Blog: Tanzania and “How planting trees can tackle poverty”

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Sorry I’m a bit late with this. I took a trip to Tanzania to observe the work of a charity – Plant With Purpose – and see how permaculture ideas, Christian faith and development can be integrated holistically to help people. I’m writing a few articles about it, here’s the first short piece for Christian Today, about how something as simple as a tree can help people as well as improve the environment.

For people on the breadline, the link between the environment and poverty is much clearer and easier to see. A significant root cause of poverty is the state of the land.

The picture is of a beautiful area in this lovely community of Marangu that’s been set aside as a nature reserve, and it’s truly gorgeous. Leaving nature to do its work has also brought them a new water source – good news for rural farmers in a hot country. They were so generous and welcoming – it was an amazing experience.

If you’ve any questions about the work, I’d be really happy to answer them.

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Ways to reduce waste and plastic

I’m setting myself a personal challenge, to reduce the stuff in my waste bin as much as possible. I’m even trying to find ways of re-using the stuff that can go in the recycling bin. Here are a few ideas I’ve been trying, that haven’t been too difficult. Let me know your ideas…

Replace tissues with hankies

Replace plastic dishwashing brushes/sponges with cotton dishcloths

Replace kitchen towel with cotton dishcloths

Search for food sold in paper bags rather than plastic

Choose loose fruit and veg at the counter, and don’t use plastic bags to put them in (even better, get an organic veg box)

Buy Ecoleaf toilet tissue – you can compost the wrapper

Get milk delivered in old fashioned milk bottles

Use re-usable bags for shopping

Make bricks for your fire with all your scrap paper and junk mail

I found this great blog recently – Trash is for Tossers – try it for some more ideas

Obeying the Bible means living a radical, green life

It was great to see so many people out marching for Climate change around the world last weekend. It’s always good to see a community getting together for a common cause. But will it change anything? I doubt it. Governments already know that a significant minority of their populations are concerned about climate change. What will really change the situation is not going on marches, but changing the way we live.

And, encouragingly for Christians, this way of living is laid out pretty clearly in the Bible. In fact, even if you don’t believe in climate change, if you want to take the Bible seriously, you’ve to live a life that is in agreement with the greenest and most right-on environmental protesters.

Why? Well, anything that is producing carbon and going into the atmosphere, is related to consumption. It’s caused by money, or more to the point, it’s caused by some people having too much money and greed. It’s now the norm for our culture to be going off on foreign holidays via plane, even twice a year, having two cars, changing technology every few months, eating vegetables that were flown from the other side of the world. And what makes all this possible? Having too much cash, and then choosing to spend it on ourselves rather than on helping others. This is a lifestyle that we’re all caught up in in the West, and dealing with it is a lot harder than going on a march. Our societies need root and branch reform, and the Bible is the best place to start. I think this passage is key to the issue:

“Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.

But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.” 1 Tim 6:6-10

How true this Bible quote is. Greed, and the lust for entertainment, stuff, activity and fashion, has lulled us into this situation, where the world’s resources are scarce and we’re wasting them on consumer goods and leisure rather than investing them into people and the planet. We have a model in Jesus, who was so low-impact that he didn’t even have his own house (Luke 9:58). We’re told to be stewards of the Earth and all the living things in it (Gen 1:28). When we think of Matt 25 we normally remember that those who go to eternal punishment are those who have not helped the sick, the imprisoned and the hungry. But Rev 11:18 also points out that those who destroy the earth will be in this group. So if we’re God’s people, then we’ll be caring for people and caring for the Earth too.

Breaking our addiction to consumption, cars, boys toys and all the trappings of the modern world will take a long time. In the same way as an addiction to crack or alcohol, it takes Jesus to fill the hole that the addiction leaves and repair the damage. This in and of itself will direct our attention from entertainment and buying stuff, towards helping others and loving Creation, in all its beautiful variety. We’ll not be working every hour God gives us, but working fewer hours because we’ll need less money: truly we’ll be serving God and not filthy lucre (Matt 6:24). We’ll have more time for our friends and family, and serving our community, even putting on dinner parties for the lost and broken (Luke 14:13). We’ll be able to give away the money we do have to good causes.

I can hear the mini-me Richard Dawkins of the twitter world howling in outrage at what I’ve just said, thinking of the gas-guzzling SUVs and private jets of certain parts of the Christian community, especially in America. But it’s not our job to shout at them, it’s our job to lead by example. And perhaps we need to get the log out of our own eye, before we can help others get the speck out of theirs (Matt 7:3-5). We need more than shifting to a green tariff, reusing plastic bags and buying recycled paper, to get the almighty, rotten trunk out of our own eyes.

Living a life worthy of that 1 Tim passage, and to be content with just having enough food and clothing to survive, is radically different from our Western culture. But as the ancient monks and nuns discovered, it can leave more space for what’s really good, and what’s really God. After all, it’s His Earth, not ours.

Potatoes grow fruit that look like tomatoes – who knew?

You learn something new every day. At the veg social enterprise I’m involved in, all the potato plants have long since died, but they’ve left these funny looking little fruits behind. Apparently it’s rare, but potato flowers will become fruit in the right conditions. The little fruits contain seeds that can be harvested and stored like tomatoes, and sown the next year. This will produce lots of new varieties of potatoes. Whatever you do don’t eat the fruit – they’re poisonous!

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I’m going to try it out next year. Have you ever done this? Let me know how it went. I’ve also got some beans stored, and apparently they’ll develop into new varieties too. Waste not, want not, n all that.

Saving jam jars – what to do with them?

SAMSUNG

I’ve got a huge box of jam jars. Some of them are soaking in hot water at the moment, in preparation for making some lovely bramble and apple jam (some great free food in my area at the moment). I’ve been saving these jars for ages, and wondered if I’d ever get round to using them. I’d been hoping to make apple jam and chutney every year, when my apple trees produce their harvest, and did it for the first time last year. I gave them away as presents at Christmas, and ate my way through them too.

But there have been some other uses for the jam jars.

  • Sprouting seeds in them, a good way of making fresh food when you haven’t been to the shops for a while.
  • Chucking out old oil, rather than putting it down the sink.
  • Using them to hold water when painting.

So all in all, I’m glad I’ve kept these old jars hanging around, rather than putting them out for the recycling van.

Recycle or re-use? Ways to use rubbish

English: Recycle logo

English: Recycle logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Like a good green consumer, I faithfully recycle all the rubbish I can. My local council will take most items, like paper, plastic, glass, and even garden and kitchen waste.
But… I’ve decided that rather than put my rubbish out for an energy-consuming lorry to take away, to who knows where… I’m going to try and reuse it myself.
So:

  • I’m keeping paper and cardboard ready to make paper bricks. I’ll be trying them out in my stove in winter time and telling you all about it.
  • I’m composting my garden waste in the back garden, which didn’t achieve much until I found out what an activator was, and a cheap and plentiful source of it!
  • And, I’m keeping a large pile of jam jars, which I’ve written about here.

You definitely need storage space to take this route – luckily I’ve got a pantry which stores my paper and jam jars. And I’ve got an understanding housemate.

What ways of reusing rubbish have you find? Please comment below.