and to be prepared to give reasons for what we do. Amen.
Monday 7 th June.
According to Colin Tudge, author of “So Shall We Reap”, the root cause of world food crises is a misunderstanding of what agriculture is for, how it needs to be done and what it can do. “The idea that developing countries can transform their economies by growing food for the rich world is ludicrous.” Tomatoes grow well in Ghana , but while Europe restricts the import of tomatoes from Ghana , Italian tomatoes are exported to Ghana , which cannot legally prevent their import. Italian tomatoes are so heavily subsidized that they are cheaper than home-grown ones, so Ghanaian growers are going out of business.
Monoculture soya estates are now Brazil 's biggest foreign currency earner: it is grown intensively as cattle feed for Europe and elsewhere, with little local employment and much at the expense of the Amazonian rainforest. The profits stay with the owners of the big estates or help pay off Brazil 's huge foreign debt. None of it helps to feed the millions of Brazilians who go hungry every day.
Tuesday 8 th June.
He believes that, far from agriculture being a business like any other, it is there to serve humanity at large and must be designed expressly to feed people, to provide employment and to be environmentally benign. Yet the new “experts” are driven by the dogma that whatever is traditional and local must be inferior and that high-tech and big money are in themselves progress.
In India , where the new industries are hailed as the future, 600 million people work on the land while IT employs only 170,000 workers, a tiny fraction of the number needing jobs if India continues down the route of industrialization. The way ahead, he believes, is labour-intensive farming that is local in structure, abetted by a science that is truly geared to its needs. “By returning economic activity to the human scale and distributing its benefits equitably, it would be possible to feed everybody in the world well within environmental limits.”
Wednesday 9 th June.
The New South Wales government has become the fourth Australian state to rule out any large-scale growing of GM crops. In Britain , although the Government has approved the commercial growing of GM maize, the manufacturers, Bayer CropScience, have given up attempts to commercialise it owing to “governmental constraints”. However, Sainsburys and other supermarkets continue to import millions of tonnes of GM maize from the USA to feed cows that produce their dairy products. The European Commission recently approved the import of GM sweetcorn for human consumption even though there is little demand for it in Europe, where officials polls show that 70.9% of people simply do not want GM foods.
Thursday 10 th June.
Today people across Europe are electing their MEPs and local representatives.
Tim Smit, the creator of the Eden project, when asked what single most useful thing a government can do, replied: “Harness its massive buying power to create new markets and new wealth. Eden set out to cut its waste by 60%, then neutralize the remainder by ensuring it consumes a similar amount of recycled material, then ask its suppliers to do the same. Those that don't join risk losing our custom. Now just imagine what would happen if the Government did that! New markets, new wealth – I just can't see a downside.”
Friday 11 th June.
At the American Chemical Society's meeting in March Dr. Eva Oberdorster described the effects of feeding buckyballs (clusters nano-particles of carbon) to fish: within 48 hours they had suffered severe damage to brain tissue and inflammation of the liver. She expressed concern that nano-particles could begin to accumulate throughout the food chain and that toxicity could affect other animals including humans. Buckyballs are already used in car body parts and tennis rackets. Next year they will be incorporated in TV sets and in fuel cells for laptops and mobile phones. As yet they are covered by no toxicity legislation. However, a study commissioned by the European Parliament concluded that there is a good case for prohibiting any further release of nano-particles into the environment. For further information visit www.etcgroup.org
Saturday 12 th June.
Percy Schmeiser, who was sued by Monsanto for inadvertently allowing their patented GM oilseed rape to grow in a ditch beside his fields, had his case heard by the Supreme Court of Canada in January and is expecting a decision by the end of June. The case has already cost him and his wife about £200,000 and Monsanto has sued for another $1 million in court costs. He admits that without sympathizers from around the world, he could not have carried on.
Sunday 13 th June.
Father, we sometimes feel overwhelmed by the scale and complication of the environmental problems we face. Help us to see how we may respond in our daily lives to the challenges that face us, and teach us to see that where we lead others may follow.
Monday 14 th June.
Two tropical bird species, the Mariana mallard and the Guam razorbill, have been declared extinct by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Both succumbed to the same human pressures that threaten so many of God's creatures – habitat loss, over-hunting and the introduction of alien species against which they have no defence. Why should we care? Simply put, they are not here for our benefit. They share this world with all God's creatures including ourselves. They are part of a complex web on which we all depend. The Easter Islanders neglected this truth and disappeared along with most of the wildlife which they had exploited for their own ends.
Tuesday 15 th June.
A massive dam project affecting the Nu river in South-West China, part of which is a World Heritage Site, has been halted by the Chinese Prime Minister pending research into possible environmental effects. The area contains a quarter of China's indigenous plant species (7,000 in all) and half of its native animal species, 80 of which are rare or endangered.
Wednesday 16 th June.
According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), large areas of the world's oceans have become uninhabitable for all fish and plant life owing to lack of oxygen. These “dead zones”, which can measure up to 43,500 square miles, constitute the greatest threat to the world's oceans over the next hundred years. The main cause of the “dead zones” is an increase in nitrogen, primarily from agricultural fertilizers. The nitrogen creates massive algal blooms which consume all the oxygen in the water. The report fails to suggest any remedial action.
Thursday 17 th June.
In 2002 the Brazilian space agency reported that annual deforestation in the Amazon had increased by 40% from 18,000 to 25,400 square kilometers annually, i.e. an area the size of Wales being laid bare every year. Brazil's crippling external debt has prompted President Lula da Silva to pledge to triple beef exports and to increase national crop production including timber, in order to provide the extra cash. It is we in the West who have the choice: Do we recognize the global significance of the Amazonian rainforest for maintaining climate stability and biodiversity? Or do we insist on our rights as creditors? One or the other has to be sacrificed.
Friday 18 th June.
The British Geological Survey is investigating the practicality of collecting carbon dioxide from power stations and other industrial emitters and storing it long-term in saline aquifers - vast undersea rock formations at a depth of 1-2 kilometres, whose pore spaces are filled with salt water, which could be replaced with carbon dioxide. It is claimed that, with an effective seal, the liquefied carbon dioxide would remain in its saline aquifer for hundreds of thousands of years. Objections include the cost of liquefying the CO2 and the cost of such a mammoth engineering project, which would inevitably siphon away funds from renewables and energy efficiency. Finally, it violates an important principle of sustainability, that we should not impose restraints on future generations.
Saturday 19 th June.
The Quiet Garden Movement is holding a conference today at Waltham Place, White Waltham, Berkshire, on “Soil and Soul: Is there a Link?”. It is described as a rich opportunity for insight into the relationship between nature and spirituality and for dialogue about the urgent need to sustain and nurture both the earth and the human spirit. Keynote addresses will be given by Patrick Holden, Director of the Soil Association, and the Rt. Rev. John Oliver, former Bishop of Hereford. For more details visit www.quietgarden.co.uk
Sunday 20 th June.
Loving God, open our hearts that we may feel the breath and play of your Spirit.
Unclench our hands, that we may reach out to one another, touch and be healed.
Open our lips, that we may drink in the delight and wonder of life.
Unclog our ears to hear your agony in our inhumanity.
Open our eyes, that we may see Christ in friend and stranger.
Breathe your Spirit into us, and touch our lives with the life of Christ.
(A prayer from New Zealand)
Monday 21 st June.
Over 85% of all flowers sold in Britain are imported. The average UK customer spends £26 a year on fresh flowers and imported plants. Few customers ask whether they have been flown in from some distant farm where waterways may be polluted from heavy pesticide use and growers are exposed to poisonous chemicals in badly-ventilated greenhouses. Soon consumers across Europe will be able to buy ethically-grown flowers, accredited under a new Fair Flowers & Plants (FFP) system with its own logo. The UK Fairtrade Foundation's own branded flowers were recently launched in Tesco's where 8% of the export price goes directly to the Kenyan communities that grow the flowers.
The FFP scheme I to be launched this year in Germany, Austria and Switzerland: with funding from the EU or the Dutch flower industry, it will eventually develop into a global system.
Tuesday 22 nd June.
The Isle of Harris in the Hebrides is no longer threatened with a superquarry, Britain's largest, now that Lafarge Aggregates has withdrawn its application to turn Mount Roineabhal into roadstone. Instead, it is calling for a serious public debate about where the building materials of the future are going to come from.
Wednesday 23 rd June.
An ancient water wheel in Somerset has been rejuvenated and is now producing enough electricity for nine houses. Gants Mill is one of ten Somerset mills which are to come on stream this summer, enabling the South Somerset Hydropower Group to produce up to 600 kwh. of electricity a year for purchase by Scottish & Southern Electric and by SWEB. There are some 8,000 mills in Britain of which about 15% are suitable for hydropower. Experts believe up to 2% of Britain's energy needs could be provided by harnessing the powder of rivers and streams. The Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) is assessing whether disused textile mills in Lancashire and Yorkshire could be similarly converted. The biggest challenge is to obtain turbines specifically designed for the mill's height and water flow. For details ring Brian Shingler on 01749 812393 or CAT on 01654 705950
Thursday 24 th June.
Alongside a section of the M.27 in Hampshire two giant solar PV panels have been erected in a 12-month trial by the Highways Agency. Built at a cost of £190,000, they will generate 9,500 kwh. of electricity – enough to light the motorway and its signs – and to sell a surplus back to the electricity supplier. The Transport Research Laboratory will assess driver reaction to the panels and consider maintenance issues. The panels will certainly be emission-free, but one might well question the policy of providing all-night lighting for so many of Britain's major roads, with attendant problems of light pollution.
Friday 25 th June.
A new report from the royal Commission on Environmental Pollution criticizes the Government for failing to do enough to harness biomass energy, generated from wood, willow plantations, straw, chicken litter and park tree cuttings. Biomass has several advantages over wind power: it is controllable, it can provide heat as well as electricity, it offers new opportunities for UK agriculture and forestry, and it increases the security of our energy supply. Specifically the report recommends:
A new Renewable Heat Obligation that would encourage the generation of heat rather than just electricity;
The formation of a Government/Industry biomass forum;
Biomass-fired combined heat and power in all new developments.
This would require a significant change in agricultural land use. Current responsibilities are fractured between DEFRA and the DTI, so a political commitment is required to strengthen the government departments involved. Given the political will, biomass could provide 10-15% of Britain's energy by 2050.
Saturday 26 th June.
A new report from the Environment Agency and English Partnerships finds that buildings account for half of Britain's emissions of greenhouse gases and that tighter building regulations could cut energy and water consumption by 25%. Many of the areas earmarked for massive housing growth, such as Ashford in Kent, are already prone to water shortages. Two-thirds of existing houses pre-date the introduction of any energy-saving measures, so the report proposes a national code of standards for all buildings, old and new. The report recommends a cut in VAT on energy-saving building materials and a cut in stamp duty on homes that adopt the national code.
Sunday 27 th June.
“At first people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done. Then they begin to hope it can be done. Then they see it can be done. Then it is done and the world wonders why it was not done centuries ago.” (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
Almighty God, you have inspired philosophers and scientists down the ages to search out the mysteries of your creation and to benefit humankind in so many fields. Send down your Holy Spirit now, in this our time of need, that he may reveal the path that we must now follow if we are to fulfil your purposes on earth. Remove all prejudice, special pleading and vested interests from our society, that we may truly seek your will and find the courage to surmount all obstacles. This we beg in the Name of our dear Son, Jesus Christ.
Monday 28 th June.
In 2003, 4 million new cars hit China's roads. If growth continues at this rate, China will have 150 million cars by 2015 – more than the USA has now. However, this year the Chinese government hosted a high-level EU/China conference on Renewable Energy & Financing, also a Renewable Energy Asia conference with energy experts from the UK, Philippines and the Netherlands. Subsidies for conventional energy worldwide add up to $350 billion a year. If these subsidies were diverted to clean and safe renewable energy resources in countries such as China, India, Brazil and Mexico, this would speed up technological advances and allow China, in particular, to tip the balance of the global market towards ecological sanity.
Tuesday 29 th June.
Associated British Ports had proposed to build a vast new container terminal at Dibden Bay on the New Forest side of Southampton Water, an overwintering site for over 50,000 waterfowl. The new port would have generated 5,000 extra vehicle movements a day. Now the proposal has been rejected by the Government. Nevertheless, Britain's estuaries and bays face a variety of pressures, not least from proposals for new airports.
Wednesday 30 th June.
The idea for an International Gardens project arose in 1995 from a Bosnian refugee in the German city of Gottingen. Now 300 women, children and men from 19 nations use four community gardens, leased from the project, to produce organically-grown fruit, vegetables and herbs. The Gottingen gardens are the inspiration for 40 similar projects. The Network of International Gardens in Germany is growing daily. They enable Kurdish, Arabian, Ethiopian, Sri Lankan and Kosovan refugees to put down roots, to cultivate plants familiar from home, to meet new friends and to reduce the feeling of dependency on welfare.