“The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (Matthew 13.22-3)
“You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. . . . Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.
So be earnest and repent.
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”
(Rev. 3. 17 & 19-20)
Tuesday 1 st July
The dash for biofuels has been described as the next green gold rush as corporations compete to meet the EU target of 10% biofuel-driven transport by 2020. However, the Gaia Foundation and Biofuel Watch report that:
In Tanzania the government has agreed to turn over 20% of its land to grow biofuels. Sun Biofuels has acquired 9,000 hectares to grow jatropha, necessitating the removal of 11,000 people off their land;
In Uganda , the Mabira Forest is a key water catchment area for people around Lake Victoria . Two-thirds of it – around 7,000 hectares – are to be turned over to sugarcane plantations for ethanol;
In Ethopia the government has identified 24 million has. as suitable for biofuel production by foreign investors, of which 13,000 has. are in Oromia state, 87% of which consists of the Babile Elephant Sanctuary.
In Zambia foreign investors have contracted with local farmers to grow jatropha through a system of loans and service payments which ties them into dependence and possible indebtedness, putting them at risk of losing their land.
African Biodiversity Network has called for an international moratorium on agrofuel exports until the true social and environmental costs can be assessed and a food disaster averted. To sign their petition, email: email@example.com
Wednesday 2 nd July
Jatropha is a remarkable crop that can survive on poor land. However, on good land it grows at least 5 times faster. Hence the dash by foreign companies to buy up the best land to secure a quick return on their investment. Farmers are often persuaded to part with their land on the assurance that the money they receive will enable them to buy imported food. However, in an age of spiralling transport costs, to rely on food imports makes Mr. Micawber look like a paragon of wisdom.
Thursday 3 rd July
The Transnational Institute, representing over 200 organisations worldwide has warned of “false solutions” to climate change now being peddled at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity – solutions which perpetuate biodiversity destruction, climate change and erosion of people's rights, especially those of women, indigenous peoples and local communities. Agrofuel or biofuel crops, with industrial tree plantations, are falsely referred to by UN bodies as “reforestation”, while some certification bodies promote these damaging activities as “environmentally sustainable”. Other “solutions” which have grave impacts on biodiversity, climate stability and people's rights include GM tree plantations, ocean fertilisation using iron particles, carbon capture and storage and various GM crops engineered for resistance to drought, salinity or extreme temperatures. “Such false solutions are really for the benefit of corporations. The real agenda behind this is to increase corporate control over land, forests, water, agriculture and biodiversity, using climate change and the biodiversity crisis as an opportunity to further these objectives. This is a new 21 st century phase of colonialism.”
Friday 4 th July
To mark World Environment Day, the Brazilian government has announced the creation of three new protected areas in the Amazon in addition to the four announced a month earlier. These together protect 5.8 million hectares of the Amazon. The Amazon Region Protected Areas Programme (ARPA) was set up in 2003 by WWF-Brazil, the Government and various donors. It is the world's largest conservation programme and aims to protect 60 million hectares (an area the size of Spain and Portugal ) by 2013. “ARPA has been a major conservation success story” said WWF's international director general “and remains core to WWF's strategy and vision for the Amazon.”
Saturday 5 th July
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has announced emergency measures to cope with two years of drought and abnormally low runoff from snow melt. “In the areas of North California that supply most of our water, this March, April and May have been the driest on record. As a result some local governments are rationing water, developments can't proceed and agricultural fields are sitting idle. . . This drought is an urgent reminder of the immediate need to upgrade California 's water infrastructure. There is nothing more vital to protect our economy, our environment and our quality of life.”
Sunday 6 th July
Father, we know that in all creation only the human family has strayed from the sacred way. We know that we are the ones who must, together, come back to walk in your sacred way. Father, teach us love, compassion and honour, that we may heal the earth and heal each other.
(A prayer from the Obijway nation of Canada )
Monday 7 th July
At 6 for 6.30 this evening at the Methodist Central Hall, Westminster , the London Churches Environmental Network (LCEN) has arranged a public dialogue with Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks on “The Future of Energy Supplies”. LCEN aims to:
Provide a focal point for environmental issues
Influence leaders in London
Bring together experiences and views
Share best practice
Link London with the national picture
Co-ordinate church action
Provide support and encouragement
For details, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday 8 th July
The estimated cost of cleaning up Britain's 19 old nuclear facilities rose from £50 billion in 2007 to £73 billion this January and now a senior director at the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has said that the cost will be billions more pounds than previously estimated.
In France the nuclear safety agency has halted construction of a new EPR reactor at Flamanville (just 6 months after work began) because of materials defects. Work on the only other EDF reactor – at Olkiluoto in Finland – has been set back two years owing to similar problems and costs have nearly doubled to over 5 billion euros. Britain 's proposed new reactors will be of similar design.
There were also unplanned shutdowns at Sizewell B and Hunterston B7 reactors, triggering a massive power cut for thousands of householders. On a single day in May, ten of British Energy's sixteen nuclear power units were out of action. Greenpeace comments: “We only have a limited time and budget to stave off the most catastrophic effects of climate change and we must stop pouring money down the nuclear black hole.”
Wednesday 9 th July
A new report from the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) says that, with changed policies, about one in three British homes could be producing their own clean energy by 2012. This would provide enough power to replace five large nuclear power stations. By 2030 such microgeneration would save the same amount of CO 2 emissions as would the removal of all Britain 's lorries and buses off our roads. Currently, clean energy provides just 4% of our electricity needs compared to 14% in Germany . British homes carry about 100,000 solar thermal panels compared to over a million in Germany . Last year 270 solar PV arrays which produce electricity were put on Britain 's homes compared to 130,000 in Germany . At this rate it would take us 150,000 years to equal the number in Germany . Sharp, the only UK manufacturer of PV panels, calculates that just one week's production is for UK markets, the rest of a year's production is exported to continental Europe .
Thursday 10 th July
In 2006 there were government grants for up to £7,500 for installing photovoltaic panels. In February 2007, payments were rationed to just £500,000 a month, with the result that a whole month's ration was used up in two hours. When this was ridiculed, the whole system was suspended and later re-launched with a budget of £200,000 a month. Demand duly slumped. At least 15 European countries besides Germany have adopted feed-in tariffs which encourage householders to sell surplus electricity back to the national grid, yet Lord Jones, a BERR minister, has called feed-in tariffs “a regulatory nightmare and extremely expensive.”
Friday 11 th July
WWF has welcomed a proposal from David Cameron for a Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standard for power plants – similar to that operating in California . If the standard was set at 350 g. per kWh, this could be achieved by efficient gas-fired power stations which make good use of waste heat, and by coal-fired stations if most of the carbon emissions are captured and stored below ground. The proposed Kingsnorth power station would emit 700-750 g. per kWh. WWF comments: “This standard would avoid the risk of locking the UK into a high-carbon future and offers much greater certainty to investors than vague hints that carbon capture might be required in the future. It would . . . help to ensure that the UK can move quickly towards a clean and secure energy future. Conservatives and Liberal Democrats both now accept that new coal-fired power stations without carbon capture and storage have no place if we are to fulfil our role as global leader in the fight against climate change.”
Saturday 12 th July
Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) is a technique to concentrate sunlight with mirrors to create heat and then use the heat to raise steam to drive turbines and generators, as in a conventional power station.
Every square kilometre of desert receives solar energy equivalent to 1.5 million barrels of oil.
With transmission losses through DC cables at about 3% per 1000 kilometres, solar electricity could supply Europe , the Middle East and North Africa via a supergrid.
The German Aerospace Centre in its TRANS-CSP report calculates that CSP is likely to become one of the cheapest sources of electricity in Europe – including the cost of transmission.
There are already CSP plants in California . They are quick to build and, with right political impetus, capacity may be ramped up quickly.
For details, go to: www.trec-uk.org.uk or email: email@example.com
Sunday 13 th July
Deliver us, Father, from the worship of power through science and technology – power over nature and power over our fellow-humans. While we acknowledge with gratitude the God-given skills of scientists, spare us from the abuse of scientific discoveries. Free us from false hopes and misplaced trust, that we may find in you alone our true hope and salvation.
Monday 14 th July
In April representatives of 60 nations gathered in Berlin to prepare for the launch next December of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Dr. Hermann Scheer, Chairman of the World Renewable Energy Council said: “It's time for governments to co-operate to speed up the world's transition to a 100% renewable energy economy. Our dependence on fossil fuels amounts to global pyromania. The only fire extinguisher we have at our disposal is renewable energy. . . It should not be left to existing big power companies to provide solutions, because they are the losers in the transition. The winners are the new technology companies, local and regional economies and members of society. . . In Germany , already 250,000 people are employed in the renewable energy industries and the country is on course to be 100% renewable by 2030. It is the best and cheapest job creation scheme ever invented. Nothing can be implemented faster than renewables. Nuclear is too expensive and too slow, it's unsafe, it uses too much water at a time of increasing shortage, and uranium supplies are limited.
The sun brings to our planet 15,000 times more energy every day than we need. It shines everywhere – and it cannot be privatised!”
Tuesday 15 th July
Next month thirty driving teams will embark on a 2-week drive to Greece – on a Fat-Finding challenge. Avoiding all fossil fuels, the cars will be powered entirely by chip fat and cooking oil. The aim is to find out whether using waste vegetable oil for long distances is practical – and to have a bit of a laugh on the way. The Golden Lard Award awaits those who complete the journey without entering a filling station. Diesel engines do not have to be converted to run on biodiesel. Entry for the challenge costs £99 per team and this will go to the British Heart Foundation. Contact: www.fatfinding.com
Wednesday 16 th July
The Crown Estate, which owns the seabed of Britain up to 12 miles offshore has announced potential sites for offshore wind farms capable of generating 25 GW of energy by 2020. The agency will meet 50% of the planning costs, but will not own or manage the wind farms. This programme will help Britain deliver on the EU target of 20% renewable energy by 20320, says Rob Hastings of the Crown Estate. “We will be helping to identify suitable sites and working with commercial partners who we expect to make considerable capital investments in offshore wind farms.”
Thursday 17 th July
Britain has a massive potential for tidal energy, which could provide 20% of the country's electricity – the same proportion that nuclear now provides. Marine Current Turbines has completed the first phase of the 1.2 MW SeaGen system in Northern Ireland 's Strangford Narrows . When fully operational later this year, its twin rotors, operating 18-20 hours a day, will generate enough clean energy for 1,000 homes. The next project is a “tidal farm” with seven SeaGen devices to be installed off the coast of Anglesey . The project is one of many supported by the Triodos Renewable Energy Fund. Website: www.triodos.co.uk or ring 0845 478 6361 for more details.
Friday 18 th July
The Isle of Eigg since February has become self-sufficient in electricity, having invested in a combination of hydro, wind and solar power which feeds into a single grid – the first independent ‘green grid'. This now provides round the clock power for the island's 45 homes, 20 businesses and 6 community buildings. Another island, Gigha, is now owned by the community, which set up three wind turbines, called “The Dancing Ladies” which produce most of the island's energy needs, exporting any surplus to the mainland. Its profits are re-invested in the community, leading to other new developments and the growth of the island's economy. Many other small communities around our coasts are eyeing these projects with envy.
Saturday 19 th July
Today the Government, by issuing notes and coins, creates just 3% of our money. In 1964 the figure was 20%. The remainder comes into being through debt, brokered by commercial banks. Austin Mitchell MP, President of the Christian Council for Monetary Justice has tabled no less than 12 Early Day Motions in the House of Commons calling for ‘the creation of public money for public good.' Now, he says, is the time to break the power of the banks and end the monopoly they have grabbed for creating credit. “People are now being charged huge sums in interest for money that could be created free by the government”.
For information how to support EDMs on monetary reform, go to: www.forumforstablecurrencies.org.uk
Sunday 20 th July
Heavenly Father, guide us in our perplexity as we confront the manifold challenges of climate change. Help us to look at all our choices in the light of your biblical truth, to determine where we stand, and then, by word and deed, to take whatever action seems necessary to protect your precious creation, for which your dear Son died on the Cross. Amen.
Monday 21 st July
Electric cars have been around since the early 20 th century, but have had only a limited appeal for those who make long journeys at high speeds. Now Project Better Place (PBP) in partnership with Nissan-Renault plans to roll out a network of charging points and battery exchange stations throughout Israel , in line with the nation's resolve to reduce its oil dependency. Car owners rent car batteries by the month and can re-charge or exchange them at any of the 200 “swap stations.” President Shimon Peres has endorsed the plan and Israel Corp., a major industrial conglomerate has invested $130 million in the programme. Nissan-Renault has developed a lithium-ion battery which can increase the driving range to 200 miles per charge and reduce the charging time to 20 minutes.
Tuesday 22 nd July
A similar project in Denmark promises a network of 20,000 wind-powered recharging stations by 2011. PBP's approach doesn't depend on scientific advances or new discoveries: it simply integrates existing components and, by bringing together manufacturers and suppliers, enables electric car users to make longer journeys in better performing vehicles. PBP estimates that by 2020, fuelling a petrol-driven car for a single year will cost more than charging an electric car for its entire life. Website: www.projectbetterplace.com
Wednesday 23 rd July
Researchers from the California Air Resources Board have found that particulate matter which clouds the air in built-up areas is even more lethal than previously suspected. Between 14,000 and 24,000 premature deaths are linked to exposure to ultrafine particles known as PM2.5, mainly coming from vehicle exhaust emissions. However, since 1999 when monitoring began, concentrations of PM particles have decreased by 30% across California . Since 2000, cleaner diesel fuels and new diesel engines have been developed and new rules will cut diesel particulate emissions from private truck fleets. Where California leads, will Europe follow?
Thursday 24 th July
A new design of washing machine, developed at the University of Leeds , uses just one cupful of water while leaving clothes as clean as in normal washing. The machine uses re-usable plastic granules rather than water and so can cut water consumption by 98%. In addition, as the clothes come out dry, there is no need for a tumble dryer. A typical washing machine uses 35 kg. of water for every kg. of clothes, plus energy to heat the water and dry the clothes. Xeros, a spin-off from the university, expect to market the new machine next year.
Friday 25 th July
Independent research into air passenger numbers by WWF has found that the combined effect of higher oil prices, the increased cost of living and policies to encourage moves to alternatives mean that Government forecasts of 500 million air passengers by 2030 are no longer valid since they assumed that oil prices would remain at $60 a barrel – less than half of what they are today. The research found that a conservative estimate of $106 a barrel in 2030 would cause an estimated 15% reduction in the growth of air passengers. WWF now forecasts a figure of 350 million air passengers in 2030 – a figure which is well within current UK airport capacity of around 425 million passengers a year. “If passengers start turning away from planes thanks to high oil prices and better alternatives, or we look closer at the government's calculations behind projected profits, then the economic case for putting added pressure on the climate begins to look extremely shaky.”
Saturday 26 th July
A report from Goldman Sachs says that the possibility of the oil price reaching $150 to $200 a barrel is increasingly likely in the next 6 to 24 months. University of Liverpool expert Simon Snowden, addressing the All-Part Parliamentary Group on Peak Oil and Gas, said: “Unless we completely cut our dependence on oil, we could see years of almost non-existent growth for the UK economy. . . We need to invest in alternative forms of energy and transport, but changing our economy in such a fundamental way will take years, so in this sense recession is inevitable. . . The elderly and the poor, as well as the farming industry, will need to be safeguarded from increasing fuel poverty.”
Sunday 27 th July
Father God, we begin to see the challenges ahead of us as the end of cheap energy approaches. We remember with thankfulness how you protected us from hunger and tyranny more than sixty years ago. Give us now the same resilience, the same comradeship, the same mutual trust as we enter the new age of scarce and expensive resources. Help us never to forget the poor, the old and the vulnerable as we together face a very different future.
Monday 28 th July
The Earth is covered, on average, with just three feet of topsoil, the layer that provides most of the world's food crops. Healthy topsoil is home to billions of beneficial micro-organisms per handful plus the nutrients, fungi and worms that are critical to healthy plant life. Topsoil forms at a rate of 1-2 inches per several hundred years. The US National Academy of Sciences estimates that cropland is eroding at 10 times the rate that it forms. Pollution, changing weather patterns and urban development are all contributors to topsoil loss. But, according to John Reganold of Washington State University , the worst culprit is modern agricultural practices. Yet, according to a 5 th generation grain farmer John Aeschliman, tilling farmland is an unnecessary and destructive practice leaving soil vulnerable to erosion. His “no-till” farming involves planting the seeds of his next crop amid the stubble of previous years. “This soil is full of worms and bacteria,” he says, “and it stays put. That stuff over there” (pointing to a neighbour's field) “ is just powder, brown dust. It's dead. There's no worms, no life in it.”
Tuesday 29 th July
Carbon rationing is increasingly discussed as a way of combatting climate change, but how to achieve this equitably and with a minimum of bureaucracy are questions still to be settled. The front runner appears to be David Fleming's Tradable Energy Quotas (TEQs) whereby every adult is given a carbon allowance which he/she may use to buy energy or to trade on the carbon market (see www.theleaneconomyconnection.net and www.teqs.net ) A suggested alternative devised by Richard Douthwaite and Brian Davey is called “Cap and Share”. Here, the cap on carbon emissions is placed upstream, on the energy suppliers, who can only provide energy to the extent that they have bought carbon permits from consumers. Every consumer has a free carbon permit which he/she can sell to an energy supplier, who then prices the energy accordingly. The cap is determined by government. “Cap and share is a way of upping the price of fossil fuel and recycling the price to citizens. It is rationing at the top level rather than at the level of citizens.” This policy is currently being considered by the Irish government and is likely to come before parliament later this year. See www.feasta.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Wednesday 30 th July
According to Professor John Guillebaud, Emeritus Professor Family Planning & Reproductive Health at University College , London , “Family planning could provide more benefits to more people at less cost than any other single ‘technology' available to the human race.” There are three possible solutions to climate change:
Better technology. But all known renewable energy sources - wind, waves, tides, solar and biological – have their adverse impacts. They also lack the power density of fossil fuels.
Reduced consumption. But poor people very reasonably aspire to leave poverty – which can only be done by consuming more, so producing more greenhouse gases.
Fewer humans doing the consuming. The only remaining solution. Voluntary, accessible contraception is NOT a substitute for reduced consumption assisted by technology. It's just the much-neglected other side of the same coin.
Yet talk about population within the Church and within aid agencies is largely taboo – “the elephant in the room that we don't want to talk about.” “Compulsion, whether overt or covert, is wrong. Let's just ensure that every woman who now wants a modern contraceptive method has easy access to it.”
Thursday 31 st July
Genesis 1 commands the plants and animals to be fruitful and multiply before giving that command to humans. Professor Guillebaud asks whether the Creator could really have intended us to multiply so much that we threaten the existence of other creatures. Moreover, if to obey the “multiply” instruction leads to human numbers which exceed the carrying capacity of the land, and so wipe out millions of his creatures including humans, common sense surely indicates that we are not being “fruitful” in the way God intends.
The two great commandments are to love God, and love our neighbour. How can we love God unless we cherish and care for the rest of his creation? How can we love our yet-to-be-born neighbours without doing our bit to ensure that there are not so many of them that God's world becomes uninhabitable?
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