Sunday, November 13, 2022

Campaigning for action at COP27 and in the Lords

Representatives from St John's have been at demonstrations calling for real action at COP27: this is Richard B on yesterday's march. Christine was in London at the prayer vigil on Wednesday. The conference has been in our prayers at our midweek services too.

After church today we were looking at the Community and Global Engagement section of the EcoChurch survey and realised that quite a few of us are involved in the local Newtown Community Garden. Several of us also committed to take up Zero Hour's request to write to peers this week to encourage them to support the Climate and Ecology Bill when it comes to its first reading in the House of Lords on Friday.


Friday, November 4, 2022

Praying for COP27 as Kingdom Season begins

It feels rather appropriate to be hoping for miracles, praying for a world in which the rich and powerful finally put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first, as we enter Kingdom Season. This week's church email included invitations to pray - either through Tearfund's SMS updates by texting PRAY to 07916 874441 (save the number as a contact); or subscribing to the daily prayers sent out by Leeds Diocese.

There was also an invitation to join Christian Aid, Tearfund ARocha and other campaigners on 12th November at demonstrations including one in London. They'll be calling for the actions needed to stop warming going over 1.5 extra degrees, and to support the countries suffering loss and damage as a result of the past emissions that our wealth was built on.

You can find out more about this and other ways to get involved with prayer and campaigns around COP27 from Tearfund, A Rocha, or the Climate Justice Coalition websites.

The Kingdom by R. S. Thomas
It’s a long way off but inside it
There are quite different things going on:
Festivals at which the poor man
Is king and the consumptive is
Healed; mirrors in which the blind look
At themselves and love looks at them
Back; and industry is for mending
The bent bones and the minds fractured
By life. It’s a long way off, but to get
There takes no time and admission
Is free, if you purge yourself
Of desire, and present yourself with
Your need only and the simple offering
Of your faith, green as a leaf.

(Photo - Ash from Modern Afflatus on Unsplash)

Monday, October 3, 2022

Harvest Festival

 Yesterday's service was our Harvest Festival, followed by a shared lunch to raise money for Christian Aid's Harvest Appeal for the East Africa Hunger Crisis. As the final service in Creation Season it was the appropriate time to mention TakeTheJump's biggest challenge:

The suggestions they offer include:

Changing to a green energy supplier 

Changing your pension to a green investor

Using ethical and green banks 

Using your energy at home efficiently, or install energy efficiency measures (this can be expensive so not everyone is able to do so easily).

If you feel comfortable and able to, you could consider pushing for change through activism or peaceful protest. For example, write to your political representative with the change you want to see.

A good place to start with campaigning is Christian Aid's own new Loss and Damage campaign to help vulnerable communities already damaged by Climate Change despite being those who contribute least to the greenhouse gas emissions.

Several of our congregation were also in a meeting last week to build support for the Climate and Ecology Bill. This would bring in legislation to stop and try to reverse both elements of the environmental crisis while engaging a people's assembly to help ensure fair action. If you'd like to know more - do ask Jo Laynesmith.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

End Clutter

The green tip for last week's service was from TakeTheJump's End Clutter suggestion - they highlight the climate and ecological impact of electronic items which are often replaced very frequently. The carbon emissions associated with the production of any electronic product are generally higher than those used in its entire lifetime eg only 13% of the Apple iPhone 11 Pro’s lifetime emissions are actually to do with its use; the other 86% are associated with its production, transport and end-of-life processing.

Electronic items should last 5-7 years so our target is not to replace them within that time. Obviously the same is true for lots of other products with potentially much longer lifecycles. According to Ethical Consumer, 8% of the world's carbon emissions come from steel production and each washing machine or fridge is responsible for 300-400 kg of carbon dioxide for its manufacture.

You can try taking portable electrical items to Reading Repair Cafe for advice on mending. Hiring, borrowing or buying secondhand are all obvious alternatives that save money too. 

Some years ago we tried a 'church borrowing book' in which people listed items they owned that they were prepared to lend to anyone in the congregation who wanted - these ranged from DVD collections to a flat by the sea - but it didn't really work because people forgot to check in there to find what might be available. It can feel awkward to ask to borrow but that is surely a consequence of problems with our culture - individualism, prizing wealth etc. Yet being prepared to borrow helps the planet and makes whoever does the lending feel good at the same time. It's part of what it means to be a community, so we shouldn't feel embarrassed to put out requests on the church Facebook page if our neighbours cannot help. My family was certainly very grateful to Laura's for lending us suitcases for our holiday this year.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Creation Sunday

 Last Sunday's service was given a special focus on Creation and the sermon will, as usual, be available on our church website in due course. In the intercessions it was fortunately easy to lead from prayers about the late Queen and new King into prayers for Creation because of their family's well-known concern for the environment. This was marked most recently in the launch of the Queen's Green Canopy.

At the end, as we have throughout Creationtide, a notice was given using TakeTheJump's recommended actions. This week the focus was on buying fewer clothes. The UN reckon that the fashion industry is responsible for 8-10% of global greenhouse gas emissions – that is actually more than aviation and shipping combined. About 2.5% of the world’s farmland is given over to cotton and over 10,000 litres of water are needed to make just one pair of jeans. Synthetic materials are of course often directly made from oil, and then there are all the tonnes of chemicals involved in dyeing the clothes. Apparently British shoppers buy more clothes than any others in Europe. (Source here)

Although some clothes companies have eco-ranges, campaigners say this really doesn’t address the problem seriously. In addition, while giving clothes to charity shops is good, the supply there outstrips the demand so that 70% of donated clothing ends up with textile merchants who sell it in developing countries where the livelihoods of local clothes producers are consequently undermined. TakeTheJump suggest we try to limit our buying to three or fewer new items each year, definitely no more than eight – if everyone in the developed world did that, it would reduce the fashion industry’s emissions by 37%. Instead we can buy more secondhand clothes, which supports charity shops, do more mending, and rent for special occasions instead of buying those dresses that only come out of the wardrobe once a year. Churches don’t tend to do jumble sales any more but the Greenbelt clothes swap seemed to go well and EcoChurch are trying to encourage us to do similar small scale events.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Travelling light

In last week's service the 'green tip' from TaketheJump was to opt for greener travel - that meant taking two of TaketheJump's themes - one on avoiding cars and the other on avoiding planes. We chose to combine them because we're aware that many people don't fly at all - 70% of all flights in the UK are made by just 15% of the population.

Flights account for 2% of all greenhouse gas emissions but they're a very energy intensive way to travel and they're increasing rapidly. Some campaigns ask us not to fly at all, but TaketheJump recommend only one short haul return flight every three years and a minimum of eight years between long haul flights. As it happens there was a great talk at Greenbelt this year on the topic by Helen Coffey, travel editor for The Independent who gave up flying in 2020 - an experience she records in her new book: Zero Altitude. It turns out that UK citizens fly abroad more than anyone else and the number of flights worldwide increased 300% between 1990 and 2021. Her top advice is to make the journey part of the holiday, to recognise that flying takes up most of a day anyway with all of the queuing and waiting; and that psychologically travelling at a pace where you are more conscious of the journey is better for you. A sleeper train may be more expensive than a flight, but it is also an adventure that feels a little bit Agatha Christie with less peril.

A quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions come from transport, apparently, with two thirds of this coming from road travel. Living in Reading, it's not all that difficult to avoid using a car most of the time - we gave ours away about twelve years ago. This has been made much easier by generous friends in the congregation lending us their cars now and again (notably for Greenbelt!). For occasional short trips the commonwheels car club is great. 

It's worth being prepared to spend some money on making cycling feel safer and dryer with the right clothing - it feels easier to make that purchase if you bear in mind how little the cost is in comparison with servicing a car. |It took me several years to work up the courage to cycle at night - finally inspired by a fellow PCC member. It turned out to be far less stressful than I thought, in fact, sometimes cycling in the quiet on a still night can be intensely beautiful, even in Reading!

Although train travel can be expensive, booking in advance can make a ridiculously large difference and there are some excellent discount cards too - it was worth buying a 'Twogotogether' for me and my eldest just for one return journey to York which we weren't able to book very far in advance. The Network card covers a huge area of the south so I use it most of the time. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Taking the Jump in Creationtide


As usual we are marking Creation Tide through September and the first weekend in October. We've decided to encourage the actions suggested by in the notices each week, not least because many of them also involve actions that save money as well as carbon emissions and it feels more optimistic to be taking actions that will positively make the world fairer than just because the cost of living crisis is forcing us into them! For this week I mentioned the value of a plant based diet since the UN reckon that livestock accounts for 14% of all greenhouse gas emissions. This is hard to believe until you realise that, of the total mass of mammals on this planet, 60% is livestock, 36% humans and only 4% wild animals.  The JUMP's suggestions and justifications are here. Elsewhere I've seen a suggestion of the equivalent of three chicken breasts a week as a maximum appropriate.

Of course meat and dairy aren't the only high emissions foods - chocolate can be awful if rainforests have been cut down to grow the cocoa, which is why it's essential to look for the Rainforest Alliance or Fairtrade symbols. Deciding what is appropriate is made more complicated by the fact that the same products grown in different ways can have different impacts. I've always been encouraged to read that beef from cattle that graze in organic pasture land is better than that from crowded sheds. Unfortunately George Monbiot has observed that some 26% of land is grazed in this way and that if this land was allowed to grow wild it would actually be very much better both for the climate and biodiversity - not everyone has been persuaded, as these comments show. All in all it seems beef ought still to be a very rare luxury.

Luckily being vegetarian or vegan has never been easier with an amazing array of alternatives available in supermarkets so it's a great deal easier to do it healthily. Some of the alternatives aren't always that much cheaper than the meat of course, but with the right recipe books it can be very economical - my favourite vegetarian recipe book is one I've had since I was a student: Cheap and Easy by Rose Elliot.

Last Sunday I was also able to recruit a good team to start looking after the courtyard garden and added some more plants which have been wonderfully well-watered by the rains at last in the days since.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Reading-Düsseldorf Churches Interchange

Yesterday afternoon St John's hosted a meeting for the Reading-Düsseldorf Churches Interchange - part of a week long visit. The afternoon was themed around Climate Change and Creation Care and started with a presentation about EcoChurch. I delivered this, and had been asked to focus especially on actions that individuals can do. In my preparation, I came across The JUMP's very optimistic calculations on the impact that individuals can have on the crisis by doing six key things to cut our own emissions, so I put these at the heart of the talk.

Afterwards one of the visitors, Hans, shared some of the activities done and issues faced by German churches also wanting to cut their carbon footprint. He told us of their Green Rooster initiative - their version of EcoChurch. There followed lots of enthusiastic discussion, especially around practical action like installing solar panels and the question of influencing our politicians. As well as learning about actions in Germany, it was a great opportunity to chat with people from other Reading churches who are now interested in becoming EcoChurches too!

After an excellent cream tea, there was a lovely ecumenical service at which Michaela Nieland-Schuller preached on creation care.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Climate Hero - calculating our emissions

Some months ago, members of the green team recommended using the Climate Hero website to calculate our carbon footprint. I have to confess, I never got round to it myself - until today, when it popped up on Twitter and I thought I really ought to take a look. I'd assumed it would want our energy bills etc, but it didn't. In some ways it was annoyingly vague, especially when it came to flights - there was no option for once every few years at any point. But it also asked questions I wasn't expecting and what was really useful was the feedback at the end which gave figures indicating the impact different changes could make. It promised to send a summary to my email address, which it did, but this really was brief so I wish I'd taken a few notes on that feedback. I suppose that's an incentive to do it again in a few months! It's probably not a very precise tool for really calculating your carbon footprint, but it is a very useful tool for flagging up actions you can take to make that footprint lower, whatever it might be. And it really does only take five minutes.

Monday, August 1, 2022

Sunshine, wind, and not much rain

Having put into practice many of the 'quick wins' suggested by the energy audit that Oxford diocese have subsidised for us, we've been looking at some of the more challenging tasks to improve our energy efficiency. Finding anyone prepared to offer a sensible quote for the cavity wall insulation is proving nigh on impossible. Quotes for solar panels are not easy to come by either and we're aware that churches are often not the most efficient buildings on which to put these panels because of the short periods of time for which they are in use. Consequently, we're exploring working together with St John's school so that energy produced on our roof can support them. Unfortunately, the only way to do this will be to link in to their electricity supplier which is not as green as ours, but is part of a much more economical scheme used by the schools. In terms of our EcoChurch score, we would lose as many points for switching our energy supplier as we would gain by installing solar panels, but we've decided that in the bigger scheme of things the latter is the greener option and we're going to keep pursuing it.

Back in May some of the congregation joined Greenpeace's Big Plastic count. Greenpeace recently launched their final report from this, revealing that "the UK’s homes produce 96.6 billion pieces of plastic packaging waste a year, with only 12% being recycled in the UK. The rest is exported to other countries to deal with (17%), buried in landfill (25%) or burnt in incinerators (45%)."

Another May highlight was the St John's School Fair at which we set up a stall for the first time (pictured above). The centrepiece was a craft activity that had proved popular at Forest Church - cardboard hearts (from old boxes) with elastic bands (salvaged from post) across them, into which the children could thread flowers we supplied. It proved a great hit at the fair too. We also encouraged people to make a commitment to green their life in some way, and to put a pebble in the jam-jar marked with their good intention so that we could see which was most popular - walking to school and eating less meat got the most votes; closely followed by picking up litter and turning off the tap when brushing your teeth. A number opted for choosing their own green commitment. The next highest votes were for avoiding buying fruit and veg in plastic and buying fairly traded. Trailing these were a handful of commitments to turn off 'vampire' devices, tell politicians what they thought, and learn about Reading hydro. In addition we had a treasure hunt, using postcards with images from The Lost Words - anyone who found all (or nearly all!) of the 'lost birds' could pick a prize (the results of a recent playroom clearout - some of which proved surprisingly strong incentives). Behind the stall we had a collection of information boards including encouragement to act for the planet - unfortunately nature wasn't entirely on our side in this as high winds through the afternoon meant we eventually had to take a couple of these down.

Now that summer is here we have been holding outdoor services again for the first Sunday of the month. Admittedly the threat of rain sent us back indoors in June, but last month we followed this up with a picnic (and had the additional entertainment of Scouts dragon-boat racing on the Thames). Next Sunday there will be another picnic, hopefully a little more peacefully.

Last Sunday I spent a couple of hours (divided either side of the service) attempting to deal with the weeds that have been sprouting up in our courtyard while no one was looking. I'm sorry to say I realised then that we had also made the classic error of everyone assuming someone else was taking responsibility for the watering over this heatwave, with the inevitable disappointing consequence. Luckily most of the plants had been chosen for their resilience, but a watering rota is now top of our next agenda!

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Good COP, Bad COP

 In case you missed church today (as I did - in Covid isolation!) here's a report from Rosemary on some of what happened before the church lunch: 

Good Cop, Bad Cop!

This Sunday we sat down with our mugs of coffee following the morning service for a quick update – to find out if anything is happening after November’s COP26.

We talked about 

Care for creation being central to our faith – the fifth mark of the 5 Marks of Mission for those in our Anglican church.

The most important thing we can do this decade is to drastically cut the use of fossil fuels – and yet the IMF says we subsidise fossil fuels £5.9trillion /year….

The C of E and Reading Borough Council, are both committed to be carbon neutral by 2030.

We are currently at 1.2 degrees warming above pre-industrial temperatures; we are aiming to stop the temperature rising above 1.5 degrees. Currently we are heading for 2.4 degrees if the COP promises are kept 

Good things from COP26

Lots of people, lots of young people, lots of evidence of church involvement: 100,000 people marched in Glasgow and lots of others in other places around the world. There is now a lot of public concern

Climate justice is talked about – the industrialised countries most responsible for the emissions that cause global warming are not the ones who are suffering most from the disasters caused by climate change. 

An agreement was made to reduce deforestation & methane gas emissions

>20 countries agreed to stop funding fossil fuel extraction overseas; 

There is agreement to have further dialogue on creating a climate finance pot to cover loss and damage

Bad things from COP

We are still heading for temp rises of 2.4 degrees.

No agreements made for climate finance and none to stop fossil fuel use

Fine words, but no action….just blah blah blah!

Corporate courts;  trade agreements with multinationals often include a clause saying they can seek compensation from corporate courts, should the country pass laws which adversely affect their business.

Reliance on net zero – on technologies that do not yet exist at scale, at not thinking to try to improve things by a negative carbon balance. Its not when we reach net zero but how; if we continue life as usual until 2050 we will put a lot more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere – we actually need to reduce by 50% our greenhouse gas emissions every decade. 

So what to do?

1. Look at TEAR Fund’s Climate Fact sheet to help understand the issues.

2. Know about The CEE (Climate & Ecological Emergency Bill. Now supported by 121 MPs – but not by Matt Rodda (or MP) and the Reading Area Green Christians are hoping to get together a group to meet up with him. Find out more about the CEE Bill at Zero Hour Climate UK

3. Reading Borough Council pensions are in a pot called the Berkshire Pension Fund – which has £29 million invested in companies involved in fossil Fuel Extraction. We agreed to e-mail our council representatives to tell them that we want them to divest.

4. Do your own climate footprint – as advertised in the recent church newsheets; go to Carbon Calculator - Climate Hero  (