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Lifestyle changes can curb climate change: IPCC chief

Marlowe Hood, AFP
Don’t eat meat, ride a bike, and be a frugal shopper — that’s how you can help brake global warming, the head of the United Nation’s Nobel Prize-winning scientific panel on climate change said Tuesday.

The 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), issued last year, highlights “the importance of lifestyle changes,” said Rajendra Pachauri at a press conference in Paris.

“This is something that the IPCC was afraid to say earlier, but now we have said it.”

A vegetarian, the Indian economist made a plea for people around the world to tame their carnivorous impulses.

“Please eat less meat — meat is a very carbon intensive commodity,” he said, adding that consuming large quantities was also bad for one’s health.
(15 January 2008)

Satish Kumar on nature, spirituality and activism

John Vidal, Guardian
Satish Kumar has spent much of his life walking the Earth to spiritually connect with nature; now he wants environmentalists and all of us to forget gloomy predictions and follow in his footsteps.

It sounds like a tale from a more innocent and idealistic age. Forty-six years ago, when he was 19, Satish Kumar was sitting in a southern Indian cafe with a friend when they heard that 90-year-old English philosopher Bertrand Russell was going to prison as a protest against the spread of nuclear weapons. As Kumar tells it, the two companions were so impressed by Russell’s commitment to non-violence and civil disobedience, and so appalled at the potential destructive power of the weapons, that they “talked and talked” about what they could do.

In the end, Kumar, who had been trained, as a wandering Jain monk, to revere nature, but who had run away from the monastery to become a disciple of Vinoba Bhave, Gandhi’s spiritual successor, vowed with his companion to set off on a peace walk to the four corners of the nuclear world – Washington, London, Paris and Moscow – as an act of protest and non-violence.

Thirty months and 8,000 miles later, carrying no passport or money and having no idea what would happen when he finished, Kumar ended up at John F Kennedy’s grave in the US. The pilgrimage was over and, on one level, there was nothing to show for their effort. The world had more nuclear weapons than ever, and Kumar and his companion had worn out dozens of pairs of shoes.

But while for many people the idea of walking around the world carrying a simple message was an irrational, illogical and wholly unrealistic exercise, it has proved to have had great influence in Britain, where Kumar then settled. He has now spent 35 years in Devon teaching many of the world’s leading thinkers about the necessity for ecological and spiritual values, as well as editing the magazine Resurgence. His insistence that reverence for nature needs to be at the heart of the world’s political and social debate is the counterpoint to the insistent mantra of economic “realism” advocated and practised by government, environment groups and authorities.

Kumar has no time for realists. “Is my approach unrealistic?” he asks. “Look at what realists have done for us. They have led us to war and climate change, poverty on an unimaginable scale, and wholesale ecological destruction. Half of humanity goes to bed hungry because of all the realistic leaders in the world. I tell people who call me ‘unrealistic’ to show me what their realism has done. Realism is an outdated, overplayed and wholly exaggerated concept.”

Instead, he seeks to learn from nature, which he calls his guide and cathedral. “Nature is realistic, and I would say that man is the only being who is not,” he says. “Who else goes to bed hungry? Not the snakes or the tigers or any other animal. Nature does not need ‘realistic’ Tescos or Monsantos to feed themselves. Our system of ‘realistic’ business leadership has totally failed.”

Kumar argues that the spiritual aspect of the environment is what has been lost in the great debate about the way we live, and that the broad environment movement has not understood the power of concepts such as love and reverence, which are not to be confused with religion, he insists. “The environment movement here is very logical and analytical. But it is driven by doom, gloom and disaster.”

People look at nature from a very utilitarian point of view and see what is good for them only, he says, and seek to manage it rather than protect it. “I want to move people to a more experiential philosophy of the natural world,” he says. “That way you can protect it.” He sees no reason why governments and authorities should not be driven by philosophies of reverence to nature rather than violence to it.

“Social systems can be changed,” Kumar insists. “The ones we have now are not very old. The trouble is we are driven by fear and so we take panic decisions, like opting for nuclear power. At the moment, our culture is of violence – to nature, animals, people, ourselves. We are not protecting nature these days so much as managing it without knowing it. If you want to protect it, go out in it.”
(16 January 2008)
Comment by Giulio Sica at the Guardian: What part does spirituality play in the green movement?.

Christians playing their part in sustainability

Hilary Wakeman, The Southern Star (Cork, Ireland)
… Puzzling over all this, I went to see Jennifer Sleeman, of Clonakilty. Jennifer is the person mainly responsible for Clonakilty becoming the first Fair Trade town in Ireland… She is also an active member of her local Catholic church.

‘I am so disappointed in the clergy, and their attitude to the things that are going to afflict us all, like global warming,’ she says. ‘The clergy should be setting an example, and be seen to be doing it. There are exceptions, but most of them appear to be blind to it all.’

But if the church authorities are not involved, individual Christians certainly are. Most of Jennifer’s energy is now going into the setting up of the new environmental group, Sustainability Clonakilty. She got involved because she found herself thinking about her grandchildren and wondering ‘What are we doing to their world?’ Then a friend from Newry came to see her. He had experienced the pulling together of the community there as, together, they faced up to the current threat to the environment.

…And some church congregations are stirring, thanks to a new organisation called ‘Eco-Congregation Ireland’ that has sprung up out of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI). Five churches are involved: the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of Ireland, the Methodist Church in Ireland, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, and the Quakers. Congregations are beginning to ask how many light bulbs are on unnecessarily, and even whether they could install solar panels on the church roof or geothermal heating under the church floor. Parishes undertake an audit to work out how environmentally sound they are. After that they get free access to resources to help them to integrate care for the environment into different areas of church life.

As soon as the Quakers in Cork heard about Eco-Congregation Ireland they set up a public meeting called ‘Caring for Creation’. Quaker Tash Harty was impressed with how many church people came to it. The Church of Ireland bishop sent a representative, and there was an SMA priest and a retired Columbian priest. ‘And lots of nuns,’ she says – ‘they were great!’ And there were many ordinary churchgoers of all denominations.

… One of those good speakers is the Revd John Purdy, of the Methodist circuit of West Cork. ‘Eco-Congregation Ireland is designed to encourage everybody to greater ecological awareness,’ he says. At first, some of the local farmers thought they were attacking the farming community, when they talked about Fair Trade produce. That is, until they realised the emphasis was also on locally produced food, organically grown and animal-friendly.

…Another way to go is that of the Transition Towns. Kinsale is the first such town in all of Ireland. According to the TT website, ‘A Transition Initiative is a community that is unleashing its own latent collective genius to look Peak Oil and Climate Change squarely in the eye and to discover and implement ways to address this big question.’

So there is no shortage of ways for churches to get involved in the survival of creation. If the people of Newry are any indication, groups like Sustainability are good in two ways. Not only do they work for the good of the planet and the future life of our grandchildren, but they also pull communities together, across denominational or sectarian divides, and political differences. How could that not be an essential part of the work of our churches?
(17 January 2008)

Making the Case for Self-Sacrifice

Sharon Astyk, Casaubon’s Book
…a lot of people feel we should never mention sacrifice, or ever give anyone the impression that they will have to do anything hard, or given anything up. But there is no possible way that we can make the necessary environmental cuts without sacrifice – 90% or more over 10 years is a big deal, and some of it will hurt – period.
There are thousands of people who really don’t want to hear that part – they think that if we just elect the right leader or we just do the right thing we can make everything easy and place all the burden magically on someone else. But we can’t. 90% means 90% across the board. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be made better and easier, but it does mean that this will cost us.

How do we make that idea palatable? Personally, I think denying the need for self-sacrifice is a huge mistake, and so is apologizing for it, or minimizing it. I think the absolute opposite strategy is called for – we have to make it a challenge, an honor, a gift to do this. That is, of course, how we have gotten people to make sacrifices and endure hardship before – whether giving their lives in wartime or climbing big mountains – we’ve emphasized how exciting the challenge is, and how lucky they are to participate, how doing so makes them exceptional and heroic. The more we tell people that sacrifices won’t be required, the more we make them nervous about the very idea. I think we should be telling people that they shoud feel privileged and honored to make this sacrifice. Does that sound totally nuts? Bear with me for a moment.
(16 January 2008)

A Sustainability Renaissance Man

Janaia Donaldson, Peak Moment via Global Public Media
Earth needs humans to figure out our shared destiny, says Alan Seid, whose interest is both the outer and inner dimensions of sustainability. Outside there’s ecology, social systems and economics (e.g., in Permaculture). Inside is the psychological dimension of personal and group values and intentions. How do we meet people where they are, engender respect, promote crucial information-sharing, and motivate change? Episode 91.
(15 January 2008)