Monday, 28 January 2013

Will the Hungry Always Be With Us?

Oxfam, Cafod, Christian Aid are among over 100 organisations who have got together to launch the IF campaign. It's very much along the lines of Make Poverty History which, if you aren't sure, did not make poverty history. In fact they say the gap between rich and poor in the world has become wider not smaller since.

However, if we didn't make poverty history, these people now think that we can make hunger history throughout the world,  just by signing up to their website and maybe wearing an armband. Do they really think that this will make all those who are out to line their pockets while others starve to death turn over a new leaf and the people who shot and killed Cicero Guedes a leader of the MST (Landless Workers' Movement in Brazil) over the weekend become deeply repentant and give the people of Brazil all the land they need to feed their families? I really don't think so. I wish I could believe it, but it will take more than everyone in Britain signing up to this campaign, I'm afraid.

War on Want has not signed up to this campaign, although it did take part in the Make Poverty History campaign, and gives its reasons here. The World Development Movement are not taking part either, and they have discussed their reasons in the Guardian.

Not that I want to stop you signing up, I just don't think we should become complacent, but see what else we can do. It will need a remarkable idea and some remarkable people to bring an end to the power structures that keep people hungry throughout the world.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Let's Reduce Plastic Bag Use in England in 2013

Caroline Lucas and Natalie Bennett propose three easy environmental resolutions to aim for in 2013: 20mph speed limits, a levy on plastic bags and reducing night lighting would cost little but deliver significant benefits.

You can't change the speed limit or even introduce a levy on plastic bags on your own, and unless you own a shop with neon lighting you can't do anything about that yourself, although you can find like-mined people and lobby your local council to do something about these things and that would be a good idea.

Plastic bags can be a real eyesore
One thing you can do something about, though, is decide not to use any more free, flimsy, single-use plastic bags. It seems the use of these bags rose by around 5% to 6.75bn in the past year in England alone. Of 8 billion carrier bags given out by supermarkets in the UK, 6.75 billion were given out in England.  In other parts of the UK, as well as in China and much of Europe, there is already a levy on plastic bags. In fact even Mauritania has just banned them because many cattle and sheep that die in the capital, Nouakchott, have been killed by eating plastic bags.

If you wonder why you should find an alternative to these flimsy plastic bags this slide show gives you a number of reasons. In fact sending them to be recycled isn't really the answer, either as it costs a lot more to recycle bags than to produce new ones.

Even worse, plastic bags can kill
Reducing your own use of these bags may only be a small step but it cuts the pointless use of  resources. If they were not freely available it would also help to clean up our towns, cities, countryside rivers and seas, reducing the harm to all kinds of birds and animals, even in our seas.

Even in landfill they may take 1,000 years or more to break down into ever smaller particles that continue to pollute the soil and water.

Finally, producing plastic bags requires millions of gallons of petroleum that could be used for transportation or heating.

To reduce your own plastic bag use you need to invest in a few reusable bags and get into a new routine. Keep one or two lightweight bags with you in your coat pocket or main bag so that you are prepared for most small purchases. If you like to do a big shop by car invest in enough reusable, strong, plastic or jute bags to accommodate your shopping and keep those in the boot. You'll find you can fold two or three and store them in one jute bag.

To try and get something done about reducing plastic bags in general why not sign this e-petition.  If enough of us sign this petition, the government might actually do something about it.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Misty St Martha's

Hubby and I decided we'd go for a walk to St Martha's church today in spite of the heavy mist. There were some very 'atmospheric' views.

The church looked very different today, shrouded in mist as it was . . .

. . . than it did almost exactly a year ago, when the sun was shining. We thought our last visit was some time in the late Spring or early Summer last year, but I've just seen that it was 7th January.

We loved how the lichen made this tree look.

I loved the mixture of moss and fungus on this tree stump. An artist couldn't better it, in my view.

There were some lovely lichens, too. I've yet to identify this one, though.

This is probably reindeer lichen (cladonia portentosa)

This is an auricula-judae fungus, otherwise known as Jew's Ear or if you want a more pc name, Jelly Ear (thanks for that, Chris).

We wondered what had made these holes. There were a few fairly close together.

The moist, misty atmosphere made me feel I was in a cool rainforest while also giving everything a somewhat eerie quality. In fact we saw this ghost ahead of us:

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Wind Turbines Kill Less Birds Than Cats Do.

Graceful wind turbines on Kefalonia

One reason some people give for being against wind turbines is that they kill large numbers of birds. You might think that this is a good reason, until you hear that cats, road traffic, windows and over head power cables kill far birds more as this article explains.

Should we not allow any more cats, cars or cables, either?

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Off on the Right Foot

Well, it wasn't raining and in spite of not being used to waking up at half past six over the holiday, today I managed to get up in time to make my sandwiches and walk to work. Hubby was working from home today, so I didn't have to worry about carrying shopping home as he was able to fetch me and the shopping in the car.

So, I suppose walking today didn't cut my carbon footprint too much, but it's a step towards becoming fitter and once I'm fitter I'll be able to walk more often when I don't need a lot of shopping. As I wasn't so well over Christmas and therefore didn't feel like going out for walks too much, I really enjoyed being able to walk to work today and proving that I could do it today has given my morale a boost.

However, I was about five minutes late for work and fear of being late has sometimes stopped me from trying to walk to work on other days, but if it becomes normal I should be able to be better organised and therefore less likely to be late. As it happens my manager thought I was having a day's leave today and wasn't even expecting me to be there. It just goes to show what can happen when you don't let fear stop you doing something good.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Starting Well

Janus, Roman god of beginnings and transitions,
who gives his name to the month of January

So, a new year has begun with all its promise and uncertainty. I do hope 2013 will be a good year for you, but then none of us know what it will hold for us.

Like Janus we may be looking back to the old year, while also looking forward to 2013. I hope you can look back with satisfaction on what you have achieved last year and are not filled with regret. If you do have regrets, perhaps you can do something to put them right, either by doing this year what you regret not doing last year, or by making amends for things you wish you hadn't said or done. If neither is possible, then it is important to forgive yourself for your human failings and learn the lessons from your mistakes that will help you do better this year. Things like regret and guilt are good when they alert us to what might be wrong, but once we've put things right or gone past the point where we can put things right, we must move on. All we can hope for after that is to do things better next time

Equally we could approach this new year cautiously, afraid of what it might bring, or we can embrace it with joy and the thought of a new beginning and all that might entail.

Being generous has to start with ourselves. We need to have self-respect and be able to have compassion for ourselves if we want to be able to respect and have compassion for others. Sometimes life doesn't deal us what we want and then it will help to learn to accept our situation, but if we each want to be the best person each of us can be, then it will help us if we can make our lives as close to the way we want them to be as is possible.

What do you wish for in 2013? However impossible your dream, ask yourself what is the first step to making it come true? If we are to be generous to others we need a certain amount of fulfilment and joy in our lives otherwise we risk becoming filled with fear and resentment. In fact learning to love ourselves, to enjoy life and above all to be true to ourselves, our hopes, our dreams and the principles we hold dear is a good way to become more generous to others. If we are fearful of new experiences we are likely to be fearful of new and different people. If we don't think we deserve to enjoy life we are likely to be resentful of others' enjoyment.

Each human being is a wonderful creature, including you. Every person deserves to be treated with respect, dignity and compassion, including you, and the best person to practise on is yourself. So, have respect for the person you are and think of all that you have going for you, including your health, your ability to walk, all the things you can do with your hands, you skills in sport or sewing, writing or woodwork. Never mind if you aren't the world's best singer or a great footballer, think of all the things you can do. Learn to value what you can do even if it isn't 'sexy' or likely to earn you a lot of money. Everyone is useful to someone. Think of what you do for others and what they would do if you didn't do those things. Perhaps someone else could do them, but would they care in the way you do, would they have your warmth or your smile? You are unique and no one else can give the world exactly what you do.

So getting back to those hopes and dreams you have, you see you do deserve that they come true as much as anyone else does. Rather than make a New Year's resolution why not decide to start the year right and take the first step to being the new you and to making your dream come true?

Amongst other things I'm hoping to grow more and better vegetables this year. We didn't quite get around to sowing and planting everything we had planned and then the weather didn't help everything to flourish. I can't do much about the weather, but I can try to get fitter so that I have more energy for all that gardening involves. Now I know that I still have to keep an eye on my iron levels I'm hoping that I will have the energy to walk more and be more active so that I can lose some weight and get fitter this year as I didn't make much progress with that last year.

As usual for New Year's Day I've been for a walk and the sunshine meant it was good to get outdoors, although hubby and I did feel the need to spend the morning cleaning and tidying as our daughter's boyfriend has come to visit today and we'd let things slip a bit over Christmas. Now I need to try and walk more for the rest of the week and generally be more active with each passing day.

What would you like to achieve, and what steps towards doing that can you take in 2013?

"The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, nor to anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly." - The Buddha