“This is what the Lord says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.'”
“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
“Goodness is stronger than evil;
love is stronger than hate;
light is stronger than darkness;
life is stronger than death;
victory is ours through Him who loves us.”
(Archbishop Desmond Tutu)
Monday 1 st May
Christian Ecology Link, in response to a government invitation to greater dialogue with faith communities, has published a paper on energy strategy called “Faith and Power”. It seeks a strategy that reflects love of the Creator, expresses care for the whole of creation, and is informed by Christian principles of wise stewardship, peacemaking, justice, loving our neighbours and moderation in consumption. It proposes theological principles and ethical values which point to a low consumption, non-nuclear energy strategy and a bold switch from the use of fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy. The paper can be downloaded from the CEL website (see back page) or ordered from Jill Vogler, 40 The Avenue, Roundhay, Leeds LS8 1JG @ £2 a copy.
Tuesday 2 nd May
Hitherto unpublished papers by scientists from the former Soviet Union, Germany and Japan now make it clear that not thousands but millions of people in the northern hemisphere have suffered and will suffer from the Chernobyl catastrophe. The evidence is contained in a report by the European Committee on Radiation Risk called “ Chernobyl 20 years On” published by Green Audit Press, Castle Cottage, Aberystwyth SY 23 1DZ @ £55 (£20 concessions) obtainable at any good bookshop or by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday 3 rd May
France plans to build a new European Pressurised Reactor at Flamanville near Cherbourg at a cost of 3 billion euros. If the 1600 MW. plant goes ahead as planned, it will open in 2012 and replace some of France 's 58 nuclear reactors that supply 80% of its electricity and are nearing the end of their life. Last month over 12,500 protesters took to the streets under banners reading “20 years after Chernobyl , Stop the EPR nuclear reactor.” The organisers, Sortir du Nucleaire, commented: “This marks a turning point in the history of French energy policy. It proves that people have a strong will to go towards energy efficiency and developing renewable energies.”
Thursday 4 th May
The world's first offshore gas platform powered entirely by wind and solar PV has begun delivering gas to the UK . The Cutter platform in the southern North Sea will deliver 3 million cubic metres of gas per day to the Norfolk coast for at least 15 years. The use of renewables lowers construction costs to around 40% of conventional platforms and makes economical the recovery of small gasfields. Shell believes the new design could be applied to most upcoming projects in the southern North Sea .
Friday 5 th May
Rhodri Morgan, the Welsh First Minister, is recommending to the Government a new plan for a Severn Barrage, which would stretch 10 miles from Lavernock Point near Cardiff to Brean Down, Somerset , impounding 185 sq. miles of the inter-tidal estuary which provides food for over 63,000 migratory birds. The area is a Special Area of Conservation under European law. Construction costs have been estimated at £10-13 billion. Work would not be completed before 2015. Morgan Parry of WWF Cymru comments: “It was only two weeks ago that the Chancellor announced a huge investment in small-scale renewable projects called micro-generation. The Assembly should be putting investment into these smaller projects, which would bring both environmental and economic benefits to Wales .”
Saturday 6 th May
As a result of heat losses from power stations via their cooling towers and through transmission along the national grid, only about 35% of the energy contained in the fuel reaches the customer as useful electricity. Smaller combined heat and power (CHP) plants sited near commercial and residential centres would reduce these losses. The Copenhagen CHP system circulates hot water underground through pre-insulated pipes (as for other utilities) to every building. The supply is metered and the customer controls the heating, just as with an individual boiler system. In Denmark , Sweden and Finland , about 50% of their heating is supplied in this way. In London , the Pimlico system is being retrofitted with two 1.5 MW. CHP gas engines to supply heat to over 3,000 dwellings. The Barking power station, if similarly converted, could supply heat to much of the Thames Gateway development zone.
Sunday 7 th May
Almighty God, who alone canst order the unruly wills and affections of sinful men, grant unto thy people that they may love the thing which thou commandest and desire that which thou dost promise; that so, amongst the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found, in Jesus Christ our Lord. (Book of Common Prayer)
Monday 8 th May
Government figures released in March show that UK carbon dioxide emissions rose again last year and are higher than at any time since Labour came to power. FoE comments: “The Government's lack of real action to cut emissions seriously undermines its credibility on climate change.” It recommends:
A new climate law that would commit any government to reducing CO 2 emissions by 3% year-on-year, monitored through an annual climate budget;
Reducing emissions from the electricity sector by the introduction of new energy efficiency measures, the promotion of renewable sources of electricity and the most efficient technologies for burning coal and gas. Recent research has shown the UK can meet its electricity needs, reduce the need to import natural gas and cut electricity emissions by 48-71% without a new nuclear power programme;
Tackling the heat sector (which uses most of our natural gas) by new measures to encourage energy efficiency and promote renewable heat sources such as biomass, solar thermal and geothermal.
Putting forward proposals for reducing the growth in transport emissions, especially aviation emissions. Surface transport accounts for 25% of total carbon emissions, while aviation is the fastest-growing source of emissions.
The House of Commons debate on the Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Bill is due to be resumed this Friday May 12 th . Please make sure your MP is there to support it.
Tuesday 9 th May .
South-West England's renewable energy agency (Regen South West) has proposed ways of giving local government more power to promote renewables in house-building, electricity generation, heating and carbon emission control. In particular, it wants local authorities to be able to make zero-emission designs for new buildings mandatory, to set their own renewable electricity targets and to introduce financial incentives for the use of renewables in heating. Matthew Spencer, its chief executive, said: “Many local authorities would like to introduce a zero-carbon requirement, but at the moment this would not get past the ODPM. Without the zero-carbon requirement for new build, the large settlements planned for the South West will contribute an annual 700,000 tonnes of CO 2 by 2020.”
Wednesday 10 th May
Over Easter the US Administration released figures showing that US greenhouse gas emissions rose by 1.7% in 2004 and by 15.8% since 1990. David Read, vice-president of the Royal Society, said: “The US and UK are the two leading scientific nations, but in terms of fulfilling the commitment to the UN convention to stabilise greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere, neither country is demonstrating leadership by reducing their emissions to the levels required.” The US accounts for a quarter of world greenhouse gas emissions. CO 2 levels are probably higher now than at any time in the past 10 million years. He continued: “If emissions continue to rise, we can expect even more impacts across the world. The developing world will find it difficult to adapt to climate change and the industrialised countries, which are primarily responsible for the rise in greenhouse gas levels, should realise that they would also struggle to adapt to a world in which, for instance, sea levels are several metres higher.”
Thursday 11 th May
Dongtan city, on China 's Chongming Island , is set to become the world's first eco-city, being self-sufficient in water and food, and eventually providing a carbon-neutral network of homes and offices for up to 500,000 people. The designers, Arup, are to use these ideas for a new 1,000 home development in the Thames Gateway, partnered by the London Development Agency and Greenpeace. Localised water supply and decentralised energy production from renewables will be a cornerstone of the development. Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, commented: “Global warming was created in the west, but it is increasingly to the east that we look for a solution. Shanghai 's Dongtan sustainable city project is breathtaking in scale and ambition and, if it works, it will be a beacon to the world on how to achieve a low-carbon future. London 's zero-emission development will demonstrate that we also can realise this kind of vision in Europe and that it is affordable and achievable to make all major new developments low-carbon.”
Friday 12 th May
Peaks in demand for electricity cost a lot of money. Extra power stations have to be turned on temporarily, then kept idle until next needed. This is polluting and inefficient. Oliver Tickell proposes smart meters, which turn off appliances when prices are high, such as at peak times. For example, washing machines could be made to suspend washing until the price goes down. Electric kettles could “beep” to remind you that the price is currently 50 p. a unit, for example. Smart meters would produce a significant fall in peak demand and the coming “energy gap” – which is used to justify nuclear new build – would be at least partly closed.
Saturday 13 th May
Tickell points out that the difference in road tax charged on the most fuel-efficient cars and the least-efficient cars is roughly £100 a year, which, for someone purchasing a car for £15,000 – £20,000, is hardly worth thinking about. “If we want to make the UK 's car fleet more efficient, we need to make the gas-guzzlers expensive when new, by socking them with a big purchase tax adding several thousand pounds to the cost. Then those who buy new cars will have a strong incentive to buy efficient models, and these are the cars that will feed through into the second-hand market in years to come.”
Sunday 14 th May
Help us, loving Father, to be faithful caretakers of your world. May our actions preserve and not destroy. May our scientific advances bring benefits and not disasters. Open our eyes, Lord, to the needs of others. Take away selfishness and greed. Praise and honour and glory be given to you for all your great goodness to us.
(Women's World Day of Prayer)
Monday 15 th May
According to The Independent, we British spent £294 million last year on pet presents. In addition, animal-loving Britons spent £3.6 billion on food, healthcare and accessories for our furry friends – an increase of 24% in five years – when all our pets really want is food, warmth and love. (Do they really need aromatherapy massage at £35 per half hour?) Marketing, and advertising ensures that everywhere we turn we are bombarded with things to buy that we don't need. Rather than pampering our pets with meaningless gifts, suggests the World Land Trust, we could look for a wider form of giving which satisfies not only our love for our pets but also the other animals that need our help to survive. The £294 million spent on pet presents last year would be enough to save, for ever, twenty million acres of tropical forest.
Tuesday 16 th May
International Clean Up, at the NEC Birmingham, is a three-day conference and exhibition starting today on ways and means of cleaning up contaminated land. It is open to local authorities, property developers, environmental consultants and anyone involved in the complicated problems of cleaning up contaminated land. For details ring Rachael Warton on 020 8651 7088 or fax 020 8651 7144.
Wednesday 17 th May
The World Land Trust's Philippine Reef and Rainforest Project aims to restore mangroves on Negros Island and to plant new ones to protect coastal wildlife and provide essential spawning grounds for fish and invertebrates – especially where the harvesting of mud crabs is essential for 95% of the local population. Seed funds are also needed for a coral restoration project in partnership with the Wildlife Trust of India.
Thursday 18 th May
WLT has trained and equipped 12 Ecuadorian students to collect data for new reserves where trees are to be planted for a carbon sequestration project. Many individuals and companies now regularly seek to offset their CO 2 emissions by contributing to carbon sequestration programmes. BSkyB, Scottish & Southern Electricity and Vesta Blades are among the companies supporting the scheme. For details visit: www.carbonbalanced.org
Friday 19 th May
The use of cypermethrin in sheep dips has made 1,700 km. of our rivers ecologically lifeless every year. In 2004 it killed 5,000 native crayfish in Cumbria 's River Mint. The Government's advisory service ACAS itself was fined for wiping out aquatic life in two rivers near Aberystwyth. The Government has now suspended licences to use cypermethrin while DEFRA seeks more information on its effects. Matt Shardlow, director of Buglife, commented: “Slopping highly toxic chemicals about the countryside is an outmoded practice. We hope this ban becomes permanent.”
Saturday 20 th May
On Earth Day (April 20 th ) two mayors from Israel and one from Jordan met alongside the River Jordan to draw attention to the fact that the river now carries only 3% of its original water volume, and most of that is heavily polluted by untreated sewage. Dams on its tributary, the River Yarmouk, have severely reduced the flow and the building of a new dam threatens to stop it altogether. Gidon Bromberg, director of FoE Middle East, commented: “FoE hopes to spur both Israel and Jordan to place the river on the UN World Heritage list to help protect it from further degradation.”
Sunday 21 st May
Lord, have mercy on our wayward world as it totters on the brink of disaster and self-destruction.
Have mercy on our leaders who bear the ultimate burden of government.
Have mercy on our nation as we face our share of responsibility.
Lord, have mercy on us all and give us the strength and determination, through your grace, to make a fresh start. (Frank Colquhoun)
Monday 22 nd May
In 1991, Georgina Downs, then living in a Sussex village surrounded by fields, began to suffer unexplained symptoms including blisters, headaches, sore throats, flu-type fevers and bodily pain. She asked her local farmer what pesticide he had used on his fields. As was his right, he refused to tell her or notify her when he would be spraying them next. Years of campaigning resulted last year in a report from the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution recommending a 5-metre no-spray buffer zone alongside residential property. Yet American studies have shown that pesticides can be detected up to three miles from treated areas. Seven American states now impose buffer zones of up to 2.5 miles around schools. Georgina has applied to the High Court for a Judicial Review calling on the Government to protect the public from pesticides. Her campaign can be followed at: www.pesticidescampaign.co.uk
She has been nominated campaigner of the year for the Observer Ethical Awards 2006.
Tuesday 23 rd May
Noise Pollution is a growing menace. Over 2,800 schoolchildren aged 9-10 and living near Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands, Barajas in Spain and Heathrow in Britain, took part in a study called “Road Traffic & Aircraft Noise Exposure, Children's Cognition & Health” now published in The Lancet. The researchers found that exposure to aircraft noise impaired reading comprehension – even after adjusting for socio-economic differences between high-noise and low-noise schools. Reading age in children exposed to high levels of aircraft noise was delayed by up to two months in the UK for each 5-decibel change in noise exposure. Other studies of the effects of aircraft noise on children's health noted higher blood pressure in those living near an airport, lower reading abilities and poorer long-term memory.
Wednesday 24 th May
Dr. Michael Bull, a media lecturer at Sussex University , comments that we have become so conditioned to aural blight from such an early age that many people actually need sound to feel comfortable with themselves. “People come in from work and switch on the TV to avoid being in a quiet house. We become conditioned to ambient background noise through different media and so, if you switch it off, people feel uncomfortable.”
Kendall Wrightson, an expert on music technology, says: “We use sound as a form of audio analgesic, or acoustic perfume, to drown out a critical inner voice and the associated feelings it creates. Despite increasing awareness of psychotherapeutic principles, the belief prevails that emotion is somehow controlled through distraction. The quiet reality of how I feel now is devalued and ignored. The cost to society of this unexpressed emotion is an epidemic of stress-related illness that reflects a struggle to adapt to the speed and sustained arousal of city life.”
A Christian view of this modern phenomenon might emphasise the presence of a loving Father wherever the stress and noise of modern living tends to drown our personalities.
Thursday 25 th May
As sandstorms deposited 30,000 tons of sand from the Gobi desert on Beijing 's homes, the head of China 's environmental protection administration has warned that worsening water and air pollution could soon translate into social tension, riots and protests. China's Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao, echoed his views: “The succession of dust storms is a warning to us. Ecological destruction and environmental pollution are creating massive economic losses and gravely threatening people's lives and health.” According to the World Bank, 16 of the world's 20 most polluted cities are in China. Peng Lei of WWF said that China was sacrificing the environment for the fast growth of the economy. “This model of economic development is not sustainable.”
Friday 26 th May
How can developers be persuaded to incorporate every possible water-saving technology into new housing projects? At present, it is the water companies who have a legal obligation to supply water to new developments – even when the water supply is inadequate. Developers, suggests Oliver Tickell, should be made to buy “water rights” to supply their new houses before they can be sold. The “water rights” would be created by increasing the water efficiency of existing housing stock, e.g. by installing water-efficient appliances, showerheads, rainwater capture and storage systems. Developers would then keep their need for “water rights” to a minimum by installing water-saving technology into every house. The alternative is, simply, worsening water shortages, leading eventually to rationing.
Saturday 27 th May
Craig Sams, author of The Little Food Book, in his 2006 Martin Radcliffe lecture, refers to the $180 billion subsidies paid to American farmers last year. It costs US farmers 6 cents a pound to grow maize. It costs Mexican farmers 4 cents, but through subsidies to US farmers the world price – set by the Chicago Board of Trade – is a mere 3 cents. Result: 100,000 Mexican farmers have been driven off the land in the past few years.
Subsidies represent around 50% of farm income in the US and EU which, between them, provide one-sixth of the world's food supply. If the subsidies were abolished, world food prices would initially double, but because farmers in the majority world operate on a lower cost basis and are more productive, market forces would help to keep prices down. There is another factor: When the oil price reaches $100 a barrel, as it surely will, farmers will no longer be able to justify the use of artificial fertilisers and pesticides. The farmer who is “carbon-frugal” is due for big rewards.
Sunday 28 th May
God of the nations, we lift our hearts for all who in national and international affairs bear the load of responsibility. In all their ways grant them sincerity and a desire to act in the highest interests of our country and the world. And when the burden seems too heavy and weariness overtakes both body and mind, comfort and sustain them and those dear to them, and restore them to serve you in all they do, with clearer vision and heightened ideals, that they may help to make this country the instrument of your will and, once again, an example for the world to follow. Amen.
(Leslie Weatherhead – adapted)
Monday 29 th May
A new WWF report investigates the actions of 22 EU states and Switzerland in tackling illegal logging. On a scale measuring performance in
developing licensing schemes for loggers;
projects to reduce illegal logging, and
procurement rules to ensure public money is not used to buy illegal timber,
the UK topped the ratings, though its score slid backwards in the past year. WWF commented: “Alarmingly, none of the governments could guarantee that taxpayers' money is not fuelling illegal logging. EU governments are failing to drive sufficient demand for legal and sustainable timber and wood products.” Ireland came bottom of the table and its government refused to co-operate with the study.
Tuesday 30 th May
Up to 100 million rural households are involved in cotton production and some of the world's poorest countries, such as Mali , are dependent on it. In 2001-2 world cotton prices fell to their lowest level for 30 years, while in 2004-5 US cotton farmers received almost as much from government subsidies as they earned from the crop. In 2004 West African farmers realised around 30% of the average world price for cotton, while US producers were paid 70% above it. Now, for the first time, cotton farmers in India , Pakistan , Peru , Mali , Cameroon and Senegal have been certified as Fairtrade producers, whereby they are guaranteed a fair and stable price that covers the cost of sustainable production with a premium to invest for the future. For more information visit: www.fairtrade.org.uk
Wednesday 31 st May
Cotton consumes more pesticides than any other crop, using 25% of the world's synthetic pesticides and fertilisers. Most of the chemicals applied to cotton contain lethal ingredients (such as endosulfan) which are banned or restricted in Western countries. Certified organic cotton is now cultivated by 20,000 farmers in Africa and by others in Turkey, the US and India. Apart from the health benefits for farmers, organic cultivation maintains a healthy ecosystem by using a variety of natural pesticides (such as Neem seeds) and fertilisers. Intercropping with hibiscus and crop rotations are part of the organic strategy, reducing pests such as boll-worm and whitefly. Organic cotton is still a niche market, but is growing as people become more aware of the environmental and health damage caused by conventional cotton cultivation. For more information visit: www.pan-uk.org
World Land Trust News