A body born again

Book Review: Metanoia by Anna McGahan.

Once I started reading this remarkable book I was hooked. I want to tell you why I think it is so worth reading.

Continue reading “A body born again”

Buy only “good” chocolate for a month

Monthly challenge

November challenge

It’s not such a hard challenge, really. Eating chocolate I mean.

But the good news is that it’s also not so hard to eat “good” (i.e. ethical) chocolate these days.

If you don’t want to be complicit in slavery, child labour, poor working conditions for poor workers or unsustainable practices (and I’m sure you don’t!), then be discerning in the chocolate you buy.

Finding ethical chocolate

The best way to find ethical chocolate is to look for a certification logo. Fair Trade is probably the best, but UTZ and Rainforest Alliance are also good. Chocolate showing one of these logos is certified by that organisation to be ethically sourced.

Once the only way to get ethical, certified chocolate was to buy a specialty brand, but now most supermarkets carry several small ethical brands plus some certified chocolate from the mainstream suppliers.

The public demand for ethically-sourced chocolate seems to have been effective, for now most of the major chocolate brands have programs that are leading to more ethical practices by their suppliers. None of them are fully ethical and sustainable, but many are well on their way and aim to be fully sustainable within a year or two.

The Australian anti-slavery organisation Be Slavery Free (formerly Stop the Traffik) has assessed the traceability, transparency and accountability, child labour monitoring and remediation, community investment, community participation, access to education, women’s empowerment and living income of all major supply chains.

On this assessment, Ferrero, Hershey and Lindt & Sprüngli (“Cocoa Farming Program”) seem to be doing the best, while Mars, Mondelēz (“Cocoa Life”) and Nestlé (“Cocoa Plan”) are not so far down the path. (I should also give an honourable mention to the smaller company, Tony’s Chocolonely, which is 100% sustainable.)

So armed with this up-to-date information, you can enjoy your chocolate with a good conscience. And maybe you won’t need to stop at a month, but just keep going!

Check out the Be Slavery Free report, A Matter of Taste, to see the ratings and read the latest on working conditions on cocoa plantations and the efforts to bring justice to the workers.

Photo by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

Christianity, pluralism and truth

This challenging book was published 7 years ago, but I hadn’t come across it until I found it in a pop-up bookshop selling off remaindered books. I thought it would have something interesting to say to me, and I was right. It raises some important issues and I think it is worth sharing where it took me.

Continue reading “Christianity, pluralism and truth”

Addressing climate change: six facts

This page in brief

We have seen that there are many good reasons to take action to limit global warming. But will it cost too much?

On this page, I summarise the latest data on costs, which show that it will be far more costly to do nothing. Action is very cost-beneficial. (I give references to the information behind this conclusion, on my page The cost of climate action.)

1. Not as costly as you think

You might think, judging by the way some people talk, that addressing climate change would destroy the capitalist system and send us all back to subsistence living. But it isn’t true.

Assuming we start with the most cost effective measures (some of which will actually save money rather than cost money), the cost of addressing climate change this century will likely be in the range of 1-5% of global GDP, with lower costs early on and greater costs later.

Combatting climate change won’t cost the earth. (For more information, see Cost estimates.)

2. Act now or pay more later

The longer the world community takes to get greenhouse gas reduction on target, the more severe the action will need to be. That will cost more, and increase the risks of permanent damage.

3. Additional benefits

Acting on climate change to keep global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees is projected to have other benefits.

  • Health benefits (e.g. from reducing air pollution) are estimated to be more valuable than the costs.
  • Climate action will lead to the building of new infrastructure that is also more capable of withstanding natural disasters that are not caused by climate change, with a significant financial benefit.
  • The world’s ecosystems provide enormous financial benefits that are not always accounted for. These assets are at risk from climate change, and taking effective action will thus provide significant financial benefits.

4. Do nothing, pay more

It is doubly difficult to estimate the costs of not addressing climate change to the end of this century because of the difficulty of extrapolating the scientific models and the difficulty of estimate costs that far into the future.

But the many studies agree that continuing to burn carbon so that the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere keeps increasing and global temperature rise by 4 degrees or more by the end of the century will have costs somewhere between 1 and 4 times the costs of taking action.

When the indirect costs noted above and the harm caused to people and animals are included, it is clear that not taking action isn’t a sensible option. (For more information, see Doing nothing is not an option.

5. Fossil fuels are heavily subsidised

Government subsidies for fossil fuels amount to a staggering $5.2 trillion, 6.5% of GDP and eliminating these subsidies would make available an amount equivalent to 1.7% of GDP. (I don’t understand why these two percentages are so different.) These subsidies include both direct government subsidies, and the costs of pollution, climate change and other environmental & health impacts which fossil fuel companies don’t pay. (For more information, see Subsidies.)

6. Renewable energy is competitive

Around the world, the cost of generating electricity from renewable sources has been dropping fast. From now on, in most cases, it will be cheaper and less risky to use wind, solar, hydropower and/or other renewable sources than to build expensive coal-generation power stations. If direct and indirect subsidies are removed, coal generation becomes even less viable. (For more information, see Costs of electricity generation.)

The bottom line

The world stands to gain by climate action, and action is feasible and cost-beneficial. However it appears that a few rich people and large companies stand to lose. As will be seen in my final post on climate change, they are fighting to protect their interests, and influencing voters and governments to delay action as long as they can.

Photo: Pixabay on Pexels.

Short-sighted selfishness rules, OK? Part 2

The story so far ….

A few weeks back I outlined how lack of foresight and turning a blind eye to facts means the Australian government is harming the people it represents and the country it governs.

In this post I continue the sorry story with some facts about how our government, and most other governments in the world, are harming the poor and vulnerable in the world.

All of this based on the greater detail I provide in a new climate change series of pages.

Damaging the world, especially the poor

Climate change is already doing enormous harm, which will only get worse. Here’s a few hotspots.

Bangladesh

Because of climate change, Bangladesh has extra water coming at it from two directions. Increased snow melt in the Himalayas has worsened the flooding in the low-lying largest river delta on Earth, while sea levels have risen in the Bay of Bengal faster than elsewhere, pushing the larger cyclonic storm surges further up the delta. The land is very low-lying, so roughly every five years more than half the country is inundated. If these changes continue as predicted, 30 to 50 million people could be displaced. And those who stay have to organise to battle to survive.

Perversely, at the same time, drought is increasing in parts of the country away from the rivers.

North Africa and the Middle East

In the past few decades, parts of North Africa have suffered from severe drought, famine and malnutrition. Yet as climate change bites, there will be reduced rainfall across large areas of Africa, making the problems even worse. This will be devastating for poor, often subsistence rural communities.

Nepal

Farming in Nepal is often carried out on steep land which is prone to the fast runoff of rainfall, and consequent erosion. As climate change is taking effect, summer rains are coming later and over a shorter period, so more runs off the steep slopes. This increases soil erosion and reduces the water available at the crucial stage for the crops, making farming more difficult.

Pacific Islands

In many Pacific Islands, much, if not all, of their land is low-lying and close to the sea. As the sea level slowly rises, salt water percolates into wells that are the main source of fresh water, and storms push waves further inland.

Sometimes the waves wash over an entire small island, making them less viable to live on. On larger islands flooding and storm damage is increasing. For example, in the Solomon Islands, several villages have been washed away.

In a curious twist, sometimes the waves deposit sediment on the larger islands, meaning they are growing in size even as the ocean levels are rising. But experts are still concerned that as sea levels rise further, the larger islands will begin to be eroded away as is happening to the smaller islands.

An Aussie embarrassment

Australia is part of the Pacific region and has had strong links with many Pacific Island nations. Many islanders work (especially playing professional Rugby!) in Australia at some time in their lives. Australia is a member of the Pacific Islands Forum, and its population and economy are larger than all the other members combined.

At the recent 2019 forum, Pacific Island leaders pressed the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to act decisively to ameliorate climate change impacts on their countries, but the PM refused, based on (1) his own government is divided on climate change, (2) he wasn’t willing to harm the Australian economy, even if that placed our Pacific neighbours at serious risk, (3) Australia’s contribution to greenhouse gases is dwarfed by China’s, and (4) Australia offered half a billion dollars in aid to assist in combatting the effects of climate change.

Several Pacific leaders felt Australia was insensitive and patronising, and Australia’s reputation in the Pacific has clearly been damaged.

Habitat

The world’s natural systems and species numbers have already been degraded by human activity. Now, as droughts increase, land and oceans heat up and ice melts, habitats experience further change.

  • In Africa, some species are expected to be halved in number by the end of the century.
  • In the Americas, climate change could cause the loss of 10% of indigenous species by 2050 (on top of the 30% loss since European colonisation).
  • The polar bear is especially at risk. Polar bears live and hunt on the Arctic sea ice, which has lost 40% of its summer area in 40 years. Unless something is done immediately, summers could be sea ice free within a few decades.
  • Australia has had the largest rate of species extinction in the world over the past 200 years (since European colonisation). Now almost half of our threatened species are at vulnerable due to climate change.
  • And in the Pacific, massive degradation of up to 90% of coral reefs is expected.

This potential loss of habitat and species has implications for humanity too. The natural world provides many vital benefits to the human race (for example, crop pollination, water purification, flood protection and carbon sequestration). Globally, these services are worth an estimated $US 125-140 trillion per year, more than one and a half times the global GDP. Climate change puts much of this at risk.

Short-sighted selfishness

It is breath-taking how foolish this all is. If a similar diagnosis was given for our own health, we would take immediate action. But the rich, generally middle-aged, generally white, almost always men who hold the power in government and the economy seem unable to lift their eyes from profit and votes to take decisive action.

Hopes and threats

There is hope. As I’ll outline in my next post, the cost of decisive action is not nearly as much as you might think, and definitely affordable.

But the threats come from those with most to lose if we take action, and they are active in creating misinformation and outright dishonesty about climate change, as I’ll show in the following post, which examines whether climate change is a conspiracy.

Don’t miss them!

Photo: The Ministry of the Australian Government, from the website of the Prime Minister – with prophetic modification by unkleE.

Start using re-usable produce bags

Monthly challenge.

October challenge

We all know that plastic has got out of control. I can remember when I was a boy and plastics became more readily available and it was great! Suddenly cups were almost unbreakable.

But now plastics are littering land and sea, killing animals and fish that swallow them or get tangled up in them. If you have done community clean-ups as I have done, you’ll know that discarded plastic – bottles, cups, packaging and broken pieces – is everywhere.

And we all know that single use plastic is the worst. Some plastic bags are used for only few minutes to bring food home from the shops, and then discarded, often to lie in waste for years.

Hang on, help is on it’s way!

To the rescue comes all manner of crafty people, with their home-made produce bags. Keep them in your shopping basket, take them to the shops, and use them in the fruit and vegetable market to replace the single use plastic bags that are on offer there (though hopefully not for much longer!). Take the fruit and vegetables home, pack them away and store the bags for next time.

There are bags in different sizes, shapes and colours. Here are three makers in Australia (as shown left to right in the photo above), but I’m sure you can find some online wherever you live (just search for “produce bags”).

What’s not to like?

“A little child shall lead them”?

I usually post matters that I have researched carefully and can present in a reasoned and calm way.

This may be more of a rant, or a bleat, or a lament.

We all know who this is

In just 12 months, Greta Thunberg has come from total obscurity, just another teenager, to become a world celebrity.

Continue reading ““A little child shall lead them”?”

Discipleship, ecology and everyday economics

Book review: Coming Home by Jonathan Cornford

I heard Jonathan Cornford speak at a conference a couple of years ago, and he was one of the most interesting and challenging speakers I have ever heard. So when I saw this book published earlier this year, I quickly bought it.

It didn’t disappoint.

Continue reading “Discipleship, ecology and everyday economics”
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