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Aug 14, 2011
I recently wrote three articles for a most interesting project by the Open University (OU) in collaboration with the British Council called 'Belief in Dialogue'. To give some idea what they're on (they're due to be published next month, God willing):

Sustainability: what's faith got to do with it?

The challenge of climate change often grabs the headlines, but is only part of sustainability matters. Other issues such as loss of biodiversity, mass extinction, pollution, depletion of carbon-based energy sources (e.g. oil, gas; sometimes referred to as 'peak oil'), pressure on potable water supplies and mounting food insecurity are also important. Some say faith has nothing to do with sustainability; some say they can sometimes be competing forces; some say that if sustainability is to be achieved, faith should stay away; some say faiths are at the heart of sustainability. Who's right? Can the different opinions all be somewhat true? This article discusses sustainability and what role faith would have in it.

Faith and community responses to global poverty

Some say global poverty is decreasing. The UN's Millennium Development Goals 2011 report expects that by 2015, the global poverty rate will fall below 15%. Others say overemphasis on daily income (e.g. number of people living on less than one dollar a day) is quite a narrow means of measurement of poverty and thus poverty is not really decreasing. At the turn of the twenty-first century, the richest 5% of people receive one-third of total global income, as much as the poorest 80%. This seems most unjust.

Climate change, faith and the global common good

Some say the best way to achieve the global common good is a free market; some say a free market in practice rarely gives a level playing field. Climate scientists agree climate change is happening and increasingly certain the human factor is exacerbating matters. What might be a response from faiths? What impacts does this have on the global common good? At heart climate change is a global problem. However, the directly and worst affected people are mainly those who contributed least to the problem. Through no fault of their own, entire civilisations in low lying areas of the world could soon be lost to the ocean due to rising sea levels. This makes it a moral question for us all, where the moral duty to resolve these issues falls squarely on the world’s largest emitters.

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Posted: Aug 14, 2011 9:30am
Feb 24, 2011

Sometimes dicussions about climate change can sound so abstract, or distant. A powerful reminder that it's actually (already) affecting real people in very real ways, it's good (well, it's bad, but good to know IYKWIM) to visit this site from time to time:

Worldview of Climate Change

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Posted: Feb 24, 2011 10:24am
Jan 10, 2010 mentions that "The first-ever public study of the health effects of genetically modified corn shows that three patented crops developed and owned by agriculture giant Monsanto cause liver, kidney and heart damage in mammals". However, actually it's not even the first (see Austrian Government funded study for example I mentioned in an earlier blog). According to the study’s author, the company’s own data "clearly underlines adverse impacts on kidneys and liver, the dietary detoxifying organs, as well as different levels of damages to heart, adrenal glands, spleen and haematopoietic system."

If you live in the US, do ask the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to retract approval for the GM varieties (yes, I'm surprised too... approval BEFORE research?!). Or actually, sign even if you don't live in the US as you will still be affected.

And NO, I will NOT be convinced of GM 'once safety's been sorted' or 'it's been explained to me properly'... it's still NOT a solution for hunger, poverty or any problem (a UN-sponsored four-year review, involving more than 400 international scientists and chaired by UK Defra's own chief scientist, for example, concluded in 2007 that GM technologies were unlikely to have more than a limited role in tackling global hunger)... it'll only put the start of our food chain in the hands of massive companies who're in it to make profit for shareholders, that's it.
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Posted: Jan 10, 2010 1:53pm
Dec 7, 2009

I just wrote the following e-mail to the BBC (as it's public radio and a science programme, I didn't bother adding the great faith-objection against GM: playing God, as GM is NOT the same as 'selective breeding, but proactively in a lab mixing species; e.g. in the Quran: "so eat of the sustenance which God has provided for you, lawful and good" [16:114]):

Hello BBC Feedback team,

May this message find you in the best of health and spirits.

From the programme brief of Frontiers (7 Dec '09, 9pm) it is blatantly obvious that the programme 'Frontiers' to be aired on Monday 7 Dec '09 at 9pm will be a half hour free PR/ advertisement for the GM private industry. Even the links at the end of the brief make no attempt to be balanced (3 of the 5 are biotech companies or their industry promoters [e.g. objective "protect intellectual property"], only 1 link to environment organisation).

The programme takes the starting point that GM are positive and good, without questioning this info, e.g. their view that if the EU would relax its rules "developing nations will be more likely to accept them too". Many developing countries do NOT want them as it makes farmers MORE not less dependent on outside input, e.g. as GM seeds need to be bought every year anew due to IP rights of GM companies. A South-African farmer group even summarises the debate in the most succinct way: "There is enough food in the world to feed everyone on earth over a kilo of a good quality mixed diet daily. People go hungry because they do not have money, access to food, or land. GE will not change this. The problem is economic, political and practical, not technical. Most farmers will never be able to afford technology fees and the chemicals to grow these new GE seeds. It is even possible now to genetically engineer plants to produce sterile seeds, stopping farmers from saving their seeds for replanting the next year. About a third of humanity depends on saved seed for their survival. Genetic engineering in its present form cannot form part of the solution; it is part of the problem."

In 1998 a delegation representing EVERY AFRICAN COUNTRY except South Africa put a joint statement to a UN conference on genetic research. The delegates had been 'inspired' by a Monsanto campaign that used images of starving African children to plug its technology. The statement read "We strongly object that the image of the poor and hungry from our countries is being used by giant multinational corporations to push a technology that is neither safe, environmentally friendly nor beneficial to us. We do not believe that such companies or gene technologies will help our farmers to produce the food that is needed in the 21st Century. On the contrary, we think it will destroy the diversity, the local knowledge, and the sustainable agricultural systems that our farmers have developed for millennia, and that it will undermine our capacity to feed ourselves."

Also UN research has found organic farming and using indigenous species are MORE effective/ promising than GM in increasing yields and sustainbility.

And then I haven't yet mentioned the objection (by farmers and consumers) to GM based on research (e.g. by Austrian Government) that it has negative health effects, so again objection is not about some kind of unwarranted fear or an argument by hair-shirted lefties.

BBC, PLEASE stop being the puppet of the GM industry and bring a fair debate instead - indeed something we don't have often enough!

In peace,

Ms R.C. ten Veen MA (Law) MA (Int'l Politics) PGDipEnvPol
Birmingham, UK

Farmers in Pakistan protest against Monsato's GM trials

Farmers stage demo against GM crop trial

A brief overview of SCIENTIFIC objections to GM by farmers

Canadian Farmers Against Corporate Serfdom

South African Freeze Alliance on Genetic Engineering (SAFeAGE)

1998 African request to UN

Biological effects of transgenic maize NK603xMON810 fed in long term reproduction studies in mice

American Academy of Environmental Medicine statement on GM

Comparative Analysis of Organic and Non-Organic Farming Systems: A Critical Assessment of Farm Profitability (2009), UN FAO

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Posted: Dec 7, 2009 1:11pm
Oct 7, 2009

It's all by God's will whether we were born in a rich or poor place. Someone born in several of the rich countries almost by the time they are born already have the eco-footprint of the lifetime of someone in several of the poorest countries. It is the rich countries (those who benefited from the Industrial Revolution) who caused man-made climate change. It is the poor countries who are being hit first and hardest with the consequences (increased droughts, floods etc).

Would you say it's fair that all should pay the same to avoid some of the worst climate change impacts? According to an article today in The Guardian, the US and EU suggest we should all 'pay the same price'... but even if we would agree a same percentage... if you've got much in the way of emissions you could easily lower these, if you've already got very little, even a small percentage reduction could lead you to further undignified way of living.

Is that fair? Is that just? Should I laugh or cry? Will send out another message to some politicians and pray some more plus get ready for climate demo in December....

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Posted: Oct 7, 2009 1:06pm
Jul 12, 2009

With quotes such as "much of civilisation will collapse" many people might like to think (hope?) it is some extremist doommongerers talking. Alas! As mentioned in today's The Independent, the 2009 'State of the Future' report was written and/ or supported by UNESCO, the World Bank, the US army and the Rockefeller Foundation. It runs to 6,700 pages and draws on contributions from 2,700 experts around the globe. For those of us who care about alleviation of poverty (and who would not?), the quote "billions of people will be condemned to poverty" is most worrying indeed. For more information, see the UN's Millennium Project.

In Islam (as in many other faiths), though it is God who created the world, we have been given a free will with a job of being God's guardian (or vice-regent, caretaker). We cannot just sit back and expect God to do our job (even if God could if God wanted to). Also, if we are ungrateful, e.g. by neglecting our duty of looking after God's Creation, God can destroy us and replace us by a more grateful lot (note the information of the people of Ad and Thamud in the Quran who this happened to - the people of Thamud are mentioned 25 times in the Quran, as a warning to us!).

Please God, do a green deed today (and every day). {edit: this is not a supplication to God, but a call to action to us all}

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Posted: Jul 12, 2009 2:23am
Jul 3, 2009

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) have launched a report on the 'The Environmental Food Crisis'. The report warned that radical change is needed to meet the challenges of climate change and the needs of a global population of over nine billion by 2050, otherwise the situation will dwarf the recent food crisis that plunged over 100 million people into poverty and hunger in just two years.  Convinced of the need for a "bold, determined and innovative response" leaders at the 17th session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) agreed a 'Shared Vision' to address these challenges. All UN members agreed on the urgent need to increase efforts on international food security and sustainable agricultural development, particularly in Africa. Now we need to make sure that promises are not broken.

Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) said: "Whosoever goes to sleep satisfied while being aware that his neighbour is hungry is not one of us."

Try to do one thing a day to change this: reduce (stop wasting), reuse (avoiding waste), reflect, pray....

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Posted: Jul 3, 2009 1:17pm
May 30, 2009

Some climate change sceptics suggest the data is not clear enough... well, what about the information that it is already causing 300,000 deaths a year (see article in The Guardian and report on Kofi Annan - former UN Sec-Gen - thinktank website)? Ultimately only God only knows for sure what will happen in the future and we will only in hindsight be able to confirm information, but if it is bad, it will be too late to reverse. Is that a reason to wait and see or take preventative action? If we focus on living within our means (which we are currently not doing enough), then at least we will be better guardians (khilafa) of God's Creation: is that not enough incentive?

According to the report, "a majority of the world's population does not have the capacity to cope with the impact of climate change without suffering a potentially irreversible loss of wellbeing and risk of loss of life. The populations most gravely at risk are over half a billion people in some of the poorest areas that are also highly prone to climate change – in particular, the semi-arid dry land belt countries from the Sahara to the Middle East and Central Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, South and South East Asia, and small island developing states." (my emphasis, as two of five aims - maqasid - of sharia are protection of life and dignity). You might not believe it as 'surely this would get more press attention if it were true', but note the report finds that nine out of 10 deaths are related to "gradual environmental degradation" meaning not very immediately visible of 'exciting enough' to present in the news.

As Muslims (and others) let us live in peace with one another AND our home(planet) as a scholar of Islam (or the Prophet PBUH himself?) said: "work for your situation in this life as if you will live forever and work for your afterlife as if you will die tomorrow" - live sustainably in this world and do not postpone good deeds until tomorrow as you may no longer be here tomorrow.

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Posted: May 30, 2009 6:08am


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Rianne ten Veen
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Outside Bham, WM, United Kingdom
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Message to the President, and to the Congress:It\\\'s very simple. We can aim for a UNIVERSAL Standard of $15 an hour Minimum Wage for ALL - that would be {frugally} a living wage these days. One should not have to be employed, and on government assista...
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\\r\\n   & nbsp;   &n bsp;  Leonard Peltier ( LPDOC ) :\\r\\n        & nbsp;    Remembering Pete Seeger\\r\\n\\r\\n & nbsp;   &n bsp;   &nb sp;&nb...
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\\nThis is my Message that I send every week or so, to the President, my Representative, and my two Senators. {And in this instance, to the Vice President also.} \\r\\nThe Majority of the people of this country, approve that the President {and Vice Presi...
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\\nWe declare that no man nor nation nor race have a greater right than others to enjoy the fruits of their work, as the ecological sphere is our common condition of life http://www.beat Nous déclarons qu\\\'auc...
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\\r\\n   & nbsp;  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. - Honored & Remembered\\r\\n\\r\\n&nb sp;    i\\\'m sharing this link to quotes and images of MLK\\r\\n  &nbs p;   to inspire \\r\\n\\r\\n  & nbsp; &n...
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I feel Care2 members should KNOW about the \\\"work from home\\\" ads, RECRUITING \\\"MULES\\\" TO CARRY OUT ILLEGAL ACTIVITIES. Just like the Drug Cartels do... A person who was recruited unwittingly by one of these ads, was given in a arti...
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\\nEvery week or every other week, I send a Message to the President and to my Representative and Senators. This is the text of my latest:\\r\\nI have just sent the following message to President Obama; and I believe all Congresspersons need to hear it a...
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\\nThis is a more-or-less weekly message I send to the President and to my Legislators. The following is the version of it I sent to Governor Inslee.\\r\\nThis is to notify you of a message I have just sent to the President and members of Congress. Since...
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\\nThis is a very simple video report One man with a radiation detectorhttp://www.youtub 7 mins...\\r\\n[This link was sent to me by a friend...]\\n
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\\n\\r\\n\\r\\n\\r\\nJess e Willms, the Dark Lord of the Internet - Taylor Clark - The Atlantic Society & Culture  (tags: Spam, spammers, scammers, cons, fraud, creditcardfraud, care2spam, darkweb, deepweb, tor, silkroad, RBN, FCC, buyerbeware, work...

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