“The idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by the hands of men.
They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see;
They have ears, but cannot hear, nor is there breath in their mouths.
Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.”
“The man who says ‘I know him' but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him.
This is how we know we are in him: whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” (1 John 2.4-6)
“Coming before God in prayer is the central God-given human task, the one by which, whether spectacularly or quietly, everything is transformed.” (Bishop Tom Wright)
Tuesday 1 st November
Today, All Saints' Day, a special liturgy devised by the Alliance of Religions & Conservation, with WWF, will be used at St. James's Piccadilly and other churches, based on the covenant made by God with Noah. It draws attention to the vast array of toxic chemicals, 90% of them untested, which are now found in animals and plants far removed from human settlements. The REACH proposals (Registration, Evaluation & Authorisation of Chemicals) now before the European Commission attempt to control the use of chemicals, but they face formidable opposition from the powerful chemical industry. Website: www.arcworld.org
Also today, Tony Blair chairs a conference to assess progress since the G8 summit meetings at Gleneagles in July.
Wednesday 2 nd November
In July the G8 agreed to boost aid to poorer countries by $50 billion. Tony Blair made African poverty and climate change the priorities of Britain 's presidency. Now Lord May, President of the Royal Society, writes:
“As long as greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise, there is a very real prospect that the increase in aid agreed at Gleneagles will be entirely consumed by the mounting cost of dealing with the added burden of adverse affects of climate in Africa . In effect the Gleneagles communiqué gave hope to Africa with one hand . . . but took it away with the other through failure to address adequately the threat of climate change.”
Thursday 3 rd November
As debate rages on various means of bridging the “energy gap”, whether with nuclear power, wind or wave power, solar energy, biofuels or hydrogen fuel cells, a new book – “Powerdown” by Richard Heinberg (Clairview £10.95) concludes that none of these resources, whether alone or in combination, can meet the burgeoning demand for energy, coupled with the depletion of oil, gas and uranium. A “Powerdown” strategy would reduce per capita resource use in wealthy countries, develop renewable energy sources, distribute resources more equitably and reduce world population humanely but systematically over time. This strategy, he writes, could save us, but would require great effort and economic sacrifice.
Friday 4 th November
Heinberg admits that for any national leader to advocate “Powerdown” would be political suicide. Many would say: “Reduce our standard of living? Are they trying to take away our cars?” – forgetting that cars will cease to run anyway when oil becomes prohibitively expensive. Others would say: “Reduce population? That sounds like genocide.” – forgetting that genocide is exactly what the rich nations would do with their nuclear weapons if it came to a scramble for dwindling resources.
Saturday 5 th November
Heinberg quotes a version of the Beatitudes applied to the Amish communities of North America :
Blessed are those who depend least on modern technology,
for they have not forgotten to take care of themselves.
Blessed are those whose culture is communitarian and not individualist, for they will share and prosper.
Blessed are they who have no exploitable natural resources,
for no one will bother them.
Blessed are those who know how to grow food,
for they will eat and feed others.
He wonders how helpful this is to the majority of us city-dwellers. Yet Cuba provides an example: at the end of the cold war, oil imports fell sharply and the economy was in dire straits until its agronomists re-designed the country's food production and distribution around the development of city plots where everyone could grow their own food.
Sunday 6 th November
“We must do what we conceive to be the right thing and not bother our heads or burden our souls with whether we're going to be successful, because if we don't do the right thing, we'll be doing the wrong thing and we'll just be part of the disease and not part of the cure.” (E.F. Schumacher
“Lord God, strengthen our weak wills and our feeble frames that we may work tirelessly for the fulfilment of your promise for the redemption of all creation from the bondage of corruption. This we pray in the name of Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Redeemer.”
Monday 7 th November
Sir John Whitmore, founder of the business consultancy Performance Consultants believes that capitalism is “a flawed economic order that is palpably failing humanity.” “What we need is an economy that is in service to people, that enables all 6 billion of us to exchange goods and services to the equitable benefit of all. Under capitalism, ordinary people are in service to the economy, subservient to it or even expendable. We have the right to demand a fundamental reversal of priority that changes the nature and purpose of the economy to one that places people and our planet at the hub of life, not pounds and profit. Such a shift would de facto spell the end of capitalism as we know it.” He believes the new economic order will emerge from the will and creativity of ordinary people who no longer have to prove themselves by material or power display. More and more business people secretly despise the system they are part of, deplore the lack of corporate values, know their products and services are of little consequence and would love to be out of it and do something more meaningful – but they have a mortgage etc.
The spirit is stirring in such people and they are increasingly asking themselves tough questions.
Tuesday 8 th November
Prince Charles in his address to the Institute of Chartered Accountants referred to the urgent need to adapt our accounting procedures to the critical challenge of minimising the wasteful damage done to the fragile world around us through the short-term perspectives of conventional accounting. “We must tackle the unsustainable issue of the throwaway society. We are living off capital, not income, yet we cannot easily perceive this because the capital consists of . . . the processes of Nature in the form of air, water, soil and climate.”
Wednesday 9 th November
“Ecological Debt” by Andrew Simms starts from the fact that industrialised countries consume fossil fuels at a rate per person that is far above the global sustainable threshold. In order to stabilise carbon emissions at a safe level, a fair share for each person on the planet would be 0.43 tons of carbon a year. The USA now burns 5.3 tons per capita, representing a carbon debt of 4.87 tons per US citizen. “When reckless pollution, in full knowledge of its likely consequences, actually results in death, economic damage and great physical harm in the case of climate change, how different is that from drink driving?” We need an internationally-agreed legal framework which will determine our rights and responsibilities. He believes “Contraction & Convergence” is the model with the best hope of international acceptance.
Thursday 10 th November
No-take fishing zones were pioneered in New Zealand . Results have been spectacular. Inside the zones the Red Snapper has become 8 times bigger and 14 times more numerous. Kelp forests have returned. Visitors come to see the marine life from glass-bottomed boats. Fishermen have learnt to increase their catches by working just outside the zones.
An area off Lundy Island has become Britain 's first no-take zone. It takes many years to restore the full complexity of marine life, but lobsters are already returning to breed. Technology now allows fishermen to catch any fish anywhere. Quotas, limits to mesh size, de-commissioning boats – all have been tried and failed. Only total exclusion seems to enable stocks to recover, and even then it may take several years.
Friday 11 th November
Today two Private Members' Bills are due for their Second Reading in the House of Commons. The Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Bill plus the Management of Energy Bill will, between them, if passed, require year on year reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, an annual report to Parliament on progress, a fiscal strategy to assist microgeneration and energy efficiency, permitted development status for the installation of microgeneration and the revision of building regulations to promote microgeneration. It requires a huge lobbying effort by supporters to encourage the necessary 100 MPs to be present on a Friday afternoon to vote for these bills. MPs are also urged to sign EDM no.391 to support the bills.
Saturday 12 th November
EU energy efficiency labels must now be shown on refrigeration and laundry appliances, dishwashers, electric ovens and light bulb packaging. However, proposals to outlaw energy efficiency labelling as “barriers to trade” have been brought before the World Trade Organisation (WTO) by China , Korea and the USA . Other measures they want revoked include:
Labels which show whether a product is recyclable or has any recycled content;
Labels which indicate sustainable sourcing, such as ‘dolphin-friendly' tuna;
Tax breaks for fuel-efficient vehicle engines;
Fines for manufacturers when tests show their products fail to meet their energy efficiency claims.
FoE comments: “The UK and EU must reject any attempt to undermine hard-won environmental protection legislation.”
Sunday 13 th November
Father, we pray for a vision of your world as your love would make it:
A world where the weak are protected and none go hungry or poor;
A world where the benefits of life are shared;
A world where nations, races, cultures and religions live with mutual respect;
A world where peace is built with justice, and justice is guided by love;
And that we may have the courage and inspiration to play our part in building it.
Monday 14 th November
A recent survey by a joint US and Brazilian team using satellite images shows that deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon has been under-estimated by at least 60%. A worsening drought in Amazonas State has led to emergency distribution by the military of supplies and medicines to tens of thousands of people. According to Carlos Nobre, President of the International Geosphere Biosphere Program, “If the Amazon loses more than 40% of its forest cover, we will reach a turning point where we cannot reverse the savannisation of the world's largest forest.” Deforestation and forest fires account for more than 75% of Brazil 's greenhouse gas emissions and place it among the four top contributors to global climate change. Greenpeace is calling on governments to take urgent action to stop deforestation and commit themselves to the massive CO 2 reductions needed to protect the Earth's biodiversity.
Tuesday 15 th November
One of the 2005 Ashden Award winners is Save the Ifugao Terrace Movement. Forests in the Philippine island of Luzon are threatened by logging and large-scale hydro projects which would flood the valleys. The Movement, headed by Teddy Baguilat, a former provincial governor, is bringing micro hydro power to communities such as Bakiawan, where a 10 kw. plant has been built by the villagers to provide light for evening study and crafts, and power for tools used in the local woodcarving and furniture industry. The few villages connected to mains electricity often experience power cuts for weeks or even months. Now, with micro hydro, there is local control over power supplies and the villagers are delighted. For information e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday 16 th November
Today the European Parliament will debate the REACH proposals (see Nov.1 st ). A study commissioned from Sheffield University by the European Trade Union Confederation finds that, if REACH was fully implemented, it could help avoid each year 50,000 cases of work-related respiratory diseases and 40,000 cases of occupational skin diseases from exposure to dangerous chemicals, saving 350 million euros a year in health bills. Over 15 years the costs of implementing could be between 2.8 billion and 5.2 billion euros, but over the same period the benefits in health could exceed 300 billion euros.
Thursday 17 th November
The REACH legislation is required because there is no health or environmental safety information on 95% of the more than 30,000 chemicals on the market. Findings of contamination of humans and wildlife, of polar bears in the Arctic , of house dust in our homes, and of our own bodies confirm that we face a mounting crisis. The global chemicals industry is fighting hard to keep these hazardous chemicals in products that we and our children use every day. They have already achieved a one-year delay in the legislation – a year in which an estimated 4,000 occupation-related cancer deaths have occurred. The new laws should enable us to know what hazardous chemicals are used in consumer products and would require the industry to substitute the most dangerous with safer alternatives. As long ago as February 2001 the European Commission adopted a White Paper on a chemicals policy. It is expected that the proposals could become law in Spring 2007. We are urged to lobby our MEPs to support the REACH proposals.
Friday 18 th November
Over the next 30 years the world is predicted to generate 30 million tons of radioactive waste from existing nuclear plants. The Government has put the planned £48 billion clean-up of Britain's radioactive waste out to private tender, despite the concern expressed by the Nuclear Safety Advisory Committee and the Health & Safety Commission that pressure to keep costs down will lead to cost-cutting on safety and an increase in the risk of accidents. Meanwhile, since last January all twelve of Britain 's nuclear plants have been provided with 24-hour armed guards in order to make terrorist attack less likely.
Saturday 19 th November
According to a 1999 report from the OECD, if nuclear power is to keep its current proportion of electricity production, and to replace production from fossil fuels, then:
“ . . . the number of nuclear power plants would need to increase 30 times, leading to a total of 12,000 plants . . . Known uranium reserves would then last for about a decade, unless the reactors presently employed are replaced by breeder reactors.”
Britain's fast breeder reactor programme was abandoned in the late 1980s, Japan 's more recently. The power density at the core of a fast breeder reactor is more than four times higher than that in a thermal reactor. This means that if the cooling system failed, it could melt down and explode within a minute.
Sunday 20 th November
Father, we thank you for your great gifts of wisdom and ingenuity. Help us to place them wholly in your service as we search for technologies that will protect the world you created for us and for all the creatures that live in it.
Monday 21 st November
Figures from the International Energy Agency (IEA) show that in 2004 the world consumed an average of 82.5 million barrels of oil each day, i.e. 30 billion barrels a year. This represents an increase in oil consumption of more than 20% in just over 10 years. The IEA earlier predicted that demand for oil would increase by 10% by 2010. It now expects almost half this increase to come by the end of this year. Chinese oil demand alone has doubled over the last 10 years. Last year it rose by 17% and is expected to double again over the next 15 years. BP directors were told, on a recent visit to China, that within a few years 300 million Chinese will leave their farms for the cities, and the need for new roads, railways, factories and houses – all dependent on oil – will grow accordingly. Yet the world's second biggest oilfield, the Cantarelli field off Mexico , recently announced a decline in production as fluids would have to be pumped into the ground to force out the remaining oil, making the operation more expensive. Declining production is the pattern in USA , Indonesia , Norway , Venezuela , Oman and Syria , while the OPEC countries ( Saudi Arabia , Iran , Iraq , Kuwait and the UAE) refuse to allow independent auditing of their reserves as the amount they can sell is dependent on the amount of declared reserves.
Tuesday 22 nd November
A recent Shell report – “Shell Global Scenarios to 2025” – states that oil production from non-OPEC countries (accounting for 60% of world production) “appears to be about to plateau in about a decade”. By “plateau” it means the point at which production cannot increase, no matter how hard the pumps are driven. ExxonMobil in its “Outlook for Energy” report forecasts a peak in non-OPEC production in just five years. As to the potential of deposits of oil sands, Dr. Mamdou Salameh, a World Bank consultant, said in June:
“It is estimated that processing a barrel of tar sand oil releases 5-10 times more greenhouse gases than a barrel of conventional oil.” Processing it requires huge amounts of fresh water and natural gas, both already in short supply, exacerbating the already enormous environmental impacts of the process. When the most environmentally-damaging industry's solution to its impending demise is a process even more damaging, then we know we're in trouble.
Wednesday 23 rd November
In May the International Energy Agency (IEA) in a report called “Saving Oil in a Hurry” outlined emergency measures that could be implemented if oil supplies fell by 1-2 million barrels a day (equivalent to the disruption caused by Hurricane Katrina). The measures included:
Reducing motor speed limits by 25%;
Shortening the working week;
Driving bans on certain days;
Free public transport
Promoting car-pooling schemes.
In the Philippines during May and June, in an attempt to reduce its imports of 300,000 barrels of oil a day, the working week of civil servants was reduced to four days. In the rest of the world, the inalienable right of humans to burn fossil fuels without limit remains almost unchallenged.
Thursday 24 th November
Today, in St. Michael's Church, Chester Square , London , church leaders will meet for a conference entitled “Hope for the Planet”. Organised by A Rocha, the conference will be addressed by Sir John Houghton, professor Alister McGrath, Sir Ghillean Prance and Dr. Elaine Storkey. There will be workshops on:
The Theology of Creation Care;
What can we do about Climate Change?
Why conservation matters, and
Poverty and the Environment.
Friday 25 th November
Over 400 gallons of oil are needed to feed each American each year. About a third of this is required for fertiliser production, 20% for operating machinery, 16% for transportation, 13% for irrigation, 8% for livestock raising (not including the feed) and 5% for pesticide production. This does not include energy costs for packing, refrigeration, transportation or cooking. In Britain , food and drink imports in 1999 cost £17 billion. They required 1.6 billion litres of fuel before reaching the supermarket shelves, and caused 4.1 million tonnes of CO 2 emissions.
Saturday 26 th November
When Britain's food distribution network begins to shift from international to local, the lorries transporting our food (currently one-third of all road freight) will begin to disappear, the supermarkets will lose their competitive advantage, cheap holidays to the sun will be a thing of the past and people will no longer enjoy the luxury of living in one place, working in another, driving their children to school in another and shopping in another. Families will increasingly save money by living, working, shopping and schooling the children in the same place.
The very notion of growth in GDP belongs to the era, now passing, of cheap oil. With the end of growth, the notion of charging interest on money will be defunct. You can only charge interest if you expect there to be more money around next year than there is this year.
Sunday 27 th November
Give us, Father, we pray, a deeper understanding of your purposes, that we may be steadfast amid the turmoil of our times. May our faith never fail, nor our love grow cold, nor our hope become faint. May we look up and lift up our heads as we look for the promised redemption of your world, through the love of Jesus Christ, your Son and our Redeemer.
Monday 28 th November
Localising food production also maximises the amount of energy we get from our food, as opposed to the amount of energy we expend producing it . For example, to fly one unit of carrot energy from South Africa takes 66 units of energy in the form of aircraft fuel. A Japanese environmental group found that if families shifted from imported to local produce, it would be equivalent to cutting household energy use by 20%. Furthermore, a UK study comparing organic with conventional livestock and arable systems found that food produced organically used 42% less energy, mainly as a result of using little or no fertilisers and pesticides. However, since 80% of organic produce sold in Britain has been imported, these gains are largely cancelled out by the energy costs of transportation.
Tuesday 29 th November
The G8 Summit at Gleneagles proclaimed the wish to help Africa by allowing it to export to the rest of the world. The short-term benefits are clear: a steady demand, decent prices and fair wages are a lifeline to many farmers, but . . . Is it wise to encourage farmers to go for export markets when the ever-higher price of oil makes export economically unviable? Perhaps it would be better to help them strengthen local markets.
Wednesday 30 th November
During the autumn 2000 fuel protests, the head of Sainsbury's, Peter Davies, warned that, if the blockades carried on for more than three days, his stores would be out of food. This should have told us how vulnerable we all are to oil price rises. Yet instead of continuing the above-inflation fuel duty rises (as recommended by the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution in 2001), the government dropped the fuel duty escalator. Result: more long-distance transport on our roads, more unsustainable consumption.
We have two choices:
We keep going to supermarkets, buying imported produce and spurning local growers and suppliers. The supermarkets get stronger. The distances get longer. The oil runs out quicker.
We turn to farmers' markets, sign up to box schemes, grow our own food. Oil prices may rise. Supermarket shelves may empty. But we have set a trend. Others will surely follow.
- Green Health Watch Magazine
- Living Lightly
- “Energy Beyond Oil” by Paul Mobbs (Matador 2005)
- “Powerdown” by Richard Heinberg (Clairview 2004)