Climate change – What can I do?

By showering less often I’m cutting my water use to less than half, and turning down the flow rate reduces water use by about half again.

I’ve just watched the latest ‘Just have a think’ video from Dave Borlace. I really enjoy his videos – they are well produced, clear, uncompromising, polite, thorough … well, you get the idea. The latest one asks what we can do individually to help reduce the pace of climate change, and he describes a survey that shows most people are just waiting for someone else to do something about it.

That rings true!

Here’s the video, watch it, then scroll on down and read my personal take on, ‘What can I do?’ I believe we can have a large impact – if we all pull together.

What can I do?

I’m going to share one idea with you, something I’ve been doing for a long time now, and something I’m finding quite easy that also makes a big difference. Just remember though, this one idea is just an example. Maybe you can think of something in your own life that you could change that would also have a useful impact.

I used to shower every day, after all it takes less time, water and energy than having a bath and that has to be a good thing, right? Well, yes.

But for a number of years now, I’ve made a point of showering once every two or three days, turning down the water flow, turning down the temperature, and also minimising my use of shower gel. I still enjoy my showers, the temperature’s warm enough to be pleasant, I’m not advocating cold showers!

So how does this help?

Much more than you might think. By showering less often I’m cutting my water use to less than half, and turning down the flow rate reduces water use by about half again. So I’m using only 25% as much overall. Turning down the temperature a little combined with the reduced water use reduces the heating energy required to perhaps just 20%. I only use shower gel under my arms and around the more personal parts of my body, cutting consumption by 50% or maybe a bit more. Combined with showering less often my use of shower gel is therefore down to 20 or 25% overall.

Bear in mind that shower gel takes energy to manufacture as do the plastic bottles that it comes in, as does disposing of the empties. Add in the energy cost of producing and supplying water, and of removing and treating the waste water, and it all begins to add up.

I hope this illustrates the energy savings that can be achieved by one, small change in one person’s lifestyle. And there are other benefits too. For example, my skin microbiome is probably more healthy for the reduced frequency and coverage of shower gel. If we all did this, and thought of other ways to reduce our individual energy use, we could make a huge difference.

Don’t just leave it to others. Work out what you can do – and make a difference!

See also

Why did I leave the Anglican Church?

The message from the New Testament seemed clear to me, there was supposed to be just one church, not a multiplicity of flavours brought about through a long series of historical disagreements and splits.

I was asked this question some time ago, and at first I felt that it somehow missed the point because I tend to feel that I never was an Anglican. But it’s true that in my mid to late teens I would have called myself Anglican – perhaps.

My parents were Anglicans in the limited sense that they were not Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Salvation Army or anything else. Dad was quite dedicated, jotting brief prayers in his diary and during parts of his life often attending communion at the parish church. I doubt that he made a conscious decision on this, it was just taken for granted, it had been the family tradition as far back as anyone knew. Mum was different, she was used to village life in Northern Ireland and taught Sunday school at the tiny village church, a simple and plain structure. She was uncomfortable with anything remotely high church, but if you’d asked her what she was she might have said Anglican, or Church of Ireland, or just Christian.

I was Christened when I was little and was encouraged to read the Bible as a child, at home, but more so at junior school and later in RE lessons at secondary school. By the age of 13 I was familiar with the outline contents of the Old and New Testaments, and with many of the stories recorded there. In my teens I was expected to attend confirmation classes and went along out of obedience rather than a desire to be there. In due course I was confirmed, though it didn’t mean much to me and life continued as before. I had not yet begun to grapple with what I did and did not believe.

As I went through the processes of sitting my O levels and A levels and applying for a place at university, I began to form my own ideas about faith. I was intrigued by the Bible and began to take what I read there quite seriously. And I didn’t see much there to support Anglicanism or, indeed, denominations of any kind. The message from the New Testament seemed clear to me, there was supposed to be just one church, not a multiplicity of flavours brought about through a long series of historical disagreements and splits. And what about the many stories of healings, and the parables about how we should live, and the Pauline teachings about gifts of the Spirit, and the letters to churches in the Greek world of the time? I was taking all of this seriously, but saw little evidence that the denominations were doing the same. I explored more widely, visiting the Jehovah’s Witnesses, signing up for a Christadelphian magazine, reading books about the Mormons and Christian Science, but none of these avenues seemed to make much sense to me.

After graduating from university, getting married, and starting full time jobs, Judy and I spent our Sundays in Bristol doing some serious denominational exploration. We went to Sunday services at every church we could find, and never once had a sense of, ‘This is the one!’. We were searching, but not finding.

Zetland Evangelical Church in 2002

In the end, in utter desperation, we tried a weird place just down the road from our flat. In some ways it seemed more odd than any of the other places we’d tried. It had a large sign above the door in blue and gold reading ‘God is Love’, and didn’t look like a church building, more like a large house. This was Zetland Evangelical Church in Bristol, near the railway arches over the Cheltenham Road. We found to our surprise that we were instantly at home! The people there wanted to talk with us, and they shared some of our own thoughts about what we’d been reading in the Bible. We felt welcomed – as if by a large family. We’d found a real community, which is what we’d long hoped for. Not only that, when I went to a mid-week evening meeting I was blown away by teaching about David, perhaps from 2 Samuel, and a section I was familiar with. The fresh insights and explanations were very striking, here were people who knew their topic – and it all made perfect sense.

We still felt there was more, and we were joining one of those denominational ‘splinter groups’ that so perplexed us. But this was by far the best thing yet. At this point in our lives we would not have settled for Anglican or any other church tradition. We were particularly encouraged by the fact that there was no hierarchy at Zetland, there was no single leader, we were all equal, or so it appeared. There was no liturgy, no pastor, and once a month there was a delightful Sunday morning Open Meeting with nobody at the front and where all could contribute a prayer, a hymn, or some teaching. All, that is, except women and children. This was one of several niggling issues that we put to the back of our minds for the time being.

Eventually we discovered much more – but that’s another story.

Explanatory note – Please don’t think that I’m judging or disapproving of denominations and those who are involved with them. In this short article I’m describing how a much younger Chris Jefferies understood things. I have many non-denominational friends, but also friends from New Frontiers, Anglican, and particularly Baptist traditions. Particularly Baptist simply because at the time of writing I take part in a small home group that meets weekly and is part of Cirencester Baptist Church. I’m not a Baptist, I will not (cannot) become a church member. We are all part of one family, the family of those who follow Jesus. We are all brothers and sisters and we have individual perspectives and expressions of what that means. I honour and love each one as part of an undivided whole.

(This article has been cross-posted to Anglicanism.org)

A new Christmas song

This is a family song, it’s about gathering round and spending time with the people we love most. Enjoy it!

A still from Sarah’s YouTube video

While we’re on the Christmas theme I thought I’d post another song from Sarah Reynolds. It’s quite delightful and, in a lovely way, rather old fashioned. Scroll down, have a listen, and see what you think.

This song is quite different from Sarah’s other material, I suspect it was far more spontaneous. It’s a thoughtful song. She doesn’t accompany the words with one of her usual, excellent, multi-track compositions but with a pretty melody on the piano, and there’s a gentle, relaxed rhythm throughout. The video doesn’t provide the lyrics, but Sarah’s voice is clear enough and written words are not neccesary. The graphic is suggestive of a Christmas card from past decades, well-matched to the music and the choice of piano. The whole thing breathes close family enjoying the season together, burning logs in the grate, home made mince pies, warmth indoors with cold weather outside the house.

This is a family song, it’s about gathering round and spending time with the people we love most. Enjoy it, give it a like on YouTube, Spotify, and Facebook. Go on… you know you want to!

And wherever you may be, gather with your family and friends if you can, and enjoy Christmas and New Year together.

Christmas and New Year 2021

It’s good to be out and about to see it all and just as good to get back to a warm house.

Castle Street in Cirencester

Season’s greetings to all my readers! Cirencester is showing off its tasteful street decorations once again, the days are short, the nights are long, and it’s good to be out and about to see it all and just as good to get back to a warm house afterwards.

My thoughts are especially with those who have no warm house to come back to this year, there are so many – the homeless sleeping alone in shop doorways, refugees desperately crossing the sea and hoping for asylum, and people who do have a roof over their heads but lack money for presents for the children or depend on food banks for their next meal.

Life can be wonderful, fun, exciting. It can also be tough, exhausting, and depressing. Whoever you are, whatever your circumstances, my prayer and hope is that people will be kind to you, there will be new opportunities in your life, and that there’ll be reasons to hope and overcome the difficulties.

And if your life is comfortable and you have more than enough, my prayer and hope is that you will be kind to others, search out new opportunities for them, and provide reasons for hope and ways to overcome difficulties.

None of us can solve all of the problems; but all of us can solve some of the problems.

Some ideas:

And don’t forget to enjoy Christmas with your friends and family. Grace and peace to you all.

PS – As a reward for reading to the end, here’s a bonus – A Christmas Song!

Evolution and behaviour

A computer program that simulates coding and inheritance on the one hand, and neural function on the other, permits the emulation of simple animal-like organisms

Today I want to share two striking YouTube videos that I found recently. Maybe you’d like to watch them yourself.

Part of a DNA molecule (from Wikipedia)

Introduction – The animation shows the molecular structure of DNA, rotating so you can visualise it more easily. Watson and Crick famously published this structure in April 1953.

DNA contains the genetic information that specifies the nature of plants, animals and other life forms. Each species has it’s own form of this DNA ‘instruction book’. Amongst other things, a species’ DNA controls the basic structure of the brain just as it does for other body parts. But here’s an interesting fact: The coding and behaviour of DNA can be simulated by strings of characters stored in a computer.

Brains involve cells called neurons with connections between them, and neural networks running on a computer can behave in a similar way to a very simple brain. Building a computer program that simulates coding and inheritance on the one hand, and neural function on the other, permits the emulation of simple animal-like organisms, and there are applications out there that do just this.

First example – One such program is Minute Labs’ Evolution Simulator (check out their YouTube to see it in action).

Second example – Another program, and I want to focus mainly on this one, is from David Randall Miller. He wrote a particularly fascinating simulator, see his YouTube demo and explanation below for some quite deep insights. It’s a long video, but breaks into logical chunks for easier viewing; I suggest viewing the first section and continuing if it seems interesting.

It’s a really helpful approach for anyone wanting to better understand evolution. It assumes only fundamental levels of the topics, but will enhance your appreciation of maths and computing while also demonstrating the basics of genetics, inheritance, simple neural networks, and animal behaviour. That’s quite a lot of benefit from just one video!

Some questions to ask yourself…

  • What new understandings did you gain?
  • Did you disagree with anything?
    • If so, why?
  • What conclusions did you draw about the nature of living things?
  • Was anything surprising to you?
  • What questions do the videos cause you to ask?

Time flies!

I plan to gird up my literary loins and begin to put things right

It’s been a long, long time since my last post. I sent a hasty ‘Happy Christmas’ post on 23rd December 2020 and since then – nothing. I really have been rather busy, but also have somehow lacked the energy to make the effort. I don’t know why – perhaps I just needed a break.

In the next few days I plan to gird up my literary loins and begin to put things right. There are a lot of unanswered comments that I need to deal with first, I want to say something about a song I especially like, and I’ve been asked to write a little about my personal history. So watch this space.

Meanwhile, just for fun, here’s my friend Kevin and his daughters at the Cotswold Wildlife Park in August. (It’s well worth a visit, by the way.)

Kevin is taking a photo of a waterlily. Don’t drop your phone, Kevin! Don’t fall in, Kevin! He didn’t – but it looked risky for a moment there.

Christmas and New Year

Surely love and goodwill are appropriate not only at Christmas, but all year round

I’d like to wish all my readers a very happy and blessed Christmas holiday and all the best for 2021. The last year has not been great, one way and another, has it? Covid is likely to get the biggest mention when the history books are written. But Brexit has also loomed large for those of us in the UK and also for all our friends in Europe too. Whichever side of the debate you were on – leave or remain – the deed is done now and we will have to deal with the expected and unexpected impacts that it will bring.

For those of us who follow Jesus, our calling is to love him, one another, the people we live amongst, and even those who might wish us harm. And surely love and goodwill are appropriate not only at Christmas, but all year round.

The picture was taken earlier this month and may not seem very ‘Christmasy’. We have had no snow and very little frost (though more than enough rain). But the sunshine, blue sky, and light mist in the photo remind us that spring will soon be on the way. I’m hoping for a very much better year in 2021, and I hope exactly the same for you. Happy Christmas!

If you like the picture, you can download a larger version of the ‘card’, or a version without the words.

Ingredients of kindness

It’s so important to wait for the right moment, to be sensitive to the feelings of other people.

Let’s analyse the idea of kindness – being kind to people.

Sharing a drink – Wikimedia image

First, it’s worth noting that the spring that feeds a flow of kindness is love. The reason a person acts in a kind way towards others is that there is love in that person’s heart. A loving attitude impels us towards kind thoughts, words and actions. Where there is a loving heart, kind things will pour out – always fresh, never running low. The stream of kindness flows because of the rising spring of love. But there also needs to be a measure of self control. Sometimes the instinct to be kind can result in thoughtless acts that embarrass or distress; kindness must be appropriate and considered.

Kindness is fundamentally a thing of great joy. If we are kind out of a sense of duty or if we have a grudging attitude, there will an absence of that wonderful enabler – a joyful heart. A kind act without joy may be useful and of great benefit, but it will never be a pretty thing. Even worse is kindness with a hidden motive. If I want something in return, my kind behaviour is no more than a calculated trade; there’s an expectation. This is kindness used as a wrapper to hide something else. The missing ingredient here is gentleness. Kindness must be a gentle thing, demanding nothing in return, offering benefit at no cost.

And kindness is always a thing of peace, without this essential element it may involve serious danger. Maybe you find it hard to imagine kindness without peace; but what happens when we want to be kind to an enemy? There are plenty of stories of wartime situations where a noble act of kindness has bridged the gulf between those on opposite sides of the battle. The counterfoil here is faithfulness. If we are to be kind in the middle of an argument, or much more a war, we will need to be faithful. But faithful to what? Faithful at the very least to strength of character and to courage and to the deep wisdom that even my enemy is a fellow human being, that there is a bond deeper even than existential danger.

Finally, kindness requires patience. It’s so important to wait for the right moment, to be sensitive to the feelings of other people. Nothing is more damaging to an attempt to be kind than the haste that overlooks the nuances of the situation. And what does patience need as a companion? Goodness. So how do we define that? It’s the thing that distinguishes what is right and what is not, a bit like conscience I suppose. Goodness is hard to define because it’s internal and may not be detectable from the outside. Goodness is about motivation, it’s allied to gentleness.

Let’s lay these concepts out, with kindness at the centre. We have:

Love, joy, peace, patience

Kindness

Goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control

When Paul wrote his letter to the Galatians, one of the things he told them was this.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control

Galatians 5:22

So be kind whenever and wherever you can. There are plenty of opportunities in the world. Be kind to friends and family, be kind to the people you work with, be kind to your neighbours, to strangers, and yes – be kind to those people who are not kind to you, those who behave like enemies. Kindness never does any harm, and sometimes it can be quite disarming.

Truth matters

If I’m given misinformation and base my thoughts, words and actions on that, sooner or later I’ll run into a problem

In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act

George Orwell

Truth matters. It matters because basing our thoughts, words and actions on falsehood is asking for trouble. Truth is like light: it enables us to see clearly, it banishes darkness, but it can be snuffed out and then we’re left in the dark.

Light banishes darkness as truth banishes deceit

Let’s explore the background, why am I writing about truth at this particular time? And why am I writing about it at all? I’m writing about it at this particular time because truth seems to be valued by fewer people than ever before. There have always been those who trample on truth, but we do seem to be living at a time when peddling falsehoods has become pandemic. Perhaps the most obvious examples are in the political sphere, where governments and their opponents have sometimes made claims based on almost anything other than the simple facts. Policies and decisions are being made on the basis of opinion, personal ambition, whim, wishful thinking, and even denial of clear evidence. I’m writing about it because it matters. It really does. We’ll get to that in a minute.

Is this a new phenomenon? No, people have always made things up, sometimes to fill gaps in what is known, sometimes to deny what is known because it’s distasteful or hard to deal with, or for the base motives that are common, if we’re honest, to all of us – greed, self preservation, shame, fear and the rest. Survival, self-respect, money and power are important to us – sometimes important enough that we will cheat, lie, and ignore inconvenient truths that are staring us in the face.

So why does it matter?

(I said we’d get to that.)

The answer is really quite simple. If I’m given misinformation and base my thoughts, words and actions on that, sooner or later I’ll run into a problem. You can’t avoid the truth indefinitely, it will come back and bite you. Misinformation leads inevitably to error and confusion.

Truth matters, and it can be critically important, even to the point of life or death.

Imagine a map that shows a bridge across a river. An ambulance crew see that the bridge provides a valuable short cut to reach a seriously ill patient in half the time. But when they arrive at the river – there is no bridge. They have to retrace their journey and try a different way, but they are too late and the patient dies. Truth matters, and it can be critically important, even to the point of life or death.

Or imagine a general fighting a battle. He is told by his spies that the enemy is almost out of ammunition; he decides to mount an immediate attack, before new supplies can reach his opponents. If the spies’ report is true, he will win the battle easily. If they made it all up and it’s false, he might be heavily defeated. Does truth make a difference? Yes – because it leads to right action. This is why intelligence and counter intelligence matter; if you can feed falsehoods to your enemy and they believe them, they may well make a serious blunder.

Unfortunately, this strategy to deceive and confuse is now being applied, not to the enemy, but within our society. We should be friends speaking the truth to one another, but much of the untruth flying around these days seems deliberate and causes serious difficulty for all of us. It’s become a bad habit. Who should I believe? Which ‘facts’ can I depend upon? How can I check? How should we deal with this difficulty? Here are some suggestions.

Dealing with it

  • Be sceptical of assertions – in other words, ask people for evidence
  • Don’t accept claims without supporting evidence
  • Remember that lots of people saying something doesn’t make it more true
  • Use fact checking websites
  • Beware of false claims presented as evidence
  • Treat people with respect and kindness even if they are making false claims
  • Avoid shouting matches, loudness doesn’t prove anything.

So what is the take away message here? We can all make a difference for better or worse. Search for the truth in every situation, look for evidence, listen to what people say but don’t accept anything without evidence of some kind (this might be evidence about the claims being made or it might be evidence that the person making the claims is reliable and usually speaks the truth). Then base any decisions or choices on the truth, never on claims you know to be false. Never deliberately mislead others (unless you are a general fighting a war). And always bear in mind that people with an agenda may sometimes behave like an enemy general. They may see you as the enemy and will misinform you if they think it will help them in some way. The world is a wonderful place, but it can also be a deceptive and dangerous place. Go in peace, but go very carefully!

Let’s base our lives on what is true, and not on what is false. Even though it’s sometimes hard to tell what is, or is not, true – it’s always worth making the attempt. And let’s remember that truth will never let us down. Untruth is just as reliable – it will always let us down in the end. No wonder Jesus said. ‘The truth will set you free’ (John 8:32). He was talking particularly about spiritual truth, but it’s a valid statement for truth in general. And let’s also bear in mind that science is a search for truth, and all the technology we depend on every day works only because it stands on that foundation of truth.

Whether we turn to the spiritual or the physical realm, we can only rely upon what is true. Truth is a thing of beauty, but deceit is ugly beyond measure. Choose beauty. Choose the light. Choose truth!

See also

Does the Truth Matter – Psychology Today
Fact checking websites – Wikipedia
Truth – Bible Gateway
Truth – Wikipedia

A political post?

What are your hopes, what are your needs, and what can you contribute?

You won’t often see me post on political topics. This is not the first time I’ve done so, but it’s been something of a rarity.

Today I feel compelled to share a Liberal Democrat story, a short video presented by their new party leader, Ed Davey. Take a look and think about the people he talks to and the reasons he visited them.

You can read the article, or you can just watch the video below.

So – what are your hopes, what are your needs, and what can you contribute? How can you co-operate with friends and neighbours, meet needs, calm nerves, comfort hurting people? And, whatever your politics, how can you influence your chosen party to listen, hear, understand, and promote fairness, kindness, and the common good?