Articles published in the Friend by members of the Meeting

17 January 2014

Zero Carbon Britain

Further to Janet Toye’s article in the Friend of  29th Nov. I was pleased to receive a copy of a summary of the key findings of the report “Zero Carbon Britain” by the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT).  CAT has been working on this for some years, and the report was launched at Parliament this summer, hosted by the All Party Climate Change Group.  The summary gives the main details and is concise and easy to read. It is full of common sense and is low impact, favourable to wildlife, and to our own health!  All good  things.

Land use features as an important factor in the report.  At present agriculture is responsible for a large amount of our CO2 emissions, due to the number of livestock we have.  The plan would mean reducing the amount of land devoted to pasture, and the numbers of animals on it, and growing much more woodland, some unharvested which would absorb CO2, some harvested and coppiced for heating and producing electricity..  There would be more peatland, mixed grassland and unmanaged land which would be good for wildlife.  Land producing food for livestock would be reduced, and land for food for us would be increased.  This would involve changes in our diet, so that we would eat less meat and dairy products and more vegetables, beans and nuts, all of which would mean a much healthier lifestyle.

As well as this change in land use, there would be “power down” and “power up” measures.  Power down means more insulation for new buildings, retrofit for existing ones, and efficiency improvements in electrical appliances.  Regarding transport, more walking, cycling, use of public transport, efficient electrical vehicles, and reducing flying, could cut our  energy expenditure on transport.

Power up would mean much more renewable energy schemes, especially wind, on- and offshore, solar, geothermal, hydro, tidal,  and biomass.  All these together could produce 100% of our electricity demand, without using nuclear or fossil fuels.

These changes together could create 1.5million new jobs in the UK.

Reuse and recycling are not specifically mentioned in the summary, but seem an obvious way to cut down on energy.

I found this report very exciting, although it does involve major changes in lifestyle and in work patterns, production and “development” (the favourite government term).

The CAT report appeals as it is low impact and ecological, in that it is working with nature, in contrast to the rather desperate geo-engineering of solar radiation management and similar manipulative processes that work against natural forces.  It also expands our testimonies, such as the peace testimony,  in that it is more non-violent towards other species, and it involves a simpler lifestyle.

The report was particularly pertinent, as I had just watched a presentation on line consisting of a talk about climate change.  David Roberts, the speaker, of  Evergreen State College, USA, said that we are in great danger of producing irreversible climate change and that, if we continue on our present course, the planet will become uninhabitable for humans and many other species in 1-300 years time, depending on what changes we can make now.  This means that for some of our descendents life will become intolerable, resulting in death from starvation, floods, storms, droughts and excessive heat.

The CAT report only applies to Britain, but if other countries did the same, global warming would be reduced accordingly.  Though it is written for the government, we as ordinary members of the public can do our bit by acting in our own small ways on the information given.

The whole report can be found on www.zerocarbonbritain.org or bought at the CAT Eco Store

Anne Adams

19 August 2011
Our Shared Future

“When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained; What is man that thou art mindful of him? ”

A good question, not to mention the wonderful diversity of species and habitats with their intricate webs of networks and relationships about which we are still largely ignorant. I was excited to find that both Thomas Berry, a Roman Catholic, and Michael Meacher, a secular searcher after truth, try to answer this question in rather similar ways. Both tell the story of the cosmos and the whole development from the “big bang” to the arrival of humans, which involves an almost unimaginable length of time, and an amazing amount of energy and inventiveness.

Both Berry and Meacher call for a new story which starts in cosmology, rather than human history. It means a shift in our perceptions and our world view. This holistic view was held by many previous civilisations and peoples, but we in the industrialised countries have somehow lost it. Consequently our extraordinary rapaciousness seems to be on the brink of destroying the earth, so much so that some predict our own extinction, plus, of-course, the extinction of many other species. We are living in a time-limited bubble, and a radical change of attitude is needed.

The particular thing which interests me is the “fine tuning” which Meacher describes. On so many occasions there seemed to be a choice as to which way evolution would go, and each time a creative way was chosen instead of one which would lead to a dead end. “Instead of an analytical, reductionist and arbitrary model of the universe ….a dramatically different subjective, holistic and purposeful one…” is discovered. This seems to point to a source of energy directing the development of the universe which could help us if we could attune to it.

The energy may manifest itself in many ways, depending on the material form which supports it. In humans it may manifest in our consciousness, and in our spirituality. So we have the possibility of allowing the spirit to work in us. This could account for the experiences of the mystics, early Friends, and of people today who are open to such occurences, and even some Quaker meetings for worship!

The energy needs direction, and as humans we have the responsibility to direct it in a constructive way, and one which will enhance rather than destroy the planet which has allowed us to flourish. We have a lot to learn about co-operation with other species and with the spirit. As Berry says “there is a single integral community of the Earth that includes all its component members, whether human or other than human. …every being has its own role to fulfill…”

However, we are reminded that “now we see through a glass, darkly” and only know in part. Perhaps the glass will clear at some point in the future and we shall see the whole?

Anne Adams

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