Category Archives: Environment

Zero Carbon Yorkshire Launch

Following on from our thinking about Climate Change in the lead up to the Paris Climate Summit here is something that you might be interested in:

Zero Carbon Yorkshire Launch

Leeds Civic Hall, 27 February 2016, 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

After Paris – Where Now?

In the aftermath of the Paris Climate Summit , one thing seems clear – above all, it is grass-roots action at the local level that will change the political climate to make real, transformative action possible.

Schumacher North, together with partners and supporters across the Yorkshire region, are now launching a Zero Carbon Yorkshire movement to make sure Yorkshire is among the first UK regions to formulate and deliver a viable Zero Carbon strategy.

We want to work with activist groups, local authorities, businesses, public sector bodies, universities and individuals in every Yorkshire city, town and district to design local Zero Carbon Plans, and combine these into a regional strategy that will command huge public support – then start to put it into action.

To do this, we need your help!

We are calling on climate activists, concerned citizens, business people, local politicians of every stripe – basically everyone! – to join us on February 27th for a day of Open Space conversation to help us create a vision for a better, cleaner, greener Yorkshire that will be free of fossil fuels in the shortest possible time – providing an example for all other UK regions of what needs to – and can – be done if we are to tackle the 21st century’s greatest challenge.

Please join us, tell all your friends, visit the new Zero Carbon Yorkshire website, join the Facebook group – and book for the event at:

Transition at COP21

Many of you will have been following COP21 in the news and may have felt, like me, that the coverage was poor, the talking was dull, lacking passion and reality. Here is coverage by members of the Transition Movement who I have spoken of before, and in particular by Rob Hopkins, co-founder of Transition Town Totnes and the Transition Network. I hope you find encouragement and hope in amongst some of the craziness.


Leeds People Pilgrimage

Globally millions are taking to the streets to stand up for climate justice on the eve of the COP21 Paris climate change talks.

On Saturday 28th November the Leeds Peoples’ Pilgrimage is happening in Leeds. Groups of people are walking together from different areas of Leeds to meet for a service at Leeds Minster and then joining the Climate March and Rally.

There are groups walking from Kirkstall BridgePark Halt on the Middleton RailwayTemple Newsam and Meanwood Park

Peoples Pilgrimage Flyer Nov 2015

Climate Change Prayer

From Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Join us in praying that world leaders act with compassion and courage, to reach an agreement that will protect our children and our planet.

Creator God,

You have called us to be keepers of your Earth;
Through greed, we have established an economy that destroys the web of life. We have changed our climate and drown in despair.
Let oceans of justice flow,
May we learn to sustain and renew the life of our Mother, Earth
We pray for our leaders, custodians of Mother Earth;
as they gather in Lima at the climate talks
May they negotiate with wisdom and fairness,
May they act with compassion and courage,
and lead us in the path of justice for the sake of our children and our children’s children.


Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

From “Our Voices” – Bringing faith to the climate talks

Sermon 22nd November 2015 – Pippa Woodhams and Paul Magnall

Notes and some images from Sunday’s sermon

Climate Change – Am I Bothered?

Job 28:1-11; 20-end
Matthew 7:7-14

I’m sure you all know a lot about it, it is in the press all the time at the moment but I would like to do a quick summary.

What is Climate Change?
– When we talk about climate we usually mean the average weather over a period of time, usually about 30 years. We can talk about local climate and global climate. Even micro climates like a walled garden. Climate changes gradually over time but what we are seeing at the moment are big changes in local and global climate across the globe.

What causes Climate Change?
– The climate is a very complicated system and scientists have built huge computers to model it and try and understand it. It helps them to predict the weather in any part of the world and they are getting pretty good at it – honest!
– Climate change is occurring because we are disrupting the complicated systems. The most talked about is Greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. We burn carbon based fuels, mostly fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas which releases into the atmosphere carbon dioxide that has been trapped for millions of years. These greenhouse gases let sunlight in through the earth’s atmosphere and this sunlight warms up the earth’s surface, just as it has been doing for millions of years. However, the heat radiated off from the earth’s surface is less able to escape back out into space because the greenhouse gases trap more of it. The result is that the temperature in the atmosphere rises a bit. Even small changes in average temperature can have significant effects on these complicated systems leading to changes in the flow of air and water in our atmosphere. The climate becomes less stable with more extreme events occurring.

What will happen?
– As a result of warming, systems that we have relied on for centuries are changing. For example, there is the Gulf Stream, a powerful flow of warm water heated in the Gulf of Mexico that flows across the Atlantic towards Britain. It is driven by cold water from the Arctic sinking down and being replaced by the warm water from the Gulf. It keeps us about 9C above the average temperature for this latitude. It is also the source of strong cyclones.
– The melting of huge amounts of ice in the North Atlantic is altering this flow, the Gulf Stream may not be as stable, we could lose out on our warm blanket and find ourselves having much colder winters and more extreme weather.
– Melting ice will lead to a rise in sea levels. You may have read articles this week that say that it won’t be as bad as some scientists have been predicting because they think that the Antarctic ice cap won’t melt as much, but there is still going to some melting.
– And these articles were talking about the contribution to sea rise due to melting ice. They chose to ignore the rise in sea levels due to the expansion of water in oceans due to warming.
– Sea levels rise and will impact on islands like the Maldives. The Maldives are a string of coral islands in the Indian Ocean which some scientists predict will be inundated completely within 30 years. Three of the archipelago’s 280 inhabited islands have already been evacuated, and a new capital, Hulhumale, is being built on a reef bolstered with sand. When completed in 2020, it should house close to half the country’s current population of 340,000. But for how long?
– In Fiji, islands in the Pacific, the government has initiated a campaign called “Migration with Dignity”, as they face up to the fact that many Pacific islanders will in future have to leave their homes. This is due to many factors, including sea level rise, coastal erosion, saltwater encroaching into drinking water areas, and ruined crops. The Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, says: “We in the Pacific are innocent bystanders in the greatest act of folly of any age. Unless the world acts decisively in the coming weeks, the Pacific as we know it is doomed.”
– Low lying coastal land will gradually disappear under water, in some countries this land is the flood plains of rivers and is where most of the food is grown. In India alone it is estimated that a 1m sea level rise will displace 7.1 million people and cover over 5700 square km of land
– Climate chaos, the disruption of seasons, the loss of fertile land, all this is going to affect our ability to grow sufficient food as harvests will be reduced.
– Mountain glaciers, source of drinking water and irrigation, are melting more rapidly, this will affect our water supply, the seasonal flow of rivers and may lead to more flooding and droughts.
– Marginal land will become desert
– Many articles in the news and media predict the migration of large numbers of people

But it is already happening
– Between 2008 and 2013, some 140 million people were displaced by weather-related disasters with countless others being displaced by gradual climate change such as persistent droughts, sea-level rise, etc. These are “climate refugees”
– Syria crisis has been fueled by large numbers of people fleeing areas of drought which was probably caused by Climate Change due to Global Warming
– If we believe that we are called to live lives of justice and peace then we need to take these issues seriously because how we live affects the life of our planet and those who live on it. These are issues of faith and justice. Our God calls us to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with Him.

am i botheredSo, back to the question – Climate Change – Am I bothered?

You bet I am!

Can I do anything about it?


Next weekend a very important international Summit is taking place in Paris. This is one of the greatest chances we have had so far that the governments of the world will agree to united action to achieve a legally binding universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2 degrees centigrade. People all over the world are taking the opportunity, next weekend, to tell their governments, through marching and protest, that this is important to them, and that they demand action be taken. On Saturday, as part of this, there is a great Peoples’ Rally at 3.00pm. in City Square. United action by the churches, is organising Pilgrimage Walk from the four corners of Leeds, to the Minster for a Service of prayer and commitment beforehand, before marching to the Rally. I do hope you can join in this event, as a way of making your voice heard on this issue. Get in touch with Sarah if you are interested.

Ecological Conversion: a spiritual response to climate change

How do we respond to climate change and the devastating environmental damage which our way of life is wreaking on our planet? Is it something you can engage with, or do you recoil at the immensity of the issue and your powerlessness to effect change?

I’ve been on a bit of a faith journey myself on this issue, and it has challenged the roots of my faith, and the depths of my emotions. I’d like to share a little with you.

Jan and Heston have shared a little of what it means to take St Francis seriously. Saint Francis has been described as, “the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable, and of an integral ecology, lived out joyfully and authentically… a model of the inseparable bond between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.“ It’s this inter linking of faith, justice and care for the earth which has caught my faith imagination. We are challenged by something which is not just an issue, it is uncomfortably, at the heart of the gospel, requiring us to enlarge our vision of God and our relationship with others.

One unlikely link can be found in the word “ecology” itself. The root eco- comes from a Greek word oikos and is an element of the words ecology, economy, and ecumenical. Oikos means “house’, so these three words mean respectively, “study of the house”, “management of the house”, and “universal house”.

Are we studying about or managing well what the Pope recently called “our Common Home”? Firstly, to take care of something, we need to love it deeply. So many of us live busy, city based lives, to the extent that loving people different to us becomes difficult, never mind loving other species, landscapes or woodlands. We are pretty much detached from the natural world.

A group of us have been trying to counter this by meeting monthly at Meanwood Farm to observe the farmland around us, within the centre of the city, searching for footprints of God there. As the months pass, we think about myths and saints, and watch the seasons, letting these soften our hearts, and strengthen our resolve to become informed and involved with efforts to discover sustainable lifestyles for ourselves and our planet. This is a struggle! The World Wildlife Fund has a quick calculator to critique your lifestyle, and tell you how many of our earths your life needs to resource it. I have been to Australia this year to visit my only grandchild. My lifestyle needs the resources of more than three of our planets to keep it going. Who in the world is losing out because I am taking more than my share? Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “The quality of our life is measured not by our achievements, but by the kind of world we will leave to our grand children”. Do I have to decide between either relating to my grandchild or not seeing her, but leaving her a world worth living in?

We live in an incredibly fragile earth. I have observed this just a hundred yards from my home. Last spring the season got out of kilter as cold winds and rain washed insects and grubs off the leaves, and hundreds of baby birds died. Magpies were the winners here, feasting off the dead birds, and now they are the ones starving, as their large numbers mean there is not the food to go round. This is not illustrating climate change, but does show what a fragile web of life we live with, and how easily it becomes unbalanced.

I’ve only noticed these things, because I have been sensitised to beauty in the last three years, having moved house a very small distance, to a place in which I felt myself being profoundly changed by a life slightly more in contact with the natural world. But most of the time we have to learn about our environmental influence on the planet by listening to other people. I’d like to bring you a message from the President of Fiji, an island in the Pacific. People there are suffering the effects of climate change, now, it’s not just an abstract injustice to them. The government has initiated a campaign called “Migration with Dignity”, as they face up to the fact that many Pacific islanders will in future have to leave their homes. This is due to many factors, including sea level rise, coastal erosion, saltwater encroaching into dinking water areas, and ruined crops, The Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, says:
“We in the Pacific are innocent bystanders in the greatest act of folly of any age. Unless the world acts decisively in the coming weeks, the Pacific as we know it is doomed.” The World Health Organisation estimates that between 2030 and 2050 globally, climate change will directly cause around 250,00 deaths.

Indirectly, climate change is multiplying death and destruction in complex ways. There is a clear line of argument that the Syrian conflict would not have exploded in the way it did, had it not been for the civil unrest and overcrowding in Syria’s cities. This had been caused by mass migrations from outlying rural areas, following six years of extreme drought, crop failure and the death of nearly 85% of livestock, directly related to climate change. A million people lost their farms, and moved into the cities, which triggered water shortages and social unrest. Many deaths later, we are seeing how this tension is multiplying across the middle East, and overflowing into Europe.

Pope Francis wrote an open letter this summer, called Laudate Si (“Praise Be!”) – On the Care of Our Common Home. He said,
“Generally speaking, there is little in the way of clear awareness of problems which especially affect the excluded. (and WE are a church who pride ourselves in seeking out the excluded) Yet they are the majority of the planet’s population, billions of people… Today we have to realise that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates about the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”

Can WE sensitise ourselves, through prayer, to the cry of the earth: understanding and appreciating the beauty of the fragile webs which keep our planet in balance? Can WE sensitise ourselves, through prayer, to the cry of the poor: understanding the need to change OUR hearts and lifestyles to enable ALL around the world to live in a sustainable way? These are some gospel questions which an understanding of climate change encourage us to face.

Is there hope for our world? Some people say we have passed the point of no return, too many people are already living the effects of man made climate change and our addiction to consumerism is too great to turn around in time to save a planet we would recognise. But I see signs of hope just in the initiatives which this Climate Summit have thrown up around the world. Whether it be theologians challenging our too-small views of God, engineers like one I met recently designing new means of desalinating seawater, architects, builders, and city councillors – many coalitions of people are challenging established wisdom and presenting the climate summit with new ways of being. Some cities in Britain, and many around the world, have decided to pull out of investing in fossil fuels. Other ordinary people like you and me are living in new ways already, and many are travelling to Paris to make their views known in mass protest.

What can we do. Sometimes it feels, very little, and the whole problem is overwhelming. The Pope again: “Our goal is not to amass information or to satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it.” Prayer and curiosity. Not being afraid to face this issue. Taking on suffering. A spiritual shift in our view of our place in the world.

We can and will pray, that there will be a fruitful outcome to the climate summit.

Another pope, Benedict 16th linked our personal spirituality to the ecological crisis, “The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast.” For this reason, the ecological crisis is also a summons to profound interior conversion… So what we all need is an ‘ecological conversion’, whereby the effects of encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in relationship with the world around.

We can begin to bring about this “ecological conversion” which will change our relationship with Jesus forever, through learning, studying and praying for personal transformation, and that there is still a chance that together, our world society can find peace and true sustainability.

The best thing for our planet and its inhabitants would be if we left fossil fuels in the ground. We need to find a way of transitioning the way we live so that we don’t contribute more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. This doesn’t mean going back to the stone age or middle ages. The Transition Movement is showing us the way, we can live our lives differently but still have satisfying, meaningful lives and know that we are contributing to the well being of the planet rather than screwing it all up!

A few weeks ago Lydia talked on how we are all consumers and that, as God’s children, we should take responsibility for how we spend our money and how we consume.

A book I am reading at the moment talks about how each we pound we spend is a vote. We may only be able to vote for our government once every five years but each time we spend money we are making a

If we purchase food which required huge amounts of carbon based fuel to grow it then we are voting for a continuation of the industrial food system that contributes heavily to global warming and environmental destruction.
If we grow some of our own or buy locally grown, organic food – although probably costing a bit more – we are voting for a food system that contributes to food security and builds local community.

If we choose to drive our car everywhere we go then we are voting for a continuation of our destructive transport system.
If we choose to car share, take the bus, cycle or walk then we are voting for a transition towards a lifestyle that is less dependent on the personal car and for a better transport system.

If we buy our gas and electricity from a supply committed to extracting more fossil fuels out of the ground we are voting for more global warming.
If we move to an energy supplier committed to using only renewable energy then we are voting for change. If companies like British Gas and Npower lost customers to the likes of Ecotricity, what message will we be giving to a government who seem intent of sticking with fossil fuels?

Do we want to invest in pension schemes that support the fossil fuel industries, or do we want to put our vote and our investments in companies that are concerned about the future of the planet rather than just their profits? And while we are at it, does our employer or our council invest in fossil fuel industries? Can we change their minds?

As we buy Christmas presents do we want to buy presents that will last only for Christmas and then get thrown, or do we want to give presents that have meaning, that will last a lifetime and won’t wreck the planet?

Every pound we spend is a vote.


Christ the king

We are in the last Sunday of the Kingdom season.
A favourite image of the church is of a pilgrim people and throughout the church liturgical year, which ends this week, we travel with Jesus through our readings, sermons and prayers. We started nearly a year ago with the beginning of Advent, the anticipation of the birth of Christ, we listened through the year to his teaching, witnessed his execution and celebrated his resurrection. We have celebrated the gift of the Holy Spirit and the whole of Creation. We explored the life of St Francis and he has had a profound effect on a number of our congregation. Our church year concludes with the Kingdom season. We started with All Saints day celebrating that we are all saints and remembering those who have gone before us. Today we conclude the year by celebrating Christ the King.

But King of what?

The Old Testament is clear that God is Lord or King of everything

When the early church declared Jesus as King and as Lord they were challenging the existing powers, the power of the Roman Empire, the power of the religious authorities, the power of those who tried to keep power and get rich at the expense of everyone else. They were challenging the injustices in the world and celebrating the fact that all of creation was Gods.

And that is the challenge to us today. All Creation belongs to God and we are called to live as if all creation matters.

If Jesus is King then are we bothered about Climate Change?

You bet we are!



N.B. There are loads and loads of resources on the Internet about Climate Change, it’s current effects on us and nature and predictions as to what might happen. A good place for us to start as Christians is the Christian Aid website.If you want to know more then both Paul and Pippa would be happy to have a conversation with you – so get in touch!

Climate Change – Am I bothered?

The governments of more than 190 nations will be gathering in Paris from November 30th to December 11th to to discuss a possible new global agreement on climate change, aimed at reducing global greenhouse gas emissions and thus avoiding the threat of dangerous climate change.

Current commitments on greenhouse gas emissions expire in 2020, so at the Paris summit governments will be expected to produce an agreement on what happens for at least the next decade, and potentially beyond.

Climate changeSo, as a Christian, am I bothered? How might climate change impact on my faith? And how might my faith have an impact on climate change?

These are some of the things we will be exploring this coming Sunday so why not join us and see if we can add something more than a bit of hot air to issue!

We Love Hyde Park

Today some corporate volunteers and locals came to help us with a clear up day. The day started about 10 with litter picking and tidying away of bins. There was lunch available at TRJFP@AH Café followed by more litter picking. Can you spot Heston?
We Love Hyde Park!



Today is Permaculture Day and it is the Year of the Soil so I was interested to read in a blog post by “The Snail” about who or what she would swear allegiance to. Here is the affirmation and pledge that she came up with:

I do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that, as a member of the human race, I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the earth beneath my feet, the air that I breathe and the water that sustains me.
I will give my loyalty to the natural world and respect its rights and bounty. I will value the world’s ecosystems and work to enhance the land that sustains me – leaving it richer than when I found it. I will observe nature and be inspired by what I see, fulfilling my role as a part of the diversity life on this amazing planet.

By the end of the week we will, hopefully, know a bit more about the future of our government and a new Prime Minister will be making his (very unlikely to be her) allegiance to the Queen.

Jesus talked a lot about allegiance – was it to Caesar, to money, to the law, to God – but what does that mean? The wonderful thing about the Snail’s affirmation above is that it actually means something to her, it includes a measurable out working – “to enhance the land” and “leaving it richer”.

When we make our affirmation(s) do they really mean anything? Will it make a difference to our lives and the lives of those around us?

Perhaps you would like to write your own affirmation and share it here with us?

Permaculture Sunday 2015 – sermon

Genesis 2:5-15
Micah 6
Luke 4:1-4

• Today it is Permaculture Sunday and 2015 is International Year of Soils
• I’ll mention a bit about Permaculture but if you want to know more read some of the links or we can arrange for an evening where we talk about it

Permaculture is based on a set of ethics – Earth Care, People Care, Fair Share – and as I have said before, I find that these ethics sit incredibly well with my Christian faith and help to provide me with a framework within which to work my faith out.

One of PC principles is to observe and interact – to take time to look at how things are working before doing anything. And I find that when we observe Nature we discover some amazing things and we find much better ways of doing things.

So, to soil. If we observe soil we find that healthy soils are teaming with microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and microscopic roundworms called nematodes.

From <>

Some scientists are now thinking that there is a strong relationship between health and our contact with healthy soil. Our guts are also teeming with micro-organisms and we know that if we wipe them out with antibiotics we are more likely to be unwell. If our gut microorganisms are exposed to soil microorganisms then all sorts of things happen and we are generally healthier and more able to fight disease and illness – this is not to say that we can’t also pick up diseases from the soil. This is led to some people using the phrase “we are soil”

We are soil, when we die we say dust to dust, ashes to ashes, I add the bit “compost to compost”. This soil then feeds the next lot of food we grow. There is a lot of truth in that Yorkshire song – On Ilkley Moor Baht’at! If you recall, if you go out on Ilkley Moor courting Mary Jane without a hat on you will catch your death of cold, then, when you are buried the worms will eat you up, and the ducks will eat the worms and we will eat the ducks! It is said that we all carry a bit of William the Conqueror in us. Ultimate recycling.

It would seem that we, and the planet, are healthiest when we live close together.

Healthy soils also absorb and store huge amounts of carbon dioxide as what we call “organic carbon”. If these soils are left exposed to the elements with no plants in them or they are regularly ploughed up or compressed or sprayed with chemicals then they lose their structure, the microorganisms and other soil life that do the work of trapping the carbon die and the soil gives off carbon dioxide rather than storing it contributing to climate change. By keeping soils well planted all year round, by recycling the so called plant “waste” (prefer compost material) back into the soil to feed the organisms, by not ploughing or compressing the soil then the soil can regenerate – you can actually grow soil and all sorts of amazing things happen. In the Jordan, an area of semi-arid desert where, in some places, modern farming and irrigation techniques have led to the soil becoming salty and almost unable to support plant life, about 15 years ago a group of permaculturists started to dig trenches called swales along the contours, they mulched their sides with plant waste from other farms, waste that was going to be burnt and they planted a mixture of nitrogen fixing trees and fruit trees. Local people thought they were mad, the trees would die, it was too dry and salty for them to survive. But when the rains came the trenches filled with water and instead of it evaporating off it soaked into the soil and was kept there by the mulch providing water for the plants. Within 4 years they were harvesting food. Scientists from a local university came to find out why the salt wasn’t killing the trees and they found that the fungi in the mulch was taking up the salt and trapping it chemically in an inert form that didn’t hurt the trees. All over the world, similar stories are happening.

It would seem that we, and the planet, are healthiest when we treat the soil well.

So how do we treat our soils, the soils that we depend upon for our life? Monty Don says “If we are to feed the world we must have good soil”. Again and again in history civilisations have risen and then fallen because they have exhausted the soil – they have failed to look after the soil. And if we don’t wake up and act we are going the same way but on a global scale. Recent scientific articles suggest that we have about 100 harvests left before our soil is exhausted.


The way the article was reported it says that we should grow more food in the cities – which I agree with – but it didn’t say much about changing the way in which we do our farming!

So how is much of our farming done?

The Green Revolution in the mid-20th century saw us apply science and technology to growing more and more food. At a time when the population was starting to grow rapidly and more and more people were moving to the cities we needed to rapidly increase our food output and so we started to treat food growing as a an industry. And it worked, we got huge increases in production. But at a cost. In particular agriculture became very oil dependent. Here is a brief summary of what some of our farming involves today

• Oil powered machinery clears the land whether it be rainforest or existing fields
• Oil powered machinery ploughs the land
• Fertilisers manufactured using oil are applied to the land
• Herbicides and pesticides are used to clear unwanted plants and insects
• Seeds that have been transported half way round the world, that are treated with anti-fungal treatments and genetically altered to make them resistant to herbicides and to help them resist certain pests are sold at vast profit to farmers who then use oil powered machinery to plant them
• Oil powered machinery is used to spray oil based herbicides and pesticides onto the crop
• Oil powered machinery pumps water to irrigate the plants
• Giant poly tunnels and greenhouses are heated often using … guess what.. oil
• Oil powered machinery harvests the crop
• Oil powered machinery processes the crop, often throwing out anything that is the wrong shape or colour
• Oil powered machinery is used to store food in an atmospherically controlled environment
• Oil powered machinery transports the food round the globe
• Oil powered machinery is used to process and package the food, often adding additives that have required oil powered machinery to produce them or are even made out of oil.
• Oil powered machinery is used to transport the food to warehouses and points of sale
• We then often use oil powered machinery to transport the food home

So you can see, most of our farming is very industrial and oil based. And to make this method of farming more efficient we don’t want trees and hedges in the way, they just slow down our machinery and use up land that could be planted on. The result is that hedges and trees are ripped out and we end up with massive fields of unprotected soil or, during the growing season, a monoculture crop – wheat or potatoes or cabbages as far as the eye can see. Unfortunately, monocultures are very susceptible to disease and pests so they need spraying. And the giant fields have no trees and hedges and other plants to protect the soil so it blown or washed away at an alarming rate – no wonder we may only have 100 harvests left. In some parts of the world those harvests are already failing. The slash and burn methods of farming that are destroying the rain forests of South America often exhaust the soil at a much faster rate.

In Africa, South America and other parts of the world, where small farmers have been growing a huge range of food on their small holdings, governments and businesses are moving in, throwing them off the land, ploughing the land up to make more giant fields for their industrial farms. This is known as land grabbing. It leads to a few rich businesses owning all the land and the farmers losing their livelihood and often ending up in the slums of the cities.

This is the cost of much of our food production today. We are destroying our life support system and we are destroying the lives of many people but since we are living in cities and are so distant from what is going on we don’t feel so affected by it all.

Currently we produce about 140% of the food needed to feed the whole world!
There should be enough for everyone. But not only do we not share it out evenly, we throw obscene amounts of it away.
What strange land is this that we live in?
• We have more than enough but we don’t share it out.
• We don’t allow people to grow their own food, to make their own living.
• We allow big companies to dictate the economics of small countries and the way in which everyone has to live.

This gets me angry and I’m sure that the God of the Old Testament prophets and the God of the New Testament Jesus must be angry as well.

Currently, the way that much of our food is produced is not sustainable. Despite the recent drop in oil prices, oil will get more expensive and there is only a finite amount of oil in the rocks. It is starting to run out!
And our soil is running out.
And population growth is another matter I won’t cover here.
This is not sustainable!
So what solutions are there?
Perhaps there is another, better way? Perhaps there is a way in which we resist the temptation to allow a small few to have the power to produce most of our food?
Perhaps there is a way that we can feed the world using less or no oil. Cuba has demonstrated that it is possible to feed a nation on reduced oil input.
Perhaps we should stop wasting so much food when so many are hungry?
It is calculated that up to 50% of the food gets wasted in the process of getting it from farm to consumer, and that is after the huge investment we have made in it!

Again and again God has demonstrated that He is a God of abundance, that he will meet our needs, that He can provide enough for today (eg manna in the wilderness). And Jesus taught us that too, in words and by his actions. When faced with huge crowds of hungry people he could have turned stones into bread, instead he chose to take what there was and to share it with everyone – and there was enough.

So what can we do?
How can we reduce the amount of oil we use to grow food?
What can we do to help make enough food available to everyone?
How can we work towards Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share?

Here are a few suggestions, we can’t all do them but if we started or increased doing some of them it would make a difference:
• We could grow more of our own. Every little helps! Movements like Feed Leeds and Incredible Edible Todmorden are leading to an increase in the amount of local food being grown and eaten. It is putting people back in touch with their food. It is creating and strengthening local economies and communities and having an impact on people’s health.
• We could buy local foods – food miles is a very complicated topic but if we bought from local farmers, other local producers, local shops then, hopefully, we are reducing our dependence on oil.
• We could eat seasonal foods – buying and eating strawberries from local farmers in the summer is going to use less oil and create less waste than strawberries from overseas at Christmas!
• We can campaign against land grabs – this is where the rich and powerful throw people off their land in order to turn it over to growing monocultures – one crop over a large area – as opposed to the more sustainable, and probably more abundant forms of farming that the local people practice such as eco agriculture.
• We can support the small farmers and small holdings here and abroad – these are often more efficient at feeding people and involve more people thus reducing unemployment, increasing food security.
• We could vote for a party that really cares about the earth, the soil and it’s people!
• We could stop throwing so much food away!

And this is where The Real Junk Food Project network of cafes comes in.

The project was set up about 18 months ago by Adam Smith and it is a growing network of cafes of all sorts with 6 in Leeds and more being planned. Operated by volunteers, waste food from shops, markets, supermarkets, restaurants, homes, food banks and other food retailers – food that is perfectly good and useable that is otherwise destined for land fill is cooked into nutritious meals. And this food is then available to customers on a Pay As You Feel basis – people pay what they feel like paying, what they think the food is worth, or what they can afford, or they can volunteer. The food is not free, but you don’t have to use a coin with the Queen’s head on it to pay for it.
Our main aims are
• To reduce and eventually eliminate food waste
• To reduce and eventually eliminate food poverty
• To build community
All Hallows café is currently open Tuesday and Fridays 10am to 4pm with occasional catering for events.
If you want to know more then Google “Real Junk Food Project” or ask me afterwards.
In this world of inequality and injustice I believe that we are called to bring a bit of God’s justice and compassion to people in need and at the same time challenge those things that so obviously need changing. Sometimes we are so disconnected from what is going on the world, but if we apply the first principle of Permaculture and observe, then we will start to see those things that are wrong, those things that need changing, and those things that are good, that we can celebrate.

Prayer for the Soil
Giver of life, we give you thanks that in the richness of the soil, nature awakens your call to spring
We praise you for the smell of the fresh earth, the life that creates and lives in the soil, and the life that comes from the soil
We ask that you help us to be good stewards of the land, and even though we live in the city, may we support those who care for the land on our behalf.
In the name of the one who gives us new life, Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen
Useful links
Permaculture Association
Soil Association
Greening the Desert – video about the Jordan
The Real Junk Food Project Network
TRJFP@AH café – All Hallows’ Junk Food café
Red Kite Permaculture – my permaculture blog (a bit quite at the moment!)

Paul Magnall
3rd May 2015

Hunger for Justice weekend

Over the weekend of 18-19 October, hundreds of churches nationwide will be urging their local MPs to tackle climate change, and praying for our sisters and brothers around the world. If you want to know more then visit the Christian Aid website

Here is a special Prayer from Malawi for us to use:

Lord, you are our rock, our fortress and our strength;

guide us, lead us and have mercy on us.

We thank you for the precious gift of your earth, in all its beauty and fragility.

Through it we are each bound to one another in a million ways.

For the sake of those facing rising temperatures, drought and water shortages,

strengthen our movement for climate action.

For the sake of those facing unpredictable weather, disrupted seasons and failed crops,

bless our leaders to work together to find positive, lasting solutions.

For the sake of all those who feel the impact of our changing climate, the poor and the vulnerable,

bring the hope of a brighter, cleaner future.

Lord hear our prayer and fill our hearts with a hunger for justice.

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, we will set up our banners to call for change. May the Lord fill our petitions!


Yamikani Dakalira from Malawi is visiting in October to speak to churches about her work, and has written a special prayer for us all to use over the prayer and action weekend (18-19 October).

Yamikani works for Christian Aid’s partner, CEPA, in Malawi to combat the impact of climate change, involving the poorest communities in the solutions.

Use this prayer in your service or at your event over the Hunger for Justice weekend (18-19 October).