“Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.
He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow,
Will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.”
“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)
“Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”
Tuesday 1 st May
“The way of solving our problems requires one fundamental change, a big one, and that is learning that the challenges of our generation are not us versus them, us versus the terrorists or us versus Islam; they are us, all of us together on this planet against a set of shared and increasingly urgent problems. . . . By understanding what we share with every part of this world in the need to face these challenges, we can find peace.” (Professor Jeffrey Sachs in his first Reith Lecture)
Wednesday 2 nd May
A new report from Oxford Research Group called “Secure Energy? Civil Nuclear Power, Security and Global Warming” defines the “Energy Cliff” as the point when the energy needed to convert uranium-bearing rock into nuclear fuel, to operate and maintain a nuclear power plant, and to manage its waste, begins to exceed the energy delivered to the electricity grid.
Using data from the IAEA Red Book, the report puts this point at 2050 if world nuclear capacity remains constant and energy demand continues to rise by 2-3% a year.
If however nuclear capacity were to remain at 2.2% of world energy supply – so requiring about 40 new nuclear power stations – the “Energy Cliff” is put back to 2070.
Today's high-grade uranium ore (0.15% U3O8) represents a small proportion of known deposits. When lower grade ore falls to 0.02% U3O8, due to the extra energy needed to extract the uranium, the nuclear system produces no net energy. Thus, uranium – like oil – is a finite resource, with a limited life.
Thursday 3 rd May
Because of the limited availability of high-grade uranium, its price has surged 78% in the last six months.
In order to eke out the uranium, reprocessing plants such as THORP were built to produce MOX (mixed oxide) fuel and reactor-grade plutonium.
These materials are equally suitable for use in nuclear weapons. Accurate monitoring of the amount of plutonium in stock is impossible. A loss of just 1% a year from a reprocessing plant is enough to produce one nuclear weapon a month. Small quantities of plutonium could be stolen or diverted without risk of detection by IAEA inspectors or plant operators. Last January a Russian was caught by US agents offering to sell 100 g. of weapons-grade uranium which, he claimed, was just a sample. Russian officials have not disclosed its source.
Friday 4 th May
Report No. 22 of 2004 from the Department of Science & Technology stated: “No reactors have been designed specifically to withstand the impact of a large commercial aircraft.” In fact, terrorists need only attack the power lines carrying electricity into a nuclear plant, or otherwise disable the cooling system, to cause a massive release of radioactivity from the reactor core. Any new nuclear facility would:
Create potential targets for terrorists, from waste tanks and generators to moving targets such as ‘waste trains' and MOX transporters;
Increase the availability of MOX and reactor-grade plutonium for use in a dirty bomb or crude nuclear weapon, and
Spread the knowledge, materials and technology needed to develop nuclear weapons.
Saturday 5 th May
The DTI in its report “The Energy Challenge” says that 6 gigawatts of new nuclear capacity are needed by 2025.
But if the UK followed the German growth in solar PV energy in the last five years, the UK would achieve its 6 gigawatts extra capacity by 2018.
If the UK followed the German growth in wind power over the last nine years, then by 2020 wind power would provide well over six times the generating capacity of BNFL's estimate for new build nuclear power stations.
How did Germany get so far ahead?
“This was primarily achieved by means of a ‘feed-in' tariff, which guarantees a price for each kilowatt hour of electrical energy generated renewably and fed into the grid. The size of the guaranteed price is falling, but the installed capacity continues to rise exponentially. Other countries including Greece , Spain and Italy , plus the State of California , are following this approach.
Why not Britain ?
Sunday 6 th May
Father, we pray for all who are working in industries which offer outstanding powers for good or ill over the rest of humanity – the nuclear industry, the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, the biotechnological industry. Be with them when they face conflicts between their beliefs and their apparent interests. Support them in every crisis and make your presence known to them, especially when they face pressures to conform.
Monday 7 th May
In 2006 President Bush signed a directive which stated that “freedom of action in space is as important to the United States as air power and sea power.”
This appears to be a claim that the US can do what it likes in space and a rejection of any new treaty or arms control agreement that would limit US activities there.
What is certain is that neither Russia nor China will accept a US dominance of space, as this would represent a near-revolution in warfare and geopolitics.
Tuesday 8 th May
Last September the governments of Kazakhstan , Kyrgyzstan , Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan signed a treaty to ban the production, acquisition or deployment of nuclear weapons and to forbid the hosting or transportation of nuclear weapons for third parties.
The entire continents of South America , Africa and Australasia are already by treaty Nuclear Weapons Free Zones (NWFZs) together with the South Pacific and South East Asia .
At the same time 15 Middle East countries including Iran , Iraq , Syria , Jordan and Egypt proposed a similar NWFZ and called on Israel to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
In the European Parliament a motion was put calling for the withdrawal of US nuclear weapons from European territory by the end of 2006. Meanwhile the prospects for a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty remain stalled in the face of US intransigence.
All such initiatives may flounder unless there is massive public pressure on politicians and diplomats.
We can all support individuals and organisations pushing for these vital steps.
“If you think you're too small to have an impact, try sleeping with a mosquito”. (Anita Roddick)
Wednesday 9 th May
The USA currently needs to import over 50% of its oil. China will reach the same point in 2010. Both countries, like most of the developed world, rely heavily on Middle East oil.
Four countries around the Persian Gulf together have two-thirds of proven oil reserves. Competition for oil supplies is already intense, with China drawing most of its supplies from Iran and the USA from Saudi Arabia . Unless dependence on oil can be drastically reduced, the region faces further instability and conflict.
The imperatives of climate change make it even more urgent to end our addiction to oil.
Thursday 10 th May
The town of Woking has achieved a small miracle. Its town centre has become self-sufficient in energy and produces a surplus to sell.
By creating its own electricity grid, independent of the national grid, it connects to numerous mini-power stations, generating renewable electricity.
During the day, thousands of rooftop PV cells convert sunlight into power. At night, power is supplied by a power station using fuel-cell technology, a renewable resource that uses waste hydrogen from industrial processes.
Woking 's fuel-cell generator not only provides power: it produces a million litres a year of clean water as a by-product.
The technology is already with us. All that is needed is the political will to scale it up.
Friday 11 th May
Recent government figures show that CO2 emissions from power stations, motor vehicles and homes during 2006 rose by 6.4 million tonnes above 2005 emissions – the highest level since Labour came to power in 1997 – making it impossible to reach its long-standing target of a 20% cut by 2010. David Miliband explained that the rise resulted from a switch from natural gas to coal for electricity generation “because it was cheaper.” Emissions from transport also showed a big rise from 2005 figures. Caroline Lucas MEP said: “It isn't setting the right targets alone that matters. It's also enacting the policies to meet them. The Government has failed so often on this front that it gets harder with each passing day to believe a word it utters on the subject.”
Saturday 12 th May
The latest IPCC report “Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability” concludes that sea levels are already rising and 100 million people who live less than a metre above sea level are at risk of losing their homes and livelihoods.
In India and China people could go hungry as crops fail due to global warming. Floods, heatwaves, storms and droughts are expected to increase, with people in poorer countries suffering the worst effects. The IPCC experts state clearly that some climate change is already unavoidable, but there is still time to protect ourselves against some of the most disastrous effects. Dr. Lara Hansen, chief scientist of WWF's Climate Change Programme, said:
“The frustrating thing is that we have all the tools at hand to limit climate change and save the world from the worst impacts. It becomes an economic as much as an ethical priority to defend what remains of nature: mangroves and coral reefs protect coasts, forests protect watersheds. Our societies depend upon nature, but we have undermined it for centuries. Now, with climate change, we are attacking the very basis of the natural world – putting us all at risk.”
Sunday 13 th May. Rogation Sunday
Almighty God, whose will it is that the earth should bear its fruits in their seasons, bless the labours of those who work on the land. Bless the increase of crops and grain and fruit-bearing trees, that bread, wine and wholesome food may be shared and enjoyed by all. Amen.
Monday 14 th May
Today at Sarum College , Salisbury , from 9.45 to 4.35 there is a seminar on “A Christian Response to Climate Change: Theology and Action”. The day is open to all interested people. There will be discussion on the Christian theology of climate, the science of climate change, and actions Christians and others can take to stabilise and adapt to climate change. Speakers: Dr. Edward Echlin and Ruth Jarman, co-ordinator of Operation Noah. Cost: £40 including lunch. For more details email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit: www.sarum.ac.uk
Tuesday 15 th May
Coral reefs act as natural barriers against tidal surges and provide livelihoods for 100 million people as well as being the basis for tourism and fishing industries worth $30 billion annually. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature 20% of coral reefs have already been wrecked by over-fishing and coral bleaching due to rising sea temperatures, but increased protection can help the reefs to recover after heat waves and make sure they are not lost for ever. Some of the most vulnerable areas lie in South-east Asia and the Indian Ocean . In the Maldives, an island state of which 80% lies no more than 1 metre above sea level, the government is investing in afforestation schemes to avert beach erosion and to protect its coral reefs. “Governments and the conservation community need to step up marine protection if we are to support the global effort to tackle climate change.”
Wednesday 16 th May
Today from 2 to 8 pm Churches Together in Cumbria Environmental Group meets at Rydal House. Subjects for discussion include the Stern Review, the 4 th IPCC Report, the Cumbria Sustainable Communities Project, and Population. The meeting begins with worship and there is a break for dinner. For more details email John Smith at: email@example.com
Thursday 17 th May
According to an environmental group which includes the RSPB, WWF, Greenpeace and FoE, a misjudged push for biofuels could instead damage the climate and trash rainforests. The Government's Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) could see businesses producing biofuels by destroying rainforests and wetlands, not only threatening endangered habitats and species but also releasing far more carbon into the atmosphere than could ever hope to be saved by replacing fossil fuels. The destruction of forests and peatlands in Brazil and Indonesia to grow crops for biofuels would add huge volumes of CO 2 to the atmosphere. A sustainable RTFO must:
Ensure that biofuels are audited for sustainability and greenhouse gas balance standards, including at least a 50% saving on greenhouse gases compared to fossil fuels;
Take account of the greenhouse gases caused by land-use change and forest clearance, so that where high carbon land-uses are lost, no saving is claimed.
With these safeguards in place, biofuels are more likely to contribute to a reduction in emissions from transport without damaging the environment.
Friday 18 th May
In a landmark decision in the USA , the Supreme Court has ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency not only has the right to regulate the emission of climate-warming gases, but it must do so unless it can provide scientific reasons for its refusal. American car manufacturers responded to the decision by saying they “look forward to working constructively with Congress and the Administration in developing a national approach.” The president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers called for “a national, federal, economy-wide approach to addressing greenhouse gases. This decision says that the US Environmental Protection Agency will be part of that process.”
Saturday 19 th May
Cornwall 's A30 Bodmin to Indian Queens new dual carriageway is to be Britain 's biggest “green” road project. 90% of the construction material used has come from waste generated by the china clay industry. By recycling waste materials from local sources there is a big reduction in lorry journeys and carbon emissions with less traffic disruption and pollution. The new road skirts the edge of Goss Moor, a National Nature Reserve, while a large part of the old route will be turned into an access for walkers, cyclists and horse-riders. The new road is due to open by the summer, when up to 30,000 cars are expected to use it.
Sunday 20 th May
Lord, help us to see in the groaning of creation
not death throes but birth pangs;
Help us to see in suffering a promise for the future,
because it is a cry against the inhumanity of the present.
Help us to glimpse in protest the dawn of justice,
to see in the Cross the pathway to resurrection,
and in suffering the seeds of joy.
Monday 21 st May
Today begins Walk to School Week, when children everywhere focus on the need to reduce the pollution caused by driving to school. On short journeys, when the engine is cold and the car keeps stopping and starting in traffic jams, the “school run” can be one of the most polluting journeys a child can make. The list of pollutants includes carbon monoxide (a poisonous odourless gas), carbon dioxide (a major cause of global warming), benzene (which can cause cancer) and minute specks of soot (a 10 th of the width of a human hair) which can enter the lungs and make breathing harder. Even worse, levels of pollutants inside a car are at least 3 times worse than on the pavement nearby. Walking to school is as much “doing your bit” for the planet as is recycling your bottles or turning off lights. You could even find it quicker, healthier and less stressful. For more details email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit: www.walktoschool.org.uk
Tuesday 22 nd May
Following a 2-year investigation by the Environment Agency (EA), Grosvenor Waste Management has been fined £55,000 with £85,000 costs for illegally transporting household waste for processing in developing countries in South East Asia . The company pleaded guilty to exporting around 1.8 million kgs. of unsorted household waste to India , China and Indonesia . Under the rules, waste paper and glass can be sent abroad for recycling, but mixed waste is subject to strict rules whereby the EA and the receiving country must give their approval. The waste Grosvenor was sending abroad included nappies, food waste, textiles, cardboard, plastic drink bottles, tin cans, black plastic bags and even, in one container, an animal's hind quarter.
Wednesday 23 rd May
Portugal aims to produce 39% of its energy from renewable sources by 2010, as compared with the UK target of 10%. It is to invest in fifteen 100 MW. biomass power stations, fuelled by agricultural waste and wood from natural forests. Environmentalists hope that this will encourage the country to implement better protection against forest fires which each year devastate vast swathes of forest. Unlike other countries which are converting land from food crops to fuel crops, Portugal plans to use only existing forest land and, provided the forest is sustainably managed, the quest for biomass may actually protect the forest.
Thursday 24 th May
In “The Weather Makers” Tim Flannery explains why carbon sequestration, whereby CO 2 produced in coal-fired power stations is compressed into liquid form and pumped into subterranean caverns, is a non-starter:
The new process of coal gasification produces carbon monoxide which, when converted to CO 2 , becomes economic to capture. Unfortunately coal gasification plants take a long time to build and are expensive to run.
The new power stations would need to be built near existing caverns or incur the expense of a new pipeline costing $1 million a mile. Unless existing shafts can be used, new shafts 1 kilometre deep must be excavated.
Compressing the CO 2 into liquid form would require 20% of the electricity generated by the power station.
The stored CO 2 must be monitored for ever. Any leakage could kill thousands of people or animals. During volcanic eruptions CO 2 can be a major cause of death.
In any case, carbon sequestration would be unlikely to store more than 10% of global human-made CO 2 emissions by 2050. In fact, little work on carbon sequestration has been done. The government-inspired publicity may be aimed to convince an increasingly worried public that something is being done about climate change – and to avoid the necessity of persuading us to reduce our emissions.
Friday 25 th May
The Scottish Executive has voted £4.1 million for the building of the world's biggest wave farm near Stromness in the Orkneys. The first Pelamis 520 foot long tubular wave converter has been installed and successfully tested. When three other converters are operational next year, the plant will produce sufficient electricity for around 3,000 homes. According to experts, every metre of Scottish coastline has enough wave energy reaching it to power 100 homes. Scottish wave and tidal power could supply three times the energy needs of the whole United Kingdom .
Saturday 26 th May
A report from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) says that in the 20 years since the Brundtland Commission defined sustainable development as “development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” the effort to put the planet on a path to sustainable development has been “woefully inadequate”. The IIED calls for three major changes:
Traditional, local and non-Western approaches should play a major role in a new globally-shared drive towards genuine sustainable development;
There should be a shift from the inviolability of economic growth to the inviolability of human well-being and environmental limits;
Governments should account for the economic and social benefits provided from natural resources and for the costs of managing such natural resources.
“Sustainable development is never going to materialize as a result of edicts from New York or Geneva . It needs to be constructed, shared and implemented in a truly global way that takes account of traditional, local and non-Western approaches. Instead of top-down plans and wish-lists, we need to look from the bottom up, linking the many approaches that actually work. Wiring together new systems, not rehashing plans, is the key to shaping a new era in sustainable development.”
Sunday 27 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; through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Book of Common Prayer)
Monday 28 th May
Biological weapons are banned by the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, but as there are no inspection procedures, the treaty has no teeth. This did not matter too much since most agents apart from anthrax lack the characteristics that could make them effective. But major developments in genetic manipulation and biotechnology make the development of effective biological weapons increasingly likely. Negotiations to strengthen the 1972 treaty started 6 years ago but were abandoned in 2004 when it was clear that the Bush administration was strongly opposed to its domestic biotechnological industries being open to international inspection. Without an effective treaty, there is a risk that biological warfare systems will become, for the first time, highly effective. Pray for an early treaty to ban such weapons for ever.
Tuesday 29 th May
Emissions from aviation are the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions. Europe 's current strategy is to include aviation in its Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). But the existing ETS only covers CO 2 emissions, whereas aircraft emit far more potent greenhouse gases, such as nitrous oxide.
One of the reasons why the ETS has not worked so far is that industries were handed most of their carbon credits free. Environmentalists believe that the aviation sector should pay for its carbon credits – otherwise emissions may actually rise, as has happened under the existing ETS. The airlines say that this would be unfair as other industries were handed most of their credits free of charge. The issue remains to be resolved.
Wednesday 30 th May
The spirits industry is one of Britain 's biggest consumers of glass, using more than 500,000 tonnes a year. Now the first 70 cl. drinks bottle weighing less than 300 grams has appeared on the shelves of Co-op supermarkets. The Waste & Resources Action Group (WRAP) estimates that 150,000 tonnes of glass could be saved each year if the food and drink industry reduced the average container weight by just 10%. “The new design proves that it is possible for packaging to be resource-efficient without compromising performance or consumer appeal. We hope other retailers and brand owners will now follow suit.” To find out more about lightweight glass containers ring WRAP on 01295 819686 or email email@example.com
Thursday 31 st May
Jeffery Sachs in his first Reith Lecture pointed out that the US military budget will be $650 billion this year compared to its aid to Africa of $4.5 billion. Others have pointed out that it would be cheaper to buy the whole of Afghanistan 's opium poppy crop, and destroy what was not needed for medical uses, rather than for the military to occupy poppy-growing areas and destroy farmers' livelihoods. Others again suggest that one way to protect rainforests from destruction is to buy them up and lease them for sustainable uses rather than to watch helplessly while they are converted to unsustainable agriculture. Finally, if Israel were to use a small part of its huge military budget to promote economic development in the West Bank and Gaza , the Palestinians might begin to accept the existence of the state of Israel and the desirability of living at peace with it. Is this an idea whose time has come?
Secure energy: Civil Nuclear Power, Security & Global Warming
(Oxford Research Group Briefing Paper)
Beyond Terror by Chris Abbott, Paul Rogers & John Sloboda.
(Rider Books £4.99)
www.edie.net & www.scidev.net
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