Tag Archives: Pollution

21 October: M is for Merthyr Tydfil

396px-Merthyr_Tydfil_arms

https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4249407

Readers may get the impression that Agnellus has a slight obsession with Welsh and Saxon Princesses who knew their own minds and hearts. We don’t apologise! Such women may have used their privileged position to be allowed to open their monasteries and run them with minimal male oversight, but in doing so they enabled other women to live in community, to receive an education, to be able to help those who came to the abbeys for help.

Not so Tydfil – or Tudul in the accepted Welsh spelling. She was a martyr, killed, it is said, by a gang of pagans. I once helped tidy up her churchyard in the town, and rescued from the skip an angel from a broken gravestone; he or she watches over our backdoor today.

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Tudful was by no means the last martyr in Merthyr. With iron and coal nearby, the town was a cradle of the Industrial Revolution. People came for work as rural jobs disappeared, as famine struck in Ireland, but they lived in insanitary conditions, many dying of diseases including cholera. Human sacrifices on the altars of capitalism, as so many people around the world are today, living and working in unsafe conditions.

We’ve noted before how we are inescapably implicated in exploitation of our sisters and brothers; for instance it is difficult to avoid buying clothes and shoes produced without misusing people: at least there are Fair Trade bananas, coffee, chocolate and other foods. Their producers look after the land they work.

The old iron and coal masters did not: spoil heaps covered and poisoned fields close to the iron works or pit head; often it was many years before even birch trees would grow there. The ultimate martyrdom from this disregard of God’s creation occurred near Merthyr on October 21,1966 when a spoil heap at Aberfan avalanched down the side of the valley, taking the lives of 116 children and 28 adults, who would not have been born when someone decided to dump rock and soil on a steep slope. I met a policeman who lost his faith in God after living through that afternoon; who can blame him? But this was man’s work.

You may dispute my use of the word martyrdom, but lives were cut short through accident or disease through worship of Mammon.

The Way of Jesus puts people before profit. A good start would be the motto beneath the Saint on the arms: ONLY BROTHERHOOD IS STRONG. Provided, of course, that the sisters are not left out.

Let us grit our teeth in the face of human wickedness, and say Laudato Si’ – and give a care to our own little patches of God’s earth – ours to hand on to others better than we found it. And perhaps find a corner or two we can brighten with a little guerilla gardening or tree planting.

MMB

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September 20: L is for Lindisfarne

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A modern coble captured by Nigel Coates

Let’s go almost as far north as we can in England, to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. There are many stories of the early saints of Holy Island, and we can come back to Cuthbert, Aidan and their companions again. But today I’m retelling a cautionary tale of the last two centuries, from Richard Perry’s 1946 book A Naturalist on Lindisfarne. It is worth the telling because we need to take care of our earth and the seas that surround it.

The morning I wrote this piece there were fishermen on the radio convinced that Brexit would lead to greater catches for themselves with the European nations excluded from their grounds.

Perry suggests this is unlikely to happen.

He tells how over-fishing at the end of the nineteenth century led to the end of the herring industry. The fishermen took to catching white fish inshore, but

‘light trawling during the war of 1914-18 brought relief to over-trawled fishing and spawning grounds and allowed the white fish to increase to their immemorial millions at a time when inshore fishermen were beginning to suffer from the effects of this over-fishing. But within a few years of the end of the war the trawler fleets were again cleaning up the inshore grounds of both lobsters and white fish; just as the drifters had destroyed the inshore  herring fishing. By 1931 the catches of the ten Island cobles were only ten or twenty per cent of those taken before or after the war…

‘With the year 1945 at an end …events will no doubt conform to the post 1914-18 pattern, with seven  or ten good years inshore fishing, before the trawlers have swept the grounds clean of all marketable fish.’

Let us pray for wisdom all round as Britain and Europe’s leaders negotiate every aspect of their new relationship. May God’s earth, sea and air not be forgotten! And let us pray for all fishermen and all at peril on the Sea.

Laudato Si’.

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August 22: I is for Ironbridge.

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Ironbridge: the name says it. All those glorious structures like the Forth Bridge, Sydney Harbour, the Howrah, the Golden Gate and the bridge at Victoria Falls, owe their ancestry to this iron bridge over the Severn in Shropshire.

A bold venture to build a bridge of cast iron so high above the river in 1779. The beams were cast on site since transporting them would have been difficult. But would it work? Abraham Darby must have been an excellent mathematician, blessed with patience to check each step of his calculations and each stage of the casting, the building of foundations and assembly of the bridge. Here it stands today, carefully maintained, like the Forth Bridge and all those others. My grandfather, a Shropshire lad, took me to see it aged about five; it impresses me more now than it did then, unlike so many things.

Crossing the river here safely was a dream made real by Darby and the men who dug his coal, smelted, transported and cast his iron; masons, surveyors, painters. He and they had to trust in the laws of physics as they understood them. The people who keep the bridge alive –  it is still open to pedestrians – apply the physics and chemistry they understand to prevent rust, metal fatigue and erosion.

The dirt and hard labour of the Industrial Revolution have gone, leaving the Severn Gorge free from dark Satanic Mills. But if we are to build Jerusalem in England’s green and pleasant land we need an understanding of what we are about, and how to ensure dirt, fatigue, rust and erosion do not stop us working together.

God, come to our aid, Lord, make haste to help us!

Laudaato Si’!

MMB.

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19 July: G is for Valley Gardens

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Since I was small, I had always loved gardening, so when the chance came of a holiday job at the parks in Castleford, I seized it. The town council took a pride in their parks, lung-savers in an industrial landscape. As well as the mines there were glassworks, a  factory producing chemicals such as wood preservers, a coke oven and a maltings: the least offensive smell. In a heat wave the fumes gathered in the valley where the town was built on the ford. The rivers ran black. Breathing was a challenge.

Valley Gardens was our nearest park: a good park with a crown bowling green, playground for the children, lawns and lots of traditional bedding, the plants grown in the council’s own nursery. There was also raised bedding with scented plants for blind people to enjoy. And so they did.

I’m ever grateful for the skills learnt at Valley Gardens but also for the attitude to work imbibed from the older guys I worked alongside. Many had been miners and knew how to pace themselves to be productive over the whole day. They were also humble enough to put themselves through the City and Guilds Certificate training: men who knew how to handle tools, being ‘taught’ how to dig or prune before taking on specialised skills such as caring for the greens.

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Recently I read that Valley Gardens, for many years the responsibility of Wakefield City council, is run-down and the play area no longer safe. A committee has been formed to revive this park. When I was there, people knew the decision makers in town. Now they are in Wakefield and need never go near Valley Gardens.

I hope the committee is supported by the community and Wakefield council so that the gardens return to their former glory.

There are parallels in church life. We need to trust people, even  those who shun responsibilities, with a mission they may fail at. Apart from Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, who were members of the Sanhedrin, Jesus chose women and misfits for his first generation of leaders. I don’t recall his disciples sitting exams.

Since writing this post I read an article describing how the people who use the parks the most are poorer people, people without gardens of their own. So it is poor people who take the brunt of government spending cuts in this area of life, as in so many others.

Our beds were every bit as lovely – and more so – than this semiformal planting in Berlin’s Charlottenberg Park. The Roses were a feature of Valley Gardens: the older gardeners taught me how to prune them. This is ‘Mermaid’, who needs very careful handling with her vicious thorns. But she’s lovely!

 

 

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July 14: Up the Apricot tree

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Suddenly it was time to harvest the apricots, and a bumper crop on our tree this year, branches laden, bending under the weight. Up in the tree is a good place to be, close to the sun-reflecting fruit.

There was plenty to store and plenty to share as jam or ice cream.

Good news, yes, but is it all good news?

As I downloaded this photo from the camera I saw that the one Mrs T took three years ago was taken three weeks later in the month. This year we had blackberries before the end of June.

Even a friend living in a nearby village has seen very few swallows or martins, though numbers of sparrows and starlings seem greater than recent years.

And now the city council propose an ugly new multi-storey car park near the centre of town but also next to a pollution blackspot.

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

Proverbs 29:18

This surely refers to knowingly keeping God’s law, rather than blindly following those devised by human law-makers, who may not be supremely wise and well-meaning.

To say or sing Laudato Si’ sounds almost ironic at times, but we must live in hope and not allow ourselves to be cynical. We can start by sharing the apricots and leaving the car at home when we could walk.

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April 27th: Peace on Earth? II

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All went well with the construction of the intergalactic space modules and the training of their crews. Then the question arose as to how the Ossyrians should appear, for naturally they had very long necks, short legs, a thick waist and huge doomed heads which would tend to generate ridicule probably followed by violence from the earthlings. They pondered long and hard on the best disguise to adopt and finally settled on the idea of appearing as dogs. They had noticed that dogs seem to have very positive and generally friendly relationships with the earthlings, being allowed to enter in all the special places beloved of their masters such as in front of the fires they had in the wintertime and on their beds. So all the crews choose to be different kinds of dogs and started training to eat dog food as served up on Planet earth.

Then they were off. It took nearly six months to arrive at their destination, a place called Canterbury in a country called Britain. They had spent the journey time learning Earth Speak. But this was very difficult because unlike the Ossyrians who only had one language the earthlings had dozens, which as the Ossyrians saw right away produced lots of friction and difficulties.

However, as they were in a part of the world where the language, ‘English’ was among the most familiar to the Ossyrians, they found they could understand at least some of what was said but there was another problem, accents. Some of the people who appeared to be speaking English which the Ossyrians had learned were totally impossible to comprehend because they had peculiar intonations. They looked different and the Ossyrian explorers discovered that they were refugees escaping from wars and revolutions in their own countries, or trying to get work in Britain. Many of the British seemed to resent or even fear them but some people had the same attitude as the Ossryians who never discriminated against any groups because it would obviously lead to friction, discord and violence which would damage the whole of society.

To get accepted by the British, the Ossyrian explorers had first to pose as strays and then hope to be adopted. Gradually this happened and within a month all tRip alfie xxxxhe Osssyrians had been accepted into homes where they were well treated and in many cases ‘spoiled rotten’. This did not please them because it interrupted their examination of the earthlings whose attitudes of mind as expressed by their behaviour seemed more and more difficult to understand now that they were living amongst them.

The earthlings were in some ways quite clever and had invented a lot of technically advanced devices such as ‘cars’ .boats’, ‘aeroplanes’,’ computers’ and more obviously useful things like ‘vacuum cleaners’. However, having invented something they never seemed to spend any time on evaluating its real worth and its probable effects on society as a whole before allowing it to be produced en masse. ‘Cars’ and indeed vehicles in general created huge problems, killing large numbers of people, placing huge demands on the health services, damaging the environment by pollution, preventing more efficient types of transport from being developed and causing economic upheavals when the price of oil changed. By contrast Ossyrians did not own individual transport machines and would not want to because public transport was very efficient and cheap.

Then there was food. The Ossyrians ate only six types of food and four types of drink. All of them scientifically assessed to give the greatest benefit to their bodies and minds. Their food was all produced under artificial conditions and there was plenty for everyone. Consequently they were generally very fit and active mentally and physically and this greatly reduced demands on the health and social services. Generally most Ossyrians died at the agy of about 120 anny.

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Canterbury Cathedral, ESB.

The other thing which impressed and depressed the Ossyrians was the hypocrisy of most earthlings some of whom professed belief in a benign Goddy who required them to love one another and to be charitable to each other. However, this view was more honoured in the breach than the observance as most earthlings seemed to spend a considerable part of their time in denigrating other people which was regarded as a serious ‘sinny’ and totally unacceptable to Ossyrians because it would obviously lead to friction, possibly violence and unhappiness. So it could not be tolerated because it would destroy their wholequality of life  and undermine their well balanced, happy society.

The Ossyrian observers decide to return to their own planet as they had come to the conclusion that they would not be able to help the earthlings whose noble philosophy of life was so much at variance with their actual mores. In any case communication was too difficult because of all the different tongues and accents. However, the Assyrians did leave a letter in the porch of the Cathedral explaining all this to the people of Canterbury who had been kind to their ‘doggies’. But these visiting ‘doggies’ were looking forward to having some proper food again and living in an honest, non-hypocritical society.

Unfortunately no one could understand Ossyrian English, so this note was assumed to be Chinese and thrown away.

Alfie H and Ajax by NAIB; Alfie B by Jennifer Thompson

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26th April: Peace on Earth? I

IMGP1797The Ossyrian Grand Council was in session. They had been debating for lourds and lourds the motion whether to send an exploratory mission to Planet Earth.

The Grand Overseer blew his trumpet. His long neck was fully extended to over five metres and his ears were flapping wildly whilst his domed head was literally pulsating. ‘Brothers and Sisters,’ he cried, ‘we have debated this motion for over a wok and now we must come to a decision. If we wait any longer our space flights will not be in the right orbit to access Planet Earth. So my friends, is it to be yea or nay?’

There was a great shout and the Grand Overseer could see immediately it was for going.

‘My Brothers and Sisters, this is a great enterprise, requiring enormous skill and sophisticated work by our engineers and much forethought by our philosophers, in particular by the chosen flight crews. There will be two Kardor spacecraft each with a crew of twenty led by Capteasins Pedo Vassilmaddy and Volly Blasmakov. Training will last one yown and will commence toddy.

‘Now let us sing our joyful anthem “Peace and love to all the ubiverse.”’

A sweet sound arose as all the Ossyrians raised their tuneful voices.

Later there was a small gathering in the suite of the Grand Overseer who was having second thoughts about the whole enterprise.

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‘We know so little about these earthlings who are at one time professing peace, love, goodwill to all creation and then preparing for war with dreadful weapons and damning their fellows in the most virulent language. Moreover, their whole planet is threatened by drought and pollution about which they keep debating but do very little because the wealthy nations who control the vital resources are not willing to provide for the needs of their poor and under resourced neighbours.

‘This is of course very short sighted and could lead to a very destructive war. So are they on a course to self destruct, in which case are we wasting our time? Is our object to help them or to prevent them from damaging our planet by pollution or war?’

‘Surely’ said an eminent, thickly haired Ossyrian who spoke in deep reflective tones,’ we have an inter-galactic duty to try and help these earthlings who seem so muddled in their thinking.’

‘Well, naturally you would think so Ductur, We appreciate it is the special prerogative of your sect to argue for the most hopeful and peaceful outcomes always, but as I said we do not know if these earthlings will, or indeed if they are capable of responding to the sort of help you would offer. But you must follow the promptings of your God,’ Susjee’.

The meeting broke up and the work commenced whilst a special observation unit was established to closely watch the earth and its strange inhabitants.

DBP.

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A New Heaven, A new Earth

Yesterday we had St Francis and GKC together. Time to look into Chesterton’s life of the Saint.Early on, Chesterton scans the world into which Francis was born. It could almost be our own:

It was no metaphor to say that [pagan Romans and Greeks] needed a new heaven and a new earth; [Revelation 21:1] for they had really defiled their own earth and even their own heaven …  It was no good telling such people to have a natural religion full of stars and flowers; there was not a flower or even a star that had not been stained. They had to go into the desert where they could find no flowers or even into the cavern where they could see no stars. Into that desert and that cavern the highest human intellect entered for some four centuries; and it was the very wisest thing it could do. Nothing but the stark supernatural stood up for its salvation; if God could not save it, certainly the gods could not.

http://www.gkc.org.uk/gkc/books/St_Francis.html

Francis, Chesterton suggests, was able to contribute to a new understanding of nature as God’s creation. He can sing of Brother Sun, Sister Water, Sister Mother Earth, and even Sister Death.

We have certainly defiled our earth and our atmosphere and our street lamps blot out the stars.

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