Tuesday, 23 September 2008

“IT’S ALL DOWN TO GREED” the interviewee said!

The interviewer was asking the interviewee, a financial expert, about the reason for the present financial crisis, and I listened with amazement as he carried on, with total honesty, saying “the bonus culture and the risk taking in search of big profits was at the heart of the problem”.

You will hear a lot more soon; I am sure, about Credit Default Swops (CDS). These are in essence an insurance contract between a protection buyer and a protection seller covering a corporation’s specific bond or loan. A protection buyer pays an upfront amount and yearly premiums to the protection seller to cover any loss on the face amount of the referenced bond or loan. Simple isn’t it, after all isn’t this just like a normal car or household contents insurance contract, what’s the fuss? Well, actually there is a catch in the contract.

CDS’s are bilateral contracts, i.e. they are private contracts between two parties but the next bit you may find hard to comprehend because CDS’s are subject to a clause known as counterparty risk. This means that if the insurance provider does not have enough money to pay the insurance buyer in the case of a default event affecting the subject of the insurance, or if the insurer goes bankrupt (Bear Stearns and AIG, American International Group almost went that way) the insurance buyer is not covered. Yes you read that correctly, no cover and kiss your premiums goodbye as well. This is the reason for those massive and mind blowing sums the US and UK governments are pumping into the financial system.

The problem was that those engaged in speculation were unable to see that house price rises in the US and the UK were not sustainable, and when the housing market collapsed it, like a house of cards, brought all around it down as well.

The lunacy of loaning money to people who were unable to repay, on the premise that house prices never fall and so if people default on their loans the increase on the property prices will still give a healthy return, has come home to roost. As we know, this has all happened around the time the world hit peak oil and peak food.

From an environmental point of view it is completely impossible to exaggerate the significance of the situation the world is now in. CDS’s emerged in the in the early 1990’s and since then the world has experienced unlimited consumerism, urged on by an unaccountable, and some would say corrupt, financial system which has driven on the non-stop destruction of the environment that has been a feature of the last 25 years.

1 Timothy 6:9 sums this attitude up perfectly: “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare, and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction”. Knowing just who will be paying for this desire to get rich, all I can say is Amen to that Timothy...

Monday, 22 September 2008

The positive effect of Global warming???

I read this in an article recently. The author waxed on about how there were actually good points, such as the ability to grow figs, olives and grapes in the UK.

The fact is, that to say that there is any positive effect whatsoever in Global warming is just as logical as watching someone drown and saying that the positive effect of them drowning is that they don't need a drink...

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

No greater love has this

The Corrib Gas Field is a reserve of natural gas situated 80 km off the west coast of County Mayo containing 11 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The gas field was discovered in 1996 by Enterprise Oil, operating in a consortium with Saga Petroleum. The Corrib Gas Project, directed by a consortium of companies now led by Royal Dutch Shell, seeks to bring the gas ashore at Glengad in the Barrony of Erris in North West Mayo and to pump the unrefined gas 9km inland through sand dunes, a Special Area of Conservation, and then through inhabited area to a refinery located on a boggy hill where it would be cleaned and depressurized for sale and export.

All the problems regarding environmental and community concerns result from the location of the refinery. A recent petition of the 1200 Kilcommon residents clearly showed that while they are not against bringing the natural gas ashore, the majority do not support the project in its current form. Protests followed and five men were jailed for 94 days for obstructing Shell workers who were starting pipe laying on the land owned by three of the men.

A protest camp was organised, but in July 2007 the camp was served with notice to evict by Mayo County Council which cited the unauthorised nature of the structures erected and the potential damage to a Special Area of Conservation. As soon as the camp left Shell moved in to start illegally drilling boreholes on the same Special Area of Conservation, despite protests and not having permission, then the Shell pipe laying ship Solitaire moved into place.

This was all too much for Maura Harrington, a 42kg (6st 9lb) former headmistress who informed the commander of Shell's Solitaire that if it came into the bay she would begin a hunger strike and carry on till the ship went away, she said that her "action sprang out of her despair over the actions not just of Shell but of the local authorities, the Garda, and the government.”

The latest development is ‘damage’ to the Solitaire. Shell has already announced they will be removing it from the area for repairs. At the moment Harrington does not plan to stop, she said, in a command of English that only the Irish have, that she "trusts Shell about as far as I can throw the Solitaire," but even if she does stop, she will certainly start again when the boat returns.

As a headmistress she is obviously thinking of the environment that will remain in the future for ‘her’ children and while part of me shudders at the path she is taking, another has admiration for her courage and commitment. In the words of John 15:13 “The greatest love you can show is to give your life for your friends”. I hope and pray that it does not come to that, but play the above and see how you feel about the situation. If you would like to know more about the Rossport Solidarity Camp and Shell, please click here.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

This family know what life would be like without reliance on oil!

In fact they are living in deprivation because they don’t have a car... television... telephone... fridge... freezer...washing machine... central heating or air conditioning and their house is not insulated. Their diet is restricted due to circumstances and is mainly vegetables much of which they grow themselves in their garden and the small boy has yet to taste butter as they only have margarine. They walk or use public transport when they go out together and the yearly family holiday is a day trip to the coast, about 50 miles away, by coach.

The father cycles the five miles to work if the weather is good and uses the bus when it rains, when there is snow and the bus does not run he wraps sack around his feet and walks to work.

And they are amazingly happy because they have time...

Do you remember what it was like when there was time, time to enjoy each other’s company, time for talking and time for walking, time to read and time for your friends, family and community?

The five year old in the photo, which was taken in 1950 when food rationing was still on, is me.

So often we think that life without all our present day luxuries would be unbearable when in fact, from my personal experience, the opposite was the truth. So often we look at the problems that we face but these do nothing to inform us of what is possible and what life could be. We are an amazingly creative species and I am honestly excited about the challenges that are before us, yes life will change and it may not be at all easy, but in the end it may well change for the better.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Doing her bit for creation!

But I don't think she is alone in thinking that this is all that's needed...

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Do you ever read something and wonder what planet the writer was on?

I have just read an article by a wine expert who is concerned that global warming will have a serious impact on the wine industry. This is one particular comment:

“One of the biggest worries concerns the Gulf Stream... if this were to disappear some of Europe’s greatest wine regions would be devastated.”

Geology and archaeology have shown that around 10,000 years ago the great lakes area of Canada was one massive freshwater lake that was held back from the North Atlantic by a huge ice dam. The ice dam broke, the freshwater flooded into the Gulf Stream which, dependent on the salt in it to operate almost stopped, and Europe went into the last Ice Age.

The Gulf Stream is already weakening due to the melting Artic ice diluting the salt laden gulf stream with fresh water, but Mr. Wine Expert, but if the Gulf Stream “were to disappear” I think you would have other concerns than the Bordeaux grape harvest

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Every force has an equal and opposite reaction, ice melts, sea levels rise!

Open water now stretches all the way round the Arctic, making it possible for the first time in human history to circumnavigate the North Pole, The melting ice last week opened up both the fabled North-west and North-east passages, in the most important geographical landmark to date to signal the unexpectedly rapid progress of global warming.

Four weeks ago, tourists had to be evacuated from Baffin Island's Auyuittuq National Park because of flooding from thawing glaciers, please note, Auyuittuq means "land that never melts". Two weeks after this, nine stranded polar bears were seen off Alaska trying to swim 400 miles north to the retreating icecap edge.

Until recently both the North-west passage around Canada and the North-east passage around Russia had been blocked by ice since the beginning of the last Ice Age. As shipping companies are already getting ready to exploit the new route, Professor Wieslaw Maslowski at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, concluded that there will be no ice between mid-July and mid-September as early as 2013. The process feeds on itself. As white ice is replaced by sea, the dark surface absorbs more heat, warming the ocean and melting more ice.

Meanwhile, in the Pacific Ocean, islands including Fiji, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu, are flooding due to the increased sea levels.
President Remengesau of Palau recently said: “Palau has lost at least one third of its coral reefs due to climate change related weather patterns. We also lost most of our agricultural production due to drought and extreme high tides. These are not theoretical, scientific losses -- they are the losses of our resources and our livelihoods.... For our island states, time is not running out. It has run out, and our path may very well be the window to your own future and the future of our planet".

These islands are on the front line of climate change, they are the early warning system for climate change, sea levels will rise not only due to ice cap and glacial melt but because water expands when its temperature rises.

But Sarah Palin, John McCain's new running mate, holds that the scientific consensus that global warming is melting Arctic ice is unreliable. My concern is that by the time her and the other sceptics arguments have melted away, so will the Arctic ice.

In the words of Isaiah 43:8 “Bring out the people who have eyes but are blind, who have ears but are deaf".

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

As much as you do it for these...

Do you ever think that the scale of the environmental problems facing us all are so big that your ‘little’ effort can hardly make a difference? Do you sometimes feel like giving up or giving in? If you do, then please think on this, because every ‘little’ effort makes a difference.

Asthma is a major problem for children today, so when you fit that energy saving light bulb please remember that you are cutting down on pollution and that somewhere you may well have helped a child to combat the problem rather than to succumb to it..

The environmental problem caused by plastic is obvious to all but those that don’t want to see, so when you take your own bags to the shop you are not only making a visible statement, you are cutting down on the oil used to make them, cutting out landfill and so preserving resources and protecting the environment for the children and their grandchildren.

When you cut down your oil/gas/petrol consumption, even by a small amount, you are making a stand against the lunacy of sending the children of today into battle, in the years to come for control of these resources.

When you buy local produce instead of food transported from faraway places you are helping to support the families in your area and making the roads safer for them and their children by cutting down on those massive trucks the supermarkets use.

If you oppose nuclear power then you are looking after the grandchildren’s grandchildren of the future. 20,000 years ago the English Channel did not exist... in 200,000 years time much nuclear waste will still be lethal.

So if you do any of the above, or anything similar, (and I know that you do) then please, please pat yourself on the back, because all are victories, and don't forget what HE said, "What you do to the least of your brethren, you do unto Me." - Jesus