“The Devil took (Jesus) to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in all their glory.
‘All these,' he said, ‘I will give you if you will only fall down and do me homage.' But Jesus said, ‘Out of my sight, Satan! The Scripture says,
‘You shall do homage to the Lord your God and worship him alone.'”
(Matthew 4. 8-10)
“What the Devil is offering is a dream – a fantasy of endless power and control. ‘Forget God and reality and truth' says Satan to Jesus,
‘I can give you the illusion of mastery.' And Jesus says to Satan,
‘The world is not like that.'” (Archbishop Rowan Williams)
Thursday 1 st May.
Fossil fuels, formed over millions of years, are uniquely compact and powerful. They are also largely underground. Now, amid growing signs that the age of cheap fossil fuels is ending, we are turning to renewable energy.
But nearly every source of renewable energy, from biofuels to wind farms and from solar panels to hydroelectricity, needs immense areas of the planet's surface from which to operate effectively.
Conflicts over oil may be replaced by conflicts over land to produce renewable energy. In order to produce enough renewable energy to meet our growing demands, we would need to industrialise vast areas of farmland, wilderness, forests, deserts, rivers and oceans.
Already one-sixth of America 's corn crop is used to make ethanol for transport fuel, leading to food riots in Haiti and Mexico , where the price of corn rose by 40% in 2007 alone. A tankful of ethanol fuel in a Range Rover uses enough corn to feed a human being for a year.
Friday 2 nd May.
According to FoE new plantations of palm oil (one of the sources of biofuels) were responsible for almost 90% of rainforest destruction in Malaysia between 1985 and 2000. Destruction of the Amazon rainforests is fuelled by the demand for sugar cane plantations, another source of biofuels. An EU directive requires member states to replace 10% of the petrol used in cars with biofuels, so putting farmers under huge pressure to grow fuels crops instead of food crops. Too many of us regard energy use as our right and cannot conceive of making do with less of it than we have now.
Saturday 3 rd May.
According to Paul Kingsnorth in “Real England” (Portobello) we have a choice. “We can accelerate the destruction of the natural environment in a desperate attempt to provide ‘green' energy to prop up our destructive lifestyles, or we can accept that we are going to have to make do with less energy, start reducing our demand for it and ensure that any renewable projects we do promote are human-scale and accountable to those they are intended to provide for. If we can't or won't make the latter choice, it may be that nature, so close to breaking point, will make it for us.”
Sunday 4 th May.
Eternal God, creator and sustainer of life, we praise you for the beauty and fertility of the earth. We praise you for all its mysterious interconnections, before which we bow in wonder and awe. Hear our prayers for all on whom we depend for our food, for the management of the countryside and the husbanding of its resources. To those entrusted with the decision-making that affects others' lives give wisdom and discernment. To your Church in its ministry to all, grant a watchful eye, a loving heart and a prophetic voice in the service of your Kingdom. Amen. (Arthur Rank Centre)
Monday 5 th May.
As the cost of rice has soared, major producers including India and Brazil have suspended exports of rice in order to feed their own people, so causing knock-on effects for importing countries such as China , Indonesia , The Philippines and North Korea . The price of wheat has risen by 60% over the past year, causing food riots in Haiti , the Ivory Coast and Afghanistan , where imports of flour from Pakistan have been cut. An appropriate immediate response from the international community would be to halt all projects for growing fuel crops on arable land and to return the land to the prime purpose of growing food.
Tuesday 6 th May.
Because of China 's rapid industrialisation, rice planting fell from 33 million hectares in 1983 to 29 million in 2006. China now imports more food than ever before, placing a major strain on international supplies. In Britain too, the area under cultivation has been relentlessly reduced as land has been concreted over or otherwise developed. In 1975 Professor Kenneth Mellanby in a study entitled “Can Britain feed itself?” concluded: “With proper planning, a little self-sacrifice by the more carnivorous, and a joint effort by all sections of the community, we can build a better-fed and more beautiful Britain .” Today MEP Caroline Lucas has proposed a Royal Commission on Food Security to set out priorities: food first, then medicinal plants and materials, then fabric crops, then building materials, and finally, IF there is any land left, biofuels.
Wednesday 7 th May.
Cereal yields in Europe before the Industrial Revolution were less than 1,000 kg. per hectare, whereas in 2002, thanks to modern fertilisers, yields in EU countries averaged 5,517 kg. per hectare, while the world average was 2,233 kg. But artificial fertilisers are synthesised from fossil fuels. The ever-increasing price of oil and gas impacts directly on crop yields and the price of food. How can crop yields be maintained in the post-oil age? This must surely be a top priority for politicians and scientists everywhere.
Thursday 8 th May.
According to Richard Heinberg, author of “Peak Everything”, peak oil and climate chaos are inevitable products of an economy based on using more of everything. “A depression will ensue: it's how we manage the contraction that matters. Foolish management would entail burning the biosphere for alternative fuels, propping up financial institutions without re-examining the wisdom of growth-based economics and responding to privation and misery with repression and war.
Intelligent management would start with an explicit commitment to re-design the global economy to run with less. We would assess ecosphere resources and identify a humane, equitable path towards a gradual reduction in population and total consumption levels, so that we draw only upon what Nature can continually provide. We would re-acquaint ourselves with the values and virtues of community, self-sufficiency and modesty. We would re-design our cities to eliminate cars, while developing renewable energy sources and educating a new generation of eco-farmers. Handled well, the medicine of contraction will leave Nature intact and humanity in a state of greater happiness, equity and peace.”
Friday 9 th May.
International shipping is responsible for more CO 2 emissions than every nation on earth except the five top polluters. In addition, the industry emits nearly one-third of global nitrogen oxide emissions as well as emitting black soot, or black carbon, a stronger warming agent than CO 2 . One simple step could reduce these emissions by 23%. This is to impose a 10% reduction in shipping speeds. The resulting fuel efficiency would reduce fuel costs also by 23%. Any time lost could be made up by scheduling ship loading and unloading in the same way that airports schedule gate times. Speed limits need to be imposed at international level as a first step towards controlling emissions from ships. Nations cannot act alone. The whole world faces the same challenge.
Saturday 10 th May.
Today from 12.30 onwards supporters of Operation Noah meet at St. Mary's and St. John's Church , Cowley Road , Oxford . With strong support from the Bishop of London, the Archbishop of Cardiff and the Moderator-Elect of the URC General Assembly, Operation Noah will elect a new board of trustees charged with carrying out its mission encapsulated in the words “Climate abuse. Our problem. Our Solution.” Any planning to attend are asked to email: firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Operation Noah, The Grayston Centre, 28 Charles Square , London N1 6HT .
Sunday 11 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. (The Book of Common Prayer)
Monday 12 th May.
In capitalism's two centuries we see an extraordinarily pervasive commitment to separating all that has to do with rationality (work, achievements, competition, strategy and tactics) from all that has to do with tenderness (kinship, affection, compassion and contemplation) . . .
Living as we do in a world made small by communications and transport, a world divided between wealthy and scandalously-impoverished people, we no longer have the luxury of addressing our problems with individualistic and competitive strategies. Until we recognise ourselves as citizens of a common humanity, stressing the virtues of intimacy, kinship and compassion as well as those of rational planning, we will find the renewal of true hope eluding our grasp.” (John Staudenmaier)
Tuesday 13 th May.
“Technopoly”, defined by Neil Postman as the surrender of culture to technology, “depends on our believing that we are at our best when acting like machines, and that in significant ways machines may be trusted to act as our surrogates.” By contrast, according to John B. Cobb, “the knowledge embodied in the cultural practices of low-technology societies is not fragmented and specialised . . Given the increasing difficulty that city-dwellers have in coping with environmental breakdowns, the adaptiveness of so-called primitive societies should lead us to question the superiority of fragmented rationalised modes of thought.”
Wednesday 14 th May.
Arnold Pacey in “The Culture of Technology” calls for a breach in the barriers with which technical ‘experts' surround themselves, so that the experience, skills and aspirations of ‘experts' and ‘users' can be brought together in creative partnership. “We need education which encourages the proper exploration of situations before there is a rush to problem-solving; we need to break down tunnel vision. Given these conditions, we would less often find potentially beneficial technology turning into distorted, damaging fixes.”
Thursday 15 th May.
Lord Stern, whose 2006 report galvanised world leaders into recognising climate change as a problem, believes his report under-estimated the threat. Greenhouse gas emissions are growing much faster than was then thought because of the release of methane from thawing permafrost, the acidification of the oceans and the decay of carbon sinks. He repeated his call for governments to invest 1-2% of GDP annually up to 2050 in new technologies and efficiency measures. He called for a global carbon trading system that would act as a“glue” for a global climate deal. We must, he said, have zero carbon electricity by 2050. “That means carbon capture and sequestration, it means nuclear, it means renewables.” Coal is the only fossil fuel source where big consuming nations have large stores within their borders. “Therefore we need to get better at carbon capture and sequestration very quickly.”
Friday 16 th May.
Abu Dhabi is aiming for world leadership in solar power for a new city in the desert. Foster and Partners, the architects who have designed Masdar City, envisage that air conditioning and electricity needs will be met solely from renewables. 80% of roof space will be used to house photovoltaic solar panels, while a solar power station, brought on stream for the construction phase, can divert its power elsewhere once the city is built. A further $15 million of oil wealth will be used for exportable renewable energy solutions, and a $2 billion project for a 500 MW. hydrogen power station has recently been announced. Why is the world's 4 th largest oil producer so keen on renewable energy? Says Masdar's CEO: “What could be better for Abu Dhabi than investing our oil revenues in something that will give us leadership in the future?” Others might whisper: “Maybe its oilfields are near exhaustion.”
Saturday 17 th May.
When last month the oil price reached an unprecedented $118 a barrel (a rise of 30% in 3 months), the head of the International Energy Agency expressed concern about an oil-related recession. “The world's energy economy is on an unsustainable pathway. There is an urgent need for investment to restore an adequate cushion between oil supply and demand. Unless government policies change, world energy demand will grow by 55% by 2030.” Royal Dutch Shell, Europe 's biggest oil company, ploughs £12.5 billion annually into exploration and production. Nevertheless it expects output to fall over several years. During the oil shocks of the 1970s, world consumption of oil fell in response. If this happened again, it might concentrate the minds of world leaders on the necessity for an Oil Depletion Protocol (see Richard Heinberg's book of that name) so as to manage a phased reduction in consumption, in order to avoid the likelihood of conflict over diminishing oil supplies.
Sunday 18 th May.
“All of creation God gives to humankind to use. If this privilege is misused, God's justice permits creation to punish humanity.” (Hildegarde of Bingen)
We offer you, Lord, the fruits of all who work in science and technology;
We pray that man-made machines may not crush mankind with their overweening power;
We praise you for your great gifts of freedom and inventiveness, and we pray for wisdom that we may use them aright in your service and in the service of your whole creation. Amen.
Monday 19 th May.
This week is National Ethical Investment Week organised by the UK Social Investment Forum (www.uksif.org ) People involved in the meetings and activities include faith- and community-based organisations, NGOs and the financial services industry. This week consumers are encouraged to reflect on the social and environmental impacts of their financial choices and to consider green and ethical investment options. To view a calendar of events, visit www.neiw.org or contact Julia Blair: Julia.email@example.com Tel. 020 7749 9956.
Tuesday 20 th May.
Wheat prices have risen from £120 to £250 a tonne in the past year and the Office of National Statistics is predicting exponential rises in line with oil prices. Land available for set-aside has been reduced to zero. Yet fallow periods are essential to maintain soil productivity. They allow a re-balancing of soil nutrients, re-establishing of soil organisms, breaking pest and disease cycles and providing a haven for wildlife. This was a sustainable model for British agriculture for over 3,000 years – that is, until it was deemed uneconomic and consigned to the dustbin of history. Now, in the post-oil age, there are calls for British farmers to be allowed to return to growing food in the way they know best, without the dead hand of legislation dictating what crops they should grow and how. A useful first step would be to steer our agricultural colleges away from the factory farm practices that prevail and towards sustainable practices that were widespread before the era of cheap oil.
Wednesday 21 st May.
A report from the US Center for Food Safety called “Who benefits from GM crops?” finds that;
Four-fifths of GM crops around the world are Monsanto's Roundup Ready varieties, designed for use with its glyphosate herbicide Roundup;
In 2006 glyphosate use on soybeans jumped by 28% over 2005;
Glyphosate-resistant weeds now infest 2.4 million acres in the US and more in Argentina and Brazil ;
This increase in resistance has led to a doubling of the use of 2,4-D, a known carcinogen used in the Vietnam War;
Roundup is a cocktail of ingredients which includes the surfactant polyethoxethyleneamine, the use of which is unregulated. A study of Ontario farmers showed that exposure to glyphosate nearly doubled the risk of late miscarriages and that the ethoxylated surfactant doubled its toxic effect. Scientists at Pittsburg University have found that Roundup is lethal to amphibians, causing an 86% decline in the number of tadpoles. Despite claims that it is biodegradeable, Roundup was found in wells sited under electrical installations treated with glyphosate in the Netherlands and in seven US wells and forest streams in Oregon and Washington .
Thursday 22 nd May.
For 200 years we have lived in a growth economy, believing that all our economic ills – from unemployment and poverty to overpopulation and even environmental degradation – can be solved by more growth. Suddenly that is no longer the case.
What would a steady-state economy (SSE) look like? In it, according to Herman Daly, we are no longer trying to provide massive incentives to stimulate growth. We no longer need to spend billions on advertising, which instead should be taxed as a public nuisance. An SSE requires a move towards longer-lived, more durable goods, ones that make more efficient use of materials and energy. If cars were made to last 20 years instead of 10 or less, we are surely better off since the same capital stock would be providing the same service with half the cost of building and maintaining the fleet. A step in the right direction is the service contract that leases equipment such as carpets and copying machines. The lessor/owner maintains, reclaims and recycles it at the end of its useful life. Since the ever-growing economy is now seen as a physical impossibility, it must be time to consider alternatives.
Friday 23 rd May.
“Do Good Lives Have to Cost the Earth?” (Constable £7.99) is a symposium of contributions from Philip Pullman, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Oliver James, David Cameron, Hilary Benn, Lord Adair Turner and many others commenting on the end of the growth economy. Editor Andrew Simms writes: “Don't be afraid of the recession. It may be just the lucky break we need to get our heads around a saner economy and a better quality of life.”
Saturday 24 th May.
Partly wind-powered container ships have arrived. The 10,000 tonne Beluga Skysails uses a computer-guided kite to take some of the load off its oil-powered engine. Harnessing strong offshore winds, the kite can be released 300 metres above the ocean, saving about 20% or $1,600 from the daily fuel bill – sound economic practice with oil costing $118 a barrel. The International Maritime Organisation recently announced that annual CO 2 emissions from shipping have reached 1.12 billion tonnes – about twice those from aviation – and are set to rise a further 20% by 2020. So wind-powered shipping can make a useful contribution to reducing this effect.
Sunday 25 th May.
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 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 our sin and folly and blindness. Turn us back to yourself, for the sake of your Son, our only Saviour. (Frank Colquhoun)
Monday 26 th May.
Not all biofuels are bad for the environment. Oil-rich jatropha and pongamia trees can grow on barren land unsuited to food crops. Planting them does not involve deforestation nor does it create a monoculture at the expense of rough grazing. CleanStar India is working with Oxfordshire-based Regenatec to find suitable sites around the world. Coach and lorry manufacturers Optare and Dennis Eagle already have contracts to fit the technology into new and existing vehicles. Last year Regenatec won the “Engineering the Future” accolade at the National Business Awards and is in talks with the Fairtrade Foundation to secure recognition as “Fairtrade Fuel”. For details visit: www.regenatec.com
Tuesday 27 th May.
The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) set up under the Kyoto Protocol has been a disappointment. 60% of emissions reductions so far achieved have no bearing on renewable energy or energy efficiency. Instead these projects have involved the costly destruction of HFC 23 – an industrial gas 12,000 times more destructive than CO 2 . Moreover, 33% of all projects are in India , where they go ahead regardless of whether they are backed by the CDM board. Now the board is tightening up the approval process and bundling together small projects such as household biodigesters, which convert animal and human waste into liquid fuel for cooking, lighting and heating, thus avoiding CO 2 and methane emissions and reducing pressure on forests for firewood. A real breakthrough will only happen when the US joins the Kyoto process for trading carbon credits – just as European countries do now.
Wednesday 28 th May.
A billion people still lack safe drinking water and this figure is expected to double within 20 years. Meanwhile precious water resources are being used by thirsty crops such as cotton which end up on our shelves in the rich world. It requires 200 litres of water to grow the sugar contained in a single can of soft drink, 4,000 litres to ‘grow' a single cotton shirt and 8,000 litres to produce a pair of leather shoes. Around 59% of the water required to produce our food originates in other countries. WWF is engaging with high street retailers to develop a “company water footprint” on the same lines as an ecological footprint. “Business would do well to remember that water shortages translate into energy price inflation, higher insurance and credit costs, reputational risk and reduced investor confidence.
Thursday 29 th May.
“Climate change says we should change, whereas peak oil says we will be forced to change. Both categorically state that fossil fuels have no role to play in the future, and the sooner we stop using them the better.” (Rob Hopkins)
“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.” (Albert Einstein)
Friday 30 th May.
“The US automobile industry went from producing nearly 4 million cars in 1941 to producing 24,000 tanks and 17,000 armoured cars in 1942 – but only 223,000 cars, and most of them produced early on before the conversion began. Essentially the auto industry was closed down from 1942 to the end of 1944. By the end of the war, more than 5,000 ships were added to the 1,000 that made up the merchant fleet in 1939.” (Lester Brown) When society decides to put its weight behind change, things can move very fast. Relatively small changes in legislation, giving people more money for microgeneration, and making planning changes to promote local agriculture and co-housing, will accelerate things greatly. Some of this needs to be driven at government level, but much of the momentum and pressure, as well as the diversity of projects and initiatives that need sanction or support from government, can come from the local level.
Saturday 31 st May.
“It seems to me that a low-carbon society would be one that remembers that our planet is a unique gift – perhaps the only one of its kind in the entire universe – which we are indescribably privileged to be born into. It would be a society that could look back on the six degrees nightmare scenario as just that – a nightmare, one which humanity woke up from and avoided before it was too late. More than anything, it would be a society which survived and prospered, and which passed on this glorious inheritance – of ice caps, rainforests and thriving civilisations – to countless generations, far into the future.” (Mark Lynas)
Sources: The Transition Handbook by Rob Hopkins (Green Books)
Peak Everything by Richard Heinberg (Clairview)
“Choices at the Heart of Technology” by Ruth Conway
(Trinity Press International)
r further information and prayer requests, please contact:
Philip Clarkson Webb
15 Valley View
Tunbridge Wells TN4 0SY
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