Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bio-fuels contribute to hunger and climate change

Anglican Journal reports:
...there are people around the world who are starving because more and more land is being dedicated to cash-rich fuel crops like corn instead of food.

These were some of the points raised at a recent forum, Connecting the dots on the food crisis, sponsored by Kairos, the Canadian ecumenical justice organization, of which the Anglican Church of Canada is a member. The forum explored the root causes of the food crisis in the Global South, including the push for agro-fuels in rich countries like Canada and the U.S., the decades-long liberalization policies of governments, and the growth of agri-business transnational corporations.

John Dillon, program co-ordinator of Kairos, talked about how large-scale agro-fuel production for export has not only given way to hunger but also to exploitation of farmers who work in “slave-like conditions” in plantations, most of which are owned by trans-national corporations that enter into joint ventures with local landlords. (For example, since the U.S. cannot supply all the demand for corn ethanol, agri-business corporations have been importing agro-fuels from Asia, Latin America, and Africa.)
Ethanol was supposed to have been a better, cleaner fuel, but studies have shown that its production actually accelerates climate change. “While burning ethanol produces about 12 per cent to 13 per cent less greenhouse gases than petroleum, it is not a ‘clean’ fuel since it also emits carcinogens and increases atmospheric ozone,” said Mr. Dillon in a briefing paper published in 2007 where he cited a study conducted by the U.K.-based Institute of Science in Society. For instance, sugarcane is burned before harvest or forests are burned in order to clear it for palm oil plantations, causing a massive release of CO2 into the atmosphere.

With ethanol increasingly getting a bad reputation, many corporations are now looking for the next big fix, said Mr. Dillon, adding that cellulose is now being touted as an alternative. Mr. Dillon said groups like Kairos prefer to push governments to push in the direction of energy conservation and efficiency, and a re-examination of the pattern of consumption in the West.

“A study by the U.S. Congressional Budget Office found that reducing gasoline consumption by 10 per cent through an increase in fuel economy standards would cost consumers and industry about U.S. $3.6 billion a year,” said Mr. Dillon in his paper, Are agrofuels alternatives to oil? “To replace the same amount of gasoline by producing more ethanol would cost over US$10 billion in government subsidies.”

Friday, November 28, 2008

Low carbon Christmas

I know it is only the beginning of Advent - but here are some suggestions for 12 Days of Low Carbon Christmas from the National Council of Churches. Some good ideas - not so sure the group who wrote these know what it is like to live at 5000+ feet in Wyoming in the winter!!

The Low Carbon 12 Days of Christmas

1. Send Electronic Christmas Cards: Sending your Christmas greetings electronically is good for Creation because it saves trees. If you want to send a personal Christmas greeting to close friends and family, use recycled paper to make your own Christmas Cards.

2. Make Your Own Decorations: This can become a wonderful family tradition. Use recycled materials or natural materials like pinecones, leaves, vines. Making your own Christmas wreath out of materials you collected is carbon neutral and positively fun!

3. Buy a Living, Local Christmas Tree: Start a tradition of planting your Christmas tree in your yard or on your church grounds after Christmas. You can even put a message in a bottle underneath the tree thanking God for the year’s blessings. Your planted tree becomes a Christmas gift for creation and a living family memory for years to come!

4. Use LED Christmas Lights: These lights use around 90% less energy than incandescent Christmas lights. Look for lights that are Energy Star approved. Remember to conserve energy and not to leave them on all day or overnight. 

5. Do Your Christmas Shopping with Reusable Bags: Less plastic bags means less energy is used to produce them, and therefore less carbon is released into the atmosphere.
6. Give Responsibly: Buy gently used gifts like books and toys or non-material gifts like a national parks pass or event tickets rather than products. If you are good at making crafts, consider making gifts for your loved ones.
7. If you buy traditional gifts, minimize your carbon foot print by purchasing Local and energy efficient gifts that are minimally packaged. Click here for ideas.

8. Use Reusable or Recycled Gift Wrap: You will save energy by reducing the need to produce wrapping paper and help reduce global warming pollution.

9. Practice Alternative Giving: Donate to a charity in a friend or family member’s name. Ideas here

10. Limit Your Travel: If you need to travel to be with family ride with other friends and family to reduce the per person carbon emissions or take the train. In general, driving results in fewer carbon emissions than flying, especially when driving a moderately fuel efficient vehicle at or below the speed limit with properly inflated tires.

11. Serve Local Food for Christmas Dinner: Consider serving a locally raised main course, but if a local ham or turkey is too pricey, serve a few side dishes made with local vegetables. This is a tasty way to reduce the number of miles food has to travel to get to your plate, which in turn helps reduce carbon emissions.

12. Remember Why We Celebrate! Christmas is a time to celebrate God’s gift of Jesus Christ, a savior who will bring peace to Earth (Luke 2: 11-14), through whom all things came into being (John 1:3) and through whom God reconciled all things (Colossians 1:19).

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Religious recycling

Treehugger reports:
Fifty years ago the Heineken Beer company looked at reshaping its beer bottle to be useful as a building block. It never happened, so Buddhist monks from Thailand's Sisaket province took matters into their own hands and collected a million bottles to build the Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew temple. It puts every other bottle building we have shown to shame.

Read more at the Treehugger website.