A recently PhD graduate, originally from the Philippines, tells me she seldom sleeps. Sleeping feels like sin. She had to work long days at three jobs during her studies to make a decent income. I tell her:"sleeping is great, you should try it".
April 26, 2007 — By Arthur Max, Associated Press
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands -- It's the new climate change dilemma: finding alternatives for oil and gas without doing more harm than good. In the rush to develop biofuels, forests are burned in Asia to clear land for palm oil, and swaths of the Amazon are stripped of diverse vegetation for soya and sugar plantations for ethanol.
On Friday, a Dutch committee will unveil stringent criteria for growing biofuels in ways that don't damage the environment or release more greenhouse gases than they save. Other European countries are working along similar lines and closely watching the Dutch initiative -- the first to reach the level of government consideration.
More than a year in the making, the report reflects a heightened awareness of the risks and complexity in efforts to reduce emissions of the gases blamed for global warming. Among the criteria in a draft obtained by The Associated Press: Production of biomass cannot contribute to deforestation, deplete reservoirs of carbon captured in the earth, compete with food crops, degrade soil or water supplies, upset biodiversity, or displace local populations,
The report is by the Cramer Commission, named for its former chairwoman, Jacqueline Cramer, who in February became environment minister.
Without going into specifics, it suggests developing a track-and-trace system to follow a product from plantation to power plant, like an express delivery package.
"It should be implemented on a European scale because it will be difficult for Holland to do it on its own," said Kees Koede, of the Dutch branch of Friends of the Earth, an environmental group.
"Everyone is aware that it's crazy to pour money into a system that is not sustainable," he said. But the European Commission, executive arm of the 27-nation European Union, is only beginning to look at the problem. "We are working on a system of green certificates to make sure no unsustainable biofuel makes its way into the European market. But this is very embryonic at the moment," said Ferran Tarradellas Espuny, an EU energy official.
An organization of palm oil planters, processors, financiers and environmentalists in Malaysia and Indonesia has been working for more than two years to devise criteria and verification schemes. The campaign is driven by evidence that developers in the two Asian countries have burned vast tracks of rain forest to grow palm oil. The fires unleash millions of tons of carbon dioxide and smoke that shroud entire areas of Southeast Asia in eye-watering smog for weeks at a time.
The Netherlands is Europe's biggest importer of palm oil, used in a wide range of supermarket products as well as a fuel oil supplement. One Dutch company has plans to build three 50 megawatt power stations exclusively running on palm oil.
The Cramer Commission envisions imported biomass from sustainable sources by 2020, but calls for a transition period. "Sustainability in the long term can only be achieved if a start is made with it now," the draft says. It calls for greenhouse gas emissions to be cut by 70 percent for generating electricity, and 30 percent for transportation fuels. The draft criteria say new plantations must not be built in protected areas, plantations should leave 10 percent of their area in "its original state" to preserve diversity, and soil and water quality of the soil and water should be improved.
The Europeans have set high targets for cutting carbon emissions. In February, EU leaders approved a plan to trim them by at least 20 percent from 1990 levels by 2020. At least 10 percent of transport fuels will come from biomass, they decided. With that goal in mind, a huge emphasis will shift toward biofuel production, risking even greater environmental damage.
"You need to be very quick with implementing criteria," said Sander van Bennekom of the Oxfam charity, one of the report's 14 contributors, in an interview. "Maybe we are already too late."
Source: Associated Press
Some ideas include:
- Taxing or banning terrace heaters
- Reviewing city procurement policies (FSC wood, Fair trade products...)
- LED street lighting
- Levying for driving through the town/city
- Separating waste
- Charging publishers of free news papers for additional street waste
WHAT DO YOU SUGGEST????
My friend JR Woodward is currently in Blacksburg, Virginia, where he planted his first campus church (http://www.nlcf.net/) at Virginia Tech University. Visit his blog for eye witness accounts, prayer and support requests.
Luke 16:19 - “There was once a rich man who dressed in the most expensive clothes and lived in great luxury every day. There was also a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who used to be brought to the rich man's door, hoping to eat the bits of food that fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to sit beside Abraham at the feast in heaven. The rich man died and was buried, and in Hades: the world of the dead. where he was in great pain, he looked up and saw Abraham, far away, with Lazarus at his side. So he called out, ‘Father Abraham! Take pity on me, and send Lazarus to dip his finger in some water and cool off my tongue, because I am in great pain in this fire!’ But Abraham said, ‘Remember, my son, that in your lifetime you were given all the good things, while Lazarus got all the bad things. But now he is enjoying himself here, while you are in pain.”
In Luke 16:19-36 Jesus gives one of the clearest depictions of heaven and hell in the Bible. What I really like about this story is that it tells about the continuity between life on earth and after-life. One of the the aspects that seem to put off non-Christians when talking about Christian faith is hell, which is often depicted in vivid images with burning pits and lakes of fire where people are tortured for ever and ever. However, Jesus shows us a different image in this story.
The story has two main characters, the rich man and Lazarus. Interestingly, one has no name and the other has (Lazarus [Heb.] means 'God hath helped'). We know that the rich man was indulging himself in conspicuous consumption, following the latest fashions, organising fancy parties... It almost seems as if the rich man derives his identity from his rich lifestyle.
On earlier readings of this story I would think of the rich man as a fat, greedy and without compassion, too self-consumed to even care about a poor man on his doorstep. However, Jesus also says that Lazurus lives from the rich man's bread crums. Perhaps, the rich man was involved in some occassional charity!
The point - I think - that Jesus is trying to make is that care for the poor and the deprived is a part of our calling and our identity, it is not something that is only an occasional item in our agenda that is otherwise devoted to conspicuous consumption. Moreover, our identity should not be found in the latest fashions or in how much we can afford. Rather, our identity should be found in God, acknowledging that we are God's creation and are utterly dependent on God (we need God's help, and God hath helped - Lazarus!).
Jesus assures the poor and the deprived, that there is justice. That their names are known with God. However, Jesus also warns the affluent, that their own injustice will turn against them if they don't care for the needy. Often God is depicted as an angry God, throwing people in hell at his likes and dislikes. But hell may look quite different (see my post on the great divorce). It may very well be a place that people choose for themselves, a place where they don't have a name, where their identity has been irrecoverably lost, because they lost their tie to the ultimate identity-giver.
In a time of globalizing consumerism and a growing capitalist empire where the 'leisure class'* reigns while the earth and the deprived suffer more and more, Jesus' parable seems more relevant than ever.
The term 'Leisure Class' was coined by Thorstein Veblen in his classic: 'The Theory of the Leisure Class', in 1899. In this book Veblen examines 'conspicuous consumption' and the emptiness of modern culture and society.
Veblen,Luke,Lazarus,Christianity,Bible, Leisure Class
The ghost and main character starts to talk with someone he studied with in university (a saved person), when they were still alive on earth.
"For me there is no such thing as a final answer. The free wind of inquiry must always continue to blow through the mind, must it not? 'Prove all things' . . . to travel hopefully is better than to arrive."
"If that were true, and known to be true, how could anyone travel hopefully? There would be nothing to hope for . . . "
"I am not aware of a thirst for some ready-made truth which puts an end to intellectual activity in the way you seem to be describing. Will it leave me the free play of Mind, Dick? I must insist on that, you know . . ."
"You have gone far wrong. Thirst was made for water; inquiry for truth. What you now call the free play of inquiry has neither more nor less to do with the ends for which intelligence was given you than masturbation has to do with marriage."
"The free wind of inquiry", seems even more of an issue here and now than in the time and place of C.S. Lewis. This unlimited freedom to criticise leaves little room for answers. On TV and in the news papers, dialogue and inquiry seem to be more of an aim in itself, than a means to find truth.
I found this particular dialogue in "The Great Divorce" intriguing, because questioning things and criticising makes up a great part of my work (I am a researcher). To be sure, I do not deny the great value of dialogue, of critique and of questioning, however I am ultimately concerned with answers. At least, I try not to be dragged into a maelstrom of endless relativaty, however difficult that is in our times. The reason for this is because Christ is concerned with definitive answers, and questions that relate to an incarnate reality, not for the sake of intellectuality, or a smart carreer move, but for the sake of a better world; heaven on earth. I think C.S. Lewis is unique in his eloquence and simplicity to communicate this truth and incarnate reality in Christ.
When he took the three disciples
to the mountainside to pray,
his countenance was modified, his clothing was aflame.
Two men appeared: Moses and Elijah came;
they were at his side.
The prophecy, the legislation spoke of whenever he would die.
Then there came a word
of what he should accomplish on the day.
Then Peter spoke, to make of them a tabernacle place.
A cloud appeared in glory as an accolade.
They fell on the ground.
A voice arrived, the voice of God,
the face of God, covered in a cloud.
What he said to them,
the voice of God: the most beloved son.
Consider what he says to you, consider what's to come.
The prophecy was put to death,
was put to death, and so will the Son.
And keep your word, disguise the vision till the time has come.
Lost in the cloud, a voice: Have no fear! We draw near!
Lost in the cloud, a sign: Son of man! Turn your ear!
Lost in the cloud, a voice: Lamb of God! We draw near!
Lost in the cloud, a sign: Son of man! Son of God!
The debate was triggered by the coalition agreement of the new Dutch government. The protestant orthodox Christian Union party takes part in this government coalition.
Critics have made the Christian Union appear a homophobic party, always trying to aggravate the lives of people with a homosexual orientation. Ironically, the government coalition agreement only confirmed the existing practice of conscience clause (introduced by an earlier liberal government!). Some municipalities now seize the opportunity to oblige civil servants to conduct gay marriages. In doing so, people with Christian (and possibly also Muslim) religious affiliations are effectively exempted from holding certain civil servant positions.
Surely, this could not have been the anticipated effect of Christian Union's policy.
However, Christian Union deserves praise for the way it handles the controversial issue of gay marriage and related issues. This orthodox Christian party never hyped the issue, instead the issue was hyped by other parties and (gay rights') interest organizations.
Sometimes, people ask for my opinion about Christian Union's 'gay stance'. Although this question is very important, discussions usually end up in a semantic positions game ("I believe that a marriage means..." this or that). However, one thing about Christian Union's 'gay stance' is quite clear: the Christian Union does not want to deprive people of their rights. Therefore, the 'gay stance' does not primarily concern such substantial issues as legal personality, taxes and insurances. Rather, gay marriage is a question of belief. It is to the credit of Christian Union that it does not display a purely political and rhetorical conservative or even homophobic reflex (unlike e.g. many Republican politicians in the US). On the contrary, conscious of all sensitivities, André Rouvoet (Christian Union minister for youth and family affairs) started a dialogue with the biggest Dutch homosexuals' interest organization (COC). He also assured the COC that - as the responsible minister - he will also act in the interest of Gay couple families. Of course, gay rights' acivists and the Christian Union will not agree on many issues, however, the Christian Union shows it handles the issue of gay marriage with utmost sensitivity and respect.
The Christian Union, Christians and gay rights activists do not need to agree, and disagreement - while continuing dialogue - does not necessarily spell endless conflicts and hatred.
Christians are united in a God who loves all people, also people with a homosexual orientation. By entering into dialogue, listening and understanding, Christians show that love. Considering, the polarized debates in other countries, the Netherlands are blessed with an orthodox Christian party that does not resort to polarizing and cheap political slogans. Rather, the Christian Union shows much sensitivity towards the issue of gay marriage without necessarily agreeing with gay rights' activists.
gay marriage,politics,Netherlands,Christianity,same-sex, gay
Er is de afgelopen tijd veel te doen geweest over homohuwelijken en ambtenaren met gewetensbezwaar.* Sommigen wijzen er op dat de mogelijkheid te weigeren in de praktijk geen problemen oplevert, er is immers altijd wel een andere trouwambtenaar te vinden die een homohuwelijk wil bezegelen. Tegenstanders wijzen erop dat ambtenaren ongeacht hun persoonlijke overtuigingen de wet horen uit te voeren.
In deze discussie is de ChristenUnie meermaals genoemd. Bij tijd en wijle doen criticasters voorkomen alsof de ChristenUnie een homofobe partij is, gericht op het verzwaren van de levens van mensen met een homoseksuele oriëntatie. De ironie is echter dat het regeerakkoord slechts de bestaande praktijk bevestigt (die door een paars kabinet is geïntroduceerd). Sommige gemeenteraden grijpen nu het regeerakkoord aan om het beleid aan te scherpen en een grote groep van gewetensbezwaarden uit te sluiten van een bepaald ambt. Dit zal vast niet de bedoeling zijn geweest van de ChristenUnie.
Toch verdient de ChristenUnie lof voor het feit dat deze zich niet blindstaart op dit issue, niet tijdens de onderhandelingen en ook niet er na. Integendeel, dit issue is gehypet door andere partijen (politieke en niet politieke) dan de ChristenUnie.
Mensen vragen mij wel eens naar het 'homostandpunt' van de ChristenUnie. Hoewel deze kwestie erg belangrijk is, verzanden discussies vaak in semantische stellingnames in de trant van 'ik geloof dat een huwelijk zus of zo is'. Één ding is echter zeker: het is de ChristenUnie er niet om te doen mensen rechten te ontnemen, m.a.w. het gaat niet in de eerste plaats om rechtspersoonlijkheid en eventuele belasting- en verzekeringstechnische gevolgen. Het homohuwelijk is vooral een geloofskwestie. Het siert de ChristenUnie dat zij niet in een soort van conservatieve reflex reageert door zo'n geloofskwestie zuiver politiek en rhetorisch te spelen (zoals veel republikeinen doen in de VS). In tegendeel, bewust van alle gevoeligheden, treedt André Rouvoet in overleg met het COC (homobelangenorganisatie). Natuurlijk, het COC en de ChristenUnie zullen het nooit fundamenteel eens worden, maar de ChristenUnie laat wel zien dat zij met begrip en gevoeligheid omgaat met het homohuwelijk.
De ChristenUnie en Christenen hoeven het niet eens te zijn met het COC als het aankomt op het homohuwelijk en gerelateerde zaken. Maar Christenen zijn wel verenigd in een God die alle mensen liefheeft, ook mensen met een homoseksuele oriëntatie. Door in overleg te treden, te luisteren en begrip te tonen laten we die liefde blijken. Het siert de ChristenUnie dat zij niet snoeiharde politieke slogans verkondigt, zodat een grote bevolkingsgroep zich beledigd zou voelen.
* Het Parool bericht vandaag (1 april 2007) over een COC-manifestatie bij het homomonument in Amsterdam, als protest tegen ambtenaren die weigeren homohuwelijken af te sluiten.