Counting on … day 181

13th May 2022

Eating less meat is good for the environment, for the climate and for releasing resources to ensure everyone across the globe can be fed. An environmental newsletter, The Conversation, provides tips  to help people reduce the amount of meat they eat, based on research by the LEAP team (Livestock, Environment and People) at the University of Oxford. 

  1. Make at least one of your main meals vegetarian.
  2. Double the veg, halve the meat in your meals.
  3. Set a maximum number of animal products to eat today and stick to it.
  4. Try a new vegetarian recipe.
  5. Make your lunch and dinner vegetarian.
  6. Eat only plant-based snacks throughout the day.

https://theconversation.com/uk/newsletters/the-daily-2

Counting on …day 180 

12th May 2022

“Make do and mend” reduces the amount we consume, making our lifestyles more sustainable. Repairing a pair of trousers so that they can be worn for a couple more years makes good sense. 

Repairing sheets – https://greentau.org/2021/09/20/count-down-58/ 

Darning –  https://greentau.org/count-down/

The Green Tau: issue 41

11th May 2022

A question of food

Food is a daily necessity, yet for many it is unaffordable. Recent research  points out that in the UK 2 million people cannot afford to eat every day https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/may/09/more-than-2m-adults-in-uk-cannot-afford-to-eat-every-day-survey-finds.   Is there a flaw in our food production and distribution system?

It seems to me that food production in the UK is caught between two objectives: that food should be produced as cheaply as possible, and that profits for the shareholders should be maximised. Producing food as cheaply as possible has been seen as a way of ensuring everyone can afford to eat. However producing food cheaply doesn’t necessarily make it affordable.

Reducing the cost of food can be achieved in various way:-

  • Industrialising processes whether that is the Chorleywood method of making bread or factory farming livestock
  • Large scale monoculture farming where land is cleared to grow single crops on a large scale – including the clearing of rain forests. 
  • Intensified farming where animals are kept in barns and fed high protein diets rather than having a free range lifestyle, foraging and grazing as they go – low intensive free range animal foraging requires a much greater area of land. On the other hand, eg high protein diets fed to indoor animals has to be grown somewhere.
  • Intensive use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers to maintain high crop yields. This can become an expensive option when the cost of these inputs rise.
  • Keeping costs down by paying low wages and/ or by employing people on a seasonal or zero hours basis only.  This applies throughout the food industry from the farmhand  to the supermarket check out.
  • Automation of processes whether that is robots picking crops or automated diary parlours miking cows.
  • Importing food from countries where labour costs are even lower. is of course a flaw here.

Many of these cost saving practices involve reducing wages and/ jobs. As wages and jobs fall  so the need for even cheaper food rises. There seems to be a flaw in the system!. Recently Ranjit Singh Boparan, the UK’s biggest poultry supplier of chicken, queried how it was that his industry could producing chickens that sold for less that a pint of beer – and whether such low prices could be maintained. In part he was questioning whether there were any ways in which costs can be cuts. Yet even at £2.66 (Tesco’s) for a chicken, chicken is still of the menu for a lot of people. 

During the year April 2021 to March 2022 the Trussell Trust (the UK’s largest food bank charity) distributed over 2.1 million emergency food parcel, an increase of 14 compared with the previous year. https://www.trusselltrust.org/news-and-blog/latest-stats/end-year-stats/

People who have to resort to food banks to eat, are not just people who are unemployed. They are also those who, because of disabilities and illness, receive disability benefits, those who are elderly and living on state pensions, those who are employed on zero hours contracts, and even those who are in full employment. The current minimum wage is £8.91 per hour for those over the age of 21. The Job Seekers Allowance is £77 a week for those 25 and over – depending on circumstances, this may be supplemented by Universal  Credit. The full basic State Pension is £141.85 per week. All of these are less than the minimum wage recommended by Living Wage Foundation – £9.90  (£11.05 in London). Whether even this figure will be sufficient at a time of sharply rising fuel costs (and the knock on effect that will have an all products) is yet to be seen.

We have created an economy that does not provide the poorest with the necessary financial resources to enable them to buy the daily food they need – let alone enough to pay for heating, period products, housing, travel etc. Why is this so? Because the economic model we use says that profits must take priority. If costs rise such that they risk profits, then costs must be reduced – even if that means reducing wages and employment opportunities. As a fig leaf, a vague promise is proffered that, by maintaining profits and ensuring that the economy continues to grows, the trickle down effect will – ultimately – increase the wealth of even the poorest in society.  No where does our economic system suggest that goods should be priced at a level that allows the workforce to be paid a genuinely fair wage – a wage such that they could afford the essentials of life including chicken and a pint of beer. 

If everyone was paid at levels of pay (including benefits and pensions) that allowed them to eat properly, heat their homes, pay for their accommodation etc,  then yes prices of some goods (such as chicken) would go up. And of course that proposed ‘fair’ level of pay would have to be sufficient for the recipients to pay those higher food (and other) prices. There would be a knock on for those already on higher incomes in that their day to day living costs too would go up – but usually the higher our income the smaller the proportion we spend on essentials such as food so the impact would be smaller the higher one’s income.  Would we not all feel more comfortable as a society knowing that everyone was being properly fed and that no one was benefiting because someone else was being underpaid? 

This reinvisiging of the economy is not a pipe dream but is to be found in the shape of Doughnut Economics. In her book, Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist, Oxford University’s Kate Raworth argues for a radical overhaul of our traditional economic models: “Humanity’s 21st century challenge is to meet the needs of all within the means of the planet,” she says. “In other words, to ensure that no one falls short on life’s essentials … while ensuring that collectively we do not overshoot our pressure on Earth’s life-supporting systems, on which we fundamentally depend.”

Doughnut Economics challenges our existing profit orientated economics that sees economic growth as the only way forwards.  Doughnut Economics argues that we can have a more caring and more sophisticated economic model which has two key objectives. First that everyone should have a comfortable standard of living – one that meets all seven priorities of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Second that all economic activity should be sustainable and not cause irreparable damage to life on earth – ensuring a stable climate, fertile soils, healthy oceans, a protective ozone layer, ample freshwater and abundant biodiversity. https://doughnuteconomics.org/about-doughnut-economics


This economic model would not only prioritise the needs of the 2 million in the UK who cannot afford to eat on a daily basis; it would also prioritise the needs of the 3 billion globally who are malnourished. And it would prioritise the well-being of chickens that are reared for less than the cost of a latte!

 Prayers for Creation 

Friday 6th May 2022

From the dew of heaven and the richness of the earth, may God always give you abundant harvests of grain and bountiful new wine. Genesis 27:28

The month of May May owes its name to the Greek goddess of fertility, Maia. For many May is the month dedicated to the Virgin Mary, Queen of  May. It is certainly the month when spring growth is at its most abundant. 

Glory be to God for the may tree –

 the happy hawthorn:

Decked in  white blossom, 

she serves a feast for insects – alleluia! 

Glory be to God for the mayfly – 

ephemera vulgate:

Older even than dinosaurs,  this insect surrenders its underwater life 

for one brief air born day of delight – Alleluia! 

Glory be to God for the maybug – 

the cockchafer:

Four years toiling as grub underground, 

she emerges a chestnut gilded member of the scarab family – alleluia!

Glory be to God for the may flower – 

the cuckoo flower, Cardamine pratensis:

Pink flowers veined with purple, a dainty plant 

that feeds the caterpillars of orange-tip and the green-veined white butterfly –

Alleluia!

A reading: Genesis 1: 29-31 

And look! I have given you the seed-bearing plants throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food.  And I’ve given all the grass and plants to the animals and birds for their food.”  Then God looked over all that he had made, and it was excellent in every way. This ended the sixth day.

God of all creation,

May we cherish what you have created, 

respecting each plant and animal, 

bird and insect as both unique and irreplaceable.

May we honour with reverence 

what spreads out before our feet, 

what flies in the air above, slides through the water 

or creeps in the soil below.

May we temper our lives 

to make space for others, 

ceding priority to the vulnerable 

and encouraging the faint- hearted.

May we listen with our ears, 

see with our eyes 

and comprehend with wisdom 

the harmony of your Kingdom here in earth.

Amen.

The Grace 

 Counting on …day 179

11th May 2022

One victim of the war in Ukraine, is the global supply of wheat. Ukraine is usually a major exporter of wheat but this year will only produce a fraction of their normal harvest. This short fall in wheat supplies will affect many countries across the world – eg Lebanon, Egypt, Somalia and Laos. Across the globe wheat is grown not just for human consumption but as animal feed too. If more people followed a plant based diet, we would be better able to feed everyone. 

 Counting on ….day 178

10th May 2022

In a world where resources are limited, we need to avoid waste them.  One way is  to ‘make do and mend’. By repairing and maintaining and repurposing things we can prolong their useable lifespan before recycling them. This skilfully repaired dustbin belongs to a neighbour. The less skilfully repaired coffee filter is mine – gaffer tape can mend a lot of things. 

Fourth Sunday of Easter

8th May 2022

Acts 9:36-43

Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, “Please come to us without delay.” So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them. Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, “Tabitha, get up.” Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up. He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive. This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.

Psalm 23

1 The Lord is my shepherd; *
I shall not be in want.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures *
and leads me beside still waters.

3 He revives my soul *
and guides me along right pathways for his Name’s sake.

4 Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; *
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

5 You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me; *
you have anointed my head with oil,
and my cup is running over.

6 Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, *
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Revelation 7:9-17

I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying,

“Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, singing,

“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom

and thanksgiving and honour

and power and might

be to our God forever and ever!
Amen.”

Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

For this reason they are before the throne of God,
and worship him day and night within his temple,
and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.

They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
the sun will not strike them,
nor any scorching heat;

for the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,

and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

John 10:22-30

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”

Reflection

In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus begins his ministry saying, “ The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the good news.” And what is the good news? That the Kingdom of God is near; indeed those who believe are citizens of that kingdom. When Jesus in turn sends his disciples out to preach the good news, he instruct them to heal the sick, cure disease, to exercise authority over demons, and, in Matthew’s gospel, to raise the dead. The message is clear that the reality of God’s kingdom is not just about words but deeds too. So it is in the Book of Acts that we see the good news being preached not just with rhetoric but with actions too. In today’s example, Peter raises Dorcas from death. But the story also shows us in other ways what the reality kingdom of God looks like. Dorcas, clearly a citizen of God’s kingdom, is renowned for her good deeds. Her fellow citizens, the local Christian community, are equally committed to making the kingdom of God a reality in the concern that they show. Time and again the Book of Acts relates stories of the first Christian communities where their love for each other shines out as beacon for others to see. Do our church communities shine as brightly?

Psalm 23 is often loved because of the idyllic image that it presents of green pastures and still waters. Such ease and comfort is surely what the kingdom of God is made of? But when we look around the world today, do we see much in the way of green pastures and still waters? Rather we see battle grounds, land that is either flood-ridden or drought-bitten, people and communities struggling to survive against a tide wave of poverty and oppression. For activists struggling to bring about change – to bring in the values of the kingdom of God – it can feel as if the kingdom of God is not at hand but is rather a fast disappearing fantasy. Psalm 23 offers something of more comfort – God’s companionship when things are tough, when the way ahead is dark. Waking becomes an act of faith but with the assurance goodness and mercy to come.  As with the community to which Dorcas belonged demonstrated, when things are tough, we do need to rally round and support one another. If nothing else we can pray for those activists who are standing up for the kingdom values – for the safe passage of asylum seekers, for the provision of food for those inadequate means, for the proper funding of the NHS, for the ending of fossil fuel investment.

The passage from the Book of Revelation tells the same story as Psalm 23 but in more florid terms. Those who have walked through the valley of death are those who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb: they do indeed come to find rest where they no longer hunger and thirst, where they are comforted and refreshed. 

Those who believe, those who are citizens of God’s kingdom, those who recognise the voice of the shepherd, have the gift of eternal life. They will know the comfort of Jesus’s presence even in the depths of winter.

Counting on …day 175 

7th May 2022 

According to the recent review, the  State of the World’s Birds, 48% of bird species populations are in decline, 39% are stable,  6% showing increases whilst a further 7% have unknown trends. The major cause of decline in bird populations is the growing footprint of human consumption. Alexander Lee, of the Metropolitan University Manchester and leader of the review, says that people should not feel helpless: “We all have connections [to birds]. If a company is associated with deforestation in Brazil, don’t buy stuff from them,” he said. “And if everyone spares as much land as possible within their gardens for nature, then that adds up to quite a large area. Another lever is voting – we get the politicians we vote for.”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/may/05/canaries-in-the-coalmine-loss-of-birds-signals-changing-planet