Tuesday 23 April 2013

Faith and Environment Conference at Lancaster 20 April 2013

A day conference in Lancaster - just 26 miles away by train (and 3 to the station) from where I live!

So I went to the railway station ...

To get to Lancaster means a 7 o'clock start from Giggleswick Station. The hoar frost sparkles on the platform .. and steams from the black creosote covered fencing.

Sheep en route looking up to the train
There are great views from the window. I say hello to a sheep below.

We are supposed to bring food to share at lunchtime that has low food miles..

 I have not had time to organise anything. The train arrives in Lancaster by 7.50am

Once in Lancaster I have an hour and a half to fill in..

I discover the Growing with Grace (Clapham)  organic vegetable stall- Great.-

GwG is 6 miles from where I live and  23 miles from  Lancaster. I choose assorted salad leaves, including purslane, grown  at Clapham, to take to the bring and share meal.


I walk to the  conference at Lancaster Methodist Church, (Past a new species of grass I have never found before -see end of post) at Scotforth Road, Lancaster, LA1 4TE
Here is a picture of the globe placed in front of the church for the conference

Here is the first speaker. 

I am glad he gives a reference to CEL, amongst other Christian organisations, as active in concern for the Environment. And note the CEL poster on the post (top right) that Gordon the organiser has put up.
They have done up the church nicely (about 10 years ago)

His job is to set the ecological scene and he does it excellently.  He is clear to follow and has good slides - I just wish he had been given three times as long (for the same amount of material).. or maybe that I had videoed the talk..

He quotes from the Bible, from Numbers.- They knew the importance of soil in early times: God asked Moses to send men to explore the land beyond the Negev desert. They had to find out the following:
Numbers 13 v 20 Is the soil rich or poor? Does the land have trees or not? Do your best to bring back some fruit from the land.

Soil is important to us now!. Our view of the world has not changed - the problems have just got bigger.

David has graphs of many things and they all had the same shape between Moses time 1000s year ago and now - the "hockey stick" shaped curve or exponential curve (This is a good post I just found now)

e.g. production of paper; water use;

The key driver is population.

In 1999 the world population was 6 billion.
10 years later it was 7 billion. 
In another 10 years it will be 8 billion.

He explains the effect of adding 1 billion people - if one just considered each person as using 1 60W lamp bulb 4 hours a day -- and it comes to a huge amount.

He said he would just talk about 3 limits to sustainability:
1. Biodiversity
2. Nitrogen Pollution
3. Climate Change.

Only 3% of the vertebrate biomass on land is now made up of Wild Animal (Smil, 1992).

Hmmm... did you know that?

 The other 97% is humans and their farm animals and pets. And one third of that biomass is made of humans, the other 2/3 is cow, sheep etc..

Miss Lamb/Sheep - did you know that..
I must admit I can't see
many wild animals in the field..

Habitat loss accelerates extinction.

Nitrogen Pollution

In 1913 The Harber process or Harbe Bosch process was developed so that we could produce ammonia and hence nitrogen fertilizers from nitrogen gas in the air. 
Since then food production and nitrogen fertilizer production has gone up (almost exponentially)
(Wikipedia:  Fertilizer generated from ammonia produced by the Haber process is estimated to be responsible for sustaining one-third of the Earth's population.[6] It is estimated that half of the protein within human beings is made of nitrogen that was originally fixed by this process; the remainder was produced by nitrogen fixing bacteria and archaea.[7])

We are very lucky, I suppose  that 100 years ago someone (Herr Bosch and friends) found out how to do this.. otherwise we could not have reached 7 billion.  We ought to be celebrating this..

However there are big problems with nitrogen fertilizer pollution. For example when the Mississippi empties its water in to the gulf of Mexico there is a hypoxic zone an area where the "sea is dead" because of lack of oxygen. the marine life has been destroyed or altered.

File:Mississippi River basin.jpg

Climate Change

CO2 and methane are a drivers for climate change. Although CO2 itself only gives 9-26% of the heating effect, it is increasing the concentration  of other gases which have big heating effects. CO2 inicreases the temperature which increases the water vapour which increases the temperature...

I have just followed the link given on this picture and can see where the graph came form :


There has not been a global temperature rise in the last few years. This could be because of "global cooling" - due to the  large quantities of smoke being produced by the industry of China. He showed as a graph which had a dip in 1880s due to smog caused by pollution, then a dip just after the war when industries got going again. Both dips were followed by a sharp rise in temperatures, ones the smog was reduced. 
(So the suggestion to "Let's cause some more global dimming bay having lots more industrial pollution/ smoke is not helpful, because after the pollution stops the temperature shoots up even more).

He mentioned that the Sulphur dioxide pollution that used to be bad has now reduced over the last 30 years and that soil pH has increased by about 1 unit in many places.

He mentioned the idea of Planetary Boundaries as proposed by a group in Sweden:  Everything is getting worse except ozone depletion. 

He talked about the current interest in Ecosystem Services 
some people think Nature can only be valued if a money cost is put on it. but there are different types of value systems.: Subjective economies; Absolute revealed Truth; Labour value. Energy Value .

We need to "Think globally and act locally".
Scientists with faith need to speak up. 
It can be difficult at times. He says that Bill McKibben has been quoted as being one of the 100 top most influential people in the world.


The second speaker is Stuart Walker 
he broadens the discussion by examining the impact of human behaviour and consumerism on sustainability. He talks about the Quadruple Bottom line of Sustainability. This involves (sort of ) Venn diagrams of three circles : 1. Pracitcal   2. Social and 3. Spritual (Personal Meaning) with Economic Means linking them.


Conversation with Franny Armstrong, producer of the film: "The Age of Stupid" 
- this film had been shown the previous evening.

Mark Rotherham of Lancaster interviews Franny Armstrong.
(Mark had made a short video about Operation Noah for Christian Ecology Link several years ago)

She describs how the characters they had chosen to interview for "The Age of Stupid" turned out to have much more interesting stories / lives than if the film producers had written the script.

She had said she is an atheist.
She isasked what motivated her to make the film. She said "I would hate to get to then end of life and not do what I would want to fight for. I think the continuation of the human species is worth fighting for.
We are so lucky to be alive". (In the sense of the chance of our parent meeting, then the chance of 1 sperm meeting one particular egg and getting fertilized)

She had organised the 10:10 campaign after the film. What was she going to do next?  At the moment she is very much enjoying looking after her new baby.

She is pessimistic about humankind's ability and chances of solving the climate change problem. 
She says, as it turned out all the main characters in the film are religious. 

Mark Dowd
had to leave fairly promptly after his talk to get on his bicycle to go into Lancaster to catch the train - I think it is great to see practical examples.

In his talk he said "We have to address three myths:
1 That Religion and Climate change have nothing to do with each other
2. Displacement Activity
3. "It's all too big"

2. Displacement Activity
Think of the person who makes a song and dance about recycling.. and then goes on holiday by plane to America or New Zealand.

He challenged us to think of our own displacement activities... So much of our activity is activity to keep where we are because we are not comfortable in our own skin... Restlessness has an energy pollution cost.
He suggested that obsession with scandal is a displacement activity.

John Smith
talked about the work of ARC (Alliance of Religion and Conservation). then he chaired a talk with three people on a panel - (CofE, Buddhist and Quaker- The fourth member (Moslem) had not been able to come because of health reasons)

Here is a photo of the speakers and (most of) the panel    

Below are some of the posters and leaflets I put out and up in the display area.
Click in the small picture on the right to see a larger version

Two extra bonuses (boni?)

Growing by some railings 100m south of the church was a NEW GRASS - for me - Ceratochloa carinata- California brome (I think)
IT comes from N America - California) but grows wild in a few places!
(Not sure whether I should be happy about species from outside coming in - they can be invasive.. but it is great for me to to have a new "tick") - Here is the distribution map from the NBN gateway.
Ceratochloa carinata (I think)

The second was that due to railworks, part of the trip back was by bus and there were excellent views over the hedges en route over the mid Lune valley.. 

..... But I wonder what the carbon foot print of my journey was -
(Oh it was 5.4 kg  train (4.4k) and 5 (1kg) miles car - 
and I bought a little table lamp to which I planned to attach an LED bulb - the better to look at my grasses with -  - is that another 20 kg carbon equivalent?)

To put it in context - to live an environmentally sustainable life, we should all use no more than an average of  6 kg carbon footprint a day - and the greenest of green people growing organic food etc use 2kg a day on food an probably 1kg a day cooking it.

I must admit with these figures it is sometimes hard to work out whether books are talking about carbon footprint or carbon dioxide equivalent footprint - (1 kg Carbon is equivalent to 3.66kg CO2)

Is this a distraction activity?

And think of the maybe 40% of the world's people who now -through the world use of the internet - can - read this blog and not be able to afford the 26 mile train ticket!

What an amazing wonderful world we live in.

Morning view from the train

1 comment:

jacqui lovell said...

I keep looking at various environment and eco friendly activities and am always diappointed by the number of white faces I see, my hope is that as well as working towards ecological and spiritual environmental protection we can also work towards integration with the communities in which we reside so that the diversity of people at our meetings genuinely reflects the diverse people with whom we live and work. jacqui lovell