ridicule and deformity or imagination itself?


©carol kingston-smith

The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity… and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the person* of imagination, nature is imagination itself. William Blake



*Person is my editorial addition. Blake was a person of his time and used ‘man’ 🙂

Churches and Sustainable Communities conference (part 3)

Part 3 of Richard’s blog…looking st science and theology in the light of Sir John Houghton’s short talk updating us on climate change and the church. Incidentally, climate change and its impact will be the main theme of next year’s conference…more details to follow in due course. Andy

Bread ovens and bicycles

This week I am reflecting on a conference I attended at the weekend, see part 1 and part 2 for more information.

Sir John Houghton

After lunch we had a short, informal session with Sir John Houghton who is a highly respected climate scientist, former head of the Met Office, founding member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and president of the John Ray Initiative.  He has recently published his autobiography, In the Eye of the Storm, which is a great book.  It gives a fascinating insight into the development of meteorology, a discipline which exploded through the second half of the twentieth century with the development of computers and satellite technology.  Sir John was at the forefront of the field all the way through those changes and the book charts his journey as he faces storms of public opinion, bureaucratic obstinance and powerful vested interests.

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Food waste and food loss

An excellent post on food waste/loss – thanks Jeremy for pointing out this interesting (and challenging!) research.

Make Wealth History

This week the World Bank has been highlighting the problem of food waste, reinforcing previous findings that between a quarter and a third of the world’s food is lost or wasted.

I’ve written about this before, pointing out that this happens in developing countries as well as overconsuming Western ones. The World Bank report gives us a breakdown between the two, which I’ve not seen before.


In deciding which part of the world has a bigger problem, bear in mind that roughly one in seven of the world’s people live in developed countries.

The report also gives us a helpful distinction between food that is ‘lost’ and food that is ‘wasted’.

Food loss is the bigger problem in developing countries, and “typically occurs at the production, storage, processing, distribution, and marketing stages of the food value chain. It is the unintended result of technical limitations or poor infrastructure.”


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Churches and Sustainable Communities conference (part 1)

Thanks Richard for this blog post with your thoughts on the JRI/Redcliffe Environment Day Conference last Saturday. I look forward to reading the remaining posts during the week. Andy

Bread ovens and bicycles

I’m fairly sure the first rule of blogging is to choose your topic and stick to it.
With that advice in mind, and with apologies to anyone who follows this blog for recipes, or for bread, or for songs, or for sermons, or for anything else that I’ve posted on in the past I’m now going to throw yet another topic into the mix!

More and more the focus of my thinking is turning to environmental issues, and in particular the theological/spiritual aspects of the current crises ( intentional plural!).  I am in the middle (or, to put it more realistically, near the beginning…) of writing my dissertation on the different images we can use to think about how humans relate to the rest of the natural world – are we ‘stewards’ or ‘priests’ or ‘masters’ or simply ‘creatures’?  I will probably write a bit more about that another time…

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Sustainable growth is not scientifically credible

Further helpful comment on the incompatibility between the growth doctrine and sustainability…the maths simply don’t work out but our politicians refuse to acknowledge the scientific basis for this or the realities of human behaviour.

Make Wealth History

One of the regular objections to those who say that sustainability is incompatible with economic growth is that it is a political or ideological stance. We somehow want things to be simpler and greener and are only too happy to sacrifice a capitalist system that we disapprove of anyway.

This is a convenient but entirely unfounded accusation. It’s a matter of maths. Calculate the levels and rate of decarbonisation required to stabilise the climate, and there is simply no way it can be achieved in an economy that is growing.

I’ve written about these calculations before. They’re in Tim Jackson’s book Prosperity Without Growth, in nef’s report Growth Isn’t Possible, and (albeit inadvertently) McKinsey’s Carbon Productivity Challenge. Here’s another from Post Carbon Pathways.

In a paper that explores the Environmental Kuznets Curve, the rebound effect and decoupling, Samuel Alexander explains just what would need to happen to…

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Climate Justice – Contemporary developments in science, policy, action and theology

Last week we featured Martin & Margot Hodson’s chapter on climate justice in Carnival Kingdom.

In this chapter, they provide an update on the science and policy of climate change. This is one of the key issues facing humanity this century and the most negative impacts will be on the poorest in the world. They investigate climate justice through advocacy and mitigation and their theological reflection offers a clear biblical foundation for caring for creation though ethical living, practical action and advocacy.

Here are a few excepts:-

The poor are affected worst (by climate change) wherever they happen to be. We immediately think of the poor in the developing world who are taking the brunt of the effects of climate change, but we should also remember events like Hurricane Katrina in 2005, …which devastated New Orleans in the richest country in the world, the United States. The well off were able to escape the worst effects of the hurricane whilst many of the poor were left behind to cope with the devastation. Although the developed West is responsible for the vast majority of the emissions, it will be the poor who suffer most.

So where do we stand now on climate change in the global policy arena? Sir Bob Watson is a former chair of the IPCC and former chief scientist at the Department for Food and Rural Affairs, and frequently writes and speaks on climate change. Interviewed by the BBC in August 2012 he had this to say: “I have to look back on [the outcome of successive climate change summits] Copenhagen, Cancun and Durban and say that I can’t be overly optimistic. To be quite candid the idea of a 2°C target is largely out of the window.””

In August 2011 over 1000 peaceful demonstrators were arrested outside the White House in Washington D.C. at a demonstration coordinated by Bill McKibben and 350.org. The demonstration concerned the building of the Keystone XL pipeline…The potential for carbon emissions from tar sands products is huge. Those arrested at the demonstration included Bill McKibben, James Hansen and the actress Daryl Hannah. On November 6, 2011, twelve thousand people formed a human chain around the White House to protest against the pipeline. Four days later President Obama announced a delay in the decision on the pipeline permit until at least 2013, while further environmental reviews were carried out. As we write there is still a battle going on over the pipeline with attempts to build sections of it being met by fierce resistance from 350.org and its allies.

n.b. – 350.org and friends are now planning what they hope will be the largest climate change demonstration ever on Feb. 17 to keep up the pressure on the Keystone XL pipeline issue

As we look at the various ways in which we can respond to climate change, as Christians we should ask which response will reveal the new creation to those around us? In some situations it will be living in a new creation way by making the sort of lifestyle changes that are life-giving to the rest of nature on the planet. In other situations the response that will bring new creation will be one of advocacy, campaigning and direct action. The biblical description of the new creation has certain consistent features and three common strands emerge. The first is a restored harmony between God, humanity and the natural world. The second is a realisation of human welfare for the redeemed, the poor and the oppressed. The third is the establishment of a reign of justice and judgement on those who oppress.

Bio. details:-

Dr Martin J Hodson is a plant scientist and environmental biologist, and is Operation Manager for the John Ray Initiative. He was the tour scientist for the Hope for Planet Earth tours, and writes and speaks widely on environmental issues. He has over 90 research publications. His recent publications include Climate Change, Faith and Rural Communities (with Margot Hodson, 2011) and Functional Biology of Plants (with John Bryant, 2012).

Revd Margot R Hodson is Vicar of Haddenham Benefice in Buckinghamshire and was previously Chaplain of Jesus College, Oxford. She has taught Environmental Ethics at Oxford Brookes University and is on the boards of The John Ray Initiative and A Rocha UK. Margot has published several books including Cherishing the Earth, (co-authored with Martin Hodson, 2008), and Uncovering Isaiah’s Environmental Ethics (Grove Booklet E161, 2011).

Christian Perspectives on Water – local and global challenges in times of scarcity and plenty

The latest edition of the Redcliffe journal encounters is now out, and you can read the articles here (slides accompanying the articles are also available):-


The text of my editorial is set out below.

A warm welcome to this edition of encounters, focused around the theme of water. A number of aspects relating to water are considered in contemporary local and global contexts, and what clearly emerges is the need to engage critically (and missionally) with the challenges presented by this most precious of resources.

Water is the fountain of life – we can’t live without it, and we can’t seemingly manage too
much of it. This century will see increasing challenges of shortage and saturation, droughts and floods. Water is the bringer of life for all, yet a deadly enemy for many. In an unequal world where water resources will increasingly become a trigger point for conflict, how should Christians engage with the challenges of development, sanitation, climate change and political and social unrest? What does the Bible have to say? What should our Christian mandate be in caring for our global neighbours experiencing the sharp-end of water-related problems? What might some of the solutions be?

The annual Redcliffe College/John Ray Initiative (JRI) Environment Day conference, held
last March in partnership with tearfund and Water Aid, provided thought-provoking talks and interactive seminars addressing some of these issues, as well as first-hand accounts of how people in the Global South, in particular, are being impacted by water concerns today.

The three main talks that day have now been transcribed and edited versions below have been reproduced for this edition of encounters.

The first article by Frank Greaves and Sue Yardley (tearfund advisers) takes a snapshot of
the global situation, before focusing on aspects of sanitation and policy, in the context of
Tearfund’s WASH programme. One of the interesting (and tragic!) aspects of water is that so much of the physical world is made of water, and yet only a tiny fraction of it is practically available to us for drinking and for agriculture. With so much of the stuff around, scarcity can hardly be the culprit, and yet it is the ‘scarcity’ of fresh water that fuels so much conflict over the scramble for this resource. Ironically, we are deluged with it at times, without being able to contain the same. Tearfund, and others, are employing innovative techniques and practices in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, as part of their mission to help communities become more healthy and self-sufficient in their daily use of water.

In the second article, Dr John Bimson takes us through a brief tour of the Old Testament
‘water-scape’. It is important to note how significant water was for the biblical Hebrews; the
significance of this life-giving and life-sustaining liquid was given a theological meaning by
Jesus in those well-known words in John’s Gospel.

The third article from the Conference is a fascinating case study of two projects
geographically-close together in rural Tanzania. Barbara Brighouse provides a critical
analysis of the successes, and failures, of the water projects she has been involved in,
sometimes with surprising results. If one ever doubts how vital water is to rural villagers, then the crocodile story shows that for the poor, it really is a matter of life and death.
Please note that these three talks have accompanying slides, which illustrate (and make
sense of!) the content of the articles, so, if you can, do read these in tandem with the
pictures – it will help!

The last two articles are contributions from two prolific bloggers, Jeremy Williams (Make
Wealth History) and Steve Moreby (Next Starfish), and I have enjoyed following their
creative and absorbing array of writing topics. In his article Jeremy illustrates the scale of the challenge required to contain the ever-advancing Saharan desert, whilst providing biblical examples of the importance of trees in the biblical context. Steve’s appeal is a challenge to the Christian community not to neglect the environmental duty to look after precious resources. Less material consumption and better stewardship should be key markers of our love for God and all that He has made.

This is mission, perhaps not as we know it, but the issues raised here inextricably-link the
material world with human existence. They serve to remind us again of that critical question; ‘who is my neighbour?’ How do you answer that, and what are the implications for you personally, and your work?

We look forward to receiving your feedback, so please join in the conversation by giving us
your critiques, comments and questions!