“The earth is the Lord's and everything in it.” (Psalm 24.1)
“God desires that all the world shall be pure in his sight. The earth should not be injured. The earth should not be destroyed.”
(Hildegarde of Bingen)
“Our world needs to be astonished by love rather than sickened by evil.”
Saturday 1 st July
In 1999 wheat crops in Uganda were attacked by a new strain of black stem rust disease (UG99). In 2001 it reduced the Kenyan wheat harvest by more than two-thirds. If UG99 spread to the rest of the world – only a matter of time, according experts – it could destroy 60 million tonnes of wheat a year (10% of the global harvest), The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food & Agriculture makes it easier for farmers and scientists to access resistant varieties of wheat (or any other crop) which they need to combat diseases that threaten food security. Signatories have free access to the plant genetic resources of all other signatories and will be given grants for conserving their own plant resources. However, details of cash payments to be made if a recipient commercialises a variety still remain to be settled. Some recipients may be looking for the sort of profits associated with blockbuster drugs. According to Emile Frison, Director of the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute, what is needed is a gesture of trust to repair the atmosphere of suspicion that has developed over patents during the past two decades.
Sunday 2 nd July
“We share a common earth. We stand among each other.
We share our planet. We share birth, death, hunger and love . . .
In all of us is a longing for a life that has not yet come,
For a world that is free and just, a dream of hope for all people.”
Lord, we praise you for your goodness to us. Help us to use our gifts in service to you and to our fellow human-beings. Amen.
Monday 3 rd July
In the Amazon Basin , for thousands of years, farmers used to bury charcoal in the soil to produce “Terra Preta” or “Black Earth ”, which in turn produced an ideal environment for plants and crops. The charcoal acts like a coral reef for soil organisms, creating a rich ecosystem where carbon is bound to minerals, so forming a rich soil which retains its fertility to this day.
The ethical organisation Eprida has adapted the technique in this way:
To make charcoal, woodchips (or agricultural waste) are heated in a sealed vessel by pyrolysis. The hydrogen given off is captured, purified and used for biodiesel, or directly in a fuel cell to make electricity.
When nitrogen is added to the charcoal, it increases its effectiveness as a fertiliser. Currently, natural gas is used to extract nitrogen from the air to make ammonia, but this releases a molecule of CO 2 for each molecule of ammonia produced. Also, conventional urea-based fertilisers tend to wash out into waterways, causing pollution.
If ammonia, CO 2 and water are combined with the charcoal, a solid ammonium bicarbonate is formed which, after a further process, can be used to scrub CO 2 flue gases from power plants and convert them into a slow-release nitrogen fertiliser.
Once sequestrated in the soil, the charcoal is “attacked” by mycorrhizal fungi, so forming an aggregate which gives the soil its tilth.
In European trials, Eprida's ECOSS (Nitrogen-Enriched Carbon Organic Slow-release Sequestering) fertiliser has been shown to enrich soil fertility and improve water-holding capacity. In an age of rapid climate change and peak oil, any process that can produce renewable energy from biomass and at the same time capture and sequestrate carbon in the soil must be worth investigation. Contacts: Eprida, 1151 East Whitehall Road , Athens GA30602, USA . Website: www.eprida.com
Tuesday 4 th July
The Neem Tree has for centuries provided Indians with treatments for leprosy, diabetes, ulcers, skin disorders, protection against malaria, and a natural, safe insecticide against locusts, Colorado beetles and boll weevils. When major pharmaceutical companies tried to patent the tree, Vandana Shiva launched a successful campaign to ensure that the tree will remain a natural resource for everyone. Individual trees can survive for 200-300 years. It is virtually drought-proof. It is now planted throughout sub-Saharan Africa . A British environmentalist, Sandi Bellaart, is raising money for a centre in Gambia to provide information and training about the benefits of cultivating this wondrous tree. Contact: Interior Gardens , Williamstow, Combe Down, Bath BA2 5EJ. Tel. 01225 835754. Website: www.neemfoundation.org
Wednesday 5 th July
The failed attempt to patent the Neem Tree is but one example of a mindset that defines “progress” and “wealth” in money values only. “Development” and “growth”, too, are defined solely in terms of cash. Yet simple arithmetic shows that the promise of a Western standard of wealth for everyone could only be realised with the natural resources of at least three Planet Earths. Industrialisation after the Western model simply puts people out of work. “If India farmed the way the British do, half a billion people would be unemployed. No other industry can employ so many people as farming can, and still does . . . Most of Africa is even more emphatically rural than India and has even fewer options.” (Colin Tudge in “The Secret Life of Trees”)
Thursday 6 th July
Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to be awarded a Nobel prize, said in her acceptance speech in 2004: “When the Green Belt Movement began, the Kenyan people were conditioned to believe that solutions to their problems must come from outside. They were unaware of the injustices of international economic arrangements. But through Greenbelt thousands of ordinary citizens were empowered to take action and effect change. They learned to overcome fear and a sense of helplessness.” Trees became symbols of peace and conflict resolution.
Friday 7 th July
Since 1977 the women (primarily) of Kenya's Green Belt Movement have planted more than 30 million trees, providing fuel, food, shelter and income to support their children's education and household needs. More than that, they have contributed to social life. Women in treeless places had lost the habit of standing and talking: it was too hard. Now they do it again. Just so, Plato and Aristotle taught their pupils and developed their ideas in groves of trees around Athens . “What is happening in Kenya could be re-enacted, in a thousand different forms, all over the world – people themselves creating a world that is good to live in.” (Colin Tudge). The contrast with the grand schemes commonly imposed from above in the name of “progress” is stark.
Saturday 8 th July
In August 2004 London suffered a flash-flood that discharged 3 million litres of sewage into the Thames . Afterwards, suggested remedies included water butts on every roof, to slow the flow of water, and porous pavements to allow the ground below to take up the surplus water – all good measures for slowing the water, but expensive to put into effect. Yet this is precisely what trees provide for free in every river catchment throughout the world. All we have to do is to leave them alone. The water that finally flows from a forest is generally clean. What flows from a bare hillside is mud – and that is far more damaging and dangerous.
Sunday 9 th July
Deliver us, Father, from the worship of power – power over nature and power over our fellow-humans. Save us from the worship of science so that, while acknowledging the God-given skills of scientists, we may be spared from the abuse of their discoveries. Free us from false hopes and misplaced trust, so that in you alone we may find our true hope and salvation.
Monday 10 th July
International trade has great potential benefits for enabling people to earn an income, become self-reliant and lift themselves out of poverty. But unfair trade rules and the poor behaviour of some multinational corporations mean that international trade has all too often caused harm to poor communities, workers and the environment. Under the Company Law Reform Bill now going through Parliament, the primary duty of directors remains to maximise profits for shareholders. There is no legal requirement for them to consider the impact of their activities on the environment, people or society. The Bill should require directors to consider the impact of their business activities on all stakeholders, such as the communities they serve, their employees and their environment. They should be required to report annually on the social and environmental impacts of their business decisions. For an update on the Bill visit: www.tjm.org.uk
Tuesday 11 th July
The Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy are given annually for “outstanding and innovative projects which tackle climate change and improve quality of life by providing renewable energy and energy efficiency at a local level.” One of this year's joint 1 st prize winners was Barnsley Council for its Biomass Heating from Waste Scheme “for its pioneering work in demonstrating that wood is a practical and cost-effective fuel for 21 st century towns and cities.” The scheme uses 100% renewable wood sources (waste wood) to heat community housing and other public buildings. The wood has replaced coal and gas, saving nearly 3,000 tonnes of CO 2 emissions a year.
Wednesday 12 th July
A joint 1 st prize winner of a new Ashden Award for Sustainable Energy in Schools was Cassop Primary School in County Durham , “for showing how generating renewable energy on site can spark real interest and understanding across the school – while acting as a beacon for others.” The school, which serves two former mining villages, has for eight years been working to become carbon-neutral, using a wind turbine, solar panels and a biomass boiler to power the school building plus wide-ranging energy-efficiency measures. Pupils act as energy monitors and knowledgeable guides for visiting schools. Following the presentation by David Cameron MP, he said: “There are two models for the future of energy. One of them is an old-fashioned, Whitehall-directed, top-down approach that seeks to pick a technology that will provide for our needs to come through a central grid. The other is a smarter, localised, bottom-up approach that allows different technologies to thrive in a web of interconnectivity. . . The people and projects we are celebrating today are pioneers in a global quest to save us from the consequences of our own actions.”
Thursday 13 th July
Today at St. Albans Cathedral there is to be a conference called “Kyoto Local: Concern into Action” to consider these questions:
How is the food that sustains us produced?
What happens to the rubbish that we create?
How can we act to sustain the environment for the future?
There will be workshops on “Eco-efficiency in buildings”, “Food production and consumption from earth to table”, and “Cleaning our environment: waste and water”. Entry forms are available from: Kyoto Local, Board for Church and Society, Holywell Lodge, 41 Holywell Hill, St. Albans AL1 1HE or by email from:
email@example.com Website: www.stalbans.anglican.org
Friday 14 th July
Tomorrow the G8 countries meet in St. Petersburg with three main themes: Energy Security, Education and Aids/Health Care. In 2000 the G8 received a report on renewable energy which concluded that the urgent task was to get renewable energy to the world's poorest people. The report calculate that by 2010 an extra billion people could have renewable energy, of which 800 million would be in developing countries. No targets were set.
Now a leaked report for tomorrow's meeting calls for a broad expansion of nuclear power and for billions of dollars in new investment to boost the supply of fossil fuels. Critics point out that there can be no Energy Security while Climate Crisis and Ecosystem Destruction gain speed, while civilisation drives suicidally down a road paved with dependence on fast-depleting fossil fuels.
Saturday 15 th July
As the G8 leaders meet at St. Petersburg to promise new subsidies to the fossil fuel and nuclear industries, an International Day of Direct Action Against Climate Change and the G8 promises to support local direct action against oil refineries, gas pipelines, strip mines, coal-fired power plants, and to host teach-ins to spread post-petroleum living skills. Pray for world leaders meeting at St. Petersburg that they may listen to the rising tide of voices raised against the continued despoliation of the earth's finite resources and, in response, begin to embrace policies of sustainable energy.
Sunday 16 th July
Lord, have mercy on our wayward world, tottering on the brink of self-destruction.
Have mercy on the rulers and statesmen 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 grant us your forgiveness. Amen.
Monday 17 th July
Professor Mike Hulme of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research, speaking at a conference of the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, said: “While climate change is hardly to be welcomed, it might act as a catalyst which would help industry and society to take steps towards sustainability which they ought already to have considered. That means we have to be a little smarter about how we develop our societies. . . Business has the potential to reap significant benefits as (climate change) offers to open up new areas of innovation and gives a chance for companies to make reputational and financial gains by staying ahead of competitors in their response to climate change . . . The overall challenge is to decouple growth from energy consumption. While we have come a long way, we haven't progressed far enough or fast enough.”
Tuesday 18 th July
The Government's Powershift scheme of grants for low-emission cars was suspended 15 months ago. Now it has been unceremoniously scrapped. The Government-funded Energy Savings Trust daringly comments: “We are disappointed . . . Whilst Government has already taken steps to address growing emissions, including recent changes to Vehicle Excise Duty, less than 0.01% of the cars sold in the UK are currently ‘A' rated as low-emission cars. Without an enhanced range of incentives, we will continue to see carbon dioxide emissions from road transport increase.”
There now seems little financial encouragement for drivers to buy cleaner fuels such as compressed natural gas or bioethanol, or to buy electric cars, hybrid-electric cars or anything else that might help towards saving the planet. One has to ask: Is there any recognition in HM Treasury of the seriousness of climate change?
Wednesday 19 th July
CO 2 emissions from our homes account for 27% of total UK emissions. Home Information Packs from next June onwards will include an Energy Performance Certificate detailing current costs for heating, hot water and lighting in the home, as well as advice on cutting costs with energy efficiency measures. For example, extra loft insulation and solar panels could cut carbon emissions and improve the energy rating of the home – and its value on the market. WWF comments: “This is a positive step forward. For the first time people will be given the kind of user-friendly information they need to reduce both the environmental impact of their homes and their energy bills.”
Thursday 20 th July
A new WWF report “Killing Them Softly” details the chemicals now found in Arctic mammals such as polar bears, seals and whales, as well as birds, causing skeletal deformities, skin diseases and cancers in mammals and reproductive and behavioural problems in birds which impair their ability to raise young. The chemicals found come from industrial, agricultural and consumer products including flame retardants used in electrical equipment and furniture, per-fluorated chemicals used in non-stick coatings and fire-fighting foam (such as was used in the Buncefield oil fire) and banned pesticides such as DDT and several PCBs. WWF comments: “Chemical contamination of our environment is spiralling out of control because of poor chemicals regulation. If we fail sort out this disaster, we could be heading for a ‘Silent Spring' scenario in the Arctic where wildlife populations are unable to reproduce effectively. This, coupled with the impacts of climate change, could spell the end of the Arctic as we know it.”
Friday 21 st July
The EU Regulation, Evaluation & Authorisation (REACH) legislation will require chemicals produced in member states, or imported from elsewhere, to have undergone testing and to meet certain safety criteria. It is designed to protect human health and the environment without causing unacceptable commercial damage. Now a coalition of a dozen non-EU countries led by the USA has declared in a public statement that REACH could lead to products being taken off the market, not because of environmental or health concerns, but because the registration fees were too costly. WWF points out that the vast majority of the costs will be paid, not by the countries themselves, but by the large multinationals exporting bulk chemicals. REACH would make it easier for developing countries to regulate the risks of chemicals within their own borders as data on potential hazards would become publicly available after the chemicals were registered. A Second Reading of the legislation is due in the EU Parliament this October and the legislation comes into force next spring.
Saturday 22 nd July
EU Fisheries Ministers have agreed a European Fisheries Fund which specifies how 4 billion euros of subsidies will be used over the next seven years in order to modernise EU fishing fleets. For example, there will be funding for engine-replacement and for fishermen aged under 40 to purchase their first vessel. WWF comments: “This is a bad decision for European fish stocks and the long-term future of the industry. We still have too many boats trying to catch too few fish. It represents a major reversal of the agreed 2002 Common Fisheries Policy reforms. Instead of ending the use of public funds to support increased capacity and the maintenance of Europe's fishing fleet, today's decision ensures that the EU fleet will stay over-capacity.”
Sunday 23 rd July
In these troubled days, O Lord, we turn to thee. Grant to our nation a clear vision of her highest good and to our leaders a clear judgment as to how that good may be attained. May the temporary triumphs of parties and special interests, and the transient success of individuals, be surrendered to the common welfare. Make our dear land the instrument of thy will and our people thy people, working willingly for the good of all, sharing thy goodness, serving one another and dwelling in peace and joy. (Leslie Weatherhead – adapted)
Monday 24 th July
A study by the Meteorology Department at Reading University and published in “Nature” last month finds that emissions from night flights have a disproportionate effect on climate change. It suggests that adoption of restrictions on night flying could minimise the impact of aviation on our environment.
FoE comments: “Because airlines pay no tax on fuel, virtually no VAT and benefit from duty-free concessions, UK taxpayers are giving the aviation industry an effective subsidy of £9.2 million a year. To fund this, other taxes such as income tax and National Insurance contributions have to be that much higher.”
Tuesday 25 th July
A Treasury review of the planning system by economist Kate Barker was commissioned following complaints from business interests that the planning system was a barrier to economic growth. Many people fear that the review will place the demands of business over the rights of local people and the environment.
FoE comments: “This review poses a major threat to the delicate balance of development in our towns and villages. Local people have a democratic right to have a voice in the planning process and have an important role to play. By putting the needs of business ahead of the rest of society, the Chancellor risks alienating local people and jeopardising the character of our communities.”
Wednesday 26 th July
The All Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development & Reproductive Health is examining the impact of population growth on the Millennium Development Goals and on migration. Giving evidence to the Group, the Optimum Population Trust (OPT) said that the priority should be to repair environmental damage through local and global action, and enable people to remain in their homes and communities. Being driven from one's home by environmental degradation is devastating for those involved, but using migration as an escape valve is a recipe for disaster. “When a ship is heading for environmental rocks, the best policy is to steer away – not to encourage everyone to escape to areas they perceive to be lifeboats, sink them and then drown. If Calcutta were drowned by rising sea levels, for example, London and New York would be inundated soon after.” The real solution lies in reducing the impact of consumption and population in richer countries and supporting environmentally-sustainable development in poorer ones, which will lessen the push factors behind migration. Britain's projected population growth of more than 10 million by 2074 is equivalent to building 57 more towns the size of Luton and over 7 million more houses and flats. 80% of this population growth, according to Government figures, will be of migrants. With parts of the UK already facing serious water supply problems, such population growth will make the UK increasingly vulnerable to resource and energy shortages as well as increasing its contribution to climate change.
Thursday 27 th July
President Putin has called for the share of nuclear in Russia's energy production to be brought up from 16% to 25%. Sergei Kiriyenko, head of Rosatom, Russia's nuclear energy agency, said that two more reactors will be built in 2007 and another four each in 2009 and 2010. Environmental organisations around the world have expressed alarm at these plans. Jay Coglan, head of Nuclear Watch, said: “I think it has much to do with corporate structure. They are big corporations that want to make a profit. My opinion is that energy supply should be regionally based. If we put the same effort into renewable energy that we put into nuclear, we would not need nuclear energy and we would not have nuclear waste.
Friday 28 th July
All Britain's nuclear stations are built on the coast where a rise of half a metre by 2100 could put them at risk of flooding and erosion. So any new stations would need new sites further inland. According to a study for the Canadian nuclear industry, for each new station 1.6 million tonnes of steel and 14 million tonnes of concrete need to be manufactured and delivered to the chosen site. Tyre dust is more damaging to public health than exhaust fumes, but the latter exacerbate climate change. According to the Sustainable Development Committee, for every tonne of Portland cement manufactured, a tonne of CO 2 is released into the atmosphere. Core reactor parts would have to be manufactured and shipped over from Japan. New computer systems would be required. Bearing in mind the failure of computer systems to manage the NHS, the Child Support Agency and farmers' subsidy payments, it takes a leap of faith to suppose that any computer program can manage a hugely complicated nuclear facility, where one loose screw or dodgy nozzle can prove catastrophic.
Saturday 29 th July
In April 2003 the Paks nuclear reactor in Hungary came within seconds of a nuclear explosion when thirty fuel assemblies failed to cool sufficiently during refuelling. They boiled the cooling tank dry and crumbled like porcelain when operators flooded the tank. Radioactive gases leaked into the reactor room and were blown unfiltered into the atmosphere at full ventilator strength for over 12 hours. In May 2005 it was noticed that 83,000 litres of radioactive coolant (enough to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool) had been leaking unnoticed for nine months at the Thorp reprocessing plant in Sellafield, costing £500 million to clean up. In 2003 Hajimu Maeda, President of the World Association of Nuclear Operators, referred in a speech at Berlin to a “terrible malaise” that threatened the business from within. It starts with loss of motivation, complacency and “carelessness in upholding a culture of safety due to severe cost pressures resulting from deregulated electricity markets. If these problems are not recognised and countered, a serious accident will destroy the industry.”
Sunday 30 th July
Father God, you have made us stewards and entrusted us with the wonders of your creation. Be with us in our efforts to guard your creation from waste and abuse, so that we may enjoy with thankful hearts the fruits of the earth and share them with all who are in need.
Monday 31 st July
School pupils who stay at youth hostels can now learn how small changes in their lifestyle can dramatically reduce their impact on the environment. “Green Shoots” is a government-funded education project with an emphasis on fun learning, leading to behaviour changes. School groups can opt for a half-day “Green Shoots” module on any of these topics: sustainability, transport, waste, food, water, energy and tourism. Before taking the module, they will discover their Global Footprint – how activities like car travelling, leaving electrical appliances on standby or having a bath can affect their Global Footprint. Pupils who re-take the module after adjusting their lifestyle are offered prizes such as wind-up torches and radios, solar powered headphone radios, and even backpacks with solar panels which can re-charge your ipod or phone as you walk.
Contacts: learn4real, Trevelyan House, Dimple Road, Matlock, Derbyshire DE4 3YH. Website: www.learn4real.co.uk