“This is what the Lord says: Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths; ask where the good way is,
walk in it and you will find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6.16-19)
“Coming before God in prayer is the central God-given human task, the one by which, whether spectacularly or quietly, everything is transformed.” (Bishop Tom Wright)
Wednesday 1 st August
A 2004 report from experts commissioned under the Government's Foresight Programme was called “Future Floodings”. It said that, unless precautions were taken, more severe floods brought about by climate change could massively increase the number of people and the amount of property at risk.
Six years earlier, scientists of the UK Climate Impacts Programme had given a detailed forecast of what global warming had in store for Britain . High on the list was rainfall, increasing both in frequency and intensity.
A new paper from the Hadley Centre for Climate Research now finds that observed rises in temperature (Central England has warmed by 1 0 C. since 1967) and in rainfall could be accounted for by emissions of greenhouse gases. Put simply, global warming is likely to lead to a higher rainfall because a warming atmosphere contains more water vapour and more energy.
Bringers of bad news have always been scorned by wishful thinkers. Now we have no excuse.
Thursday 2 nd August
The New Economics Foundation has published a “Happy Planet Index” which analyses the average carbon footprint in 30 European countries in relation to the physical and emotional well-being of their citizens since the 1960s. Britain 's carbon footprint has increased by 50%, but average life satisfaction, as rated by the people surveyed, has fallen by 6%. Britain ranks 21 st – behind Scandinavia , Iceland , most of Western Europe and even Poland and Romania . The report concludes: “Rather than turn the clock back, we need to look to a post-consumption era that is aware of the false promise of materialism and utilises wealth and technology to deliver more efficiency, rather than just more.”
Friday 3rd August
The Department of Transport has disclosed that the cost of car travel has fallen by 10% over the past 30 years, while the price of bus and train tickets has risen by more than 50% and is set to rise still further.
Other European countries, such as the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany, see public transport as a social service, and affordable fares as a legitimate policy objective. In Britain market forces have consistently favoured the car over public transport, but (as Stern pointed out) the market has conspicuously failed to deliver a clean environment.
If the prime object is to maximise shareholder value, why should a bus or train company not jack up fares as high as it can and eliminate services which are unprofitable? If we are serious about tackling climate change, we need to make public transport cheaper, easier and more efficient. The recent White Paper is a step in the right direction.
Saturday 4 th August
In 2006 civil aircraft carried over 2 billion passengers. The International Civil Aviation Organisation forecasts a rise to 2.5 billion by 2015 on scheduled flights alone. According to Airbus, this will require an extra 15,000 aircraft with more than 100 seats. A Boeing jumbo jet flying from London to Dubai emits 180 tonnes of CO 2 – equivalent to the annual emissions of 18 UK citizens for transport, food, domestic heating etc. Yet the Government still supports a third runway at Heathrow, which would allow 500 additional daily flights over London , plus a new runway at Stansted.
Sunday 5 th August
We cry to you, Lord, protect your creation; defend the work of your hands. Save our generation from our addiction to fossil fuels. Wash our hands of their clutch on dirty energy. Clean our hearts of our desire for more and more. Turn our souls away from materialism and our desires from taking and taking from your sacred, finite world.
Give us a vision of the blessings we will receive if we turn away from idolatry of the economy and bow to wisdom and truth.
Let humankind see that true happiness rests in enjoying your earth as you intended, not according to the lies of the enemy.
Show us that a kinder, simpler lifestyle will allow us to see your glory more clearly. Let your glory shine through your kingdom. Amen
(Ruth Jarman www.christian-ecology.org.uk/prayers-for-hope/prayers.htm#psalm24)
Monday 6 th August
A study published in “Nature” in 2006 looked at the impact of night-time aircraft contrails over the UK . Night flights account for only 22% of air travel, but contribute 60-80% of the greenhouse effect caused by contrails. The latest IPCC report states that the overall radiative forcing by aircraft (i.e. artificial impact on the climate) is 2-4 times larger than that attributed to CO 2 emissions alone. Greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft are the fastest growing emissions from any source and are likely to increase as we fly more, in response to the Government's obsession with airport expansion.
Tuesday 7 th August
The House of Lords Science & Technology Committee recently described the Government's proposals for dealing with the ever-growing stockpile of nuclear waste as “incoherent and opaque”. Budget cuts have set back the decommissioning of Harwell and Winfrith power stations from 2018 to 2023. Several UK plants, already shut down or running at reduced capacity, face staff redundancies. Even if money is found to build new plants, scientists warn that the huge volumes of water required to cool nuclear reactors may not be available due to climate change. David Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer from the Union of Concerned Scientists, commented: “If we are going to have more nuclear power, we are going to have to solve the climate change problem – not the other way round.”
Wednesday 8 th August
An earthquake near Japan 's Kashiwazaki nuclear power plant has killed nine people and started a fire at the plant. Successive announcements reported that:
No harm was done at the plant.
There was a leak of radioactive water, but it was only 1.5 gallons.
The leak amounted to 361 gallons and it was 50 times more radioactive than previously stated.
About 100 nuclear waste barrels had fallen over, but only 24 had lost their lids and leaked radioactive waste.
There had been a release of cobalt 60, chromium 51 and radioactive iodine into the atmosphere.
Finally the nuclear operators, Tepco, explained: “We did not assume an earthquake of this magnitude at the time of designing the nuclear power plant. After looking at aftershock location data, we have come to realise a fault lies right below the plant.”
Thursday 9 th August
James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for space Research, has published a satellite image of Antarctica showing that a huge crack is developing in the West Antarctic ice sheet that will cause an area the size of Western Europe to break off. His paper suggests that the disappearance of the world's polar and glacial ice cover could lead to a 15-metre rise in sea levels by 2100. The collapsing Greenland ice sheet will account for a 7-metre rise, the predicted Antarctic event another 5 metres, the collapse of world glaciers another 2 metres and thermal expansion 1 metre.
In 2006 the Marshall Islands tide gauge measured a sea-level rise of around 22 mm. over the year. This compares with the official IPCC estimate of an annual rise of less than 3 mm. Clearly there are uncertainties in the science. Equally clearly, urgent action is needed to stave off the worst predictions.
Friday 10 th August
The Government's Energy White Paper has downgraded forecasts for electricity from renewable sources from 20% by 2020 to just 10%.
The current mechanism, the Renewables Obligation, has been criticised by the Carbon Trust, Ofgem, the IPPR and many NGOs as hopelessly inefficient.
Other European countries such as Germany use “feed-in” tariffs whereby the government pays renewable energy generators (including householders) a premium tariff fixed for 20 years and paid for by a levy charged on all energy users. For a typical German household consuming 3500 KWh of electricity a year, this adds up to a monthly bill of 1.63 euros for all renewable energy technologies.
Saturday 11 th August
Paris has set up a network of 1,000 lock-up bike ranks. To liberate a red bike, you need a smart card. After half an hour of free travel, you are charged by the half hour until you lock the bike up again in the rank nearest your destination. If you fail to return the bike, your debit card is charged the full replacement value. The scheme has proved a winner in Lyons , Vienna and several Spanish cities. Transport for London describes it as “an innovative idea, which we are watching with interest.” For details, go to: www.velib.paris.fr The contractors, J.C. Decaux, reap the benefit of extensive advertising. Visit www.jcdecaux.co.uk
Sunday 12 th August
Lord Jesus, we bless you for all who give themselves in service to their fellow humans. Grant them clear vision, undaunted courage, true judgment and cheerful love, that they may bring hope and comfort to all those in their care; for your love's sake. Amen.
Monday 13 th August
Tuvalu , a tiny South Pacific nation, consists of a string of nine coral islands standing, at their highest point, just 4 metres above sea level. Four thousand of the inhabitants have already left for New Zealand , another 10,500 plan to follow, while the rest are determined to stay. The tidal gauge on the main island, Funafuti , suggests that the sea level is rising by 5.6 mm. a year – twice the rate predicted by the IPCC. When “king tides” strike, waves break right across the island. Keitona Tausi, secretary of the Tuvalu Congregational Christian Church, says: “People should stay and develop Tuvalu . If we work together, we can help our country. But not if everyone leaves.” Tuvalu could indeed survive. Drastic cuts in carbon emissions would slow global warming. The countries that have caused its problems could help it find solutions, such as building well-designed sea walls or dredging sand from the lagoon to raise the level of the land. The latter would cost £1.3 million – a drop in the ocean for Australia or the USA , neither of which has signed the Kyoto Protocol.
Tuesday 14 th August
Today at 10 am the Camp for Climate Action meets at Staines railway station at the start of a week's activities aiming to highlight the lunacy of the Government's airport expansion plans. The camp will feature over a hundred workshops on climate change impacts, carbon offsetting, biofuels, peak oil, permaculture, practical renewables, campaign strategy, skills for direct action etc. As a working ecological village, the camp will use renewable energy, composting its waste and sourcing food locally. “We are the last generation that can do anything about climate change. In 20-30 years time, should we not change our ways, we'll be committed to emissions increases that will see forests burn, soils decay, oceans rise and millions pf people die.” For more information visit: www.climatecamp.org.uk/location.php
Wednesday 15 th August
Lake Natron in Tanzania is home to half a million Lesser Flamingos - 75% of the world population. A subsidiary of the Indian company Tata Chemicals proposes to pump out the salty water for the manufacture of washing soda, to build a coal-fired power station and to house over a thousand construction staff on site. Chris Magin of the RSPB said: “Flamingos live up to 40 years and only breed every 5-6 years. The site is listed under the Ramsar Convention and has been visited by millions of people enjoying the spectacle. All that is now in jeopardy if the plan goes ahead.”
Thursday 16 th August
The loss of Amazonian rainforest affects the entire planet. In the vast, desolate savannah of Eastern Colombia , Paolo Lugari, helped by funds raised through the Kyoto Protocol, in 1992 planted 8,000 hectares of unproductive land with Caribbean Pine. Thanks to the innovative use of soil mycorrhiza, the Gaviotas forest has flourished and now generates an extra 16% rainfall. It has provided cover for the regeneration of 250 tropical plant species and shelter for the planting of 100 hectares of palm trees. Resin from the pine trees is converted locally into colofonin, a raw material for the paint and paper industry. The palm trees provide a vegetable oil which is easily converted into biodiesel. Drinking water is collected and bottled locally for export. Employment is provided for 1,500-2,500 permanent workers. Now the military, seeing how the project has made the region conflict-free for 15 years, has offered 100,000 hectares of additional land around their military base for similar development. For details of the project visit www.zeri.org
Friday 17 th August
Access to land has always been seen as a remedy for hunger and poverty, but ever since the age of the Gracchi has been judged a political minefield. Yet over the last 20 years the Landless Workers' Movement (known in Brazil as MST) has settled 750,000 landless families on 15 million acres of land in almost every state in Brazil . The MST's 3,000 new communities earn almost four times the minimum wage. Infant mortality has fallen to half the national average. The cost of creating a single job in Brazil 's commercial centres ranges from 2 to 20 times more than the cost of establishing an unemployed family on land through land reform.
Saturday 18 th August
Converging World, a charity based in Chew Magna, Somerset , has a mission to fund the cleanest possible renewable energy projects and so to benefit local people in their pursuit of sustainable livelihoods. A 1.5 MW wind turbine, financed by CW, has been up and running in Tamil Nadu, South India , since April 2006. Of the profits, 25% goes into education, health and employment for some of Tamil Nadu's poorest people. The remaining 75% is used to finance future turbines, while the carbon credits are sold in the UK market to promote renewable energy projects in both countries and to set up educational programmes to help people reduce their energy consumption. The goal is to finance the building of a series of larger turbines in Tamil Nadu, each producing 4 million units of electricity a year, which, when fed into the Indian national grid, will earn £2 million over the 20-year lifespan of each turbine and avoid the release of 3,000 tonnes of CO 2 per year. For more details visit: www.theconvergingworld.org
Sunday 19 th August
Lord, we live in a world where things have gone badly wrong because we have forgotten you and left you out of account.
We have worshipped other gods and have not hallowed your Name.
We have adopted our own way of life and have not served your Kingdom.
We have chosen what pleases us and have not done your will.
Lord, forgive us our sin and folly and blindness. Turn us back to yourself, for the sake of your Son, who died to save us all. Amen. (Frank Colquhoun)
Monday 20 th August
Can a monetary value be placed on pristine forests? The Stern Review said that curbing deforestation is a “highly cost-effective way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions”. Some economists suggest that the value of greenhouse gas storage in forests could be as high as $2,200 per hectare. New York City had to decide how to supply its citizens with clean drinking water. A new filtration plant would have cost $6 billion. Instead, it decided to invest in protecting forest resources in the watershed. The resulting clean water was the same – but at a mere fraction of the cost.
Tuesday 21 st August
An increasing number of organisations and products claim to be “carbon neutral”. After a calculation of the total carbon emissions of the activity or product, that total is “offset” by investing in renewable energy or tree-planting. There are three problems with this:
It is difficult to check that carbon offsets are being invested as claimed. The Government is working on an accreditation scheme to fill this gap.
Many projects supported by carbon offsets would have happened anyway. Again, this is difficult to check.
Carbon offsetting encourages us to think that we have “done our bit” for the climate and need take no further action.
However, there is no substitute for every one of us studying how best we can reduce our carbon footprint and acting accordingly. In addition, a strong climate change law is needed to give us all the right signals.
Wednesday 22 nd August
Warm Front is a government-supported programme for improving housing conditions, making houses less draughty, less leaky and less energy-wasteful. The National Audit Office has shown that the programme is saving our economy £420 each time 1 tonne of carbon is saved. In other words, combatting fuel poverty is also helping to combat climate change. Andrew Warren of the Association for the Conservation of Energy asks, “Why don't the fuel poverty people start talking to the carbon offset people? Companies that aspire to be truly carbon neutral could consider funding fuel poverty improvements in Britain . Charity truly begins at home!”
Thursday 23 rd August
The Government's recent Housing Green Paper says that new homes need not be carbon neutral until 2016. FoE comments: “New homes should be carbon zero by at least 2010. A carbon zero home is one that can be built, heated and powered without any increase in net CO 2 emissions. . . New developments in water-stressed areas should be ‘water-neutral'. As well as ensuring that new homes are fitted with highly water-efficient appliances, developers should be obliged to ‘offset' the water that these homes use by paying for water-saving equipment to be installed in existing houses. The result would be that there would be no net increase in water use caused by the new development and water use in old homes would be improved.”
Friday 24 th August
Sir Crispin Tickell in an article in “Resurgence” points out that it took around 200 million years to lay down the coal, oil and gas deposits on which our society depends, yet we have consumed the bulk of them over a period of around 200 years. Thus each single year we consume a million years of fossil-fuel deposits.
Similarly, “No resource is in greater demand than fresh water. At present such demand doubles every 21 years and seems to be accelerating. Yet supply in a world of over 6 billion people is the same as it was in the time of the Roman Empire in a world of little more than 300 million people.”
His conclusion: “At the most basic level we have to reconsider how we feed ourselves; how we warm and cool ourselves – in short, how we receive and use energy; where we live and work; how we transport ourselves; how we use, save and recycle materials; how we work with others across the world; how we treat the other animals and plants with which we share the planet; and above all, how we think – not just as producers or consumers, but as real, creative, imaginative, resourceful people.”
Saturday 25 th August
A new report from the Optimum Population Trust called “Youthquake” points out that voluntary population stabilisation programmes, centring on educational awareness and removing barriers to women's control of their own fertility, have a proven record of success. For example, Iran 's voluntary “two child” population policy succeeded in halving fertility in eight years. Over a quarter of all pregnancies worldwide end in abortions and at least 35% of the estimated 550,000 women who die each year through abortions or childbirth are being killed by pregnancies they would have avoided if contraception had been available. By 2050, when the human population is projected to reach 9.2 billion, humans will need the natural resources of at least two Earths. Professor John Guillebaud of OPT said: “No one is in favour of governments dictating family size, but we need to act quickly to prevent it. As the century progresses, those who continue to place obstacles in the way of women who want to control their fertility will have only themselves to blame as more and more regimes bring in coercive measures. Despite the catastrophic current increase of an extra 1.5 million humans per week, there is still a chance that such measures may be avoided.”
Sunday 26 th August
Give us, dear Lord, the wisdom so to deal with the things we possess that they may never possess us. Deliver us from reliance on our own cleverness in science and technology. Banish our fears as we face new challenges, and keep our feet always on the path of justice and peace, for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ.
Monday 27 th August
OPT explains “Youthquake” as the biggest generation of young people yet seen on the planet, with major social implications, “not least the creation of a huge cohort of young urban males who, through frustration and unemployment, seek an outlet in violence.” The report's recommendations include:
Every country, including the UK , needs a national population policy.
A “Stop at Two” (replacement level) guideline for couples should be introduced by the Government, backed by schools, the media and environmental groups.
New guidelines should be introduced for the portrayal of fertility issues by the media, aimed at countering the glamourisation of sex and stressing the responsibilities and frequent ‘sheer drudgery' of motherhood. Story-lines could demonstrate how teenage motherhood blights educational and earning prospects.
A major new study is needed of the ‘perverse incentives' that lead some teenage girls to become pregnant. Britain 's record on teenage pregnancy is the worst in Europe , while the performance of the NHS in this area has been a calamity.
Tuesday 28 th August
In response to Government proposals to limit the public's right to challenge major developments such as nuclear power plants, airport expansion, major road schemes and new incinerators, a planning application has been delivered to the Corporation of London to build an incinerator on the site of St. Paul 's Cathedral. The coalition of groups involved is publishing a list of major developments where the public's right to object could be threatened. They include:
Super-incinerators at Deptford and Colnbrook near Slough ;
Up to 10 nuclear power plants including reactors at Sizewell, Calder Hall and Hartlepool ;
Airport expansion at Birmingham , Bournemouth , Bristol , East Midlands , Heathrow and Stansted;
Major road schemes including a new Mersey Bridge , M6 widening in Staffs. & Cheshire and a Hastings-Bexhill bypass.
“Today the public can still object to barmy planning applications which could damage our environment or communities – such as the incinerator application for the site of St. Pauls. If the Planning White Paper goes ahead, the public will effectively lose that right. The Government needs to introduce a planning system which allows people an effective say in how their area is developed.” For more information go to: www.planningdisaster.co.uk
Wednesday 29 th August
China 's government aims to reduce energy consumption by 20% by 2010 and has set up a working party, chaired by the Prime Minister, to look at ways of improving energy efficiency and reducing the nation's carbon footprint. But, according to He Bingguang, director of the National Development & Reform Commission, many local officials still see heavy industry as a fast track to economic success for their district and as a way of achieving easy promotion for themselves if the area under their control reports healthy profits.” So, despite Beijing 's call to rein in power consumption, many local authorities continue to invest heavily in energy-intensive industries.
Thursday 30 th August
The Freecycle Network was started in Tucson , Arizona , to promote waste reduction and protect the desert landscape. There are now 4,000 Freecycle groups in more than 75 countries. Their mission is “to build a worldwide gifting movement that reduces waste, saves precious resources and eases the burden on our landfills while enabling our members to benefit from the strength of a larger community.” The whole emphasis is on giving rather than getting something for nothing. Each group sets up an internet mailing list on which members post their offers. Nothing is too small or too big. Anyone interested will contact the person making the offer. “Wants” can equally be posted on the list. Some groups organise events such as free shops in town centres. “One person's rubbish is another person's resource”. Freecycle aims to match the two. For more information visit: www.freecycle.org
Friday 31 st August
In “The Upside Of Down” Thomas Homer-Dixon, Director of the Trudeau Centre for Peace Studies and adviser to the CIA and the US National Security Council, analyses five stresses which each threaten our civilisation, but spell catastrophe if they reach crisis point together. They are: Population, Energy, Environment, Climate and the Economy. We could, he says, continue to create increasingly energy-intensive systems in a doomed attempt to deny the truth of impending shortages while increasing numbers of people compete for diminishing resources. Or, alternatively, we could decouple ourselves from the global economy and adapt to a situation where limits to growth are accepted and resources are not milked dry to the point of collapse.
How far technology can take us in our efforts to adapt, and how far human numbers can be limited and expectations of material comforts curbed – all these questions require debate, especially in the light of recent floods.
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