Action 40: Check out high visibility clothing. With schools terms starting and the evenings drawing in, it is a good time to think about staying visible as both pedestrians and cyclists when it is dark. After dark even light coloured clothes do not make the wearer clearly visible to other road users. Fluorescent markers on bags and coats, cycles, helmets, wrists and ankles are all good options.
New! Starting a from tomorrow and everyday during creationtide (1st September – 4th October) I will be posting a picture of something from the natural world to encourage us to ‘fall in love again with creation’. These will feature under the new heading added to the menu ‘Falling in Love’
Action 39: Don’t over tidy your garden. Leave seed heads, dead leaves and old branches to provide both food and safe havens for birds, insects and other creatures. Goldfinches, for example, will enjoy feasting on lavender seeds later in the autumn.
As well as minimising the amount of carbon we emit/ consume/ use we need also to do all we can to keep as much carbon locked away undisturbed in the ground. Our gardens can be made into carbon sinks ie net absorbers of carbon.
Don’t buy or use peat. The UK’s peatlands are an important carbon sink (1 hectare of peatland can absorb up to 2000 tonnes of CO2 per year). Digging up and removing the peat seriously damages these fragile habitats.
Don’t buy plastic plant pots whether with or without plants (plastic is made from oil). Instead use pots made from plant fibres, paper or clay. The Hairy Plant Pot Company grows plants for sale in coir pots. The whole pot with plant goes straight into the solid where the coir will decompose over time.
Don’t use artificial fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides. These have a high carbon footprint and are damaging to natural ecosystem.
Make a compost bin and fill it with garden waste and plant based kitchen waste. Once well rotted, the bin’s contents will provide soil enriching natural compost that locks the carbon into the soil. Compost bins can be made from wood (eg recycled pallets), wire mesh or you could buy a plastic bin made from recycled plastic.
Plant trees and shrubs as these will, by their size, be able to absorb more carbon as they grew.
Opt for perennial plants over annuals. The perennial plant both develops a larger root mass and has a longer growing season enabling it to absorb more carbon. Interestingly you can opt for perennial varieties of vegetables rather than growing them each year from seed: spinach, watercress, kale, perennial leeks and onions, cabbage etc.
Choose plants that will be happy in the micro environment that your garden offers. You can waste time, energy and carbon, trying to make plants grow where the conditions are unsuitable. Grow together plants that form a natural ecosystem so that they help each other.
Avoid over digging the soil as this can release carbon locked into the soil.
Avoid leaving the earth bare as carbon from the soil can easily be lost into,the atmosphere. Instead cover the earth with a mulch or with a cover crop.
Let your lawn grow. Frequent cutting of the grass requires the input of water and fertilisers to keep it green and the lack of depth of cover makes it susceptible to drying out during periods of drought. Instead let the grass grow longer – you can still run over it, sit on it and play on it.
Transform your lawn into a meadow by introducing a greater variety of plants, especially flowering ones. These extra plants will tend to have longer root systems enabling more carbon to be absorbed by the soil.
Avoid or replace hard surfaces, especially concrete ones. (Concrete has a particularly high carbon footprint). Hard surfaces leave the soils underneath compacted and bereft of mini beasts and micro organisms that absorb carbon. Use gravel and bark in preference to paving stones, or even bricks set in sand.
Build a pergola so that you can grow climbing plants to provide shade in the summer. Consider adapting any garden sheds so that you can plant them with a green roof. The more we plant, the more carbon our garden can absorb.
Action 38: Create a bank holiday vegan icecream sundae! Choose one or more of your favourite icecream flavours – I like Hackney Gelato’s chocolate sorbet – add some fruit, nuts or crumbled biscuits, jam or sauce, chocolate shavings, and maybe finish with a whipped vegan cream.
Proper 17: Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9, Psalm 15, James 1:17-27, Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Today’s passage from Deuteronomy talks in terms of statutes and ordinances, but what the people are being urged to do is to embrace the Torah as the key non negotiable summation of their life. Whilst we often translate the word ‘Torah’ as law it is something more fluid in meaning than the rigidity that law suggests. The word in Hebrew has the meaning of instruction or guidance, or of teaching – of that which flows, say, from the teacher to the disciple, from the parent to the child or above all, from God to God’s people. It can be seen as a concept that describes the relation between God and God’s people. Through the Torah God’s expresses the desire that people should live lives that are good, happy, loving, wise and productive.
The Torah is also used to name the first five books of the Hebrew Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. These five books lay out the story of Gods early relationships with the earth and with human kind and with the Hebrew people in particular. As well as describing this history, it includes laws – statutes and ordinances – that concern both daily life and community life, worship and relationships with God, farming practices, justice etc. Further on in Deuteronomy we hear of the very practical requirements such as setting aside a portion of all they produced – a tithe – to support the vulnerable in their communities and those unable to provide for themselves (Deut 14:28-29). And we hear very spiritual commands: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deut 6:4)
Whilst today’s passage talks about statutes and rules as if they were rigid, un-moveable, it helps in our understanding of the overarching nature of the Torah, if we remember that the Book of Deuteronomy is itself a revision of the laws written in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, written for the needs of the nation in the 8th century BCE. It is the loving relationship that God desires that is eternal, whilst the nature of rules is to evolve. In today’s psalm the Psalmist looks at how one finds a right relationship between God and human by observing the characteristics of a person who is living close to Go’s. That person is the one who live ‘a blameless life and does what is right, who speaks the truth from his heart’. The Psalmist then adds some flesh to this describing how this person lives their life.
Here we might also recall from last week’s Gospel the words of Simon Peter, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
This thought is echoed in the words of the Letter of James, for ‘every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfilment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures’. The gifts of loving and learning and all that shapes our lives, flows to us from God so that we may live as God’s intended creation.
James sees this as a gift that is only of benefit if it is acted upon, if it is built into the fabric of life. If it remains just as words, its benefit is non-existent. This seems to be at the nub of the argument between Jesus and his opponents in today’s gospel. If the law is honoured just as a set of words, but has no impact on the quality of life, has no positive impact on the way we love one another, has no benefit in sustaining our creation as God’s people, the it is of not being observed in the way God intends. The gift that comes from God is pure and undefiled and when received and acted upon, produces blessings. It is how the gift is received and acted upon that is important and when we hear the passage from Mark’s Gospel that is the difference between Jesus’ response and that of his opponents.
It is when we spurn God’s gifts, ignore God’s teaching, that our lives become compromised by fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride and folly. It is when we see other humans, and other creatures, as opportunities for profit, that we cease to feel God’s love. It is when we ignore the needs of the vulnerable – the orphan and the widow, the refugees and the migrant, the wild bee and the tiger, the bluebell and the Amazon rainforest, the contract worker and the carer – that we see lives destroyed and habitats lost; deceit and prevarication in government and big businesses; short term economic policies that fail to address the climate crisis; a lack of vision and determination create polices that ensure protection of the environment, or set up a sustainable care system.
Holy God, through Jesus you show us how to truly live life, how to fill our hearts with love so that love may shape the world in which we live, so bringing your kingdom on earth to be as it is in heaven.
The world has several natural carbon cycles all of which function to maintain a balance between carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and carbon locked away within element earth and its inhabitants. During in the geological time span of the earth there have been peaks and troughs giving rise to to eras when the earth is climate was positively tropical and eras when much of the earth was trapped in an ice age. But since the last true ice age, fluctuations in global temperature have been small scale and prior to the start of the Industrial Age carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere stood at around 278 ppm.
Some of the earths carbon cycles are short term: eg plants absorb carbon dioxide from the air during the process of photosynthesis to cellulose which becomes the building blocks for stems, leaves, roots etc. As the plant respires it will release a small portion of carbon dioxide back,into the atmosphere. When the plant dies, these parts of the plant fall to the ground and decay. As the plant decays some of the carbon is released into,the atmosphere as CO2 whilst some is drawn down into the soil where it remains.
This short term cycle does vary in length. If the plant life consists of, say, grass it can be an annual cycle. If the plant life is an oak tree, the cycle can last in excess of 1000 years. The cycle can be lengthened if the plant is eaten by a creature that will use the carbon products to provide both energy for the creature and to build up its own body using the carbon to form bones and muscles etc. Whilst some carbon will be released back into the atmosphere as the creature breathes, most is locked away until the creature dies and its body goes through the process of decay.
Others are long term cycles: eg volcanic eruptions emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that may originally have kicked started basic plant life. Decaying plant remains and the bones and shells of creatures (which have a significant carbon content) build up as layers in the soil or on ocean beds. Over time these carbon based materials become compressed into rock strata eg chalk, coal and oil. Here carbon is locked away for millennia until is released through erosion or volcanic action.
However things have changed with the onset of the Industrial Age when initially coal, and then later oil, have been extracted from the earth and burnt releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at a rate faster than could be absorbed by natural processes. The increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere led to an increase in global temperatures for carbon dioxide acts like a blanket keeping warmth trapped within the earth’s biosphere. This increase was initial small and gradual but as fossil fuel based energy and products have increased, has rocketed. As of July 2021 carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere stood at 417 ppm.
Our current global climate crisis arises from this rapid increase in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and its consequential affect on global temperatures. The current consensus is that if carbon dioxide emissions (and other similar gases that caused global warming) can be brought to a level of net zero by 2050, it may be possible that the rise in global temperatures will be limited to between 1.5 and 2C.
This problem can be tackled from two angles: limiting our carbon emissions and increasing the earth’s capacity to absorb carbon dioxide. Most of the earth’s carbon is already locked away in rock strata. Our interest here is with those parts of the earth where increasing amounts of carbon dioxide can be stored. These are called carbon sinks and include:
Boreal forests and rain forests,
Grasslands and peatlands
Wetlands and lakes
Each of these habitats can and does absorb significant amounts of carbon dioxide. Some are under threat of destruction due to human operations, including expanding requirements for land to be used for farming and construction. In South America large areas of the rain forest have been cleared to make way for cattle ranches. In the UK significant areas of ancient woodland have been cleared or are under threat from the contraction of HS2.
Two courses of action are needed. Firstly to preserve and maintain existing habitats that are significant and effective carbon sinks. This must include stopping the destruction of such habitats and alongside this, ending further extraction of coal and oil deposits. Secondly to restore and expand such habitats to increase the earth’s capacity to absorb carbon dioxide.
13.2% of the UK’s land surface is covered by trees but this compares with 35% across the EU. 30 year old woodland can store approximately 250 tonnes of carbon per hectare and 100 year old woodland approximately 450 tonnes per hectare.
Peatlands cover about 10% of the UK’s land surface but of these 80% have been severely damaged by mismanagement such as draining the land for planting trees or other farming purposes, burning on grouse moors, and overgrazing by sheep and deer. Peatlands can store up to 2000 tonnes of carbon per hectare.
Various charities and other bodies are involved in maintaining and expanding natural habitats in the UK which are effective carbon sinks – eg Woodlands Trust, the RSPB, the National Trust, various local Wild Life Trusts including the Cumbrian Wild Life Trust which is busy restoring Lakeland peatlands. We can support their work through donations and volunteering. The Peatland Action Programme for Scotland estimates that it costs a little over £2000 to restore a hectare of peatland.
Missing from yesterday! Action 35: Set aside part of your garden for wildlife. Climate change places extra pressures on wildlife so give them a helping hand by encouraging wild plants (weeds) to colonise part of your garden. Nettles are very good for ladybirds and butterflies, dandelions flowers are good for bees and dandelion seeds are tasty food for goldfinches.
Action 36: Make next week a vegan week. Stock up on beans and pulses, tofu and nuts, assorted types of rice and pasta. Make a shopping list with plenty of seasonal fruit and vegetables. Add miso pastes, chutneys, yeast flakes and herbs for extra flavours. Plan some easy meals combinations. Be inspired by new recipes – try these from Hodmedod : https://hodmedods.co.uk/blogs/recipes/tagged/vegan
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
So begins the conversation that leads to Jesus’s parable about the greedy farmer.
Is it that the brother has kept all the inheritance for himself? Or maybe has palmed off his sibling with a pittance? Maybe the inheritance was a house that could not easily be divided between two? Maybe it was a farm that might be uneconomic to run if halved in size?
Certainly for what ever reason, the sibling feels short changed and wants a fair share of the inheritance, indeed wants justice.
Jesus doesn’t ask for clarification, nor does he suggest ways in which the inheritance might be divided, or ways in which to engage the brother in talks about what might be a just and fair solution to the problem. Instead Jesus tells the sibling to be wary of greed – and not just any greed but “all kinds of greed.” Jesus then tells the crowd a parable.
There was once a rich and successful man – so successful that his annual harvest was more than his warehouse could hold. So the man tore down the first warehouse and built an even bigger one, assuring himself that with all this great wealth he would certainly be able to retire and enjoy the good life. And yet that night he died having failed to enjoy any of his gains.
I wonder what the sibling thought? How was this an adequate answer to what must have seemed a valid request? Did the sibling conclude that Jesus was criticising his brother for wanting to keep all the inheritance rather than sharing it? Or did the sibling sense Jesus saying that there were more important things in life than accumulating wealth and maybe especially so if it was inherited wealth for which one had perhaps not even worked?
What might this passage have to say to us as we wrestle with finding a just settlement of the climate crisis? Is there a global inheritance that needs to be divided? Is there a rich harvest being garnered that is more than one person’s need?
The natural wealth of the world is certainly something inherited by each generation. A rich inheritance of resources: lands, birds and animals, rivers and lakes full of drinking water, forests burgeoning with timber, minerals, numerous plants with which to feed ourselves and from which to create clothes and medicines, energy from the sun, irrigation from the rains, power from winds and thermal energy, a multitude of mini beasts that keep the solid rich and fertile, insects that pollinate crops, oceans that shift heat around the planet, and so on and so on. It is a vast wealth that should satisfy all our needs.
Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity’s demand for ecological resources and services in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year. in 2021 Earth Overshoot Day fell on 29th July. Since then we have as a global population been living beyond our means. We have been consuming resources faster than they can be replenished and instead have been accumulating excess waste, particularly of carbon dioxide. Something is wrong! And it’s wrong on two counts.
Firstly as a global population we cannot carry on living beyond our means. To do so leads to disaster. Or as Mr Micawber in ‘David Copperfield’ explains it: ‘Annual income 20 pounds, annual expenditure 19 pounds 19 shillings and sixpence, result happiness. Annual income 20 pounds, annual expenditure 20 pounds nought and six, result misery.’ For those of on earth in the 21st century the misery we face is most readily seen in the climate emergency: excess amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, is so markedly changing the climate that wild fires, floods, droughts, heat waves and storms that might be once in a life time events are now annual occurrences. The changing climate is simultaneously changing the landscape, expanding deserts, shrinking ice caps, shrinking the tundra, narrowing the temperate Alpine zone, draining river basins such as the Amazon and the Po, rising sea levels and the loss of islands and coastal lands. This misery is not limited to the climate but is also found in rapidly declining biodiversity of the planet. Over the last 40 years the world’s wild life population – animals, plants, birds etc – has declined by more than 60% and some 10-30% of all species now face imminent extinction. And in the declining availability of essential resources such as fresh drinking water.
On the second count, the overshoot is bad because its pain is not being shared equally across the global populace. For many of us in the west life remains safe, comfortable and affordable but for many more, especially those in the global south human life is extremely vulnerable and painful. In the UK we face from time to time shortages of items such as cauliflowers or potatoes, people elsewhere face life threatening shortages. In Ghana last year the staple crop of maize was 60% below average. This year heat waves in Bangladesh have destroyed about 20% of their staple rice harvest.
We should be hearing this as demand from our siblings to divide the world’s inheritance and to do so fairly.
Those of us currently enjoying western lifestyles need to reassess what we consume of the earth’s resources and undertake to consume less, and to share – to give – a greater proportion to the underprivileged. Such levelling up needs to take place both globally and nationally. Here in the UK in 2018, the richest fifth of the population had incomes 12 times that of the poorest fifth, whilst a quarter of all wealth is held by just 1% of the populace. Globally the richest 1% hold 43.4% of all wealth.
Unlike the rich man in Jesus’s parable, we do not see many of the rich and wealthy dying overnight. Rather we see them (and us) contributing the greater amount of carbon dioxide and other waste products that are the cause of climate change and biodiversity loss. It is not rich individuals who are dying unfulfilled. It is our global family that is dying prematurely and unfulfilled. If we did but live within our means and did so equitably across the globe, life would be richer and sweeter and peaceable.
This is the message that should be heard at COP26 and should be the model for the agreements made there. It is also be the message we individually should hear and act upon.