cheap energy minds

I’m sitting in the kitchen and can feel the early morning November chill around the bottom of my legs and feet. It’s cold in here.
It might be a good idea to put on the heating on but I’m reluctant as something in my head reminds me about climate change and the need to cut carbon emissions. I’ve been feeling guilty about putting the heating on too much as the heat just disappears through the windows. Some goes to warm me, the vast majority is wasted.
So I’ll look for a nice pair of warm socks, stick on a jumper, head out to the library instead etc.

Climate change is a funny one. People seem reluctant to do anything much about it despite the vast number of scientists who study it saying that something drastic needs to be done about it.

In part I think it’s because we all know that we have to burn carbon to stay alive. You need to eat or heat the house. You need to visit sick relatives or drive to work.

To cut a long story short it reminds me that we live by the death and sacrifice of other things, which is true also of food.

‘Eating is the daily reminder of creaturely mortality. We eat to live, knowing that without food we will starve and die. But to eat we must also kill, realizing that without the deaths of others – microbes, insects, plants, animals – we can have no food.’
Norman Wirzba

On the other hand I think that we ‘kill’ much too easily. As Wendell Berry writes:-

‘Nearly all of us have what I can only call cheap-energy minds; we continue to assume, or to act as if we assume, that it does not matter how much energy we use. I do not mean to imply that I know how to solve the problems of the automobile or of the wasteful modern household. Those problems are enormously difficult, and their difficulty suggests their extreme urgency and importance. But I am fairly certain that they won’t be solved simply by public protests. The roots of the problems are private or personal, and the roots of the solutions will be private and personal too.’

When I was growing up in Tyrone one of the illustrations that I heard in Christian talks was something about sitting beside God and him showing you a video of your life. Would you feel shame about this incident that nobody else saw? Why did you do this in secret? Why did you treat that homeless person like that? (Incidentally I wonder if that illustration has moved on a bit in the past 20yrs and do they say something like ‘How will feel when you stand in front of God in his judgement seat and he brings up your internet search history?Or would it be now digitally projected onto a screen with a Powerpoint presentation of your sins?Maybe there would be a Gary Neville type magic pen to circle things and point out what you should have done)

I’m not a fan of those types of illustrations (like the old ‘Sinner, if you left here tonight and where hit by a bus where would you be??)but maybe if there was a video tape presentation would things like our decision to waste food, oil, clothes appear? Would the way we supported our nation in times of war? Would the way we slagged of other churches?

Sometimes you’ll hear people going on about the 1%, the super wealthy who own a huge percentage of the wealth of the monetary wealth. The thing is that if you took the entire population of planet earth how would you or I stand on that scale? Would I be in the top 1% of humans who have ever lived? Maybe less? Will I have to answer for that? I guess putting on the heating or lighting a fire is a reminder to be grateful for good gifts and to be careful not to waste them.

dry wells

I am  tired despite returning  from a holiday at the beginning of the week.
We have family that live near Almeria and I had never been out to see them and where they live. So this year (and thanks to a kind Christmas present) we flew over to the south of Spain on the new, improved, nice and caring Ryanair for a week. Which is how we ended up spending a few nights in a nice Spanish village

This time last week I was walking around the beautiful Spanish village of Mojacar on a holiday.
If that sounds lovely you should also know that a fight with your wife is still a fight with your wife no matter if it’s a lovely village and knowing that you’re spending money in something that you don’t do very often but having a fight instead of making the most of it can make you pretty miserable.

So although it was nice to be away I’m knackered and didn’t find the holiday relaxing. Heat tires me and my inner Presbyterian couldn’t get the hang of the resting in the afternoon business.  I never got the hang of when you are supposed to eat lunch and dinner. The language as well.

That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy Spain and seeing where my nephew and niece live because I like seeing new places. Some might think that the endless acres of plastic greenhouses that supply Europe with tomatoes and watermelons are an eyesore but I find them interesting:-
Where are the getting the water to grow watermelons in the driest part of Europe? Are they going to desalinate seawater and use it? How is climate change going to effect this area and how is that going to effect my sister and brother-in-law. my nephew and niece?

Then  it starts boiling over into the problems with the world:-
How do people work inside those greenhouses in what must be phenomenal heat? Are the migrant workers treated fairly? Do you realise that flying on your Ryanair flight on holidays is contributing to climate change here in Almeria? 

The one thing I really wanted to do over in Spain was to see new colours and draw new things, to feel a surge of inspiration surging and to be creative again. I feel like any wells of creativity that I had have dried up, a bit like the countryside and river beds around Almeria. But I felt uninspired and too awkward to create. No paints, no markers, no skill.

On the way home from the airport I was complaining to H about the way people act on Ryanair flights. ‘There are schoolgirls having to walk miles each day to get clean drinking water and then there are 50 yr old men who throw their dummies out of the pram when an air hostess moves their hand luggage a few metres away to section 29A’
 I said ‘People are so fortunate to be able to go on holidays, they should recognise this and stop acting like they….etc etc.’

Of course I was doing the exact same the whole holiday, moaning about the heat and my lack of ability to order a tapas without embarrassment. There a kids sleeping in refugee camps tonight and I’m having a meltdown because I have to sit under a sun shade and it’s making me sweat. Saying that out loud seems to make perfect sense. I need to get a grip.

Yet I’m tired as well. And I also think that saying things like ‘We should get a grip because we have it pretty good compared to so many in the world’ is a bit arrogant (?) in a way or perhaps untrue. It sounds as if we’re not really that sick or needy and screwed up and under the thumb of oppressive systems which as a Christian I don’t believe. ‘The World’ or Kingdom of Death or however you want to phrase the way Satan works against us is an ever present reality. Just because I don’t live in a country that persecutes or oppresses Christians by throwing them in jail doesn’t meant that we’re not oppressed. Like the sense of hopelessness that I get from absorbing the ways of the world does a pretty good job of robbing me of vitality for life or for serving.

I was thinking about this sense of hopelessness  or why we complain in the face of so much privilege while reading Jacques Ellul.

‘One can prove to the members of our modern societies that our ancestors never enjoyed this much means, freedom, happiness, well-being, available opportunities, long life, culture, pleasure, leisure, communication, and dialogue, but one will never convince the person in our modern society that he is living in a little paradise’


‘In the most pacified and guaranteed society which has ever existed, man is living in uncertainty and growing fear. In the most scientific of societies, man is living in the irrational. In the most liberal of societies, man is living ‘repression,’ and even hyper-repression. In a society in which the means of communication are the most highly developed, man is living a sort of phantasmagoria. In a society in which everything is done to establish relationships, man is living in solitude…’



‘Global Warming is’ autocomplete

climate change

Global warming is a lie, a hoax, a myths, a natural cycle.
Global warming is bullshit, bad, BS, beneficial.
Global warming is caused by humans, caused by human activity, caused by the sun.
Global warming is dead, defined as, dangerous.

Global warming is eroding glacial ice, exaggerated, expected to result in…
Global warming is fake, false, fake proof, fake facts.
Global warming is good, getting worse, good for us, good for the planet.
Global warming is happening, human caused, hoax.

Global warming…is it real? it happening? it our fault? inevitable?
Global warming is just a natural cycle, just the tip of the iceberg, just a myth, junk science.
Global warming is killing polar bear, killing animals, real Koch brothers.
Global warming is leaving many homeless, lie, likely to harm us, too late to stop.

Global warming is manmade, myth, most pronounced at the, man made essay.
Global warming is not happening, natural, not real, not caused by humans.
Global warming is over, our fault, occurring, over exaggerated.
Global warming is part of a natural cycle, produced by the greenhouse effect, problem, propaganda

Global warming is fake quotes, natural quotes, bullshit quotes.
Global warming is real, rubbish, real proof, real article.
Global warming is slowing, slowing down, stupid, serious
Global warming is the rise in temperature of the earth’s atmosphere. thought to be caused by the, the result of.

Global warming is  unequivocal, undeniable unstoppable, untrue
Global warming is very real.
Global warming is wrong, when the earth heats up, worse than we thought.
Global warming is fake yahoo, real yahoo, natural yahoo
Global warming is zealots, zombies.

Chasing Ice

Chasing Ice is a documentary that follows James Balog and his attempt to gather undeniable evidence of climate change.

From an artistic point of view, I didn’t really enjoy it that much.

From the ‘gathering undeniable evidence of climate change’ point of view the photo and film footage of glaciers melting at unprecedented rates are a more persuasive argument than most out there. You can see how much the landscape has changed in a short period of time.

The stuff has been on my mind a lot recently due to the storms of the last month. Walking along the from Salthill to Galway I am suddenly more aware how vulnerable my new home is to flooding and the sea.  Then there are all those places along the coast that got a battering as well.

Something has been stirring in me that I may have been too blasé or that I haven’t done enough about it.

I was reading this article and it was suggesting that climate change is a civil rights issue.

‘In the Civil Rights Movement we marched hand in hand facing dogs and fire hoses, risking imprisonment and worse for the sake of future generations. The same question is in front of us today when it comes to climate change. What are you willing to sacrifice and what are you willing to personally do to hand down a better world to our children?’
Reverend Dr. Gerald L. Durley


flooded carpark

We staggered out of bed yesterday morning to the sound of a fire alarm going off in the January gloom and half naked hung-over bodies appearing out of bedrooms wondering if it was just a false alarm.

By the time we had reached the foyer the manager was looking panicked as she explained that the underground car park had flooded and all the cars down there had ‘gone’.

Discovering that Nissan Almera has been flooded in an underground car park is not the ideal way to finish of a short break in Sligo.

So it was a relief to find that our car had  actually survived. Some car owners in the level below where  not as fortunate, but ours was OK. Then I saw the pictures from my new home. Down by Spanish Arch was flooded, the promenade in Salthill was wrecked with stones and lifeguard huts strewn over the road. Spiddal looked the same.
And there seems to be more of that sort of weather on the way.

I was wondering afterwards if this is the sort of thing we should get used to seeing?Remember that late snow last spring when the sheep got stuck? Remember that extremely cold winter when our pipes burst? Remember that extremely wet summer when farmers couldn’t get into fields to harvest potatoes?

I think in Ireland we assume that we live on a benign little island that isn’t effected by weather extremes and that we’ll be alright if the worlds temperature rises.

A common attitude would be that it would be nice to live in a warmer country.

But to pick one example we can’t grow all the food we need to eat as an island, with most of our wheat or corn grown in places around the planet. If they can’t grow cereal due to drought then that effects us with food prices or just scarcity.
There aren’t new areas of farmland we can just move to if we need to grow more food.
Below is a graph of world population growth since 10,000 BC. I am amazed by the population growth over the last few hundred years.Now is not the time in world history for dependable farm lands to become unreliable.

I have never really worked out why lots of people don’t want to believe what the majority of scientists are saying about climate change. Perhaps the simple truth is that just don’t want to change our way of life.


we plough the fields and scatter

I have to admit to getting a bit annoyed when churches think that having a Harvest Thanksgiving Service is something from a bygone era that has no relevance to people today. (Not that I’ve heard of any church doing this, it’s maybe just in my imagination).

It especially irritates me when urban churches think like that because it seems to show a lack of awareness, thankfulness  or insight of where the food they had today in the town or city came from.
It doesn’t matter if you live in a bustling town without a cow in sight.  Somewhere on planet earth your food was planted. More than that, your future meal is either growing or being stored in a tiny seed for future growth for us to eat..
We are all dependent on the marvels of the soil and humus which if you are of a Christian persuasion God created just as much as he created you or me. Which has implications.

We usually sing the old harvest favourite

‘We plough the fields and scatter the good seed on the land
But it is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand’

Yet that isn’t quite true. I can see this from growing the few things that I got the time to plant this summer.

The soil here was tired, rocky and dry from bushes and shrubs that had grown the last 20yrs. So I had to take the bushes out, make a small bed and throw in some well rotted compost to try and improve the soil so that the lettuce and leeks would grow more healthily. In fact, one of the neighbourhood cats did his business beside a few leeks and they are noticeably larger than the other leeks.
Humans have to be custodians of the soil and sometimes add fertilizers, manure and other things if they want to keep on harvesting food from the land year after year. In one sense the soil is fed by humans as well. That is why gardeners keep compost heaps or try to get their hands on some well rotted manure.

Or during the heat wave the ground got scorched  dry and my lettuce started to bolt so I had to water the soil by going to the tap with my watering can and adding lots of water. Humans might have to irrigate and water their crop and plants, especially in areas of low rainfall.

So what I think about those lines in the hymn is that   they underplay the role that humans (all humans?) have in looking after creation in that we have a bigger role in the harvesting of our food than those lines suggest. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t all ultimately come from God, just that God put Adam in the Garden of Eden to look after it.

I wonder if those line also have filtered down to how we understand how the climate works? It seems to be the attitude with a lot of Christians that we shouldn’t get our knickers in a twist about climate change because God is in charge of the weather patterns and sends the weather, not us.
Which might be be a problem as we think that what we do can’t effect what is going to happen with the weather patterns so we might as well do what we want.

I find the whole thing about climate change and scientists puzzling.
Obviously years ago scientists discovered that smoking or passive smoking is bad for your health, so people and the Government took that on board and outlawed smoking in public places etc. Yet not many people seem to go around being skeptical about what the scientists say there but when it comes to climate change nobody seems to want to trust the scientists.
When it comes to climate change nobody wants to take it seriously. So it is going to happen and that means that our harvests are going to become more unpredictable. For example f there are heatwaves in places that used to be reliable places to grow wheat then there is going to be less bread. If there is more wet weather in areas that used to have reliable rainfall then harvesting crops is going to be more expensive. And all that is going to happen as the population of planet earth continues to grow.

So I think that we have extra reason to be thankful for every harvest we have as well as repenting of not treating the world around us of respect.
It’s like that old chestnut that I used to get about having wear a suit to church as ‘If you wouldn’t wear jeans to meet the Queen, how much more important is it to wear respectful clothes in meeting with God?’

If you wouldn’t trash Buckingham Palace or wreck a van Gogh painting in an art gallery why would we treat the world God created with so little respect?

climate sceptics cutting their carbon footprint

There is an interesting article on The New York Times website about a project in Kansas to cut the carbon footprint of residents who are traditionally sceptical about the idea of climate change.

‘Town managers attribute the new resolve mostly to a yearlong competition sponsored by the Climate and Energy Project, which set out to extricate energy issues from the charged arena of climate politics… If the heartland is to seriously reduce its dependence on coal and oil, Ms. Jackson and others decided, the issues must be separated. So the project ran an experiment to see if by focusing on thrift, patriotism, spiritual conviction and economic prosperity, it could rally residents of six Kansas towns to take meaningful steps to conserve energy and consider renewable fuels.’

It’s interesting what motivates us as people. I’m not sure if I ever like competition as a motivating factor though. The idea of competing for ‘green jobs’ to help the local economy for instance(which you hear more and more about here in Northern Ireland).

At Eco Show Live there was that feeling as well, the idea of people surfing some type of green wave as the next big growth area to make buckets of money. Perhaps that is a bit harsh?Perhaps, but on the other hand I can’t see how  life is all about competing and winning.

How sustainable is life if its all about competing?Competing involves winners and losers.