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November 2009

Picture of Blackberries
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Sunday 1st November
Father God, who guides us by ways we know not, through joy and sorrow, victory and defeat, beyond our understanding, give us faith to see your guiding hand in all things, so that, being neither lifted up by seeming success, nor cast down by seeming failure, we may press forward to the goal that you have set before us, so that your Name may be glorified throughout your world.

Monday 2nd November
“Many Heavens: One Earth”, hosted by UNDP and the Alliance of Religions and Conservation, is a three-day celebration at Windsor, attended by senior representatives of nine major faiths with the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, and HRH Prince Philip. The associated public event takes place on Wednesday at Friends Meeting House, Euston, London, when many faiths will come together on climate change and the environment, with music and dance. Tickets are free but must be reserved. Websites: and

Tuesday 3rd November
Britain’s self-sufficiency in wheat is forecast to end next year when 19% of the crop will be required to feed two new bioethanol refineries on Teesside and in Hull. The Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation requires all EU countries to source 5% of vehicle fuels from biofuels by 2014. The chairman of Ensus, the developers, said that refineries would significantly cut the import of soya-based biofuels from Brazil, where much of the crop is grown on cleared forests. FoE points out that using wheat for fuel means converting agricultural land from growing food to growing fuel.

Wednesday 4th November
Last year global oil prices hit $144 a barrel, triggering steep rises in the price of staple crops such as wheat. The recession caused prices to drop sharply, but recently the oil price has increased to $80 a barrel. World trade in staple crops is heavily dependent on the price of oil. The opening of new bioethanol refineries for converting wheat to vehicle fuel was welcomed by the NFU as helping to support wheat prices. Growing wheat for fuel will, without Government intervention, always be more profitable than growing it for food. It seems that the new bioethanol refineries provide a short way to undermine Britain’s food security and make us ever more dependent on foreign food imports.

Thursday 5th November
Most EU countries derive their biofuels from palm oil plantations in South-East Asia, where the conversion of rainforest to palm oil is fuelling climate change and is a major obstacle to any agreement at Copenhagen on protecting world forests. As long as Western consumers cannot, or will not, see that their addiction to moving fast and far is in effect destroying the planet, greenhouse gas emissions can only go on rising. Sooner or later we need to face the question: Is land primarily for growing food or for growing fuel?

Friday 6th November
At the Earth Summit in Brazil in 1992, a 12-year old Canadian schoolgirl, Severn Suzuki, berated world leaders for allowing greed and apathy to destroy the environment and jeopardise the future of our planet. “If you don’t know how to fix it, stop breaking it”, she said. 17 years later, children aged from 6 to 18 are invited to explain online, in 20 words, why world leaders should consider them when signing climate change treaties, what is precious about our world and why it’s worth saving. It is they who have the most to lose if Copenhagen falls short of what is required. Website: and

Saturday 7th November
Today the CEL national conference takes place at Ottery St. Mary Parish Church in Devon from 11 to 5 on the theme ‘Transition Towns: Getting Involved.” Keynote speakers are: Rev. Professor Tim Gorringe, writer and speaker on environmental ethics Ben Brangwyn of Transition Town Totnes Martyn Goss, Director of Church in Society, Exeter diocese Sara Drew, Founder Member of Sustainable Ottery. There will be workshops around the town. Cost: £15 including lunch. Bookings: Mrs Jill Dixon, 35 Oak Close, Ottery St. Mary EX11 1BB. Tel. 01404 611067.

Sunday 8th November
God our Creator, who has made this planet to sustain a myriad forms of life, spare us from those who would abuse it for wrongful gain, exploit it for selfish greed or spoil it through casual indifference. Help us to be responsible, caring stewards of our inheritance, and give us wisdom to find the right means to sustain it, for the sake of your dear Son, who died to redeem your world.

Monday 9th November
The first report of the Committee on Climate Change set up last year under the Climate Change Act recommends:

  • A reduction in emissions of 2-3% a year in order to meet carbon budgets. This will necessitate a step change in the pace of reductions;
  • Rapid decarbonisation of electricity generation, requiring by 2016 23 GW. of new wind capacity, up to 3 new nuclear stations and up to 4 CCS demonstration plants. There can be no role for conventional coal generation beyond the early 2020s;
  • A 35% improvement in home energy efficiency by 2020, achieved by insulating 10 million lofts, 7 million cavity walls and 2 million solid walls, and by installing 12 million condensing boilers. Street-by-street approaches will involve local councils and energy companies within a Government strategy;
  • The carbon efficiency of cars must be improved from over 160 g/km to 95g/km by 2020 through improvements to fuel efficiency and giving a significant role to electric cars;
  • Government policies must support new battery charging infrastructure and new car purchases to help manufacturers achieve economies of scale.
“What we have proposed is achievable and affordable, but action needs to be taken now if we are to make our contribution to combating climate change.”

Tuesday 10th November
Achim Steiner, director of UNEP, has said: “The world has every reason to be concerned about whether there will be an outcome at Copenhagen. The reason we are struggling is that there are choices to be made that require public support. If the arguments that ‘we have an economic crisis, we have our development priorities and we have invested in one particular technology’ are allowed to prevail, then Copenhagen will lock us into another decade of insufficient action, with terrible implications for the next generation.”

Wednesday 11th November
A report from Greenpeace on the continued exploitation of Canada’s oil sands says that almost $200 billion has been or will be invested in the Alberta oil sands including the pipelines, refinery expansions and associated infrastructure, making it the world’s biggest energy project. The liabilities include a nearly threefold increase in greenhouse gas emissions, huge amounts of natural gas used and wasted to produce synthetic oil from bitumen (which consists of tarry pitch or asphalt) and the economic nightmare of carbon capture and storage, a technology that has yet to be developed. James Hansen, the renowned climatologist, has pleaded with Canadians to make their environmental concerns loud and clear: “There’s a small price for being too early, but a huge penalty for being too late when it comes to fighting climate change. The huge penalty, in Canada’s case, ranges from species extinctions and extreme weather events such as raging forest fires and tornadoes to losses in agricultural productivity, new security threats and the prospect of climate refugees. You just need a government that’s willing to actually represent you, free of distortion, beholden to no other special interest beside the best interest of Canadians. That’s true leadership and, in the climate era, it’s a prerequisite for survival.”

Thursday 12th November
Today the Soil Association International Conference on the Future of Food takes place at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London, when the keynote speakers will be Eric Schlosser , author of “Fast Food Nation”, Professor Robert Watson, Chief Scientist of DEFRA, Alexander Kasterine of UNCTAD/WTO and Patrick Holden, Director of the Soil Association. Last year an international report (IIASTD) from 400 scientists and 110 countries concluded that the current industrial model of agriculture of high inputs and globalised distribution was neither sustainable nor resilient. This conference addresses the questions:

  • Why is ‘business as usual’ no longer an option?
  • What are the implications for food of our current modes of production, distribution & consumption?
  • Who’s responsible for providing solutions?
  • How can we make sure we support the innovations required for change?
Booking fee £75, or £55 concessions, to Feona Horrex, Soil Association, South Plaza, Bristol BS1 3NX or email: or ring 0117 987 4586.

Friday 13th November
A Soil Association report comes out this month on the role of soil carbon and organic farming in mitigating the effects of climate change. Graham Harvey, author of “The Carbon Fields”, points out that putting excess carbon back into the soil would be ridiculously easy. “Simply making sure our meat and dairy products come from pasture-fed rather than grain-fed animals would do it. Not only would we enjoy healthier foods, we’d be going a long way to averting climate catastrophe . . The gaping flaw in our food supply that has been so damaging to our world is that it’s overwhelmingly based on annual plants especially wheat, rise and maize. To get such crops to harvest takes massive amounts of oil energy in the form of nitrate fertilisers, pesticides, diesel fuel and heavy machinery. Perennial crops by contrast hit the ground running. Once they’re established, their extensive root systems survive from year to year and are much more efficient than annual crops in pulling up water and nutrients from deep down in the soil . . Ploughing up grassland to grow cereal crops to feed to animals is, in energy terms, a singularly pointless thing to do, particularly as it produces poorer foods at the end of it.”

Saturday 14th November
Graham Harvey refers to another critical source of carbon emissions – the loss of organic matter that results from ploughing and cultivation. “The world’s soils hold far more carbon as organic matter than all the vegetation on the planet, including forests. 82% of carbon in the terrestrial biosphere is in the soil.” Practices like reduced tillage and the use of cover crops help to increase the level of organic matter in the soil. Organic farms that include grasslands in their crop rotations can capture large amounts of carbon and put it back in the soil. In a long-term experiment in Pennsylvania, organic systems including clover boosted the level of soil carbon from 1.8% to 2.4%

Sunday 15th November
Father, we pray that you will strengthen our weak wills and our feeble frames, that we may work tirelessly for the fulfilment of your promise of redemption for all creation from the bondage of corruption, in the Name of your dear Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Monday 16th November
“Hard Rain: Our Headlong Collision with Nature” is an outdoor exhibition at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, exploring the issues of climate change, poverty, habitat loss and human rights. Open daily for the rest of the year, it includes a re-interpretation of the Bob Dylan song “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” through photos from around the world to bring alive our global problems and to show how they are all connected. Today, in St. Martins-in-the-Fields, from 7 to 8.30 Mark Edwards gives a free presentation on the state of the planet, with contributions from Malcolm Preston and Leo Johnson from PricewaterhouseCoopers and Brother Clark Berge, Minister General of the Society of St. Francis. For details ring 020 8858 8307 or email

Tuesday 17th November
The REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation & Degradation) negotiations for the Copenhagen summit raise big questions about how money will be raised to preserve the forests, exactly what it is for and how it should be distributed. Greenpeace and other NGOs advocate a simple approach:

  • For each forest country establish a baseline, where forests are right now;
  • Monitor what happens to them using satellite imagery and on-the-ground research;
  • Reward financially those developing countries which accurately monitor and report on their mitigation actions.
Other approaches such as assigning carbon credits for carbon stored in the trees and allowing the credits to be traded against emissions reductions elsewhere would be more complicated and risk allowing virgin forests to be replaced with monoculture plantations.

Wednesday 18th November
Sky and WWF have launched a partnership with the Brazilian state of Acre to protect rainforest covering over 3 million hectares to help combat climate change and preserve the unique habitat and species of the Amazon. The project will create economic incentives for local communities to make the trees more valuable alive than dead and will enhance Acre’s ability to monitor illegal logging and forest clearance. Sky & WWF are calling for donations of £10 each to save 500 trees. Sky will match the donations pound for pound up to a target of £4 million. A pilot project will begin early next year. For more details, go to:

Thursday 19th November
Today the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility hosts an open debate on “The Future of Banking”. Have lessons been learnt about excessive risk-taking? Lord Harries of Pentregarth, former Bishop of Oxford, chairs the debate, with speakers from the Church Investors Group, Triodos Bank, Platform & Bank Track and HSBC. Venue: Friends Meeting House, Euston. Time: 4.30-6.15. Entrance free, but book through ECCR. Website: eccr/ Email: or ring 020 8965 9682.

Friday 20th November
The Mayor of London with the London Development Agency, borough councils and businesses has announced measures to enable the city to reach its target of producing 25% of its own heat and power by 2025, so cutting its carbon footprint by 3.5 million tonnes a year. The LDA has allocated up to £16 million a year for the next 4 years for decentralised energy projects and is already working on 14 of them. Other measures include:

  • Publishing a guide for those wanting to set up local energy schemes,
  • Expert advice and funding for the boroughs,
  • An online map of information on big energy users, existing local heat providers etc.

Saturday 21st November
The German utility company E.ON has shelved for 2-3 years the planned construction of a new coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth, Kent. Greenpeace comments: “Ed Miliband now has a golden opportunity to rule out all emissions from new coal as a sign of Britain’s leadership before the Copenhagen climate meeting. With E.ON’s announcement he’s now got an open goal.”

Sunday 22nd November
Thank you, Father, for the men and women of determination who have taken the lead in the struggle to protect your creation from exploitation and degradation. Help us in our turn to give of ourselves, not counting the cost, for the sake of your dear Son who died for us all.

Monday 23rd November
London sends more waste to landfill than any other major European city according to Suez Environmental, a leading waste management company. The average Londoner throws out 520 kg. a year, of which 52% goes to landfill, 22% is recycled and the rest incinerated. By contrast, the average Copenhagen citizen bins 420 kg. a year, but just 1% is sent for landfill, the rest being recycled or burnt for energy production. The average Londoner has his rubbish collected once a week, while Parisians enjoy daily collections. Interestingly, the people of Bucharest have twice daily rubbish collections in the height of summer.

Tuesday 24th November
Environment Secretary Hilary Benn has outlined to local authorities and businesses leader a plan for Britain to become a zero-waste nation. Six places – in Shropshire, Dorchester, Brixton, Newham, Hoxton and Suffolk – have been chosen to develop innovative ideas to cut waste in homes, workplaces and the community. He asked why we send valuable items like aluminium and food waste to landfill when we can turn them into new cans and renewable energy. “New technologies, such as anaerobic digestion that creates energy from food and farm waste, will help us to re-use things. Aiming for zero waste is the way we have to think to get us where we need to be.”

Wednesday 25th November
Sainsbury’s has announced Britain’s first combined light bulb and battery recycling service. Starting this year, the scheme will be rolled out to 200 of Sainsbury’s larger stores by the end of January. Battery collection becomes a legal requirement from early in 2010. Sainsbury’s environmental affairs manager said: “Energy-saving light bulbs contain a minute amount of mercury and it is therefore important to recycle them”

Thursday 26th November
The 2006 UN-FAO report “Livestock’s Long Shadow” estimated that 18% of annual GHG emissions were attributable to livestock rearing. Now a new report from the Worldwatch Institute called “Livestock and Climate Change” finds that livestock and its products account for at least 32.6 billion tons of CO2 emissions a year, i.e. 51% of the world total. Substitutes for meat based on soya also make a significant contribution to climate change. However, animals can play a vital role in soil fertility within organic systems. It is known that animals fed on pasture produce a fraction of the CO2 produced by animals reared on high-protein diets such as soya.

Friday 27th November
A report for the Copenhagen summit called “Agriculture and Climate Change: Real Problems, False Solutions” by Biofuelwatch, Econexus & FoE Denmark notes that in 2008 a record 4.9 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent reductions were traded on global carbon markets (an increase of 83% over 2007), yet this trading has not led to any reduction in emissions. There is strong evidence that the Clean Development Mechanism established under the Kyoto Protocol is used to subsidise polluting industries such as industrial pig farms and oil palm plantations. Offsetting is based entirely on hypothetical reductions in emissions that might otherwise have taken place. It is no substitute for straight emissions reductions.

Saturday 28th November
The 2009 Food Sovereignty Prize institute by the late Dr. Norman Borlaug has been awarded to La Via Campesina for its relentless struggle for food sovereignty for the world’s people over the disastrous neoliberal system of industrial agriculture, which has allowed food production and distribution to be controlled by a handful of multinational corporations and which is leading to a food crisis threatening the whole world. The recent meeting of the Committee on World Food Security (part of the UN-FAO) for the first time granted one-nation-one-vote status to its members, as with the UN itself, so giving CWFS the authority to formulate a global strategy for attaining food security.

Sunday 29th November
Give us, loving Father, a deeper understanding of your purposes, that we may be steadfast amid the turmoil of our times. May our faith never fail, nor our love grow cold, nor our hope become faint. May we look up and lift up our heads as we look for the coming of your kingdom and the redemption of your world through the love of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Monday 30th November
The population density of Southern England is 1,808 per sq. mile. If the population of the US was the same, the number of Americans would equal the present population of the planet. An American couple, Jim-Bob and Michelle Dugger, have contrived, without medical assistance, to sire 18 children. If the next ten generations followed their example, they would have 3,570,467,000,000 descendants, i.e, 553 times the current world population. ( statistics from Optimum Population Trust)

Living Earth (Soil Association)
Jackdaw (Optimum Population Trust)

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