“Isaac reopened the wells that had been dug in the time of his father Abraham, which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham died . . .
Isaac's servants dug in the valley and discovered a well of fresh water.
But the herdsmen of Gerar quarrelled with Isaac's herdsmen and said:
‘The water is ours!' So he named the well Esek, because they disputed with him.”
(Genesis 26. 18-20)
“You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly.
The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with corn,
for so you have ordained it.
You drench its furrows and level its ridges;
You soften it with showers and bless its crops.
You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance.”
(Psalm 65. 9-11)
Tuesday 1st August
Each of us drinks about 1,000 litres or 1 tonne of water a year. Around the home we use between 50 and 100 tonnes a year. But to grow the crops that feed and clothe us for a year takes 1,500-2,000 tonnes of water per person – more than half the contents of an Olympic swimming pool. Where does that water come from? Whenever we buy a T-shirt made of Pakistani cotton or eat Thai rice or drink Costa Rican coffee, we are in effect taking a share of the River Indus, the River Mekong or the Costa Rican rains.
Wednesday 2nd August
On average we use, for drinking, washing and flushing the toilet, about 150 litres of water a day. But to grow just 1 kilo of potatoes takes 500 litres, to grow 1 kilo of wheat takes 1,000 kilos, while to grow 1 kilo of rice uses between 2,000 and 5,000 litres of water. To grow sufficient feed for a cow to provide an average-sized hamburger uses 11,000 litres of water. A veteran Israeli scientist, commenting on the Palestinian conflict, said: “People talk about water wars, but water can also be the basis for peace, and I think it can be so here. We Israelis use too much drinkable water for irrigation when farming is no longer important for our economy. We do crazy things like turning fresh water into oranges and exporting them. The Arabs need that water. They should have it.”
Thursday 3 rd August
According to Ariel Sharon's autobiography, the 1964 six-day war started when Syria began to dig a canal on the Golan Heights to divert the river Jordan way from Israel . At the end of that war, its outflow from the Sea of Galilee was dammed by Israeli engineers, a pumping station was built and a 3 metre wide pipeline now delivers 500,000 cu. metres a year throughout the length of Israel . No fresh water has flowed out of the Sea of Galilee into the lower Jordan since 1991. The spot where John the Baptist is thought to have baptised Jesus is now a sewage seep diluted by winter storms flowing out of Syria . Now even that dilution is under threat as Syria and Jordan plan a dam upstream on a tributary of the Jordan . “That”,says Gidon Bromberg of FoE Israel , “ will probably take the last of the Jordan 's regular flow – a river sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims that has watered civilisations for thousands of years.”
Friday 4 th August
Pakistan 's 150 million people rely for their year-round water supply on the River Indus. Its waters irrigate most of their crops and generate half their electricity. Its tributary, the Chenab , runs through Indian-controlled Kashmir before providing Pakistan 's Punjab province with its biggest source of water. Now the Indians are building the 160 m. high Baghilar hydro-electric barrage across the Chenab , so giving it the power to hold up the river's flow in any crisis in relations between the two countries. This could create famine in Pakistan .
Many other nations find themselves at the mercy of others upstream for their most basic resource.
Saturday 5 th August
Egypt gets 97% of its water from the Nile . The current treaty gives most of its flow to Egypt , a small amount to Sudan and none at all to Ethiopia , where the Blue Nile rises. Will Egypt concede any of its current entitlement in order to reach peace with its neighbours? Her leaders have said they will go to war if any other nation starts diverting the waters of the Nile . At least twenty nations round the world get more than half their water from neighbouring states.
Sunday 6 th August
Lord God, creator of all the ends of the earth, we pray for peace in the Middle East , where water threatens to become a source of strife and division.
Where Jew and Moslem and Christian are oppressed by their history and their hatred, restrain the wicked and strengthen the peace-makers.
Make us aware, beyond our despair, of your aching heart and love for all peoples, our one God and one judge. (John Poulton)
Monday 7 th August
The River Indus yields an average flow of 180 cu. kilometres a year. Of this, 70 is used to grow rice, 50 each to grow wheat and cotton, leaving just 10 for other uses. Barrages along the river have diverted so much water for irrigation that soils have become waterlogged. The river brings down 22 million tonnes of salt a year , but only half of this reaches the Arabian Sea . The rest accumulates in the fields, poisoning the crops and, if it is not washed out by farmers, forming a white crust on the surface of the soil. Farmers are abandoning 40,000 hectares of salt-encrusted land each year. Pakistan 's population has quadrupled since independence and is set to double by 2025.
Tuesday 8 th August
Since 1985 India 's 800 million farmers have spent $12 billion on pumps and boreholes to tap the underground water which irrigates at least two-thirds of India 's crops. According to Tushaar Shah, director of the International Water Management Institute based in Gujarat , Indian farmers are living in a fools' paradise. “They are draining their water reserves with reckless abandon, growing thirsty crops like rice, sugar cane, alfalfa and cotton with no thought for the future. They are destroying their childrens' future, if not their own. . . There are a million more pumps every year. At least a quarter of Indian farmers are mining underground water that nature will not replace. That is 200 million people facing a waterless future. Nobody can afford to miss out on the boom because they will all share in the eventual bust.” Is this what we are all doing to our only home – Planet Earth?
Wednesday 9 th August
India 's monsoon rains provide more than enough rain for all India 's crops. The problem is storage. Haradevsinh Hadeja, a retired police officer, has persuaded his village in Gujarat to build 45 ponds arranged along the route taken by the monsoon floodwaters and designed to slow the water's passage and allow it to percolate through the soil to the underground aquifer which is vital for water supply through the dry season. Nobody is allowed to take water directly from the ponds. Nobody is allowed to grow thirsty crops such as sugar cane. Hadeja has tapped into an old tradition of water harvesting. Elsewhere, check dams built across gullies can hold up the water long enough for it to percolate underground. In Rajasthan, a retired government scientist has encouraged the installation of 4,500 check dams in several hundred villages, with a grant from the Ford Foundation.
Thursday 10 th August
Ten years ago, it was discovered that at least half of Bangladesh 's 12 million tubewells are poisoned with arsenic. The World Health Organisation has called it “the largest mass poisoning in history.” Now similar levels have been found in the Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and, even more recently, in tubewells sunk beneath Vietnam 's Red River delta – home to 11 million people. Akhtar Ahmad of the Bangladeshi National Institute of Preventive Social Medicine has devised a simple test kit with which he travels from village to village. “We can test a sampler for 7 thaka (10 p.) and give the results instantly to the village,” he says. “We want the villagers to be able to say: This is our problem – we will solve it.” However, the kit is so cheap that no company wants to manufacture it. There are no profits in it.
Friday 11 th August
According to WWF's “Drought in the Mediterranean ” report, excessive irrigation, combined with climate change, means that agriculture is the biggest consumer of water everywhere. It argues that subsidies for water-hungry crops such as maize and sugar beet have led to the demise of rain-reliant traditional crops such as olives and citrus fruits. In North Africa and the Middle East the problem is aggravated by inefficient irrigation methods. “Government intervention is needed to control demand for water and to balance the allocation to all users, while improving irrigation methods and making better choices in the location of crops.”
Saturday 12 th August
Figures from the Drinking Water Inspectorate show that our tap water met stringent quality standards in 99.96% of cases in 2005. And yet it is reported that 2 billion litres of bottled water are sold per year and sales are growing at nearly 9% a year. Bottled water averages 95 p. per litre – about the same price as petrol – whereas the average cost of tap water is £1 per 1 million litres. The energy cost of producing a billion plastic bottles from by-products of crude oil, transporting the water over hundreds or thousands of miles, and then disposing of the containers in landfill sites or incinerators makes bottled water one of Britain 's most wasteful luxuries. Only 10% of bottles are recycled. Most go to landfill, where they take 450 years to break down. It is, simply and bluntly, environmental insanity.
Sunday 13 th August
Lord, you have given us this beautiful world. You have given us the ability to develop crops and animals to satisfy our hunger. Yet we have gone further. We are poisoning your world and destroying many of your creatures. Teach us, Lord, to come to our senses, and to know that we interfere with your world at our peril. Give us the grace to let your hand, not ours, rule your world. Help us to understand that in the end you will have the final say, because the universe is yours and all that is in it.
Monday 14 th August
The Government has announced permits to British industry to allow annual emissions of 238 million tonnes of CO 2 from 2007 to 2012 – a cut, so it is claimed, of 8 million tonnes a year. This contrasts with the German and French governments which, only a day earlier, allowed their industries to increase their carbon emissions over the same period. The British figures amount to a cut of 16% from 1990 to 2010 – well short of the 20% target pledged at the last election. John Cridland of the CBI warned: “Such a demanding cut is likely to feed through to higher electricity prices. With firms already struggling with current energy costs, the Government is taking a risk with the competitiveness of UK business.” Coincidentally, a study from the University of East Anglia published in “Science” has found that 8,200 years ago, after a period of global warming, the freshwater released from the Greenland icecap diluted the surface water of the sea, leading to a slowing of the warm North Atlantic current generated by the sinking of cold salty water. The result, according to the study, was “by far the most extreme cooling episode in the past 10,000 years.” The fact remains that human activities are now responsible for increasingly rapid change in the pattern of world climate.
Tuesday 15 th August
The Government's Energy Review has re-affirmed the target of satisfying 20% of electricity demand from renewables by 2020. John Garstang of the Government's agricultural service ADAS has set out the implications. 15,000 square kilometres or 7% of Britain 's land area would be planted to energy crops such as miscanthus and willow. Wind farms would cover a further 7,000 sq. kms. or 3% of all land by 2020. Another 1 million hectares would be needed by 2010 to provide enough oilseed rape to produce the biodiesel needed for the 5% of transport fuel required under the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation. This compares with the 1.8 million hectares now used to grow cereals. The study assumes that none of these biofuels will be imported from overseas, yet the European Commission recommends in its biomass review the establishment of an EU-wide commodity market in fuel crops.
Wednesday 16 th August
Dr. Peter Read of Massey University , New Zealand , believes that the large-scale cultivation of energy crops could reduce CO 2 concentrations in the atmosphere (currently 375 ppm.) to pre-industrial levels (around 280 ppm.) by 2060. Biofuels can be grown on land poorly suited to food production, as happens in Brazil , where much of the road transport is powered by bioethanol produced from sugar cane residues. Many African countries can produce biofuels cheaply and could benefit from exporting bioethanol, so there is no need to cover England with bioenergy plantations. If some of the biofuels were converted to charcoal, this could be added to poor soils to improve water retention and soil fertility, so adapting an ancient Japanese practice, as well as sequestrating the carbon. The need, according to Dr. Read, is to train “barefoot merchant bankers” to initiate biofuel projects through helping communities to perceive and implement opportunities to help themselves. Source: Stockholm Environmental Institute.
Thursday 17 th August
The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDI) acting on behalf of 211 financial institutions with assets of over $31 trillion has collected details of greenhouse gas emissions from around 1,900 companies worldwide and will publish them next month on: www.cdproject.net Companies which fail to respond will be asked why they don't think it sufficiently important to do so. Potential investors will take note.
CDP was the winner of the Liveable City Awards in recognition of its work in developing a framework for industries reporting on their carbon emissions.
Friday 18 th August
Carbon Rationing Action Groups (CRAGs) already exist in Leamington , Oxford and Hereford . Membership is voluntary, but signing up means a commitment to the carbon target set by the group. There are rewards for those who undershoot the target and penalties for overshooting – with an upper limit on penalty charges. The UK average output per person was 5.4 tonnes in 2003. A 10% cut in the target year on year would bring the UK average down to a sustainable 0.6 tonnes by 2030. Tina Fawcett and Mayer Hillman, the leading promoters, hope the scheme will de-mystify the idea of carbon rationing and show how it can be integrated into the lives of normal people. For details of the Oxford scheme telephone 01865 727911 or visit www.coinet.org.uk For a starter guide to CRAGs ring 01564 793141.
Saturday 19 th August
Recycling only works where there is a demand for the recycled materials. Recycling Action Yorkshire, in partnership with Yorkshire Water, is using the water company's 34-acre brownfield site in Wakefield to grow willow fed with processed sewage from the adjacent sewage works. The willow is then fed to a biomass boiler used to heat fish containing sturgeon, specially bred to produce caviar. Yorkshire Forward, the Regional Development Agency behind the idea, is committed to buying products with a minimum of 10% recyclate, and all its partners have the same commitment.
Sunday 20 th August
Father, we thank you that out of the earth and sea we receive provision for all our needs. We thank you for the skills in harvesting the earth's resources that people have passed on from generation to generation. We thank you for those through whose vision and work the products of the earth are channelled into areas of need. Help us to use your gifts for the extension of your kingdom here on earth and for the benefit of our fellow-humans.
Monday 21 st August
The Sustainable Consumption Roundtable's report “I will if you will” finds that most shoppers believe it is the role of government to remove dangerous or unethical items from sale. It has come up with a variety of ideas to encourage sustainable lifestyles:
There should be rebates on council tax and stamp duty for low-carbon houses;
Water meters should be compulsory in drought-prone areas;
“Smart” energy meters should be introduced nationwide;
Car efficiency-rating labels should be placed on every car advertisement;
Emission charges should be applied to all short-haul flights, with an option to offset the carbon.
The thread running through the report is that, while we all have an individual responsibility, the Government can and should help us to adopt better habits.
Tuesday 22 nd August
According to Paul Monaghan, head of ethics & sustainable development at the Co-op Group, “All ethical consumption does is to send a signal about what is possible. It allows corporates and consumers to experiment. But we can't wait fifty years for it all to go mainstream.” He believes that the less energy-efficient kitchen appliances and light bulbs should be banned. A £1 tax on every standard light bulb would overcome any consumer resistance, the revenue being used to subsidise energy-saving bulbs. If all of us used energy-saving bulbs, we could close two power stations.
Wednesday 23 rd August
The Government has a huge responsibility for promoting sustainable buildings. In Canada , ever since 1991, the Federal Buildings Initiative (FBI) has been investing in energy-and-water retrofits of government buildings. The state is repaid over a number of years from the resulting savings in utility bills – and once the investments are paid off, the continuing savings are kept by the state. There are now 80 energy-efficient contracts in place covering 7,500 buildings, yielding £14.2 million in annual savings and eliminating 200,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. If Canada can do it, why not Britain ? Website: www.oee.nrcan.gc.ca/fbi
Thursday 24 th August
Trees are hugely important in reducing levels of CO 2 in the atmosphere, yet our relentless need for land and consumer products continues to erode the earth's forest cover just when we need it most. A WWF report “Capital Offence: Failing the Forests” finds that over 65% of London's local authorities fail to check whether their timber and paper products come from threatened forests, and only 33% ask for documentary evidence that products come from sustainable forests. Among the worst offenders are Kensington & Chelsea and the Corporation of London.
Friday 25 th August Four winners of this year's Ashden Awards are tackling deforestation by inventing and marketing innovative cooking stoves and, in one case, a brick kiln which burns agricultural waste such as rice and coffee husks instead of the traditional wood. Mwanza's Rural Housing Programme in Tanzania is also tackling deforestation by training local women to produce energy-efficient stoves using local clays, which consume far less wood than the traditional variety¸ and planting community woodlots to boost forest cover. The Ashden Awards are funded by charitable donations plus a contribution from Climate Care, the carbon offset specialists. This year £340,000 is available as prize money. Website: www.ashdenawards.org
Saturday 26 th August
Most of the world's major river systems, including the twenty biggest, now have dams on them. Hydro-electric dams generate around one-fifth of world electricity supply. Yet many of the 25 countries most hooked-up to hydro-electricity are poor African states. Lesotho has the tallest dam in Africa and could give each of its 2 million citizens 1500 cubic metres of water a year. But in 2004 Lesotho faced famine as parched crops withered in the fields and its government appealed for food aid. Why? All the water stored in its mountain reservoirs was sold to South Africa . The problem was not lack of water. It was lack of money.
Sunday 27 th August
Father, we pray that when the interests and aspirations of nations conflict with one another over the natural resources that you have provided for us, their leaders may not turn to war, but together seek a just and acceptable way forward, so that suspicions may be allayed, misunderstandings clarified, violence averted and peace preserved. We ask this in the name of Christ our Lord. (L. Cumings)
Monday 28 th August
Vincent St. Louis of the University of Alberta has calculated that methane produced from rotting vegetation in the world's reservoirs produces one-fifth of all man-made methane in the atmosphere and contributes 7% of the greenhouse effect – more even than aircraft emissions. French Guiana , with a population of 140,000 and no industry worth speaking of, is the site of a dam built to power the launch site for Europe 's Ariane space programme. As a result, French Guiana's per capita emissions of greenhouse gases are three times those of France and greater even than those of the USA.
Tuesday 29 th August
China 's Yellow River is the siltiest river on earth. Its Sanmexxia reservoir has filled with silt in just two years, prompting the building of yet more reservoirs upstream. Pakistan 's Tarbela dam, the largest on the River Indus, is more than a quarter full of silt and by 2025 will be three-quarters full and effectively useless. According to Rodney White of HR Wallingford, an engineering consultancy, the world requires 300-400 new dams every year just to maintain current storage capacity. As reservoirs are built further and further upstream, there is less water storage, less hydro-electric potential and more ecological damage.
Wednesday 30 th August
Most dams are built with the promise that they will capture floodwaters from the rivers that they dam. To do this, they need to be kept empty. Yet in order to feed irrigation systems and generate hydro-electricity, they need to be kept as full as possible.
In the last fifty years 322 Chinese dams have failed, including the 120 metre high Banqiao dam in 1975 which caused the deaths of 80,000 – 200,000 people, but was hushed up by the Chinese authorities. India has experienced similar failures, notably in 1979 when the Machu dam in Gujarat drowned 2,000 people. Too often engineers are faced with the dilemma of opening sluice gates to release floodwaters on those living downstream, or else risking the collapse of the dam itself.
WWF with support from HSBC has launched a website – www.wwf.org.uk/betterriverbasins - to help everyone involved in river management in the UK and across the world to integrate river activities, including water abstraction, pollution discharge and dams.
Thursday 31 st August
According to the Optimum Population Trust (OPT) every new human being carries a carbon footprint that contributes significantly to climate change. Limiting ones family size to two children, or having one child fewer than planned, would thus have a more rapid and dramatic effect on climate change than waiting for the Government to act.
Figures from the OPT indicate that:
UK population increase since 1990 accounts for nearly three-quarters of the Government's expected failure to cut CO 2 levels by 2010. Without population growth the Government would have been within 2.6% of its target.
Projected world population growth to over 9 billion by 2050 means that the UK will have to reduce its carbon emissions by 90% if fossil fuel use is to be spread equally between nations. This would mean reducing British emissions to levels currently obtaining in Peru , Albania , Tajikistan and Western Sahara .
Projected UK population increase to 70.7 million by 2074 means that each of us will have to reduce our own emissions by 17% merely to “stand still” in emission terms. Yet during 1990 to 2005, despite the shift from coal to gas for electricity generation, the UK only managed to reduce its emissions by 5.5%.
Professor John Guillebaud, chair of OPT, commented: “We have to recognise that the biggest cause of climate is climate changers – in other words, human beings both in the UK and abroad – so deciding to stop at two, or at least to have one child less, is probably the simplest, quickest and most significant thing any of us could do to leave a sustainable and habitable planet for our children and grandchildren.”
Sources: Green Futures
“When the Rivers Run Dry” by Fred Pearce ( Eden Project)
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