Help the environment, stop consuming meat and dairy

It makes absolute sense. New research has shown that without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75% – an area equivalent to the US, China, European Union and Australia combined – and still feed the world. This is hugely important because the loss of wild areas to agriculture is the leading cause of the current mass extinction of wildlife.

When you also factor in that new analysis shows that while meat and dairy provide just 18% of calories and 37% of protein, it uses the vast majority – 83% – of farmland and produces 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions.

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Other interesting discoveries from the latest research were:

  1. Freshwater fish farming, which provides two-thirds of such fish in Asia and 96% in Europe, was thought to be relatively environmentally friendly but has a large impact. “You get all these fish depositing excreta and unconsumed feed down to the bottom of the pond, where there is barely any oxygen, making it the perfect environment for methane production,” a potent greenhouse gas, the report’s author explained.
  2. Grass-fed beef, thought to be relatively low impact, was still responsible for much higher impacts than plant-based food. “Converting grass into [meat] is like converting coal to energy. It comes with an immense cost in emissions.”

You should maybe think twice before you order a steak with a glass of milk!

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66.4% to 33.6% vote in favour of overturning the abortion ban in Ireland

Watching how people debated the change in abortion law in Ireland showed the age old arguments about freedom for the woman against the right to life of an unborn child. 66.4% of voters wanted to repeal a part of the Irish constitution called the Eighth Amendment, which says an unborn child has the same right to life as a pregnant woman which effectively bans terminations.

The vote will possibly affect those north of the border too, as Northern Ireland has the strictest abortion laws in the UK. In Northern Ireland even in cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormality these would not be grounds for a legal termination.

In England there is talk to amend the law on abortion even further so that women could take the abortion pill at home rather than having to administer it at a clinic, which is very demeaning if you have to travel on public transport straight afterwards.  Christian and Muslim arguments about abortion are interestingly varied and sometimes not what you’d expect.

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A week long course on exorcism

250 catholic priests have just started their week long course in Rome this week to learn how to do exorcisms. This is a really controversial practise because it not only supports the idea that people can be possessed by evil demons but can also lead to people with mental health or psychological problems being treated in such a way.

This is how an exorcism happens:

  1. The person who is possessed may be bound, and holy water should be used.
  2. The priest will make the sign of the cross on the person at several times throughout.
  3. The priest calls on saints, prays and reads excerpts from the Bible in which Jesus drives out demons from people. In Jesus’ name, he asks the possessing demon to “yield to God” and “depart”, as many times as necessary.
  4. Once the priest is convinced the exorcism has worked, he prays to God to prevent the evil spirit from bothering the afflicted person further, and for the “goodness and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ” to take hold of the person instead.

More rain due to climate change, the type of soil locally and deforestation

In Argentina where deep rooted forests have been replaced by the short rooted soya bean than only grows for a few months a year, the last few years with more rainfall and the nature of the soils has lead to the incredible emergence of rivers 60 metres wide in places. One river now stretches for 25 kilometres and carries large amounts of sediment which sometimes gets dumped on crop fields downstream.

Back in 2008 farmers started to see shallow run-off channels, and in the last five years those streams have become deep trenches. This is all a reminder that when humans drastically change their land use, in this case with deforestation and a massive increase in soya bean farms, nature often shouts back.

He leaves a trail so he can prove where he’s been

The story of Anthony Ray Hinton is one which highlights the risks of the death penalty and the racism which means that even though African American and Hispanics make up just 36% of the population they make up 56% of the prison population in the USA. He spent 28 years on death row for two murders he didn’t commit.

When you have to give the different points of view about capital punishment (the death penalty) an often mentioned argument is that innocent people might get unjustly killed. Anthony Ray Hinton’s story gives much weight to this opinion.

Important Sites of Religious Pilgrimage

A BBC travel article in 2012 named 10 must-see pilgrimage locations around the world. You might have heard of the pilgrimages before, or simply learnt the famous religious story in class and can now discover how a village or town in 2018 can allow a religious person to feel closer to their faith by visiting a place written about in their holy books.

Lumbini
Location: Rupandehi, Nepal
Religion: Buddhism
Significance: birthplace of the Lord Buddha. Siddhartha Gautama, the Lord Buddha, was born in 623 B.C. in the famous gardens of Lumbini, which soon became a place of pilgrimage. Buddhism has interesting ideas which we can reflect on when thinking about whether we are at fault for our suffering and if we should take care in our actions so not to harm others or ourselves.

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Vatican City
Location: surrounded by Rome, Italy
Religion: Catholicism
Significance: home of the Pope and centre of the Roman Catholic Church. Currently Pope Francis is the man at the Vatican! He often brings to the world’s attention things we learn about at school, such as Christians being persecuted and the need for Christians to pray for them; how Christians should show mercy and compassion to refugees like the Rohingya Muslims; and that if you are fasting during Lent you should still be kind to others to be a truly just Christian.

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Wittenberg
Location: Saxony, Germany
Religion: Protestantism
Significance: birthplace of the Protestant Reformation. It was here in Wittenberg that the monk Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of  Castle Church in 1517. Unfortunately during the Seven Years’ War, much of Wittenberg was destroyed, but Castle Church was rebuilt in the 1800s and the text of Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses was inscribed into the church’s front doors. Inside the church you will also find Luther’s tomb. There are some great Martin Luther raps; film clips; animations; and mini documentaries you can watch or sing along to to help you remember the facts!

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Western Wall
Location: Jerusalem, Israel
Religion: Judaism
Significance: the holiest of Jewish sites. The Western Wall made headlines in May 2017 when the US President Donald Trump visited it and prayed there, and female journalist were kept in a penned off area behind male colleagues. It is a place where awe and wonder fills Jewish pilgrims minds and hearts.

Orthodox Jewish men praying in the  men's section, Western Wall (Wailing Wall), Old City, Jerusalem, Israel.

The Right to Die

This is a really sad and emotional story about Kim Lute’s seriously ill step-father in the USA. Fred had spent three long years in hospital, fighting to keep his kidneys going, and when he finally died it had been his choice to stop life-saving measures like dialysis.

He could have ended his life more dramatically as Colorado is one of seven US states that has what is called a Death and Dignity Statute. This law gives terminally ill patients a right to end their incurable suffering. In the UK we do not have this possibility and we deem that active euthanasia is manslaughter or murder.

The Death and Dignity Statute in Colorado states that in all cases, patients must be terminally ill and have less than six months to live before an accredited doctor would administer a cocktail of drugs, hastening the patient’s death.

Kim Lute believes that, “Ultimately, the right to die, to exercise complete control over one’s physical self, is as fundamental a right as free speech and worshipping whatever God you choose. Just like a woman’s womb is hers alone, a terminally ill patients should have complete autonomy over their bodies. Facing the reality of one’s own mortality isn’t a task for the weakest among us.”

What do some religions think about euthanasia?

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Even though most Christians are against Euthanasia there are some Christian arguments which could be used in sympathy for it:

  • Christianity requires us to respect every human being
  • If we respect a person we should respect their decisions about the end of their life
  • We should accept their rational decisions to refuse burdensome and futile treatment
  • Perhaps we should accept their rational decision to refuse excessively burdensome treatment even if it may provide several weeks more of life