Tuesday, 30 December 2014
Sunday, 28 December 2014
On Christmas Day, I reflected on the importance of joy as part of the Christian life, especially in the context of celebrating together as a whole community and sharing God's joy together. Jesus is born! Emmanuel - God is with us! Hallelujah!
But there is another side to the Christmas story which I want to reflect upon today, the day we remember the murder of the Holy Innocents. The choir that sang Holy Boy with songs of celebration also sang of a family pushed around by the Romans, forced to travel miles to their familial home town to be registered, and the children sang "Bethlehem is a Long Way", which includes the lyrics:
"Fools we are (to travel so far) but we can't stay. Please don't hinder us, we just obey, it's safer that way! We must go because that's what they say, and because what they say goes!"
Thursday, 25 December 2014
Today is a day for deep joy, as our choir and band expressed in joyful song on Sunday in Holy Boy, and in a variety of carols and readings in York Minster on Monday night, and in Christmas services around the world today. So this is a reflection about rejoicing.
As Christians, we are actually commanded to rejoice (more than a dozen times in Paul's letters, for example). CS Lewis wrote that: "Joy is the serious business of heaven".
Wednesday, 17 December 2014
- The fantastic view over Knaresborough and the Nidd gorge from the Nidd Viaduct.
- Mist rising gently over the flat fields of the Vale of York between York and Knaresborough (ie before it gets into the hills).
Tuesday, 16 December 2014
O come, O come, thou wisdom from above, The universe sustaining with thy love.
Thou springest forth from the Almighty's mouth. Subdue us now, and lead us in Thy truth.
Friday, 12 December 2014
Sunday, 7 December 2014
Friday, 5 December 2014
Thursday, 27 November 2014
Reading the newspaper this week, a short opinion piece by Tim Lott caught my eye. The writer was trying to answer his 8-year-old daughter's question "What's the point?"
Wednesday, 26 November 2014
For Acomb Methodist Church, the answer is obvious: power the new boiler with renewable heat. Work is still in the early stages of getting prices, but I thought it would help to summarise the story so far.
Wednesday, 19 November 2014
In LA, the climate is hot and dry, with the city built within a bowl of mountains between the ocean on one side and desert on the other. Some places like Arizona and Texas embrace the desert as part of who they are, creating gardens of succulents like the Tequila cactus (which I'm told produces a sweet drinkable sap) and hardy arbuto trees with amazing bark which eventually strips off entirely and locust trees. These plants are in evidence on the hillsides next to the freeways, but hardly visible in the city at all. Instead, Los Angeles seems to be a city of dreams: green grass, palm trees and eucalyptus sustained only by sprinkler systems.
Monday, 17 November 2014
Saturday, 1 November 2014
Thursday, 16 October 2014
This is an issue which affects all of us, with well-publicised research by the University of York’s Kate Pickett demonstrating that people living more unequal societies are less healthy, more anxious and more likely to be affected by crime, right across the income scale.
Research published in the Guardian showed that around 80% of Britons now think the income gap is too large, and the message has been taken up by world leaders. According to Barack Obama, income inequality is the "defining challenge of our times", while Pope Francis states that "inequality is the roots of social ills".
Wednesday, 15 October 2014
On the wildlife front, we saw a stoat running along near the track, a hedgehog, a pheasant and several different butterflies.
Saturday, 27 September 2014
Sunday, 10 August 2014
Step 1: Grow some basil
I’m working on this one. I have lots of little pots lined up and seeds to sow, but today isn’t exactly ideal sowing weather so I have cheated a little: basil leaves from “The Nursery” on Knapton Lane a few streets away where an amazing couple produce vast quantities of organic fruit, veg and eggs from a rambling garden big enough to get lost in (I know this because they opened up the garden under the National Gardens Scheme last year!) One thing I love about being near the countryside is that people are much more willing to sell their produce on an honesty basis: there’s a signboard outside that says what’s available and you put the money through the letterbox.
Monday, 30 June 2014
If there is no home for natureThere will be no evening starling chatter,Nor swifts left to soar.There will be no hedgehogs nestled in your garden,No woodlands to explore.Spring will pass without a bluebell,And June without a bee.Butterflies will flounder without a flower,And the birds without a tree.If there’s no home for nature,The wonders on our doorstep will diappear.There will be no place to play,No meadows. No moorlands. No wilderness. No adventure.If there’s no home for nature,There will be no nature.
Sunday, 25 May 2014
In fact, for the past 15 years I have campaigned about global injustice based on the evidence through which Christian Aid, WDM and many others have prominently and repeatedly demonstrated that the free market policies and privatisation forced onto poor countries by richer ones damage the countries forced to adopt them.
Tuesday, 29 April 2014
This got me thinking that in matters of both faith and engineering, reason can only take you so far, because there are limits to what we can know. Every day I try to apply scientific principles to model how a structure or slope will work, based on the evidence I have been able to obtain. But can we ever truly predict the loads that will be applied to a structure or the worst credible weather event that might occur? And performance will be significantly affected by how people actually use or maintain the structure over its 120 year design life, which might be completely different to what we expect (could the Victorians have predicted the rise of the motor car?)
Monday, 21 April 2014
As an engineer, it's obvious that I notice different things than other people in the landscape because I know what I'm looking for and I'm interested in what things are for. So on train rides, I notice radio masts, retaining walls and rock netting and as a cyclist I know every set of traffic lights on my routes around York. I know which ones are old fashioned and based on a fixed sequence and timing, which are camera controlled (eg PUFFIN crossings which allow elderly and disabled people more time to cross) and which rely on pressure pads in the road to detect traffic wanting to turn (which don't work when you're not as heavy as a car!)
But while I enjoy seeing flowers in gardens and have learned to tell the difference between a courgette and a bean plant by growing them myself, I often don't know the names of the trees, plants, butterflies and birds I see every day when out and about - and I think that's a shame.
Monday, 14 April 2014
Saturday, 12 April 2014
Sunday, 30 March 2014
Monday, 3 February 2014
- Is it fear that if we do nothing, it looks likely to be an absolute catastrophe for our country, especially low-lying areas vulnerable to flooding?
- Is it guilt that in the UK, as the first industrialised country, we have been responsible since the 1750s for such a large proportion of the carbon dioxide emissions now causing so much harm to our neighbours, and that we continue to live as it if doesn't matter?
- Is it anger that we have known the scale of the problem for over 30 years, and every single international conference has been an abject failure to do anything about it? Or that millions of people will be made climate refugees, like most of the population of Bangladesh or the residents of Vanuatu and the Maldives who may see their homes disappear under the waves within 20 years?
I suggest a different approach.
Tuesday, 28 January 2014
Saturday, 25 January 2014
“Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising sea levels”.However, the policymakers' response to the ever-growing body of evidence that the climate is warming and that human activity is responsible has been essentially: “La la la, I'm not listening”
Monday, 20 January 2014
So my experiences have been pretty variable and here's a guide to the different attitudes I have experienced:
Wednesday, 15 January 2014
But sometimes I wonder if we have allowed this to put sustainability in a box.
Wednesday, 8 January 2014
Tuesday, 7 January 2014
Personal: I will calculate my carbon footprint and publish the results. This will act as a steer for future months' challenges by highlighting the areas where I can achieve the most significant reductions.
Political: I will write a letter to my MP as part of Age UK's 'Spread the Warmth' campaign calling for measures to improve insulation for people on low incomes. This is really important, because Age UK's estimates indicate about 24,000 elderly people will die this winter unnecessarily because they cannot afford to heat their homes. Given that research indicates that the UK has the leakiest homes in Europe (letting more than 3 times more heat out of the average house wall than houses in Sweden, for example), we need to act.
Engineering: As I noted previously, this requires some research. So this month my challenge is to read my company's sustainability report and two recently published reports about low carbon infrastructure: "Construction 2025" and "Decarbonising Infrastructure".
Prayer: This is a commitment to pray daily for an effective response to tackle climate change. This problem is much bigger than me, and I want to work with the creator of everything so prayer is absolutely key. To that end, I have signed up to Christian Ecology Link's prayer community and I'll be using their daily prayer guide to help me pray.
Wednesday, 1 January 2014
And no, I'm not talking about HS2, being the only railway project most people have heard of! In fact, I'm talking about what's happening to improve our existing railways: Network Rail has a big vision for how we could make the railways work better and the long term funding to make it happen. And a recent report by the European Commission which compared progress in all EU countries since 1990 concluded that we have the most improved railway network in Europe.