LIVING LIGHT
Living Light
Welcome! You have found the site of the CreationKeepers team (Christ Church's Eco Church Committee), which shares ideas and experiences about how we can all lighten our environmental footprint. We do this because we see our planet and its resources at a breaking point and believe in the power of personal examples. Most weeks, we will reflect on some aspect of living, working, shopping, consuming, reading, learning, etc. These are all local experiences and can easily be adopted by others in our community. Our authors (Rosie and Monika) look forward to any comments or ideas that you may also have and want to share. Send us your ideas at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Blog#41: Let’s Ride: With the New Austrian KlimaTicket

October 21, 2021
Monika Weber-Fahr
Tuesday this coming week week will be THE most magic of days - at least for those of us in Austria who would love to see public transport used for more if not for most trips that people take. As of October 26, each and every train, bus and tram will be all yours if you have bought one of the new Austrian Klima Tickets (Climate ticket). Hailed as a revolution in public transport, the tickets have been available already since October 1 - at Austria’s public transport ticket stores as well as online - but it’s only next Tuesday that the All-Rides-All-year-All-Trains-Trams-and-Buses ticket can be used for the first time.
Most of us in Vienna are very familiar with the general idea: You pay once - in Vienna it’s Euro 365 per year, or one euro a day - and the rest of the year you don’t need to worry about purchasing public transport tickets. Your annual pass (Jahresausweis) takes you everywhere in town. The Klima Ticket takes this concept one huge step forward, both in reach and in cost: For Euro 1095 (or Euro 821 if you are under 26 or over 64) you get to travel as often as you want on all trains, buses and trams across the entire country.  Attention: If you buy your ticket before October 31st, i.e. in the next 9 days, you can save up to Euro 150 and get the ticket for Euro 949 (Euro 699). 

 

Foto: The new KlimaTicket - valid on all trains, trams and buses in Austria - will be valid as of this Tuesday, October 26.  Hurry, there is a great discount for tickets purchased before October 31.

Well, on my end, I have answered the question with yes. I already pay for the Vienna ticket some Euro 365, and the remaining 600 Euro I would probably easily spend on my regular weekend trips into Niederoesterreich’s  mountains (typically at least Euro 20 per weekend for some 10+ weekends) and the within-Austria share of my quarterly trips out of the country. On top of that, there are the additional rides I will probably decide to take now that I have this luxury: Having bought the ticket once - will I end up doing more trips by train than beforehand? Certainly, the Austrian tourism agency is trying to convince us all to do this - check out the Bahn zum Berg (Train to Trail) website for great ideas for hiking tours and walking outings, conveniently within reach by public transport.
Our dear Environment Ministry here in Vienna has spent the better part of the last 18 months negotiating with the various Austrian transport authorities to make the KlimaTicket possible, yet such annual train passes were not invented here. Switzerland’s General Abonnement - or GA in brief - has been around for some time even though it would set you back much more heftily, at CHF 3860 (CHF 2880 for seniors) a pop. Interestingly, even though it costs about three times of what we will pay for something similar here in Austria, it turns out that the Swiss absolutely love their GA: More than 500,000 people purchased it last year, and there is even a tourist version that lets you take - for one month in the summer - all buses, trains and boats for CHF 330. In Germany, there is something similar - even more expensive and less convenient: The Bahncard100 lets you travel - for Euro 4027 - on all trains as often as you want. Meant for truly frequent travelers, the Bahncard100 is limited to using just trains, though.  In contrast, both Austria’s KlimaTicket and the Swiss GA include also any bus and tram (and in Switzerland even boats and some mountain cableways).

 
Foto: My new best friend - the Austrian Train Ticket website: As a prospective owner for the new Climate Ticket, I will now regularly check out new destinations, accessible by public transport.

All of these arrangements have, of course, one thing in common: They aim to get us out of our cars and into public transport. How? The general idea is that consumers - when paying a flat rate - want to maximize the benefits of what they pay for and thus end up taking more trips on train, bus or tram. In Vienna itself this has worked in the past: With the introduction of the Annual Ticket for Euro 365, use of public transport grew and is now at 38% of all trips taken - compared to just 27% in Berlin or 23% in Munich.  Here in Vienna, about half of the population purchases the right for unlimited mobility within city bounds. On a countrywide basis, Switzerland’s experience with the GA is promising - and I would much hope that we can get ourselves to become more avid public transport users also here in Austria.
The devil is, as always, in the details. What if most of your trips are regional - such as in Vienna, Niederoesterreich and the Burgenland?  Well, they are also introducing an Eastern Region or VOR Klima Ticket - for Euro 915 (Euro 648). What if you already have a Vienna Annual ticket?  Well, you can have this accounted for when buying your new Austria KlimaTicket.  What about taking bicycles or dogs?  Hmmm. Dogs are part of the deal in Niederoesterreich, but I have not figured out what the rules are elsewhere.  Many such questions need to be sorted out when they come up, and it seems that somme will vary by region. 

Foto: The Vienna Jahreskarte automatically "integrates" with the new Klimaticket, and payments already made will be accounted for - but you will have to go in person to one of the Ticket locations to make the arrangements. 

As a community of faith, we are committed to reducing our environmental footprint - so some of us may consider this new option as a pathway to changing our own behaviors. In the meantime, there are of course many other reasons for people of faith to choose public transport over taking our car. My mum used to pray her rosaries when in the train, and she could tell some of the distances by the number of prayers she got done … These days, people may listen to podcasts, including perhaps the Christ Church Service podcast that Robert thas made available to all of us. Yet, despite all the new prayer and meditation options involved, becoming a KlimaTicket owner still feels like a big shift. But I think I am in. I probably will keep tabs of my trips for a year - just to report back whether it indeed worked and got me out of the car more often.  What about you?
 nspired? Thoughts or reactions? Or ideas for forthcoming blogs?  We look forward to hearing from you - best via email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

Blog #40: Naming Names for Nature

October 14, 2021
Monika Weber-Fahr
Children, a newspaper article tells me this morning, know to recognize commercial firms’ logos better than plants or trees. Baffled, I am searching online for evidence for this claim, and indeed, research seems to indicate that pre-schoolers in the US can identify up to 100 brand logos; by age 10, they already know some 400. What about plants and trees? While I could not find anything online that would substantiate how many plants the average child can recognize, it does turn out that kids, at least in the UK, struggle naming not only fauna such as bumblebees and woodpeckers, but also flora such as oak trees or dandelionsl
Should we care? Well, for starters it seems that being able to recognize visual cues is probably a sign of the kids’ smartness, no matter whether commercial logos or nature’s beauties, so we should take a moment and be proud of all these smart little people. On the other hand, though, I do wonder what it means that our ability to recognize trees, flowers, or animals is declining - right at a time when so many are disappearing from the face of the earth.  Since John Stewart Mill, philosophers have reflected on the meaning of names, and to what degree having a name for something would allows us to interact with it. Many of us may remember how Smilla, a character in Smilla’s Sense of Snow, observes that the Inuits she grew up amongst had many many more names for snow than her other native language, Danish, and how she worried that she might loose the connection with her environment when forgetting the language (or vice versa, I can’t remember). As it were, the number of names for snow in Inuit languages appears to be a hotly debated topic. Yet, there seems to be some truth here: Whatever is part of your daily experience will be something you have (many) names for, perhaps even various and nuanced ones.

 

Picture: Do you know the name of this tree - or the plants right in front?  They should be household names - but if you don’t know, see whether you can find them in the Botanical Garden around the corner and send them to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

And its true: Our planet is losing species at a rate of between 24 to 150 per day, every day, at least that’s what the researchers are telling us. The numbers are based on computer modeling and on the fact that that there are some 1.9 million recorded current or recent species on the planet.  Losing 150 a day - or some 50,000 a year - clearly seems alarming and is on the global political agenda. Even here in Austria, we see many plants and animals on the “red list” of endangered species. Right now, between October 11 and 15, the first part of the UN Biodiversity Conference - taking place online rather than in Kunming in China as originally planned - is seeking to remedy what a report launched in May this year had confirmed: That despite unprecedented species extinction todate, its not too late to make a difference - if we start now at every level, from local to global.
Right around the corner from Christ Church, we have our very own bastion of defense in the battle against species extinction: The Botanical Garden. The garden is not only a beautiful location for a walk and positive inspirations - it’s also part of the University of Vienna’s faculty of LIfe Science, home to 11,500 plant species from six continents, and a place where cutting edge research and a lot of public education happens. Last week, Frank, one of Rose’s colleagues, gave us a tour and we took time out of our busy week(end) to learn, breathe and even take a moment for prayer. Gabe had selected St. Francis’ Canticle of Brother Son and E.E. Cummings’ most amazing day for inspiration, and thus accompanied by good thoughts and fellowship we learned about the University’s work in bringing together, sustaining and learning from plants from all over the world. We found out about Maria Theresia who had the gardens set up in the 1750s, for the education of medical doctors; we found out about interesting research projects - such as the work in creating a planetary inventory of life, in understanding the impacts of climate change, and in cultivating endangered species; and mostly we learned about beautiful and sometimes odd plants. My personal favorite: Zanthoxylum simulans, Chinese-pepper or Täuschende Stachelesche: It produces little fruits with a positively wild taste.

 
Foto: Zanthoxylum Simulans - a tree from China - produces a little fruit that tastes indeed very very wildly.Do check out whether you can find it when you visit!

Which gets us back to names: At the Botanical Garden you will find plants that you think you know - and then you don’t - and then there are plants that you had no clue existed. All of them have names, and oddly enough pretty much all seem to have both Latin and German names, in addition to the names presumably given in their home countries but perhaps not recorded here. It’s wild! If you want to learn a few more names of species you did or did not know - check out the Botanical Garden. In fact, do it in the next weeks, throughout October. They have a fun exhibition going - the “New Wild Ones” - until October 31st; check-out the website, I think it requires registration and a small fee. Do go and find new names for nature’s treasures!

Foto: The exhibition on traveling plants is still on - throughout the end of October - go check it out!!

Inspired? Thoughts or reactions? Or ideas for forthcoming blogs?  We look forward to hearing from you - best via email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
 

 

Blog #39: Saying Thanks

October 7, 2021
Monika Weber-Fahr
Last Sunday, here in Christchurch, we celebrated our very own Harvest Festival - Erntedank for our Austrian Host Country German - Thanksgiving for others. Creating a moment of gratitude for the food that was harvested, and considering that it was not just  hard labor, farmers’ ingenuity, and various forms of technology (and chemistry) that created them, is an age old tradition around the world. Whether its Lammas Day in the UK, the Pongal Festival in Sri Lanka, the Argungu Festival in Northern Nigeria - the list of harvest festivals around the world is very very long, varying in dates, depending on harvest times. Canadian Thanksgiving is coming up this Sunday, October 11, and while not technically part of the church year, the the Church of England creates space for celebrating harvests according to the agricultural year in one’s location. Everywhere around the world, it seems, people feel the same, wanting to say thanks - to God, deities, higher powers. What we have harvested, we seem to feel, we have been given, gained not entirely on our own merit, a grace from God.  And everywhere this thanks is related to the weather, the rains, the sun, the winds, and so many other things in nature that are out of our direct control!
 
And yet, it is the weather that we have been influencing so unexpectedly dramatically ourselves over the past century. This week’s the Nobel Committee told us that they awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of complex systems, with one half going jointly to Syukuro Manabe and Klaus Hasselmann for the physical modelling of Earth’s climate, quantifying variability and reliably predicting global warming, and the other half to Giorgio Parisi for the discovery of the interplay of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems from atomic to planetary scales.

 

Picture: This shot from the Nobel Prize committee's website introduces the three Physicians that won this yea'rs prize for Physics - for researching the causes of climate change.

While I found the Nobel Committee’s statement somewhat difficult to comprehend, in searching what their work means, I found great explanations in the Nature Magazine who interviewed climate scientist Bjorn Stevens, at the Hamburg Max Planck Institute for Meteorology.  Stevens summed up the award by saying:  Manabe showed us how and why increasing CO2 leads to global warming. Hasselmann showed that it is happening.  Reading further on the Nobel Committee’s Popular Information site (a worthwhile read), I found an even more catching explanation, noting that Hasselmann developed methods for identifying specific signals, fingerprints, that both natural phenomena and human activities imprint in the climate.  So here it is, scientifically proven: Our - humanity’s - fingerprints are on how the climate changes.
 
So, yes, on Harvest Day we do say thanks for the fruits and grains and veggies we have harvested and have been given. At the same time, we also want to think about the unpredictability that our and our recent forefathers’ behaviors have brought to our climate, causing havoc to harvests in so many ways and so many places. Harvest Day for me has become a festival of gratitude and a call for action. Many centuries of custom and tradition have made it a beautiful and inspiring day! And so I am also grateful for my church, and for people like Melinda and the kids in her group, who make sure that we actually do say thanks - for the food we have, and for what we learn about how we need to live so that we may keep harvesting also in the years to come!
Inspired? Thoughts or reactions? Or ideas for forthcoming blogs?  We look forward to hearing from you - best via email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..