20 Letters


[ Video : George Marshall of the Climate Outreach Information Network launching his new book "Don’t Even Think About It" on the communication of climate change at the Harvard Book Store, whereto he had to fly, thereby causing significant personal carbon dioxide emissions. This YouTube does not feature Ian Christie, but is not entirely unrelated to his address, which is documented in the text below. ]

Ian Christie of the Sustainable Lifestyles Research Group (SLRG) at the University of Surrey came to speak to the Green Christian Annual Members Meeting today under the heading “Sustainable Living : Why we struggle and how we can change”, and presided over three facilitated workshops on Church, Community and Campaigning. He was introduced as working with the Centre for Environmental Strategy at the University of Surrey, and having helped to pull together “Church and Earth”, the Seven Year Plan for the Church of England, as a response to the Alliance of Religions and Conservation initiative which culminated in the “Many Heavens, One Earth” Windsor Conference in November 2009. Ian Christie has also done project work with the Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development and the think tank Theos. He has been environmental advisor to the Bishop of Kingston.

Ian Christie joked that his colleague Tim Jackson, who has written a best-selling book “Prosperity Without Growth”, sometimes feels he is on a permanent global tour, given the huge impact his work has had worldwide. The “paradox” is that his carbon footprint is enormous. Yet clearly there is great benefit from travel to present the messages from Tim’s research. This illustrates the clash of goods and values that is always present in our attempts to reduce our impacts and change lifestyles. Ian said that we shouldn’t beat ourselves up too much about our carbon emissions-filled lifestyles – many of us are doing reasonably well in not very promising circumstances. It’s not surprising that we haven’t made much progress in sustainable living – this is perhaps the biggest challenge humanity has set itself.

Ian said, “Between 5% and 10% of the population (and this figure hasn’t changed over the last several years) are consistently trying to live as sustainably as they can in all areas of their lives. Meanwhile, another small segment – maybe 10% – 15% don’t care at all. The other two-thirds or more, including myself, are in the middle ground. We get confused. We sometimes give up on making particular changes. We might feel that taking the trouble on environmental issues is a bit of an effort – because other signals are not there, because other people are not doing it. Anyone who thinks we can bring about environmental “conversion”, person by person – it’s too difficult.”

He went on to say, “As advocates of change, we don’t tell positive stories very well. We environmentalists have been much better at telling the alarming or apocalyptic event, rather than explaining the diagnosis of unsustainability. There’s a lack of supporting infrastructure for doing the sustainable things in everyday life. People get locked-in to high-carbon behaviours. We might want to do the green, sustainable thing but we can’t. The idea that “joy in less” is possible can seem unbelievable.” He went on to explain that, “consumption can make us feel good. More can be more. I get a thrill going into John Lewis sometimes, all those bright and shiny things. It’s amazing they’re available for sale and that I can afford them. Consumerism can feel like it is bringing real benefits. It can be fun.”

Ian Christie remarked about the RESOLVE research at Surrey on the sense of “threatened identities”, a feeling that can arise when we’re asked to change our lifestyles – an important part of our identity can seem to be at stake. There is a lack of positive incentives and collective success stories. He gave an example – one where people cooking for their families want to recreate the cosy, nourishing food of their childhoods, or feel that they are giving a ‘proper meal’ to their loved ones, and they do that by using meat. These people find it hard to be told that they need to give up eating meat to save the planet. Another example, when people are told to cut down on car driving – there is a feeling of a loss of freedom, an assault on the idea that I can go where I like and do what I want to do. “Climate change is perhaps too big, distant or complicated for us. It is certainly too much for any one person to deal with”.

Ian Christie spoke about the clash of desires and values – and that St Paul got there first (Romans 7:15-17) (and St Augustine, but paraphrased). He joked that he has discovered that many people had a dirty secret, which he calls “Top Gear Syndrome” – “you’d be surprised how many environmentalists like watching Top Gear”. He also mentioned what he termed “Copenhagen Syndrome” – where environmentalists feel that they need to attend every meeting on climate change – and so they fly there. People like to go to exotic places – many Greens included.

Ian Christie emphasised that we can’t get to sustainable living one person at a time. He said that this amounted to a “Collective Action Problem” or (CAP). He showed us an image of what is commonly called a Mexican Stand-Off – where a group of three people have their weapons at each other’s throats and nobody will back down – each of the three major groups in society thinks that the other two should take the lead. So governments think that businesses and citizens should act. And citizens think that government and businesses should act. And businesses think that their consumers and governments should act.

Ian said that there is a clear finding from social research that people feel safety in numbers – we like to feel that we fit in with our peers and neighbours – for example, in some cultures like America, people would rather make everyone feel comfortable than break out of normative behaviour or views. Individual households have a low perception of “agency” – feeling that they can make any significant change – that they don’t have sufficient capacity to act – “no clout”, as one member of the audience commented.

Ian gave some examples of attitudes of people’s attitudes on environmental lifestyles : “I will even though you won’t – even though no one else steps forward”; “I will – but it’s never enough”; “I might if you will” or even, “I know you won’t, so don’t ask me”. He said that Collective Action Problems need to be addressed by all actors needing to be engaged. He said that there would be “no single ‘best buy’ policy” and that action will tend to be in the form of “clumsy solutions”. He said that people need “loud, long and legal” signals from government, consistent messages and incentives for change.

Ian Christie said there is a community level of action possible – “communities of practice”. He recommended that we look up the CLASL research done by Defra/WWF. He mentioned “moments of change” – times of transition in life – and whether these might be appropriate times to offer support for alternative choices. He said that action by individuals cannot be guaranteed by giving messages to people as if they are only consumers, rather than citizens. If we say that something will save people money, they won’t necessarily act in ways that support a shift to sustainable lifestyles. We need to address people’s intrinsic values as well as material self-interest.

Ian talked about some of the results of the research from the DEFRA-funded SLRG project, which is coming to an end. He spoke about the evidence of “Rebound Effects”, where people make savings on their carbon dioxide emissions by energy efficiency gains or other measures, and then spend the saved money in ways that can increase greenhouse gas emissions, like taking holidays by aeroplane – he mentioned the Tesco offer to “turn lights into flights”, where people were being encouraged to buy energy efficient light bulbs in exchange for Air Miles – “it’s going to make things much worse”. He said that research showed that re-spending (reinvestment) is what matters and that we need to go to the source of the emissions, through a carbon tax, for example.

Ian Christie said that it is very limited what we can do as individual households. Lots of policymakers have thought to get through to people at moments of change – although there used to be no evidence. People’s habits and networks can be restructured for example when they move home, have a child or retire – a “habit discontinuity”. Research has now shown that there is a small but significant effect with house-movers – who are much more likely to act on information if they are given well-timed and designed information packages on green living – but only a small minority are truly motivated. He asked “how do we magnify this effect ?” The sheer act of moving house makes people amenable to change. Research has also shown that there might be a willingness amongst new parents – who would express more pro-environmental values as a result of having a new child – but are less capable of acting on these wishes. The reverse was found in those entering retirement – they wanted to live more frugally – but didn’t necessarily express this desire in terms of sustainable living.

Ian said that the “window of opportunity” for introducing lifestyle change might be quite limited, perhaps a few months – and so people would not sustain their new habits without “lifestyle support systems”. People might not want to hear from a green group, but could be open to hearing from a church, or their Health Visitor, or Mumsnet. Maybe even a hairdresser ? One project that he recommended was PECT, the Peterborough Environment City Trust, which is acting as a facilitator for encouraging changes. He said people get demotivated if they feel businesses and governments are not doing the same thing. He mentioned avenues and approaches for increasing the sense of agency : framing environmental issues in : moments of change, local food growing, community energy groups, frugality, health and well-being…

Ian Christie said that Church of England work on “Shrinking the Footprint” was poised to make fresh progress, with leadership from the new lead bishop on the environment, Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam.

Ian Christie suggested that positive activities could inspire : why could a church not turn an emergency feeding centre – a food bank – into a food hub – a place where people could come for tools, seeds and food growing group support ? What about Cathedral Innovation Centres as catalysts for sustainable living schemes ? Why not partner with the National Trust or the National Health Service over environmental issues ? He said the NHS has a Sustainable Development Strategy – “one of the best I’ve seen”. How about calling for a New Green Deal for Communities ? One reason why the Green Deal has been so poorly supported has been it has been promoted to individuals and it’s much harder to get individuals to commit and act on projects.

Ian pointed towards good intervention concepts : “safety in numbers” approaches, moments of change, congregation spaces, trusted peers in the community, consistent messages. He recommended Staying Positive : “look how far we’ve come”; we have two decisive decades ahead; Business As Usual is failing – CEOs are breaking ranks; cities are going green – and the churches are waking up to ecological challenges.

In questions, I asked Ian Christie why he only had three social groups rather than four. I said that I see businesses broken down into two categories – those that produce energy and those that consume energy to provide goods and services. I said there were some excellent sustainable development strategies coming out of the private enterprises consuming energy, such as Marks and Spencer. He said that yes, amongst the fossil energy producing companies, there is a massive challenge in responding to climate change. He pointed to Unilever, who are beginning to see themselves as pioneers in a new model of sustainable business. There is a clear divergence of interest between fossil fuel producers and companies whose core business is being put at risk by climate disruption.

When asked about whether we should try to set the economy on a “war footing” as regards climate change, Ian Christie said “we aren’t in a war like that. We ourselves, with our high-carbon consumption, are ‘the enemy’, if we want to put it like that. We are not in a process where people can be mobilised as in a war.” He said that the churches need to bring climate change into every talk, every sermon “this is how we do Christian witness”.

In discussion after the breakout workshops, Ian Christie said that we need to try to get to local opinion-formers. He said that a critical mass of communication to a Member of Parliament on one subject could be as few as 20 letters. He said that mass letter writing to MPs is one way in which others seeking to influence policy “play the game” in politics, so we must do it too. For example, we could write to our churches, our leaders, our democratic representatives, and demand a New Green Deal for Communities, and in letters to political candidates for the General Election we could say it would be a critical factor in deciding who we vote for. In the General Election in 2015, Ian said that it could be a five-way split, and that the “green issue” could be decisive, and so we should say that our vote will go to the greenest of candidates.

Ian said we should try to audit our church expertise, and that we should aim for our churches to give one clear overall narrative – not an “environmental narrative”, but one that urges us to be truly Christian. He said that it was important that church leaders talk the talk as well as walk the talk – making it normal to talk about these things – not keeping them partitioned. The weekly sermon or talk in church must tell this story. He said that people disagree for really good reasons, but that the issue was one of trying to create a setting in which disagreement can get somewhere. He mentioned the work of George Marshall and the Climate Outreach Information Network as being relevant to building narratives that work on climate change out of a silence or absence of dialogue.

Steve Chalke : Ecosystem Faith

At a special “Pray and Fast for the Climate” church service held at St John’s Waterloo, London, on Saturday 1st November 2014, the Reverend Steve Chalke made it clear that he wished that environmental concern would migrate from the preserve of the churchgoing middle classes to all in the Christian communion. He gave examples of famous people and saints from the Biblical era who didn’t just speak prayers for change, but devoted their whole lives to action on change. He described the interdependence of all parts of the ecosystem and humanity in solving the deep problems of climate change. He talked about passion for right stewardship of God’s Earth, and that cooperation is vital. He spoke about the first chapter of the Book of Genesis, and how this was a revolutionary re-telling of a Babylonian poem of Creation, “singing the Lord’s song in a foreign land”, removing the violence and matricidal aggression of the god Marduk, and describing the pleasure of God in his Creation. Genesis 1 also clearly displaces Marduk’s dictatorial dominion with the institution of humankind, made in God’s image, to be tenders of the goodness of the Garden of Eden.

Christiana Figueres : Love Bug

It was probably a side-effect of the flu’, but as I was listening to Christiana Figueres speaking at St Paul’s Cathedral, London, this evening, I started to have tunnel vision, and the rest of the “hallowed halls” just melted away, and I felt she was speaking to me individually, woman to woman.

She talked a lot about investments, injustices and inertia, but I felt like she was personally calling me, nagging me, bugging me to show more love. She said she didn’t want us to leave thinking “That was interesting”, or even “That was inspiring”, but that we would leave resolved to do one more concrete thing to show our love for our world, and our fellow human beings.

I was a little defensive inside – I’m already trying to get some big stuff done – how could I do anything else that could be effective ? She said that we couldn’t ask people to do more if we weren’t prepared to do more ourselves. I wasn’t sure that any of the things she suggested I could try would have any impact, but I suppose I could try again to write to my MP Iain Duncan Smith – after all, Private Eye tells me he’s just hired a communications consultant, so he might be willing to communicate with me about climate change, perhaps.

Of her other suggestions, I have already selected investments that are low carbon, so there would be little point in writing to them about carbon-based “stranded assets”. My diet is very largely vegetarian; I buy food and provisions from co-operatives where I can; I don’t own a car; I’ve given up flying; I’ve installed solar electricity; my energy consumption is much lower than average; I buy secondhand; I reuse, repair, reclaim, recycle.

I don’t want to “campaign” on climate change – I don’t think that would be very loving. This should not be a public relations mission, it needs to be authentic and inclusive, so I don’t know what the best way is to engage more people in “the struggle”. I’ve sent enough email in my life. People already know about climate change, I don’t need to evangelise them. They already know some of the things they could do to mitigate their fossil fuel energy consumption, I don’t need to educate them. The organisations that are still pushing fossil fuels to society have more to do to get with the transition than everyday energy consumers, surely ?

So, how is it that this “love bug” bites me ? What do I feel bugged to be getting on with ? Researching low carbon gas energy systems is my main action at the moment, but what could I do that would be an answer to Christiana’s call for me to do something extra ? Join in the monthly fast and prayer that’s due to start on 1st November ? Well, sure I will, as part of my work duties. Network for Our Voices that will funnel the energy of the monthly call to prayer into a Civil Society “tornado” in support of the UNFCCC Paris Treaty ? Yes, of course. Comes with the territory. But more… ?

I noticed that Christiana Figueres had collegiate competition from the bells of St Paul’s, and it sounded like the whole cathedral was ringing. Then my cough started getting bad and I started to feel quite unwell, so I had to leave before the main debate took place, to medicate myself with some fresh orange juice from a company I chose because it tracks its carbon, and has a proper plan for climate sustainability, so I never answered my question – what do I need to do, to do more about climate change ?

Un égard, un regard, un certain regard

Whatever it is, it starts with attention, paying attention.

Attention to numbers, faces, needs, consideration of the rights and wrongs and probables.

Thinking things through, looking vulnerable children and aggressive control freaks directly in the eye, being truly brave enough to face both radiant beauty and unbelievable evil with equanimity.

To study. To look, and then look again.

To adopt a manner of seeing, and if you cannot see, to learn to truly absorb the soundscape of your world – to pick up the detail, to fully engage.

It is a way of filling up your soul with the new, the good, the amazing; and also the way to empty worthless vanity from your life.

Simone Weil expressed this truth in these words : “Toutes les fois qu’on fait vraiment attention, on détruit du mal en soi.” If you pay close attention, you learn what is truly of value, and you jettison incongruities and waywardness. She also pronounced that “L’attention est la forme la plus rare et la plus pure de la générosité.” And she is right. People feel truly valued if you gaze at them, and properly listen to them.

Those of us who have researched climate change and the limits to natural resources, those of us who have looked beyond the public relations of energy companies whose shares are traded on the stock markets – we are paying attention. We have been working hard to raise the issues for the attention of others, and sometimes this has depleted our personal energies, caused us sleepless nights, given us depression, fatalism, made us listless, aimless, frustrated.

Some of us turn to prayer or other forms of meditation. We are enabled to listen, to learn, to try again to communicate, to bridge divides, to empathise.

A transformation can take place. The person who pays close attention to others becomes trusted, attractive in a pure, transparent way. People know our hearts, they have confidence in us, when we give them our time and an open door.

Continue reading Un égard, un regard, un certain regard

Obey the Future

Disobedience only gets you so far. Resistance can be fertile, but intellectual ghettos can be futile. The human tendency to generalise creates too much negativity and prevents us from being constructive. We complain about the “evil” oil and gas companies; the “greedy” coal merchants and their “lying” bankster financiers; but refuse to see the diamonds in the mud.

We should obey the future. In the future, all people will respect each other. There will no longer be war propaganda carried by the media, demonising leaders of foreign countries, or scorn for opposing political parties. In the future, human beings will respect and have regard for other human beings. So we should live that future, live that value, have care for one another. I don’t mean we are obliged to give money to charity to help needy people in poor countries. I don’t mean we should campaign for our government to commit funds to the Climate Finance initiatives, whose aim is to support adaptation to climate chaos in developing countries. No, charity is not enough, and never matches the need. Philanthropy will not answer climate change, and so solutions need to be built into the infrastructure of the global economy, sewn into the design, woven into the fabric. There should be no manufacture, no trade, no form of consumption that does not take account of the climate change impacts on the poor, and on the rich, on ecosystems, on ourselves.

Yes, it’s true that corporations are destroying the biosphere, but we cannot take a step back, grimace and point fingers of blame, for we are all involved in the eco-destructive economy. We are all hooked on dirty energy and polluting trade, and it’s hard to change this. It’s especially hard for oil, gas and coal companies to change track – they have investors and shareholders, and they are obliged to maintain the value in their business, and keep making profits. Yes, they should stop avoiding their responsibilities to the future. Yes, they should stop telling the rest of us to implement carbon taxation or carbon trading. They know that a comprehensive carbon price can never be established, that’s why they tell us to do it. It’s a technique of avoidance. But gathering climate storms, and accumulating unsolved climate damages, are leading the world’s energy corporations to think carefully of the risks of business as usual. How can the governments and society of the world help the energy companies to evolve ? Is more regulation needed ? And if so, what kind of political energy would be required to bring this about ? The United Nations climate change process is broken, there is no framework or treaty at hand, and the climate change social movement has stopped growing, so there is no longer any democratic pressure on the energy production companies and countries to change.

Many climate change activists talk of fear and frustration – the futility of their efforts. They are trapped into the analysis that teaches that greed and deceit are all around them. Yet change is inevitable, and the future is coming to us today, and all is quite possibly full of light. Where is this river of hope, this conduit of shining progress ? Where, this organised intention of good ?

We have to celebrate the dull. Change is frequently not very exciting. Behind the scenes, policy people, democratic leaders, social engineers, corporate managers, are pushing towards the Zero Carbon future reality. They push and pull in the areas open to them, appropriate to their roles, their paid functions. Whole rafts of national and regional policy is wedded to making better use of energy, using less energy overall, displacing carbon energy from all economic sectors.

And then there’s the progressive politics. Every leader who knows the shape of the future should strive to be a Van Jones, or a Jenny Jones, any green-tinged Jones you can think of. We should enquire of our political leaders and our public activists what flavour of environmental ecology they espouse. We should demand green policies in every party, expect clean energy support from every faction. We should not only vote progressive, we should promote future-thinking authority in all spheres of social management – a future of deeper mutual respect, of leaner economy, of cleaner energy.

The future will be tough. In fact, the future is flowing to us faster than ever, and we need resilience in the face of assured destructive change – in environment and in economy. To develop resilience we need to forgo negativity and embrace positivity. So I ask you – don’t just be anti-coal, be pro-wind, pro-solar and pro-energy conservation. Where leaders emerge from the companies and organisations that do so much harm, celebrate them and their vision of a brighter, better, lower carbon future. Where administrations take the trouble to manage their energy use, and improve their efficiency in the use of resources, applaud them, and load them with accolades. Awards may be trite, but praise can encourage better behaviour, create exemplars, inspire goodly competition. Let us encourage the people with good influence in every organisation, institution and corporation. Change is afoot, and people with genuine power are walking confidently to a more wholesome future.

Protect your soul. Don’t get locked into the rejection of evil, but hold fast to what is good. Do not conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds. Be strong for goodness, even as you turn your back on a life of grime.

Live the Zero Carbon future, and make it come as soon as it can.

Continue reading Obey the Future

The Archbishop of York

Image Credit : Christian Census on Climate Change

On Saturday 21st April 2012 at York Minster, Anglican Archbishop John Sentamu will preside over an event organised by the Christian Census on Climate Change.

Here follows the script for a speech to be given by Ruth Jarman, a Director of Operation Noah, climate change campaigner for the Christian Ecology Link, a trained chemist and electronics scientist and a mother of three.


Speech by Ruth Jarman, 21 April 2012, York Minster. Please check against delivery.

The solution

1. We know from the Psalms that God has made us ruler over the works of his hands, that he has put everything under our feet.

And we know from what we have heard this morning that we are trampling it all with abandon. Now we know that, what are we to do ?

Continue reading The Archbishop of York

The Island Prescient

Video Credit : Dogwoof

The message today is taken from the Book of Psalms, chapter 104, an anthology of holy songs recognised by both Jews and Christians as being divinely inspired.

I have heard and read some Christian leaders, including North Americans and Australians, claim that global warming isn’t happening, because they believe that the Bible teaches that dangerous sea level rise is impossible, based on the contents of verses 5 to 9.

“You set earth on a firm foundation
so that nothing can shake it, ever.
You blanketed earth with ocean,
covered the mountains with deep waters;
Then you roared and the water ran away –
your thunder crash put it to flight.
Mountains pushed up, valleys spread out
in the places you assigned them.
You set boundaries between earth and sea;
never again will earth be flooded.” (The Message)

These verses contain a reference to the Noah’s Ark story – the Biblical account that encapsulates a very widespread oral tradition of worldwide inundation. Some scientists believe these narratives are an echo of very real events, and that the Epic of Gilgamesh also records severe drought (corresponding to the Bible story of Joseph in Egypt):-

Continue reading The Island Prescient

Treasure in the Field : Conference Report

Image Credit : Martin Davis

Christian Ecology Link
30th Annual Conference

Bristol, 10 March 2012

Media Release 11 March 2012

All quotations should be checked against transcription.

“We need growth that doesn’t destroy the Earth”

The current push for economic growth by politicians and financial institutions was questioned by environmentalist Jonathon Porritt at Christian Ecology Link’s 30th anniversary conference on 10 March.

“Economic growth is kept at the heart of our model of progress despite plenty of scientific evidence about the scale of environmental problems”, said the keynote speaker, “and many believe so firmly that technology will one day solve these problems that the growth paradigm goes unchallenged”.

The packed audience of around 150 Christian environmental activists was urged to re-examine the notion of ‘wealth’ as meaning ‘wellness’ and challenge politicians and others who take it to mean ‘money’.

“After 100 years of suicidal growth it is still possible to change our dire situation”, he said, “but we need to strain each sinew to do so – and call in aid every spiritual resource”.

Image Credit : Martin Davis

Porritt, a Christian Ecology Link patron and Director of Forum for the Future, was speaking at St. Michael’s Church in Bristol to the theme, ‘Treasure in the field : spiritual capital and sustainable living’. He told the audience “this community of action and reflection is very important to me as a source of inspiration”, and indeed Forum for the Future’s publication ‘Moving Mountains’ has drawn on Christian Ecology Link material.

In his book ‘Capitalism as if the world matters’, Porritt identified that besides financial capital, there is the natural capital of the mineral and biosystem resources of the earth, plus the capital of human skills and social organisation, together with the built environment, infrastructure and technology – ‘manufactured capital’.

He also suggested a further crucial resource – ‘spiritual capital’, suggesting that ‘spiritual capital’ developed through a spiritual ‘renaissance’ can help achieve true sustainability. “Today’s so-called ‘ecological crisis’ is in essence a crisis of the human spirit” he has said, “for as we have degraded the earth, so we corrupted our souls, caught up in a frenzy of suicidal consumerism”.

Noting the social activism that some church people undertake, Porritt also suggested that social justice is the real test for sustainability. However, he also suggested that churches on the whole were too ‘other-worldly’ and failed to engage with environmental realities. “I don’t put much store in treasure in heaven” he said; “if more Christians focused on the treasure in the field rather than treasure in heaven then we would live in a very different world today”. He did single out Anglican bishop James Jones, author of ‘Jesus and the Earth’ as somebody he greatly admired.

In two responses, Tim Gorringe, Professor of Theological Studies at Exeter University endorsed the contradiction of infinite growth on a finite planet and suggested that the transition movement offered a striking alternative. He said people of faith cannot be relegated to a ‘spiritual realm’ for the whole of reality is a gift of God and there is an imperative to promote sustainable living. Paul Bodenham, Chair of Christian Ecology Link, highlighted the way people’s desires are manipulated by the context of the society in which we live and ‘green’ Christians play an important role in helping communities reflect on sustainable development for themselves and the wider society.

While Porritt left the gathering at lunchtime to join protestors at Hinkley Point nuclear power station in Somerset to mark the first anniversary of the Fukushima disaster – and to call for a halt to the development of Hinkley C, a new pressurised water reactor, afternoon workshops at the conference explored alternative ways of living leading to a sustainable future.

Chris Sunderland from EarthAbbey reflected on the contemplative heart of environmental activism. Jeremy Williams from Breathe suggested a radical change in our consumerist culture is vital to any hope of a sustainable future.

Theologian and gardener Edward Echlin argued that small scale, biodiverse, organic food production is not only the best way food growing preserves soil and stabilises climate but is also the most productive. Mark Letcher of Climate Works explored low-carbon living in an overall context of faith. Jonathan Essex of the Greenhouse think tank asked if representative democracy could deliver sustainability.

ENDS

Contact: Paul Bodenham, Chair of Christian Ecology Link, tel 07825 928400

Photos available at http://www.freerangephotography.co.uk/D1209/index.html

http://www.christian-ecology.org.uk

Image Credit : Martin Davis

Living Life and LOAFing It

CHRISTIAN ECOLOGY LINK
PRESS RELEASE

Living Life and LOAFing It – Green Christians ask churches to “Use your LOAF !” on sourcing sustainable food

In the run up to Easter, Christian Ecology Link is asking supporters to think and act on how they source food for their church communities, with the aim of reducing the impact of unsustainable agriculture on their local area, and the wider world.

CEL have launched a new colour leaflet on the LOAF programme principles in time for Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras), or Pancake Day, on 21st February 2012.

Continue reading Living Life and LOAFing It

Carbon Detox 2012

PRESS RELEASE

Carbon Detox 2012 : Shed Unwanted Pounds With Our Unique Formulation

George Marshall, well-known sustainable living guru, will be asking us to challenge ourselves, our routines and bad habits, and make a 2012 all-year resolution to shed the excess carbon from our lives.

On 21st January 2012 at a convenient central London location, he will ask us to take action to get control of our personal energy, and add vitality to our lives with new aims and goals.

The aim of the event is to help us acquire the psychological tools we need to lead slimmer, healthier and more ethically satisfying lifestyles.

Speaking from the experience gained from his decades of research and practice in the field, and giving tips and tricks from his bestseller “Carbon Detox“, George will be guiding us expertly through the carbon counting maze.

One of our leaner life activities group said : “Cutting down has been hard work, but has become much more fun now I am involved in my local group. I am looking forward to meeting my buddies on Saturday.”

Tony Emerson, the coordinator for the ecocell 2 programme said : “In three years our household has managed to halve the amount of greenhouse gases we produce – by topping up loft insulation, converting to double glazing, installing a wood stove and learning how to best use it, new heavier curtains, wall insulation, changing to a green electricity supplier, continued monitoring of timings and temperature of the central heating – and of course taking part in the ecocell 2 programme. However we still have further to go and I am looking forward to hear what George Marshall has to say. One way we are encouraging people in ecocell 2 is to have a buddy system, whereby people pair up, or group up, by phone, so that people with similar houses can support each other.”

To register for this free, all day event, including a selection of facilitated workshops and to receive your take-home worksheet pack, please email Tony at ecocell@christian-ecology.org.uk

For photographs of the day’s events, and feedback from the workshops, please contact Jo on 0845 45 98 46 0

ENDS


NOTES FOR EDITORS

a. Climate change activist and author George Marshall will be addressing green Christians during an all-day conference on Saturday 21st January 2012 in Central London.

b. The Christian Ecology Link ecocell project team will facilitate workshops on “living the truly sustainable life” at the Magdalen Centre, St Mary’s Church, Eversholt Street near Euston train station between 10.00 am and 5.00 pm [1]

c. George Marshall, author of the easy-to-read book “Carbon Detox : Your step-by-step guide to getting real about climate change” will be offering his fact-packed and lighthearted insights into action on climate change, drawn from his experience of over a decade of community and policy work. [2]

d. The event will be suitable for anybody already taking part in the ecocell project, or anybody interested in starting. The workshops on the day will be pitched at several levels.

e. The ecocell-1 workshop group will look at the introductory programme to help your family or church group take their first steps to reducing their impact on the environment. [3]

f. The ecocell-2 workshop will look at the more in-depth project, to provide mutual support for those who want to reduce their carbon emissions to sustainable levels within five years. [4]

REFERENCES

[1] The Magdalen Centre, St Mary’s Church, Eversholt Street, London NW1 1BN is located about 7 minutes’ walk north of Euston train station.

[2] http://www.carbondetox.org/

[3] http://www.greenchristian.org.uk/ecocell
http://www.greenchristian.org.uk/ecocell/ecocell-1

[4] http://www.greenchristian.org.uk/ecocell
http://www.greenchristian.org.uk/ecocell/ecocell-2
http://www.greenchristian.org.uk/ecocell/ecocell2-materials

[5] http://www.greenchristian.org.uk/archives/1537
http://www.christian-ecology.org.uk/ecocell-day-21-jan-2012.htm

CONTACT

For details of Christian Ecology Link, please phone Jo on 0845 45 98 46 0 or email info@christian-ecology.org.uk

The Last Battle

The “Statue of Liberty” or Saint John’s Lamb of God ?

Britain’s real enemy is not Iran.

The real enemy is the mismanagement of the Earth’s energy resources.

The last battle is to overcome the misdeeds of those who have commandeered and wasted the Earth’s energy resources – and that includes ourselves.

It should not be a violent dispute, for aggression and the use of weapons are morally unjustifiable. But all the same, it will be a genuine, Titanic, struggle.

As C. S. Lewis portrays with so much resonance, it matters little under which flag or title we serve or belong – what matters is our allegiance to the precepts of divine honour, holy devotion and right dealings with other people :-

“Why did the faithful Taarkan end up getting to come into Narnia ? Usually Lewis writes allegorically so is he trying to tell us something when a worshipper of Tash is allowed to enter the new Narnia ? Any thoughts ? …It wasn’t the name that mattered, but rather the conduct of the Taarkan and how he chose to see and do things. He didn’t believe in the cruelty and underhanded ways his countryman were doing things, but rather in honour and a code of conduct. So even though the Taarkan thought he was worshipping Tash, the whole time he was actually worshipping Aslan [Turkish for “Lion”] through his thoughts and deeds. So when the time came for the end of the world and judgement, he was placed where his heart had always led him.”

For those who recognise the twin threats from climate change and energy depletion, we realise that there is hard work ahead. Our natural aim is to protect ourselves; and the moral consequence is that we are obliged to protect the other – because both climate change and energy depletion are global problems.

Climate change hits the poorest the hardest – already, significant changes in rainfall and weather patterns have created long-term drought, encroaching coastal and inland inundation, crop losses and enforced migration. And it’s only going to get worse. It’s so terrible we could not even wish it on our enemies – it teaches us that nobody is an enemy.

To solve climate change, we need to change our energy systems. Some hail the depletion of hydrocarbon and coal energy resources as a gift that will help us resolve the emissions problem and prevent dangerous climate change, by making a virtue of necessity – but the situation is not that simple.

The reaction of the world’s authorities, wealth controllers and corporate proprietors to the winding down of fossil fuel energy resources has so far been complex, and there are many indications that warfare, both military and economic, has been conducted in order to secure access to energy.

This may be the way of the lion in us all, but it is not the way of The Lamb. The Lamb sacrifices all that others value so that he is qualified to bring about a new universal regime of peace and responsible autonomy – a kingdom of priests, pastors with mutual respect.

We are called to become good stewards of each other and the Earth. The gentle Lamb of God will judge our hearts.

The Book of the Revelation to Saint John the Divine, Chapter 4 :-

“…I looked and saw a door that opened into heaven. Then the voice that had spoken to me at first and that sounded like a trumpet said, “Come up here ! I will show you what must happen next.” Right then the Spirit took control of me, and there in heaven I saw a throne and someone sitting on it. The one who was sitting there sparkled like precious stones of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow that looked like an emerald surrounded the throne. Twenty-four other thrones were in a circle around that throne. And on each of these thrones there was an elder dressed in white clothes and wearing a gold crown. Flashes of lightning and roars of thunder came out from the throne in the center of the circle. Seven torches, which are the seven spirits of God, were burning in front of the throne. Also in front of the throne was something that looked like a glass sea, clear as crystal…And as they worshiped the one who lives forever, they placed their crowns in front of the throne and said, “Our Lord and God, you are worthy to receive glory, honour, and power. You created all things, and by your decision [and for your pleasure] they are and were created…”

The Book of the Revelation to Saint John the Devine, Chapter 5

“In the right hand of the one sitting on the throne I saw a scroll that had writing on the inside and on the outside. And it was sealed in seven places. I saw a mighty angel ask with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals ?” No one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or see inside it. I cried hard because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or see inside it. Then one of the elders said to me, “Stop crying and look ! The one who is called both the `Lion from the Tribe of Judah’ and `King David’s Great Descendant’ has won the victory. He will open the book and its seven seals.” Then I looked and saw a Lamb standing in the center of the throne…The Lamb looked as if it had once been killed. It had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God, sent out to all the earth. The Lamb went over and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who sat on the throne. After he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders knelt down before him. Each of them had a harp and a gold bowl full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. Then they sang a new song, “You are worthy to receive the scroll and open its seals, because you were killed. And with your own blood you bought for God people from every tribe, language, nation, and race. You let them become kings and serve God as priests, and they will rule on earth.””

Leaders of the powerful nations – put aside your death-hastening technology.

Let there be a low carbon energy peace on a climate-stable Earth.


Additional Readings

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Galatians%203:7-9&version=NIV

“…Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles [non-Jewish people] by faith, and announced the gospel [good news of God’s love and forgiveness] in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith…”

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Galatians%203:26-29&version=NIV

“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized [ritual bathing] into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile [non-Jewish person], neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Be_Thou_My_Vision

“Thy love in my soul and in my heart –
Grant this to me, O King of the seven heavens.

O King of the seven heavens grant me this –
Thy love to be in my heart and in my soul.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_Spirits_of_God

[ UPDATE : No, I have not taken leave of any of my senses. I was in church, All Saints in Highams Park, London E4, and many thoughts arose as I contemplated the stained glass window, with its Suffering Servant Messenger King/Lord/Master, rainbow, Alpha, Omega, Noah’s dove with the sprig of olive; and listened to the reading from Revelations 4; and sang “Be Thou My Vision” with the congregation; and considered what Epiphany the world needs at this time of intense war propaganda. There are those who declare themselves as Christian who claim that war with Iran is prophesied. This may be a fringe view, but the narrative infects major political discussion in the United States of America : “The problem, of course, is that rhetoric can have political effects that narrow the options available to decisionmakers. If you’ve publicly declared Iran’s nuclear program sufficiently threatening to warrant initiating a potentially catastrophic war and then sanctions fail to achieve their defined goal, you may have a hard time walking back from that threat.” ]

Alchemic for the people

I was less than a metre above current sea level, rooting about in the holy bookshelves of my Evangelical host, searching for a suitable title.

I pulled out “Who Made God ?” from underneath a pile of books on their sides, letting the column slump downwards, alerting my companions to the fact that I had definitively made my choice for the evening’s reading.

We were treated to gentle Christmassy music for an hour or so as we all gave up talking to read by candlelight and compact fluorescent.

I didn’t read fast, as at first I didn’t have my newly-necessary reading glasses, and when I was encouraged to fetch them, the light was too dim to make reading easy. Those fashionable uplighters.

I read into the second part, and I had already formed in my mind several disagreements with the author, Professor Edgar Andrews, despite him having taken several good lines of reasoning and made some humourous points which I had duly responded to with a slight audible giggle.

I instinctively didn’t like his pitch about the impossibility of organic chemistry and I froze a little : personally I see no need for God’s personal, literal, physical intervention to make the ladders and spirals of genes – the DNA and RNA forming from the appropriate nucleotide bases – A, T, G, C.

And then the book’s author blew away his credibility, for me, at least, by getting bogged down in the absolutes of Physics, and ignoring Chemistry. He quoted the Laws of Thermodynamics, and claimed Entropy as proof that God doesn’t play dice because he’s in the garage playing mechanic. The direction of the universe, the arrow of time, plays towards randomness, the author of the book proclaimed. Order cannot come from inorganic matter – Life is the organising force.

At this, I took several forms of dispute, and immediately found in my mind the perfect counter-example – the formation of crystals from saturated solution – the building of the stalgamite and stalagtite from the sedimentary filtering of rainwater. Another example, I think, is chiral forms of molecular compounds – some chemicals behave in different ways if formed lefthandedly or righthandedly. The different forms behave predictably and consistently and this is an ordered behaviour that I believe – without the necessary university instruction in Chemistry – is an imposed denial of chaos.

In fact, the whole of Chemistry, its world of wonder in alchemy, I think points to a kind of natural negation of the Laws of Physics. There is the Micro World, where Newton, and more introspectively, Einstein, are correct in their theoretical pragmas. But in the Macro World, there is Chemistry, and there are precursor compounds to organic essentials. Life forms itself from dead stone. For a Physicist this is “just not cricket”, it is a whole new universe.

Why can Aluminium be used for containers in microwave ovens, but steel cannot ? And why is Aluminium so light ? Why does water expand when it freezes ? Here the Physicists can help out. But they cannot, when it comes to explaining, or even accurately predicting, all the chemical properties of alloys and compounds.

I have been pondering, in a crude, uneducated way, about industrial chemistry for the last couple of months. How large volume reactions are encouraged, catalysed. How fluids work. How gases breathe. My conclusion is that most chemical engineering is a bit brutish, like the workings of the internal combustion engine. Things are a tad forced. It is probably not possible for chemical engineers to replicate photosynthesis entirely – it’s too dainty for them. But that is the kind of chemistry we need to overcome our climate and energy problems.

We may not be able to match the leaves on the trees, but we can do gas chemistry and electricity and semiconductor physics, and it is gas chemistry and electricity and semiconductor physics that will save the planet. Electricity to replace much fuel. Semiconductor physics to bypass photosynthesis. And Renewable Gas chemistry – engineering the chemical building blocks of the future and providing backup to the other green energies.

Advent Joy : Christmas Rose

Audete, Gaudete !
Christus est natus
Ex Maria Virgine,
Gaudete !

Tempus adest gratiae,
Hoc quod optabamus;
Carmina laetitiae,
Devote reddamus.

Deus homo factus est,
Natura mirante;
Mundus renovatus est
A Christo regnante…

Welcome, little Christmas rose, into a big and troubled world. We are so happy you’ve made your journey safely, we could sing heartily.

The world is no closer to a binding, enactable accord on preventing catastrophic climate change, but at least the Durban United Nations conference is over, and many are therefore sleepily rejoicing.

Continue reading Advent Joy : Christmas Rose

Cantor Mirabilis

The confusion in St Paul’s Churchyard this morning at around 11.45 am was a metaphor for the international Climate Change negotiations.

One stream of people with banners was moving east to west, on their way from Cheapside to Blackfriars Bridge. The other stream of people with banners and a large Police accompaniment was making their way from west to east on a “Walk of Shame” of the City of London.

Earlier, in St Mary-le-Bow church on Cheapside, we had been praying for a unity of purpose for the Durban United Nations talks. For the expression of tolerance, love, openness, conviction, determination, resolve.

I read the Scripture passage, in my normal theatrical style, “…I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God…”

Later, as we made our way into St Paul’s Cathedral for choral evensong and prayers for the planet, I stopped briefly to chat with some Occupy people smoking and jamming a little guitar. “We’re going in to pray for good things for the climate change talks. Do you want to come in too ?”. A young man replied, “It’s too late. There’s so much carbon in the atmosphere already, the Earth is going to fry.”

The singer of the Collects for the day made the very arch of the nave of St Paul’s resonate. Tradition. Lasting.

There were nearly 3,000 people on the Climate Justice March that we had been on. Transient.

The City-wide Christmas Market brought reindeer to Cheapside this morning. There they were, just the two of them, in a pen made of traffic control railings, munching on straw. Here, for one night only. Incongruous. Sometimes I wonder why people do these things.

St Paul’s Cathedral Prayers for the Climate

CHRISTIAN ECOLOGY LINK
PRESS RELEASE

PRAYERS FOR THE CLIMATE AT ST PAUL’S CATHEDRAL

Prayers for the success of the United Nations Climate Change
negotiations in Durban will be said during choral evensong at St
Paul’s Cathedral on Saturday 3rd December 2011 starting at 5.00 pm, following the end of the annual Climate Justice March in Central
London
.

Canon Michael Hampel, Precentor of St Paul’s Cathedral Chapter confirmed today (1st December 2011) that the prayers would be held at St Paul’s on Saturday at 5.00 pm and said, “Reverence for God’s creation is not only something to sing about in church. It demands proper debate and action if we are to be good stewards of the riches with which God has entrusted us.”

Ruth Jarman of Christian Ecology Link said “I am delighted that St Paul’s has announced today that the prayers will be said. It is vital for our children’s sake that we curb greenhouse gas emissions”, and added, “I can’t think of a better way to end a noisy day of protest that to go to choral evensong at St Paul’s.”

Throughout the day, representatives of the faith communities will be taking part in a range of events in London to mark the global talks. Members of the Green Christian community will end their Climate Justice March day as they started it – in worshipful prayer.

Other events during the day are set to include :-

(*) A Climate Vigil beside the Thames the midnight before (Friday 2nd December 2011)
(*) A Service at 11.30 am Saturday 3rd December 2011 at St Mary le Bow organised by Christian Ecology Link.
(*) The Climate Justice March 1 pm and Rally outside Parliament at 2.30 pm, Saturday 3rd December 2011.

PROGRAMME OF DAY

The night before the march, a Climate Refugee Vigil will be held on the Thames foreshore near the Millennium Bridge between 11.30 pm on Friday 2nd December 2011 and 1.00 am on Saturday 3rd December 2011, to which all faith community members are welcome.

Christian Ecology Link is holding a time of prayer and meditation at 11.30 am on Saturday 3rd December 2011 at St Mary-le-Bow church in Cheapside, London EC2V 6AU to pray for the success of the United Nations climate conference in Durban, South Africa, which is happening during the two weeks either side of that weekend. Revd Steve Paynter, member of the Operation Noah board will lead the service. All are welcome.

At 12.00 midday on Saturday 3rd December 2011, the faith communities will leave the church to join the Climate Justice March and Rally organised by the Campaign against Climate Change. The march will start from the north end of Blackfriars Bridge at around 1.00 pm. People are asked to march in support of the tens of thousands mobilising in South Africa, demanding climate justice at the Durban climate talks.

The London march will culminate at 2.30 pm with a Climate Justice Rally outside Parliament. Attendees will physically form a photo opportunity by splitting into two groups to represent the 7 percent global privileged versus the 50 percent suffering climate injustice, and demand urgent action to achieve a Zero Carbon Britain by 2030.

Christian Ecology Link members and supporters will continue on to St Paul’s Cathedral for the commencement of choral evensong at 5.00 pm.

Bishop David Atkinson, member of the Board of Operation Noah which is supporting the St. Mary-le-Bow service, said, “Care for God’s creation is a crucial dimension of Christian discipleship and a central part of Christian mission. Responding to the threat of climate change by reducing our dependence on fossil fuels is a Christian responsibility and one which we share with all people, especially on behalf of the poorest parts of the world, future generations and the wellbeing of all creatures. Our prayers are for all those involved in the United Nations talks in Durban, that they may be given wisdom and courage to act with justice for the good of all people and all God’s creation.”

In November the World Council of Churches general secretary, Revd Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, called the United Nations UNFCCC COP 17 meeting a “last opportunity for the international community to be responsible in addressing climate change”, and called on the meeting to “act now for climate justice.”

For further details on the role of the faith communities in these events, contact Ruth Jarman, Climate Change campaigner for Christian Ecology Link.

ENDS

NOTES FOR THE EDITOR

1. South Africa is host of the next round of talks under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which will be held in Durban from 28th November – 9th December 2011. The timing is critical, as the only legally binding international agreement to limit emissions that we currently have – the Kyoto Protocol – is due to end in 2012.

2. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in a recent publication has reported that the risk from extreme weather events due to climate change is likely to increase.

3. The International Energy Agency has announced that it will not be possible to stop global temperatures rising 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels without a rapid decision to reverse the growth of the current fossil fuel infrastructure.

4. Christian Ecology Link believes we are responsible for our impact on God’s creation. The organisation helps members to understand and relate these responsibilities to their faith. Members can then encourage others in their local church to think seriously about these issues. CEL was formed in 1981, and formally constituted in 1982 and supports Christians from all backgrounds and traditions. http://www.christian-ecology.org.uk

5. Operation Noah is a Christian charity providing leadership, focus and inspiration in response to the growing threat of catastrophic climate change. http://www.operationnoah.org

6. Founded in or around 1080 as the London headquarters of the archbishops of Canterbury, the medieval church of St Mary-le-Bow survived three devastating collapses before being completely destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. Rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren, it was destroyed once more in 1941 but was again rebuilt and re-consecrated in 1964. http://www.stmarylebow.co.uk

7. The Climate Justice March and Rally are being organised by the Campaign against Climate Change http://www.campaigncc.org and supported by Artists Project Earth http://www.apeuk.org/.

8. The focus of this year’s national Climate Justice March is the 7:50 percent injustice divide – where 7 percent of the world’s population produce 50 percent of the world’s emissions and 7 percent of the world’s emissions are produced by 50 percent of the world’s population.

9. Zero Carbon Britain is a plan from the Centre for Alternative Technology http://www.zerocarbonbritain.com

Occupy your mind #7

Image Credit : The Diocese of London

So, after rumours and quashings of rumours, Giles Fraser has resigned as canon chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, “resigned in protest at plans to forcibly remove demonstrators from its steps, saying he could not support the possibility of “violence in the name of the church”…Fraser, a leading leftwing voice in the Church of England, would resign because he could not sanction the use of police or bailiffs against the hundreds of activists who have set up camp in the grounds of the cathedral in the last fortnight.”

But just why did Giles Fraser resign ? What has it achieved ? What could it possibly achieve ? Now he’s no longer in the Cathedral organisation he cannot influence what happens. What pressures has he had to endure behind the scenes that gave him no option but to jump ?

Somebody I know has been praying that there would be heavy rain in London, just so the conditions would be impossible for the Occupyer camp to continue; that they would have to pack up and go home.

What on Earth is this @OccupyLSX protest for ? A camp of principle, to defend the right to protest ? A camp of demands, pursuing a just economics and a just society ? A camp of non-violence, when it deliberately provokes a stand-off between demonstrators and police forces ? How can the Occupyers claim to be peaceful when they know their actions have a fragmentation bomb-like effect on the society around them ? How can the Cathedral Campers evidence their intentions for a juster, saner, economic system, when the net effect of their actions is likely to be a huge law court struggle at taxpayer expense ? It’s not a revolution, it’s an irritation – or at least that is the way that it will continue to be viewed by the governing authorities.

Somebody on the inside track of campaigning in London has told me that the Occupy protest is destined to transmogrify into a Climate Refugee tent city in late November, early December. If it survives that long, then at least it can claim to be a piece of living art reflecting what is happening around the world because of climate change disasters.

Unless and until the Occupyers can take on relevance, everybody with even just a slightly-left-of-centre agenda will attempt to co-opt the Occupy London camp for their own purposes.

Remember, dear Occupyers, you are not “rising up” like the people in Libya – they were supplied with arms from around the world, forces overt and covert from Qatar, Europe and quite possibly America, and fed into a huge psychological operations narrative, ably supported by the media.

The Libyan conflict wasn’t about Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, may he rest in peace. The information management of the North African and Middle Eastern unrest shows that mass propaganda still works, and that media consumers continue to fall for the same fabrications, time after time.

The Problem of Powerlessness #2

On Wednesday, I received a telephone call from an Information Technology recruitment consultancy. They wanted to know if I would be prepared to provide computer systems programming services for NATO.

Detecting that I was speaking with a native French-speaker, I slipped into my rather unpracticed second language to explain that I could not countenance working with the militaries, because I disagree with their strategy of repeated aggression.

I explained I was critical of the possibility that the air strikes in Libya were being conducted in order to establish an occupation of North Africa by Western forces, to protect oil and gas interests in the region. The recruitment agent agreed with me that the Americans were the driving force behind NATO, and that they were being too warlike.

Whoops, there goes another great opportunity to make a huge pile of cash, contracting for warmongers ! Sometimes you just have to kiss a career goodbye. IT consultancy has many ethical pitfalls. Time to reinvent myself.

I’ve been “back to school” for the second university degree, and now I’m supposed to submit myself to the “third degree” – go out and get me a job. The paucity of available positions due to the poor economic climate notwithstanding, the possibility of ending up in an unsuitable role fills me with dread. One of these days I might try to write about my experiences of having to endure several kinds of abuse whilst engaged in paid employment : suffice it to say, workplace inhumanity can be unbearable, some people don’t know what ethical behaviour means, and Human Resources departments always take sides, especially with vindictive, manipulative, micro-managers. I know what it’s like to be powerless.

Continue reading The Problem of Powerlessness #2

Texas travel advisory

[ UPDATE : Texas Governor proclaims three days of prayer for rain ]

Texas ? My advice is – don’t go there. Not only does it have numerous social problems, it’s also in the midst of a hellfire makeover, caused by extensive drought :-

http://www.statesman.com/news/local/fires-rage-through-much-of-texas-more-than-1418294.html

“Fires rage through much of Texas; more than 1 million acres burned : April 20, 2011 : Several massive wildfires in North and West Texas continued to rage Tuesday, racing through parched fields and woods and adding to a sweeping acreage toll that has reached almost 1.2 million in less than two weeks. A wildfire spanning four counties west of Fort Worth near Possum Kingdom Lake has consumed nearly 150,000 acres, destroyed 150 homes and a church, and forced hundreds to flee since it began Friday, Texas Forest Service spokesman Marq Webb said. The fire, which nearly doubled in size in a day, is one of more than 20 active fires that the Forest Service is fighting statewide in an April that has been plagued by a fierce drought, high temperatures and gusting winds – conditions that have allowed wildfires to ignite and spread quickly in several parts of the state, including Austin…”

The situation is so bad, that the God Squad has been moved to participate, some in practical ways and some in the spiritual department. People are dying, but meanwhile, some in the Heavenward crowd are in denial about Climate Change. Seems that some tombstone-headed American Christians would rather crucify their country than admit that Global Warming Science is right.

State policy on fighting fire seems rather contrary to the trends – and that’s probably because “big government” social budgets needs to be cleansed of too much “red tape”.

Will Texas become uninhabitable, with terrain where nothing can grow; the domain of wind farms, solar fields and duststorms ?

It may be Easter, but it’s not a Good Friday. Happy Scorched Earth Day 2011 !

Sage Against The Machine


Image Copyright : Christian Ecology Link

PRESS RELEASE : TV ECO CHAPLAIN TUMBLES HOUSE OF CREDIT CARDS

The Revd Peter Owen-Jones, the whole nation’s media chaplain, will be sharing from the heart at a Green Christian London conference ‘End of the Age of Thorns’ on 5th March 2011.

He will be opening up about a new relationship with money, and how we can survive the credit, jobs and services crunch by digging for our spiritual roots.

In his BBC TV odyssey, Britain’s favourite vicar tried living without his cheque book in the series ‘How to live a simple life’, and travelled the world to peer into the human soul in the fascinating ‘Around the World in 80 Faiths’.

Now he comes back down to Earth in central London, bringing his unique, accessible style of presentation, to share the good news of life after moneymaking, in an all-day conference organised by Christian Ecology Link.

The programme for the ‘End of the Age of Thorns’ features a wide range of talks and workshops asking questions about the ecology of money and life after mass marketing. What are the green shoots nurturing a new economics? Is there prosperity without growth? And can society grow up and leave consumerism behind?

“Christians ought to be distinctive as consumers. Our shopping bags should reflect our values.” (Professor Tim Cooper)

Sustainability expert Professor Tim Cooper will lead a group learning the fundamentals of Green Economics; Ashley Ralston will guide a process looking at shopping as if the planet mattered; and Ruth Jarman will host a workshop on greening up the day-to-day life of church communities.

“The church needs to consider why its members so readily succumb to high street temptations despite clear Biblical warnings about materialism. We cannot expect Christians to be immune from the psychological and socio-cultural pressures that lead to excessive consumption.” (Professor Tim Cooper)
___________________________________________________________

END OF THE AGE OF THORNS : SURVIVING CONSUMERISM

Christian Ecology Link Conference: Saturday 5 March 2011, 11am to 5pm, St John’s Church, Waterloo Road, London SE1 8TY (opposite the entrance to Waterloo station)

Come and explore spiritual roots for a new economics, for our own humanity and all life on Earth. Engage with Peter Owen-Jones on a new relationship with money and how we can challenge the consumerist age we live in.

“Christians are not prepared to tolerate economic injustice, and work hard to make the system better. But there is an elephant in the room. We take endless economic growth of the system for granted. And we wonder why we are failing to stem the extinction of fifty species every day, greenhouse gas emissions are out of control, and our children have becomes pawns of the market. Economic growth has become a cancer on the earth, and an abuse of the image of God in us.” (CEL Chairman, Paul Bodenham)

“God did not create a world with infinite resources for humankind to plunder. He created a world with finite resources for us to nurture. Some people argue that technological advance will enable consumerism to persist. We would do well to note that God also created people with finite minds. Perhaps people will not work out solutions in time. What then? We must address people’s values, not just their minds.” (Professor Tim Cooper)

More information
http://www.christian-ecology.org.uk/thorns
http://www.christian-ecology.org.uk/thorns.pdf
http://www.christian-ecology.org.uk/thorns-booking.pdf

Ticket prices vary
Non-CEL members £20
CEL members £15
£5 for the first 20 students aged under 25

Booking forms
http://www.christian-ecology.org.uk/thorns-booking.pdf

Telephone
0845 45 98 46 0

E-mail
bookings@christian-ecology.org.uk
info@christian-ecology.org.uk

Speaker biographies

Peter Owen-Jones is a long-time supporter of CEL and a popular speaker. You will probably have seen at least one of his fascinating BBC TV series: ‘How to live a simple life’, ‘Around the World in 80 Faiths’, and ‘Extreme Pilgrim’.

He is a Church of England vicar in a parish near Lewes in East Sussex; writer of several books including Letters from an Extreme Pilgrim (2010) and Psalm: The World’s Finest Soul Poetry in a Contemporary Idiom (2009); and founder of the Arbory Trust, the first Christian woodland burial site.

Tim Cooper is Professor of Sustainable Design and Consumption at Nottingham Trent University, a founder member of CEL and former CEL Chairman. He is author of “Longer lasting products; alternatives to the throwaway society” (2010) and “Green Christianity” (1990).

Workshop details

“Green Economics” : Tim Cooper will run two different sessions combining input and discussion. Both sessions will be self-contained so you can go to both, or just one.

“Shopping as if the planet mattered” : Bring your own ideas to share, led by Ashley Ralston, CEL trustee and a director of Better Tomorrows.

“Greening the church in daily life” : Eco-congregations are not just for Sundays. They should give every member the chance to change their life. Come and discuss ideas and experiences that can help people start on a journey of a lifetime, including CEL’s ecocell programme, led by Ruth Jarman, CEL trustee and climate change campaigner.

“We should be no less distinctive in our consumption ethics as in our sexual ethics. Christianity is as much about showing distinctive love to third world suppliers by insisting on ‘fair trade’ goods as it is about showing distinctive love to our husbands and wives by being faithful.” (Professor Tim Cooper)

“Jesus was forthright about the ‘deceit of wealth’, and yet we’ve fallen for this one big time. There is an alternative, but like any therapy, the treatment will be painful. A lot of people want to be the place where that healing makes a start, but don’t know how. That is why we have launched ‘ecocell’, to bring people together to make a journey in discipleship to find freedom, for themselves, for society and, we hope, for the earth.” (CEL Chairman, Paul Bodenham)

Australia : Inundation Nation (3)

Received by e-mail from Australia
__________________________________________________________

18 January 2011

Hi Jo,

Thanks for this. The thoughts and prayers of […] friends are much appreciated.

Yes, the flooding across huge swathes of eastern Australia ([Queensland], [New South Wales], Victoria, Tasmania) has been terrible. The sheer scale of it is hard to comprehend. It hasn’t affected the areas of New South Wales where my family lives. We are, however, experiencing a very sticky and rainy Summer.

Queensland

Three quarters of the state of Queensland, an enormous area, has been declared a disaster zone. Major population centres, including Brisbane, Bundaberg and Toowoomba have been affected, as well as various towns.

Horribly, in the Lockyer Valley, a sudden tide of water swept people to their deaths. Some 20 people have died across the state and there are still about ten missing.

The impact on farmers from the floods is severe. Mining has also been affected – including coal export – which has been talked about in the media largely without irony.

The [Queensland] Premier has announced a commission of inquiry into the disaster, and has launched a flood appeal. Emergency funding packages are being made available to people affected. A flood recovery taskforce has been established.

It has been terrible, but at the same time I have been struck throughout how relatively well equipped Australia is to cope with such circumstances – in contrast, for example, to Brazil and Pakistan.

I am also glad to see how communities come together and support each other. I pray for such coming together before – not just after – the fact in the face of the challenge of climate change.

Victoria

Dozens of towns in Victoria have also been flooded. The town of Horsham, on the Wimmera River, has seen its largest ever recorded flood.

As for Queensland, emergency funding, a flood appeal, and a recovery taskforce have been established. As far as I am aware, there have as yet been no deaths in Victoria.

The Churches’ Responses

Churches across the country are offering support to flood affected communities.

To read about various appeals and statements, see :-

http://www.ncca.org.au/

For an account of ecumenical cooperation, see :-

http://www.journeyonline.com.au/showArticle.php?articleId=2657

[…] might also be interested to see a flood liturgy and intercessory prayers which were written by members of the Uniting Church […] :-

http://www.journeyonline.com.au/showArticle.php?articleId=2654.

The intercessory prayer says :-

“Creator God,
We pray for all those in farms, small towns, and cities in Australia whose lives have been disrupted and whose dreams have been dashed by the floods that have devastated the country.
We pray for those who have lost their homes, their cars, their treasured possessions, their crops, their animals, and their livelihoods. It is a terrible thing to be homeless and helpless.
Be with and sustain those whose entire world has been torn apart and washed away.
Assuage their fears and be patient with their anger.
Grant them patience and hope that eventually they can rebuild their lives and start afresh.
We are grateful to the emergency flood workers and all those who were heroes in helping those in distress during the floods.
May they continue their missions of mercy.
Be with those who are caring for flood victims that their compassion and presence will be life-sustaining.
May they continue their missions of mercy.
We are thankful for those who serve others and provide us all with the inspiration to do the same.
We are sending love, peace, strength, and courage to all our brothers and sisters in Australia.
May this nightmare end shortly.
May healing begin swiftly.”

It is too soon to estimate the damage bill, and the crisis is ongoing, but I have heard figures of up to [AUD] $20 billion.

See the following article about the links between climate change and the flooding : http://www.climateactioncentre.org/floodsclimatechange.

What seems clear is that higher ocean temperatures result in increased evaporation, increasing the amount of rain in this current La Nina cycle that is affecting eastern Australia.

This flooding comes on the back of severe drought, and in the middle of a consultation process in the development of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan – a national plan of management for the huge Murray-Darling river system, which runs through [Queensland], [New South Wales], [Australian Capital Territory], Victoria and South Australia.

The Murray Darling Basin has been overexploited and placed under severe stress – stress that may be temporarily abated with flooding but which will inevitably return.

Peace and love,

_________________________________________________________

We Are Fabulous Bad Weather

http://revbilly.com/chatter/blog/2011/02/we-are-fabulous-bad-weather

“We are honoring the very bad weather, this 1800 mile wide storm descending now on New York, and the typhoon named Yasi in Australia. And we pronounce the natural disasters to be statements from a Fabulous Unknown who will instruct us what to do, now that we are standing on this painted wood stage together in a state of readiness. We have a lot of fabulous bad weather in our bodies. The deeply coded agreements between living things on this planet – how evolution presents new life – may not protect homo sapiens anymore. If it does, we are grateful. We’ll try to learn what the Earth is up to and help…”

“The fires and mudslides, blizzards and extinctions, tsunamis and quakes – are sweeping toward the chosen people. We can’t live by that expansionist, violent god of nations anymore. That is our promise by sharing this stage. The wilderness pulsing out there – has big plans.”

Ethical Investment

I met several people in the finance-with-conscience crowd the other week, when I went for a spot of champers and Marmite soldiers at the House of Commons for National Ethical Investment Week.

I learned about various views on social and positive impact investment, and about elements of the Coalition Government’s “Big Society” and the proposed Green Investment Bank.

Ethical Investment appears to have come a long way since I put some money into a Fair Trade company many moons ago, where I knew I would never see a dividend, or even be able to sell the shares at some point.

Grown up people in sharp suits and big name frocks now do moral banking, and often reap a healthy return on their investment – “doing well” as well as “doing good”, as Adam Ognall of UK Sustainable Investment and Finance says.

I was challenged to think about what faith communities do with their money around a month ago, all precipitated by a conversation I had with Martin Palmer of the Alliance of Conservation and Religions, and then I heard something at a recent meeting that caused me to investigate a little… Continue reading Ethical Investment

Stop Climate Chaos : 2011 Campaign Idea

The Stop Climate Chaos coalition meet tomorrow to present and hear suggestions on Climate Change campaigning in 2011.

How are we going to make it zoom, people ?

From some of my project work with faith groups, I had this suggestion to make :-


Alliance with Ethical Investment groups

“Put your money where your mouth is”

Following on from the Church of England selling its shares in Vedanta :-

http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=9871

it was hoped that the Church of England investment portfolio would continue to be “cleaned up”. But there appears to be a long way to travel.

The Anglican Communion worldwide includes environmental protection as its “Fifth Mark of Mission”, and the Church of England is part of the international interfaith “seven year plans” :-

http://www.anglican.ca/search/faq/037.htm
http://www.cofe.anglican.org/news/pr10009.html

but the Church Commissioners report in the last year has confirmed that the Church of England still holds shares in companies such as BP, responsible for ecological devastation of the Gulf of Mexico :-

http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/12234

Groups such as the Alliance of Religions and Conservation, the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility and National Ethical Investment Week are all active in encouraging communities to put their money where their mouth is – and the faith communities have a very large amount to play with :-

http://www.arcworld.org/about_ARC.htm
http://www.eccr.org.uk/AboutUs
http://www.neiw.org/about

With the launch of the Green Investment Bank – even though severely under-capitalised – there is a chance to tie up the questions to the answers.

If every consumer choice were a green choice, there would be no environmental problem. The only way to reach that point is for every contract, every stock and share, every procurement order, every transport vehicle, every energy source and every material resource to be green.

The choices that companies make in the business they conduct is based on the premise that people want what they sell so much they are prepared to invest directly in them as well as buy their products.

There are several levers for change here. Investment, such as pension funds, if moved in bulk, can have a de-securitisation effect on unsustainable business models. Not so much a “boycott” as a “landslide” of change.

The faith communities have already proved that they can change international commerce with the Fair Trade movement. Now it’s time for the Green Investment movement.