Eco-church

The church Eco-Group started meeting in September 2019. This page shows all their articles in our monthly magazine Comment, with the most recent one at the bottom of the page here

Christ Church Eco-Group - Item from Comment October 2019

Care for Creation

It was decided at Church Meeting that a new group was needed to consider the urgent issue of climate change as well as care for the environment more generally, and what we, at Christ Church, should be doing about it. A group of ten met for the first time on September 5th and made a start on how to address this important task.

Neil is committed to creation care being part of his ministry. We agreed to do a carbon audit of our buildings, with a view to looking into how we might improve our energy efficiency and also to find out from all the groups who use the buildings to what extent they conduct their activities in an environmentally friendly way. But it may be that the biggest impact could in fact come from how we live our lives as individuals and the choices we each make – what and how much we buy, where and how often we travel -  so you will see regular items in Comment and at Church Meetings offering ideas and tips as to how we can live more sustainably. It is a responsibility for us all.

 

Item from Comment November 2019

As a church we have resolved to put creation care high up on our agenda and to learn more about what we each need to do to protect our unique planet from potentially disastrous climate change. To quote Christian Aid, “The communities Christian Aid works with are not facing a climate crisis. They’re already living with it. From indigenous communities struggling to survive while the Amazon burns to pastoralists in Kenya plagued with drought, those who have done the least to cause the climate crisis are now living and dying with the consequences. This is a deep injustice that is hurting the world’s poorest communities………….. As a country that’s grown wealthy through fossil fuels and through extracting natural resources and cheap labour from poorer countries, the UK has a moral obligation to the world’s poorest people to act.”

To tackle the climate emergency the world needs urgently to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases, the most significant of these being carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels. So, as all of us use electricity and most of us have a gas boiler, we need to take what energy saving measures we can at home – which of course will save you money as well! Turning your central heating thermostat down 1 degree, for example, saves you £80 per year according to the Energy Saving Trust, as well as 320kg of carbon dioxide.

Ultimately all energy needs to be produced from renewable sources – wind, solar, tidal – and the government has a target to achieve zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050. Many argue that to keep global warming within safe levels this date should be sooner. So you might consider switching your supplier to one that only sells you energy from renewable sources. A Which report identifies just two companies who “consistently generate enough renewable electricity themselves to match customer use, or buy the equivalent directly from generators.” These are Ecotricity and Good Energy. You will pay a little more, but the higher prices are directly due to the support they give to growing these new technologies. Many of the claims for other “green tariffs” are unfortunately confusing at best and inaccurate at worst and provide you with considerably less energy from renewable sources than you probably think.

You might find it helpful to calculate your own household carbon footprint, which can be easily done  online; WWF offers a simple calculator, for example, but many different versions are available via a bit of Googling. The annual carbon footprint of the average Briton is around 10 tonnes, but the figure considered to be a sustainable yearly quota for the world's 6 billion inhabitants is just two tonnes apiece. Whether or not we understand these specific measurements, it is clear that those of us who live in the developed Western world are going to have to rethink the way we live.

Something you can do to mitigate your own unavoidable carbon emissions is to contribute to one of the offsetting schemes which are available, meaning that you support, for example, various climate care projects or tree planting schemes. Again, a quick internet search will show you a range of options.

If you would like further information about any of these suggestions, do ask Kate Helleur and we can find out the answer together! Specific ideas for living in a more climate-friendly way will be following in the coming months.         

 

Item from Comment December 2019

As Christians we often dislike the materialism and visible over-consumption of the Christmas season. But do we also consider the environmental impact of that?

Everything that we buy has an environmental consequence and affects climate change in some way through the energy that will have been used in its manufacture and transport. In the run-up to Christmas all the stores are trying to persuade us that a happy Christmas involves a great deal of shopping. So a good policy – throughout the year in fact, but particularly at Christmas when the messages to buy more are so insistent – is simply, buy less stuff; what we need but not more.

Buy local where possible. We have become used to any food we fancy being available in the supermarkets, especially at Christmas when we may want to offer something a bit special. But perhaps we should just think before we buy those blueberries from Peru or kiwis from New Zealand. Anything perishable from very far away will have been flown here – do we really want that item enough to be comfortable with the extra greenhouse gases its journey will have produced?

A major concern we have all woken up to in recent months has been to do with our over-use of plastic, the main focus being on “single-use” plastics and unnecessary over-packaging. We have all been horrified by pictures of the amount of plastic floating about in the oceans and impacting on wild life. Christmas cards or wrapping paper that are shiny or feature glitter will involve an element of plastic and will not therefore be recyclable. We should stick with paper that is recyclable or recycled - preferably both! Presents can be tied with wool or raffia or re-usable ribbon rather than stuck with Sellotape and parcels secured with old-fashioned brown paper gummed tape. Should we want any new decorations perhaps we can avoid the plastic ones and go for those made from natural materials.

Have a wonderful, planet-friendly Christmas!

 

 Item from Comment February 2020

As I write, we hear the news that the last decade has officially been the warmest ever recorded and 2016 and 2019 the warmest years. And we also hear the message that emissions of the greenhouse gases that are heating up the planet must be reduced urgently if we are to avoid dangerous consequences for us all. The severity of bush fires, droughts and floods is increasingly being attributed to this climate change.

The greenhouse gas we are probably most familiar with is carbon dioxide and with it the necessity to stop burning fossil fuels. But there is a greenhouse gas that is 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide, methane, surprising quantities of which is burped up by cattle as they digest their food. Globally our appetite for meat is increasing and so therefore is the number of cattle farmed for beef. Together with all other livestock, the meat industry now produces more greenhouse gases than the running of all our transport – cars, planes, freight and ships put together. Brazil has more cattle than any other country on earth (exporting thousands of tons of beef to the UK each year) and, to meet demand, cattle farming is encroaching further and further into the Amazon rainforest. The forest’s trees store huge amounts of carbon but, during the summer of 2019, the equivalent of 5 football pitches was being lost every minute, further reducing the forest’s ability to be “the lungs of the planet” and keep the world cool.

40% of the world’s crops are grown to be fed to animals for our meat, which is an inefficient use of land; more people can be fed if we eat the crops directly. In addition, about a third of the loss of biodiversity is attributed to the farming of animals, from loss of habitat in the Amazon to massive fields growing a single animal feed crop or African penguins threatened with extinction as their foodsource (sardines) is overfished to be turned into fishmeal.

So, what to do? What we choose to eat is a very personaI matter but it seems that, for the sake of the planet and its people, we must be persuaded to eat less meat. We don’t necessarily need to cut it from our diets completely, but reducing to maybe a portion or two a week would be a very good aim.

(Statistics in this article are all taken from the BBC programme “Meat: a threat to our planet?” shown on November 25th 2019. Still available on iplayer.)

 

 

Item from Comment March 2020

As the gardens wake up after the winter and we enjoy the spring bulbs and blossom, the thoughts of gardeners turn to gardening. But what is the environmental impact of the way we tend to our gardens?

Peat-based compost has been used by gardeners and growers for decades, but sadly the amount that we use is having a seriously detrimental effect. The formation of peat happens very slowly, at the rate of just 1mm per year, which means that 1 metre depth of peat takes 1000 years to form. But we are using peat at a far greater rate than it forms, which means that peat is not a renewable resource.

From a climate change perspective, the important thing about peatbogs is that they absorb, and store, large amounts of carbon. In Britain they are sometimes referred to as our rainforests and, in the fight against climate change, the peatlands of the British Isles are one of our greatest assets. But extracting peat in the UK releases an estimated million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year, contributing further to global warming.

A second feature of peatbogs is that they provide an important and very specific habitat for certain plants, insects and wildlife and if we lose our peatbogs we lose those species. And thirdly, peatbogs in upland areas soak up a large amount of water, thereby helping to reduce the risk of flooding and flood surges.

Despite a Defra target to phase out peat for garden use by 2020, it continues to be available and British gardeners are continuing to buy peat, with UK sales at 3 billion litres a year. However, good peat-free composts are available and this is what we should be aiming to use. Indeed the Royal Horticultural Society is about 99% peat-free and the National Trust has been peat-free for several years and if they can produce the beautiful gardens they do without peat then so can we!

 

Item from Comment May 2020

ECO CHURCH - CREATION CARE As I write this, in the middle of a pandemic, it is unlikely that for many of us ecological and climate matters are at the forefront of our thinking. We know that many people are anxious about health, jobs or money, are ill, grieving or working extremely hard and we hold them all in our thoughts and prayers. But there have been some interesting side effects of the situation we find ourselves in. On a personal level, without the constant aeroplane vapour trails the sky is bluer, with less traffic noise the birdsong is more vivid and, having lost the freedom to venture very far afield, the spring blossom and the greening of the trees in the parks and gardens is all the more precious.

On a national and global level the air is cleaner, with the brown pollution that hangs over cities and industrial centres shrinking within days of lockdown. Levels of carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide have fallen in many countries by as much as 40%, greatly improving air quality and reducing the risks of asthma, heart attacks and lung disease.

With considerably less flying, road traffic and industrial activity, our use of fossil fuels has reduced and emissions of CO2 for the year are set to be significantly down. Potentially this is good news for the climate, but, once the lockdown is eased, will we simply return to life as before? Many people are finding that working from home is perfectly possible (my neighbour has found it easier to concentrate than in his usual open-plan office!) so maybe some of this will continue, which would, for instance, reduce the amount of commuter traffic. Some of us – if not all! - are finding pleasure in a simpler, slower way of life and maybe some people are finding that they can, after all, survive without their shopping habit. Hopefully the increased sense of community and appreciation of our key workers will last beyond the immediate crisis.

But ultimately there are decisions affecting the planet that have to be made at government level and what this crisis has shown us is that governments can act radically and decisively and with considerable resources when they think something is important enough. Out of control climate change would pose more of a threat to humanity than coronavirus so moving the world towards the use of renewable energies and away from fossil fuels cannot just be left to the oil companies and market forces. Once this crisis is over, if we are to care for God’s world and its people, governments have to put green issues at the top of their agendas and it is up to us to insist that they do.

Commenting on spring happening all around us and the way that some wildlife is finding conditions better during the lockdown – hedgehogs are likely to have a bumper year, for example, with far fewer dying on the roads - a friend sent me this quotation: “Mother Nature’s message to us all - “You are not necessary. The earth, air, water and sky without you are fine. When you come back, remember that you are my guests. Not my masters.””

 

Item from Comment June 2020

CREATION CARE - CLIMATE CHANGE AND CORONAVIRUS    As time goes on, a number of parallels and connections are emerging between the world-wide coronavirus crisis and the climate change emergency. In the first place, with increasing globalisation, we cannot fail to be aware of the interconnectedness of all peoples and countries, with a new virus able to spread throughout the globe in a mere few months. Actions taken in one country can affect not just that country but those on the other side of the world, which is true both in the management of the virus and the climate. We are one world and both issues need co-operation at global level. A sad fact is that the people most at risk from Covid-19, as well as the old, are turning out to be the poor. The same can be said to be true for the effects of climate change, with the poorest countries – who have done the least to cause global warming – suffering the worst from its effects. The inequalities in the world, and even within our own country, are only too obvious. But could the causes of climate change also have something to do with the outbreak of the coronavirus? Well, it seems there might be a connection. It is becoming apparent that, in all sorts of ways, humankind has been taking too many liberties with the natural world, encroaching too far. We know that habitat loss caused by us is threatening the extinction of many species, but it also seems that, as we disrupt the ecological balance, the possibility of viruses passing from animals to humans increases. Two years ago, scientists predicted a new coronavirus would emerge from bats in Asia, partly because this was the area most affected by deforestation and other environmental pressures. South America, with the alarming destruction of the Amazon rainforest, is considered a similar risk. There is complex science here and plenty of food for thought. In every way, it seems, it is Christian values which are needed more than ever to tackle these world-wide issues. Prayers for peace and justice have long been part of our thinking and we must continue to work for these at all levels. For co-operation rather than competition between countries, for economic justice and greater equality and for economic growth to be less important than health and well-being for us and our world.