Thursday, 30 July 2009

How to post comments

We have just finished a short video showing everyone how to post comments on the blog. Posting comments is a very useful way for you to express your ideas about what is being posted on the blog. We hope you find the video useful As usual, you can see it right here on the blog itself, or go to the Ecocongregation Scotland Channel in Youtube.

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Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Viewpoints on Hell and High Water by Alastair McIntosh

This is a contribution by Alastair McIntosh on his newest book entitled
Hell & High Water: Climate Change, Hope and the Human Condition
(Birlinn, Edinburgh 2008, £8.99)

This book might be relevant to eco-congregations. It’s in two parts. The first summarises, in plain language, the current science of climate change. I look at the world situation and also, at the case study of Scotland. Towards the end of Part 1 the book becomes different from most climate change books. I move on to looking at arguments such as those which compare climate change with the “Spirit of the Blitz”, or abolishing slavery.Sorry to say, I have to conclude that the order of magnitude of change that’s required bears no comparison to these historical precedents.

In my view it’s all very well to pass aspirational climate change bills, but unless people really want radical change the politicians won’t be able to deliver what needs to be done.

As matters stand today, people will go along with small change. They’ll change light bulbs and insulate the loft at home or in churches. But we have to be careful not to make a fetish out of these practical steps. If they’re not carried out with a deeper spiritual analysis, they risk displacing our attention from the really big questions.

Part two of the book attempts to tackle those big questions. For me, they’re about the human condition and what it is that drives consumerism. Along with population growth, consumerism is the cutting edge of climate change. But to tackle it we must face up to human condition.

This is where faith groups can play a vital role. In my view, eco-congregations are selling themselves short if they only tackle the practicalities of outer life. To really make a contribution, they have to additionally remind us that “bread alone” is not sufficient. Jesus started his preaching by making sure that the people were fed, but he didn’t stop there. Similarly, in tackling the outer life practicalities of climate change, we must also reach through to the inner life.

That means the discomfort of recognising consumerism for what it is – a form of idolatry. Jesus called it the worship of Mammon. In Jeremiah 2 we read: “For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water….”

In place of the idolatry of consumerism we need to build the resilience – both at personal levels and in our communities. We need the practical and spiritual resilience to face the come-what-may of the come-to-pass. I end the book by suggesting that consumerism is like any addiction. It offers a false way of satisfying what is really spiritual need. Different people and different groups will have their own way of addressing this. Here’s what I propose in concluding Hell and High Water and in justifying its subtitle, “Climate Change, Hope, and the Human Condition.”

A 12-Step Programme for Climate Change

1. We must re-kindle the inner life
2. We must value children’s primal integrity
3. We must cultivate psychospiritual literacy
4. We must expand our concept of consciousness
5. We must shift from violent to nonviolent security
6. We must serve fundamental human needs
7. We must value mutuality over competition
8. We must make more with less
9. We must regenerate community of place
10. We must build strong but inclusive identities
11. We must educate for elementality
12. We must open to Grace and Truth

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Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Different places to acces the video

The calculator table is also stored in the Church of Scotland website. The following video shows you how to log unto the Church of Scotland's website, how to download the carbon footprint calculator table unto your computer, and then, how to enter the data for the calculation. If you find the video screen far too small, you can also access the video with a wider screen through YouTube. You can find the Eco-Congregation Scotland YouTube Channel here.
Ready to Start?
The first thing you need to do is sit and watch the video (either in YouTube, or right here in the blog). You will find the video as you scooll down this blog. It is the little window with the image of the Eco-Congregation Scotland website. You can watch the video as many times as you like until the process becomes clear in your mind. Once you are ready to proceed, you will need to be connected to the Internet. You will also need to have your electricy/gas or/oil bill handy. You can then replicate the steps from the video in your own computer. Depending on the speed of your own connection to the Internet, it might take a bit of time for the video to download. Please be patient. Many thanks and please let us know if you find the video helpful. Any suggestions will be most welcome.

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Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Educational Videos: Eco-Congregation Scotland

We are happy to announce that Eco-Congregations Scotland has started a series of videos to help congregations become more ecologically friendly. The first video in the series deals with calculating the carbon footprint of the buildings of your church. In order to calculate your carbon footprint you need to download the carbon calculator table which is stored in the Eco-congregations website. The video listed right here on the blog shows you how to access the table within the Eco-Congregation Scotland website.

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Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Support for new Scottish Climate Change Targets

A senior Church of Scotland minister today welcomed the Scottish Government’s new climate change targets, but warned they were doomed to fail unless the people of Scotland were involved at a grassroots level. Speaking a day after the Scottish Parliament approved the trail-blazing Scottish Climate Change Bill, Reverend Ian Galloway, Convener of the Kirk’s Church and Society Council, said: “We warmly welcome the amendment to the Bill requiring the Scottish Government to publish a strategy for public engagement. Without an effective strategy the new law stands little chance of success. Congregations across Scotland, particularly Eco-Congregations will have vital role to play in coming months to help the Government get this right.”

A final day amendment tabled by Brian Adam, MSP for Aberdeen North, which requires the Scottish Government to publish a public engagement strategy, was agreed by MSPs of all parties.

Mr Adam said: “The opportunities are there for public engagement in delivering the aims of the bill and places duties on us all to reach the challenging targets in reducing our carbon impact. “I hope that others will follow the lead taken by the Eco-Congregations and Eco-Schools in making a difference.”
The MSP was supported in the amendment by the Church of Scotland and the Eco-Congregation Scotland movement, which represents over 200 congregations of all denominations across the country.

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perspectives from Bangladesh (2)

Dipty Linda And James Pender are Advisors with The Church of Bangladesh Social Development Programme. They are providing us with a direct view of the effects of climate change from Bangladesh. This is the second part of their unique viewpoint.

So on my return to Bangladesh in 2006 the moderator of the church gave me the task of looking into how climate change would affect the poor people that the church seeks to serve through its development programme. Some of the results have been published in the report Bangladesh and Climate Change.

Unfortunately my findings arenot very encouraging CBSDP’s projects in north-west (Rajshahi), west (Meherpur) and central (Modhupur) Bangladesh are becoming increasingly drought prone; its projects in Dhaka, Barisal and Gopalganj Districts in the south are suffering from increasingly devastating floods; while communities on the coast are becoming threatened for their very survival.

I visited such a community on the coast quite near to where the Church of Bangladesh has one of its congregations near to the city of Khulna during a field trip from the 3rd International Conference on Community Based Adaptation to Climate Change which was quite heartbreaking: In the twin villages of Kolotola and Amtola as sea level rises and water flowing down the rivers in the dry season gets less, water supplies, and even the soil is becoming salty. This means that they can no longer grow vegetables and rice harvests are getting less and less, while they have to travel 6km for drinking water in the dry season from a pond where the water isn’t ‘good’ but at least not so much salt to make it undrinkable. If this wasn’t bad enough the reduction in dry season freshwater is reducing the productivity of the nearby Sundarbans (the largest mangrove forest in the world, containing Bengal Tigers) on which people traditionally relied for building materials, medicinal plants, and firewood, as well as reducing the amount of fish in the river during the dry season. Worst of all plenty of water in the river with its strong currents in the wet season, means the river is meandering towards the village at a rate of about 2 feet per year. Natural processes are involved but with the effects of climate change making them worse it cannot truly be called a ‘natural disaster’ in the making. When I asked Rattan the young man I was talking to what he would do when the river claimed his home? He simply shrugged his shoulders saying: “I will have nowhere to move to here, I guess I will just have to go to Dhaka city and try and find some work there”.

In rural Meherpur a long way from the coast, effects of climate change may be less dramatic but are none the less insidious, as we talked to village women in Govipur with Neil a visiting Methodist Minister, they showed that although of limited education and from simple farming families, they were in fact wise and insightful with their answers and clearly ladies who could read the ‘signs of the times’. New weather patterns that were affecting the crops their families were growing included: Fruits coming earlier, harvests latter, the hotter season was now longer, heavy rains were commoner, storms were now devastating crops, as well as longer periods of thicker fog. This was serious trouble for these farming families as these changes threatens their livelihoods; for example fog damaged wheat by encouraging fungal disease, and killed flowers of valuable litchi and mango trees reducing fruit harvests. When Rev. Neil asked the women what message they wanted him to take back to the UK these humble but confident ladies stated their message clearly and concisely: “People there should stop pollution, look after the environment and stop emitting greenhouse gases; for Western countries are increasing greenhouse gases but it is we in Bangladesh that are suffering!”

Sir John Houghton Chair or Co-chair of the Scientific Working Group of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) between 1988-2002 reminds us of words of Jesus spoken after he had told the parable contrasting the faithful and unfaithful stewards: “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required” (Luke 12:48). The challenge to our Christian churches and the opportunities with which they are presented are unmistakeable”. As former US Vice-President Al Gore, stated in his Noble Prize winning film Inconvenient Truth: “If you believe in prayer, pray that people will find the strength to change (in response to climate change)” and then he quoted an African proverb: ‘When you pray move your feet’!

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The Views from Bangladesh (part 1)

Dipty Linda And James Pender are Advisors with The Church of Bangladesh Social Development Programme. They are providing us with a direct view of the effects of climate change from Bangladesh

These days climate change is everywhere; in newspapers, on TV and within school curriculum, in fact even if you wanted too you can’t avoid the subject. Even in conversation if it’s been wet, windy, flooding, hot or cold somehow someone will blame the weather on climate change. Like it or hate the issue of climate change has gone mainstream, political leaders, business leaders and economists are even concerned; things have come a long way since the issue was promoted by left wing greenies in the late eighties and early nineties.

When I studied my degree in Environmental Studies in 1992 we were taught that Climate Change was a ‘possible’ problem, the details were unclear and perhaps we should do something to prevent it as a ‘safe precaution’. However, when I was back in the UK during 2006 shortly after the publishing of the Stern Report by a British economist on behalf of the British Government who astounded the world’s business community with his predictions on how climate change would affect the world’s economy, I realised things had changed, especially when later even oilmen like President George W. Bush endorsed the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change who unequivocally stated that climate change was now happening . People were no longer talking about ‘IF’ for climatic changes had already been measured and the link to modern human behaviour was unmistakable, but ‘HOW’ it was and would impact on the earth.

It can be all a bit confusing hidden in scientific gobbledygook but basically while we know human caused climate change is now happening we still don’t know exactly what will happen, how soon and precisely where. However, it is known that climate change in the next hundred years will be significant and by the year 2100 best estimates predict between a 1.8˚ C and 4 ˚C rise in average global temperature, although it could possibly be as high as 6.4˚ C. For the average Brit that does not sound too dramatic as our ever changing weather could lead to ‘four seasons in day’ as they say in Scotland anyhow. We are unlikely therefore to notice this kind of temperature difference in terms of ‘feeling warmer’, but for food production for example, this will be serious as harvests depend directly on climatic conditions (temperature and rainfall patterns) and could lead to food yields being reduced by as much as a third in the tropics and subtropics.

In terms of the impact of climate change few places in the world will experience the range of effects and the severity of changes that will occur in Bangladesh, which will include: Average weather temperatures rising; more extreme hot and cold spells; rainfall being less when it is most needed for agriculture, yet more in the monsoon when it already causes floods; melting of glaciers in the source areas of Bangladesh’s rivers altering the hydrological cycle; more powerful tornados and cyclones; and sea level rise displacing communities, turning freshwater saline and facilitating more powerful storm surges. The impact will be intensified by the fact that Bangladesh is both one of the most populated and one of the poorest nations on earth.

Bishop Paul Sarkar and Bishop Michael S. Baroi of The Church of Bangladesh, are both very concerned and have been highlighting the plight of Bangladesh as they travel to different countries for various church meetings and the latter, speaking of his fears about climate change said: “It would be a serious catastrophe for my country and for the whole region if much of the land in Bangladesh disappears under the sea. I become frightened to think that my grandchildren will have no place to live on this planet earth. I really want to be sure that they, and their children after them, will be able to enjoy the beauty of my country that I have enjoyed, and be able to have enough land to live and enough land for food”.

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