“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?”
“All human creatures are greedy, but the western minority has consecrated greed and made it a deliberate objective . . . Now what we have to do is to make a spiritual revolution. This is not new. It was the vision of St. Francis of Assisi , the vision of Jesus, the vision of Buddha, the vision of Lao Tze. They all agreed that the pursuit of material wealth was a wrong aim.”
( Arnold Toynbee)
“Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6.33)
Friday 1 st June:
“Only in a situation of unlimited resources and limitless expansion can a free-for-all work. In a situation of finite resources and environmental carrying capacity, some form of rationing must occur . . . Why shouldn't every Chinese and Indian have a car, just like Americans and Europeans? Why shouldn't the population of Africa have air conditioning? Why shouldn't all 6.5 billion of us eat meat or fish at every meal? The answer is simply because of environmental realities. But rather than trying to get China or India to emulate Western patterns, we in the West should instead be looking at ways of living more modestly.” (Peter Challen in the Quarterly Review). The challenge to governments everywhere is to find an equitable way of sharing diminishing natural resources. Carbon rationing is one way of doing this.
Saturday 2 nd June
The carbon rationing scheme devised by David Fleming would apply simply to fuel and electricity. Everyone would have an equal personal carbon allowance which in total amounted to 40% of what climate scientists believe to be a “safe” figure of a country's emissions. The remaining 60% would belong to the Government, which would keep some for itself and auction the rest to companies wanting to buy fuel or electricity or to carbon brokers for selling on to people who choose not to keep within their allowance. George Monbiot proposes the term “icecaps” for carbon units. Their price, like that of any other commodity, would depend on supply and demand. Thus, the driver of a gas-guzzling 4 x 4 could still drive it, but only after transferring a good deal of money to people who preferred less extravagant forms of transport.
Sunday 3 rd June
Environment Sunday. Heavenly Father, you know, more than we, what is happening to us and our world. We know that the way we live exploits others and degrades your creation. May your Holy Spirit enlighten our political leaders and guide us to respect and care for the living world. May life be renewed. May your Name be magnified. (A prayer from Benin )
Monday 4 th June
The UN Food & Agriculture Organisation warns that, in 40 developing countries with a combined population of 2 billion, crop production losses due to climate change may drastically increase the number of malnourished people. The Rice Research Institute has found that rice yields fall by 15% with every degree of warming, Can temperate countries make up the shortfall? A study published by the Royal Society has found that ozone levels are rising in the rich nations by 1-2% a year as a result of sunlight interacting with pollution from cars, planes and power stations, so nullifying any gains in productivity arising from increased levels of CO 2.
The expected ozone increase in China will cause maize, rice and soybean production to fall by 30% by 2020. Moreover, as CO 2 levels rise, plants release less water from their leaves, so reducing local rainfall.
Tuesday 5 th June
Temperature rises in the Amazonian rainforest are already affecting tree growth, with three results:
Less rainfall to sustain the remaining trees;
More sunlight reaching the forest floor, so making the forest more susceptible to fires;
Less heat lost through evaporation.
As trees burn or rot, they release CO 2 . The Amazonian rainforest has the potential to release 730 million tonnes of CO 2 – about 10% of man-made emissions – each year. It would be as sound economically as it would ethically for the world to pay heavily for the conservation of Amazonian rainforest, for the world's climate depends on it.
Wednesday 6 th June
The European Biofuels Directive rules that 5.75% of transport fuels shall come from renewables by 2010. The European Commission intends to raise this to 20% by 2020. But to run all Britain 's transport on biodiesel would require 25.9 million hectares of land when, in total, our cropland amounts to only 5.7 million hectares. The demand for biodiesel is already fuelling the conversion of rainforest in Malaysia and Indonesia to palm oil plantations on a massive scale. Our governments, knowing that the import of biofuels will accelerate the destruction of rainforests and exacerbate climate change, have chosen to go ahead anyway.
Thursday 7 th June
Carbon offset schemes, such as planting trees to offset the CO 2 emissions resulting from air travel, are not in themselves harmful to the environment and may save carbon emissions over the 20-40 years of a tree's growth, but such schemes can give us a false feeling of security, allowing us to pursue our lifestyles much as before. Just so, in medieval times, the sale of indulgences allowed profligate lifestyles to continue as usual, provided there was payment of money. Christians should know better.
Friday 8 th June
As George Monbiot points out, energy efficiency is very different from energy reduction. “People imagine that, if a piece of equipment uses 30% less energy than the one it replaced, then 30% has been saved.” But in a free market economy, the money that would have been spent on energy can now be spent on something else, and often that “something else” is more energy-intensive. Since 1865, the world's energy efficiency has improved by about 1% a year, yet between 1980 and 2002 alone, energy use in the thirty richest countries rose by 23%.
Saturday 9 th June
Between 1990 and 2003 the demand for domestic energy rose by 19%, making the housing sector responsible for 31% of Britain 's energy use. Energy Performance Certificates were to have been a key part of the Home Information Packs due to be introduced on June 1 st . Now the delayed scheme will only apply to houses of four or more bedrooms – comprising just 20% of the market. 17 million of our homes have cavity walls, but only 6 million have cavity wall insulation. How can we begin to tackle climate change when the necessary measures are blocked by apathy, short-termism and government inefficiency?
Sunday 10 th June
Father, we sometimes feel overwhelmed by the scale and complication of the environmental problems we face. Help us to see how we may respond in our daily lives to the challenges that face us, and help us to understand that where we lead, others will surely follow,
Monday 11 th June
Are there houses which, without any active heating systems (not even a wood-burning stove), maintain a mean indoor temperature of 21.4 0 C. throughout the year?
There are already over 5,000 of them in Austria and Germany , where they are called Passivhauses. Without any innovative technology, each house is made as airtight as possible, with insulating materials removing all contact with outside temperatures. Ventilation is through a heat exchange system whereby cold air entering the house is passed over warm air leaving it. Windows are triple-glazed and super-insulated. A development of 20 homes in Freiburg , with a measured energy saving of 79%, cost just 7% more than a typical building of the same type. For more details visit: www.passiv.de
Tuesday 12 th June
A new report from the Optimum Population Trust finds that, in order to provide low-carbon electricity for the 11 million extra homes forecast by the Government as needed by 2050, we would need seven more Sizewell B nuclear power stations or 10,000-11,000 extra wind turbines. The Stern Report estimated the “social cost” of CO 2 emissions at $85 a tonne, meaning that the climate cost of every new Briton over their lifetime would be about £30,000. Government projections show a population rise of 10 million by 2074. At £30,000 for each new person, the climate cost would be over £300 billion.
Yet a condom costing 35 p. could avoid that £30,000 cost from a single use – representing a return on investment of around 9,000,000%.
Wednesday 13 th June
Many find it difficult to make the connection between energy consumption and climate change. Yet it would be easy for energy suppliers to print on every bill the CO 2 emissions caused by the gas or electricity consumed. Now the Government has promised the free provision of “smart meters” which show exactly how much electricity we are using at any given time. More Associates have developed a meter which, placed just inside the front door, displays the amount of electricity being used, but also includes an off-switch which can turn off the entire house supply except the gadgets selected to stay on permanently.
Thursday 14 th June
Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is increasingly seen as a short-term solution until renewable energy is scaled up to fill the energy gap. The process known as “amine scrubbing” separates the CO 2 from the amines in the exhaust gases of a power station. The gas is then compressed and piped into an underground store. The energy required for these processes would add 10-40% to the fuel consumption, but according to the IPCC the net carbon saving would still be 80-90%. The IPCC estimates that, after a thousand years of storage, less than 1% of the CO 2 buried in underground reservoirs is likely to have escaped. The DTI estimates the storage capacity of old oil and gas fields, coal seams and saline aquifers at between 1450 and 10,000 billion tonnes. However, the speedy development of CCS technology is highly dependent on the funds available after the nuclear industry has claimed its share. Now BP has scrapped its plans to invest in a CCS centre in Scotland after spending £25 million on the project. The recent Government Energy Review had delayed a decision on subsidies for CCS.
Friday 15 th June
A 2005 Government paper on “Offshore Renewable – the Potential Resource” estimated the offshore wind resource for England alone at more than eight times our total electricity demand. Wind turbines can now be planted in a seabed as deep as 50 metres, while large wind farms with 3 MW. turbines or more could be built up to 100 km. from land. The World Ban k claims that DC cables made of extruded polyethylene make economic sense over a distance of 60 km. or more. DC pylons are smaller than conventional pylons and the wires lighter. Electricity loss does not increase with distance, as it does with AC cables. The costs of offshore wind power are currently more than those for onshore wind, but economies of scale permitted by bigger turbines attached to long-distance cables could bring costs down rapidly. Now the Government has announced reform of the Renewable Obligation so as to give more support to offshore wind power.
Saturday 16 th June
Farm Energy, the developers of the 1,000 MW. London Array wind project in the Thames Estuary, has announced plans for the world's biggest offshore wind farm. The £3 billion Atlantic Array off the Devon coast will consist of 370 turbines , each 150 metres high, generating 1500 MW. of electricity – enough to power over a million homes and provide half the domestic electricity needed for the South West Region. Cables will bring the electricity ashore at Ilfracombe and on to a plant near Barnstaple , creating 150 jobs. Work is expected to start in 2013.
Sunday 17 th June
As tools come to be sharpened by the blacksmith,
So may we come, Lord.
As sharpened tools go back to their owner,
So may we go back to our everyday life
To be used by Thee. (An African prayer)
Monday 18 th June
At a meeting of Nobel laureates in Jordan , a $10 million fund was established to promote trust and scientific co-operation in the Middle East . The fund will initially support Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian scientists in research to solve water shortages, to tackle desertification, to produce crop plants suitable for the environment, to work on diseases such as hepatitis C and to develop shared internet-based science curricula and teacher training. Richard Ernst, a 1991 Swiss Nobel laureate in chemistry, said that universities provide inspiration for respectful collaboration across all political borders. David Goss, a US Nobel laureate in physics cited the collaboration between American and Soviet scientists during the Cold War and their work to control arms and avert conflict. “I hope that similar efforts can be initiated in the Middle East .” The fund will be administered by the King Abdullah Fund for Development.
Tuesday 19 th June
Success in preventing food shortages in Africa partly depends on farmers maintaining a wealth of seed diversity that can cope with changing rainfall patterns. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has allocated $37.5 million for a 5-year plan to provide African farmers with improved and adaptable crop varieties, including crops such as sorghum, millet, yam, cassava and cowpea which are important to the poor but largely neglected in plant breeding. A global information system will allow plant breeders everywhere to search gene banks for traits needed to combat new diseases and cope with climate change. Visit www.scidev.net for more details.
Wednesday 20 th June
One obstacle to the success of these initiatives is the shortage of qualified African scientists. There are few funds available to train enough scientists and provide attractive contracts, while the brain drain is decreasing the number of qualified scientists. The Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM), comprising 12 eastern and southern African universities will launch an initiative to provide postgraduate programmes in areas such as aquaculture and fisheries, agricultural resource economics, food science and nutrition, and dryland resource management. They hope to secure financial resources to support more scientists to masters and doctorate degree level. Graduates under RUFORM-sponsored programmes will be given jobs in research institutions.
Thursday 21 st June
Following the resignation of Paul Wolfowitz as President of the World Bank, the Bank faces a crisis of confidence throughout the developing world. The Bank's chief scientist, Robert Watson, told the Financial Times that a senior bank official tried to get him to alter the words “climate change” in a report on investment in clean energy technologies to vaguer concepts such as “climate risk” or “climate vulnerability”. Ensuring that its science policies are protected from political influence might be one way of restoring the Bank's shaken credibility. The USA has the right to choose the next president.
Friday 22 nd June
Marine Reserves are urgently needed to reverse the decline in global fisheries and to protect our seas and oceans from pollution. They benefit adjacent fisheries by the “spillover” of juvenile fish beyond the reserve boundaries. They even benefit migratory species such as sharks and tuna if reserves are created in nursery grounds or aggregation sites such as sea mounts. Marine Reserves are closed to all extractive uses such as fishing and mining, as well as disposal activities. Greenpeace is campaigning for a network of reserves covering 40% of the world's oceans. The US has created a large Marine Reserve near Hawaii , the European Parliament is developing a Marine Strategy Directive and our own Government is preparing a Marine Bill which – with sufficient public pressure – could create a network of Marine Reserves. Protection for our coastal seabird colonies is urgently needed following evidence of a steep decline in breeding success due to overfishing and climate change.
Saturday 23 rd June
Faced with the disappearance of wild fish, people ask: “Why don't we replace them with farmed fish? We already do it with land animals. Why not fish?”
Three problems arise:
Carnivorous species like salmon, shrimp and cod are fed on fish meal from wild fish such as sand eels which are the food basis for most of our seabird colonies. It takes 3 tonnes of wild fish to produce 1 tonne of farmed salmon.
Excess food and untreated wastes, antibiotics and pesticides from fish farms spread diseases to wild fish and cause algal blooms which can de-oxygenate large areas of ocean.
Wild fish survive because they are resistant to many diseases, they are skilled at hunting and responsive to changes in water temperature which tell them when to migrate. Farmed fish soon lose these qualities. When they escape, as inevitably some will, and interbreed with wild fish, they pass on their bad genes to their offspring, making their survival problematical.
The only fish farming likely to be sustainable involves herbivorous fish such as carp, tilapia and barramundi, since plant-eaters do not need fish meal.
Sunday 24 th June
“Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” (Luke 18.1)
Father, we confess that our feet often stumble as we learn to walk the path of prayer, for there are hard places. Help us to apply ourselves to follow your Son in the practice of prayer, to surrender to his power over our lives and to trust in his promises. Amen.
Monday 25 th June
“Even if by 2050 the world managed to achieve a 60% cut in its CO 2 emissions since 1990, in line with the Government's target, almost all of it would be cancelled out by the growth in population”, according to a new report from the Optimum Population Trust. “Population limitation should be seen as the most cost-effective carbon-offsetting strategy available to individuals and nations – a strategy that applies with even more force to developed nations such as the UK because of their higher consumption levels . . . A population-based climate strategy involves fewer of the taxes, regulations and other limits on personal freedom and mobility now being canvassed in response to climate change. To sum up, it would be easier, quicker, cheaper, freer and greener.”
Tuesday 26 th June
Commenting on the report, Valerie Stevens, co-chair of OPT said: “We appreciate that asking people to have fewer children is not going to make us popular in some quarters. Equally, expressing concern about the environmental impacts of mass migration, which accounts for the bulk of population growth in the UK and will have a major impact on our carbon emissions, is a quick route to being labelled racist. But these are hugely important issues and unfortunately both politicians and the environmental movement are currently in denial. It's high time we started discussing them like adults and confronting the real challenges of climate change.”
Wednesday 27 th June
Last month's UN climate talks at Bonn failed to set any targets for emissions reductions, technology action or negotiation on global carbon markets. Said Hans Verolme, director of WWF's Climate Change Programme: “ The world's top scientists have told us we only have a few years left to act, yet few countries show willingness to negotiate the deep emissions cuts we know are needed to keep the climate safe. . . Up to 20% of global emissions come from deforestation and forest degradation, and there is an urgent need to achieve zero net deforestation by 2020. Yet the Bonn meeting produced a surprisingly weak decision. Countries are clearly not yet ready to launch negotiations on deforestation. Nor can they agree how to tackle the adaptation needs of the poorest communities – two vital concerns that need to be tackled very practically. But the negotiators have let people down.”
The parties will meet again in Vienna in the last week of August.
Thursday 28 th June
How can travel by coach be made more attractive? Economist Alan Storkey believes the problem lies with the fact that bus and coach stations are in city centres. If they were built at motorway junctions and were given dedicated coach lanes on every motorway, coach travel could become quicker, more relaxing and more reliable than travel by car. Furthermore, because of the safe stopping speed of cars at various speeds, the M25 (for example) can accommodate 15,655 cars (or 25,048 passengers) travelling at 50 mph, but only 8,924 cars (or 14,278 passengers) travelling at 70 mph. “Coach travel can carry nearly 500 people in a mile of roadway, not a mere 30, as is the case with cars, and the capacity of the M25 moves from 15,000-20,000 in cars to 260,000 in coaches. To make this work, the coaches will need good leg room, seat quality, work stations, food, drinks and media stations – in other words, these vehicles can become an elite form of travel.”
Friday 29 th June
How can we do the weekly shopping without a car? Each supermarket delivery van takes at least three cars off the road. The Office of National Statistics calculated that deliveries amounted to about 4% of retail sales, but a paper from the Department of Transport reports that “a number of modelling exercises and surveys suggest that the substitution of private cars by delivery vehicles could reduce traffic by 70% or more.”
If out-of-town stores were gradually replaced by warehouses and all sales were made by delivery vans, transport emissions caused by customer journeys could be reduced by 70%, while the energy consumption of superstores, now converted into warehouses, could be reduced by 95%.
Saturday 30th June
Emissions from aviation are the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gases – not only carbon dioxide – and any suggestion that aviation fuel on international flights could be taxed comes up against Article 24 of the 1944 Chicago Convention which forbids any such thing.
The only certain way of limiting growth in aviation is to limit the capacity of airports. Far from doing this, the Government proposes the equivalent of another Heathrow Airport every five years. According to the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research, if we try to stabilise CO 2 emissions at 550 ppm. (they are already at 380 ppm.) and aviation continues to grow as the Government envisages, by 2050 aviation would account for 50% of our CO 2 emissions. If we try to stabilise them at 450 ppm. flying would produce 101% of the CO 2 emitted from the entire economy.
No matter that a quarter of Bangladesh disappears under water and half of Africa starves. We must at all costs maintain our right to travel wherever and whenever we please.
“If you fly, you destroy people's lives.” (George Monbiot)
“Heat” by George Monbiot (Penguin)
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