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 #93: Let's Pray! 

November 4, 2022
Monika Weber-Fahr
They will need our prayers: For 12 days, starting this coming Sunday, November 6, through November 18th, the city of Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt will host the UN Climate Change Conference - also often called “COP27”. Thousands of country delegates as well as people representing civil society, business, financiers, and academia will come together to discuss and take decisions on the speed, type and volume of climate action we will all take together in the years to come. The formal part of the events has a clear and difficult agenda: Reviews of progress made - or not made - on avoiding and reducing the emission of green-house gases, and decisions on a suite of activities designed for countries and industries to further reduce emissions and to adapt to climate change, including on how to finance these activities. The conference will also consider what to do where the damages expected to be driven climate change (“Loss and Damage Agenda”). Tough negotiations have already shaped the past weeks: In the end it’s about money (who pays for what) and about the shape and direction of industry and development for everyone. And the time-window for action is short: We have got eight years to turn around the ship.


Foto: Faith-based groups - including many churches related to or forming the Anglican Communion - are participating actively in the campaigning and knowledge sharing that takes place at the Climate Conference in Egypt. Importantly, faith communities offer spaces for reflection and prayer to the participating delegates..

The World Council of Churches is bringing together faith-based efforts at the COP events to both help and stimulate courageous action - and many of the churches that are part of the Anglican Communion will participate directly. Some have put together specific initiatives, such as the Episcopal Church’s Call to Climate Action, the Call for Divestment from Fossil Fuels or the Green Anglicans mobilization efforts; even some Dioceses are issuing Calls to Action or are organizing prayer hours or night vigils, such as Gloucester, Leeds, Melbourne, or Geelong (these were just the ones I could find online: there are probably many more). Here in Vienna, the Austrian Churches offer a Seminar on Climate Change and Caring for Creation (in German) in mid November. Why all these efforts? For one, in the big politics of such a conference like the one coming up in Egypt, it’s easy to lose sight of the people on whose behalf we need to change the pathway on climate -  the poor and the vulnerable, in particular but not only in the poorest countries.  Also, let’s not forget: the delegates have a really tough challenge ahead of themselves - negotiating agreements that will compromise today’s Convenience Culture and instead look to build a long-term future for all! Spiritual help and intervention will be needed!
The news on climate change in the meantime are dire indeed: Essentially, countries have not lived up to the commitments they made in Paris in 2015, green house gas emissions are higher than promised, in fact the promises themselves had not been enough, and the changes in the climate itself have been sharper and faster than expected. Earlier this year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - the UN-convened group of scientists that monitors and assesses climate change regularly - had warned that even in the next decade more severe droughts and extreme heat will jeopardize people’s health and nutrition around the world, destroying infrastructure and stopping or reversing improvements in economic development. UNEP’s State of the Climate Report is a great read in that it shows progress made by each country and offers very specific suggestions.  “We can’t just throw up our hands and say we failed”, says UNEP’s head, Inger Anderson, appealing to “every nation, to pore over the solutions offered” and to “every investor, public and private, to put their capital towards a net-zero world”.
So what can we pray - back here in Vienna? How can we ask the Allmighty to help all those decision makers? Amongst the prayer resources that are out there, I found one that inspires me a lot - it that has been put forward by the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development. If you are looking for more, check out their other resources.  But in the meantime, let’s together pray: .
God of blessings, 
the universe sings of your glory.
Deepen our gratitude for all you have made
and awaken in us a renewed commitment 
to care for the earth and each other. 
Inspire world leaders at COP27, 
with openness to listen to those most affected by climate change 
and with courage to act urgently and wisely, 
so that our common home may be healed and restored  
and all people, and generations to come, may delight in it. 
Next week, this blog will bring you further updates and more spiritual resources. We cannot leave these delegates and campaigners out there alone and without our help in praying.
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Blog #92: Rain or Shine ....? 

October 27, 2022
Monika Weber-Fahr
It’s pouring rain, like it would: After all it’s October. And I am finding myself standing at the main train station in Berlin, the Hauptbahnhof, wondering how to make it out of the building and onto my meetings looking half-way decent. Vienna had been warm and sunny when I left and somehow I had forgotten to check the weather forecast for the North. “You can get umbrellas over at the downstairs level”, says the lovely lady in the newspaper shop, pointing me to an outlet of a large drugstore chain. So I hurry along, and sure enough, attractively presented right at the entrance, there are four types of umbrellas available for us busy travelers, each in two colors. As I am weighing in my head the importance of protecting myself from pouring rain against the likely cost of purchasing an umbrella on the go, I look for the price tags and see to my surprise - and shock - that the smallest umbrella would be mine in return for what seems to be an impossibly small amount of money: Euro 3,49.


Foto: The umbrella prices at Berlin’s Central Train Station’s drug store seemed ridiculously low to me - until I checked and found out that umbrellas seem to have become disposable single-use products.

The umbrella story itself concludes quickly: I purchase one of the little ones and end up sound and dry at my meetings. But my feeling of shock and the question I had when buying the mini umbrella last week are still vexing me: How is it possible for an item composed of good water-resistant cloth and of metal, plus an automatic unfolding-mechanism, to be so cheap? And: If these items come so cheap, have they become disposable or single-use products for some people? How much waste is this adding to our ecological footprint on the earth? Can we avoid this? So I do what we all do these days when we have a question - I go online and discover an entirely new world: The world of umbrellas. 
A few answers right away: Historically, umbrellas have been reserved for the rich and noble, starting with the Ancient civilizations of China, Egypt, Greece, Rome and the Aztecs, seen as a symbol of dignity.  Initially used to protect against sun - remember: the word umbrella comes from umbra/shade - it was in 18th century England that umbrellas came to be used as a protective device against the elements. Today’s global umbrella market is worth about US$ 7 billion, with some 19 billion umbrellas in circulation at any given time. Many people seem to own more than one - starting with Japan that sports 3.3 umbrellas per person on average. About 1 billion umbrellas are discarded every year, just in London about 34,000 end up in the TfL’s lost&found chambers. With some 120 components mostly made from metal or plastics, this seems a terrible waste and environmentally uncaring to say the least. Plus, most of the materials the discarded umbrellas have been made of are non-recyclable and non-degradable, and will be with us for 100s or 1000s of years.


Foto: Isn’t it crazy - the Sandwich sold to travelers at the same train station cost more than an umbrella!?

But how can umbrellas be so absurdly cheap that people won’t think twice about discarding them? If I purchase an umbrella for Euros 4 or less, I am guessing that probably 1 Euro stays with the store and 1 Euro goes for transport, leaving 2 Euros or less for production and raw materials. Already some twenty years ago, about 50% of the world’s umbrellas came from China; by now their market share has risen up to nearly 90%. Browsing through some of these stores online can be fascinating - Youanna, Hfumbrella, or Superain give you a feel for the big business that umbrella manufacturing has become, exporting from China to the entire world. A big driver for the shift has been low labor cost, given that much of the cost of production of an umbrella seems to be driven by the assembly, albeit the process is neither easy nor necessarily safe. It seems an unbreakable bad cycle: The low price of umbrellas convinces people that they can treat them carelessly; not produced to last they easily break and are too cheap to buy to invest in repairing; considered disposable, the umbrellas litter our countries; and yet because they drive an industry feeding off low labor cost, our markets are swamped by them.
Committed to caring for God’s creation, how should we then shop for umbrellas? One solution would be to purchase sustainably produced and/or recyclable umbrellas, such as the GinkoUmbrella customdesigned a few years ago, or the FareOekoBrella (but be careful: some manufacturers claim ‘produced from recycled materials’ without having clear proof or certification). Another option would be to choose umbrellas that have been designed to last - and so that they can be repaired. As it were, Austria is host to Europe’s No 1 umbrella producer, Doppler/Knirps, and many of their products are not only manufactured locally but also regularly rated top of the line, such as by Stern. And there are many other similarly medium-to-high-end producers out there. In fact, if you think about buying - and losing or breaking - five 5-Euro-umbrellas in your lifetime, you can as well invest 25 Euros in a build-to-last solution. Or, as my teenage son points out: You just don’t buy an umbrella at all - but rather get a good rain coat ;-).
Feeling inspired? Want to contribute? Remark on or question something? Please send thoughts about or suggestions for the Living Light Blog to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Blog #91: What will you do with Your Klima Bonus? 

October 20, 2022
Monika Weber-Fahr
Last week, it finally arrived in my postbox: The notification from the Postoffice that my Klima Bonus had been deposited and that it was ready for pick-up. So the next day, I walked over, armed with my passport and the notification. Much to my surprise, the process turned out to be as easy-peasy as picking up any parcel or delivery: The young man behind the counter checked my ID, then proceeded to look for and find a sealed envelope that had my name on it. He took five Klima Bonus certificates out of the envelope, each worth Euro 10. I got to choose whether I wanted the certificates or rather the cash, and that was all that was to it. I walked home with five brand-new 100 Euro bills in my pocket.


Picture: My Klima Bonus certificates arrived last week - so how do I deploy them best? 

These five bills made me one of those 600,000 plus grown-ups who have had their primary residence in Austria for more than six months (183 days) by July 1 but whose account number the government did not have. The other 4-5 Million eligible grown-ups should have received the bonus as a transfer into their accounts already in September. Over the last few weeks, however, it turned out that not everyone actually received the money, that the help-line at the Ministry of Environment did not work, that some folks had trouble turning their certificates into cash, and so on. A lot of tempests in the teapot of a huge subsidy that has given me pause: Why is the government sending this much money to us? Originally, the purpose of the bonus had been to somewhat compensate us for the expected hike in living cost that that was to follow the envisioned introduction - on October 1 - of a carbon tax. The idea a year ago, when all this got designed, was: A lot of things will get a bit more expensive - heating, driving a car, and so on - so let’s give people some time to adjust. And in order to make adjusting easier, let’s give them the Klima Bonus. But then the Russian war in the Ukraine happened, inflation happened, and energy prices soared all on their own - and not just because of the carbon tax. As a result, the originally planned Euro 250 per person became Euro 500.
But I kept wondering: Why would this Bonus make sense?  Why do all grown-ups in Austria get the same amount - irrespective of how badly the increases in energy prices are hitting them? Caritas Oesterreich has already figured this out, appealing to the more wealthy among us to donate their Klima Bonus and help poorer families to afford the dramatically risen cost of heating this winter. But there is something else that we should also think about: Should we not use the Klima Bonus - or any other resource we have - and invest in energy efficiency measures, in equipment and choices that would reduce our energy consumption in the long term?
Jo Stiglitz is one of the world’s most famous economists, Nobel-prize decorated and always good for insightful observations, in particular on topics regarding globalization, inequality, income distribution, and the climate crisis. A few weeks ago, the near-octogenarian was here in Vienna, at the Vienna Humannities Festival, to speak about An Uncertain Future: The World Economy, Globalization, and Resentment. I had not noticed that a recording of the life stream of his talk had been available on the IWM website until last week when it was featured at the Falter podcast - there under the title War, War Economics, and the Limits of Markets.  It’s a fascinating lecture, touching upon many things - and it also raises the question how we should react to rising energy prices. Stiglitz argues strongly that we all will adjust behaviors only - and invest in measures to reduce our use of energy - if we can reasonably assume that high prices are here to stay. In fact, he also points out - very correctly so - that firms who did not anticipate rising energy cost are being rewarded right now, receiving subsidies to buffer off their high energy costs.
No worries, this blog is not becoming a lecture in economics. But receiving the Klima Bonus should make us think about the incentives it implies, the message it is trying to send. This money is not just there to help us continue living as we have always lived - allowing us to ignore the much higher prices for heating, petrol, and other household items. In fact, many people have already started saving energy - shortening their showers, heating fewer rooms in their flats, keeping the heating down. In fact, turtlenecks seem to have become quite a political statement to this end, well beyond the fashion implications. But we need to look further: We really should see to it that we invest - not just the Bonus but as much as we can possibly afford - into whatever it will take to reduce our CO2-infused energy use in the longer term. We can have heat-insulating windows installed, invest in better measurement and in controlling our gas consumption, or we can buy an electric bicycle to begin replacing our car (if we have one), or, or, or. The list of such actions would be long, I'd presume. Even though, it’s true: We must look out for those with lesser means - that the rising prices do not make lives unlivable for them. In the meantime, let's see what we can do to leverage the Klima Bonus as an opportunity for all of us to actually invest in changing (our own!) behaviors ourselves.
So: Have you received yours?  And what are you going to use it for? Let’s get creative and begin reducing our carbon footprint! Systematically and for the long-term
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Blog #90: How do we Know?

October 13, 2022
Monika Weber-Fahr
Would it not be lovely to be able to say that all of these new environmentally minded laws, technologies and requirements are not necessary? That climate change may exist – but that it has nothing to do with how our societies and economies are organized? That the notion of man-made climate change was dreamt up by some crazy scientist. And therefore, that no one needs to change their behaviors? "Do you accept the scientific consensus that the man-made burning of fossil fuels is rapidly and dangerously warming the planet", a journalist asked the President of the World Bank, David Malpass, a few weeks ago at a public gathering in New York. And the head of the largest financier of climate change relevant investments in the developing world appeared flustered. He then proceeded to duck the question. “I am not a scientist” was his answer, insinuating that more or different insights were needed. Civil society organizations, political leaders and scientists were quick to correct him – both in the US and around the world. Within a day, Malpass corrected himself, telling journalists that he agrees climate change is caused by humans burning fossil fuels and that he is “not a denier”.


Foto: Screenshot of a website of the British Antarctic Survey. Climate scientists go all the way to Antarctica and Greenland to collect evidence about just how human behavior manifests itself in the atmosphere, building up green house gases that then cause and drive climatic changes. The evidence is right there! Yours truly got to see it herself when at Cambridge a few years ago. 

I was surprised when I read about all of this. Not because there are climate deniers – there will always be a few people having a hard time accepting new realities. But I paused when I saw that the chief of the World Bank would find it appropriate or behooving his role and organization to inject doubts into the public debate about something so fundamental to his own mandate. Already some 20 years ago, when I worked at the World Bank’s private sector arm, I had been invited to join a weeklong seminar in Cambridge/England, together with many other colleagues from across the organization. We participated in an exercise that eventually included some 80 percent of all VPs, directors and managers of the World Bank: A Cambridge Sustainability Seminar – comprised of a series of workshops that had us engage with scientists, business people, and practitioners and learn from their insights on climate change specifically and on environmentally sustainable pathways for firms and economies more generally. Latest since then, the World Bank as an organization knows Climate Change – and what to do about it. Indeed, many aspects of the education they offered to us were extraordinary. Not only in terms of content - but also in terms of evidence, including the evidence for climate change that came straight from the Arctic.
We did not travel to the Arctic ourselves. Politicians such as Merkel, Cameron and Trudeau had done so, to talk to scientists first hand and to bring attention to the melting ice up and down there. Nevertheless, I had the opportunity to have my own personal arctic moment when I got to see – up, close and personal - the ice cores that the British Antarctic Survey teams had brought in straight from Antarctica. Why is this impressive evidence? In quoting the BAS: “Ice cores are cylinders of ice drilled out of an ice sheet or glacier. [...and] contain information about past temperature [as well as other environmental dimensions of our past since the ice encloses] small bubbles of air that contain a sample of the atmosphere”. These samples allow “to measure directly the past concentration of atmospheric gases, including the major greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide”. So here I was, nearly 20 years ago, standing right in front of the irrefutable evidence of how much the share of CO2 and of other gases in the atmosphere had grown – and how this coincided with the increase in humans burning fossil fuels. Odd – is it not – that the head of an organization so deeply involved with climate change programs, having trained all its leadership on the ins and outs of climate science, would have difficulty confirming the evidence? I myself know how we know - ever since that visit in the labs - and that has helped a lot in steering my own engagement.

Foto: The exhibition Unseen Places here in Vienna, at the Hundertwasser Museum, includes extraordinary pictures of the work that Scientists do in the most remote parts of the Arctic.  All in service of us knowing and learning about Climate Change.

Why am I telling you about all of this today? Last weekend, here in Vienna, I saw the pictures of something that looked very much like the ice cores that had impressed me so much, back in Cambridge 17 years ago.  There is an Art Exhibition at the Hundertwasser Museum: Unseen Places is its title, and Gregor Sailer is the name of the Austria-born photographer who put it together. It is comprised of a series of stunning visuals of places far away and left alone, quite a few of them in the general vicinity of the arctic circle. As part of a project called the Polar Silk Road, Sailer went and took rarely seen shots of locations of human endeavors in sub-zero temperature. One of these locations is the lab of the East Greenland Ice-core Project (EastGRIP), a project that looks to retrieve an ice core by drilling through the Northeast Greenland Ice Stream. Now, it turns out that the location of drilling for these ice cores is rather different from the locations used by the Cambridge teams; the British Arctic Survey gets its ice cores in Antarctica – some 18,000 kilometers south from Greenland’s site of the EASTGRIP work, nearly the full distance between the Earth’s two poles.
The message of these pictures is the same as what I saw in Cambridge: The evidence is here, right in front of us, and scientists are constantly out there to confirm and re-confirm. Climate change is happening, and it is man-made, and these labs are (part of the evidence of) how we know. Just watching the extreme floods reported on over the past weeks - in Pakistan and in Florida - reminds me just how frequent such climatic extremes have become. We would do well to brace ourselves and advocate for the changes in our lives that are needed for climate change to slow down - because we know it’s there and how to shift its pace.
In the meantime: Do check out the Unseen Places exhibition at the Hundertwasser Museum; it is open until early February. Only a few of the exhibits are about the ice cores but I promise, you will walk away impressed: Impressed by the evidence such as these ice cores and by seeing so up-close-and-personal what researchers are prepared to do to get us the evidence we need. So that we know.
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