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Wednesday, 31 December 2008
Last ride of 2008

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It’s frozen cold and misty but so far it’s been my best climb up the Oxted Down to Woldingham this December. It’s also my last. The photo is taken from my usual viewpoint, from almost the highest point I climb to on the North Downs.

Posted by bigblue on 31/12/2008 at 10:51 AM
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Entering a New Year

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It gives me pleasure to publish the following short article by Dr Gary Robertshaw of The Green Providers Directory, as a “thought for the end of the year/beginning of a new year” for all of us. May each of us be the change we wish to see in the world.

The debate surrounding the extent to which the burning of fossil fuels leads to climate change misses a more fundamental point. That is, fossil fuels are an inherently finite resource. This resource is dwindling at an accelerating rate as economies such as those of China and India expand rapidly. Fossil fuels will run out. Maybe not in the next 10, 20 or 30 years but they will run out. As the scarcity of fossil fuels grows there will be increasing conflict between nations to secure their supplies in an effort to maintain their carbon-dependent economies. At the same time, there is an inexorably growing human population, destruction of rainforests, depletion of natural resources and plummeting biodiversity. Clearly, this situation cannot be sustained in the longer-term.

Yet our capitalist system is based on the principle of economic growth - growth that is heavily dependent on fossil fuels and unsustainable practices. Just look at recent events; governments are terrified by anything that threatens economic growth – pouring billions of public money into failing financial systems. In addition, many economists see growth not only as desirable but as essential. They claim it lifts the poor out of poverty, feeding the world’s growing population, supporting the costs of rising public spending and stimulating investment and technological development.

The dilemma is how can we square Earth’s finite resources with the fact that as the economy grows, the amount of natural resources needed to sustain that activity must grow too. I am clear in my conviction that economic growth in its current form is unsustainable. We need a new paradigm that limits (or reduces) the global population, a meaningful shift away from fossil fuels to renewable energy, increasing energy efficiency and the adoption of more sustainable lifestyles. This will require courageous, co-ordinated and global government policies that ensure we don’t use up resources faster than the world can replace them.

Many will dismiss this as a utopian ideology. But isn’t it a utopian ideology to carry on blithely down a path that will ultimately lead to catastrophe? Yes, it will require a new world-view and radical changes but I think we have several grounds for optimism. Firstly, sustainable economies are more stable – whilst growth may be lower than in traditional economies it will be more durable in the longer-term and less volatile. Secondly, the shift towards a sustainable economy would create new opportunities, jobs and greater stability. Thirdly, the potential for conflict between nations is reduced as our dependency on fossil fuels reduces over time. Finally, there is a growing recognition (albeit begrudgingly) amongst governments that the current situation is unsustainable and the mood seems to be shifting from one of cynicism and self-interest to one of genuine commitment to tackling the problem.

The prospect of a truly sustainable global economy, fuelled by renewable energy sources coupled with a stabilised human population and harmonised with biodiversity is an ambitious yet achievable goal. But it’s a goal that requires a re-appraisal of the current meaning of economic growth.

The photograph is Clean Energy by Ms Carrie, showing a Scottish windfarm, and is republished under the Creative Commons licence.

Posted by bigblue on 31/12/2008 at 07:33 AM
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Tuesday, 30 December 2008
Stop the War Protest

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Israel is committing a shocking series of atrocities by using modern weaponry against a defenceless population - attacking a population that has been enduring a severe blockade for many months.

The UN Human Rights Council (as quoted on the Stop the War Coalition website). A national demonstration has been called outside Parliament in London on Saturday (see previous link).

I think there were some “jokers” at the demonstration because I see that someone else also noticed a Free Palestine poster on a police vehicle.

Posted by bigblue on 30/12/2008 at 01:41 PM
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Monday, 29 December 2008
Stop the War

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There are so many words written about the “root causes” of the Arab-Israeli conflict, you might think the underlying issue is difficult to understand. But you’d be wrong.

The quote on the newstand in the photograph above refers to a statement by Israel’s defence minister that the attack on Gaza is a war to the “bitter end”. Richard Lawson points out that:

The “bitter end” is a nautical term, and refers to what happens if you chuck the anchor over the side without first making sure that the anchor chain is attached to the boat. It refers to the nasty feeling that you get as the end of the anchor chain disappears into the water, leaving the boat without the expected benefit of said anchor.

How tragically apt.

Posted by bigblue on 29/12/2008 at 11:29 PM
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Sunday, 28 December 2008
Ranganathan Temple

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This is the outdoor temple at the Community of Many Names of God (Skanda Vale) in Wales which I wrote about yesterday.

Posted by bigblue on 28/12/2008 at 04:29 PM
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Saturday, 27 December 2008
Pilgrimage

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I’ve spent most of the past two days on pilgrimage with two friends at the Community of Many Names of God in Wales. This means I’ve been up since 4:30 this morning and (although I’m now home) it’s time for sleep. One of my friends also snored like a pig for the 6 hours immediately before we got up (with apologies to all pigs for the comparison).

The best thing about the pilgrimage was that everything was free (if you don’t mind praying for your breakfast, lunch and dinner, of which there are many opportunities/obligations). Of course you can additionally give a donation but the lack of a visible merchandising department attached to the temple or any pressure to give a donation appears to be a refreshing religious innovation. They have three temples so there are some good evening and early morning walks up the hill and through the forest. One of the temples is outdoors and it was a rather bracing -2.5C at 9:30 this morning. Fortunately this was after breakfast.

So it was pretty cold out in the Welsh countryside, but invigorating. The animals and birds seemed “tame” which is perhaps not surprising as the monks and nuns have taken Franciscan vows. In order to enter the temples you have to have refrained from eating meat for three days but if not you can wait on the porch and will still get a blessing at the end of the pooja.

Posted by bigblue on 27/12/2008 at 10:35 PM
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Thursday, 25 December 2008
Haunted Warlingham

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According to the book Haunted Inns of Surrey, by Roger Lang, the Slines Oak Pond in Warlingham (on the B269) is haunted by a ghostly carriage. Travellers late at night are said to have seen the carriage

rise up from the pond, all lit up and with passengers screaming at the windows.

It is believed that a report must exist somewhere of a ghastly accident at this spot years ago.

Posted by bigblue on 25/12/2008 at 02:51 AM
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Wednesday, 24 December 2008
Things you won’t see from your car - Part 3

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Highly pregnant sheep. The lambs that they are carrying will nibble on the grass of these fields early in the new year, but are unlikely to be alive at this time next year.

Posted by bigblue on 24/12/2008 at 07:49 AM
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