September's prayer guide is now available in word format.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if anyone hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”
“To pray is nothing more than to open the door, giving Jesus access to our needs and permitting him to exercise his power in dealing with them.
It requires no strength. It is only a question of our wills. Will we give Jesus access to our needs?” (Ole Hallesby)
“The work of praying is prerequisite to all other work in the kingdom of God, for the simple reason that it is by prayer that we couple the powers of heaven to our own helplessness.” (Ole Hallesby)
Thursday 1 st September
Today is Creation Day in the Orthodox calendar. This month is designated “The Season of Creation” when congregations are invited to use the four Sundays leading up to the commemoration of St. Francis on October 3 rd to worship the God of Creation, to acknowledge the human role in the degradation of creation and to enter into a covenant to care for the earth. Bible readings, bible studies, liturgies for each Sunday and family-based worship resources can be downloaded free from www.seasonofcreation.com
Friday 2 nd September
Providing food for an expected 9 billion people by 2050, instead of 6 billion in 2005, will depend mainly on increasing yields from the 12% of the earth's surface already in cultivation. A UN study found that 38% of this is affected by erosion, salinisation or other forms of degradation. Agriculture already uses two-thirds of all freshwater used by humans. Shortage of water is the biggest impediment to agricultural development in many poor countries. The challenge is immense.
Saturday 3 rd September
Once, almost everyone was a farmer. Now, effective control of farming has passed from millions of families to a dwindling number of agribusiness companies and supermarket chains. The globalisation of farming has put farmers in competition with each other, forcing down commodity prices. In many developing countries, local production has given way to production of cash crops for export. Subsidised over-production in the West has put many local farmers out of business. Such injustices have strengthened public support for a growing number of Fair Trade products, from coffee to bananas.
Sunday 4 th September
Father, forgive us for our short-sightedness, our greed and for the part we have played, however unwittingly, in the destruction of your world. Forgive us that we have exploited the world's resources for ourselves while so many others lack the basic necessities. Create in us a new heart and a new determination, that we may adopt a lifestyle that is gentle to the earth and just to the poor.
Monday 5 th September
Weeds, insects and fungal diseases are the bane of farmers. Pest control in monocrop farming is more difficult because loss of biodiversity means that natural predators cannot survive. So 2.5 million tonnes of chemical pesticides are applied to cropland each year. Government regulations set maximum levels of chemical residues, but monitoring has shown that these are exceeded in 1-8% of samples tested in Europe . Fears that long-term ingestion of such food may be linked to increasing incidence of cancer, Alzheimer's and motor neurone disease have caused unease among consumers and led to calls for pesticide-free farming.
Tuesday 6 th September
In organic farming, synthetic pesticides, mineral fertilizers, synthetic preservatives, pharmaceuticals, GMOs, sewage sludge and irradiation are all prohibited. Sales of certified organic produce now exceed $25 billion a year and are growing rapidly, but worldwide, they are less than 2% of global food sales. Under 4% of EU farmland was managed organically in 2004, though Switzerland achieved 10.3% and Austria 12.9%
Wednesday 7 th September
The new EU single farm payments decouple farming subsidies from production volumes and are linked to environmental standards, food safety, animal and plant health as well as the requirement to keep farmland in good agricultural and environmental condition. The Sustainable Development Initiative launched in 2002 by Unilever with Nestle and Groupe Danone aims to support more sustainable production methods for raw materials such as peas, palm oil, tomatoes, tea and spinach. But none of this addresses the problems outlined in the Government's White Paper “Sustainable Farming & Food Strategy”, which pointed out that it takes 10 tonnes of raw material to produce 1 tonne of processed food. The remaining 90% is discarded as waste, of which the packaging waste includes 12 billion plastic and carrier bags and 29 billion food and drinks cans each year.
Thursday 8 th September
Cuba in the 1990s privatized most of its farms. In the absence of conventional agrochemicals, Cuban scientists developed home-grown biopesticides and biofertilisers by selecting and mass-producing beneficial organisms that occur naturally. Thanks largely to its urban gardens, Cuba became self-sufficient in food by the late ‘90s and has become a model for other countries trying to escape industrial agriculture.
Swiss law, based on a 1999 referendum, requires agricultural subsidies to be conditional on crop rotations, with at least four crops, measures against soil erosion and a high degree of biodiversity in the area farmed. Use of fertilizers halved between 1980 and 2000, while pesticide use is also well down. Rural communities have been re-vitalised as a result.
Friday 9 th September
In Western Europe , the industrialization of agriculture took 90% of farmworkers off the land. In India , agriculture employs over 500 million people, and in China 267 million. Most of them use organic methods by default because they are too poor to buy chemicals or special seeds. A rapid move to large-scale cultivation using industrial methods would be catastrophic both for social cohesion and the environment. A recent series of studies by the International Fund for Agricultural Development, conducted in India , China and six Latin American countries, has found that farmers who switch to organic agriculture achieve higher earnings and a better living standard. They are also healthier than farmers who habitually use chemicals.
Saturday 10 th September
World trade in basic food commodities – cereals, pulses, oilseeds, coffee, cocoa, sugar etc. – is now dominated by a small number of companies. Food processing is also highly concentrated: just four companies prepare almost all the ready-made meals sold in UK supermarkets. Just twelve supermarket chains dominate food sales in Europe and America . Farmers in North America , Australia Argentina and now Brazil have surrendered their control of seeds to a handful of biotech giants who have adopted a deliberate strategy of controlling the planting of basic food crops worldwide. Under WTO rules on intellectual property rights, Syngenta now has control over most of the rice grown in Pakistan , India and other parts of Asia . Monsanto dominates patents on soybeans, maize, cotton and other major crops. On a happier note, under the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food & Agriculture, a Global Crop Diversity Trust has recently been set up to operate a gene bank on behalf of plant breeders, farmers and researchers everywhere. Its aim is to provide free access to seeds without restrictive patents.
Sunday 11 th September
Dear Father, you have given us matchless gifts in the realm of science and technology. Help us to understand that you alone are the source of all truth and understanding. Let us never be blinded by the lure of the marketplace or tempted to put at risk the lives and health of our fellow-humans. Watch over our motives, loving Father, that we may ever give prime place to the furtherance of your kingdom. This we ask for the sake of your Son, who died that we might live.
Monday 12 th September
Genetic Modification, like any technology, can be used for good or ill. Apart from the controversy over potential health and environmental impact, there are worries about the power over global agriculture that GM technology could give to a handful of companies. Traditional agriculture has developed over 10,000 years in tune with the complexities of nature. Nature has a way of biting back when its ecosystems are disturbed.
The UN Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) supports fifteen research centers which aim to harness science to the needs of local farmers, using technology to improve Third World staples like sorghum, millet, chickpeas and groundnuts. According to the Rockefeller Foundation which helped to fund CGIAR: “Our concern has been to ensure that new varieties are freely available to poor farmers, and in particular that farmers can keep varieties from year to year, and swap them with other farmers.” However, the FAO's 2004 report points out how this interchange is threatened by the spread of patented seeds dominated by a few companies.
Tuesday 13 th September
The FAO reported favourably on the impact of GM crops in the 2003-4 edition of its annual report. However, a 2004 study on the first ten years of GM use in the USA called “Genetically Engineered Crops and Pesticide Use in the US” by Charles Benbrook (published by BioTech InfoNet) found that, despite industry claims that GM crops would reduce the need for regular spraying, GM maize, soybeans and cotton had increased herbicide use by about 55 million kg. since 1996. Herbicide use indeed declined for a few years after 1996, but weeds soon developed resistance, obliging farmers to do more spraying.
Wednesday 14 th September
In June, illegally-contaminated GM rice was found on sale in the Guangzhou province of China , raising fears that untested GM rice may be spreading out of control and have entered the food supply of major Chinese cities. The Chinese Biosafety Committee immediately postponed approval of any further GM rice varieties for commercial use. Japan , Korea and the European Commission had previously raised concerns with the Chinese Government about contamination of Chinese rice exports. Meanwhile a Greenpeace opinion poll found that 73% of Chinese shoppers in Guangzhou , Beijing and Shanghai would choose non-GM over GM rice. A website giving details of all known cases of GM contamination is at: www.gmcontaminationregister.org
Thursday 15 th September
While GM technology has hit the headlines, other technologies are having a degree of success. Traditional cross-breeding has been enhanced by a new understanding of genetic make-up. Tractors use global positioning technology to pinpoint areas of fields that need specific applications of fertilizer, reducing wasteful run-off. Most irrigation systems lose vast amounts of water through evaporation, leakage and salinisation – a problem alleviated by drip irrigation. Not the least important issue is the status and education of women, who do most of the farmwork in poor countries. There is much more to agricultural progress than mere technology.
Friday 16 th September
Although nature supplies free solar energy for the photosynthesis of crops, industrial agriculture is heavily dependent on oil. From the tractor fuel used for ploughing, spraying and harvesting down to energy costs of manufacturing fertilizers and pesticides and of packaging, storing, processing and transporting food – every stage has a substantial energy input. Air transport of flowers, fruit and vegetables is a particularly extravagant use of oil. Average food miles in the USA – the distance travelled by the food to a consumer's plate – now exceeds 2,000 kilometres. This wasteful use of fossil fuels cannot continue beyond our present generation – and could, with the rocketing price of oil – end quite suddenly.
Saturday 17 th September
In June the giant Japanese company Mitsubishi announced its decision to stop buying woodchips from endangered old-growth forests in Tasmania , but to source its woodchips entirely from plantations. This has set an important precedent which could soon be followed by other Japanese companies such as Oji and Nippon .
Sunday 18 th September
Give us courage, Lord God, to stand up and be counted,
To stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves,
To stand up for ourselves when it is needful for us to do so.
Let us fear nothing more than we fear you.
Let us love nothing more than we love you,
For thus we shall fear nothing also.
Let us have no other God before you,
Whether nation or party or state or church.
Let us seek no other peace but the peace which is yours,
And make us its instruments,
Opening our eyes and our ears and our hearts,
So that we should know always what work of peace we may do for you.
Monday 19 th September
According to the Brazilian Government, more than 26,130 sq. kms. of Brazilian forests were cleared in 2003/4 – more than 70% of it without authorization. The City of Sao Paulo , which in 2004 accounted for 15% of timber extracted from Amazonia , has issued a decree requiring suppliers of all publicly-purchased timber to present evidence of the legal origin of their timber. Nine other Brazilian cities – including Manaos, the capital of Amazonas state – have signed up to the commitments required for the designation of “ Amazon Friendly City ”, namely:
Not to purchase endangered mahogany;
To require evidence of legality and sustainable origin of timber products through the chain of custody;
To give preference to timber from sustainable sources;
To give guidance to construction companies and businesses.
Tuesday 20 th September
A year ago the Government committed itself to buying timber from sustainable sources approved by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Now it has decided to allow timber produced under the “Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification” and the “Sustainable Forestry Initiative” to qualify for sustainable timber procurement. Yet evidence obtained by FoE and Greenpeace shows that both schemes allow large-scale unsustainable logging in ancient forest areas, the destruction of endangered species' habitat and the abuse of indigenous people's rights. Greenpeace comments: “This decision will rubber-stamp destructive logging practices that threaten the environment and do not take into consideration indigenous people's rights. We urge both public and private sectors to clearly specify FSC on all contracts in order to guarantee that the timber they use is from legal and sustainable sources.”
Wednesday 21 st September
The Japan Association for the 2005 World Exposition (also known as the Global Eco-Tech Awards) has awarded 1 million yen (about £5,000) to each of 100 technologies that “contribute significantly to the resolution of global environmental issues and to the creation of a sustainable future for humankind and the Earth”. The 44 overseas winners come from 23 countries in Europe , Asia , Africa and North, Central and South America . For example, a Philippine technology uses coconut shell fibres (normally a waste product) as a geotextile net to prevent landslides and protect sloping ground surfaces, particularly under newly-planted trees.
Thursday 22 nd September
Other prizewinners include:
The Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion technology of Japan 's Saga University which generates electricity by utilizing the thermal difference between the ocean surface and deep water;
A new type of solar cell, developed by Origin Energy Solar of Australia, in which the panels are in strips in order to expand the surface area;
The Kinkizi Electricity Generating Stove, developed by Arnold Ahimbesibwe of Uganda, which uses charcoal or firewood for generating electricity while cooking or boiling water.
Friday 23 rd September
Planting forests as carbon sinks has long been considered a useful tool in combatting global warming. New research from the University of California , published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finds that, as the rate of carbon emissions increases, the earth's ability to absorb the emissions decreases, so rendering carbon-offset programmes useless. The reasons are various:
On land, global warming dries out the tropics and reduces plant growth, which in turn reduces photosynthesis and carbon uptake;
In the oceans, CO 2 from the atmosphere mixes rapidly into the upper layers, from where it slowly sinks into the depths, where it remains sequestered. However, rising temperatures warm the upper layers, making the ocean more stratified, so that CO 2 cannot mix readily downwards.
Lead researcher Fung comments: “Taking all these effects together, our finding implies that carbon storage by the oceans and land will lag further and further behind as climate change accelerates with growing CO 2 emissions, creating an amplifying loop between the carbon and climate systems.”
Saturday 24 th September
Over the past year the price of oil has more than doubled to $65 a barrel: with ever-rising demand from China and India , it looks unlikely to stop there. “Peak Oil” is described in Paul Mobbs's ground-breaking book “Energy Beyond Oil” as “the date when the world simply cannot pump any more oil”. Most studies put this date in the range of 2005 to 2015, though some of the more optimistic place it between 2020 and 2035. Oil is not just an energy source. Plastics, fertilizers and a large part of the world's chemical and manufacturing processes are dependent on the refining of crude oil. “Peak Oil” will be the date when declining production and rising demand will meet in a headlong clash of interests which, unless world leaders carefully prepare the ground, could lead to conflict. Since oil is priced in US dollars, a currency in which developing countries are weak, it is likely that, at least in the short term, the oil crisis will impact most heavily on the countries least able to cope with it. In the long run, none of us will escape.
Sunday 25 th September
Lord God, we pray that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move in the hearts of men and women and among the nations of the world, that the barriers of fear, suspicion and hatred which separate us may crumble, and the body of humankind may be healed of its divisions and be united in the bonds of justice and peace, for the honour of your holy Name. Amen. (New Every Morning)
Monday 26 th September
Biodiesel produced from oilseed rape is sometimes considered a substitute for petrol or diesel. However, even if we turned over half of Britain's arable land to producing biofuels, this would provide fuel for just over 2 million cars – less than 10% of the current total – and this figure does not include lorries, trains and tractors which would also need biodiesel. To provide biodiesel for all Britain 's cars would require five times more land than is currently under cultivation.
Tuesday 27 th September
Hydrogen, like electricity, is not itself a fuel, but requires energy for its production. Currently this energy comes from oil or gas. Alternatively, according to research at Warwick University , the conversion of Britain 's car fleet to hydrogen would require 100,000 wind turbines or 100 new nuclear plants. Hydrogen also reacts with oxygen to produce water vapour. If hydrogen is used on a large scale, the water vapour in the stratosphere could lead to the destruction of the ozone layer in the same way as CFCs and other ozone-damaging chemicals.
Wednesday 28 th September
Unst in Shetland , Britain 's northernmost inhabited island, looks set to become the world's first exporter of compressed liquid hydrogen, using the island's abundant wind power to separate hydrogen from water. Professor Tony Marmont of Loughborough University believes that hydrogen, separated from water by electrolysis, could be used to power electric generators and to fuel the island's vehicles. Unst's £300,000 PURE (Promoting Unst Renewable Energy) project already uses a wind turbine to transform water into hydrogen by electrolysis. A delegation which includes the local MP, Alistair Carmichael, is seeking financial assistance from the Government to expand the project.
Thursday 29 th September
According to research published in the New Scientist, around 360,000 square miles of permafrost in Western Siberia is rapidly turning into a watery landscape of shallow lakes, releasing huge quantities of methane – estimated at 70 billion tons or one quarter of the world total – which has hitherto lain trapped in the frozen peat. One of the researchers, Sergei Kropotin of Tomsk University , predicts “an ecological landslide that is probably irreversible and undoubtedly connected to climate warming.”
Friday 30 th September
A service of worship, based on CEL's LOAF principles for food (Locally produced, Organically grown, Animal friendly, Fairly traded) is to be held at 7.30 this evening at Andover URC church in preparation for tomorrow's Growing Green Conference at the same venue.
Tomorrow's conference includes workshops on Starting a Local Group, Green Worship, Young People's Forum, Spirituality, Ecocongregation and Speaking for CEL.
In addition, discussion groups will be formed on a wide variety of subjects of concern. For details contact the About Usrmation Officer at 3 Bond Street , Lancaster L1 3ER (tel. 01524 36241) or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
A booking form can be downloaded from: www.christian-ecology.org.uk
Farming to Survive (no. 133 briefing from Understanding Global Issues)
“Energy Beyond Oil” by Paul Mobbs (publ. Matador @ £15.99)