Environment & Disasters – Tearfund's Policy Blog

December 12, 2015 by mattcurrey

Tearfund’s Advocacy Director Paul Cook reflects on the outcomes of the Paris Agreement reached today

On Saturday 12 December 2015 for the first time in history all the nations of the world signed up to play their part in the Paris Agreement . A global deal to tackle climate change.  But is it a good deal or a bad deal?  In particular is it a good deal for the millions of people living in poor communities across Africa, Asia and Latin America who are the most vulnerable to climate change and have done the least to cause it?

What did we get?

Nations signed up to hold “the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees”.  This doesn’t sound like much, but it is the critical level that the science indicates we need to stay below to prevent the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.  Indeed there has been growing recognition that the science points towards limiting warming not to 2 but to 1.5 degrees.  The Climate Vulnerable Forum, a group of over 40 of the poorest countries who are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, led the momentum in the Paris talks to see the limit strengthened from 2 to 1.5 degrees, a major victory.

In order to stay below 1.5 degrees, the Paris Agreement says we need to “achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century”.  Basically humans must stop emitting more greenhouse gas emissions than the planet can absorb naturally through rainforests, oceans, soils etc.  This is not the clear commitment to shift to 100% clean energy by (not after) 2050 as Tearfund would have liked.  Nevertheless, it means that for the first time ever the governments of the world have accepted that the safe level of emissions is effectively zero, and that the fossil fuel era is coming to an end to be replaced with 100% clean energy.

The Paris Agreement locks in and confirms the planned cuts to their emissions over the next few years that each country put on the table before they even arrived: their Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC). Together these will reduce global average temperature rise from a catastrophic 4 degrees to 2.7 degrees.  This obviously isn’t enough given the level we need to stay below is 1.5 degrees, but it is finally a good start.

In order to close this remaining gap the Paris Agreement institutes a system whereby every five years the emissions cuts nations have planned can be reviewed and ratcheted up until we finally do get down to a level which will keep the world below 1.5 degrees.  The first window of opportunity for this is in 2018.  None of this will be easy, and each time will no doubt be a tough fight with millions of Christians and others around the world mobilising to put pressure on their governments to be more ambitious in their planned cuts.  However, there is also strong grounds to hope that the clear signal the Paris Agreement has given and the implementation of the INDCs once begun will finally be a tipping point driving huge investment out of fossil fuels and into clean energy, accelerating the progress and enabling nations to move much faster than they currently think.

Developed countries reaffirmed their commitment to provide $100 billion a year in climate finance from 2020 to help poor countries transition their economies to clean energy and adapt to the impacts of climate change.  This has now been extended up to 2025, from which point the international community will set a new goal for finance with $100 billion as a minimum ‘floor’.  However, developed nations are currently still a very long way from doing this in reality and pressure will have to be kept up to ensure they truly deliver up to 2025 and continue to do their share beyond.

Where do we go next?

So the Paris Agreement is not perfect.  It doesn’t give us everything we need to keep global average temperature rise below 1.5 degrees and provide all the financial support the poorest communities around the world need.  However, it does give us a strong start we can build on and scale up in the years ahead until we do get there.

The challenge now for all the people of the world is to bring the Paris Agreement home and transform commitments on paper into actions in reality in every nation, and to scale up that ambition in the years ahead.

The Paris Agreement was only possible in large part because so many groups were mobilised to create political pressure for a good result.  Businesses, world leaders, scientists, mayors and local authorities, ordinary people and not least faith groups all took action and spoke out.  

Ordinary Christians and churches around the world have been central to this.  They have prayed and spoken up for action on climate change.  They formed a large contingent in over 2000 marches that took place around the world involving millions of people at the start of the Paris talks.  This included over 50,000 people in London in the UK’s largest ever climate march.  Tearfund will be honoured to continue to work with ordinary Christians, churches and in coalition with organisations and individuals of all faiths and none to continue to bring pressure on governments to implement, rapidly build on and improve the Paris Agreement in the years ahead.

December 11, 2015 by mattcurrey

There are over 30,000 people charging around the organised chaos that is the negotiating rooms of Le Bourget in Paris all trying to close a global climate deal in the next few hours. I have come with one question in mind: how do we get an agreement here in Paris that works for the very poorest people in the world? Earlier this week I heard from Christiana Figueres, head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), who has the unenviable task of pulling all of this together into a deal by the weekend. She said we need an agreement which “meets national and local needs, keeps scientific integrity, and promotes prosperity for all”.  It is her words “for all” that resonate most strongly with me.

My country India is both a contributor and a victim of climate change. We are the world’s fourth largest carbon emitter. But we are also the world’s second most populous country and over 30 per cent of our population do not yet have access to electricity, essential for development. My work with Tearfund partner, EFICOR means day in day out I am working alongside the very poorest people in my country who are hit first and hardest by climate change.

We have 7,500 kilometres of coast line (including island territories) with 73 coastal districts and are therefore highly susceptible to rising sea levels. Some 16 per cent of our country, ten states, are in the Himalayas where climate change is causing landslides and glacial melt. In the last three years we have seen terrible floods in Uttarakhand, Cyclone Phailin devastate Orissa, flooding in Uttar Pradesh as a result of glacial melt, flooding in Kashmir and now the worst flooding in Chennai for 114 years where 280 people have died and nearly 70 per cent of the city is affected. At the same time there are 302 out of 676 districts declared officially in drought and we had unprecedented heat waves this year. Climate change is affecting us seriously, there is food insecurity, water stress, sinking livelihood opportunities, forcing people to leave their places and migrate. I have witnessed distress migration, human trafficking and farmer suicides from our communities where we are working. It is always the poorest who bear the brunt of such climate catastrophe.

So what I want to see is a ray of hope for the poor communities of India that I work with coming from the talks in Paris. We need an ambitious, legally binding, durable and just deal. That means an agreement to limit global average temperature rise to no more than 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels or less than that, which will save us from the worst impacts of climate change. I am hopeful that we can get a good deal here because of the emissions cuts each nation has offered to make before coming to Paris. Together these would reduce warming from four degrees to 2.7 degrees. That would not be all we need, but would be a great start we can build on in the next few years to finally get us to 1.5.

Can this conference be of real use for the future? To get to a good result nations need to stop blaming each other and all work together. If we don’t act now future generations will hold us all responsible. The destiny of the communities I work with will be decided in the next few hours. The conference has entered a critical phase, the climax of the talks. Please join me in praying for all who are making these huge decisions.

December 9, 2015 by mattcurrey

Sarah Wiggins offers some reflections from Paris through the eyes of people she has spent the past week with.

‘If there is a silver lining, beautiful in this situation, it is that we are all being required to acknowledge that we are all here, we exist together.’ John Mark McMillan, Paris, December 2015

The climate talks at COP21 in Paris is a vibrant place to be. World leaders are here – people like President Hollande can be glimpsed being corralled towards their next appointments by throngs of suits, camera people and mobile-phone-shutter-happy-observers.

There are drones, helicopters and police on horseback. Transport is running well – no mean feat because 35,000+ people are being ferried about each day. It’s a slick business (apart from the long queues for baguettes and crêpes at lunch time!).

John Mark McMillan (quoted above) and three other well-known US worship leaders – Sarah McMillan, William Matthews (Bethel) and Stephen Roach (Songs of Water) (see his blog about what happened here) all came to Paris to expand their personal understanding of the issues, fully conscious of the responsibility that comes both with understanding, and with having influence through their music.

As we wandered around together, we met a plethora of people who cared passionately and are also playing their part – from child campaigners, to Amazonian Indians, to scientists, to vegetarians, to Bishops, to Presidents.

The diversity and energy of people at COP21 relays a conviction of hope and encouragement: a vast array of differences, and yet unity amongst so many people who are sincerely working to take care of our precious world and our global family.

‘Once you are made aware of something there is an individual response. …We need to say “God, now is the time to act”. Otherwise it will have repercussions.’ Stephen Roach, Paris, December 2015

One group of people who are ardently calling on the world to act in this, the second week of the climate talks, is the leaders of the climate vulnerable countries. They are persevering in presenting a vision for a strong agreement that will make a way for us to keep global warming to below 1.5 degrees. Over 100 of the 196 countries taking part in these talks have voiced support for this. Although we know that countries’ current commitments in Paris will only get us from 4 degrees to 2.7 degrees global warming, we can still get an agreement that makes a way for us to ratchet up cuts in the coming years, so that 1.5 degrees really can be achieved. Some countries continue to oppose this goal. However, the moral imperative to care for the gift of Creation and to love our neighbour is gaining momentum.

‘As [Ireland’s former President] Mary Robinson said to us “In the Titanic, the workers went down, and the first class went down. It will affect us all some day.”’ Sarah McMillan, Paris, December 2015

With the sense of common good that permeates many civil society actions and events at COP21 it’s possible to believe we will have an outcome that can pave the way for a 1.5 degree future. From presidents, to worship leaders, to people in the pews, we all need to act out of justice and of love, to take courage and to continue to pray.

‘We have met a ton of people who have a hopeful nature. People who are fully engaged in this still say it is hopeful.’ William Matthews, Paris, December 2015

December 7, 2015 by mattcurrey

As the COP21 Conference enters it’s second week, Bishop Efraim M. Tendero The Secretary General of the World Evangelical Alliance reflects on his time at the conference and the role the global church can play in this issue going forward.

We came from 195 countries to Paris, some 40,000 individuals from government, intergovernmental organizations, United Nations agencies, Non Government Organizations and civil society for the 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference.

I salute all the participants for working hard to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.

This international political response to climate change began at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, that adopted the UN Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This convention set out a framework for action aimed at stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases to avoid “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”

As part of the Philippine delegation and assisted by our long time relief and partner Tearfund I came to Paris with two purposes: to seek climate justice and to advocate for the engagement of the religious sector in the Conference of Parties.

One of the causes of the major weather disturbances in the world that brings super typhoons like Haiyan (aka, Yolanda) in the Philippines, and the drying of lands in Australia, and flooding in Pakistan is the warming of the earth’s surface due to the emission of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

As one of the vulnerable countries to climate disturbance, the Philippines contributes only 0.28% of the carbon emissions of the world, while the top ten big countries in the world emits 67% of the world’s total, with the United States of America and China alone contributing 42% of it. Climate justice calls for the big economies to drastically reduce their carbon footprint to lessen the rate of increase of the warming of the earth’s oceans and further to contribute to the global fund that will help the vulnerable countries finance their adaptation and mitigation programmes to the negative effects of global warming. Justice demands that the ones largely responsible for the cause of climate chaos must help those that are adversely affected by such turbulences.

There were also occasions where I was able to pitch on the agenda of advocating for the involvement of the religious sector in this global response. It is glaring that the overwhelming majority of the 40,000 participants come from the academic, business, political, media, and scientific sectors while the religious participants can can counted with my fingers. It is a pity that the multi faith sector are not recognized nor given the opportunity to engage in negotiations for agreements that will be binding to all nations. While we recognize the scientific and political bases of our actions, we must not forget the moral and spiritual dimension of climate change.

The importance of engaging the faith sector in addressing this global survival is seen in three areas. First, we bring the moral dimension on the issue. The decision to reduce carbon footprint is rooted on the ethical foundation that human life needs to protected and nurtured. Shifting to renewable sources of energy over against the harmful fossil based energy is not only a scientific endeavor, but an ethical action that seeks the survival and well being of humanity.

Second the religious can enforce action on a universal scale. The universal distribution and grass roots contact of faith leaders makes the mobilization for whatever strategies and actions needs to be taken in the mitigation and adaptation programs in lessening the negative effects of climate change. People will listen more to their religious leaders than their political, science, and civic leaders.

Finally, the faith sector can bring the element of hope. There is distrust and suspicion that crept within the hearts of people brought by the pain for the loss of lives and properties due to weather disturbances. There is cynicism in others who cannot see progress in all the 20 years of unfulfilled commitments in the past negotiations. But the faith leaders can illicit hope that beyond human limitations is the Divine that desires the fullness of life for all of humanity. That humanity can enjoy the abundance of this planet that God has created and sustains by His power despite our wanton abuse and misuse of the earth’s resources. And ultimately our hopes hinges on the affirmation that in Jesus all things were created by Him, through Him and for Him (Colossians 1:16).

Bishop Efraim M. Tendero is the Secretary General of the World Evangelical Alliance He is also quoted in this recent  Guardian article that features the work of Tearfund and the role of the church and faith communities in bringing hope and solutions to the challenge of climate change

December 1, 2015 by mattcurrey

Tearfund’s Advocacy Director Paul Cook, continues our series of blogs on the COP21 Paris Climate Summit. 

Expectations were raised and there was an air of hope in the first days of the UN climate change talks in Paris.  Have we finally reached a tipping point for real progress on climate change?  Millions of ordinary people took part in more than 2000 people’s climate marches all around the world over the weekend of 28-29 November . In London more than 50,000 people took to the streets in the biggest climate march the UK has ever seen.  

The baton was then passed to the politicians as more than 140 world leaders including David Cameron, Barack Obama and Xi Jinping lined up on Monday at the launch of UN climate change talks in Paris to call for an ambitious deal to ensure global average temperatures do not rise by more than 2 degrees above pre-industrial norms, in what is believed to be the largest gathering of world leaders ever assembled.  Rich nations also pledged $248 million to help the world’s poorest countries adapt to the impact of climate change.  The bar was set high for their negotiating teams to deliver a good deal over the coming two weeks.

Monday also saw a range of other welcome announcements and initiatives all of which raise expectations still further.  The Climate Vulnerable Forum, a group of nations of the world’s most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, called for a complete end to greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels for the first time. They made the case that the world should switch to 100% renewable energy by 2050.  This was a moving and powerful moral call by some of the world’s poorest nations who have done the least to cause climate change and are being hit hardest by it.  

Bill Gates and a number of investors and rich nations launched the Breakthrough Energy Coalition fund, an initiative to pump significant amounts of private and public money into fast forwarding research and development into progressing and scaling up renewable energy technology.  India’s Prime Minister Modi, launched the Solar Alliance of over 100 nations driving the provision of solar power energy for poor communities around the world.

The talks in Paris started well with all of this momentum, but will the governments of the world deliver or fumble this good start as they negotiate over the next two weeks?  We know we won’t get everything we need.  There will still be a lot of work to do after Paris.  However, some 183 countries, including all the major developed nations, representing more than 90% of the world’s population have now submitted their own national plans setting out what they will do to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions, which together would limit warming to 2.7 degrees.  Ultimately this needs to come down to 1.5 degrees, but if the nations of the world can lock those commitments into a legally binding deal and agree a mechanism whereby they can regularly review and ratchet up those commitments, even before they come into force in 2020 they will have made a big step to finally get the world on that journey.  If nations can also agree with the Climate Vulnerable Forum’s proposed long-term goal of zero emissions and 100% renewable energy by 2050, and stump up more money (getting to $100 bill a year from 2020) to help the poorest nations adapt and make this transition, then the world (and most of all the poorest, most vulnerable communities with whom Tearfund works) can finally have an outcome from climate talks it can truly celebrate.

A good start then from the negotiating rooms in Paris.  But we still have a long two weeks ahead of us.  Do keep praying and campaigning for a good outcome from the talks.  

You can follow Paul Cook as he engages in the process over the next two weeks.

June 18, 2015 by Sue Willsher

By Rich Gower and Sue Willsher

Today the Pope officially released his much anticipated message on climate change – an ‘Encyclical’ to his Bishops around the world. Much fuss has been made of the Pope ‘wading’ into an issue that’s seen as being about economics and politics rather than faith, for example US Presidential candidate Jeb Bush: “I don’t get my economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope.”

However, this shows exactly why it is so important for the Pope to speak out: as long as climate change is seen as a political or economic issue – rather than a moral one – we are unlikely to make the changes necessary to address it. The climate movement needs to learn the lessons of previous movements, such as US civil rights movement, and do more to make the moral case for action.

Here are three things that the Pope and Martin Luther King seem to have in common:

1. Making the moral case

Martin Luther King – and the Pope – both know that people act when something touches their sense of right and wrong.

For example, today, it seems obvious that policies such as segregation were immoral.  When children read about it in their schoolbooks, its abolition is portrayed as a great triumph of freedom over injustice.  However, people didn’t always see it like this.

Many Americans initially viewed the Civil Rights Movement through the lens of national security.  As tensions with the USSR rose, opponents worked hard to cast Civil Rights leaders as communist sympathisers, or at least argued that now was not the time for social upheaval.

It was only when campaigners such as King succeeded in defining segregation as immoral that they were able to trump other concerns and see it abolished: “And if we are wrong, God Almighty is wrong… If we are wrong, justice is a lie, love has no meaning. And we are determined here in Montgomery to work and fight until justice runs down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

The Pope gets that the science is clear on the problem – that climate change is widely viewed as man-made, that there are clear and evidence-based solutions – including a global agreement at the crucial Climate talks in Paris in December. But what we now need is persuading people that the problem is worth addressing – now. We need stronger motivations and a winning of hearts and minds.

The pope is “aiming at a change of heart. What will save us is not technology or science. What will save us is the ethical transformation of our society.”

As a society and as a planet, we need to realise that addressing climate change has as much to do with justice, love, duty, and honour as it does with economics.

2. Having a resonant story

Facts on their own rarely move people to change, it also requires stories that help, as we set out in Tearfund’s new thought piece the Restorative Economy  “people and societies make sense of where they are, how they got there, where they are trying to get to and how to achieve change. Stories that define our worldview and have the potential to create our reality as much as they describe it, such as Jesus’ parables or the ones that Churchill told Britain in 1940”.

Civil Rights activist Andrew Young remembers, “when Martin would talk about leaving the slavery of Egypt and wandering into the promised land… that made sense to folks.” (Rochon, 1998, Culture Moves. p56)  Similarly, the Pope sets the issue of climate change within the larger story of humankind’s God-given role of stewarding our home – earth.

“We need stories that “help us think in terms of a larger us – one that moves from ‘people like us’ to simply ‘people – like us’.  A longer future – beyond the next news cycle, financial quarter or election – looking out instead for generations to come.  And a better ‘good life’ – an understanding that security, consumption and well-being are not three words that all mean the same thing”.

3. Patience in speaking truth to power

Finally, we need to recognise that we need to be in it for the long game. King worked tirelessly on civil rights for many years until his assassination in 1968. Previous Popes have written on creation, but Pope Francis is the first to link the issues of environment, economy and poverty – and speak directly on climate change.

As we make clear in the Restorative Economy report, “political and social change doesn’t unfold in a steady, linear fashion: instead it is complex, unpredictable and takes time. There is often a long period when our efforts seem to yield few results. But then comes a tipping point, after which events snowball and things suddenly start to fall into place. The Jubilee 2000 campaign is a great example: comprehensive debt cancellation was an idea that was first put forward in the 1980s, but it took nearly two decades for it to come to fruition.”
Already, increasing numbers of people are starting to see climate change and the policies that support it as immoral, and the Pope’s encyclical should help ‘move the needle’ even further. Recent ComRes polling commissioned by Tearfund shows Christians recognise that the environment and climate change problems are the main issues facing the world over the next ten years. So, the Pope’s ‘wading in’ is exactly what the climate movement needs – and many in the movement realise this. In and of itself it won’t change behaviour, but it does provide a great invitation and indeed, a strong urging, for all people to take these issues seriously.

September 16, 2014 by Paul Cook

Can we have a healthy planet and a healthy economy at the same time?

One thing is certain, there will be no healthy economy without a healthy climate. To get both we need to get the framework right. At Tearfund we’ve been lobbying and campaigning on climate for years. Throughout my time there have been notable contributions to help move us forward from the deadlock of negotiations. Today we may have another such contribution. ‘Better Growth, Better Climate’ is a ‘New Climate Economy’ report which concludes “countries at all levels of income now have the opportunity to build lasting economic growth at the same time as reducing the immense risks of climate change”. Let’s hope they can deliver and that governments and businesses are listening.

The report caught my eye because it very much mirrors Tearfund’s own emerging thinking in this area.  Our current high carbon, high physical consumption, global economy has been great at driving down poverty around the world over the past 100 years, but has done so at enormous environmental cost.  In the future such a model is not desirable or possible, instead we need to transition to a just and sustainable economy which is still effective at eliminating extreme poverty and reducing inequality but is also driven by, for example, clean energy and economic models based on services and knowledge rather than being resource-intensive.

Better Growth, Better Climate raises a myriad of proposals around compact cities, food production, energy systems, raising resource efficiency, investment in infrastructure, carbon prices, technology innovation and a host of other measures.  No doubt many of these will be hotly debated in the coming weeks, questions like: how far are win-wins possible in all these areas; is the role envisioned for GM crops helpful; is the proposed phased shift away from fossil fuels far or fast enough?

Whatever the details of these discussions, they should not be allowed to detract from the overriding message of the report – a healthy climate or a healthy economy are not choices or contradictions, the two belong together round the same side of the table. They are essential for each other! Business as usual, in our high carbon, high consumption global economy, is not an option.  My visit to Zimbabwe three weeks ago reminded me all over again why.

“We used to get five months of rain a year, now we get three and people are starving.”

Climate change is a very real economic reality for poor farmers like Joe in Zimbabwe. Joe and his neighbours tell the same story that can now be heard all over the world: “the weather is changing, seasons are no longer predictable, droughts, floods and severe storms are increasing.”  Traditional small-holders and commercial farming practices in Zimbabwe are struggling to cope with both less rainfall overall and heavier isolated downpours which result in the loss of nutrient-rich topsoil.

Fortunately Joe and his neighbours are now practising ‘Foundations for Farming’ methods pioneered by Tearfund partners.  By adopting natural approaches to farming such as reduced ploughing, leaving a layer of mulch on the topsoil and rotating crops, Joe and his neighbours are experiencing amazing yields, much better than through standard commercial farming methods. For example average yields of 3-5 tonnes per hectare can be expected compared to 1 tonne per hectare as a country average. The fruits of this labour can not only feed Joe’s family, but also be sold and reinvested.  I was struck by how incredibly hard working and entrepreneurial Joe and his neighbours were and their approach was both environmentally sustainable and profitable.  They were living examples of how a healthy climate and healthy economy are friends not enemies.

Escalating climate change will result in both environmental devastation and economic poverty for all of us.  As Joe and his friends have discovered in Zimbabwe, the just and sustainable  businesses of the future are both better for the environment and more prosperous.  We will be launching a report in early 2015 on what key shifts are necessary to help make this transition. We hope these will contribute to the debate that the New Climate Economy report has begun and demonstrate what people like Joe are already living out.  We’ll not only be addressing the regulation and legislative solutions, but the role civil society has to play in changing the tide of high resource-consumption behaviour. As Tolstoy reminds us in his epic, War and Peace: “it’s hard to thank any single individual for altering history; more often, the ship of state alters course only because tides are vastly shifting underneath.”

September 1, 2014 by mattcurrey

My name is Matt and I’m a carnivore, I like nothing more than chowing down on my favourite quarter pounder with sweet corn relish, and it seems I’m not alone. In the UK we love burgers, but do we know much about  the links between what we eat and what it does to the planet?

A new study has been published, as reported by the BBC today, which says that the way we are eating is not sustainable in the long term. It suggests that as well as eating less meat, particularly beef, we need to get better at wasting less food and eating more healthily. The combination of these factors will be good for all of us and for the planet.

Changing our habits, especially the ones we love, is not an easy thing, but the rewards and the significance of doing it in this case are huge.

It’s clear that we are a meat loving nation, but, if we want to keep enjoying our way of life then we will have to rethink how we live. We need to eat less meat, waste less food and eat more healthily. If we don’t, the report suggests that our carbon emissions will go through the roof, which, as well as damaging the environment in the UK, also has an impact on those living in poverty across the world.

At Tearfund we have been, and remain committed to campaigning and advocating for policy change when it comes to matters of the planet and climate change. But we are also convinced that our lifestyles, values and behaviour are also important. We need change at both a local and international level, and we can be a part of the change we want to see in the world.

So if you want to start making some small changes that can have a big impact, why not follow some of these handy tips.

Top Tips

Less is More. Meat is a good thing, but we simply need to eat it less, savouring it when we can but saving money and helping to save the planet, a real win win. Why not try going one day a week without meat or if you are feeling really ambitious why not try living below the line for a week!

Growing Veg is fun. Just look at this great example of a movement called Incredible Edible. If we have more connection to something, we value it more. If you don’t have access to an allotment, then what about growing in your garden? The Eat seasonably website is a great resource for wannabe growers!

Vegetarian Food is a lot more delicious and nutritious than we might think. Rice and dahl is simple and delicious and does not need meat. There are loads of great recipes out there.

Read someone’s experience of changing the way they eat by checking out Ruth Valerio’s blog. She writes brilliantly and also has lots of great recipes.

Love Food Hate Waste offer lots of great ideas and recipes as well.

November 21, 2013 by jokhinmaung

The cruelty of fighting to the death continues with more games; the victors of the first games, Katniss and Peeta, are warned by their mentor Haymitch: ‘From now on, your job is to be a distraction so that people forget what the real problems are.’ The Games and its victors-cum-celebrities are used as ‘entertainment’ to distract from the real problems of impoverished and starving people in the Districts outside the Capitol of Panem. Just as Roman emperors placated the masses with ‘bread (panem) and circuses’ or gladiators.

We might kid ourselves that this is just a film, set in a horrific future world, that doesn’t reflect our lives today. But, at some point, I’m sure that we’ve all chosen to watch some light-hearted entertainment on TV like I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here where we’re encouraged to laugh at other people’s uncomfortable experiences.

I already see signs of us living in a world of inequality, not far off The Hunger Games trilogy, and the ways in which we distract ourselves from the real problems, like the citizens of the Capitol do. We go shopping for clothes or stuff that we don’t really need and ignore a homeless person on the street. We buy more food than we need and throw away £60 worth every month, whilst more and more people rely on food banks to feed their families each week.

Foodbanks shouldn’t have to exist, but they are a last resort. A man in West Sussex, who received a food parcel while he was on probation until his benefits were sorted, was so grateful his local Foodbank in Chichester existed: ‘I had a difficult decision to make, do I pay the deposit on a flat and starve or eat and remain homeless? The foodbank has allowed me to pay my deposit and not go hungry.’

This kind of disparity is highlighted in Catching Fire as we see a flash of graffiti: ‘The odds are never in our favour’ as Katniss and Peeta go on a victory tour through the Districts. The citizens of the Capitol gorge themselves and wear ridiculously extravagant costumes, pursuing their own happiness. While those in the Districts starve and are oppressed; any sign of protest or discontent is beaten out of them.

This makes me ask myself, do we ensure that the odds are never in the favour of others? Could we be perpetuating the terrible living conditions of others and increasing the gap between the haves and have-nots by the way that we live and distracting ourselves from what’s really going on?

If the heroine in Catching Fire is Katniss, who becomes a beacon of hope and justice, inspiring rebellious uprisings in the Districts, then my hero in the real world of inequality is Claudio Oliver, an inspiring urban farmer, married to Katia, in Brazil, where the divide between the rich and poor is rising.

Claudio shared his vision with me: ‘I want to stop people from thinking of consumerism and poverty just in material terms and to start to understand a person living in poverty as someone who doesn’t have a friend, as someone who is lonely.’

‘And the best way to make friends is to start doing something communal.  A great way to start is in our own homes, our gardens, by starting to work the soil and sharing its fruits with our neighbours we can rebuild communities.

‘The practice of living in community with one another and being in touch with creation is being lost, as many people become increasingly busy, pressurised and isolated. People need meals, families, communities and laughing.  There is nothing like meals being at the centre of our life. Not a career. But the centre of the household.’

Claudio promotes community living, values relationships and an alternative way of life based on responsible consumption and recycling waste in Brazil.

I’m inspired by his approach to tackle the real problems of inequality head on so that we can prevent the extreme situation of ‘the odds are never in our favour’ in the film Catching Fire.

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October 15, 2013 by sarahwiggins1

Cyclone Phailin, although a frightening and powerful display of weather, was not the disaster it could have been. We have reason to be glad: the tremendous evacuation efforts of the Indian government, supported by the pre-emptive disaster risk reduction work locally by organisations including Tearfund, paid off and saved lives. However, there is hesitancy in any note of gladness. India now faces the reality that thousands have lost homes and livelihoods and experience a much higher risk of starvation. Communities will suffer from the knock on effects that follow disasters, such as an increase in child trafficking.

Having visited a neighbouring part of the cyclone-hit region, I saw people practising for such an emergency. I saw young people working through a rota so they knew whose job it was to run to the next village to alert people to an impending cyclone; I heard from people running small businesses about how they safely hole up documents that show their identity and rights of ownership, and I visited cyclone shelters which in more stable times double up as health centres or classrooms. On Friday these mechanisms were set in motion in India, and lives being spared will be proved to be only be some of the gain for these more resilient communities.

PHOTO: A member of the youth disaster response team in south west Bangladesh shows me an evacuation route that she helped to build.

Cyclone Phailin only took 15-25 lives, compared with 10,000 lives with Cyclone Orissa: in the understated words of my nine year old son reading this over my shoulder, ‘that’s amazing’. The Indian government’s priority for saving lives was spot on. However, it took a story I heard from a man whose family home and business was destroyed by the tsunami when I lived in Sri Lanka, for me to realise that the death toll, or in Cyclone Phailin’s case, the lack of death toll, only tells part of the story. When a family loses its only means of making a living, years or even generations of suffering can follow.

Cyclones are affecting more and more people: the number of tropical cyclone disasters worldwide in the 1970s was 22 a year, but by the 2000s that figure had almost tripled to 63. The winds which reached 135 miles per hour in India over the weekend uprooted trees, wrecked crops and blew roofs off homes. That’s why it’s so important that Tearfund’s support for disaster risk reduction programmes in India also addressed these broader issues, such as helping communities to have more than one way of earning an income, so that they are not purely dependent on the land, thus increasing their resilience in the face of cyclones and other disasters. I wonder how many hundreds of livelihoods or situations of intense food insecurity may have been spared because of this following Cyclone Phailin, for indeed there will be thousands devastatingly affected as India now faces a massive clear up operation.

PHOTO: Another member of the Bangldeshi village shows me a floating garden: it survives floods, improving food security in the face of disasters and pressures from climate change.

The Indian government must also take an holistic approach in its aid and development, strengthening disaster risk reduction elements. There are only 18 months to go before the UK stops its overseas aid commitment to India and yet the number of people living in poverty in the country is staggeringly high – estimates are at least 200 million, but it’s possibly double that. The needs of India’s poorest population will arguably be best cared for if the government supports them in building their own capacity and resilience to withstand disasters and other variations in the weather – both of which will only get worse because of climate change – so that once they safely return to their homes, they can continue to develop a prosperous and resilient life.