“If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain“Move from here to there” and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
“The most important work we have to do is what must be done on our knees, alone with God, away from the bustle of the world and the plaudits of men.”
Thursday 1 st December
Even before the forthcoming Government Energy Review has begun, Tony Blair is reported to be backing a plan to build new nuclear power stations. Yet cleaner, safer, speedier and cheaper alternatives exist: cleaner and cheaper, because UK taxpayers are already committed to paying £50 billion to clean up existing nuclear facilities, and to build a single new one has never been costed; safer, because they risk the proliferation of nuclear weapons, no solution has been found to the safe disposal of high-level waste, and they are vulnerable to terrorist attacks; speedier, because it takes 10-15 years before any new nuclear power station can come on-stream, whereas renewable energy and energy efficiency are technologies available now – at an affordable price. In 2003 the Cabinet Office estimated that nuclear power would cost per KWh more than either on-shore or off-shore wind. More positively, the development of renewable energy in Britain could help meet the huge global demand from countries such as China and India.
Friday 2 nd December
A Canadian energy company, EPOD International, has embarked on two pilot projects to capture and store electricity generated by wind turbines during off-peak periods and to release it to the grid when demand is high. Wind power has often been criticised for inefficiency due to its intermittent nature. Now, as Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks puts it: “This new research is a nail in the coffin of the exaggerated myths peddled by opponents of wind power.” Coincidentally, a study commissioned by the DTI from the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University, after analyzing wind speeds at 66 locations across the UK since 1970, finds that the wind always blows strongly enough to generate electricity somewhere in Britain.
Saturday 3 rd December
Today a march co-ordinated by the Campaign against Climate Change will begin at noon from Lincoln's Inn Fields, London. A rally will take place at 2 pm outside the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square. Not far away, at Hinde Street Methodist Church, Marylebone W1U 3J., Christians of all denominations are invited to join in a Prayer for the Planet service at 4.15 pm. For details, visit www.christian-ecology.org.uk or www.climatecc.org and www.ctbi.org.uk
Sunday 4 th December
Loving Father, you sent your Son to be a light to those who walk in darkness. May we who have brought your creation to the edge of darkness see the new path that we must tread, through the power of your eternal light. Amen.
Monday 5 th December
The Conference on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change is taking place at Montreal this week. The US will, as usual, be represented as observers only, though it is vital that, sooner rather than later, they be drawn in as parties to an agreement. Until the US and Australia agree on targets for reduction of greenhouse gases, it is unlikely that large developing nations such as China and India will sign up to Kyoto. Equal individual rights to discharge CO 2 within safe limits should be the aim of negotiations. As the Archbishop of Canterbury has said: “This type of thinking appears utopian only if we refuse to contemplate the alternatives honestly.”
Tuesday 6 th December
A study by Jonathan Patz of the University of Wisconsin and Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum of the World Health Organisation concludes: “Many of the most important diseases in poor countries, such as malaria and malnutrition, are highly sensitive to climate. The health sector is already struggling to control these diseases and climate change threatens to undermine these efforts.” They argue that climate change poses a global ethical problem, with those most at risk being least responsible for the problem. “The US is the number one emitter of greenhouse gases and, as a developed nation, must take a leadership role to deal with these problems. Our energy-consumptive lifestyles are having lethal impacts on other people around the world, especially the poor.”
Wednesday 7 th December
The World Energy Outlook 2005 report from the International Energy Authority predicts that global emissions of CO 2 will rise by 52% by 2030 because of growing energy demand. IEA's Deputy Director warns that this trend leads to a future that is not sustainable and calls for action to get the planet back onto a sustainable energy path. FoE comments: “The predicted growth in carbon emissions shows the urgent need for countries to switch to clean energy supplies . . . Developing renewable energies such as biomass, wind, tidal, solar and photovoltaics will have far-ranging benefits for the entire global community. They can contribute to security of energy supply, reduce fuel imports and dependency, cut greenhouse gas emissions and improve environmental protection. It's time politicians and decision-makers across the world embraced these technologies for the benefit of us all.”
Thursday 8 th December
A World Bank report called “Where is the wealth of nations?” for the first time assesses countries' wealth by including resource depletion and population growth as negatives in addition to the standard measurement of GDP. It finds that 26% of the total wealth of developing countries comes from natural resources, but only 16% of the wealth of developed countries is so derived. When resource depletion and population growth are factored in, over 50 developing countries have negative growth, i.e. their wealth comes from natural riches whose over-exploitation leads to unsustainable economic growth.
In September the UN set up a commission on environmental accounting, which should set a universal standard by 2010. Can we afford to wait till then?
Friday 9 th December
A new WWF report finds that Britain is the biggest importer in Europe of illegally-logged timber and is responsible for destroying 4 million acres of forests – an area three times the size of Luxembourg – each year. The EU as a whole last year imported £10 billion-worth of illegally-logged timber, adding to the destruction of the world's most important forests and exacerbating poverty in some of the poorest countries. “Given a global market where illegal timber so drastically undercuts the price of legally-produced timber, progress towards eliminating the illegal trade has been predictably slow.” The EU in September agreed to a voluntary licensing system, but WWF says the latest attempts to control the illegal trade, led by Britain in its EU presidency, are “hopelessly weak.” “Britain has made poverty a central plank of its EU presidency, yet its consumption of illegal timber is robbing countries such as Cameroon and Indonesia of invaluable income. Illegal logging often deprives local communities who rely on forests for their livelihoods, while big international companies reap the profits.”
Saturday 10 th December
Another WWF report highlights the impact on the world's forests of major tissue manufacturers in Europe. Each European uses each year13 kg. of toilet tissue, making a yearly total of 22 billion rolls of toilet paper or 26% of world production. Most tissue products contain high-quality virgin fibres taken directly from important forests around the world. Kimberly Clark, makers of Andrex and Kleenex, uses 24% of recycled material in its products. The best of the five manufacturers surveyed was SCA Tissue, makers of Velvet, which uses 46% recycled content. “Every day around the world about 270,000 trees are effectively flushed down the toilet or end up as garbage.”
Offices, schools and hotels mostly use recycled tissues, but most supermarket customers have no idea that they may be threatening the world's forests. Manufacturers should be obliged to label their products with recycling symbols showing the recycled content.
Sunday 11 th December
The earth is becoming a wasteland: Breath of the Most High, come and renew it.
Humanity is becoming a battleground: Child of Peace, come and unite it.
Society is becoming a playground: Key of Destiny, open doors to our true path.
The world is becoming a no-man's-land;
God-with-us, come and make your home here and in our hearts.
Monday 12 th December.
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) meets this week in Hongkong. Tony Blair in his Mansion House speech said: “We need a comprehensive agreement to cut barriers to trade in three areas: agriculture, non-agricultural market access and services.”
An FoE report called “Can't See the Forest for the Trees: How the WTO is gambling with our future” explains how attempts to relax trade rules on natural resources would result in an increase in logging and the commercial exploitation of forest products, damaging poor communities, the natural environment and exacerbating climate change.
Developing countries do indeed need access to European and North American markets for their natural products, but the USA and EU have made it clear that progress on eliminating unfair subsidies is dependent on developing countries opening their markets to multinational service industries – particularly water – and to industrial products. It may be that, as at Cancun in 2003, developing countries will conclude that to have no deal is better than to accept the one on offer.
Tuesday 13 th December.
Brussels is home to over 15,000 lobbyists – more than one for every European Commission official – representing every kind of corporate lobby group and business body. A report from WDM and War on Want shows how EU trade policy is driven by the demands of European businesses for new markets rather than by the needs of developing countries, European citizens and the environment. “Europe's primary objective in the Hongkong negotiations is to secure access for European companies to developed and developing country markets. The European Commission's demands that developing countries slash their industrial tariffs and open up their service sectors and agricultural markets do not reflect the wishes of the European public. They are being fiercely resisted by many developing countries at the WTO, yet somehow Peter Mandelson claims he is pursuing a development agenda at the WTO.”
Wednesday 14 th December
Waste oil is produced by many businesses, from mechanics to marinas. It makes up Britain's second largest hazardous waste stream. After sludge and water are removed, the recovered fuel oil is burnt for heat and energy. From the 28 th however, under the EU Waste Incineration Directive, strict environmental rules to reduce emissions make it unlikely that this practice will continue. Only registered waste collectors will be able to fulfil the requirements, so costs of disposal will rise. The Environment Agency says: “Local garages, lift and hydraulic businesses, waste oil collectors, metal cutting facilities and marinas are reminded that they must dispose of waste oils in a safe, legal and environmentally sound way. The illegal disposal of oil will not be tolerated. You will be prosecuted.” Fines are up to a maximum of £20,000.
Thursday 15 th December
The Government has announced that, by 2010, 5% of all fuel sold in the UK will have to come from renewable sources, so saving 1 million tonnes of CO 2 a year in 2010 – the equivalent of taking a million cars off the road. This will provide a huge boost for the growing of oilseed rape and wheat as biofuels. However, vast areas of Britain would be needed for these crops and then they would produce only a fraction of transport's energy requirements. DI Oils has developed the use of high-energy crops, such as jatropha, whose seeds yield up to 40% of oil. As this can be grown alongside other crops, it could help farmers in the developing world and could create jobs there in the refining industry.
Friday 16 th December
The Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (see above) is claimed to save 1 million tonnes of CO 2 emissions by 2010. However, transport emissions as a whole are forecast to rise by 2.1 million tonnes by 2015. So something else is needed. FoE welcomes the assurance that biofuels are to be sourced sustainably, but warns that without strong safeguards the scheme would encourage the destruction of tropical rainforests or promote intensive farming of GM crops. “Unless Alistair Darling tackles the expansion of road and air travel at the same time, the emissions savings from biofuels will be wiped out by the rest of the transport sector.”
Saturday 17 th December
Fly tipping of rubbish has been a growing menace. Fly-tippers rely on householders who resort to hiring fly-by-night waste disposal workers to get rid of unwanted waste, turning a blind eye to the consequential fly-tipping. Under new regulations, householders have a Duty of Care to ensure that rubbish is passed only to registered waste carriers, of which a list is published on the Environmental Agency website. Failure to do so could result in a fine of up to £5,000.
Sunday 18 th December
Holy Spirit, move over the churches, causing those who are blind to injustice and greed, to poverty and degradation of people and planet, to look beyond their rosaries and their altars to the world for which Christ died. Strengthen those who so powerfully and sacrificially stand for the cause of right, and support those quiet souls who put so much effort into raising money, both combining to bring about life before death for people they will never know, but who are nevertheless their brothers and sisters in Christ. Lord, graciously hear us. (Christian Aid/Richard Buckley)
Monday 19 th December
The Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM), in a policy statement, says that bottling water is an unsustainable use of natural resources and adds to the overall levels of waste and pollution in society. Bottled water is not required to list its chemical and bacteriological content, so consumers cannot compare it with tap water. Drinking water from the tap is subject to stringent quality controls and the public can easily access information on its bacteriological and chemical content. The price is subject to vigorous controls and is on average 500 times cheaper than bottled water. CIWEM is particularly concerned that parents might use bottled water to make up an infant formula in the mistaken belief that they are doing their best for their offspring. The House of Commons, in 2004 alone, spent over £11,000 a week on bottled water.
Tuesday 20 th December
In the EU Parliament last month, a compromise was agreed on the REACH proposals for regulating the 30,000 untested chemicals now in circulation. The Parliament supported the obligation to replace hazardous chemicals with safer alternatives when these are available. However, continued failure to provide basic safety information makes it impossible to identify and replace the most hazardous substances, such as hormone disrupters. This month the Council of Ministers, meeting in Brussels, has an opportunity to strengthen this vital piece of legislation. FoE comments: “This is a unique opportunity to protect women, men and children and their environment, and it must not be sacrificed to the short-sighted interests of large chemical producers.”
Wednesday 21 st December
The microscopic dust which comes off vehicle tyres is not taken into account in London's Atmospheric Emissions Inventory, yet a report called “Particulate Matter in the UK” produced for the Government by the Air Quality Expert Group reckons that tyre and brake wear emissions account for over 23% of total road transport emissions. To form rubber into hard-wearing tyres, a range of chemicals is used, including xylene, benzene, petroleum naphtha, chlorinated solvents, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, anthracene, phenanthrene, benzopyrene, phenols, amines, polychlorinated biphenyls, halogenated cyanoalkanes and plasticisers. Tyre processing involves heavy metals such as zinc, cadmium, lead, chromium and copper. Numerous studies have linked the rise in asthma and other allergies to particulate matter emitted by vehicle exhausts. Now researchers believe that tyre dust is at least as influential.
Thursday 22 nd December
According to Colin Tudge, author of “So Shall We Reap”, the task for farmers in Africa and elsewhere is not to produce maximum yields in the occasional good year, but to ensure adequate yields even in the worst years. Security, not productivity, is the priority. Farming designed to feed people must be rooted in sound biology – lots of plants, not many animals, tremendous intricacy and attention to detail. Such farming is labour-intensive. With a billion people in the world undernourished and migration to the cities continuing at an increasing pace, the urban slums reflect the failure of modern agriculture. People lose their farms because they cannot “compete” with modern commerce. The system is not designed to feed people, but to generate the greatest possible amount of cash in the shortest possible time. “If we wanted to design agriculture to feed people, we could do so easily.”
Friday 23 rd December
Many UK farmers, faced with the power of supermarkets to depress prices, believe simply that “supermarkets are bastards”. The truth is that most of us who shop in supermarkets get what we ask for. As long as shoppers are ignorant of the true cost of the food they buy, they will continue to get cheap, anonymous food produced elsewhere in the world under conditions unknown to us, by people we will never see or care about. According to Patrick Holden of the Soil Association, farmers need to engage with customers and sell them a better story, that British farmers are worth supporting and that there are benefits to health in paying more for home-produced food.
Saturday 24 th December (Christmas Eve)
Bless tonight, Father, those for whom this is a hard and bitter time of suffering and remembering, those for whom the gift of your Son seems to offer little comfort. Deepen in our hearts true care for them and for all for whom this night has no holiness or glimpse of the wonder of your love. We thank you that your gift is to us all, and that you patiently wait for our acceptance. Bring us all, dear Father, at the last to know it and receive it. Amen.
Sunday 25 th December (Christmas Day)
“God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3.16)
We praise and bless you, God our Father, for your wonderful goodness in sending your Son into our soiled and sinful world. Help us to care for your world as your faithful stewards, knowing that you have touched all of it with your loving hands. Amen.
Monday 26 th December
On this, the anniversary of the Asian tsunami, we pray for all who are still suffering from the consequences of that terrible event: those who lost loved ones, those who lost their homes and livelihoods. We pray for all who are involved in the reconstruction of lives and property. May the natural coastal defences of mangroves and forests never again be damaged or destroyed in the interests of ephemeral commercial operations, or plain greed. May all religious communities come together in the belief that God's world is sacred and we ignore that fact at our peril.
Tuesday 27 th December
“From the lips of children you have ordained praise.” (Matthew 21.16)
A London-wide study of 11-18 year olds has found that 70% thought their parents should do more recycling and only 50% said their family always recycles. Ken Livingstone commented: “These findings give us hope for the future . . . Residents in every London borough can recycle all sorts of materials such as glass, paper and cans including glass sauce jars, pet food tins and junk mail. Householders can recycle more than they think.”
Nine-year old Sorrel de Paul Hanika of Croydon said: “My Mum and Dad are quite good about splitting things out to be recycled, like paper, cans and bottles, but then they keep forgetting to put it out for collection – and it's really easy: all we have to do is put it outside the house and it gets picked up.” For information ring 0845 3313131 or visit the Recycle for London website.
Wednesday 28 th December
Since last month's report from Sir Ben Gill's Biomass Task Force, which recommended a grant scheme to encourage us to install biomass boilers, farmers have been considering their options. For example:
Wood pellets, sunflower seeds and palm kernels have already been used in UK power stations including Drax, Fiddler's Ferry and Ferrybridge.
Kilroot power station at Carrickfergus in County Antrim has been grinding up olive pellets (4,500 tonnes a year from Spain) to burn alongside its staple diet of coal.
From Parks Departments' trimmings to poultry farms' chicken litter, it's all being tried, and most of it works.
In Reynolds, Indiana, pig manure is used to make gas to power homes and businesses. Human waste is also on the menu. The 500 residents have already converted their cars to run off corn-based ethanol or soybean diesel and now claim the title of the world's first biotown.
Now EU Commissioner Marianne Fischer Boel has promised an EU biomass action plan by the end of the year.
To access the Biomass Task Force report, ring 01392 229348 or visit www.regensw.co.uk
Thursday 29 th December
Solar panels or PV cells are not the only way to harness the sun's energy. Solar cookers concentrate the sun's heat with a focusing dish – a valuable alternative to polluting woodfuel stoves in developing countries. Now, using the same principle, Israel plans a 500 MW plant in the Negev desert, while Stirling Energy Systems of California has announced two ground-breaking projects. These will convert thermal energy into electricity by focusing the sun's rays onto a Stirling engine, so causing the hydrogen gas inside to expand. The resulting pressure drives a piston, as in a car engine, and powers a turbine that generates electricity. The process requires no water and is emission-free. For details visit: www.stirlingenergy.com
Friday 30 th December
In the light of Government plans to demolish thousands of old properties in the Midlands and North, a Swedish firm, Christer Norstrom Architects, has come up with a renovation plan which they consider appropriate to UK housing estates and has won them a top World Habitat Award. They have renovated a problem housing estate by retrofitting solar preheating for hot water and air ventilation, putting in extra roof insulation and installing low-emission windows. Residents were involved from the start, as the improvement not only made the estate a more attractive place to live, but also increased the value of the housing stock.
The other World Habitat Award was won by a Chinese firm, One World Design, which uses waste rice straw not only as insulation but as part of the building structure, replacing two-thirds of the bricks normally used in such buildings, and bringing about a 68% reduction in the coal required for heating and energy. The awards, created by the UK-based Building and Social Housing Foundation, are worth £10,000 each.
Websites: www.bshf.org www.can.se and www.one-world-design.com
Saturday 31 st December
“Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12.24)
Lord, as we stand at the threshold of a New Year, with seeds in our hands, help us to find the strength and understanding to sow them in good ground, to tend them wisely and to give you the glory. Amen
Living Earth (Soil Association)