“He has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has also set eternity in the hearts of men;
yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good
while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all
his toil – this is the gift of God.
I know that everything God does will endure for ever; nothing can be added
to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.”
(Ecclesiastes 3. 11-14)
“The most important prayer in the world is just two words long: Thank you.”
Monday 1 st August.
Speaking to G8 leaders at Gleneagles, Wulf Killman, chairman of the UN Food & Agriculture Climate Change Group, said that droughts which have devastated crops across Africa , central America and south-east Asia in the past year were part of an emerging pattern. “The worst affected countries include Ethiopia , Zimbabwe , Malawi , Eritrea and Zambia where at least 15 million people will go hungry without aid. The situation in Niger , Djibouti and Sudan is deteriorating rapidly. Many countries have had their worst harvest in more than ten years and are experiencing their third or fourth severe drought in a few years.” One of Europe 's worst droughts has hit Spain and Portugal , which have applied to the EU for food assistance. Andrew Simms of WDM comments: “ Africa is more exposed to the impacts of climate change than many other regions. Climate change is affecting livelihoods that depend on the natural environment which, in Africa , means nearly everyone.”
Tuesday 2 nd August.
New evidence of rising sea levels comes from NASA satellites and deep-sea submarines. Average levels have risen by more than an inch since 1995 – twice as fast as the oceans rose during the previous 50 years. At the current rate, sea levels will have risen by at least a foot by 2100, causing widespread flooding and erosion of islands and low-lying coasts. More than half the rise was caused by a recent speed-up in the melting of glaciers and ice sheets, especially in Greenland and Antarctica . The remaining increase in levels is due to the expansion of water under warming temperatures. About 10 million people in Bangladesh live below the 1 metre contour. These and many others in south China and islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans will be impossible to protect and will become displaced.
Wednesday 3 rd August
The Climate Change Bill is to be re-introduced to Parliament in the autumn. It would, if enacted:
Set a legally-binding target to reduce CO 2 emissions by 3% every year;
Compel the Prime Minister to report annually to Parliament on progress towards the targets;
Introduce measures to get emission targets back on track if the 3% targets are not met.
It is supported by former environment ministers John Gummer MP, Michael Meacher MP, by Norman Baker MP, the Lib. Dem. spokesman and by more than 200 MPs who have signed Early Day Motion 178 supporting the Bill. More signatures are needed.
Thursday 4 th August
Under the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, every home and business premises built, sold or let after January 1 st must have an energy rating. Unfortunately the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and the British Property Federation cannot agree on how to measure the ratings, so there is no training system in place for the professionals who will have to issue energy certificates. The voluntary Eco Homes energy rating scheme is already in place, but many estate agents have not heard of it. Yet it is the estate agents who could, if they wished, market the energy savings to be made from condensing boilers, smart metering, insulation, solar water heating etc.
Friday 5 th August
Energy-efficient homes are now advertised for sale by Green Moves (www.greenmoves.com ) Nottingham University's School of the Built Environment (tel. 0115 951 3158) puts contractors, engineers and housebuilders in touch with new technologies such as mini wind turbines, fuel cells and stabilized rammed earth for wall construction. Its low-carbon initiatives include 60 building projects in the Midlands , including the Millennium Eco House project sponsored by David Wilson Homes . Website: www.wwf.org.uk/sustainablehomes
Saturday 6 th August
One of this year's Ashden Award finalists is TV Bioenergy, which provides a sustainable supply of woodchips from locally-grown coppice and tree thinnings in the Thames Valley for local school central heating boilers. Biomass energy such as this is carbon-neutral in that the growth of plants such as trees offsets the carbon released by burning. Woodchip boilers offer a new market for farmers, tree surgeons and woodland owners, and gives owners an incentive to look after their woodlands. TV Bioenergy now supplies woodchips to Slough Power Station, which is converting from coal to biomass. For more details visit: www.ashdenawards.org
Sunday 7 th August
Lord, increase the sense of community that binds us one to another.
Bless the work of your church, that it may provide:
A sense of identity where there is none;
A refuge to those who feel threatened by lawlessness or polluted surroundings;
A place of belonging where people know they are welcomed, remembered by name and valued as individuals;
A faith that, in your Word, proclaims that we are forgiven and accepted, in the Name of your dear Son, Jesus Christ.
Monday 8 th August
“The Ashden Awards reward outstanding and innovative projects which tackle climate change and poverty by providing renewable energy and energy efficiency at a local level. They are designed to encourage wider take-up of small-scale sustainable solution across the developing world and in the UK . In the developing world they highlight how simple, affordable and sustainable energy technologies can save lives, create jobs and help lift whole families out of poverty – while simultaneously curbing climate change and environmental destruction. In the UK , there's more focus than ever before on how to achieve clean, secure energy supplies. The Awards demonstrate the massive potential which renewables, combined with energy efficiency, can play in meeting both that need and climate change targets.”
This year the prize money of £340,000 will be divided between sixteen recipients.
Tuesday 9 th August
Another Ashden Award finalist is the Kigali Institute of Science & Technology (KIST) which, under Ainea Kimaro, a Tanzanian engineer, has built and installed biogas digesters of up to 1,000 cubic metres capacity, which are capable of capturing the methane from raw sewage in five of Rwanda's largest prisons to use as cooking gas, while treating the residue so that it can be used as fertilizer for crops to feed the prisoners. Fuelwood is so scarce that it used to cost one prison £25,000 a year, while sewage used to leak into nearby Lake Kivu . Schools too are benefiting from KIST's smaller digesters and Kimaro hopes to work for hospitals as well.
Wednesday 10 th August
For rural people in India lacking mains electricity an array of solar lamps is a tiny miracle, giving children clear, clean light for studying, and avoiding the smoke and heat of expensive kerosene. Harish Hande's SELCO firm based in Bangalore has installed 38,000 solar home systems across India . A typical system consists of a 35 watt PV panel, four compact fluorescent lights and a rooftop PV array which is charged during the day so as to turn out at least 4 hours of light and power each evening. The average Indian household uses 120 litres of kerosene a year. If they switch to solar, that means 310 kg. less of CO 2 emitted into the atmosphere. Not much perhaps, but multiply that by 35,000 . . . . .
Thursday 11 th August
Deforestation in Nepal has led to scarcity of wood fuel. Now Biogas Sector Partnership, a small Kathmandu-based NGO, working with local firms, has installed 124,000 biogas plants in rural Nepal , using mainly cattle dung. When fermented in a round sunken cement tank, the dung gives off methane. By means of a couple of pipes and a tap, this provides clean efficient gas for the home. To install a complete system costs 24,000 rupees (£200), though the Dutch aid agency DGIS takes care of one-third of the cost. The remainder, thanks to microfinance loans, can be paid off in about two years. Comments Priya Devi Timilsina, a mother and trainee teacher: “It has made such a difference to my life that I would never have contemplated marrying a man whose home didn't have a biogas plant.”
Friday 12 th August
A recent report into energy supplies commissioned by the Ashden Awards from the New Economics Foundation is called “Mirage and oasis: energy choices in an age of global warming.” It quotes a recent report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology which found that to increase nuclear power's share of world electricity from 17% to 19% by 2050 would mean nearly trebling nuclear capacity, i.e. building 1,000 – 1,500 large nuclear plants worldwide. This would make unplanned proliferation of nuclear technology almost inevitable. The argument of denying to “problem states” such as Iran their own nuclear programmes would be increasingly hard to defend. Meanwhile, 19 years after the Chernobyl disaster, restrictions on livestock remain in place at 359 farms covering 53,000 hectares in North Wales , and Swiss Re, the insurance giant, concludes: “One of the most perilous shortcomings in traditional property insurance concerns inadequate nuclear risk exclusions.”
Saturday 13 th August
The National Grid is a notoriously wasteful way of distributing electricity. Ofgem, the regulator of the industry, calculates that power lost as heat in the grid costs the UK nearly £1 billion a year. Micro-generation, or microgen, (small-scale localized power) was the vision of Thomas Edison when he built the world's first power plant in 1882. Even in 1907, 59% of America 's electricity came from small-scale generation. When a big power station “goes down”, a whole city might suffer a blackout, as happened two years ago in New York and Italy . Microgen creates a broader, more secure basis of supply. The Network for Alternative Technology & Technology Assessment (NATTA) estimates that if 10 million consumers installed 2 kw. of microgen PV or wind systems on their premises, they would supply as much power as all Britain 's nuclear power stations put together.
Sunday 14 th August
Father, I cannot spread care for your creation throughout the world, but help me to begin where I am. Make me honest and careful 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 your Son, Jesus Christ, who at his glorious Day of Justice and Judgement will herald the triumph of righteousness and peace.
Monday 15 th August
The European Commission predicts that 900,000 new jobs will be created in renewable energy systems by 2020. The United States predict 150,000 new jobs in the PV industry alone. Yet our Government's performance & Innovation Unit has warned that “A sustained programme of investment in currently proposed nuclear power plants could adversely affect the development of smaller-scale technologies.” The Carbon Trust, in its evidence to the Government's Energy Review summed up the challenge: “Government funding should be focused on energy efficiency and renewables, as they have the highest long-term potential to deliver a low-carbon economy at the lowest overall cost.”
Tuesday 16 th August
Another finalist for this year's Ashden Awards is Renewable Devices of Edinburgh, the developers of the Swift – a 2-metre diameter wind turbine which, mounted on a roof, can generate up to 80% of a household's electricity needs, in virtual silence. Two of them have been installed on Edinburgh schools and another on a BP petrol station. 4,000 Swifts are on order for next year alone. The cost is currently around £8,000, but, with mass production starting next year, they should retail at around £1500. In addition, purchasers are eligible for grants under the Clear Skies renewables programme. For details, visit www.ashdenawards.org
Wednesday 17 th August
Residents of the Scottish island of Gigha are proud owners of three wind turbines (christened “The Dancing Ladies” or “Faith, Hope and Charity”) which generate around three-quarters of their electricity needs, exporting the surplus to the grid. Annual income from surplus sales is around £100,000, which will be enough to pay off within 5 years the loan needed for construction. ALI Energy, standing for Argyll, Lomond & the Isles, is a charity which has supported this and other energy innovations, including woodchip heating for Campbeltown flat dwellers, geothermal heat pumps providing underfloor heating for 12 families on Islay and biomass district heating for 50 homes and a care centre run by the local housing association. ALI Energy is a finalist for the Ashden UK Energy Champions Award.
Thursday 18 th August
Unilever, the producers of Birds Eye fish foods, ten years ago joined with WWF to set up the Marine Stewardship Council , which runs an eco-labelling system for fish products. While only 4% of wild fisheries carry the blue tick logo on their products, there is currently a big queue for certification. By the end of 2005, 60% of Birds Eye products will be sourced from well-managed fisheries. Recently the world's second biggest fishery, Alaska Pollock, has been certified by the MSC. Once these are in the supermarkets, sales of MSC-certified stock in Europe will go up from 4% to 30%. The Forum for the Future report “Fishing for Good” is available via its website: www.forumforthefuture.org.uk or from Helen Saunders on 020 7324 3621.
Friday 19 th August
Parts of south-east England receive even less rain than Istanbul , yet each year we consume more and more water. 78% of households have no water meter, so there's little reason to turn off the tap. Meanwhile, the Government plans to build hundreds of thousands of new homes in the South-East. Soon there will be insufficient water to meet demand. Here are a few suggestions:
How many of us know how much water our washing machines and dishwashers use? We need a compulsory rating system – similar to the energy ratings for fridges and freezers.
Water companies are reluctant to fit homes with water meters. The Government should make it compulsory.
Building regulations currently don't even mention water efficiency. Including it would immediately raise public awareness of the issue of consumption.
In the 1980s, when Morro Bay , California , ran short of water, the local authority simply required any developer seeking planning permission for a new building to save twice as much water as the new building would use. Result: one-third of houses in Morro Bay were retrofitted with efficient plumbing fixtures within two years. A similar scheme in the UK could offer developers the option of “buying” water savings from other organizations, either in cash or in kind (e.g. water-efficient showers). Thus, instead of building expensive new reservoirs and treatment works to meet demand, we could upgrade existing infrastructure and implement other water-saving initiatives. We would also be less vulnerable to climate change.
Saturday 20 th August
Over the next week 1300 experts on water, sanitation, environment and development from more than a hundred nations will be meeting at Stockholm for a five-year review of progress towards the Millennium Development Goals agreed at Johannesburg . A “soft” path of progress is illustrated by the Central American Handwashing Initiative supported by USAID, UNICEF, the World Bank etc. bringing together partnerships to promote hygiene and other changes necessary to combat diarrhoeal disease. The “hard” path is to improve water storage so as to make nations more resilient to variations in rainfall and to boost economic growth. In Kenya , for example, improved resilience to floods and droughts could make GDP grow by 5-6% (the amount needed to start reducing poverty) rather than the current 2.4%.
Sunday 21 st August
Thank you for the rain.
For the rain than runs and trickles down the window
And makes patterns on the glass.
For the rain that makes the crops and flowers grow
And gives us water to drink . . .
Thank you for the rain which makes big puddles
In which we can jump.
Dear God, thank you for the rain,
And please take care of people who don't have enough rain and
water to drink
And must go many miles to get it. (Virginia Salmon)
Monday 22 nd August
The Stockholm Earth Summit in 1972 advocated education as the key to achieving sustainability. Yet many remain illiterate in this key area. For example, how many waste managers come up with strategies for handling waste that actually increase pollution? Recycling can be good, but not if loads of extra energy has to be added to the waste first. At Kingston University all their planning, architectural, surveying and building courses are brought together to focus on sustainable development in the built environment. The Government's “Securing the Future” report stated that sustainability literacy should be a “core competency” for professional graduates. Now a new partnership formed by the Sustainability Integration Group (website: www.sig-net.org.uk ) aims to get sustainability literacy integrated into courses of all sorts. However one student, Bronwen Thomas, strikes a cautionary note: “There is a danger of it being tagged on like IT and not taken seriously by students. It has to be made part of the way we're learning. It has to be done well – and taken seriously by the institution.”
Tuesday 23 rd August
Fears are sometimes expressed of a shortfall in energy supplies before renewables are fully established in Britain . The Langeled gas pipeline now under construction from Nyhamna in mid-Norway to Easington in Durham will, at 1,200 km., be the longest subsea pipeline in the world. Natural gas is the cleanest of the fossil fuels and the new pipeline (due for completion in 2007) will help reduce our dependence on inefficient and polluting coal- and oil-fired generators until emission-free renewables can be brought on stream. The gas treatment and compression plant will be built onshore in Norway to allow green hydro electricity to compress the gas and reduce nitrous oxide emissions. The route of the pipeline will avoid cold-water coral reefs, the construction schedule misses the fish breeding season and there will be no need for dredging at the UK end. Gas from the Langeled Project is expected to provide up to one-fifth of Britain 's gas requirements. For details ring Norsk Hydro on 020 8255 2500 or visit www.hydro.com
Wednesday 24 th August
Each baby in disposable nappies produces one tonne of waste in 30 months of nappydom. Disposable nappies represent 2-5% of total household waste. Many local councils, struggling to meet the UK target of a reduction in municipal waste of 35% of the 1995 level by 2020, now offer subsidies to parents who use real nappies. For Noble's Hospital, Isle of Man, the cost savings of using reusable nappies comes out at £14,000 a year, including a sharp reduction in incineration, which is more expensive for clinical waste than for other refuse. A new nappy design now means that baby waste is flushed in biodegradable inserts; the nappy is then soaked in water with tea tree oil; the actual washing is done in a local laundry which recycles the heat produced in the process. Noble's Hospital has gained the 2004 NHS Outstanding Sustainability Project award as well as the Green Apple Award for promoting environmental endeavour. According to the Government's Waste Resources Action Programme, reusable nappies can offer parents a cost saving of at least £100, rising to £300 if they are laundered at home.
Thursday 25 th August
Today at the World Water Week conference in Stockholm , King Carl Gustaf of Sweden will present the 2005 Stockholm Water Prize, worth $150,000, to Sunita Narain of India 's Centre for Science & Environment in New Delhi . Its work, pioneered by the late Anil Agarwal, has great respect for science and technology, always with a social conscience which puts people first. In addition, the Stockholm Junior Water Prize is open to young people up to the age of 20 who have completed a water-related project. Website: www.worldwaterweek.org
Friday 26 th August
When we move house, or for any reason have unwanted items to dispose of, a new web-based exchange system called Freecycle finds new homes for them. No money passes. It's a small step towards forging a more sustainable chain of re-use. If you have an unwanted item which could be useful to someone else, post a brief description on the Freecycle website and choose from the offers which come in. In a single month over 1,000 items that might otherwise have been thrown away were exchanged on the London website. For details visit: www.freecycle.org
Saturday 27 th August
In 1980 the Swedes decided in a referendum to phase out all 12 of their nuclear power plants, which provided half their electricity. They have finally closed the Barseback 2 reactor, but there are still 10 to go. The state-owned power company Vattenfall is planning northern Europe 's biggest wind farm to replace half the output of the Barseback 2 reactor, with a target of generating 2,000 MWh annually from 2009 onwards. The spent nuclear fuel is currently in temporary storage, but plans to put it into anti-corrosive copper canisters and to enclose them in bentonite clay 500 metres under the sea near the Forsmark nuclear power station north of Stockholm have yet to be approved.
Sunday 28 th August
Forgive us, Lord, for the damage we have done to your earth.
Forgive us that the rivers and seas have been polluted by the
waste of our civilisation.
Forgive us that the air has been fouled by our emissions of pollutants.
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 live.
Help us to see the links between our lifestyle and the damage to
May repentance lead to change, and change set a pattern for
others to follow.
Monday 29 th August
A DEFRA report on food miles has revealed that the overall social and environmental cost of food transport is £9 billion a year, with impacts on road congestion, accidents, climate change, noise and air pollution. In 2002 food transport produced 19 million tonnes of CO 2 , of which 10 million tonnes was emitted in the UK . FoE calls for Government action to reduce the problem, including:
Stopping the development of out-of-town stores which encourage car-based shopping and kill off high street shops, giving consumers less choice on where and how to shop;
Resourcing schemes such as local abattoirs and locally-sourced foods by schools and shops;
Setting strong targets for companies to reduce their CO 2 emissions.
Tuesday 30 th August
A 2005 Queen's Award for Sustainable Development has gone to an organic food delivery firm, Abel & Cole. This firm:
Gives all its employees bicycles for the daily commute;
Buys a wood chipper to ensure that none of its wooden pallets ends up in landfill;
Never buys air-freighted produce;
Runs its fleet of vans on biodiesel;
Sends its excess fruit and vegetables to London Zoo to feed the elephants;
Provides a scheme called “Farmers' Choice” which sells bags of organic produce to schools on a non-profit basis. The school PTA then sells the produce to parents at a slightly higher price and keeps the profits to pay for new playground equipment, library books etc.
The firm's founder, Keith Abel, has the unusual habit of saying “Yes” to any employee who comes up with an idea for cutting environmental impacts.
Wednesday 31 st August
According to a new Greenpeace report – “Decentralising Power: an energy revolution for the 21 st century” – a centralised system of electricity production and transmission wastes two-thirds of primary energy inputs, requiring us to burn far more fuel and emit far more CO 2 than necessary. According to the International Energy Agency, the EU will spend $648 billion on modernising and replacing transmission and distribution networks. Yet this makes neither economic nor environmental sense.
Wednesday 31 st August cont.
In a decentralised power system, electricity would be generated close to the point of use. Buildings would themselves become power stations, with solar photovoltaic panels, solar water heaters, micro wind turbines, heat pumps for extracting energy from the earth, and linkages to community-based combined heat & power systems.
Decentralised energy offers a way forward for developing nations, especially China and India . In Britain , if just half our houses were provided with combined heat & power units, which is technically feasible, the electricity so generated could replace the entire nuclear capacity that we have today.
Sources: Green Futures