Counting on … day 319

25th September 2022

In the garden it feels like a second spring as plants that have struggled during the heat, spring back with new green leaves and fresh flowers. While it is still warm, this is a good time to plant new plants or to divide up old ones. There is time for them to root in before the winter and to get them selfs well established before next summer’s heat wave. 

 Counting on… day 318 

24th September 2022

Manure and urine from farm animals is a major source of ammonia: in the UK 87% of ammonia released into the air comes from agriculture. Here ammonia reacts with other compounds in the air to form particulate matter that pollutes the air, irritating lungs and affect people’s breathing.  Ammonia also leads to the creation of smog, and the acidification of water and soil. It is harmful to plants and wildlife as well as humans. 

A particular concern at the moment is the health of the River Wye in Herefordshire. A large number of intensive chicken farms have been established in the Wye valley and the affluent from millions of chickens has created an algal bloom that is destroying the biodiversity of the river. 

This is another good reason for reducing our meat consumption. 

The Green Tau: issue 53

23rd September 2022

If we all went vegan what would happen to all the cows? 

This seems to be a frequent concern amongst those who are not vegan. If people didn’t eat meat or drink milk, would cows become extinct? 

The question is one of genuine concern but raises some other questions in response. For example what life does a cow have? Dairy cows will commence their milking life aged 2 when their first calf will be removed from her care within hours of birth.  She will then give birth once year, being milked for ten months producing quantities of milk (on average 8000 litres) greatly in excess of what a calf would consume. After 2.5 -4 years, when her milking yields drop, she will be slaughtered. The usual life expectancy of a cow is 20 years. Of her offspring, males calves will have a limited life to be slaughtered as veal at 5 – 7 months. Of her female calves most will follow in this mother’s footsteps unless they are deformed or ill, in which case they too will be slaughtered. 

Very few farmed cattle enjoy a full life. By contrast cattle kept on re-wilded land, although smaller in number, live a much more natural life. In the Lake District re-wilding projects are in place at Haweswater, Ennerdale and the Lowther Estate, whilst in Sussex there is the now famous Knepp Estate. According to Rewilding Britain 112,166 hectares of land are now part of a re-wilding project. 

So no, cows would not become extinct but would be kept in much smaller numbers – just as rare breeds of many farm animals are being conserved. 

In 2020 there were 9.36 million head of cattle in the UK. It was not always so! Originally there were only the early forebears of cattle, the aurochs. Overtime cattle were domesticated and as the human population of the UK grew so did the number of cattle. Selective breeding improved and diversified the      cattle with some favoured for milk production and others for meat. As the human and domestic animal populations increased, so the amount of uncultivated land and wildlife decreased: the auroch was hunted to extinction in the UK about 3000 years ago; the brown bear became extinct in the 6th century whilst the wolf hung on until the 17th century. What is true for the UK is also true world wide. Whilst once humans and domesticated animals were once nonexistent, they now comprise 36% and 60% of the biomass of all mammals, leaving just 4% as wild animals (biomass measures the quantity of a species by its mass rather than its numerical quantity).

Rather than it being a question of ‘what would happen to all the cows?’ perhaps the question should be ‘what has happened to all the wild animals?’ The State of Nature Report of 2019noted that since the 1970s, 41% of UK wildlife has declined, and that 26% of the UK’s mammals are at risk of becoming extinct. Re-wilding more of our land would help reverse this decline and allow for the reintroduction of lost species such as the lynx and the stork.

Globally 77% of agricultural land is used to feed livestock, including both grazing land and the land used to grow animal feed. In the UK 40% of the land (9.74 million hectares) comprisespermanent grazing, 6%  temporary grazing (1 – 5 years) and 5%  rough grazing. Only 20% of the land is used for arable crops. Even so home grown animal feed is supplemented by imports – somewhere in the region of 50%.

Globally the 77% of land used for grazing and feeding farm animals, produces only 18% of the world’s food calories. At the same time this major land use contributes more than half of the carbon footprint of our global food production. If everyone globally were to eat the same amount of meat as the average British person (approx 85g per day), then the amount of farm land needed would have to increase – putting even more pressure on natural habitats and wildlife. And if everyone were to eat as much meat as the average American, we would run out of land.

Reducing our consumption of meat and dairy products would release more arable land for growing more sustainably a great variety of plant-based proteins with the potential to improve the diets and health of billions of people world wide (subject to a radical improvement of trade and wealth distribution systems). Research the by the UN suggests that with fewer cases of lower coronary heart disease, strokes, type 2 diabetes and some cancers, a global vegan diet would also result in 8.1 million fewer deaths per year worldwide.

Britons have in fact already reduced their meat consumption by 17% over the last decade. The Government’s Food Strategy has the target of reducing that by 30% by 2030. This target has been set  in recognition of the adverse affect meat production has on both climate change and the environment, as well as the link between the consumption of red and processed meat the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.

Looking to the future, there will be fewer cows – but hopefully they will be enjoying a happier life – and instead more land used to restore greater biodiversity. 

Further reading 

Prayers for Creation

Loss and Damage Day: 22nd September 

Surely no one would turn against the needy when they cry for help in their trouble. Job 30: 24

You Lord, are the source of all good things: 

We praise you.

You call us to tend and care for your creation: 

May we strive to do your will.

You have made us as brothers and sisters with all that lives: 

May we live together in peace.

A reading from Ezekiel 7:10-12 (from The Message)

“‘Judgment Day!    Fate has caught up with you.
The sceptre outsized and pretentious, pride bursting all bounds,
Violence strutting,    brandishing the evil sceptre.
But there’s nothing to them,    and nothing will be left of them.
Time’s up.    Countdown: five, four, three, two . . . 
Buyer, don’t boast; seller, don’t worry:    Judgment wrath has turned the world topsy-turvy.
The bottom has dropped out of buying and selling.    It will never be the same again.
But don’t fantasise an upturn in the market.    The country is bankrupt because of its sins,
    and it’s not going to get any better.

And a response, Exodus 22: 21-29a

 “Don’t abuse or take advantage of strangers; you, remember, were once strangers in Egypt.

“Don’t mistreat widows or orphans. If you do and they cry out to me, you can be sure I’ll take them most seriously; I’ll show my anger and come raging among you with the sword, and your wives will end up widows and your children orphans.

 “If you lend money to my people, to any of the down-and-out among you, don’t come down hard on them and gouge them with interest.

“If you take your neighbour’s coat as security, give it back before nightfall; it may be your neighbour’s only covering—what else does the person have to sleep in? And if I hear the neighbour crying out from the cold, I’ll step in—I’m compassionate.

 “Don’t curse God; and don’t damn your leaders.

 “Don’t be stingy as your vats fill up.

Intercessions:

Open our eyes to the plight of the people of

Nigeria, Italy, Uganda, South Sudan and Pakistan, 

for all whose homes and livelihoods have been destroyed by floods, 

whose schools and hospitals have been overwhelmed, 

whose crops and livestock have been drowned.

Lord have mercy!

How can we stand back as our brothers and sisters suffer.

May our hearts and purses overflow with generosity.

Open our eyes to the plight of the people of 

Vanuatua and New Caledonia, of Madagascar and Mozambique, 

of Costa Rica, Nepal and Portugal,

for all whose homes and livelihoods have been destroyed by storms, 

where roads and public services have been overwhelmed, 

whose crops and livestock have been drowned.

Lord have mercy!

How can we stand back as our brothers and sisters suffer.

May our hearts and purses overflow with generosity.

Open our eyes to the plight of the people of Eritrea, Ethiopia and Kenya, 

of Haiti, Afghanistan and Guatemala, 

for all whose face drought and starvation, 

for all whose harvests have cultivated in vain, 

for all who have no reserves to fall back on.

Lord have mercy!

How can we stand back as our brothers and sisters suffer.

May our hearts and purses overflow with generosity.

Open our eyes to the plight of the people of Angola, of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi and Sierra Leone, of Ecuador and Tonga, 

for all whose economies are ravaged by debt, 

whose infrastructure suffers neglect as money is sidelined for interest repayments,

 where future investment is blighted.

Lord have mercy!

How can we stand back as our brothers and sisters suffer.

May our hearts and purses overflow with generosity.

With penitence, we acknowledge our ignorance and callousness.

With humility, we seek to make amends.

With God’s grace, we seek a new future of care and justice for all creation. 

 Amen. 

Counting on … day 316

22nd September 2022

Today the world marks Loss and Damage Day. The Guardian this week reported that the issue of how to help poor nations suffering from the most extreme impacts of climate breakdown – loss and Damage- is one of the most contentious problems in climate negotiations. The UN general assembly is being asked to set up a  “climate-related and justice-based” global tax, as a way of funding an insurance policy that would pay out to affected nations. You can support this objective by signing Christian Aid’s petition:  https://www.christianaid.org.uk/get-involved/campaigns/loss-and-damage-petition

For more information on loss and damage see: https://greentau.org/2022/08/10/green-tau-issue-47/

Counting on … day 315

21st September 2022

Despite understandings made at last year’s COP26 to reduce the carbon emissions – halving them by 2030 and achieving net zero by 2050 – the UK government is preparing to approve the Rosebank oil field – the biggest undeveloped oil field in the North Sea. If these two seem totally irreconcilable to you, do sign this petition:- https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/stoprosebank/?link_id=11&can_id=a3029987c1ac6171de26390e6aabf63f&source=email-thats-a-wrap-stopjackdaw-week-of-action-2&email_referrer=email_1671196&email_subject=we-have-a-new-fight-on-our-hands-_-stoprosebank

Counting on… day 314

20th September 2022

Do you need a waste bin? How many of the things you might throw away are recyclable/ compostable? When you have finished with something can it go straight into a recycling bin? At home anything that really cannot be recycled goes straight into the dust bin outside. It fills slowly and needs emptying by the council perhaps once or twice a year.

 Counting on …day 313

19th September 2022 

Prayer walking or walking prayer is a way of calming the soul and focusing the mind on God through the gift of creation. It can be mindful, slow walk that allows you to pay attention to the natural world – however humble – and so to be drawn into the presence of God. The poet writer Ian Adams, in Running Over Rocks, terms it as Terra Divina.


You can find an extract from the book about Terra Divina here: 

http://www.unforcedrhythms.org/contemplative-spirituality/terra-divina/ 

Proper 20

18th September 2022

Reflection (readings below)

“For the hurt of the people I am hurt. I mourn and dismay has taken hold of me” says Jeremiah. It is a cry many would empathise with, especially when one looks around at all the suffering already happening and all that is on the horizon as the climate crisis and the fuel and economic crises continue to grow in scale – the former fed by the latter into an ever deepening spiral.

Climate grief is now a recognised phenomena. It encompasses grief for what has already been lost, what is currently being lost and the ongoing threat of further loss going on into the future. Such loss is not just the loss of physical landscapes, plants and animals. It is also the loss of people’s livelihoods and traditions. It is the loss of actual lives. And it is grief for the loss of the futures that our children and grandchildren might have had but, now, will not have. There is no closure for this sort of grief and no traditions to help us cope. Jeremiah would certainly empathise with where we are, our plight and our sense of helplessness. 

Where then do turn for consolation? If we cannot find closure,  can we find a way of adjusting to the new realities of life? Can we find new ways of supporting each other? Can we adopt new ways of living and new economic models that will avert the worst scenarios? 

We can take a cue from the Letter of Timothy, and pray – with prayers of intercession and prayers of thanksgiving for everyone, including, but not just for, leaders and those in power. And not just to pray but to remember that in Jesus we have a mediator, someone who can help us understand both our problems and the possible solutions. 

Today’s gospel passage is one of a group of the parables including the Prodigal Son, the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin. They all reference one who goes astray – sins – and point in each situation the possibility of finding a way back. They all also point to the importance of celebration when what was lost is found, when what was lost is restored. To this the parable of the Prodigal Son adds the importance of having generosity of heart and humility. 

In today’s parable we have a sacked manager – one who has certainly been accused of fraud – someone who has fallen short. He is unsure how he can cope with the change in circumstances this is forcing upon him. He thinks hard about the steps he can take to mitigate this. Where as before he was totally dependent on one person, his boss – from whom he gained his wealth – he is now going to be at the mercy of the many of his community. He asks himself with whom he needs to be on best terms – his ex boss or the community? Whose interests should he nourish to safeguard his own future?

Not unreasonably, he concludes that he has nothing to loose by no longer increasing the profits of  his boss and much to gain by improving the lives of everybody else. He chooses to serve – to love – his community rather than the sole interests of the rich man. And this is why he is subsequently commended for being shrewd. 

Jesus reminds us that we cannot seek to gain both wealth and God.  Are we in fact fraudulent stewards, given the way we have allowed the climate crisis to grow and escalate? Have we opted to exploit the environment for short term gain and convenience? Are we fraudulent stewards who have allowed – indeed enabled – the developed countries to continue to grow rich at the expense of less powerful nations? Have we pinned all our fortunes on the ongoing success of fossil fuels? How should we respond when that certainty of income and wellbeing that we have enjoyed is pulled from under our feet?

We certainly need to end our reliance on the singularity of fossil fuels. We need to be diversifying and finding simpler, less damaging ways of living. We need to be finding economic models that share risks and profits equitably. And I am sure we in the developed world need to be literally halving the debts of our comrades – the less powerful – around the world. (Later this month people of faith will be marking Loss and Damage Day which calls on the creation of an insurance pot funded by wealthy nations to support those at the sharp edge of climate change). 

And let’s do some rejoicing too when we find these new relationships, these new ways of living together with our fellow human beings and with nature.

Jeremiah 8:18-9:1

My joy is gone, grief is upon me,
my heart is sick.

Hark, the cry of my poor people
from far and wide in the land:

“Is the Lord not in Zion?
Is her King not in her?”

(“Why have they provoked me to anger with their images,
with their foreign idols?”)

“The harvest is past, the summer is ended,
and we are not saved.”

For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt,
I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me.

Is there no balm in Gilead?
Is there no physician there?

Why then has the health of my poor people
not been restored?

O that my head were a spring of water,
and my eyes a fountain of tears,

so that I might weep day and night
for the slain of my poor people!

Psalm 79:1-9

1 O God, the heathen have come into your inheritance;
they have profaned your holy temple; *
they have made Jerusalem a heap of rubble.

2 They have given the bodies of your servants as food for the birds of the air, *
and the flesh of your faithful ones to the beasts of the field.

3 They have shed their blood like water on every side of Jerusalem, *
and there was no one to bury them.

4 We have become a reproach to our neighbours, *
an object of scorn and derision to those around us.

5 How long will you be angry, O Lord? *
will your fury blaze like fire for ever?

6 Pour out your wrath upon the heathen who have not known you *
and upon the kingdoms that have not called upon your Name.

7 For they have devoured Jacob *
and made his dwelling a ruin.

8 Remember not our past sins;
let your compassion be swift to meet us; *
for we have been brought very low.

9 Help us, O God our Saviour, for the glory of your Name; *
deliver us and forgive us our sins, for your Name’s sake.

1 Timothy 2:1-7

First of all, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For

there is one God;
there is also one mediator between God and humankind,

Christ Jesus, himself human,
who gave himself a ransom for all

— this was attested at the right time. For this I was appointed a herald and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

Luke 16:1-13

Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, `What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’ Then the manager said to himself, `What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’ So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, `How much do you owe my master?’ He answered, `A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, `Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ Then he asked another, `And how much do you owe?’ He replied, `A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, `Take your bill and make it eighty.’ And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.

“Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

Counting on …day 312 

18th September 2022

As we adapt to the reality of the climate crisis we may to pause catch our breath. Climate cafés can be a useful space for this. 

“What is a Climate Café? Perhaps you have recently begun to worry about what is happening to our climate and what this might mean for you, and for your family and friends? Or maybe you are an activist or professional in the climate world, used to feeling the pain of climate grief or anxiety and keeping it at bay by all the great work you do? A climate café is a simple, hospitable, empathetic space where anyone’s fears and uncertainties about our climate crisis can be safely expressed.  A space in which we would not talk about what we or others are doing or should be doing. We would just talk about climate change and how it is making us think and feel.” https://transitionliverpool.org/climate-cafes/