Friday, February 22, 2008

Christians Together on Climate Change

Last Saturday Ali and I were helping to run a workshop on Eco-congregation for the Christians Together on Climate Change day organised at Greyfriars Church by CCOW, A Rocha, Christian Aid, The Diocese of Oxford, Operation Noah, Reading and Silchester Methodist Circuit, SAGE and Tearfund. It was an inspiring day, beginning with a panel of representatives from South Africa, Jamaica and Alaska, with shocking stories to tell. Dr Ernst Conradi of the University of the Western Cape said the issue at stake was 'moral imagination' - the need to imagine a different world is possible. I was astonished to learn that South Africa's average carbon dioxide emissions per person are the same as those of the UK - about 9.8 tonnes annually. This is because the richest South Africans emit 41 tonnes each per year. Conradi says he claims to have 60 children because each of his two uses the same resources as 30 children in Uganda. Maggie Ross, an Anglican solitary who divides her time between Alaska and Oxford has posted her comments on her own blog: Her inspirational, passionate and controversial call was for us all to reconnect with our core silence that would lead us to want to live more simply.

A second panel was chaired by Mark Dowd of Operation Noah who asked questions of the bishop of Oxford (the Rt Revd John Pritchard) and of Dudley Coates, past Vice-President of the Methodist Conference. The bishop described the right wing Christian notion that climate change was the desirable hastening of armageddon and the rapture as 'almost the sin against the Holy Spirit, calling bad good and good bad'. Mark Dowd suggested that the threat of climate change speaks to three major issues that are threatening the Christian church in our country:
our lack of young people (who care passionately about this), the tension with Islam (whose environmentalists share our concerns) and the science v religion debate.

There were then a series of workshops to choose between - one for before lunch, another after. Over lunch most of us took the opportunity to walk round a series of displays by various interested organisations (we had helped with one for Eco-congregation) and to fill out Christian Aid postcards regarding the Climate Change Bill. Ali and I were leading one of the afternoon sessions. As part of this we set up prayer stations much like those used for the Sacred Space service back in November 2006 (see post on that). I had lost the original labels for the strings attached to pieces of clothing so made some more:

At the centre of the station a sign read:

"And wy do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these . . . "
What strings are attached to the clothes we wear today

Then the following facts were attached to appropriate items of clothing:
Uzbekistan's $1 billion government-controlled cotton industry has taken so much water from the Aral sea that only 15% of it now remains and its 24 native species of fish are now extinct. Tens of thousands of children are taken out of school and forced to pick cotton during the harvest months. Some of these kids go temporarily blind due to the harsh pesticides used on the crop. If any UK shopper bought cotton items from ten different shops or market stalls, the chances are several will be of uzbekistani cotton.

In the past decade the price of clothes has plummeted due to cheap and expendable sweat shop labour in the developing world, especially following the 1999 collapse in parts of the Asian economy which made labour even cheaper.

Only 10-20% of cast offs in clothes banks make it to UK charity shops. The rest are sold off in the developing world, undercutting local textile manufacturers: in 1991 there were 140 textile manufacturers in Zambia, by 2002 there were just eight.

Conventional cotton production accounts for 25% of global pesticide use. Some pesticides contribute to global warming and depletion of the ozone layer.

20,000 litres of water are required to produce one T-shirt.

About 50% of all emissions of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide are derived from nylon production.

I also had a couple of new facts for the Taste and See apples from different sources:

The transport of food destined for UK consumers produced 19 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2002, of which 10 million tonnes was emitted in the UK, almost all from road transport. Local shops are more likely to stock local and regional produce than supermarkets.

The manufacture of fixed nitrogen for fertilisers involves large-scale use of fossil fuels for extracting hydrogen and heating it with air. A quarter of all natural gas consumption in the United States is devoted to making fertilisers. The nitrogen oxide emissions accompanying the use of fertilizers are also a potent source of greenhouse gases.

Ali set up the other stations
On rubbish/recycling for which she had bits of rubbish, recycling boxes and objects made of recycled rubbish, with the words:
When the five thousand had eaten their fill Jesus invited the disciples to
“Gather up the pieces left over so that nothing is wasted.” John 6 :12

Archbishop Rowan reminded us in his New Year message that God builds to last,
He does not give up on us and start again, God doesn’t do waste.

Here is some of my rubbish, what might we do with it?
How much of this could be recycled

and do you know where that can be done in your area?

On Water - with a bowl of water with glass stones by it:

“Water will be more important than oil this century”
Boutros Boutros Ghali, former UN secretary General

Remember a favourite lake or waterfall, recall the sound and smell.

Recall what it feels like to paddle your feet or
to turn on the tap for a glass of cold water when you are thirsty.

Drop a stone gently into the water and watch the ripples.

What ripples do I make across the world? Am I careful with the water I use? How often do I stop to be thankful for the water I have such easy access to?

Pray for countries that are water- stressed, with too much or too little.

Travel - with my four-year-old's bicycle as a prop


What sort of mark are you leaving behind on this earth?

Are there changes to your life style that would be more gentle to this planet and that you are prepared to make…for yourself, your family, your workplace?

Draw round your foot or shoe and cut out a foot print. Write a prayer or commitment that you would like to move towards making and leave it for others to consider.

Cars account for 15% of the carbon emissions produced in this country

71% of road trips by car are <5miles
46% are under 2 miles

20% of rush hour traffic is children being driven to school.

Car parking in Britain covers and area twice the size of Birmingham.

Develop good driving techniques, where safe, accelerate gently and avoid sharp braking, this can save 25% of fuel. Driving at 40-55mph uses 30% less fuel than driving at 70mph

We had far more people than we were expecting, which meant we had to move furniture and the space for prayer was not ideal, but I think it was still helpful. I was surprised that several people said the young people at church were fed up with hearing about climate change because they do it too much at school. There were a couple of people from other would-be Eco-congregations who were able to help inspire and contribute other ideas which was great.

After the workshops Martin Salter MP received questions. He told us that a Defra survey was told that only 3% of people are prepared to do things which cost more or significantly inconvenience themselves to avoid damaging the climate. He also pointed out that our demand for cheaper consumer goods from China and Inda is what is causing them to build more coal-fired powerstations.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Fishing on the Sea of Galilee

In Exclaimers we were looking at the calling of the first disciples and particularly at Simon Peter. We included various fishy games, discussion about following Jesus then and now, and a look at some photos of the Galilee and the church over Simon Peter's house now. We concluded by talking about fishermen today - even in Britain it is a dangerous and poorly paid job.
According to the Environmental Justice Foundation, on the coast of West Africa fishermen are starving as foreign pirate trawlers dredge up kilometres of sea-bed, only to throw back 90% of their catch dead into the seas. I showed them a can of 'sustainably fished' tuna as an example of the response we might make to this. We then discussed the plight of the fish themselves and other marine life around our own shores. I explained about the imminent Marine Bill. Following this Andy and Zach enthusiastically collared as many congregation members as they could over coffee, explaining about the need for marine reserves and asking them to sign the Wildlife Trust's petition on them.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Carbon Fast

Tearfund are encouraging us all to use Lent to cut our carbon emissions with a carbon fast. Rosemary found 50 takers for Tearfund's leaflets which give one new carbon reducing idea for each day of Lent. Several congregation members are giving up meat for Lent as well. To quote from Tony Juniper's How Many Lightbulbs does it take to Change a Planet?

The World Bank concludes that the recent destruction of the Amazon rainforest has been 'basically caused' by cattle ranching. The UK is one of the biggest consumers of the beef produced there. . . In the EU 41% of all methane emissions are from agriculture, mainly from animals. To this must be added emissions of nitrous oxide (another powerful greenhouse gas) arising from the nitrogen fertilizer applied to grasslands to improve meat and milk yields from grazing animals.

Plans are now afoot to produce a vegetarian recipe book for the church to help with this. This Sunday also, Jane initiated a mini clutter sale - a table at the back of church with items she no longer needs, inviting us to take any we can use and put a donation in the refectory fund box. Whoever brings the stuff is responsible for taking the leftovers away again afterwards so we don't need to time it to coincide with a scout jumble sale.