Threats to our Trees

logs300x198Like so many environmental questions, the diverse threats facing the world’s trees tend to be overshadowed. But there are always new and specific problems, and two in particular seem now to be spiralling: tree pests and diseases and deforestation. National Tree week, from 29 November to 7 December is a good time to think about this.

The actual rate of new tree diseases has surged during the last twenty years, and still now more species face new threats. The global trade in plants is one significant cause, but equally important is the international timber trade. Britain depends on imports for almost all our hardwood alone. Several million cubic metres of timber are imported into the UK each year, the majority from temperate forests. With all these timber imports comes the threat that still more pests and disease will be introduced to our native trees.

All across the world, deforestation still persists – and now the surge in the use of biomass in energy generation (as in UK power stations) is exacerbating the problem, with some of the timber imported from primal forests in the USA. These ecosystems will be weakened, and these forests’ function as a carbon sink will also be lost. Moreover, the carbon footprint of transporting the timber to Britain will be considerable.

These two issues come together in the global timber trade, to which alternatives need to be developed. Strengthening the UK’s own timber production is one clear imperative, thereby reducing our dependence on imported timber for such uses as construction as well as biomass as a fuel. Sustainable British forestry – a move away from monocultures to more broadleaved as well as conifer commercial woodlands, using recognised ecological methods of forestry – could hep rural economies.

Waste agriculture material from within the UK, such as straw or crop wastes, can be used to limit the use of timber to generate electricity. But the real problem is the large scale. One large biomass power station uses more than one and a half times as much as all the wood produced in the UK every year.

Trees are vital for a healthy planet – ecologically, symbolically and spiritually. In a biblical vision of the future the leaves of the tree of life are for the healing of the nations (Rev. 22.2).

(This article by Isobel Murdoch is part of Christian Ecology Link’s current letter campaign.)

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I’m dreaming of a Green Christmas

A natural remedy for festive fever has been prepared by Christian conservation charity ARocha UK – in the form of a ‘green’ online Advent calendar

Daily doses of environmental advice offer to settle those seasonal challenges – from the thorny problem of Christmas trees to the drastic plastic of shop-bought decorations. Each calendar window opens on a practical plan to soothe the stress on both pocket and planet.

!cid_Home-madefun_ImagefromARochaUKadventcalendarCreditToria_Shutterstock_jpg@1408640637This unique resource includes such tips as – how to choose a ‘happy turkey’, recycle Christmas cards, re-use wrapping materials, shop at charity stores and create candles that are kinder to creation.

‘We’re concerned that households are clogged up with consumerism at Christmas’, said ARocha UK’s Churches And Theology Director Dr Ruth Valerio, ‘and it’s all at the expense of our immediate and wider environment.’

‘Family breakdown, health problems and debt are the festive fall-out for many. A Rocha UK wants to help people reclaim the meaning of this special time and enjoy the true “peace on earth” of Christmas,’ she added.

The online Advent calendar will be available at – - from 1st December. To fully digest this festive formula, people can sign up for reminders on Facebook and Twitter.

A Rocha UK is a Christian charity working for the protection and restoration of the natural world. It does this through conservation projects, ecological research, campaigning and engaging with churches schools, communities and individuals.


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Pray and Fast for the Climate – Launch at Service on 1 Nov

60 -70  people attended the “Pray and Fast for the Climate Service” on 1st November  at London – to launch  a year of prayer and fasting for climate action.

CEL Information Officer Jo Abbess wrote a short account on her blog of Steve Chalke’s talk


Ellen Teague gives an excellent account in this article here reproduced from Independent Catholic News :-


“Christian organisations launched a year of prayer and fasting for climate action at special ecumenical services across the country on 1 November 2014. The initiative of the Faith for the Climate Network calls on Christians to pray and fast on the first day of every month to urge more significant measures to stabilise Earth’s climate. Their website contains useful prayer resources. The coming year is a crucial time for faith communities to act as momentum builds towards a new international climate agreement to be signed in Paris in December 2015. “The unrestricted use of fossil fuels should be phased out by 2100 if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change,”  said the IPCC, a UN-backed expert panel, this very weekend.

In London, the main launch service took place at St John’s Waterloo, hosted by Christian charity Operation Noah with support from other members of the Faith for the Climate network, including A Rocha, Christian Aid, Christian Ecology Link, OurVoices, Hope for the Future, Shrinking the Footprint and Tearfund. The Baptist Union, the Church of England, the Methodist Church, and the United Reformed Church all support the initiative. Barbara Kentish of Westminster J&P, Ellen Teague of Columban JPIC and Reggie Norton of Christian Climate Action were among the Catholics attending. In line with the commitment to fasting on the first of the month, only drinks were available afterwards as refreshments.

The opening hymn was an ecological one to the tune of Kingsfold, called ‘The God who set the stars in space’ and written by retired Church of England bishop Timothy Dudley-Smith. Canon Giles Goddard, priest at St John’s Waterloo and board member of Operation Noah said during his welcome: “The need for change is urgent and everyone can help bring it about. This is an initiative about hope. Praying and fasting for the climate will inspire action and encourage people to think about what needs to happen. We are calling for justice for all those impacted by climate change now and in the future, and for an ambitious outcome at next year’s climate talks in Paris. We hope people across the country will support the initiative and tell others about it.”

The main speaker, Revd Steve Chalke, Oasis Trust founder, picked up on the first reading from Genesis 1. “A self-centred approach to our planet which picks the riches of the Earth for us and not for others is not in keeping with Genesis 1” he said. “We pray and fast because we are part of this ecosystem gifted to us in Genesis 1” he added “and real prayer moves out of the head and into campaigning and out on the street”.

There was a prayer at the service for “positive media coverage”, highlighting that the media has not always underlined that 98% of the world’s scientists are saying that global warming is happening and is human-induced.

Barbara Echlin of Christian Ecology Link and Operation Noah reminded that the latter is celebrating its 10th anniversary. It was a decade ago that hundreds attended the launch event for the Christian Climate organisation in Coventry, which included a rainbow procession through the streets, a liturgy of repentance in the ruins of the old cathedral, and a service in the new Coventry cathedral. Catholic groups, including the National Board of Catholic Women, the National Justice and Peace Network and Columban JPIC, were present.

Other services took place on 1 November across the UK, including Brighton, Coventry, Lancaster and Southwell. People were encouraged to spread the movement far and wide by hosting monthly prayer and fasting events. Political pressure is being placed on UK politicians and church leaders to make bold commitments to tackle climate change ahead of the UK general election and beyond.

This prayer movement builds upon the ‘Fast for the Climate’ initiative begun at the 2013 UN climate talks by Yeb Sano, the Filipino delegate, in the wake of the devastation caused in the Philippines by Typhoon Haiyan. Yeb has continued to fast on the first of every month, joined by people from all around the world.

Prayer resources and information about events can be found at:

Operation Noah is an ecumenical Christian charity providing leadership, focus and inspiration in response to the growing threat of catastrophic climate change.

News of the latest IPCC report at:

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PRESS RELEASE : Nisa supermarket makes surprise donation to Green Christian

North East London-based charity Green Christian has been offered a significant donation by the NISA supermarket in Highams Park under their “Making a Difference Locally” scheme, which earmarks a proportion of sales for good causes. Green Christian is an educational charity helping to bring people of faith together to work on environmental projects, and has its Resources Office in South Chingford.

Information Officer Jo Abbess said, “I’m taken aback by the generosity shown by Nisa. These funds are going to be very welcome in supporting our projects, and my colleagues are thrilled to hear the news.”

She added, “Nisa in Highams Park has always impressed me as an enterprise with community values – it shows in the treatment of its staff and customers, and the attention to the quality of the food on sale – for example, offering a selection of Fair Trade products, free range eggs and a wide selection of fresh fruit and vegetables.”

The donation was a “total surprise” to Green Christian. Jo Abbess added, “I never dreamed Nisa would choose us, but I’m so glad they did !”.

Amongst other ongoing projects, Green Christian is hosting a London-wide workshop on housing in January 2015, covering issues such as affordable housing, energy efficiency, green renovations and empty properties.

Previous workshops and conferences have placed the spotlight on ethical food, low carbon transport solutions and the green economy.

Green Christian came to Nisa’s attention when Danish Abbas, Store Manager for Highams Park, consulted his customers about local good causes, and happened to ask Jo Abbess, who revealed that she worked for a charity in the area.

Jo Abbess, a regular Nisa customer commented, “I usually shop at the Co-operative and I get my organic vegetables from the OrganicLea community growing scheme. But if I run out of fruit or bread late at night, I always pop into the Nisa, because they are a friendly, independent store. I don’t think you can get nicer than a local Nisa.”

Notes for the Editors

Contact : Jo Abbess : 0845 45 98 460

1. The Making a Difference Locally scheme collects 1p to 2p from sales of a selected range of products sold in the Nisa branch, and they consider a range of local good causes on their merits.

2. The Nisa Retail Limited franchise represented in Hale End Road, Highams Park, in Waltham Forest, has ten branches in North London, and make regular charitable donations to worthy causes.

3. Making a Difference Locally can be contacted via

4. More details about Green Christian can be found on their website :

5. People who wish to take part in Green Christian events and projects do not need to declare a Christian faith. Green Christian has associates in the Muslim, Jewish and Sikh environmental movements, and welcomes participation from people of all faiths and none.

6. Green Christian is a trading and operating name of Christian Ecology Link. Green Christian is also the name of the organisation’s flagship magazine, and the social media account on Twitter : @GreenChristian_

7. Green Christian is running a workshop on “Housing and Energy – Fairness for all” on 24th January 2015, 11am to 4.30pm, St Aloysius Church, 20 Phoenix Road, London NW1 1TA (near Euston station) :

8. Nisa stores can be located online :

9. Green Christian encourages people to eat the LOAF way – Local, Organic, Animal-friendly and Fairly Traded, and where possible, support the local economy, rather than giant multinational corporations :

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One Climate, One World

One-Climate-One-World-logo_layout-medium One Climate, One World is CAFOD’s new climate campaign


Judith Allinson writes: “I had the privilege to take part in a local event this week at Settle, North Yorkshire.”


“One Climate, One World” was the message of Ben Oldham of CAFOD, the guest speaker at Churches Together in Settle and District’s “One World Week” Meal on Thursday 23 Oct.


Over 50 people met in the newly refurbished Catholic church hall in Settle and shared a meal made almost entirely of local produce – vegetable casserole and shepherds pie and bread rolls.


Ben Oldhacafod-settle-smallm, showed a short film of how changing climate is making rains less predictable in Kenya and how CAFOD is helping people on farms there.


Many of the people signed pledges to show how they would reduce their carbon emissions.


Ben Oldham  is at the centre back. On his left is a display about Kwezana,  Settle Primary School’s partner school in South Africa.




If you are involved with Churches Together and especially if you are involved with a Catholic Church or Catholic School, do support One Climate, One World .. write a pledge to show how you are going to reduce your carbon emissions.


There are lots of useful resources e.g  list of quotes and sources that could be used in a parish magazine. .. and lots more. Do  go and have a look.


And do contact your local MP to tell about your concerns.





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A Forest Church Workshop

Judith Allinson attended a Forest Church workshop in October, held in Skipton, run by Bruce Stanley,  for people interested in either running a Forest Chuforest-church-small-21rch event or finding out more. She writes: 

Maybe you, like me, have done some “Forest Church type activities” before. (See my table of “Outdoor Activities  Nature Awareness Activities I have enjoyed” below)

And maybe you, like me, would be a bit apprehensive that it would be too “Pagan”.

Well it seems individual Forest Church groups vary a lot, and the emphasis of each depends on what the leaders and core group make it.  Bruce had invited Revd Steve Hollinghurst to give us a short talk/answer questions on the more pagan aspects which was helpful

It is a vast subject – too wide to fit into one blogpost. But you can read lots on his website

 Outdoor  Appreciation/ Nature Awareness and Experiences- by oneself or with a group of people Maybe you have walked on top of a mountain or through an avenue of trees and felt closer to God.

Nature Games

Earth Education (Steve van Matre)

Bird watching/ Badger watching / Otter watching (just somewhere in nature where you have to be still and watch..)

Taking children or old people  or physically challenged people out into nature

Rogation Service

It is good to find out and understand better the natural world around us

Doing a quality activity and helping others enjoy it is (in my view) a way of worshipping and saying thank you to God. Hence natural history activities can fall into this category.

I quote from the Forest Church website: (which Bruce Stanley runs)

Many people can describe transcendent moments in nature where they feel deeply connected to something bigger than themselves and Forest Church is a way to explore that connection within community

Forest Church is a fresh expression of church drawing on much older traditions when sacred places and practices were outside – but it is also drawing on contemporary research that highlights the benefits of spending time with nature in wild places.

Forest Church isn’t just normal church happening outside, instead it attempts to participate with creation. And it isn’t just a fellowship group doing an outside activity, we aim to learn, worship, meditate, pray and practice with the trees, at the spring, along the shore….

You can see many more pictures and read about our day in more detail on my blog   There were  thirteen people who attended the course in Skipton we were mostly from Anglican or Methodist churches.

I suggested some activities which I have taken part in the past (and thoroughly recommend, as in the table) and which I would think are forest church related. Other people gave different suggestions, and Bruce generally said yes, that would be included.

Meanwhile.. I have just discovered this article written by Christine Miles for the Church Times “If you kneel down in the woods today” .. and it  is so good I would refer you to it. It expresses much of what I learned. It is written from a Christian/ Church Times point of view, and similar to mine

Her article was written exactly a year ago when there were about six Forest Church groups.  Now there are about fourteen  – plus several similar groups that have not affiliated.

The groups vary in their activities. And in the people who come. For example one group I was told is about one third Christian and one third atheist and one third Pagan.


This is a picture of us at the entrance of Skipton Castle Woods.
At the entrance Bruce stopped. He explained how it is good to have a special pause/ ritual/ gathering together before entering the area. While he talked a robin hopped on the wall beside us



We stopped and explored our senses. Here I have been given some “Rosehip leather” to taste.

At lunchtime we returned to base to discuss some of our activities. Steve Hollinghust had been invited to come and answer our questions on some Pagan  / Druid activities (different to New Age, he said.)

One person who was thinking of trying out a Forest Church event was a bit apprehensive about his lack of knowledge. We were all impressed by Bruce’s knowledge of  “bushcraft” and landscape interpretation. Well I was.


Above:  Tea ceremony

 One person set up a Forest Church Event based on Orienteering the following week.

I recommend the activities I have taken part in before (in the table). These do not include the same amount of ritual  as a forest church would .  I sometimes wish I could include more of them on occasions in my local church. But I am aware that most people like to be inside in the warm.

more pictures of the day

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Nicholas Stern : The State of the Climate

Posted in Climate Change, Energy, News | 1 Comment

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate – Review

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate, by Naomi Klein, September 2014. Allen Lane, 566 pages, ISBN 978-147679-114-2. RRP £20 (hardcover)

Journalist Naomi Klein researches climate change. This is not a comfortable book, it one where the science and the consequences of the deniers are laid bare. It also exposes the double standards of those who accept the dangers of climate change yet expand airlines, drill in reservations and frack gases. “The nature of the moment is… whether industrialised countries can deeply cut our emissions over the next decade expecting China and India to cut emissions over the following decade…. The environmental crisis supercharges each one with urgency.” Already climate change is happening, 1 degree centigrade is already warming our planet and 2 degrees is inevitable. 4 degrees must be avoided. 400ppm of CO2 is now and rising. The contemporary movement could not only heal the planet, but also our broken economies. There is a climate justice fight for a new relationship with the planet as well as mitigating and adapting to the tipping points already passed.

There are new fighters on the block which she calls Blockadia; new climate warriors opposing mining and drilling for hydrocarbons. Some are First Nation peoples preserving their reservations and way of life, others are activists against climate change, transition towns are beacons of opportunity for community. She discusses the prospective uncertain geoengineering solutions and finds them scary.

In the final section of the book she tries to be hopeful that nations will adopt the changes, “for the status-quo is no longer an option”1. There must be an international agreement based on the deliberations which failed at Copenhagen and are now being discussed at New York and Paris. Can we humans consume less, using less energy to drive, fly, heat our homes and develop local economies using renewable and sustainable energies? GDP is polluting so we need to find other acceptable green measures of progress. There are answers, but can a selfish/unselfish humanity adopt them? We need to liberate science from economics and stand by the conclusions, however uncomfortable. Globally, human beings need a complete social change.

There are signs of hope, one of which is this book, one of the best books on climate change, its opportunities and threats, that I have ever read. A powerful economic opposition is active in developing and using the buried hydrocarbons for profit. These, if we are to live equitably with the Earth, must be kept in the ground. There are alternatives.

There are no religious discussions here, unlike the Skidelsky’s book2 on Enough. This is a book about science and politics and the urgent need to change. Others have written of the need to change, few have done it so comprehensively and cogently.

This book offers a new view of the planet, not the romantic view of the blue orb in space, but the reverse, a view grounded in the Earth itself. Nature is not bottomless. Humanity must change, and must learn how the economics of the Earth must live within its ecological limitations. Our future could be either dire or glorious, it is hard to be more precise. Naomi Klein offers us the two visions – change or collapse. She tries to have hope. The future that my grandchildren and her son inherit may yet be good. Let us as Christians hope so.

By John Smith

1 Stern, Nicholas. Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, 2006.

2 Skidelsky, Robert and Skidelsky, Edward. How Much is Enough. Allen Lane, 2012.

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