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In Argentina where deep rooted forests have been replaced by the short rooted soya bean than only grows for a few months a year, the last few years with more rainfall and the nature of the soils has lead to the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.

Lent Plastic Challenge

The Church of England is encouraging people to take part in the “Lent Plastic Challenge” that encourages people “to reduce the actions which damage God’s Creation”.

“For Anglicans Lent is the time when we remember the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness, facing challenge and temptation. It is a time when we reflect on God’s purpose for our life. This year we challenge you to give up single-use plastics – to reduce the actions which damage God’s Creation,” the church wrote.

Ruth Knight, environmental policy officer for the Church of England, said, “The Lent challenge is about raising our awareness of how much we rely on single-use plastics and challenging ourselves to see where we can reduce that use. It ties in closely with the our calling as Christians to care for God’s creation.”

Anglican Christians can use a special Lent calendar with advice for each day, such as on 15th February it states: ‘Give up disposable cups & drinks in plastic bottles. Carry a travel mug or water bottle. Get a reusable bottle, fill it up with tap water before leaving the house, and refill it wherever you happen to be.’

Lent is connected to the Christian festival of Easter, and is 40 days when people often give something up.

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From Ape to Modern Human is not a Linear Line of Evolution

Human evolution is not over, yet it’s impossible to predict how we’re going to turn out. When we look back at history at how we may have got to our current state, there are still lots of parts of the story which we are discovering and trying to understand.

An extensive article in the Guardian looks at how evolution has lead to the modern human. Some main points of interest are:

  • humans closest living relative is the chimpanzee
  • chimpanzees and humans share 98% of their DNA
  • the split between chimpanzee and humans occurred about 4-8 million years ago
  • the hypothetical common ancestor between chimpanzees and humans would have had a mixture of chimp-like traits, human-like traits and primitive traits that both species eventually left behind. So we don’t know if the common ancestor walked on all fours, or been more upright.
  • a big fossil find was “Lucy”, a 3.18m-year-old skeleton, who was excavated in 1974. Lucy is important because she has a unique blend of primitive features – a chimpanzee-sized brain, a powerful jaw and long, dangling arms – and human ones with her legs, knee and pelvis similar to our own anatomy. So it looks like she could walk and run.
  • the earliest evidence of Homo sapiens (us!) comes from fossils dated about 300,000 years ago which were excavated from a cave in Morocco. One of the scientists working on the dig said, “The face of the specimen we found is the face of someone you could meet on the tube in London.”

Studying evolution naturally brings us to Charles Darwin. He was an English naturalist who studied variation in plants and animals during a five-year voyage around the world in the 19th century. You can spot him in the animation The Pirates! when Pirate Captain stumbles upon the unhappy with love scientist Charles Darwin, who then persuades the Captain that the crew’s prized ‘parrot’, Polly, could be bring them lots of money.  In real life Charles Darwin explained his ideas on evolution in a book called, ‘On the Origin of Species’, published in 1859. His ideas were very controversial because they can be seen as conflicting with religious views about the creation of the world and the creatures in it. The basic idea behind the theory of evolution is that all the different species have evolved from simple life forms. A film from 2009 called Creation gives you a clever way to learn about Charles Darwin whilst relaxing with a film!

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The New-Look Britain in Photographs

I like any opportunity to learn more and gain better knowledge about the world. But sometimes you’re just too tired to read an article or book, to watch a documentary, film or TV programme. That’s why photographs with their visual beauty and short written explanations are a quick way to pick up some knowledge. Often at the Southbank Centre in London you can catch a free photography exhibition or likewise for a fee you can catch a more thorough exhibition such as that at the Hayward Gallery later this month. Some of Andreas Gursky’s photographs that you’ll see at the Hayward Gallery are shown below:

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Not only can you enjoy the art but you will consider political, social, economic and environmental issues. Simon Roberts, a landscape photographer and official general election artist, has a wonderful series of photographs which show you what he calls a ‘new-look’ Britain. You can learn about local celebrations and festivals which you’d probably never know about unless you lived in that town or village, as well as how Britain’s landscape is often shown in a particular light which only tells part of the story.

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And if the social, political, economic and environmental ideas don’t spring forth then at least you can learn how to take a better photograph!

Some good news about the environment!

It often feels like a lot of what we read about the environment is bad news: pollution, climate change, loss of habitats, deforestation…

Well today there is finally some good news: 2017 was the ‘greenest year’ on record for Britain with numerous renewable energy records being broken and wind power being a leading energy source. “Breaking short-term output records on top of monthly and annual figures clearly shows that wind is now a major part of the UK electricity mix, and will continue to be in the future,” said Dr Jonathan Marshall, energy analyst at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit. He continued to explain how Britain has some of the windiest regions in Europe and should lead the continent in this renewable energy.

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Something which has added costs to harnessing wind powers has been the infrastructure to transport energy from the windier parts of Britain which often have low populations and small demand to the areas where electricity are needed. Dr Marshall sounded optimistic when he said, “The opening of new infrastructure to transport power south from the windy hills of Scotland is ramping up – and will help to reduce the whole system cost of wind – while technologies to manage variable output are rapidly becoming cheaper.’

Christians are joining this crusade for more renewable energy, over 3,000 churches in Britain have made the switch from fossil fuel to renewable energy sources, and Pope Francis (leader of Catholics) has called for a committed fight against global warming to protect “our common home“. There is something called Creationtide which is a month long period of focus to bring Christians together to pray and work for the protection of the environment that sustains everyone.

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Good news for once!

Coal Industry Silently Killing People in Bosnia

There are severe levels of pollution in Bosnia because they’ve switched back to coal in their power plants rather than importing more expensive oil from Russia. A 2 minute video from the BBC explains the danger to life due to this decision.

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It’s a shame when Bosnia is such a beautiful country. We briefly discuss Bosnia in our lessons when we consider all of the conflicts in the last one hundred years. It’s incredible that some students have never heard of Yugoslavia or the conflict from 1992-95.

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73 millions trees being planted – a huge reforestation project in Brazil

A multi-million-dollar initiative which is led by a US-based NGO (non-governmental organisation), is being described as “the largest tropical reforestation project in history.” Over the next six years, it will aim to replant 70,000 acres (that’s about 35,000 football pitches) of land that has been turned into animal pastures.  We all know why this is necessary. Around 20% of the Brazilian Amazon (the world’s largest rainforest) has been destroyed since 1970, mostly owing to cattle farming. The rate of destruction has been slowing gradually since 2004 but scientists fear that a further 20% of the Amazon rainforest will be destroyed in the next two decades. So this reforestation is a great way not only for Brazil to keep the promises it made at the Paris Agreement, but also to help the world keep to the 1.2-2 degrees centigrade of warming permitted in the Agreement.

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