FOR THE LIFE OF THE WORLD TOWARD A SOCIAL ETHOS OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH

I have chosen two sections from the Eastern Orthodox Church’s Social Document (see details below) which are found just prior to the concluding section because they contain crucial teachings regarding the non-human animal creation. My comments are in italics:

“Our reconciliation with God must necessarily express itself also in our reconciliation with nature, including our reconciliation with animals.”  Human salvation is therefore in jeopardy if we fail to care for the animal creation.

” The animals that fill the world are testament to the bounty of God’s creative love, its variety and richness; and all the beasts of the natural order are enfolded in God’s love; not even a single sparrow falls without God seeing (Matthew 10:29). Moreover, animals by their very innocence remind us of the paradise that human sin has squandered, and their capacity for blameless suffering reminds us of the cosmic cataclysm induced by humanity’s alienation from God.” The suffering of animals ought to remind us of the innocent suffering of Christ.

“We must recall also that all the promises of scripture regarding the age that is to come concern not merely the spiritual destiny of humanity, but the future of a redeemed cosmos, in which plant and animal life are plentifully present, renewed in a condition of cosmic harmony.” Animals will be in the future Kingdom of God and are not to be dismissed as non-eternal beings.

On Friday, March 27, 2020 His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew appointed a special commission of theologians to prepare a document on the social teaching of the Orthodox Church, in the spirit of and reflecting upon the relevant decisions of the Holy and Great Council of Crete (June 2016). Commissioned in early 2017, the document assembled input from numerous eparchies of the Ecumenical Patriarchate throughout the world and was submitted to the Holy and Sacred Synod, which, in late 2019, congratulated the commission for its inspiring work and recommended the publication of this text.
For the Life of the Word: Toward a Social Ethos of the Orthodox Church is now online in twelve languages. The statement does not pronounce clear-cut responses to social challenges, but instead proposes general guidelines to difficult questions. The purpose is to initiate reflection and conversation on what “the Spirit is saying to the Churches” (Revelation 2:7). In the words of His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros, “This text opens us up to the implications of what it means to be loved by God, and to respond to that love by loving one another.”
While the document was completed prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis of 2020, it nonetheless addresses the importance of social responsibility, the voice of faith in a world of science, medicine and technology, as well as the response of the Church on matters related to health care, social justice, and public welfare. In this regard, the document provides a framework for addressing current challenges as well as challenges we haven’t yet imagined.
For the Life of the World presents a way of reaching out across social distancing at a time of global calamity – as our faithful are either self-isolated and quarantined (a term that literally refers to a period of forty days and reflects the church’s struggle during Great Lent) – in order to address the role of the Church at a time of spiritual crisis, challenge, and concern. Therefore, the document is being released during Great Lent as a period of self-discipline and reflection on our interdependence and vocation to care for one another. It is offered with humility and love for reflection and conversation as all of us “shelter in place.”

77 We must also recall, moreover, that human beings are part of the intricate and delicate web of creation, and that their welfare cannot be isolated from the welfare of the whole natural world. As St. Maximus the Confessor argued, in Christ all the dimensions of humanity’s alienation from its proper nature are overcome, including its alienation from the rest of the physical cosmos; and Christ came in part to restore to material creation its original nature as God’s earthly paradise.[59] Our reconciliation with God, therefore, must necessarily express itself also in our reconciliation with nature, including our reconciliation with animals. It is no coincidence that the creation narrative of Genesis describes the making of animal life and the making of humanity as occurring on the same day (Genesis 1:24–31). Nor should it be forgotten that, according to the story of the Great Flood, Noah’s covenant with God encompasses the animals in the ark and all their descendants, in perpetuity (Genesis 9:9–11). The unique grandeur of humanity in this world, the image of God within each person, is also a unique responsibility and ministry, a priesthood in service to the whole of creation in its anxious longing for God’s glory. Humanity shares the earth with all other living things, but singularly among living creatures possesses the ability and authority to care for it (or, sadly, to destroy it). The animals that fill the world are testament to the bounty of God’s creative love, its variety and richness; and all the beasts of the natural order are enfolded in God’s love; not even a single sparrow falls without God seeing (Matthew 10:29). Moreover, animals by their very innocence remind us of the paradise that human sin has squandered, and their capacity for blameless suffering reminds us of the cosmic cataclysm induced by humanity’s alienation from God. We must recall also that all the promises of scripture regarding the age that is to come concern not merely the spiritual destiny of humanity, but the future of a redeemed cosmos, in which plant and animal life are plentifully present, renewed in a condition of cosmic harmony.

§78 Thus, in the lives of the saints, there are numerous stories about wild beasts, of the kind that would normally be horrifying or hostile to human beings, drawn to the kindness of holy men and women. In the seventh century, Abba Isaac of Nineveh defined a merciful heart as “a heart burning for the sake of the entire creation, for people, for birds, for animals . . . and for every created thing.”[60] This is a consistent theme in the witness of the saints. St. Gerasimos healed a wounded lion near the Jordan River; St. Hubertus, having received a vision of Christ while hunting deer, proclaimed an ethic of conservation for hunters; St. Columbanus befriended wolves, bears, birds, and rabbits; St. Sergius tamed a wild bear; St. Seraphim of Sarov fed the wild animals; St. Mary of Egypt may well have befriended the lion that guarded her remains; St. Innocent healed a wounded eagle; St. Melangell was known for her protection of wild rabbits and the taming of their predators; in the modern period, St. Paisios lived in harmony with snakes. And not only animals, but plants as well, must be objects of our love. St. Kosmas the Aetolian preached that “people will remain poor, because they have no love for trees”[61] and St. Amphilochios of Patmos asked, “Do you know that God gave us one more commandment that is not recorded in scripture? It is the commandment to love the trees.” The ascetic ethos and the Eucharistic spirit of the Orthodox Church perfectly coincide in this great sacramental vision of creation, which discerns the traces of God’s presence “everywhere present and filling all things” (Prayer to the Holy Spirit) even in a world still as yet languishing in bondage to sin and death. It is a vision, moreover, that perceives human beings as bound to all of creation, as well as one that encourages them to rejoice in the goodness and beauty of the whole world. This ethos and this spirit together remind us that gratitude and wonder, hope and joy, are our only appropriate—indeed, our truly creative and fruitful—attitude in the face of the ecological crisis now confronting the planet, because they alone can give us the willingness and the resolve to serve the good of creation as unremittingly as we must, out of love for it and its creator.

A SPEECH DELIVERED BY THE PRINCE OF WALES TO OPEN CLIMATE WEEK

An excellent speech, which focuses attention on the need to change the way we view/tackle the effects of Climate Change. Five key areas are identified and are crucial in providing a sustainable future for both human and non-human lives.

One example mentioned is the need to tackle the wildfires that are devastating large areas of pristine forests and ecosystems. We cannot understand why governments wait for a lull in the weather in order to get on top of these fires. This is outdated practice used for normal fires, not the mega-fires of today and tomorrow. Countries have standing armies that can be immediately deployed or there could be a specialised group from countries across the globe who can be called in to aid and assist countries suffering such incidents. The key is to get in early to minimize the loss of animal lives and environmental damage, which would in turn, also prevent the loss of human life and property.

SUNDAY, 20th SEPTEMBER 2020

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am delighted to have been invited to open this year’s critical Climate Week. The borderless climate, biodiversity and health crises are all symptoms of a planet that has been pushed beyond its planetary boundaries. Without swift and immediate action, at an unprecedented pace and scale, we will miss the window of opportunity to ‘Reset’ for a ‘green / blue recovery’ and a more sustainable and inclusive future. In other words, the global pandemic is a wake-up call we simply cannot ignore. 

Having been at this now for well over forty years, I have long observed that people tend not to act until there is a real crisis. Ladies and Gentlemen, that crisis has been with us for far too many years – decried, denigrated and denied.  It is now rapidly becoming a comprehensive catastrophe that will dwarf the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. 

At this late stage, I can see no other way forward but to call for a ‘Marshall-like Plan for Nature, People and Planet’.  With the planetary emergency so critical – with the permafrost melting in Siberia for instance, producing dire effects on global warming, and with the Pantanal in Brazil being consumed by unprecedented numbers of fires, we can no longer go on like this, as if there was no tomorrow and no ultimate reckoning for our abuse of Nature.  So what do we do?  Without doubt we must now put ourselves on a war-like footing, approaching our action from the perspective of a military-style campaign. That way, working together, we can combat this most grave and urgent challenge. 

If we have the resolve to shift our trajectory, we must start now by bringing forward our net zero target – I am afraid 2050 simply suggests we have room to delay.  Using the frameworks of my Sustainable Markets Initiative and the imperative of The Great Reset, and knowing that we are all familiar with the problem we face, I would just like to outline, if I may,  five overall action areas of this Marshall-like Plan for which coherent strategies should be assembled. 

First of all, by COP26, and using a ‘future of industry’ approach, it would make a very great difference if each of the main sectors of the economy ( whether energy, transport, financial services, and so on) were to outline publically accessible roadmaps that identify the steps to net zero from 2020 to 2030 along with plans for the protection and restoration of natural capital and biodiversity.  We have an incredible opportunity to create entirely new sustainable industries, products, services and supply chains.  Moving together, with clear roadmaps, we can create efficiencies and economies of scale that will allow us to leapfrog our collective progress and accelerate our transition.

In these efforts we can also make sustainable options the trusted and attainable options for consumers.  After all, market-leading companies have demonstrated that it is entirely possible to be profitable and sustainable at the same time.  In fact, businesses and investments that are ESG aligned are increasingly out-performing those that are not, even in the current economic crisis.  To put these roadmaps into practice in operational terms, we need our financial experts, along with our Chief Financial Officers, to help design the business and investment case to match growing demand for sustainable goods and services.

Secondly, having listened to the wise and experienced business leaders who are involved in my Sustainable Markets Initiative, I would also encourage countries themselves to work towards COP26 by outlining publicly available roadmaps to net zero which set out priority industries for transition along with the actions required to restore or enhance biodiversity and natural capital.  It is absolutely vital, given the enormity of the problem we face, that we make truly transformative progress along the road to net zero by 2030, taking the tough decisions now rather than deferring them to the next generation.

With roughly two-thirds of emissions taking place in cities and with a near doubling of the world’s urban population projected in the next fifty years, it is clear that the spatial planning of cities to allow for sustainable growth is imperative.  My Foundation has been working with Commonwealth partners to develop a Mayor’s rapid planning toolkit focussed on secondary cities where more than half of the urban growth is projected and where far fewer planning professionals exist.  As we seek to rebalance the urban-rural divide and the need to address rural to urban migration, the physical implementation of secondary city plans is one of the areas that can have the most positive impact in the coming decades.  Cities and local government leaders can and must lead the way, and I would encourage if I may city leaders to showcase their city plans and sustainable building solutions at COP26 in order to accelerate further progress.

Thirdly, by COP26 we need a global investment strategy for restoring Harmony with Nature.  This includes major investment in Nature-based solutions in sectors like agriculture, forestry and fisheries – indeed, for all the resources that we take from the Earth.  Nature’s contribution to the global economy is estimated to be worth more than $125 trillion annually – that’s greater than the entire world’s annual G.D.P.  If we build conservation and nature-based solutions into our asset base and supply chains we will be able, therefore, to drive significant economic growth for countries and businesses alike – including in areas such as the circular bioeconomy, ecotourism and green public infrastructure. 

In order to accelerate the restoration of biodiversity and Nature’s ecosystems in the short time left to us, it will be essential to target coordinated and globally trusted carbon-offsetting funds from the entire private sector to the recovery of Natural Capital and the reduction of carbon emissions.  Similarly, to buy us crucial time as we transition, Carbon Capture, Use and Storage will be utterly vital if we are to draw down on the excess of carbon that needs to be removed from the atmosphere.

To have the impact required, we must also think at scale. Global mega projects such as 30% by 2030, the Great Green Wall, Africa 100, the 20×20 Initiative and many others, have the potential not only to improve natural capital, but also to increase opportunities in the green economy while improving sustainable livelihoods and local economic growth. 

If, Ladies and Gentlemen, we valued our natural capital properly, our national and individual balance sheets might look very different indeed!  So let us start to articulate, fully and clearly, Nature’s value and begin building our business and economic solutions around the wealth that Nature affords us – particularly, if I may say so, through the establishment of a long overdue and effective market for ecosystem services.  Only this way can we rebuild Nature’s unique capacity to sustain us.

Fourthly, Ladies and Gentlemen, by COP26, my great hope is that we might also see global financial institutions and institutional investors outline publically accessible roadmaps that define the steps to take their portfolios to net zero between 2020 to 2030.  After all, we know that it is not a lack of capital that is impeding our progress, but how we deploy it. 

We must also explore how to reverse perverse subsidies and improve incentives for sustainable alternatives.  Re-orientating economic subsidies, financial incentives and regulations can have a dramatic and transformative effect on our market systems.  For instance, for many years I have tried to encourage the adoption of the “polluter pays” principle in order to provide the necessary incentives. Public policy, therefore, has a critical role to play – particularly, if I may say so, in the possibility of the development of an effective, equitable form of carbon-pricing – perhaps one based on a “Citizen Dividend” model – which could unlock a huge flow of investment into zero carbon technologies currently seen as uneconomic.

The good news is that, on every pressing issue we face, there are solutions that are not just available, but increasingly cost effective.  At the same time there are trillions of dollars in sovereign wealth funds, pension funds, insurance and asset portfolios looking for investible and sustainable projects with good long-term value and rates of return.  It is time to align sustainable solutions with funding in a way that can transform the market place.  This requires not only showcasing high potential investments, but that we reimagine financial analysis, structuring and models of return.  I must say that I am greatly encouraged that members of my Sustainable Markets Initiative are starting to lead the way. 

Fifthly, we are on the verge of catalytic breakthroughs that will alter our view of what is possible – and profitable – within the framework of a sustainable future. By COP26, we need a comprehensive strategy for science, technology and innovation, with clear entry points for investment, in support of industry, country and city roadmaps. 

With the enormity of these opportunities, our science-based and economic systems are vital to finding and scaling the solutions we so desperately need. We have seen in the last decade how quickly sustainable technologies can move if there is a strong market signal and a clear sense of direction. This is absolutely crucial if we are to accelerate the pace.

Ladies and Gentleman, as we consider these five areas, the exponential win-win benefit only comes when we find points of common interest and seek to leapfrog our collective progress.  When industries, innovators and investors understand the longer-term direction and priorities of countries, they are better able to mobilize, in order to partner with each other, to invest and grow the market.  Similarly, a market signal in one industry can rapidly mobilize others to act.  Knowing the direction of travel is half the battle, which is why these roadmaps are so critical.  The more we know about our shared ambitions for the future, the more we can help each other get to the destination.

Ladies and Gentlemen, achieving a sustainable future is the growth story of our time and can, in fact, fuel our post-pandemic recovery in a way that pays dividends for decades to come.  But the window for action is rapidly closing.  A new ‘Marshall-like Plan for Nature, People and Planet’ is urgently needed if we are to align our collective efforts for the highest possible impact and to save our planet from continued destruction.  I trust you will all agree that our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less. 

With the aim of capturing the will and imagination of humanity, while seeking to accelerate the identification of solutions, I am pleased to be launching a visual platform for short films called RE:TV.  I hope this can be one way to demonstrate what is now possible in the pursuit of a sustainable future.  Through my Sustainable Markets Initiative and The Great Reset, I remain committed to working with ‘Coalitions of the Willing’ to push these efforts forward.  Billions of people around the world are waiting  and longing for concerted action to right the balance of this planet that we have so rashly disrupted.  Millions of younger employees of countless companies and corporations are desperate for action not more words.  It is their lives we are gambling with, as well as the ultimate survival of everything that tries to share this ailing Earth with us.  So let’s get on with the urgent task of forming a global alliance to overcome the perverse obstacles facing us.

ENDS

Clarence House Communications

Climate Crisis and Creation Care: Economic Sustainability, Ecological Integrity and Justice

Our Charity belongs to the Animal Interfaith Alliance. Despite our numerous differences in beliefs, we share a common belief that the creation, including the animal creation, should be nurtured and loved, rather than abused. For those who saw the powerful David Attenborough programme ‘Extinction’ last night, https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000mn4n/extinction-the-facts and who follow us and organisations like us, will not be surprised at its content. The short article below shows how close our respective religions are on such issues and remedies.

The Hindu and Jain Perspective
Two of the oldest religions of the world, Hinduism and Jainism have advocated a lifestyle which is in harmony with nature. The resources that nature has provided in the form of forests, rivers, oceans as well as the sun and the moon are worshipable to Hindus and Jains. The idea is not to exploit the world’s resources but to respect and revere them. It is
not unusual to see people in India offering prayers to the rivers, mountains, the sun and moon, or bowing down to an elephant. The idea that animals are sentient beings and have souls has been around for tens of thousands of years. The struggle that other cultures and faiths have with this idea is a source of mystery to faiths born in India namely Hinduism,
Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism.
Compassion towards animals is a core belief of Hindus and Jains. Indeed, there is no spiritual progress without compassion towards all living beings. It is bad karma to harm animals – even insects. It is in the nature of a mosquito to bite you but it is bad karma to harm it. You may protect yourself from being bitten by taking preventive measures but you should not harm it. Just as every action has a reaction, good and bad karma will impact an individual’s actions.
Closely linked with the law of karma is the belief in reincarnation. The holy book of the Hindus, the Bhagavad Gita states that we have all been born before and will be born again. Our next birth depends on our actions in this birth.


The Hindu Perspective
The Bhumi (Earth) Project has put together a Hindu declaration on climate change. It quotes several ancient Hindu scriptures.
Atharva Veda (12.12): “The Earth is my mother and I am her child.”
The Mahabharata (109.10): “Dharma exists for the welfare of all beings. Hence, that by which the welfare of all beings is sustained, that for sure is Dharma.”
The Srimad Bhagvatam (11/2/41): “Ether, Air, Water, Earth, Planets, all creatures, directions, trees and plants, rivers and seas, they are all organs of God’s body. Remembering this a devotee respects all species.”


The Jain Perspective
The Jain Declaration on Nature was presented to Prince Philip at Buckingham Palace on 23 October 1990.

There are 24 Tirthankars, enlightened souls, in Jainism. The 24th Tirthankar, Lord Mahaveer was present around 2,600 years ago. He preached a complete and absolute compassion to all living beings. Jains are well known for running animal sanctuaries in India. There are 5 main concepts Jains live by:
Non-violence (Ahimsa); truth (Satya); non-stealing (Asetya); chastity (Brahmacharya); and Non-possessiveness or non-materialism (Aparigraha).

Jain monks live to the letter of these principles. From being extra vigilant in not harming even an ant or an insect to living by using a minimum amount of resources. Even a drop of water should not be wasted. There is another concept Jains live by. It is called ‘Abhay Daan’. It means giving someone protection from fear of death. So not only are you required to avoid
any violence (himsa), you have to be proactive in your non-violence (ahimsa). This means you should actively campaign against all forms of exploitation, especially of animals as they cannot fight for themselves. Many Hindus and Jains stop animals being taken for illegal slaughter.
Jains also believe in the idea of ‘Parasparopagraho Jivanam’, meaning that we are interdependent on other living beings as well as all that nature provided in the form of rivers, oceans, forests and mountains.

In 1958, Chairman Mao launched a war on sparrows because they were eating too much grain. The whole country was mobilised to kill millions of them. Around 195,00 were killed in one day in Shanghai alone. Sparrows were important to the food chain. The bugs they fed on thrived, the locust population spiralled out of control, as did grasshoppers. The insects
devoured the crops and famine followed. A salient lesson to human beings that when you disturb nature it reacts with ferocity. In the West the emphasis is on taming nature and taking everything out of it. This is the reason why the world is on the brink of disaster. In our own lifetime we are seeing droughts, cyclones, hurricanes and many other disasters. Driven
by short-term profits, the human race just does not see what is staring in its face. Future generations will suffer greatly for our folly.


Plant based healthy diet.
The health benefits of a vegetarian/vegan diet are indisputable. Various forms of cancer, diabetes and heart diseases are linked with meat eating. The biggest challenge facing the medical world now is that antibiotics are not working. This is because 45% of all antibiotics are fed to animals raised for meat and they are losing their potency. Without effective antibiotics, diseases like TB and pneumonia will rise once again. Surgery, childbirth and organ transplant will all become dangerous without antibiotics.


Economic Sustainability and the Planet

Capitalism has become the world order. The fight to restrain the forces of consumerism it has galvanised is futile. In 1909 Mahatma Gandhi talked about the danger of unplanned and reckless industrialisation. However, his voice and that of others like Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Ruskin, Henry David Thoreau and Leo Tolstoy were drowned out by the march of
industrialisation. We will have to narrow down to the biggest cause of the plight of the planet and what impacts mother Earth most negatively and try to tackle it.


Meat and Fish Consumption
The one single factor that poses the greatest threat to the planet is meat and fish consumption. Over 70 billion animals are raised and killed for meat consumption every year. Our planet is simply not big enough to sustain these numbers. The destruction of rainforests for cattle ranching, the insatiable demand to produce cereals to feed the animals, the waste
of water resources, the billions of tons of animals waste choking the waterways and the methane gas released by billions of farm animals is the cause of the plight of the planet. The earthworms, pollinating bees, insects and birds are all disappearing. We might have only a few harvests left. Huge trawlers used in fishing are killing off all marine life, mangrove forests and coral reefs. The future generations face a catastrophe with an uninhabitable planet.

Mankind’s brutal treatment of animals is leaving a cloud of unmovable despondency, which is leaving human beings bereft of any joy, happiness or peace. To mend the planet European nations and the United States need to urgently abandon meat, fish and dairy. A vegan diet is the only solution to save the world. Veganism is the ideal but vegetarianism can be a very important first step for those who cannot make a direct transition from being a carnivore to a vegan. The out-dated plea by the United Nations and some animal welfare organisations to reduce meat consumption will not work anymore. Justice will also be served to the downtrodden and poor nations of South America and Africa as instead of food cereals being fed to animals raised for meat , it will become accessible to them at affordable prices.


Animals have to be accorded fundamental rights. They should not be exported to other countries, they should not be hunted, they should not be imprisoned in cages, they should not be subject to horrific experiments. All forms of animal exploitation should become illegal.


We need a new dawn whereby mankind makes peace with the animal kingdom. We will not be doing any favours to animals, we will be doing ourselves a favour. Once the killing of billions of animals stops mankind will be at peace with itself. It is now or never.


Nitin Mehta MBE animalahimsa@gmail.com; http://www.nitinmehta.co.uk/
Founder Young Indian Vegetarians and Jain Animal Sanctuary; Member One Jain, UK. Aug 2020

Policies for green and fair recovery plans across the UK

Having read the policies proposed by this group – Friends of the Earth, we can support their views.

This report identifies the policy changes needed for a green and fair recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Green because human health and wellbeing is dependent on a healthy planet. The impacts of climate change seen across the world are a vivid demonstration of this reality, but also, as the World Health Organisation says “our own destructive behaviour towards nature is endangering our own health – a stark reality we’ve been collectively ignoring for decades.”

Fair because while we all suffer the consequences of a degraded world, not everyone suffers equally. For example, black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities suffer most from the lack of green space in our towns and cities and from worse air pollution. And globally it’s poorer communities who suffer most from environmental degradation, despite having contributed least to these problems. Fairness is not, however, just a moral imperative – it’s also a necessity for addressing shared global problems. We’re all in this together, and we need to act like it.

The COVID-19 recovery plans that are being written are a great opportunity for change. As Arundhati Roy puts it so eloquently, “historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world.”

We identify actions needed in 5 areas: health and wellbeing, green jobs, fixing the economy to work for people and the planet, international co-operation, and empowering communities and their elected local politicians to lead the recovery. Right now, there is an unprecedented breadth of people, organisations, and businesses calling for COVID-19 recovery plans to be green and fair. Now is our opportunity, we must not squander it.

Note: throughout the document policy demands are made that have implications for all levels of government – the UK government, devolved nations, areas in England with devolution deals, combined local authorities, and individual local authorities. All areas are likely to be writing COVID-19 recovery plans of some description. In our policy demands we have been specific to the level of government where it is necessary to do so, in other cases we refer more broadly to COVID-19 Recovery Plans as the policy demand will need to be addressed in plans written at the different levels of government.

1. Prioritise health and wellbeing

Human health and wellbeing is dependent on a healthy planet. The impacts of climate change seen across the world are a too often vivid demonstration of this reality. Destruction of habitats also impacts on human health. For example, the United Nations and World Health Organisation have highlighted that many diseases over recent years, including Sars and Ebola, originated from animal populations under conditions of severe environmental pressures. The same might be found to be true for COVID-19. They warn that “our own destructive behaviour towards nature is endangering our own health – a stark reality we’ve been collectively ignoring for decades.”1 We need to fix the planet for our own health and wellbeing, as well as for the wellbeing of future generations.

While we all suffer the consequences of a degraded world, not everyone suffers equally. BAME communities suffer most from the lack of green space in our towns and cities, and they suffer worse air pollution. Poorer and marginalised communities are least able to prepare for the extreme weather caused by climate change and least able to respond and rebound when it occurs. Globally it is poorer communities, and particularly BAME people, who suffer the most from climate breakdown, air pollution and other forms of environmental degradation. The great injustice is that poorer people and marginalised communities have contributed least to these problems but are disproportionately harmed.

The respected Lancet Commission on Climate Change has said “left unabated, climate change will define the health profile of current and future generations, will challenge already overwhelmed health systems, and undermine progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and universal health coverage (UHC).”2 In other words, it’s necessary to address the environmental causes of ill health, as well as properly invest in the health systems that we all rely on when we fall ill, a point made strongly by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee.3

The UK’s COVID-19 Recovery Plan, as well as recovery plans developed by the UK’s nations and local authorities, are an opportunity to build back better by simultaneously rebuilding our economy while addressing the health threats that result from continued environmental degradation.

Make cycling and walking safe and easy, by spending £2 billion a year on them

The UK has much lower levels of cycling than countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands. Increasing the proportion of journeys by bike is necessary to reduce carbon emissions. It is also necessary to reduce crowded public transport, traffic congestion, and air pollution as the public are told to avoid public transport to enable social distancing. As part of the COVID-19 Recovery Plan the UK government must commit to spending £2 billion a year on walking and cycling. This would bring us up to the level of investment in countries such as the Netherlands.4 As part of this it will be necessary to ensure that devolved nations also have the necessary resources to deliver the quality cycling infrastructure that is needed. A June 2020 poll found that in 5 of the UK’s major cities almost four-fifths of residents want cars to give way to bikes, buses and walking.5

The recent encouragement of local authorities to install temporary cycle lanes by the UK government and devolved nations is welcome. But COVID-19 Recovery Plans must go further and enable temporary changes to reallocate road space to pedestrians and cyclists to be made permanent.

Research for Friends of the Earth by Transport for Quality of Life has shown that the provision of segregated cycleways at the scale provided in countries such as Denmark, alongside widespread adoption of e-bikes, could result in a third of journeys being by bike.6 This would significantly benefit health and reduce climate change gases and air pollution. The Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions at the University of Leeds has even suggested that the use of e-bikes in rural as well as urban areas could halve carbon emissions from surface transport.7

Spending on cycling and walking is socially progressive as well. Almost 50% of low-income families don’t have access to a car, the proportion of women that don’t have access is double that of men, and BAME people are less likely to have access to a car than white people.8

Reduce air pollution to World Health Organisation standards by 2030 including by investing £8 billion additional money annually into clean, affordable public transport.

There are at least 36,000 premature deaths in the UK annually because of air pollution (globally the figure is 5 million).9 Air pollution makes people more vulnerable to COVID-19.10

So far the government has been resisting putting a firm date for meeting the World Health Organisation (WHO) standards into law. This is despite the death toll and the widespread support to include this date in the Environment Bill, which is progressing through Parliament. The Welsh government is committed to a new Clean Air Act, including on WHO standards, with a White Paper due later this year. The Environment Bill should include a 2030 target as the latest date for air quality to meet WHO standards, as should a Clean Air Act in Wales.

Meeting these air pollution targets will require a significant shift from car travel to public transport, cycling and walking. This is true even with a rapid shift to electric cars. Likewise meeting climate goals will also require such a shift. This means significantly increasing the availability, quality, and affordability of public transport, including buses and trams. The Government and devolved nations must set a target to double the proportion of people that travel by walking, cycling and public transport by 2030. Currently only around one-third of journeys are by walking, cycling or public transport.

Right now, public transport is suffering financially as the public are urged to avoid using it where possible. Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, and Transport for Quality of Life have previously argued that bus franchising plus changing the structure of the railway so that it is a single entity operating under public control is necessary to meeting climate goals.11 The COVID-19 pandemic makes this more necessary, as private companies are in effect being almost entirely bankrolled by the public purse. For example, the railway companies have already been provided with an additional £3.5 billion and are calling for substantial financial support for at least the next 18 months.12The UK COVID-19 Recovery Plan must set a pathway for rapid railway renationalisation and local authority bus franchising. In Wales, the government is supportive of bus franchising but need to fast-track the action necessary to make it happen. It should also include developing more innovative ticketing, such as part-time season tickets to support more frequent home working.

In addition, even before COVID-19 there was a need to substantially increase investment in public transport. The UK government COVID-19 Recovery Plan must invest at least £1.3 billion a year more on buses, £5.52 billion on rail, and at least £1 billion a year on new trams, and this should be in addition to the extra funds provided to compensate for falling passenger numbers. A fair share of this will need to be allocated to devolved nations.

Meeting air pollution goals will also require the implementation of Ultra-Low Emission Zones (ULEZ) in towns and cities where air pollution is high.13 ULEZs must be funded as part of COVID-19 Recovery Plans, and their introduction should not be delayed.

Lastly, the government is reportedly considering a scrappage scheme as part of the COVID-19 Recovery Plan. An international review of previous scrappage schemes suggests that schemes that do allow for the purchase of another car should be restricted to only pure electric and funded by increasing taxes on more polluting vehicles.14 The UK government scrappage scheme should go further by supporting a modal shift in preference to a new car purchase, including the purchase of a bike or e-bike and public transport tickets, in order to support the growth of the most sustainable forms of transport. Focussing more on sustainable travel is also more equitable, as in practice a scrappage scheme aimed at the purchase of new cars only really works well with those with spare capital or easy access to credit which in effect rules out those on lower incomes.

If it does include support for buying an electric car this needs to be additional to the sales the car industry already needs to make to comply with EU law. It must not support the purchase of hybrid vehicles or Euro 6 cars or vans.

Ensure access to high quality, nature-rich, green spaces for all.

Only around a third of the population have access to a public park or playing field of a reasonable size15 within a 5-minute walk, and deprived communities particularly suffer from a lack of quantity of green space within their areas, as has been witnessed during the COVID-19 lockdown. White people are nearly 4 times as likely as black people to have access to outdoor space at home, whether it be a private or shared garden, a patio, or a balcony.16 Also, not everyone has equal access to trees in urban areas either, with poorer areas often having fewer trees and only wealthy urban areas have greater than 30% tree cover according to Forest Research.17 Forest Research has said that all urban areas should have a minimum 20% tree cover. Friends of the Earth is calling for UK tree cover to be doubled and for the minimum urban 20% tree cover target to be met, and COVID-19 Recovery Plans should work towards this.

Green space and connecting people to nature is key to improving mental and physical health, as illustrated through the growth in social prescribing by health professionals who allocate an amount of weekly exercise in a green space or involvement in a community gardening project. It is not just the quantity of green space that matters, it is also the quality. Public green space should be managed to be nature-rich (eg, pesticide-free) and attractive to use (for example, free of litter, dog waste, etc.). Green space also helps mitigate the impact of heat waves in urban areas.

Quality nature-rich green space, alongside other green infrastructure such as green corridors (eg, street trees) and blue (water) corridors, are essential for nature restoration and resilience. The highly respected Lawton Review identified the critical role for green networks within our cities and towns in addition to more space for wildlife in our countryside if the UK is to deliver on nature restoration.

The Environmental Audit Committee has recommended that the National Planning Policy Framework in England should be revised to include a public green space target on local authorities. The government has responded to this recommendation by saying that “once the Green Infrastructure framework [under development] has been published, Defra and MHCLG will work together to see how our commitments on GI can be incorporated into national planning guidance and policy.”3

COVID-19 Recovery Plans and planning policy must require and enable local authorities to meet quantity and quality green space standards that enable healthy living and help restore nature. In some places this may be repurposing car parks or roads to parks and parklets.

The UK COVID-19 Recovery Plan must increase funding for national nature restoration, including £0.8 billion a year for habitat creation (including afforestation to move towards a target of doubling tree cover) and £2.6 billion a year on environmental land management to ensure public money paid to farmers is used for public goods as recommended by the Greener UK coalition.18

Enshrine a right to a Healthy Environment in law.

The COVID-19 recovery plan must lead to a reduction of health inequalities which have become more apparent during the crisis, including those that result from a degraded and polluted environment.

Strong environmental and health regulations are essential to protect citizens from harm and enhance their wellbeing. But regulations do not cover all threats to health and in any case, regulators may choose not to adequately monitor or enforce them for a range of reasons (eg, lack of resources or staff, other priorities, or political pressure). In some instances, the public does not have standing to take forward its own case to enforce regulations directly in the courts, and Judicial Review may not be a realistic option. The ability of citizens to protect their health would be significantly enhanced by enshrining in a law a new legal right to a healthy environment that they can enforce easily and effectively where damaging environmental decisions impact their health and wellbeing.

A report to the UN General Assembly in New York by the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, David R. Boyd, said 155 countries already have a legal obligation to respect, protect and fulfil the right to a healthy environment, including countries such as Portugal, Spain, France and Norway.19

Wales has taken a step in this direction with its Wellbeing of Future Generations Act which requires public bodies to set objectives with a view to maximising their contribution to achieving each of the wellbeing goals, including “a society in which people’s physical and mental wellbeing is maximised.”20Although this is an important contribution to achieving sustainable development, a legally enforceable right to a Healthy Environment would significantly add to the legal certainty that is needed.

A new law should:

  • Provide a clear, simply expressed, and understandable Right that would aid both the public in using the law to protect their health in the courts, and a strong standard applied by the judiciary when considering cases.
  • Increase the requirement on public bodies and regulators to better consider the impacts of their decisions on the environment and how that interacts with the health of the public as covered by this right, including the more marginalised people whose voice is not always heard in decision-making – because the right is for everyone.
  • Be a stepping stone towards more enabling regulations requiring others, such as companies, to also respect the Right to a Healthy Environment.
  • Reduce health inequalities resulting from environmental harm as more people are more able to vindicate their right in the courts, and public bodies will adjust their behaviour to protect the right in the first place for fear of strong accountability.

The UK COVID-19 Recovery Plan should commit to introducing a new law to provide people with a Right to a Healthy Environment as one of the tools for eliminating health inequalities that result from a degraded and polluted environment.

2. Put green jobs and livelihoods at the heart of the recovery

The Bank of England has said that unemployment could double because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Around 8 million jobs have been temporarily saved by the government’s furloughing programme but many of those may be lost over the following year. There is a need to create new jobs but not in polluting activities that harm the environment and public health. Instead the jobs need to be created in industries that protect and restore the environment or improve wellbeing in other ways.

There are already several reports that estimate how many jobs could be created through investing in the green economy through COVID-19 recovery plans. Estimates of job numbers vary in these because of different methodologies or boundaries of what jobs are and are not included in the studies, but they all point towards significant job creation opportunities if investment is prioritised to the green economy.

For example:

  • Industry group Energy UK has said that there is an opportunity to create “mass employment across the entire country” from programmes including a housing infrastructure upgrade programme (including energy efficiency and eco-heating), accelerating the development of low carbon industrial clusters, and accelerating the transition to low carbon transport.21
  • The Local Government Association says nearly 700,000 direct jobs could be created in England’s low-carbon and renewable energy economy by 2030, rising to more than 1.18 million by 2050.22
  • The Energy Efficiency Infrastructure Group says that 40,000 jobs could be created by the government in insulation over the next two years, and 150,000 by 2030.23
  • Vivid Economics, in a report for WWF, has identified that a transition to net zero will lead to more than 200,000 new jobs.24
  • The IPPR Environmental Justice Commission cited research suggesting 70,000 jobs could be created in offshore wind by 2023 and 81,000 in heat networks by 2030.25

The potential for growing green jobs is clearly huge, if policies are put in place to deliver them.

Create 40,000 new jobs and eradicate fuel poverty by rolling out a massive programme of home insulation.

The UK has a notoriously old and leaky housing stock, and more than 2.5 million households in the UK are in fuel poverty. The sad reality is that this number will increase substantially if the coronavirus pandemic extends into the autumn and winter. Investment in energy efficiency has collapsed over recent years because of funding cuts.

In addition, to meet climate change targets, it is necessary to start replacing the gas heating and cooking in the UK’s homes with eco-heating options such as heat pumps. Under the current government proposals, it would take 1,500 years to fit the necessary number of heat pumps.26

The UK government and devolved nations should use COVID-19 Recovery Plans to bring all homes up to a decent energy efficient standard by 2030 (at least EPC C standard) and collectively install an average of 1 million heat pumps per year. This will create jobs across the UK, including in areas of high unemployment and those where the economic impact of COVID-19 has been greatest.

The Energy Efficiency Infrastructure Group have called for an additional public investment into energy efficiency for the next two years to create 40,000 new jobs, in addition to the financial pledges made by the government in the Conservative Party Manifesto.23 Its estimate of the new investment needed for energy efficiency is comparable with that made by Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, E3G and others in 2019.27 In our report we identified that around £5.4 billion was needed each year for insulation and installing low carbon heating options such as heat pumps. In total, over the next two years COVID-19 Recovery Plans should invest at least £10.5 billion into energy efficiency and heating. Additional government and devolved nation investment in this area will also encourage private investment across the UK.

But spending is not all that is required as regulation is also necessary, including:

  • In the private rented sector standards need increasing. The UK government must, as part of the COVID-19 Recovery Plan, set mandatory energy efficiency targets for homes in the private-rented sector to be energy efficient (EPC C level) by 2030 at the latest, with interim legally binding milestones. This measure will particularly help those on low incomes, such as many of the key workers active during lockdown, as well as young people. The Scottish government has already committed to introducing regulations to achieve this.
  • In addition, also as being planned in Scotland, there should be measures to require energy efficiency improvements in owner-occupied homes at times of major refurbishment or sale. The UK government should follow the lead of the Scottish government and set energy efficiency standards that owner-occupied homes should meet.

The regulation of energy efficiency in homes is not devolved to Wales as it is in Scotland and Northern Ireland, although Friends of the Earth argues it should be.

Quadruple the rate of renewable energy construction to create tens of thousands of new jobs.

The government has set an ambition for 40GW of offshore wind by 2030, which will create tens of thousands of new jobs, particularly in areas which have suffered job losses due to the decline of industries such as shipbuilding and steel. This is very welcome. They have also said that onshore wind and solar can now compete for their Contracts-for-Difference (CfD) support scheme, which guarantees a price for the electricity produced and gives investor confidence. However, they also limit the amount that can be built using this support mechanism. But in England they have in place a brake on onshore wind development through a de facto ban that in effect allows a minority of people in a community to block a new onshore windfarm development even if it has been supported by the majority of the community. The UK government must remove the de facto ban on onshore wind in England in its COVID-19 Recovery Plan and remove the cap that limits the amount of new renewable energy capacity supported through CfD auctions. Doing so will significantly increase job opportunities in this sector.

The government’s ambitions for renewable power also need to substantially increase. Last year saw the smallest increase in renewable energy capacity for more than a decade with only 3GW of plant built.28 The UK should be aiming to build 14GW of additional capacity every year. This is greater than the 9GW the Committee on Climate Change says, as a faster and deeper reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is needed than it has recommended.29

The UK Government and nations must collectively aim for 14GW of new renewable energy capacity year on year.The majority of this should be wind power as this generates more power in the winter when renewable power will be needed for heating.Guarantee green jobs or training for those made unemployed because of COVID-19.

COVID-19 will lead to increased unemployment across the UK, but some areas and some sections of society will be harder hit than others. The RSA found “a stark geographical divide, with rural areas located in the north and south west of England most at risk of high job losses” and that “younger workers are overwhelmingly more likely to be furloughed – nearly twice as likely as middle-aged workers.”30

The Social Market Foundation (SMF) has said that to protect those who lose their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic from the “scarring effects” of unemployment, the government should draw up a new work-and-training guarantee programme so that anyone who cannot find a job can be paid by the state to carry out a green job.31 The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has similarly argued for a jobs guarantee, in addition to other measures to prevent job losses.32

Young people are particularly vulnerable to job losses because of the pandemic33 and it is feared that the pandemic will have serious long-term consequences for their mental health.34 The scheme promoted by both the SMF and TUC highlights the importance of this guarantee for young people. Both also highlight the importance of using the scheme to help deliver climate emissions reduction goals.

The TUC proposal is that jobs created through a work-and-training guarantee pay at least the National Living Wage (or union negotiated rate for the job). The jobs could be with the private or public sector but must include accredited training with participants spending at least 20% of their working week for training and education. It envisages that jobs through the scheme are guaranteed for young people under the age of 25 after 3 months of unemployment and for the over 25s after 6 months. Robert Halfon MP, Chair of the Education Select Committee, has also argued for guaranteed apprenticeship for young people.35

The UK government should work with the nations to introduce a jobs guarantee scheme for those made unemployed due to COVID-19, with the central aim of skilling-up people to work in the green economy.

In any case, a much greater focus is needed on training regardless of the COVID-19 crisis because society, technology and economies are rapidly changing anyway. According to NESTA 6 million people in the UK are in roles that are likely to radically change or entirely disappear due to automation, population aging, urbanisation, and the rise of the green economy.36 A dystopian view of this is high levels of unemployment and people trapped in insecure, low value, low pay employment. But NESTA also says that “evidence shows which skills people will need in the coming years as jobs change, and new, tech-based training and careers solutions are becoming available for people who want to reskill so they are ready for the future.”

Several local authority organisations, together with green groups including Friends of the Earth, have also called for a greater focus on skills and training, including better use of existing resources.37 The UK COVID-19 Recovery plan must enable councils to accelerate low carbon skills development by joining up the National Skills Fund, the National Retraining Scheme and the Apprenticeship Levy at local level and align this with place-based employment and business support systems. The devolved nations’ COVID-19 recovery plans similarly need to give high priority for accelerating and simplifying training programmes.

But training for the future also needs to start earlier than young people entering the world of employment. A 2019 OECD study said “…the UK has the highest level of prevalence of memorisation in classrooms, which has also been shown to reduce a child’s ability to solve problems and think critically.” It says that countries like Japan and China that used to depend on rote learning have shifted to a much greater emphasis on understanding and critical thinking. The report says that “The dilemma for educators is that routine academic knowledge (the skills that are easiest to teach and easiest to test) are exactly the skills that are also easiest to digitise.”38 In other words, teaching needs to be transformed to help develop the critical thinking skills young people need, including in a context of a changing environment.39 The Durham Commission on Creativity and Education makes important recommendations that all education authorities and establishments should consider, as well as devolved nations and the UK government.40

Help transition workers from polluting into clean industries with a £4.3bn a year transition fund.

Some industries do not have a future in a low carbon economy (for example, fossil fuel extraction) and the transition of workers from these industries needs to be planned. The social damage caused by the unthinking and uncaring transition from coal mining are still evident decades on. Instead a planned transition is needed. This will need funding.

Friends of the Earth Scotland has been working closely with unions and others on what a transition needs to look like.41Scotland is home to much of the UK’s oil and gas workforce. Even in Scotland there will be a net gain in jobs created through the transition to the green economy but as elsewhere it is necessary to target support, training, and investment to areas most in need. Friends of the Earth Scotland’s research with Oil Change International and Platform shows that given the right policies, clean industries could create more than three jobs for every North Sea oil job at risk, and can enable an “equivalent job guarantee” for every oil worker.42

Not all those working in currently polluting industries will need to change job because some industries can clean up. For example, the car industry is a major employer in the UK and in some areas the main employer. It is widely recognised that even with a significant shift to public transport, cycling and walking there will still be many cars on the road, and that these need to be electric. Electric vehicles are the future and to protect jobs the UK needs to be at the forefront of the transition. The government needs to support and encourage this transition, including through setting an early date to ban the sale of new petrol or diesel cars and vans. The UK government’s COVID-19 Recovery Plan should say that after 2030 only pure electric new cars and vans can be sold.

Steel, cement, and other industries are major users of fossil fuels, yet the use of hydrogen manufactured from water and renewable energy or electrification can wean these companies off fossil fuels.43

The IPPR Environmental Justice Commission has mapped those areas where the highest proportion of jobs are in industries that are greenhouse-gas related.44 This kind of mapping allows for a targeted response to enable a planned transition. The UK government should fund the transition with £4.32 billion each year and work with devolved nations, councils, unions, and employers to develop locally relevant transition plans to fund skills development, retraining, and for local investment to develop new employment within the areas.

3. Fix the broken economy so that it works for all people and planet

The UK economy has been badly damaged by the pandemic. But it is not as though it was working brilliantly before.

UK economic strategy, like many others, was fixated on growth (GDP) and rising consumption even though the result has been severe damage to the environment, and the endangering of the prospects of future generations. The economy has also seen a flourishing of low paid jobs in the gig economy. The gap in household wealth between richer and poorer families has also grown considerably since 2006 according to the Resolution Foundation, driven to a large extent by house prices and rising values of financial assets.45 Wealth provides economic resilience for times of hardship, for example a period of unemployment or to rebound from a flooding event, and it is also positively correlated with wellbeing. Wealth inequalities impact on social mobility.

But it does not have to be like this. Out of the ashes of the economic ruins from the pandemic an economy that works for people and the planet can be born. It’s just necessary to break the fixation with GDP and instead point economic strategy in the direction of increasing wellbeing and restoring the environment.

Help fund the recovery by removing tax breaks from big polluters, taxing polluting activities and scrap spending on climate-wrecking infrastructure.

Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, WWF, and others identified before the COVID-19 pandemic the level of government spending needed to begin the process of rapidly reducing greenhouse gases, restoring nature, and stepping-up support for developing countries.46 The sum of money, £42 billion per year for the next three years (see table below), is small change compared to total government spending, and is dwarfed by the scale of the cost to the UK economy of protecting lives from COVID-19. It will also be less costly than the damage to lives, livelihoods and economies from not taking sufficient action on climate change.

Sector spending breakdown

The money for environmental spending can be raised by several means. One method is reducing spending on harmful activities. For example:

  • The government has said it will spend £27 billion on roads in its Road Investment Strategy 2. It says this is the largest roads building programme ever. This is in addition to the £3.5 billion for schemes on local authority roads. The grassroots campaigning organisation Transport Action Network, which is taking the government to court over this programme, has said it has uncovered “secret plans to spend £90 billion over the next 15 years and that’s just on the strategic roads network.”47
  • The HS2 railway is now estimated to cost over £100 billion.48 It will damage important wildlife habitats and will not reduce carbon emissions.49There is a strong strategic case to be made for an additional conventional north-south railway line but it could be done much more cheaply and with much less damage by not being high speed. And in any case the money would have much greater carbon benefits and social utility if it were spent instead on buses, trams, and cycling infrastructure.

The UK government should announce within its COVID-19 recovery package that it is scrapping its Roads Investment Strategy and HS2 to use the funds to deliver projects that will create jobs in the green economy, from housing retrofits to low carbon transport to nature restoration (including in towns and cities).

Other methods for raising money are through taxing harmful activities. For example:

  • The UK fossil fuel industry causes at least £44 billion worth of environmental and societal damage each year but the tax paid is minuscule in comparison.50 A carbon tax, delivered through a range of measures for different sectors, could raise £20 billion a year until the 2030s, according to the Grantham Research Institute for Climate Change and the Environment.51
  • The oil and gas industries have had taxes reduced over the years, to the extent that in 2016-17 they paid no tax. In addition, tax relief on decommissioning oil and gas rigs is expected to cost the UK government £24 billion over the next 20 years or so according to the National Audit Office, although it also said that these costs are highly uncertain.52 At least some of this tax relief could be reversed.
  • Transport, particularly high carbon transport, could be taxed more. A Frequent Flyer levy or Air Miles Levy would increase costs for the small proportion of the population that take multiple flights each year. Reinstating the fuel duty with a 1% above-inflation rise in fuel duty each year for the next five years would raise about an extra £280 million in the first year, rising to £1.4 billion in the fifth year.53 A modest eco-levy (road-user charging) would raise enough money to halve the cost of all rail trips or provide free buses in towns and cities.53

The UK government is expected to announce some tax changes as part of its COVID-19 Recovery Plan. It should announce new carbon taxes such as those recommended by the Grantham Institute, including a Frequent Flyer Levy and road user charging in the form of an eco-levy. The revenue from new pollution taxes should be used in the first instance to fund green measures but any excess funds could be used to reduce employers’ National Insurance contributions to reduce the cost of hiring staff and/or reducing taxes that disproportionately impact lower income households.

Financial bailouts of failing companies must come with strict conditions to protect workers’ jobs and ensure the company is cutting emissions in line with the Paris Agreement.

The issue of government bailouts for polluting industries has sparked controversy, particularly when it involves companies with billionaire bosses who haven’t paid taxes in the UK for over a decade.54 Friends of the Earth is supportive of measures that help workers in these industries, such as the furlough scheme or any retraining schemes that are delivered, but not in support of simply providing the businesses with large amounts of money to continue with business as usual when the COVID-19 crisis recedes.55

The Bank of England has provided £1.8 billion to the aviation industry with no environmental conditions attached. Environmental NGOs, including Friends of the Earth, have spelt out how the aviation industry needs to operate post-COVID-19.56 This involves including the emissions from the sector within the UK carbon accounting regime for greenhouse gas reductions (carbon budgets), ensuring the industry is properly taxed, and a requirement on technological innovation to further reduce emissions. Bailouts need to be accompanied by strings which dictate how the industry must operate in the future. The aviation industry in particular has had a largely free ride when it comes to environmental impacts for decades, and this needs to stop.

The issue of bailouts to oil and gas industries was discussed by the recent Parliament’s Citizens’ Assembly, the interim findings of which have just been published.57 The Assembly consisted of 108 people who were selected to represent the demographics of the UK population and the levels of concern about climate change. 79% of participants thought government support to enable recovery from COVID-19 should be designed to help achieve net zero. Statements made included “I don’t think oil or gas companies should be given bailouts, you’re wanting to stop them anyway, so why support them – support the people who work for them but not the companies – that’s because they aren’t compatible with net zero” and “avoiding lock in of fossil fuel use [is] key – best chance to do this is now to avoid going back into the trap of fossil fuels again. That would be disappointing.” These sentiments reflect Friends of the Earth’s position, that any bailouts must include conditions that transition the industry towards a low carbon future and this must include that the industry pay the levels of tax which reflect the damage its products do to people and the environment.

Any COVID-19 Recovery Plans that include bailouts for fossil-fuel industries must have conditions attached so that the companies involved are swiftly reducing emissions from their operations and use of their products so that a rapid transition to net zero is achieved.

Measure the impact of the COVID-19 Recovery Plan by how it improves people’s lives not economic growth (GDP).

As identified earlier, GDP is a poor measure of success because it can increase while the environment is harmed and wellbeing decreases. Instead indicators that measure real wellbeing are needed, ones which capture the value of unpaid work (often by women), don’t discount environmental harm, and recognise the damage that income and wealth inequalities do for social cohesion, social mobility, and the willingness to pursue shared goals.

The New Zealand government has given up on using GDP as the measure of success. Instead it is using a Living Standards Framework, which is a composite of 12 domains of wellbeing,58 which was developed by the New Zealand Treasury.

Businesses,59 the Committee on Climate Change,60 local authority organisations61 and many others have said that the government’s COVID-19 Recovery Plan must deliver on the UK’s net zero ambitions. The government itself has said that its recovery plan will be green and fair. Despite this, there is still a risk that the metric used by the government and by the media to judge the success of recovery plans is GDP. The UK government, devolved nations, and local authorities should explicitly identify that the metrics to judge success of the COVID-19 Recovery Plans are how well they reduce poverty, decrease inequalities, meet carbon reduction and nature restoration goals, and contribute to the global delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals and not GDP.

4. Co-operate globally and act responsibly

The worst of the COVID-19 pandemic may have passed for the UK but the same is not true across the world. At the time of writing numbers are rising sharply in countries such as India and Brazil. As one of the world’s wealthier countries the UK has a moral responsibility to help poorer countries through this crisis.

But in the case of climate change the UK has more than a moral responsibility. Through the United Nations international climate agreement, it has committed to the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.” This basically means that the UK must do more than developing countries to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

A year ago, the UK set a net zero date for territorial emissions by 2050. However, it has not yet set new interim steps along the path to this. To be consistent with its international obligations, the new pathway will need to result in less than half the emissions than the current pathway.62The Committee on Climate Change will advise the government on the new pathway at the end of this year.

It has also pledged, alongside other developed countries, to together provide $100 billion annually for a five-year period from 2020. The UK has said it will give £11.6 billion over the next five years, between 2021/22 and 2025/26.63

However, how much the UK should do is strongly contested. The UK is historically one of the largest contributors to climate change (see graph below), which is disproportionately impacting on poorer countries who are least responsible. Friends of the Earth and others believe the UK should do much more than it has currently pledged in terms of emissions reductions and finance.

CO2 emissions per capita

The UK also has international commitments on nature through the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The UK will miss most of its 2020 biodiversity targets agreed at the Aichi meeting of the CBD, according to the advisor for the UK government and devolved administrations on UK-wide and international nature conservation.64 As with climate change, the UK also contributes significantly to impacts overseas through its consumption. A recent RSPB and WWF report on the impact of UK imports of seven commodities revealed that “the data shows nearly a third (28%) of the UK’s total overseas land footprint is still linked to countries assessed to be at high or very high risk of deforestation, destruction of other natural ecosystems and human rights abuses” and that “the study also finds the majority of all palm oil (89%), soy (65%) and cocoa (63%) imported to the UK comes from countries with high deforestation rates – and therefore there is a risk that these are associated with the destruction of biodiversity hotspots such as the Amazon, and forests in Indonesia and West Africa – home to endangered species including the giant anteater, orangutan and the pygmy hippopotamus, respectively.”65

The UK’s global responsibility needs to extend well beyond what the UK does on UK-based carbon emissions and biodiversity. It also needs to reduce our impacts overseas and to improve on how we help developing countries grow out of poverty sustainably. If wealthy countries don’t do more, the global Sustainable Development goals will not be met and nor will agreed climate and biodiversity targets. The COVID-19 recovery plans need to be measured on how well they contribute to these goals, as well as how well they deliver domestically within the UK.

Provide our fair share of climate finance to support the transition of the world’s poorer nations.

As identified above, the UK is committed to provide climate finance to support developing countries. The sums currently pledged equate to just over £2 billion a year for 5 years. But this is far from adequate.

Calculating a fair contribution of climate finance to developing countries by the UK depends on a range of factors, including how much historical pollution is considered, how much global emissions need to be reduced by to have confidence that the worst of climate change can be avoided, and how in practice you estimate how much finance is needed. For the latter – a financial estimate – different approaches can include estimates of the money needed by developing countries, putting a price on a tonne of carbon, estimating damage or variations of these. These complexities can lead to very different estimates. An estimate of financial flows based on damage would lead to very significant finance flow. For example, the International Monetary Fund has calculated the hidden costs associated with continuing to burn oil, coal and gas — such as air pollution and global warming — could have amounted to $5.2 trillion in 2017 alone, and much of this damage will be in developing countries.66

But what’s clear is that current pledges are far from sufficient. Ottmar Edenhofer, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, and a former co-chair of the IPCC’s working group on mitigation of climate change, has said “neither the amount of financial flows nor their direction is sufficient to keep temperatures below 2 °C, let alone 1.5°C.”67

A report for Friends of the Earth International and others estimates that the UK should support developing countries with £40 billion a year by 2025 and over $50 billion by 2030, taking into account the UK’s historical emissions and using a price of carbon at $65 per tonne, alongside reducing the UK’s own emissions by around 80% by 2030.68 This is in addition to existing development aid money. Regardless of the methodology for calculating the UK’s international climate finance obligations, the UK needs to increase its contribution by at least tenfold.

Given that COVID-19 will significantly damage many developing countries’ own resources for climate mitigation,it’s essential that the UK’s COVID-19 Recovery Plan significantly increases UK international climate finance to our fair share, which is probably at least an order of magnitude increase on current levels.

End UK government investment in overseas coal, oil and gas projects.

Remarkably the UK not only continues to fund fossil-fuel expansion overseas but has increased funding since it signed the Paris Agreement on climate change.69 This is despite the Paris Agreement requiring “finance flows [to be] consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.”

Together with CAFOD and Global Witness, Friends of the Earth has highlighted how a little-known government agency (UK Export Finance) has supported offshore oil and gas fields in Ghana, expansions of oil refineries in Kuwait, and offshore oil platforms in Brazil, amongst others. 70 Other parts of government have also funded fossil-fuel extraction overseas.

Friends of the Earth is not alone in expressing concern about this funding, for example:

  • The Committee on Climate Change has concluded that the UK’s export finance is not aligned with our climate goals.71
  • The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee has recommended that UKEF should stop support for fossil fuel projects by 2021.72

However, the UK government has failed to date to take any positive action in response to these calls. In fact, it continues to consider support for projects such as Mozambique Liquefied Natural Gas. This is despite the hugely detrimental impact on local communities, including human rights issues, arising from the existing LNG development and actions taken in connection with it. Such impacts are reported to include the forced removal of people from their homes and away from the land they depend on for their livelihoods, and violent attacks including fatalities.

COVID-19 gives the UK an opportunity to re-evaluate how it helps developing countries that are facing the triple emergency of climate, nature, and poverty as well as now COVID-19. Its spending shouldn’t make any of these crises worse. A good place to start would be for the UK COVID-19 Recovery Plan to commit to stopping all funding of fossil fuel extraction overseas.

Only do trade deals that guarantee the highest standards of environmental and public health protection.

The UK has left the EU. This threatens our environmental standards and safeguards. Friends of the Earth and others are campaigning to make sure these rules keep working properly in the future. The government must guarantee environmental standards, establish a strong UK environmental watchdog, and enshrine principles such as the precautionary approach in UK law. They must do this before the end of the transition period.

But these legal protections are already under threat. The government is rushing to strike new trade deals, and the economic impact of COVID-19 has been used to justify starting multiple negotiations, including with the USA. These rushed trade deals could lead to seeing food on our shelves made using chemicals that are currently banned, or pumped full of unnecessary, harmful antibiotics. They could also mean giving foreign investors the power to influence our environmental standards. In a number of pieces of legislation currently before Parliament, the government must say no to any trade deal that weakens environmental, safety or consumer standards. And it must take the time to develop a world-leading trade policy which puts our environmental ambition at its heart.

5. Empower communities to lead the recovery

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the willingness of people to reach out and help others in their community. It has also showcased the incredibly important role of councils and those that work within them, including Metro-Mayors. This is also true of the governments in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. The UK government is indebted to these people.

Addressing recovery from COVID-19 and tackling the climate and nature crises will also require local leadership – from nations, Metro Mayors, City Regions, councils, and local communities – alongside UK government action. It simply isn’t possible to do so without further empowering local government, particularly given that recovery in each area will need to be different and tailor-made based on a deep understanding of the place, its history and its culture. Many councils across the area are now in significant financial trouble due to the extra expenditure on COVID-19 and falling revenues, so national government must make sure the necessary financial resources are made available to local government.

In addition to empowering and financially supporting nations, Metro Mayors, and councils, it will be necessary to empower those whose voice is not so easily heard in decision-making, for example young people and marginalised communities, as well as ensure participatory forums for discussing contentious issues are formed.

Provide nations and councils with the significant new powers and resources they need to deliver an inclusive and green recovery in their area.

Over the last year Friends of the Earth has been working with local authority associations and others to identify the powers and resources councils need to deliver on climate change and nature restoration. This work has involved the input from scores of local authority staff and politicians from across the country and has been updated for the COVID-19 recovery. “The blueprint for accelerating climate action and a green recovery at the local level” identifies more than 50 policy changes that are needed in areas from nature restoration, to transport, to waste and sustainable consumption.37 It has 5 main recommendations, which are:

  1. Create a joined-up, multi-billion-pound, place-based clean infrastructure fund to enable local authorities to develop low-carbon and climate-resilient infrastructure.
  2. Join up the National Skills Fund, the National Retraining Scheme and the Apprenticeship Levy at local level to support reskilling, retraining and research for a net-zero well-adapted economy.
  3. Establish a programme to retrofit the UK’s building stock with energy and water efficiency and low carbon heating, as one of our national infrastructure investment priorities.
  4. Enable local authorities to significantly increase home working, cycling and walking provision – they have a special role to play in recovery from coronavirus, and will continue to play an important role in decarbonising transport.
  5. Speed up delivery of the £800 million Nature for Climate Fund to restore nature for all and enable community health and wellbeing through accelerating tree planting and peatland restoration. Support green spaces and other green infrastructure by properly funding local authorities to manage parks, open spaces, and public rights of way.

The Blueprint did not estimate the total financial resources needed by each local authority, because this requires a bottom-up and detailed approach. Also, not all investments would necessarily flow through local authority coffers, for example capital grants for heat pumps might flow directly to householders but local authorities would have an important role in coordinating an area by area approach to energy efficiency and heating. Nevertheless, it is clear that substantial investment is needed to reduce emissions and restore nature (£42 billion a year, see above) and some of that would be needed directly by councils (for example, for investment in trams or segregated cycleways). Camden Council has estimated its most ambitious plan to cut emissions by 68% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels would require an additional £900 million invested in its area, 73 whereas Bristol City Council has said £3 billion needs investing in the area on low carbon heating.74

Delivery on climate and nature goals requires the full and active involvement of government at all levels. The UK COVID-19 Recovery Plan must provide nations and councils with the significant new powers and resources they need to deliver an inclusive and green recovery in their area.

Require decision-makers at all levels to demonstrate that the voice of those most directly affected by environmental harm is heard in the development of COVID-19 Recovery Plans.

Those most impacted by environmental harm are often the poorest and most marginalised in society. The health impacts of the COVID-19 crisis has also shone a light on these inequalities. It is critical that those in power at all levels listen to those worse impacted. We have some mechanisms and laws that are a positive contribution to achieving this aim, but they are far from enough.

The UK government has recognised the importance of public participation in decision-making through ratifying the United Nations Aarhus Convention. This important but under-publicised treaty gives citizens rights to access information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters. Kofi Annan, former UN General Secretary, described it as “the most ambitious venture in environmental democracy undertaken under the auspices of the United Nations.” However, while it covers decisions such as planning rules, it’s not comprehensive and doesn’t cover all the environmental decisions that will be made on the COVID-19 recovery. What’s more, it’s poorly implemented in the UK. There are regulators such as the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and the to be established Office of Environmental Protection (currently being legislated for in the Environmental Bill), but their responsibilities are to ensure existing laws are adhered to.

In Wales, the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act has created a Future Generations Commissioner who has set championing public participation and involvement in decision-making as one of her priorities. The Act itself identifies 5 ways in which public bodies must act, including “the importance of involving people with an interest in achieving the wellbeing goals, and ensuring that those people reflect the diversity of the area which the body serves.”75 But the Act doesn’t guarantee that the voice of those most impacted by environment is heard in practice, including in the development of the Welsh COVID-19 Recovery Plan, so there’s still a need to keep the pressure on decision-makers to do so. That said, the Welsh Wellbeing of Future Generations Act is very important and welcome and has inspired the introduction of a Future Generations Bill into the UK Parliament, which the government should support.76

These important regulators need the powers, funding, and independence to ensure they can hold the powerful to account and act to protect the most marginalised in society. But ensuring the voice of the most impacted and marginalised is heard in all decision-making will need more than this, it will also require:

  • The Aarhus Convention to be fully implemented into UK law, and its rights and visionary democratic principles used as a template for greater public participation.
  • Public participation in planning decisions and the creation of local plans to be defended and enhanced rather than weakened, as is rumoured.

It will also require regulators such as the Equality and Human Rights Commission (and the Office for Environmental Protection when eventually set up) to take tough action to ensure that COVID-19 Recovery Plans do not unlawfully discriminate, for example by rigorously policing the public sector equality duty and protecting the Human Rights Act from political attacks. It will also require them to warn the government against creating worse environmental problems for the future (eg removing environmental protections and building across much needed natural spaces). This action by the regulators is not a substitute for proper participation but is complementary and will help to lessen inequality.

COVID-19 Recovery Plans should be developed in line with the rights and visionary democratic principles of the Aarhus Convention, and the processes used should be documented and available for public scrutiny. The UK should also begin the process of fully implementing the Aarhus Convention in a new Aarhus Act.

Participatory processes such as citizens’ juries and citizens’ assemblies can facilitate better decision-making and there are now several examples of local Climate Assemblies at different stages, inspired by the Extinction Rebellion movement. My Society has published digital tools for these approaches.77Being demographically representative these should amplify the voices of those so often shut out of political decision making. While it’s not easy to ensure full participation in discussions and debates, it can be achieved. The example of Preston is strong.78 A city facing extraordinary challenges and hit by austerity has pioneered its own model of urban renewal and participatory community wealth building over the past decade to be named the most rapidly improving urban area in the UK to live and work.

But often plans and policies are driven by politics and the need to win votes to gain power. Young people’s voices need to be heard as COVID-19 recovery plans are drawn up, particularly given they will live with the environmental consequences for longer. Allowing younger people to vote would have an impact, particularly in areas where elections are on the horizon (for example, metro mayor and local elections in England). 16- and 17-years olds will be entitled to vote for the first time in the Welsh Senedd elections in 2021 but are still denied the vote for council elections in England or Northern Ireland, or for the UK Parliament or Northern Ireland Assembly.79 The UK government should reduce the age of voting to 16, starting with the local and Mayoral elections in 2021.

Help grassroots and community organisations through the COVID-19 crisis and invest to enable them to build back stronger.

Austerity heightened the importance of grassroots organisations just at the time as councils legally had to concentrate resources on statutory functions. For example, the role of “friends groups” in looking after parks or volunteer-run food banks. Local sports clubs, which are so important for the mental and physical health particularly of young people, saw the financial support from local authorities decline and they already faced funding gaps before COVID-19.80 Fields in Trust highlight the risk to green space locally as funding pressures creates pressures for councils to allow sales to go ahead.81

The government has recognised the importance of grassroots organisations in its Civil Society Strategy in 2018, which it says “proposes significant reforms across the public and private sectors to build a fairer society [and] that people, communities and charitable organisations will be at the centre of decision-making.”82 But the government has been strongly criticised for the lack of progress.83

COVID-19 has hit the finances of many voluntary organisations significantly, according to NCVO.84 But it has also again shone a light on the importance of them, for example through the work of mutual aid groups during lockdown. Volunteer local environmental groups, such as practical conservation groups or parks groups, will not be immune to the impact of the pandemic. They play an important role in the restoration of biodiversity, but also increasingly link up with health practitioners who carry our social prescribing for physical or mental challenges such as loneliness. The #NeverMoreNeeded campaign has highlighted the deficiencies of the government’s support to grassroots organisations to date.85

A large range of organisations invest in the grassroots but there is still a very significant shortfall of monies needed to ensure vibrant grassroots activities, including environmental. COVID-19 Recovery Plans must include funds for grassroots and community organisations, including environmental groups, to weather the current crisis but also to build back better and stronger. The Welsh government used World Environment Day to announce new resources for groups involved in local nature or woodland creation projects as an area that needs action in the COVID-19 context. This is a step in the right direction, but more is needed across the UK.

Annex – list of all policy recommendations

Prioritise health and wellbeing

Make cycling and walking safe and easy, by spending £2 billion a year on them.

  • As part of the COVID-19 Recovery Plan the UK government must commit to spending £2 billion a year on walking and cycling.
  • COVID-19 Recovery Plans must go further and enable temporary changes to reallocate road space to pedestrians and cyclists to be made permanent.

Reduce air pollution to World Health Organisation standards by 2030 including by investing £8 billion additional money annually into clean, affordable public transport.

  • The Environment Bill should include a 2030 target as the latest date for air quality to meet WHO standards, as should a Clean Air Act in Wales.
  • The government and devolved nations must set a target to double the proportion of people that travel by walking, cycling and public transport by 2030.
  • The UK COVID-19 Recovery Plan must set a pathway for rapid railway renationalisation and local authority bus franchising. In Wales, the Government is supportive of bus franchising but need to fast-track the action needed to make it happen.
  • The UK government COVID-19 Recovery Plan must invest at least £1.3 billion a year more on buses, £5.52 billion on rail, and at least £1 billion a year on new trams, and this should be in addition to the extra funds provided to compensate for falling passenger numbers.
  • ULEZs must be funded as part of COVID-19 Recovery Plans, and their introduction should not be delayed.
  • The UK government scrappage scheme should go further by supporting a modal shift in preference to a new car purchase, including the purchase of a bike or e-bike and public transport tickets to support the growth of the most sustainable forms of transport

Ensure access to high quality, nature-rich, green spaces for all.

  • Friends of the Earth is calling for UK tree cover to be doubled and for the minimum urban 20% tree cover target to be met, and COVID-19 Recovery Plans should work towards this.
  • COVID-19 Recovery Plans and planning policy must require and enable local authorities to meet quantity and quality green space standards that enable healthy living and help restore nature.
  • The UK COVID-19 Recovery Plan must increase funding for national nature restoration, including £0.8 billion a year for habitat creation (including afforestation to move towards a target of doubling tree cover) and £2.6 billion a year on environmental land management to ensure public money paid to farmers is used for public goods as recommended by the Greener UK coalition.

Enshrine a right to a Healthy Environment in law.

  • The UK COVID-19 Recovery Plan should commit to introducing a new law to provide people with a Right to a Healthy Environment as one of the tools for eliminating health inequalities that result from a degraded and polluted environment.

Put green jobs and livelihoods at the heart of the recovery

Create 40,000 new jobs and eradicate fuel poverty by rolling out a massive programme of home insulation.

  • The UK government and devolved nations should use COVID-19 Recovery Plans to bring all homes up to a decent energy efficient standard by 2030 (at least EPC C standard) and collectively install an average of 1 million heat pumps per year.
  • In total, over the next two years COVID-19 Recovery Plans should invest at least £10.5 billion into energy efficiency and heating.
  • The UK government must, as part of the COVID-19 Recovery Plan, set mandatory energy efficiency targets for homes in the private-rented sector to be energy efficient (EPC C level) by 2030 at the latest, with interim legally binding milestones.
  • The UK government should follow the lead of the Scottish government and set energy efficiency standards that owner-occupied homes should meet.

Quadruple the rate of renewable energy construction to create tens of thousands of new jobs.

  • The UK government must remove the de facto ban on onshore wind in England in its COVID-19 Recovery Plan and remove the cap that limits the amount of new renewable energy capacity supported through CfD (contract for difference) auctions.
  • The UK government and nations must collectively aim for 14GW of new renewable energy capacity year on year.

Guarantee green jobs or training for those made unemployed because of COVID-19.

  • The UK government should work with the nations to introduce a jobs guarantee scheme for those made unemployed due to COVID-19, with the central aim of skilling up people to work in the green economy.
  • The UK COVID-19 Recovery plan must enable councils to accelerate low carbon skills development by joining up the National Skills Fund, the National Retraining Scheme and the Apprenticeship Levy at local level and align this with place-based employment and business support systems. The devolved nations’ COVID-19 recovery plans similarly need to give high priority for accelerating and simplifying training programmes.

Help transition workers from polluting into clean industries with a £4.3 billion a year transition fund.

  • The UK government’s COVID-19 Recovery Plan should say that after 2030 only pure electric new cars and vans can be sold.
  • The UK government should fund the transition with £4.32 billion each year and work with devolved nations, councils, unions, and employers to develop locally relevant transition plans to fund skills development, retraining, and for local investment to develop new employment within the areas.

Fix the broken economy so that it works for all people and planet

Help fund the recovery by removing tax breaks from big polluters, taxing polluting activities and scrap spending on climate-wrecking infrastructure.

  • The UK government should announce within its COVID-19 recovery package that it is scrapping its Roads Investment Strategy and HS2 to use the funds to deliver projects which will create jobs in the green economy, from housing retrofits to low carbon transport and nature restoration (including in towns and cities).
  • The UK government is expected to announce some tax changes as part of its COVID-19 Recovery Plan. It should announce new carbon taxes such as those recommended by the Grantham Institute, including a Frequent Flyer Levy and road user charging in the form of an eco-levy.

Financial bailouts of failing companies must come with strict conditions to protect workers’ jobs and ensure the company is cutting emissions in line with the Paris Agreement.

  • Any COVID-19 Recovery Plans that include bailouts for fossil-fuel industries must have conditions attached so that the companies involved are swiftly reducing emissions from their operations and use of their products so that a rapid transition to net zero is achieved.

Measure the impact of the COVID-19 Recovery Plan by how it improves people’s lives not economic growth (GDP).

  • The UK government, devolved nations, and local authorities should explicitly identify that the metrics to judge success of the COVID-19 Recovery Plans are how well they reduce poverty, decrease inequalities, meet carbon reduction and nature restoration goals, and contribute to the global delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals and not GDP.

Co-operate globally and act responsibly

Provide our fair share of climate finance to support the transition of the world’s poorer nations.

  • It is essential that the UK’s COVID-19 Recovery Plan significantly increases UK international climate finance to our fair share, which is probably at least a tenfold increase on current levels.

End UK government investment in overseas coal, oil and gas projects

  • The UK COVID-19 Recovery Plan to commit to stopping all funding of fossil fuel extraction overseas.

Only do trade deals that guarantee the highest standards of environmental and public health protection.

  • The government must guarantee environmental standards, establish a strong UK environmental watchdog, and enshrine principles such as the precautionary approach in UK law. They must do this before the end of the transition period.
  • In a number of pieces of legislation currently before Parliament, the government must say no to any trade deal that weakens environmental, safety or consumer standards. And it must take the time to develop a world-leading trade policy which puts our environmental ambition at its heart.

Empower communities to lead the recovery

Provide nations and councils with the significant new powers and resources they need to deliver an inclusive and green recovery in their area.

  • The UK COVID-19 Recovery Plan must provide nations and councils with the significant new powers and resources they need to deliver an inclusive and green recovery in their area.

Require decision-makers at all levels to demonstrate that the voice of those most directly affected by environmental harm is heard in the development of COVID-19 Recovery Plans.

  • COVID-19 Recovery Plans should be developed in line with the rights and visionary democratic principles of the Aarhus Convention, and the processes used should be documented and available for public scrutiny. The UK should also begin the process of fully implementing the Aarhus Convention in a new Aarhus Act.
  • The UK government should reduce the age of voting to 16, starting with the local and Mayoral elections in 2021.

Help grassroots and community organisations through the COVID-19 crisis and invest to enable them to build back stronger.

  • COVID-19 Recovery Plans must include funds for grassroots and community organisations, including environmental groups, to weather the current crisis but also to build back better and stronger.

New Book on ‘Climate Crisis and Creation Care: Eco-Economic Sustainability, Ecological Integrity and Justice.’

I am editing a new book with the above title. Thus far I have circa 30 professors and experts in their field, writing on different aspects of our current crisis with a view of offering a way of achieving a sustainable future. Thus far we have contributions from Japan, Ukraine, South Africa, Lebanon, Greece, Austria, France, UK, USA, Canada, Brazil and Chile. It is therefore an important work with a wide distribution planned. Contributions so far are from Faiths, the legal profession, scientists, social scientists, philosophers and educators.

If you believe you have the necessary experience and wish to contribute, see the Chapter Submission Form below, at the end of the Call for Chapters and send it to the Publisher. Please note it is only an abstract that is needed by the 18th September, unless you already have a chapter to submit. Dr Christina

CALL FOR CHAPTERS.

This collection on the Climate Crisis and Creation Care highlights core discussions and studies in the fields of climate change, economic and social sustainability, food security, ecological justice and creation care and where appropriate, the link between these fields and relevant theological discussion.

Chapters considered for the collection should encourage debate and discussion regarding the most pressing economic, health, legal, social and theological implications of the climate crisis. This collection seeks to collate a wealth of global discussion.

Working Title:

Climate Crisis & Creation Care: Eco-Economic Sustainability, Ecological Integrity and Justice

Major Themes:

Part One:    Historical Perspectives on the Climate Crisis

Part Two:    Corruption and Governance

Part Three: Creation Care: A Moral, Religious and Social Science Imperative

Part Four:   The Age of Anxiety: Are We Prepared?

Part Five:    ‘Your Will Be Done’: Sustainable Living in an Unstable World

Core concepts to be discussed are:

  • Historical reasons for the Climate Crisis
    • Theology and the treatment of animals and the natural environment.
    • Climate Change and Creation Care in Religious or Secular Education.
    • Care for the land – the importance of soil.
    • Sea life -The forgotten world.     
    • Physical and Mental Health Concerns relating to Climate Change.
  • Mass Migration and increasing Social Instability.
  • Justice for the natural world.
    • Animal Agriculture and its effects on climate change.
    • Food Security in an Unstable Environment
    • Examination of the animal testing model’s effects upon human health/ flourishing; animal suffering.
    • Planetary Boundaries Science
    • Eco-economics.
    • Corruption and Governance.   
    • Current policy criticisms and suggestions for change
    • Population control.
    • Green Energy options for local/rural communities.
    • How the current COVID-19 climate has influenced or been detrimental to the pro-sustainability movement.

This project is open to other interpretations and should you wish to propose an alternative theme please get in touch with the Editor cnellist@hotmail.com for consideration  

General Guidelines

  • Chapters will normally be 6000 words, with editorial discretion for longer/shorter proposals.
  • Chapters will be checked for suitability, language and grammar by our Desk Editors before being sent to a Guest Editor, and may be returned to the author for amendment and resubmission
  • Cambridge Scholars retains the right of rejection for any works inappropriate for publication.
  • Submissions should be made in the Publisher’s requested house style.
  • Chapter authors will be asked to sign a short publishing contract on provisional acceptance. Chapters should be free of rights restrictions. Authors should have the authority to submit the chapter for publication.
  • Royalties will not be paid to chapter authors

Provisional time-line:

Proposal (abstracts) submissions are expected by September 18th 2020.

Initial publisher reviews are expected to be completed by 27th November 2020. 

Should your proposal be provisionally accepted, submissions are expected within three months of notification of provisional acceptance, (end of Feb 2021)

We are however, happy to discuss suitable submission deadlines depending on individual circumstances.

Publisher Cambridge Scholars Publishing

………………

Cambridge Scholars Publishing:
Chapter submission form

Collection Title: Climate Crisis and Creation Care: Eco-Economic Sustainability, Ecological Integrity and Justice’

Editor Name: Dr. Christine Nellist

Chapter Title:

Chapter Description (of no more than 350 words):

Keywords (up to 6)

Is the chapter complete and ready to submit? YES / NO

If YES, please attach it in Word or similar, along with this completed form, to admin@cambridgescholars.com .

If NO, please note that there is a three month deadline from provisional acceptance.

Author Information: (if more than one author, please list the corresponding author)

Title (Dr, Professor, Mr, Ms, etc.)

First Name

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(for example, in a different language; as a journal article;
as a book chapter; in a previous edition)
.

Are there any permissions required from other copyright holders? Please note that any required permissions should be submitted alongside the chapter.

Have you proofread the work in line with the standards laid out in the Proofreading and Referencing Guide on our website?

Guidelines

  • Chapters will normally be no longer than 6000 words
  • Chapters will be checked for suitability, language and grammar by our Desk Editors before being sent to a Guest Editor, and may be returned to the author for amendment and resubmission
  • Chapter authors will be asked to sign a short publishing contract on provisional acceptance. Chapters should be free of rights restrictions. Authors should have the authority to submit the chapter for publication.
  • Royalties will not be paid to chapter authors

Please return this completed form, along with your chapter, to admin@cambridgescholars.com.

……………………………………………………….

HIS ALL HOLINESS PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW’S ENCYCLICAL FOR THE NEW ECCLESIASTICAL YEAR, 2020/1

Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston Prot. No.529

+ B A R T H O L O M E W BY GOD’S MERCY ARCHBISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE-NEW ROME AND ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH TO ALL THE PLENITUDE OF THE CHURCH GRACE, PEACE AND MERCY FROM THE MAKER OF ALL CREATION OUR LORD, GOD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST

Dearest brother Hierarchs and beloved children in the Lord,
            It is a shared conviction that, in our time, the natural environment is threatened like never before in the history of humankind. The magnitude of this threat becomes manifest in the fact that what is at stake is not anymore the quality, but the preservation of life on our planet. For the first time in history, man is capable of destroying the conditions of life on earth. Nuclear weapons are the symbol of man’s Promethean titanism, the tangible expression of the “complex of omnipotence” of the contemporary “man-god.”           

In using the power that stems from science and technology, what is revealed today is the ambivalence of man’s freedom. Science serves life; it contributes to progress, to confronting illnesses and many conditions that were hitherto considered “fateful”; it creates new positive perspectives for the future. However, at the same time, it provides man with all-powerful means, whose misuse can be turned destructive. We are experiencing the unfolding destruction of the natural environment, of biodiversity, of flora and fauna, of the pollution of aquatic resources and the atmosphere, the progressing collapse of climate balance, as well as other excesses of boundaries and measures in many dimensions of life. The Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church (Crete, 2016) rightly and splendidly decreed that “scientific knowledge does not mobilize the moral will of man, who knows the dangers but continues to act as if he did not know.” (Encyclical, § 11)           

It is apparent that the protection of the common good, of the integrity of the natural environment, is the common responsibility of all inhabitants of the earth. The contemporary categorical imperative for humankind is that we live without destroying the environment. However, while on a personal level and on the level of many communities, groups, movements and organizations, there is a demonstration of great sensitivity and ecological responsibility, nations and economic agents are unable – in the name of geopolitical ambitions and the “autonomy of the economy” – to adopt the correct decisions for the protection of creation and instead cultivate the illusion that the pretended “global ecological destruction” is an ideological fabrication of ecological movements and that the natural environment has the power of renewing itself. Yet the crucial question remains: How much longer will nature endure the fruitless discussions and consultations, as well as any further delay in assuming decisive actions for its protection?           

The fact that, during the period of the pandemic of the novel coronavirus Covid-19, with the mandatory restrictions of movement, the shutdown of factories, and the diminishment in industrial activity and production, we observed a reduction of pollution and encumbrance of the atmosphere, has proved the anthropogenic nature of the contemporary ecological crisis. It became once again clear that industry, the contemporary means of transportation, the automobile and the airplane, the non-negotiable priority of economic indicators and the like, negatively impact the environmental balance and that a change of direction toward an ecological economy constitutes an unwavering necessity.

There is no genuine progress that is founded on the destruction of the natural environment. It is inconceivable that we adopt economic decisions without also taking into account their ecological consequences. Economic development cannot remain a nightmare for ecology. We are certain that there is an alternative way of economic structure and development besides the economism and the orientation of economic activity toward the maximization of profiteering. The future of humanity is not the homo œconomicus.           

The Ecumenical Patriarchate, which in recent decades has pioneered in the field of the protection of the creation, will continue its ecological initiatives, the organization of ecological conferences, the mobilization of its faithful and especially the youth, the promotion of the environment’s protection as a fundamental subject for interreligious dialogue and the common initiatives of religions, the contacts with political leaders and institutions, the cooperation with environmental organizations and ecological movements. It is evident that the collaboration for the protection of the environment creates additional avenues of communication and possibilities for new common actions.           

We repeat that the environmental activities of the Ecumenical Patriarchate are an extension of its ecclesiological self-consciousness and do not comprise a simple circumstantial reaction to a new phenomenon. The very life of the Church is an applied ecology. The sacraments of the Church, its entire life of worship, its asceticism and communal life, the daily life of its faithful, express and generate the deepest respect for creation.

The ecological sensitivity of Orthodoxy was not created by but emerged from the contemporary environmental crisis. The struggle for the protection of creation is a central dimension of our faith. Respect for the environment is an act of doxology of God’s name, while the destruction of creation is an offense against the Creator, entirely irreconcilable with the basic tenets of Christian theology.


Most honorable brothers and dearly beloved children,
            The ecofriendly values of the Orthodox tradition, the precious legacy of the Fathers, constitute an embankment against the culture, whose axiological foundation is the domination of man over nature. Faith in Christ inspires and strengthens the human endeavor even before the immense challenges. From the perspective of faith, we are able to discover and assess not only the problematic dimensions, but also the positive possibilities and prospects of contemporary civilization.

We call upon Orthodox young men and women to realize the significance of living as faithful Christians and contemporary people. Faith in the eternal destiny of man strengthens our witness in the world.           

In this spirit, from the Phanar, we wish all of you a propitious and all-blessed new ecclesiastical year, fruitful in Christ-like deeds, for the benefit of all creation and to the glory of the all-wise Creator of all. And we invoke upon you, through the intercessions of the All-Holy Theotokos, the Pammakaristos, the grace and mercy of the God of wonders.
      

September 1, 2020                                                                                               

 +Bartholomew of Constantinople Fervent supplicant of all before God

On COVID-19 outbreaks predictions: Issues on stability, parameter sensitivity, and precision

This is a recently published collaborative article in Stochastic Analysis & Applications, Aug 2020, on the problems of calculating infection rates and outbreaks, etc, of Covid 19, by colleagues from Austria, Chile, Slovakia and  USA, namely:  M. Stehlik, J. Kiselak, M. Alejandro Dinamarca, Y. Li & Y. Ying.”

1. Introduction

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) produced by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), is a disease first identified in late 2019 and declared pandemic on March 11. COVID-19 is an international, national and public health emergency [12]. Nevertheless, other important contagious routes such as fecal-oral transmission, has been reported [3]. Fever, cough, sore throat, fatigue, and shortness of breath are characteristics symptoms of COVID-19, nevertheless, other such as, diarrhea, loss of smell and taste, and headache, associated with other organs and systems have been recently accepted. Symptoms may appear 2–14 days after exposure. According to [4], the experts extracted data regarding 1,099 patients with laboratory confirmed COVID-19 from 552 hospitals in 30 provinces. We can see that 1.18% of the infected people had direct contact with wild animals, 31.30% had been to Wuhan, and 71.80% had contact with people from Wuhan. The median incubation period for the virus is 3 days (range 0–24 days). In addition, studies have found that COVID-19 spreads rapidly from person to person.

Here we formulate selected statistical, mathematical, and real-life challenges of COVID-19 outbreak prediction. In particular we justify an exponential curve from microbiological point of view as a reasonable model for outbreak of COVID-19 epidemics. We need to point out that information criteria for estimation and prediction are not necessarily reaching their maximums/optimums on the same sampling schemes. Such ill posed information relationships can be formulated in the form of 1-st kind Fredholm equations. Under reasonable regularities and simplicity of the underling process, e.g., autoregressive statistical models, one can apply FIRCEP methodology [5] to obtain such relationships. Such kind of ill-posed information relationships can be formulated also from the perspective of information divergences, and ill-posedness can be translated to normal language as a not-avoidable imprecision of any model with respect to underlying parameter estimation/prediction.

The manuscript is organized as follows. In the following Section 2 we introduce some important information about ill-posed problems. We illustrate ill-posedness on sensitivity of parameter b in a simple exponential growth by using reported data from Iowa State, USA. From economical point of view, for the “restart of country” the correct prediction and estimation of exponential shape of COVID-19 curve plays an important role, this problem has been well visible in Chile. Chile’s economic model is neoliberal doctrine with an important role for the market. The pension system is managed by private operators, the economy is dependent on exports of raw materials such as copper, fishing and agriculture, and medium, small, and micro (family) enterprises. Thus facing the pandemic with strong quarantine measures (e.g., restricted mobility and limited public and private economic activities) is generally a complex problem. According to PAHO (Pan American Health Organization), since the pandemic came to Chile, today (July 1, 2020) there have been monitored 319.493 positive cases and 7.069 deaths. Chile has close to 18 millions of habitants. In this scenario the exponential slope of Chilean COVID-19 growth (positive accumulates cases) can be used as an analytic tool for the proper scaling of governmental policies. On the other hand, the behavior of the exponential growth of COVID-19 in Chile (positive cases) and in particular the slope or rate of contagion, can be used as one of indices of COVID-19 impact on the country’s economy. Since entering the exponential phase, the government has emitted actions and policies of economic aid to face the rise of unemployment to a historic 11.2% (Chilean Institute of Statistics INE) and the fall in the monthly index of economic activity (IMACEC) to −15,3 in May 2020 (Banco Central de Chile). IMACEC is predictive statistics of the per capita gross internal product (PIB) in Chile.

Above mentioned societal issues naturally justify the importance to study the stability and sensitivity of underlying dynamics of an individual outbreak models to the input data and estimated parameters. Also, we still have to analyze some special situations; for example, more samples can be detected daily in the later period, which will also cause the growth of number of infected cases. Moreover, the following observations shall be pointed out: each country is having a different COVID-19 approach and different modeling. Some of countries use discretization of SIR (Susceptible, Infectious, or Removed) model. But not each discretization will be convergent to the same solution of continuous SIR model. Moreover, several effects on equilibrium and stability of SIR has been found, see e.g., [6]. Data from COVID-19 outbreaks are briefly discussed in Section 3. Virological backgrounds for exponential shaped growth curves of COVID-19 outbreak are given in Section 4. In Section 5, we provide a parameter sensitivity study, both from theoretical and empirical perspective, for SIR model without vital dynamics. In the last Section 6, we give concluding remarks and overview of selected important issues for the proper modeling of COVID-19 outbreak.

2. A sensitivity of exponential model to the input/starting parameter

Ill posed problems and parameter estimation are difficult issues for COVID-19 growth models. The random perturbation of parameters can have serious effects on the quality of modeling. As said by Paul Krée in the Preface of [7]: “Random phenomena has increasing importance in Engineering and Physics, therefore theoretical results are strongly needed. But there is a gap between the probability theory used by mathematicians and practitioners. Two very different languages have been generated in this way…”

One can indeed observe several discrepancies between COVID-19 policy makers and modelers, possibly caused by the usage of different languages. In principle simple growth models (like the exponential one aebtaebt or SIR model) looks to be attractive for a straightforward implementation with ad-hoc disretization schemes and various estimation techniques. Thus sensitivity of these models to the principal parameters, e.g. b in case of exponential growth or β in the case of SIR may deceive its user. An independent observer may wonder why the same mistakes in the estimation of outbreaks has been repeated again and again in various countries by using the same models, even when time shift has allowed some possibilities to learn from the mistakes of others. On the other hand we did not want to simplify the whole situation and overemphasize the theory of calibration, estimation and regularization. But more caution is needed in these areas. In the next subsection, we introduce a distributed dynamical system from the stability perspective.

2.1. Distributed dynamical systems

Distributed parameter systems are everywhere. Because they are difficult to deal with, engineers generally avoid partial differential equations. They reason that lumped parameter models will generally suffice and in recent years, finite element analysis has provided a real verification of that idea and the tools to work with. However, there are still some benefits from thinking things in terms of continuum mechanics. The dynamical distributed systems can be very useful for so called inverse problems. Estimation of various flow and mass transport parameters can be seen as the inverse problem of groundwater modeling (see e.g., [8]).

The mathematical term well-posed problem stems from a definition given by Hadamard (see [9]). He believed that mathematical models of physical phenomena should have the properties that

  1. A solution exists
  2. The solution is unique
  3. The solution depends continuously on the data, in some reasonable topology.

Examples of archetypal well-posed problems include the Dirichlet problem for Laplace’s equation, and the heat equation with specified initial conditions. These might be regarded as “natural” problems in that there are physical processes that solve these problems. By contrast the backwards heat equation, deducing a previous distribution of temperature from final data is not well-posed in that the solution is highly sensitive to changes in the final data. Problems that are not well-posed in the sense of Hadamard are termed ill-posed. Inverse problems are often ill-posed. Such continuum problems must often be discretized in order to obtain a numerical solution. While in terms of functional analysis such problems are typically continuous, they may suffer from numerical instability when solved with finite precision, or from errors in the data. A measure of well-posedness of a discrete linear problem is the condition number. If a problem is well-posed, then it stands a good chance of solution on a computer using a stable algorithm. If it is not well-posed, it needs to be re-formulated for a numerical treatment. Typically this involves adding some additional assumptions, such as smoothness of the solution. Such a process is known as regularization.

To illustrate mathematical inverse problems, let us consider differentiation. We can construct a simple example with sequence fn,Δ(x)=f(x)+Δ sin (nxΔ),fn,Δ(x)=f(x)+Δ sin (nxΔ), where f and fn,Δfn,Δ are the exact and perturbed data. For an arbitrary small data error Δ,Δ, the error in the result can be arbitrary large: the derivative does not depend continuously on the data with respect to the uniform norm. Following [10] we have demonstrated some effects that are typical for ill-posed problems, i.e.,

  1. amplification of high frequency errors;
  2. restoration of stability by using a-priory information;
  3. two error terms of different nature, one for the approximation; error, the other one for the propagation of the data error, adding up to a total error;
  4. loss of information even under optimal circumstances;
  5. the appearance of an optimal discretization parameter, whose choice depends on a-priori information.

2.2. Parameter stability and sensitivity

Modeling of evolution of infectious disease is important since it can helps to predict the future course of an outbreak and to evaluate strategies to control an epidemic. Naturally, models are only as good as the assumptions on which they are based. We believe that parametric modeling is the most common form of modeling used (represented often by a distributed dynamical system). While it is rather straightforward to test the appropriateness of parameters, it can be more difficult to test the validity of the general mathematical form of a model. What is worse, even in the positive case, the sensitivity of the solution to parameter changes (initial conditions included) must be taken into account. In general, it doesn’t really matter if it is deterministic or stochastic, continuous or a discrete model. Similar considerations hold essentially to all of them.

Let X be a smooth manifold. The mapping ϕ:X×R→Xϕ:X×R→X (ϕ:X×Z→Xϕ:X×Z→X) is called the continuous (discrete) Ck-dynamical system on X if

  1. ϕ(x,0)=xϕ(x,0)=x for all x∈X;x∈X;
  2. mapping ϕt:X→X, ϕt(x)=ϕ(x,t)ϕt:X→X, ϕt(x)=ϕ(x,t) is the Ck -diffeomorphisms for all t∈R (Z);t∈R (Z);
  3. ϕt+s=ϕt°ϕsϕt+s=ϕt°ϕs for all t,s∈R (Z).t,s∈R (Z).

ϕ is often called the evolution function of the dynamical system and X a phase (state) space. Most common construction of dynamical systems is given by initial value problems of ordinary differential equations (or difference equations for discrete case). We illustrate it in the next on typical (evolving in time t) parametrized ODE systemẋ =f(x,θ,t),ẋ=f(x,θ,t),(1)where x∈Rnx∈Rn is the state vector, θ∈Rpθ∈Rp is the vector of parameters and f:Rn+p+1→Rnf:Rn+p+1→Rn represents the dynamics. Naturally, initial state is represented by the initial condition 1x(t0)=x0.x(t0)=x0.(2)

Here indisputable fact is that this condition may depend on the parameters, i.e., x0=x0(θ).x0=x0(θ). The above representation subsumes the case where the initial condition may itself be seen as a parameter. We assume here that all dependencies are smooth enough to do analysis. Notice that the solution of (2) is parametrized evolution function x(x0,t0;θ;t)=:ϕt(x0;θ),x(x0,t0;θ;t)=:ϕt(x0;θ), i.e., a parametrized dynamical system. Notice that in some literature a dynamical system is triple (T,X,ϕ),T(T,X,ϕ),T is a monoid (usually RR or ZZ).

2.2.1. Stability

Here we assume that x0x0 does not depend on θθ (however it might depend on other parameter ββ). Solution x(t;θ,t0,x0)x(t;θ,t0,x0) of given model is stable 2 if for every (small) ϵ>0,ϵ>0, there exists a δ>0δ>0 such that having initial conditions within distance δ i.e., ||x0−x1||<δ||x0−x1||<δ remains within distance ϵϵ i.e., ||x(t;θ,t0,x0)−x(t;θ,t0,x1)||<ϵ||x(t;θ,t0,x0)−x(t;θ,t0,x1)||<ϵ for all t≥t0.t≥t0. Notice that δ can depend only on ϵ.ϵ. That means a resistance to change in time (the trajectories do not change too much under small perturbations). The opposite situation means instability. Typical example of instable system is an exponential growth, which is a natural model of COVID-19 outbreak. Thus the main purpose of developing stability theory is to examine dynamic responses of a system to disturbances as the time approaches infinity. But in practical situations this is not the goal. The predictions we are interested in COVID-19 outbreak models, are short-term predictions, e.g., 2-weeks. These short-term predictions motivate the next notion, sensitivity. Here natural question arises, how the instability relates to sensitivity.

2.2.2. Sensitivity

Sensitivity analysis [11] is used to determine how the parameters of a model influence its outputs, i.e., to study of how the uncertainty in the output can depend on different sources of uncertainty in its inputs. If the observables are highly sensitive to perturbations in certain parameters then these parameters are likely to be identifiable. There is sometimes hard to answer the question how the magnitude of the sensitivities can be interpreted. What is also important to mention is that in linear case a nonzero right hand side (nonhomogeneous system) might influence sensitivity in contrast to stability. Due to smoothness in sensitivity analysis methods we use so called n × p matrix of sensitivity functionsS=∇θx,S=∇θx,(3)which can be understood as a local sensitivity measure. I.e., Sij is related to sensitivity of xi to parameter θj . It can be shown by the chain rule that it satisfies the following ODE matrix systemṠ =(∇xf) S+∇θfṠ=(∇xf) S+∇θf(4)with initial condition S(t0)=∇θx0(θ).S(t0)=∇θx0(θ). It is very helpful especially when the explicit form of solution is not known. I.e., we do need to solve dynamical system to study its sensitivity. S can also be used to study the evolution of the state covariance matrix of the joint vector of the state and the parameters under the assumption of multivariate Normal distribution and a first-order discretization of Equation (4).

It is often better to explain arising differences as a percentage. Here the elasticity can be used. For simplicity now assume f:R→R.f:R→R. The ratio of the relative (percentage) change in the function’s output with respect to the relative change in its input is called elasticity and when considering a smooth function f of a variable at point a it is defined asEf(a)=af(a)f'(a)=d ln f(a)d ln alimx→a1−f(x)f(a)1−xa≈%Δf(a)%Δa.Ef(a)=af(a)f′(a)=d ln f(a)d ln alimx→a1−f(x)f(a)1−xa≈%Δf(a)%Δa.

Clearly, the elasticity 3 can also be defined if the input and/or output is consistently negative (away from zero). The elasticity of a function f is a constant α if and only if the function has the form f(x)=Cxα,f(x)=Cxα, i.e., a power functions. There exist also generalizations to multi-input-multi-output cases in the literature. We also use notation EcfEcf for the elasticity of function f w.r.t to parameter c.

2.3 A Malthusian growth model (a simple exponential growth model)

This model is the unique solution of (1) with (2) in the formẋ =b x,ẋ=b x,(5)x(t0)=a,x(t0)=a,(6)

i.e., n=1, p=2,n=1, p=2, and θ=(a,b)T.θ=(a,b)T. We admit here only b > 0 and a > 0.Remark 2.1.

Of course in this case one can obtain all forthcoming information directly from explicit form of the solutionx(t)=a eb (t−t0)x(t)=a eb (t−t0)(7)since it is known.

From the stability point of view it is clear that here we deal with instability. This follows directly from the fact that derivative is positive. But we are more interested in sensitivity. This is because for COVID-19 outbreak estimation and prediction we have to know how the evolution behaves e.g., in two weeks, not in a long-term periods like twelve months. Sensitivity system of Equation (3) has the formṠ 1=b S1,Ṡ 2=b S2+x,Ṡ1=b S1,Ṡ2=b S2+x,(8)with S1(t0)=∂x∂a(t0)=1S1(t0)=∂x∂a(t0)=1 and S2(t0)=∂x∂b(t0)=0S2(t0)=∂x∂b(t0)=0 following from (6).

We do not need to solve system (8) either. Clearly one can find first integral as followsdxx=dS1S1,dxx=dS1S1,which is equivalent to S1=k x.S1=k x. Moreover, after appropriate multiplication and addition of equations we get Ṡ 2x−S2ẋ =x2,Ṡ2x−S2ẋ=x2, which yieldsddt(S2x)=1.ddt(S2x)=1.

Thus using initial states we have S1=xaS1=xa and S2=x(t−t0).S2=x(t−t0). Now we want to express the change in the output quantity as a percentage of the nominal value of parameters. Often we can computeEax=ax ∂x∂a=a S1x,   Ebx=bx ∂x∂b=b S2xEax=ax ∂x∂a=a S1x,   Ebx=bx ∂x∂b=b S2xeven if we do not know explicit form of a solution. Indeed, thanks to result above we have Eax=1Eax=1 and Ebx=b(t−t0).Ebx=b(t−t0). From percentage sensitivity functions we can conclude

  1. When parameter a is changed by 1%, the state change is also permanently 1%.
  2. When parameter b is changed by p%, the percentage change of state x increases with time linearly. The change in status is linear function of its nominal value, i.e., p100b(t−t0)%.p100b(t−t0)%.

For the better illustration see also Figures 1–4. To perform sensitivity analyses on the population sizes with respect to the uncertain parameters one can use a full factorial design. One can read a lot from graphical representation of sensitivity indices. In the lower subplot of Figure 5, the sensitivity indices (from package multisensi with design.args = list(b = c(0.08,0.12,0.16),a = c(82,122,162))) for the main effects and the first-order interactions at time t are given. Their lengths are normalized and differentiated by colors along the vertical bar. One would might to deduce that at first week the population size is sensitive to the main effect of a. However, the upper subplot illustrates how output quantiles (the extreme (tirets), inter-quartile (grey) and median (bold line) output values at all time steps) vary along the time steps. Thus, we can avoid over-interpretation of the sensitivity indices since the variability between simulations is low at these times.

Figure 1. A difference in parameter implies more than a double difference in output.

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Figure 2. A graphical justification of parameter sensitivity from Figure 1 by the means of elasticity.

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Figure 3. Equality of proportional change of parameter and data output.

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Figure 4. A graphical justification of parameter sensitivity from Figure 3 by the means of constant elasticity.

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Figure 5. Graphical representation of the sensitivity indices generated by the package multisensi.

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Here we comment on the recent number of COVID-19 infected in Iowa State, USA and we also compare such a real data to the models predicting the number of infections in Hubei Province in China and New York State, USA. By the visual check (see Figure 6) we adopt an exponential distribution model as a suitable fit for the initial prediction of the number of infected people during the outbreak. Microbiological justification of such model is given in Section 4. The number of people who touched the previous day is used as the starting point and it is calculated according to the exponential model. Several important questions related to challenges of outbreak modeling arisen, namely: What impact does the use of different starting points have? How does the growth rate change in short periods? Are the choices of starting point influential for the growth rate? As follows we will illustrate numerical instability of estimation of starting value bstart, naturally, further implementation of exponential nonlinear model x(t)=aebtx(t)=aebt will be effected by different bstart parameters.

Figure 6. Exponential fitting.

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In the next Figures 7–9, we plotted variability of parameters for the Iowa data. In Figure 7 we plotted the variability of bstart in the outbreak period in which cumulatively 300 people were infected. Here we used the previous date as date zero (starting date), thus astart serves as the starting point. At Figure 8a, we plot bstart prediction for the nearest 4 weeks, at Figure 8b, we calculated bstart for the nearest half-month and at Figure 8c, we calculated bstart for the nearest month. The graph on Figure 6 shows that the increase of infected people in Iowa approximately follow the exponential distribution. But if we count different period of time, will the growth rate change a lot? Can we use that to predict a future data? And why the changes happen? On Figure 9 we depict behavior of bstart parameter for a longer period from April 25th until May 23rd.

Figure 7. Fluctuation of bstart.

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Figure 8. Fluctuation of bstart.

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Figure 9. Behavior of bstart parameter based on Iowa data from April 25th until May 23rd 2020.

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We can conclude from the Figures 7–9 that the growth rate fluctuated a lot even during a relatively short period of time during COVID-19 outbreak in Iowa. But why this happens? We may thing about some main reasons: the changes of test approach, increase of tested cases, delays of getting test results, social distance policies, among others. Moreover, sensitivity of the parameters of the model and its ill-posedeness played a fundamental role.

We used the different growth rates from closed 2 weeks to predict for follow-up 2 weeks: Due to that, we can see the choice of growth rate causes the huge differences between individual predictions, the error between two rates is also increasing exponentially, see Figure 10. Summing up, it causes more than 10,000 difference only in 2 weeks, see Figure 11. These graphical exercises illustrate the importance of parameter sensitivity phenomenon in the COVID-19 outbreak models.

Figure 10. Fluctuation of bstart.

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Figure 11. Prediction for future 2 weeks.

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3. On COVID-19 outbreaks

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington School of Medicine Study also made predictions of COVID-19 in Iowa. The study conducted before the end of March 2020 said the most recent estimate predicts 349 deaths by August 4 with a peak on May 4. Nationwide the study predicts that 74,073 people will die by August 4, which is higher than the study’s previous estimate of 67,641, because longer epidemic peaks in some states and that deaths were not falling as quickly as anticipated.

We sampled (at the end of March) the populations and the number of confirmed cases and deaths in some counties in Iowa. We found that Polk county was the top one in both population and confirmed cases. But Black Hawk and Woodbury, with populations nearly four times smaller than Polk’s, are in the top three with more than 1,000 confirmed cases. We looked for the median age of several counties (Polk: 35.8; Black Hawk: 34.9; Woodbury: 35.6; Linn: 37.4; Marshall: 38.5; Dallas: 35.1; Johnson: 29.9). So we can conjecture that the number of confirmed cases in each county depends on age. Mortality Rate in Iowa State have been by then 2.1%.

Then we chosen the five counties with the highest number of confirmed cases. We found that adult and middle age groups have the highest rates of infection. In contrast, children and elderly have lower rates of confirmed cases. However, the death rate of elderly was significantly higher than that of other age groups. So, we can conjecture that older people, although they may not be confirmed of large amount like adult group due to the less activities and smaller population, they are also more likely to die from a variety of diseases and weakened immune systems. In fact, older adults and people who have severe underlying chronic medical conditions like heart or lung disease, or diabetes seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness. All these factors can be good candidates for covariates of the outbreak models (Tables 1 and 2).

Table 1. Age groups with confirmed cases.

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Table 2. Age groups with deaths.

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3.1. Chile: Heterogeneity rules the country

Chile is a geographical and demographical heterogenous country, practically each region is having a different COVID-19 incidence curve, domination is given by Santiago (the most populated, 5.614 million habitants) and Valparaiso. There is a delay in data, namely 3–4 days, because of medical system. Quality of administrative data should be further analyzed. A common aspect is a possible correlation between population densities and incidence values. However, it can be seen that there are gaps in the entry into the increase phase of positive cases. According to the Chilean heath authorities the averages of positives for COVID-19 is 8.384 (with a DESVEST of 25,869 (Ministerio de Salud web page, June 7, 2020). The variation can be explained by demographical and geographical aspect in a first instance, nevertheless other factors such as ecology and undiscovered contagious routes can be also considered.

Chilean COVID-19 policies include promoting social distancing and the obligation to use personal protection elements in public areas. Quarantine-bound confinement is implemented gradually and slowly in large cities such as Santiago, considering the incidence and hospital capacity.

With the COVID-19 outbreak we can see that lots of infected cases online are growing almost exponentially. The reason why we use exponential growth to model coronavirus outbreaks is that, based on previous epidemics, the first phase of a pandemic follows exponential growth. Further justifications from the virological perspective are given in the next section 4. The exponential growth function is not necessarily the perfect representation of the COVID-19 growth, however, at the beginning of the covid outbreak it looks to be a reasonable surrogate.

4. Virological backgrounds for exponential shaped growth curves for COVID-19 outbreak

Before we start with microbiological backgrounds, we will illustrate in the following Example 4.1 the exponential growth function.Example 4.1.

Exponential growth function on NY and Hubei data

Graphs on Figure 12 plot the cumulative data of number of infected people and death for Hubei and New York state, and we can see the exponential growth of infected people at the initial stage of outbreak. This motivates an exponential model x(t)=aebt,x(t)=aebt, where x refers to the number of infected people, a > 0 is the starting point, b≥0b≥0 is a growth rate and time (days) t≥t0t≥t0 (here we set t0=0t0=0).

Figure 12. Number of infected and deceased people for Hubei (top) and NY (bottom).

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In this section we provide microbiological and virological reasons for the exponential growth function. At least three levels of virus spread must be considered in predictive models; cellular level (replicative mechanism), individuals level (organs, anatomy, age, live cycle), and community level (demography, economy, ecosystems).

  • Replication of SARS-COV-2 at the cellular level. SARS-COV-2 is an enveloped virus containing a single-stranded positive-sense RNA genome. Once the virus binds and enters to the target cell, a complex life cycle mechanism begins using directly the RNAss producing genomic a sub-genomic RNAs. At the same time, a complex mechanism to assemble and releases virions is activated. This process finally destroys the infected cell and spread millions of mature virions.
  • SARS-COV-2 spreading at the individuals level. Once the virus infects a person, SARS-COV-2 attack an important diversity of cell types affecting different tissues and organs present in the respiratory system, nervous system, digestive system and renal system. This happens because SARS-COV-2 targets tissues whose cells are expressing the widely present Human angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). For this reason, the limited original symptoms were extended to a variety of symptoms ranging from headaches, sore throats, respiratory difficulties, loss of senses (smell and taste), and diarrhea. In this scenario, considering only the original symptoms for medical care or for circulation restriction measures dismisses potential virus disseminators and therefore does not limit the route of transmission. Likewise, since recently has been described that SARS-COV-2 is present in human feces and also has been detected in untreated urban wastewater samples, implies a potential second route of dissemination. The dissemination route currently recognized by the WHO is through the respiratory tract, however, food contaminated by feces (fecal-oral route) and contact with human secretions, among others, should not be ruled out a priori. It is important to consider and understand the rapid and wide spread of COVID-19 pathology in the global population.

4.1. Considerations and assumptions for predictive models of the evolution of COVID-19 in a population

4.1.1. The SARS-COV-2 contagion curves reflect microbial growth under controlled conditions

At the population level the tendencies of dissemination of SARS-COV-2 in each country (measured by the number of daily infected) follow the same trend of a classic microbial growth under controlled conditions. Thus we can consider three phases: a first phase is latency, a second phase is exponential growth, and finally a stabilization phase.

  • Latency phase It would correspond to the moment when SARS-COV-2 would cross the species barrier and reach man from its natural animal reservoir. From our point of view this event is neither necessarily unique and happening in a single city, nor it could be assumed that SARS-COV-2 has been in the human population since December 2019 to date. The first contact may have been much earlier and not necessarily associated with a single person exposed for the first time to a contaminated animal. The initially proposed scenario can generate inconsistency for any model that is currently used. That is, the so-called patient 0 and the trips to and from China do not necessarily help to explain the spread of the pandemic. Hence, understanding and studying the extent of the virus latency phase is very important, given that it was the time when the virus could have evolved through mutations, thus making humans a new host or reservoir suitable for the replication.
  • Exponential phase. The contagion trends, of positive SARS CoV 2 to rtPCR assay, in each country or city, reflect this phase of microbial growth in optimal conditions. In fact, it is possible to determine a slope, a growth rate and finally establish the maximum rate or rate of infection. For adequate predictive models, in this phase, it is essential to consider asymptomatic infected people or with mild symptoms as vectors of infection. Likewise, it is important to consider that the routes of contagion must be expanded and not necessarily limited to direct contact. For example, faecal-oral contamination should be considered as occurs with foodborne illness. This is very important considering that the virus has been reported to be present in human feces from symptomatic and asymptomatic patients. In fact, the presence of SARS-COV-2 has also been detected in urban wastewater.
  • Stationary phase. The objective of predictive models is to establish the time of COVID-19 arrival. Beside that proper protective policies can be created based on individuals behavior and governmental actions.

Taking into consideration that the exponential phase indicates the active presence and spread of SARS-COV-2 circulating in a city, region, or country, it is essential to develop models that can help to predict and/or reduce the impact on health systems and local economies. At the same time that they allow verifying the effectiveness of the implemented sanitary measures. A model based on the comparison of growth rates and their duration in a city or country, should take as reference the growth of a virus in its optimal conditions. For this, some analogies and assumptions must be taken into account. In the bacterial exponential growth model, each bacterium has unlimited nutritional resources, favorable environmental conditions and an adequate metabolism that permit the maximal rate of genome replication and cells division. In spite that viruses do not have metabolisms, like bacteria require replicates its genomes in an adequate environment (human cells and community). In this context, the following assumptions can be made:

  • Assumption 1: The current pandemic curves in each country reflect replication of microorganisms in an ecosystem with favorable conditions. When a microorganism such as bacteria find ideal conditions for their development, that is, they are adapted to the environment, they begin an exponential growth based on the duplication of each generation. The doubling time is the time it takes for a generation to double, and this stage of growth is exponential and the slope of the curve at this stage represents the rate of growth. In turn, during the exponential phase, the microorganism will reach what is called the maximum growth rate (μmax ) and that is the one in which the doubling occurs in the shortest time during the exponential phase.
  • Assumption 2: For SARS-COV-2 to be able to spread in a population, it is required that the individuals provide a metabolic, enzymatic and genetic machinery to produce infectious SARS-COV-2 particles. For this to be effective, individuals must have favorable conditions for viral replication and that involve: age, physiological status, immune status. These conditions should not represent barriers for SARS-COV-2 to replicate. For example, a healthy individual with an active immune system should not be considered as a contagion vector or, “as an adequate substrate for the success in the spread of SARS-COV-2.”
  • Assumption 3: The spread implies the interaction between SARS-COV-2 and people, being all the possible routes of contagion and that include, direct contact, fecal-oral contamination by contaminated food, spread in indoor closed spaces (similar to disease outbreaks). In practice, a person can be infected by at least three routes.

Consideration of a Monod-based model (see also [ 12 ]). In this sense, and taking into account what Monod proposed in 1947, it is possible to establish the following model proposal.

  • Evaluate the kinetics of the exponential phase at the country and city level.
  • Develop a statistical methodology to establish whether or not there is a correlation with the population size/density in the country.
  • Consider the concept of human vectors to the susceptible population.
  • Establish a risk factor to measure, at the city level, the number of people susceptible to becoming ill (symptomatic potentials: diabetics, hypertensive patients, age, pharmacological treatment, immunocompromised, etc.) and the total population of the city.

5. The SIR model without vital dynamics

The SIR model is one of the oldest and simplest of models of an infectious disease in a population that breaks the population into three groups. Birth and death are often omitted in simple compartmental models since the dynamics of an epidemic, for example, the flu, are often much faster. The SIR system can be expressed by the following set of ordinary differential equationsdSdt=−βIS,dIdt=βIS−γI,dRdt=γI,dSdt=−βIS,dIdt=βIS−γI,dRdt=γI,where S is the proportion of susceptible population, I is the proportion of infected, R is the proportion of removed population (either by death or recovery). Notice that there is not known an explicit form of the solution. However the fact that S(t)+I(t)+R(t)=1S(t)+I(t)+R(t)=1 implies that one need only study the equation for two of the three variables.Remark 5.1.

(EXPONENTIAL OUTBREAK). Notice that at the beginning S≈1S≈1 yields I’=(β−γ)I=bI.I′=(β−γ)I=bI. Thus at the beginning we are basically estimating exponential growth. This can allow us to determine starting condition for parameters discussed in Section 2.3.

We note that the dynamics of the infectious class depends on so-called basic reproduction number r0=βγ.r0=βγ. It can be thought of as the expected number of cases directly generated by one case in a population where all individuals are susceptible to infection. It is not a biological constant for a pathogen as it is also affected by other factors such as environmental conditions and the behavior of the infected population. Thus it does not by itself give an estimate of how fast an infection spreads in the population. The most important uses of r 0 are determining if an emerging infectious disease can spread in a population.

We have used packages deSolve and FME to solve a system of differential equations and to perform a sensitivity analysis. Typical behavior of S and I is plotted on Figure 13(a). The choice of parameters is β=1.4β=1.4 and γ=0.2.γ=0.2. On Figure 13(b) one can see a global sensitivity analysis of parameters varied over a range β∈[1.2,1.6]β∈[1.2,1.6] and γ∈[0.1,0.3].γ∈[0.1,0.3]. The effect on model output variables is measured by defining a distribution for each sensitivity parameter and the model is run multiple times. Then envelopes are added to the variables showing the range and mean ± standard deviation. In a local sensitivity analysis, the effect of a parameter value in a very small region near its nominal value is estimated. It is good for example, to see which model parameters are more sensitive than the others. From Figure 14 we can deduce that β have the largest values for the sensitivity function, on average, suggesting that this model is most sensitive to this parameter. This is not so surprising. Furthermore, this sensitivity shows peaks on both parameters. This tells us the information about sensitivity of specific times. Finally on Figure 15 we can see how the 1% and 10% increase of β increase the proportion of infected individuals in specific times. Evidently it is not linear.

Figure 13. Behavior of S and I and global sensitivity analysis of parameters.

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Figure 14. Analysis of local sensitivity of parameters.

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Figure 15. Increase of the proportion of infected individuals.

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Now, imagine that we have reliable estimation of parameters β and γ. The question is if the forecast fitting is also qualitatively good. Thus one need a method to compare a goodness-of-fit. We have used an accuracy measure based on percentage (or relative) errors defined as follows:SMAPE/2=100%n∑t=1n|Ft−At||At|+|Ft|SMAPE/2=100%n∑t=1n|Ft−At||At|+|Ft|(9)

It is the half of symmetric mean absolute percentage error. Actually it is defined as the average of the difference of actual value At and the forecast value Ft weighted by their absolute values. The value of (9) is within range of 0% and 100% and thus it is easy to be interpreted. We illustrate this on SIR model fitting for 6 countries. See Figure 16, where on (a) we have used observation of 14 days for fitting (parameters estimation). Clearly in some cases (Iowa, Hubei, Chile) SIR fits quite well since SMAPE/2∈(7%,9%)./2∈(7%,9%). Nevertheless for NY, Slovakia it is worse and SMAPE/2∈(14%,29%)./2∈(14%,29%). However much more important is how the fitting will evolve in the near future. On Figure 16(b) we see the results. Evidently the prediction is not good even for the one week, since there is an increase to SMAPE/2∈(19%,25%)/2∈(19%,25%) and SMAPE/2∈(26%,38%),/2∈(26%,38%), respectively. Thus, SIR model is insensitive even within a short time periods.

Figure 16. COVID-19 fitted (red) vs. observed (black) incidence.

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6. Conclusions and discussion

The number of infected people is an integer valued mapping R→N.R→N. This is typical for modeling a phenomenon evolving in continuous time when the state variable can only take integer values. On the other hand, although we model time as continuum, in practice the measurement of time is always discrete. In particular in the medical sciences, economics etc. time is usually measured, for example, in minutes, days, months or years. One can use positive integers to denote a time. Even if we have short time differences it leads typically to discretization of the continuous model. But what is the effect of discretization (considered as mathematical modeling methodology) on the dynamical behavior of the outbreak model? Can the output change dramatically? What about stability or sensitivity? What about convergence of discretized solution to a continuous one?

One can have a closer look on the switch between discrete and continuous time for the model. From perspective of the fundamentals of dynamical systems see e.g., [13]. Since every continuous dynamical system defines the discrete dynamical system (indeed ϕ:X×Rϕ:X×R defines ϕ˜=ϕ∣∣X×Zϕ˜=ϕ|X×Z), a natural question arises, whether something similar holds in the backward direction. According to the following theorem by Palis (see [13], page 70) we know that there are only a few diffeomorphisms, which can be embedded into a continuous C 0-dynamical system. In a topological space (X,S)(X,S) a set A⊂XA⊂X is everywhere-dense if it is dense in X, i.e., A¯¯¯=X.A¯=X. Moreover we say that it is massive in X, if it contains a set that can be expressed as a countable intersection of open everywhere-dense sets. Notice that every complete metric space is a Baire space, i.e., every its massive subset is an everywhere-dense set.Theorem 6.1.

(J. Palis [13], page 70). Let X be a smooth manifold. There exist a massive subset G of the set of diffeomorphisms from X onto X such that if f∈Gf∈G then f cannot be embedded into a C0-dynamical system.

We can deduce from the previous theorem that the class of discrete dynamical systems is “broader” with respect to the structure of their trajectories than the class of continuous dynamical systems.

In [6] authors present four discrete epidemic models with the nonlinear incidence rate using the forward Euler and backward Euler methods. They discuss the effect of two discretizations on the stability of the endemic equilibrium for these models. The sufficient conditions for the stability of the endemic equilibria is established and they emphasize that it can lose stability and the Hopf bifurcation and chaos occur which is not present in the continuous models.

Summarizing, we point out some selected but important aspects for modeling of COVID-19 outbreaks as follows.

  • Quality of the data. Do we have perfect data for modeling? E.g., number of infected people usually comes from a controlled testing and not from the random sample.
  • Spatiotemporal parameter dependence. Parameters (e.g., β,γβ,γ) might often depend on time or space variables.
  • Real dimension of parametric space. These parameters can even depend on other factors, conditions or covariates (sex, age, social….), which makes modeling multidimensional. Clearly too few number of parameters can be insufficient, but over-parametrization is also unacceptable.
  • Delayed systems. Real processes often include aftereffect phenomena in their inner dynamics. Here come time-delay systems on the scene. In the worst case scenarios (time-varying delays, for instance), a lot of caution is needed. Ad-hoc fitting of the models may be potentially disastrous in terms of stability and oscillations.
  • Parameter identifiability. There is a question whether the parameters of a model can be identified (uniquely or with several solutions) from a specified input-output experiment if perfect data are available. E.g., for linear, time-invariant models, there are several approaches available for this aspect of identifiability analysis. In general identifiability is a property which must be satisfied in order the model can guarantee a precise inference. Usually the model is identifiable only under certain technical restrictions.
  • Discretization of model (see also the time scale calculus).
  • Non-uniqueness of the solution of the model and prediction. Bifurcations.
  • Misinterpretation of the results. E.g., the difference between cumulative and active variable of a dynamical system (active infected individuals vs. cumulative number of infected individuals)
  • Intrinsic and latent heterogeneity. In a specific country one can define several social groups which can contribute in a heterogeneous way to whole country epidemiological curves.

Acknowledgments

Authors acknowledge the Slovak Research and Development Agency under the contract no. APVV-17-0568. We acknowledge the professional support of Editor-in-Chief, the unknown Associate Editor and Referees for their constructive comments. The authors are grateful to the bilateral projects Bulgaria – Austria, 2016–2019, ‘Feasible statistical modeling for extremes in ecology and finance’, BNSF, Contract number 01/8, 23/08/2017 and WTZ Project No. BG 09/2017, https://pavlinakj.wordpress.com/.

Notes

1 There can be other types of conditions e.g., several types of boundary conditions, etc.

2 This is stability in the sense of Lyapunov. There exist also notions of other types of stability.

3 Notice, that thanks to logarithm the rules for finding the elasticity of products and quotients are simpler than those for derivatives but sum and subtraction rule does not hold.

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CRUELTY FOR HUMAN ENTERTAINMENT

We have been contacted today by the CEO of the Save the Asian Elephant animal protection group www.stae.org. They have asked us to comment on the below question, which is part of their latest action – the presentation to the UK government of a draft Parliamentary Bill.

Q: Highly endangered baby and calf Asian elephants are routinely snatched from the wild, isolated, starved and tortured for weeks by stabbing and ripping, beatings with planks and iron rods to “break their spirits” for easy use in tourist “entertainment” – rides, tricks, selfies – reinforced by constant, often fatal beatings throughout their life. Hundreds of tour companies in UK profit from driving up demand for such venues.  A petition (http://bit.ly/STAEpetition) demanding new UK law to ban such adverts and sales, and to allow ads for genuine sanctuaries only, has 1 million signatures of support. Should the UK Govt now act to introduce such law?  

I learnt of this ‘training’ process some thirty years ago and yet this evil, like so many other forms of evil perpetrated upon His creation, continues unabated.

Here is our response:

” The Pan Orthodox Concern for Animals Charity and the Eastern Orthodox Church denounces all forms of cruelty to the animal creation. Our Patriarchs are clear – cruelty to the animal creation is a sin with consequences for human salvation. We urge the UK government to continue its historical mandate to lead the way in Animal Protection Law by adopting the STAE’s proposed Parliamentary Bill, in order to reduce and prevent extreme cruelty to Asian Elephants. ”

For those of you who do not know of the brutal treatment involved in ‘taming’ elephants for human entertainment, or indeed as part of the process of using them as working animals, here are three photos that depict the process:

Baby before treatment
Part of the spirit breaking ‘taming’ process
For those who survive the ‘taming’ – chained and submissive through fear.

Please sign the petition and share: http://bit.ly/STAEpetition

Dr Christina Nellist. B.Ed; Ph.D, FOCAE. Editor of Pan Orthodox Concern For Animals.

Christina Nellist’s ‘Eastern Orthodox Christianity And Animal Suffering:Ancient Voices in Modern Theology’ Reviewed By Nikolaos Asproulis

Due to its strong liturgical, or rather meta-historical vision, the Orthodox Church often expresses an ambiguity towards its engagement with historical and social affairs, focusing instead on the transfiguration of the present aeon through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. That being said, one should not fail to point also to those few voices, either of clergy or lay people, who dare, following the example of the great Church Fathers of the past, to dialogue with the challenges posed by (post)modernity—not by rejecting the patristic character and liturgical/Eucharistic nature of the Church, but by robustly elaborating a theology of life and practice relevant for the needs of the world today.

In this light Christina Nellist’s study of Eastern Orthodoxy and animal suffering cannot but be received as a welcome surprise. It is the first scholarly book on this topic from an Orthodox point of view, although clearly influenced by the increasing concern in the broader world regarding ecological issues. Indeed, while this topic has been long debated in secular and other Christian contexts, the Orthodox now face the difficulty of responding to this challenge. In the introduction, the author presents her overarching hypothesis that Eastern Orthodoxy has the means, resources, and sufficient teachings to articulate a clear vision on the topic, something that she develops in detail in the subsequent chapters.

Christina Nellist’s Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Animal Suffering, reviewed by Nikolaos Asproulis
ISBN: 978-1527541269
Published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing on January 1, 2020
Language: English
Pages: 436

From the very beginning, the author’s basic concern is to highlight the soteriological consequences for those who abuse animals in any way. Nellist strongly criticizes aspects of the Orthodox tradition that do not take seriously into account the suffering of animals, pointing to a “gap,” “lack of clarity,” or “ambiguity” between theory (debate about the care of the environment) and practice (addressing animal suffering). For example, in chapter 1 and particularly chapter 5, she illustrates this “gap” with a field research study in Cyprus, in order to substantiate her argument for the indifference of the majority of the Orthodox toward animal suffering. The results of this research are quite striking—for one thing, that among the Orthodox the matter of whether animals have souls is still an open question! In contrast to this modern mentality, the tradition of the Church provides considerable material for establishing a comprehensive theology of compassion for animals. According to this tradition, put forth in details in chapters 2–4, there is a clear vision of a God who created the world and everything in it through love. By no means could such a loving God create any creature in order for it to suffer. Thus, “something is seriously wrong in the way the animals are used” (315). Here Nellist challenges the still current and sometimes one-sided radical anthropocentric view of creation which has led to all these catastrophic results.

In chapter 3, the author provides a Christological account of animal suffering based on patristic resources to argue that everything in creation, including animals, will be recapitulated in Christ in the eschaton. This understanding points to the sacred character of creation in its entirety, in other words to the latent but clear “ontological connection” between all creatures, often forgotten in our (ab-)use of animals (not to mention human beings as well).

It is uncontested that the goal of Christian life is deification, theosis, in other words our adoption by God the Father in Christ through the Spirit. It is clear then that theosis is a gift from God. At the same time, however, theosis is a result of the human podvig (ascetic struggle) in history, a synergy with the grace of God towards the transfiguration, as we “sacrifice our fallen nature, with its self-indulgent sinful passions” (87) and of commending creation into the hands of the Creator. One cannot profess this and at the same time ignore the “rights” of all God’s creatures to be saved, even though this should be done through the priestly role of the human being and not directly as the author’s argument seems to imply. It is true that in the Christian tradition “humans are favoured over the non-human creation” (321) often due to humans’ rationality or other faculties and skills. Undoubtedly, such a view has contributed to the present-day irreversible ecological catastrophe of our planet. This does not mean, though, that humanity should be deprived of its central, although compassionate role.

In chapter 4, Nellist builds on the importance of “Christ-like love” on the part of humans “for all of His created beings” (322), stressing in this way the “ontological link” between humans and the rest of the created world. Along these lines, she points to “exemplars” (e.g. saints) of “compassionate and violence-free lives” (322), especially with regards to the abuse of animals. Not only does the tradition provide us with certain exemplars of this compassionate and loving attitude towards all the creatures of God, but also—although still the minority—certain voices of contemporary Hierarchs (chs. 6–7) who speak about “a cosmic dimension” of sin or a “mortal sin” (Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, 222, 128) and “ecological sin” (Metropolitan John Zizioulas, 220; cf. Rom. 8:19). These figures call for a different ethos that expresses compassion, care, and love toward all creatures.

Quite interesting for a wider audience is chapter 8, where the author makes use of various secular scientific views (including ethology and economics) in order to challenge the traditional philosophical and theological views that distinguish between the superior human being and the inferior animals on account of certain abilities (language, cognition, etc.) attributed exclusively to human beings. Here we must raise a concern. Following certain developments of modern science, the author asserts that any difference between the creatures of God is a matter of degree. While this is true, and one has to admit certain misunderstandings of the role of humanity throughout history, one should avoid the danger of reductionism, which deprives humanity of its unique responsibility and role. On the one hand, the image of God with which humanity is endowed should also include all creatures due to the ontological connection between them (as well as to their common animalhood, which raises the question of to what extent the image of God partakes of animality). On the other hand, Christ himself became man, not an angel or any other creature, in order to save the world. One clearly needs to put away the “separationist ethos” implied in a false theological anthropocentrism, while retaining theologically the uniqueness of the specifically human vocation. In other words, what is at stake here is the very role and position of the human being within creation. Without being a master and possessor of creation, or being totally disconnected from the latter (false anthropocentrism), the human being should remain the primary agent of God in the image of Christ for the salvation of the world, and ecotheology should take this uniqueness into account.

The last chapter (9) is characterized by the author herself as the most challenging since it calls into question our daily practice, calling for a formulation of a new, deeply practical and not primarily theoretical ethos. By questioning the current animal food production system and the animal testing model, the author highlights the view that perceives animals as “resources, units of production or ‘disposable life’, rather than created beings with individual needs” (337). This runs strikingly counter to our worldview and lifestyle, but it is more or less based on the time-honored Christian tradition, which for centuries has provided concrete holy examples of a different way of life that respects and cares about all creatures in view of the coming Kingdom of God.

Such a book could not end without concrete suggestions put forward by the author. This is not a merely theoretical study, but a practical guide that seeks to present a concrete way of life, based on the foundations of our faith, and to challenge our customs and prejudices. To the question of “what we as individuals and as leaders of our Church can do” about animal suffering (345), Nellist points to prayer, engagement, stepping out into the secular world, teaching, and suggesting concrete alternatives to scientists and the food production system that will reverse the current situation of everyday animal abuse, giving hope that all creatures count in God’s eyes and are worthy of salvation.

Nellist has written a powerful and passionate book. It is suitable not only for theologians, philosophers, and scientists, but is also recommended for those who cannot tolerate animal suffering, who take their Christian identity seriously and desire to work alongside of God for the care, the “rights,” and the salvation of “all the things” within creation, including of course animals. It is not a matter of rationality or statistics, but of an ethos, a new culture, a new way of life implied in the very core of the Christian Gospel: the compassionate, loving relationship between God, human beings, and all creatures as it is foretasted in the Eucharist and will be fully realized in the eschaton.

Dr. Nikolaos Asproulis
Deputy Director, Volos Academy for Theological Studies
Lecturer, Hellenic Open University
asprou@acadimia.org
asproulisnik@yahoo.gr

Good Science v Bad Science

This excellent video is by Scientist and Veterinarian Dr Andre Menache who explains why animal experimentation is bad, outdated science and how other methods provide better, more effective alternatives. This short video equips those campaigning against animal experimentation with the latest scientific arguments. I have written on this subject from a theological perspective and I concur with his findings, as do many other scientists. He will be writing a chapter on this topic for my new book on Climate Crisis and Creation Care: Eco-Economic Sustainability, Environmental Integrity and Justice.

Athanasius and the Resurrection of Non-Human Creatures

Three questions face the theologian as they confront atonement: ‘ how does Christ’s death effect human salvation?,’ ‘ what does humanity need salvation from?,’ and ‘ why would a good God bother saving a recalcitrant and corrupted species?’ Human self-regard normally narrows focus onto the first question; theories of atonement (especially as presented from the pulpit) often brush over more fundamental issues regarding the human condition, assuming that ‘sin,’ ‘guilt’ and ‘divine love’ are satisfying answers to the latter problems. Much can be gained, however, by carefully considering human corruption and divine love, not only because our view of human depravity and status before God determine our view of atonement, but because our self-conception gives substantial clues about the future salvation of non-human creation.

That creation will be renewed and delivered from corruption is uncontroversial; (1) what it means for creation to be renewed and delivered is, strangely, a heated topic. (2)

Here, I briefly explicate the views of St. Athanasius (approx. 296-373AD) regarding human corruption ( what God saves from) and divine mercy (why God saves) as developed in On the Incarnation of the Word (OIW from here ), with an eye towards adapting his central argument to the salvation of non-human creatures.

Ultimately, I suggest that the reasons given by Athanasius for divine mercy towards mankind apply equally well to the entire creation, providing us with good reason to think that God will bodily resurrect at least some non-human animals despite the metaphysical difficulties surrounding animal immortality.

Athanasius on the Human Condition
God, Athanasius presumes, is perfect, and lacks nothing in power, knowledge or goodness; out of goodness and love, God creates a species of animals (humans), gifting to them rationality (the image of God, a reflection of His Word), and intending for this species to (3) live eternally in
“true life” ( OIW, 3.3) and in “correspondence with God” (which I take to be a state of moral perfection, where the faculties are calibrated and activities in line with the will of God) ( OIW,5.1). However, mankind, being from the beginning naturally mortal, is at risk of non-existence without God’s direct intervention (i.e. God causes the immortal component of humans to survive
death, and without this direct intervention, death is truly the end of our being).(4 )Through its own freedom, humanity has taken on a moral rot which destroys (disintegrates) the individual.(5)
Additionally, God, to prevent human character from festering, has affirmed and promised that the natural consequences of sin will be upheld–immorality (beyond “mere misdemeanors,” ( OIW, 7.4)) will result in death unto non-being. Mankind then faces two problems: disintegrating moral rot and God’s legally-binding promise that those who have festered will disintegrate into nothing.(6)

The stage is set: all of mankind, upon death, will perish without both overcoming God’s decree and taking on significant moral repair (a change in character which ontically prevents self-inflicted disintegration). These are the conditions from which humanity must be rescued, and for which the Word becomes incarnate as Christ


Athanasius on Divine Mercy
Why, though, would God save us from ourselves, and why would He help His rotten children escape a law binding them for their own good? Athanasius’ explanation is simple: it is a moral stain on a creator to neglect their creation, and to allow their creation to perish, especially if perishing would be worse than having never been made ( OIW, 6.7-6.10).
There are, of course, many kinds of imperfections which a neglectful creator might possess, and so a variety of reasons why God cannot (given His absolute perfection and total power) fail to offer salvation to humanity. Athanasius recognizes at least the following:

(1) perishing by neglect would be less than perfectly loving ( OIW, 8.2); (2) perishing by neglect would blasphemy or insult the nature of God Himself (since humanity is an image and representation of God, as a painting is to its subject) ( OIW, 6.4, 14.1); (3) humanity perishing by neglect would imply a weakness in God or constitute a failure of God to succeed in making functional creatures after He intended to do so ( OIW, 6.8-6.9, 8.2); (4) perishing would make the world worse overall than if humans had never been made, implying that God, by making and then neglecting humanity, has made the world worse through creation ( OIW, 6.7-6.9). At least these four reasons, taken together, explain why God saves mankind. Granted the assumption that the intended function of humanity involves a bodily existence, Athanasius can then easily infer the bodily resurrection from the human condition and perfection of God (albeit by filling in the gaps with some tacit premises).


Athanasius’ explanation of divine mercy can be turned into a straightforward argument, as I have done below, emphasizing especially the proper functioning of human creatures:
P1. God is perfect (or perfectly loving) and the creator of humanity.
P2. It is an imperfection in (or unloving of) a creator to refrain from doing what is necessary to ensure the proper functioning of their creations, unless doing so would be outside their power or involve taking on a worse imperfection.
P3. All humans are meant to be (have the proper function of being) beautiful instances of their species, free from unnecessary suffering, regularly exercising their noetic powers in co-creation with God, and in a state of constant adoration of both God and His works.
P4. In order for any human to be a beautiful instance of its species, free from unnecessary suffering, regularly exercising their noetic powers in co-creation with God, and in a state of constant adoration of both God and His works, it is necessary that they be given both a bodily resurrection and at least an opportunity to repair the dysfunction (7) which prevents
satisfactory co-creation with and adoration of God and His works.
P4a. It would be an imperfection (or unloving of) the creator of humanity to refrain from giving all humans a bodily resurrection and at least an opportunity to repair the dysfunction which prevents satisfactory co-creation with and adoration of God and His works, unless doing so would be outside the creator’s power or involve taking on a worse imperfection. (P2, P3, P4)
P5. It is neither an imperfection in God, nor beyond His power, to give all humans both a bodily resurrection and at least an opportunity to repair the dysfunction which prevents satisfactory co-creation with and adoration of God and His works.
______________________________________________________________________________∴ God will give all humans a bodily resurrection and at least an opportunity to repair the dysfunction which prevents satisfactory co-creation with and adoration of God and His works. (P1, P4a, P5)

Note that (P2) involves a qualification of any creator’s duty to their creation. Athanasius, in line with the mainstream Christian tradition, still affirms that some will be damned, though not that they will perish ( OIW, 56.3). To avoid making damnation an imperfection in God, I have tried to be charitable towards Athanasius’ argument, treating neglect as an imperfection only when that neglect is not the lesser of two evils or beyond a creator’s power. This leaves room for the possibility that overriding human autonomy in order to save would involve a worse imperfection
than allowing some to perish or live eternally in a state of dysfunction.

Adapting Athanasius’ Argument
This argument can be easily adapted to the conclusion that God will resurrect some non-human animals. For all that must be assumed is the existence of some non-human creatures which God could (without taking on worse imperfections) resurrect and repair, and that these creatures
have not fulfilled their function prior to death. If this assumption is granted, then we have good reason to believe that some non-human animals will be resurrected, so as to have full opportunity to fulfill their proper functions, regardless of the metaphysical difficulties involved. A
general form of the argument might run as follows.
P1. God is perfect (or perfectly loving) and the creator of all non-human animals. P2. It is an imperfection in (or unloving of) a creator to refrain from doing what is necessary to ensure the proper functioning of their creations, unless doing so would be outside their power or involve taking on a worse imperfection.
P3. There are some non-human animals x with proper function f which have died without fulfilling f . P4. In order for these non-human animals x to fulfill f after having died without fulfilling f , they must be bodily resurrected and repaired in such a way as to give x opportunity to fulfill f.
P5. It is neither an imperfection in God, nor beyond His power, to bodily resurrect and repair these non-human animals x in such a way as to give x opportunity to fulfill f. ______________________________________________________________________________ ∴ God will bodily resurrect and repair these non-human animals x in such a way as to give x opportunity to fulfill f. (P1, P4a, P5)

(P3) is not a mere assumption. Consider domestic animals, such as dogs: dogs have been brought into being by purposive and intentional acts of humans over the course of tens of thousands of years. Modern dogs, because they have been quite literally designed (8) by humans, plausibly have proper functions, perhaps varying by breed. At least some are meant for human companionship and partnership in work and life. Since an artificer likely has the power to infuse a proper function into an artifact (as God has such an ability in creating humanity and humanity in creating tools), it seems plausible that dogs have such a function simply given the fact that humans formed them with such a function in mind. Dogs are not wild animals, but are, for better or worse, unable to be fully themselves without membership in human life. (This is evident in the ease with which abused dogs form human bonds while struggling, for the rest of theirs lives, to interact properly with members of their own species.) How horrible, then, is the great suffering we have inflicted on domestic dogs. Countless numbers die from starvation, abuse, neglect, and abandonment, and in their deaths they are deprived of human love, affection, and partnership.
Despite being our own creations, and inseperable from human influence, we torture and destroy them, stripping them of their ability to be what they are, and thereby showing our own depravity.

And what of the countless other domesticated and captured creatures? What of entire species driven to extinction by anthropogenic destruction of habitat and environment? Surely many of these animals have (as does every being just in virtue of being) the (9) proper function of being beautiful, wonderful beings in their own right, deserving of lives in which they can exist as fully themselves (though, of course, the life and happiness of some animals can simultaneously be beautifully and functionally subordinated to the life and happiness of others, as the breath of a field mouse is snuffed out by a corn snake without violation of function or beauty).(10) Surely humanity is not the sole, intrinsically valuable artwork of God (OIW, 14), but also the totality of the created order, as its gorgeous components form a functional, self-propelling whole through vast and incomprehensible relations of dependence.

Athanasius’ argument as it is applied to animals can be made even stronger by the suggestion that animals who have perished in this age without fulfilling their function have done so through no fault of their own. There is, in other words, no divine decree of death which non-human animals must be delivered from, thereby strengthening (P5*). How, then, can we assume that the burden of proof lies with those who would affirm the
bodily resurrection of non-human creatures? How can we, on the grounds of speculation, presume ourselves to know the proper functions of each component-animal we have destroyed, much less the entire creaturely economy? At the very least, a hopeful skepticism is warranted.

NOTES

1 Isaiah 2:4, 65:17-25; Romans 8:19-23; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1
2 I have, many times, witnessed indignant anger towards those suggesting a resurrection of non-human animals. “They have no immortal soul!,” some, like Fr. Trenham, declare, as though the nature of mind and animal consciousness is a settled matter. Many fear, it seems to me, that resurrection of non-human animals would somehow cheapen the uniqueness of humanity, and react defensively to such a
suggestion (Fr. Josiah Trenham, “Pets.”). 3 “He gave them a further gift, and He did not barely create man, as He did all the irrational creatures on the earth, but made them after His own image, giving them a portion even of the power of His own Word; so that having as it were a kind of reflexion of the Word, and being made rational, they might be able to abide ever in blessedness, living the truth life which belongs to the saints in paradise” (Athanasius. On the Incarnation, 3.3).
4 NT Wright, in The Resurrection of the Son of God , surveys a wide spectrum of Jewish and Christian views on the afterlife. Particularly interesting for our purposes is that Athanasius, by affirming humanity’s
natural mortality, seems to be tapping into a line of thought developed very early on, perhaps in the text of Genesis itself, which claimed that the human being would cease to be without direct, divine intervention, not due to their possessing some immortal component capable of surviving death on its own (Wright, N.T. The Resurrection of the Son of God, pgs. 92, 104, 107-108).
5 “..in other words, that they should be disintegrated and abide in death and corruption” (Athanasius. On the Incarnation , 4.5-4.6, also 5.1).
6 Both Athanasius and Augustine interpret Eden in this way, reading the commandment which forbids eating from the tree as a symbol of man’s choices and the law given to man to make these consequences clear. “But knowing once more how the will of man could sway to either side, in anticipation He secured the grace given them by a law…if they kept the grace and remained good, they might still keep the life in paradise without sorrow or pain or care besides having the promise of incorruption in heaven; but if they transgressed and turned back, and became evil, they might know that they were incurring that corruption in death which was theirs by nature …” (Athanasius. On the Incarnation, 3.4). “The reason for the prohibition was to show that the rational soul is not in its own power but ought to be subject to God, and must guard the order of its salvation by obedience, or by disobedience be corrupted. Hence God called the tree which he had forbidden to be touched the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, because anyone who had touched it contrary to the prohibition would discover the penalty of sin, and so would be able to distinguish between the good of obedience and the evil of disobedience” (Augustine. The Nature of the Good , XXXV). That is, man is free to live in accordance with beauty and goodness, with a plethora of possible expressions of this beauty, and, upon death, to be kept from perishing (“of every tree that is in
the garden, eating thou shalt eat”), or to live in the ways which lead to self-disintegration and non-existence (“but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, ye shall not eat of it, but on the day that ye eat, dying ye shall die”) (Athanasius. On the Incarnation, 3.5). God gives the law, as symbolized by
commandment and the trees, to show humanity the natural consequences of their sin. 7 By ‘beautiful animal of its species,’ I mean that a human being has the function of being truly human, a sort of animal with certain essential characteristics. In my view, being a human is to be bodily; that is, a
human being is a composite being, a sort of organism. The immaterial, perhaps immortal component of human beings (whatever this may be, I am not sure) which continues on after death is not fully or truly a human being, put part of a human being. 8 Though there is disagreement on the history of canine domestication, the domestic dog is estimated to have originated between 33,000 and 10,000 years ago. Though I myself take the findings of geneticists on their own authority, my more scientifically literate readers may be interested in the following: (Wang et al. “Out of Southern East Asia: The Natural History of Domestic Dogs across the World.”) 9 This doctrine of the goodness of all beings is, I am tempted to say, foundational to Christian thought, and should, if it is not already explicitly, be considered an essential article of faith. For a technical, philosophical introduction to the doctrine, see: (Macdonald, Scott (ed.). Being and Goodness ). Augustine’s work stands out as one of the most clear, non-technical expressions of the goodness of all created beings. Augustine writes, “Every natural being, so far as it is such, is good. There can be no
being which does not derive its existence from the most high and true God,” and “Even the thorns and thistles which the earth produces according to the will of God in judgement, in order to afflict the sinner by making him labour, are not rightly to be found fault with” (Augustine. On the Nature of the Good, I; XXXVI.). See also: (Augustine. Confessions, Bk. 7). See also my explication of Thomas Aquinas’ views on the correlation between being and goodness: (Marks, Pierce. “Aquinas’ Metaethic: The Link Between Being and Goodness in Aquinas’ Thought.”). To be clear, neither Agustine nor Aquinas would be very sympathetic to animal resurrection, and I mention them as clear expounders of the convertibility of being and goodness. 10 “When things pass away and others succeed them there is a specific beauty in the temporal order, so that those things which die or cease to be what they were, do not defile or disturb the measure, form or order of the created universe. A well-prepared speech is beautiful even though all its syllables and sounds pass in succession as if they are born to die” (Augustine. The Nature of the Good, VIII).

REFERENCES
Athanasius of Alexandria, “On the Incarnation of the Word,” in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (V2-04), ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace (Grand Rapids, MI: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1891).


Augustine of Hippo, Confessions , ed. Mark Vessey, trans. Albert Outler (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 2007).

Augustine of Hippo, “The Nature of the Good,” in Augustine: Earlier Writings, trans. John Burleigh (The Westminster Press, 1953), 326–248.


Scott MacDonald, ed., Being and Goodness : The Concept of the Good in Metaphysics and Philosophical Theology (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1991).


Pierce Marks, “Aquinas’ Metaethic: The Link Between Being and Goodness in Aquinas’ Thought,” (2020 Newberry Library Center for Renaissance Studies Multidisciplinary Graduate Conference, n.d.),
https://www.academia.edu/43062743/Aquinas_Metaethic_The_Link_Between_Being_and_Goodness_in_Aquinas_Thought

N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Fortress press, 2017).


RefeGuo-Dong Wang, Weiwei Zhai, He-Chuan Yang, Lu Wang, Li Zhong, Yan-Hu Liu, Ruo-Xi Fan, Ting-Ting Yin, Chun-Ling Zhu, Andrei D Poyarkov, David M Irwin, Marjo K Hytönen, Hannes Lohi, Chung-I Wu, Peter Savolainen, and Ya-Ping Zhang. “Out of Southern East Asia: The Natural History of Domestic Dogs across the World.” Cell Research 26, no. 1
(2015): 21-33.


Fr. Josiah Trenham, “Pets,” YouTube Video, Patristic Nectar Films, November 1, 2019,
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNABQW6He80.

THIS ARTICLE IS BY: Pierce Alexander Marks
attemptingfaith.wordpress.com
June 23rd, 2020. USED WITH PERMISSION.

Coronavirus rips through Dutch mink farms, triggering culls to prevent human infections

By Martin Enserink Jun. 9, 2020 , 3:30 PM

Science’s COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Pulitzer Center.

LELYSTAD, THE NETHERLANDS—In a sad sideshow to the COVID-19 pandemic, authorities in the Netherlands began to gas tens of thousands of mink on 6 June, most of them pups born only weeks ago. SARS-CoV-2 has attacked farms that raise the animals for fur, and the Dutch government worries infected mink could become a viral reservoir that could cause new outbreaks in humans.

The mink outbreaks are “spillover” from the human pandemic—a zoonosis in reverse that has offered scientists in the Netherlands a unique chance to study how the virus jumps between species and burns through large animal populations.

But they’re also a public health problem. Genetic and epidemiological sleuthing has shown that at least two farm workers have caught the virus from mink—the only patients anywhere known to have become infected by animals. SARS-CoV-2 can infect other animals, including cats, dogs, tigers, hamsters, ferrets, and macaques, but there are no known cases of transmission from these species back into the human population. (The virus originally spread to humans from an as-yet-unidentified animal species.)

The first two mink outbreaks were reported on 23 and 25 April at farms holding 12,000 and 7500 animals, respectively. More mink were dying than usual, and some had nasal discharge or difficulty breathing. In both cases, the virus was introduced by a farm worker who had COVID-19. Today, it has struck 12 of about 130 Dutch mink farms. Once COVID-19 reaches a farm, the virus appears to spread like wildfire, even though the animals are housed in separate cages. Scientists suspect it moves via infectious droplets, on feed or bedding, or in dust containing fecal matter.

That mink are susceptible wasn’t a surprise, because they are closely related to ferrets, says Wim van der Poel of Wageningen University & Research, which has an animal health laboratory here. (Both mink and ferrets can also contract human influenza viruses.) Like humans, infected mink can show no symptoms, or develop severe problems, including pneumonia. Mortality was negligible at one farm and almost 10% at another. “That’s strange—we don’t really understand it,” says virologist Marion Koopmans of Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam. Feral cats roaming the farms—and stealing the mink’s food—were found to be infected as well. The researchers published a preprint about their work on 18 May; a paper in Eurosurveillance may come out soon.

The Netherlands is the only country so far to have reported SARS-CoV-2 in mink. In Denmark, the world’s largest mink producer, “We have not recorded any similar disease or outbreaks,” says Anne Sofie Hammer, a veterinary scientist at the University of Copenhagen. Neither has China, the second largest producer, says virologist Chen Hualan of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences. (Hubei, the province hardest hit by COVID-19, does not have mink farms, she notes.)

The Dutch outbreaks are giving scientists a chance to study how the virus adapts as it spreads through a large, dense population. In some other animal viruses, such conditions trigger an evolution toward a more virulent form, because the virus isn’t penalized if it kills a host animal quickly as long as it can easily jump to the next one. (Avian influenza, for instance, usually spreads as a mild disease in wild birds but can become highly pathogenic when it lands in a poultry barn.) Although SARS-CoV-2 is undergoing plenty of mutations as it spreads through mink, its virulence shows no signs of increasing.

Even so, the Dutch outbreaks have alarmed people in North Brabant province, where mink farms are concentrated. The region’s burgeoning goat industry caused the world’s largest human epidemic of Q fever between 2007 and 2009. Anxious citizens feared a repeat with SARS-CoV-2 and mink. But Coxiella burnetii, the bacterium that causes Q fever, forms hardy spores that wafted out of barns and blew off fields fertilized with goat manure. SARS-CoV-2 is far more fragile; environmental sampling has not turned up any virus outside mink sheds, says veterinary epidemiologist Arjan Stegeman of Utrecht University, who leads the research on mink outbreaks. Whereas farm workers should wear protective equipment, the population at large is at very low risk, Stegeman says.

Eventually, the virus seems to burn itself out at every farm, once more than 90% of the animals have contracted it and developed antibodies. Combined with the low mortality rate, that means the outbreaks are far less devastating for farmers than, for instance, bird flu in poultry or foot-and-mouth disease in cattle.

Even though just two of the Netherlands’s nearly 50,000 confirmed human COVID-19 cases have been linked to the farms, the government decided to cull the animals because the problem could become bigger in the months ahead. Female mink give birth in April and May, leading to a sixfold increase in populations. Antibodies in their mother’s milk probably protect pups for a while, but they might become vulnerable later to any virus lingering at the farm. “That could mean there’s a second wave in minks in the fall,” Van der Poel says—raising the risk of more human cases. The mink are culled by gassing them with carbon monoxide; the Dutch government will compensate farmers.

In the long run, their businesses were doomed anyway: A law approved by the Dutch parliament in 2012 bans mink farming as of 2024 for ethical reasons. The affected farmers may be allowed to reopen their farms for another 3 years if tests conclusively show the virus is gone—or they can decide to throw in the towel now.Posted in: 

doi:10.1126/science.abd2483

COVID 19, WET-MARKETS, INTENSIVE FARMING AND ANIMAL SUFFERING

An edited version of this short article appears in the latest edition of the Green Christian magazine:

I was recently asked by Green Christian Magazine to write a short article which incorporated the various topics outlined in the title. Obviously this short article cannot do justice to the multiple animal suffering issues caused by the use of animals for human/non-human food; I will therefore, give some links/references for further study.

COVID 19.

I will begin by stating that the Covid 19 pandemic was entirely predictable and will undoubtedly, be followed by other epidemics and pandemics in the future. How can I be so sure? Numerous articles and scientific papers have informed us that similar zoonotic diseases such as the influenza pandemic of 1918, HIV, Ebola, MERS, SARS, H1N1 Swine flu and H5N1 avian flu, have arisen from similar sources. It is entirely reasonable therefore, to postulate that new epi/pandemics will emerge over time, perhaps within the next decade, with similar outcomes.  

The overall loss of life for animals involved in these outbreaks is not recorded but an educated assessment would put the numbers in the billions. It would be naive to think that these animals have a pain-free death, for the usual mode of slaughter for such numbers is burying, drowning or burning them alive. Yet the fault lies not with the animals themselves but in the way humans keep them and use them.

WET MARKETS

In many traditional markets across Asia, both wild and domestic animals are kept together in appalling conditions and unnaturally occurring confined spaces. I have encountered wet-markets in many of the countries I have lived and worked in, although the vast majority, are found in countries like China, Vietnam and Cambodia. These countries have little, if any, animal protection laws and if they do exist, laws are unlikely to be enforced. Therefore, undercover investigations are vital in capturing the reality on the ground: https://animalequality.org.uk/act/ban-wet-markets.

The plight of the animals within these markets is often too distressing for people to view, but unless we take courage and view the reality we are unlikely to fully understand what we need to change and of equal importance, to convince others of the need to engage with the issues involved, one such, is the illegal trade in wild animals. What is abundantly clear to all who view this or similar videos is that the unsanitary conditions alone make it inevitable that future zoonotic diseases will arise.

INTENSIVE FARMING PRACTICES and INCONVENIENT TRUTHS

Rather like Mt 7:3-5, we cannot simply point the finger at others, for our own intensive farming systems, by definition, also keep large numbers of animals in relatively small and confined spaces, where diseases easily spread and at times jump the human/non-human animal barrier. In order to keep infections low, it is common practice for farmers to use and overuse antibiotics. See the Compassion in World Farming website for details of how the misuse of antibiotics in the intensive farming industry has significantly contributed to the antibiotic resistant super-bugs now found in our societies.  Such systems also cause immense suffering to animals, e.g. the numerous versions of amputations on a variety of species and without analgesia.

INTENSIVE FARMING AND ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE

The ever-increasing demand for cheap non-human animal food is also a considerable factor in Climate Change. Extensive deforestation has led to habitat loss and reductions in biodiversity. The sheer scale of the industry has also led to significant water, soil and air pollution, to levels that threaten human life on our planet. See my article in the International Journal of Orthodox Theology, 9:3 (2018) 144-172 and a short video on a this article was given at the International Orthodox Theological Association in Romania last year and is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H56_maAVdTk.

We must however, not overlook the fact that many non-intensive farming practices also cause significant suffering to animals and appear to be caused by the desire to increase profits, which in many cases is achieved by curtailing or ignoring animal welfare provision- see: ciwf.org, PETA and CEFAW: https://www1.chester.ac.uk/news/cefaw-policy-framework-consultation-underway.

It is clear that the Pastoral System and Organic farming methods are preferable to intensive practices but these cannot provide enough food for our country unless radical changes are made: to our methods of farming; the help given to farmers transitioning from animal to plant-based farming and increased encouragement to the public to significantly reduce their animal food consumption.

It is clear at this time of lock-down, that radical conditions are being imposed by governments and more importantly, accepted by society for the greater good. This is encouraging, for I would argue that it will never be more opportune than it is now, to formulate a radical rethink and approach to food provision in this country

CHRISTIAN ANIMAL GROUPS

By God’s grace, some churches have formed ‘animal protection’ societies such as the Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals, Catholic Concern for Animals and Pan Orthodox Concern for Animals.  In order to make their voices stronger, these and other faith groups have established the Animal Interfaith Alliance.  The AIA recently sent a letter to the UN Environment Secretary asking for the banning of ‘wet-markets’ and a basic standard of welfare for animals across the globe. The letter’s contents are far-reaching: A worldwide ban on wet markets; A worldwide ban on the wildlife trade; A worldwide ban on the use of animals in traditional medicine; A worldwide ban on factory farming – all farming should be practised to a minimum of RSPCA Assured/Freedom Food standards; A worldwide ban on the long distance transport of animals and the promotion of plant-based sources of nutrition, which in turn, will promote the health of the world’s population.

It is important to remember that this last request is part of proposals advocated by scientists around the globe, including the UNFAO & IPCC, in order to address Climate Change, which silently and almost unobserved, is pushing us further towards the cliff-edge.

The AIA also recommend that the United Nations works in association with organisations such as the World Organisation for Animal Health (the OIE), the International Coalition for Animal Welfare (ICFAW) and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) to advise on animal welfare standards: https://animal-interfaith-alliance.com/2020/03/28/covid-19-when-will-we-heed-natures-warnings-2/

Most demands, if not all, will not be met but it is important that we try, for some things must change in order to reduce the risk of similar pan/epidemics in the future.

Other material is available from Christian magazines such as The Ark and Animal Watch, whilst other Christian groups focus on the wider yet interconnected issues of Climate Change, e.g. Green Christian. All of these endeavours are encouraging and blaze a path to a more enlightened view of the world and the creatures that live in it. 

A ROLE FOR THE CHURCH

In most, if not all societies, animals are simply things not beings; merely resources to use as humans see fit. In the West, this originates from laws created at the time of Emperor Justinian (Roman Law) where only humans are defined as ‘persons’ and everything else as a ‘thing’ or ‘object’. Unfortunately for animals, Christianity also accepted the ancient Greek philosophical tripartite system of souls – Human, Animal, and Vegetable, resulting in the common teaching that only humans have eternal souls.  If one is categorized as a soul-less ‘it’, it should not surprise us to find numerous examples of animal abuse in the rearing, selling and slaughtering of animals.

Yet, we can look to our sacred texts and find another, though less prominent tradition, which teaches us to care for animals in a variety of compassionate ways. This critical examination began with White’s article in 1967[i], which criticized Christianity’s anthropocentrism and ends (at present) with Nellist’s work in 2018/20, which found that compassion for animals is not new but found in the earliest teachings of the Christian church and offers an alternative and more inclusive view of the world.

The challenge for the Christian church is how to move from the flawed anthropocentric teachings of the past, to a position that incorporates compassionate teachings for the whole of God’s creation.   

Two courses that encourage compassion for animals are available to use with parishioners and/or youth groups are: Clough’s ‘Creature Kind’, (developed and running) https://www.becreaturekind.org/ and Nellist’s ‘Creation Care: Christian Responsibility’. The latter encourages other denominations to adapt the course and is developing videos to accompany the texts, see: http://panorthodoxconcernforanimals.org/creation-care-christian-responsibility-course/ This course has just received accreditation in South Africa from the Association of Christian Religious Practitioners for their Continual Professional Development program.

Ultimately, our role as individual Christians is to examine our consciences and decide if we can continue to consume animal-food sourced from systems that cause immense suffering for animals and a major contributor to climate change: http://panorthodoxconcernforanimals.org/uncategorized/climate-change-food-calculator-whats-your-diets-carbon-footprint/.

IN CONCLUSION

Regardless of whether Covid 19 is the creation Dr Shi Zengli at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, or from the ‘wet markets’ of Asia, what is clear is that world governments and institutions have failed to address the suffering of animals within food production systems.  They have also failed to learn the lessons from previous epidemics.  Had these lessons been learnt, the suffering of animals would have been greatly reduced and the current pandemic, which is destroying so many human and non-human lives and prompting widespread economic meltdown, could have been prevented. 

As Image of God, we are called to care and love as Christ cares and loves us. This requires us at times to speak truth to power. At this most dangerous of times, I believe it is our Christian duty to call upon powerful organisations such as governments and the United Nations to do everything in their power to put measures in place that mitigate the risk of future pandemics from occurring.  These measures must include increasing the welfare of animals in all forms of food production systems.

                                             ………………………………………………………………………………..

Bio

Dr. Christina Nellist is an Eastern Orthodox Theologian specializing in Animal Suffering and Human Soteriology.  Her 2020 book Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Animal Suffering: Ancient Teachings in Modern Theology, is available from Cambridge Scholars Publishing. She is a Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics; a former Visiting Fellow in the Department of Theology, Religion and Philosophy at the University of Winchester and Guest Lecturer on Veterinary Ethics at the Iberia America University Veterinary School, Santiago, Chile. She is a board member of the Animal Interfaith Alliance and Editor & co-founder of the Pan-Orthodox Concern for Animals charity. She is a former Advisor and Consultant in the Sciences and Special Education both in the UK and abroad and a former Animal Protection Consultant to the Chief Veterinary Officers of Chile and The Seychelles on stray-dog control and public health education programs.


[i] Lynn White, jr., “The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis,” Science 155, no. 3767 (10 March 1967), 1206.

Small Victory for those challenging misleading Dairy Industry advertising

This is an article from our friends in South Africa:

A victory for dairy cows – meagre, yes, but a victory nevertheless May 2020

A leading South African milk producer Fair Cape Dairies has been instructed to withdraw the use of the words/phrases ‘#happycows’ and ‘humane” from all its advertising. In terms of a ruling dated 30 April by the Advertising Appeals Committee of the Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB), the concept of humane “means more than freedom from violence, pain and disease.”

This follows a series of complaints by concerned consumers led by Jo Fairbrother (jo@sentience.co.za) stating “there is no such thing as a happy cow in the dairy industry”. The complainants submitted: “The truth is dairy cows lead horrible lives, filled with grief, pain and suffering”. The complainants specifically noted that cows were being forcefully impregnated repeatedly and were robbed of their calves soon after birth. Therefore, they submitted, Fair Cape’s advertising was false and breached the Code of Advertising Practice which prohibits advertising that is likely to mislead the consumer.

When the complainants first approached the ARB in 2019, their complaints were dismissed by the Directorate on the grounds, inter alia, that within the context of the dairy industry, the cows are humanely treated, and therefore as “happy” as possible; that a reasonable consumer could not expect that cow’s milk could be sold without some compromise and it was naïve of any consumer to believe otherwise.

At that stage, the ARB ruled that Fair Cape’s advertising was not misleading and that the ARB could not “cater to the ignorant consumer, the uneducated consumer, or the willfully naïve consumer.”

However, Jo Fairbrother and her fellow complainants, did not accept this dismissal and set about requesting an appeal, with the help of Animal Lawyer Amy P. Wilson, director of Animal Law Reform South Africa and trustee of The Humane Education Trust. Now, their appeal has been upheld by the ARB Advertising Appeals Committee.

On 30 April 2020, the Advertising Appeals Committee ruled that the use of the terms “#happycows” and “humane” were a breach of clause 4.1 and 4.2.1 of the Code of Advertising Practice. The Advertising Appeals Committee stated that, in its view, the Directorate (of the ARB) had erred in holding that Fair Cape’s advertising must be viewed through the lens of the practices that are generally accepted in the commercial dairy industry. It continued that while Fair Cape Dairies contended that “in the context of dairy farming” the cows were “humanely” treated, it was nonetheless the view of the Advertising Appeals Committee that while this meant that no malicious or gratuitous violence was perpetrated against the cows, and as far as possible they were kept free of physical pain, injury and disease, it did not mean that the cows experienced no physical and emotional trauma. It stated: •

“… in our view, it cannot be said that the reasonable consumer who purchases milk expects the cow to have been raped, or her babies to have been taken from her at birth so as to maximize the milk available for sale. Nor does the reasonable consumer think of the fate of the cow’s babies, or the fate of the cow herself. None of this is uppermost in the mind of the reasonable consumer when purchasing a bottle of milk…In our view, humane treatment means more than freedom from violence, pain and disease; it means treatment characterised by tenderness, compassion, and sympathy. It does not include many of the practices complained of, such as the forced impregnation of cows, the forced separation of calves from their mothers immediately after birth, and the slaughter of male calves thereafter. It follows then, in our view, that the cows cannot be described as happy, or as humanely treated.”

Commented Jo Fairbrother: “Fair Cape Dairies do not only directly misinform consumers, but they actively conceal many of their practices while creating an illusion of transparency. This cruelty is not an anomaly, but is standard practice inherent in the industry.

We are extremely thankful to Compassion in World Farming South Africa who played an important role with their contribution of video footage exposing the suffering of boy calves discarded by the dairy industry. To be informed, is to be empowered. When we are informed we can make consumer choices that are authentic and genuinely in line with our values.”

POCA comment is that the above harmful practices are also found in the dairy industry in other countries including the UK.

Why is factory farming a pandemic risk?

This is the latest from Compassion in World Farming and offers more information to the growing movement to move from an animal-based diet, to a plant-based diet:

Our new report, ‘Is the next pandemic on our plate?’, details how the next pandemic could originate from a factory farm:

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), three in four new or emerging infectious diseases in people come from animals. Examples include bacteria such as Escherichia Coli (E. Coli), Campylobacter and Salmonella, and viruses including Avian and Swine Influenza.
  • Globally, up to 70% of antibiotics are administered to farmed animals – a perfect storm for triggering the spread of drug-resistant bacteria.
  • Industrial livestock production is a major cause of air pollution. According to latest reports, this can result in serious respiratory disease that leaves people less able to survive COVID-19.

To protect human and animal health, farm animals should be kept in higher welfare systems that rear more robust breeds at lower densities. Under these conditions, viruses are less likely to spread, mutate and multiply. In addition, healthier animals need less antibiotic treatment for bacterial infections, which means these life-saving drugs may continue to be effective for human – and animal – use.

Of course, factory farming isn’t just a major pandemic risk. It’s also the leading cause of global animal suffering and a major contributor to the climate crisis.

What’s more, our over-reliance on low quality, factory farmed animal products decimates critical wildlife habitat, ravages vulnerable communities with air and water pollution and drives mass deforestation.

It’s no exaggeration to say that, to save countless lives, we must end factory farming. Please, join the call for a food system that protects animal welfare, human health, and the environment.

World Animal Laboratory Day 24th April: The failure of the animal testing model

This is a small section of my analysis of the animal testing model which is taken from chapter nine of my recent book Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Animal Suffering: Ancient Teachings in Modern Theology.

When we examine the available research on the animal testing model, such as Linzey and Linzey (2017)[1], Bailey and Taylor (2016)[2] Kathrin Herrmann and Kimberley Jayne (2019) (2a),  we find that there are few systematic studies examining the validity of this model.

In answer to the question posed in their article entitled “Is animal research sufficiently evidence based to be a cornerstone of biomedical research?” Pound and Bracken (2014) conclude that it is:

…nearly impossible to rely on most animal data to predict whether or not an intervention will have a favourable clinical benefit-risk ratio in human subjects.[3]

Knight (2011)had already alerted us to this problem:

…the utility of many animal experiments in advancing human healthcare or even biomedical knowledge of significance is poor. [4]

These two statements alone ought to concern us. The obvious question arising is whether these statements can be verified? If this were not the case, we would expect the licensing of a large percentage of the drugs tested on animals for human use.

The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is a well-respected and authoritative body and their comments here address this specific point:

Overall, in the US, 92% of drugs that pass pre-clinical tests, mostly animal tests, fail to make it to the market because they are proven to be ineffective and or unsafe in people. [5]

This report also concludes that if topical medicines are excluded the failure rate is around 97%. The first observation from the FDS report is that the failure rate of the animal testing model is extraordinarily high. The second observation is that the animal testing model is unreliable and thus flawed.

The model fails the caveat that the animal testing model is essential for the advancement of human health. In fact, such conclusions ought to lead us to ask whether the model is a benefit or a hindrance to human health. My argument here is that its use is an example of the “predetermined conclusion” that the model is “not harmful to humanity.”

The next question is to ask why the failure rate is so high. There are several contributing factors and the most obvious is that the species of animals used are not human; we are not dogs, rabbits, monkeys etc. This in and of itself ought to raise considerable doubt on the efficacy of the model.

An equally pertinent point is that animals experience physical pain and mental suffering, which includes fear, trauma, stress, distress, anticipation and terror, all of which alter their physiology; if one or a combination of these factors affects the animal, the results will be suspect.[6]

Knight (2011) includes several other factors in calculating stress and suffering, such as capture from the wild, transportation, housing etc., which he concludes, alter the physiology and mental capacities of the animals over time. [7] He states that these factors, in addition to creating significant animal welfare and ethical problems distort a wide range of experimental outcomes, such as those dependent on accurate determination of physiological, behavioural, or cognitive characteristics in animal models.[8] This also raises serious doubts over the efficacy of this model and this too ought to concern us.

There is another factor to consider which again brings us back to H. A. H. Bartholomew’s point on the dangers of the “predetermined conclusion that these are not harmful to humans” and the ethicist’s caveat that they are “necessary.” If we examine the evidence, the drugs that are licensed are not universally safe for humans and the tragedy of giving thalidomide to pregnant women is a well-known case in point. This sadly, is not the only example.

As I write this chapter the scandal of the epilepsy drug, sodium valproate (Epilim) is breaking news. Since its license, circa 20,000 children in the UK have physical abnormalities, autism, low IQ and learning disabilities after being exposed to the drug while in the womb. The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have now changed the licensing because up to four in ten babies are at risk of developmental disorders and one in ten are at risk of birth defects.[9]

This is not a lone example. The organisation Nurses Movement for Responsible Medicine provides further examples and comments of licensed drugs that have caused considerable damage to humans. I condense their commentary:

Few people in the West are aware of the Clioquinol tragedy. Clioquinol caused 30,000 cases of blindness and/or paralysis in Japan alone. This drug also caused a new disease called SMON. “Clioquinol was tested on rats, cats, beagles and rabbits with no evidence of neurotoxicity.” “Oraflex (Opren) an antiarthritic drug meant to alleviate the pain and frequently crippling limitations of arthritis was found safe in nonhuman primates, at 7 times the maximum tolerated human dose for a year. It caused death in a number of elderly patients, mainly from liver damage.” “Butazolidine, a pain killer, caused kidney and red blood cell damage.” “Chloramphenicol caused bone marrow destruction and fatal aplastic anaemia…though human cell culture could have found what animal testing has failed to show.” “Isoprenaline aerosol during the 1960s, thousands of young asthmatics died following the use of Isoprenaline aerosol inhalers. Animal tests did not show nor predict the danger…cats could tolerate 175 times the dose found dangerous to asthmatics and the adverse complications could not be reproduced in guinea pigs, dogs and monkeys at doses much higher than the recommended dosage.” “Eraldin a heart medication; some patients who received it suffered intestinal and eye problems, blindness and many deaths resulted.” “Phenformin, to treat diabetes, caused 1,000 deaths annually until withdrawn from the market.” “Amydopyrine a pain killer caused a nasty blood disease.” “Reserpine to treat hypertension may cause restlessness, nightmares and depression, pancreatitis, severe anaemia and kidney failure. A number of epidemiologic studies pointed to an increased risk of breast cancer in women. It may cause foetal harm when given to pregnant women.” “Methotrexate to treat leukaemia and psoriasis caused intestinal haemorrhage, anaemia and tumours.” “Mitotane for leukaemia caused kidney damage.” “Cyclophosphamide used for cancer and transplants…led to liver and lung damage.” “Urethane for leukaemia caused cancer of the liver, lungs and bone marrow.” “Kanamycin an antibiotic caused deafness and kidney damage.” “Methaqualon a tranquilizer caused severe mental disturbances.” “Maxiton diet pills caused damage to the heart and nervous system.” “Halcion a hypnotic; reports of severe psychic problems with its use are surfacing which prompted Britain to ban its use.” “Tegretol for epilepsy, two potentially fatal blood diseases: aplastic anaemia and agranulocytosis are 5-8 times more likely to occur in patients on Tegretol than in the general population. Epidemiologic findings suggest an increased incidence of birth defects when pregnant women used Tegretol.[10]

The bold sections draw attention to the fact that alternatives are available and can offer data that is more reliable. Despite the animal testing model, all these licensed products resulted in injury, suffering and in some cases human death.

In addition to the poor ratio of usable drugs to animals used, there is now the additional problem of human safety for those drugs that are licensed.

An obvious criticism here is that I am simply selecting evidence from scientists that have a bias against animal testing. This statement from a report from leaders in the drug development industries addresses that criticism:

The poor predictability of animal experiments is one of the major challenges facing the drug discovery industry.[11]

This would not be the first time that manufacturers were aware of problems but failed to inform the public.

A forensic question to ask here is if this level of failure arose in any other industry, would we expect industry to continue with the model’s use or substitute it with procedures that are more reliable? The answer is obvious.

Why there has not been greater investment in alternative procedures is probably due to economics/profit and the lack of any challenge to the animal testing model by those other than animal protectionists. Many in society still believe philosophical and theological teachings that God created animals solely for our use but this is part of the second discussion and so I put this aside for the moment.

There is evidence of change. Sir David Attenborough, along with 20 other scientists, calls for an end to animal testing on primates and urges the use of currently available alternatives:

The recognition that apes, certainly, and to an extent other primates, are so akin to ourselves, and can suffer so much, as we can, has transformed our attitude, or should have transformed our attitude, to using them for our own benefit. They are sentient beings that have mental lives comparable to ours, and sensitivities, and pain and deprivation mean things to them, just as they mean things to us.[12]

We, the undersigned, are concerned at the level of suffering involved in many neuroscience experiments on non-human primates, especially where fluid deprivation and movement restraint are involved, and believe that there has now been sufficient progress in human-based alternatives to call into serious question whether further research of this type is necessary. We note the recent research in this area published in ATLA [Bailey J & Taylor K. (2016). Non-human Primates in Neuroscience Research: The Case Against its Scientific Necessity. ATLA 44, 43-69]. We therefore call on bodies responsible for the funding and licensing of this type of research to review their policies and specifically to end support for experiments involving deprivation of fluids and movement restraint.[13]

The words in bold type, bring into focus the scientific community’s recognition that there are human-based alternatives to primate testing already available.

Importantly, their arguments are equally valid for all other species of sentient creatures used in the animal testing model. The obvious question to ask is why scientists are not using suitable alternatives if they are available for use. I have given my answer. There is also the possibility of using ‘irrational’ creatures as units of ‘disposable life’ but again I leave this aside for the moment.

As noted, alternatives to the animal testing model are available and two useful journals are Alternatives to Laboratory Animals[14] and Laboratory Animals.[15]Several animal welfare organisations’ websites list examples of alternatives such as In vitro; Microfluidic chip; Micro-dosing; Imaging studies and computer models and simulations.[16] The Linzey and Linzey (2017) report gives examples of adult stem cell research; human organs-on-a-chip; lab-grown human organs and systems biology and compare the effectiveness of these methods to existing animal models.[17] Sharma (2015) suggests alternatives for use in university Zoology and Life Science courses in India (and elsewhere) and, makes us aware of the link between educational institutions, suppliers and hunters:

I estimate that employing these alternatives will save roughly 19 million animals belonging to a variety of species, from fish to mammals. In addition, the adoption of these non-animal methods will deal a death blow to the well-organised nexus between educational institutions and those who catch, kill and supply animals…inspection of breeding business have discovered ill and wounded animals crammed inside soiled cages, rats embalmed alive and workers who killed frogs by slamming their heads against hard surfaces. [18]

His comments on the link between hunting and experimentation and the abusive conditions and treatment of the animals should not surprise us. He also mentions the reestablishment of the concept of ahimsa in using humane alternatives and Christians may use the same argument using our concept of the non-violent Christ. In his summary of this section of the Linzey report, Andrew Linzey states:

The upshot of these scientific developments in cutting-edge human-based testing models is that it is no longer accurate or reasonable (if it ever was) to say that the only moral choice is between experimenting on animals and giving up on medical progress. This is a false dilemma. The choice instead is the choice between experimenting on animals and using improved human-based methods of testing.[19]

This indicates a further problem in the animal testing model-the phenomenon of publication bias. Knight outlines the problem:

Research demonstrating ‘no effect’ is less likely to be published than research falsely indicating an effect (false positives). When investigators later review the published literature, they find only the latter and draw false conclusions about the drug effects. This is partly why animal research translates so poorly to human patients.[20]

Apart from the false positive/negative problems, scientists are also less likely to publish failures. This in turn, gives a distorted view of the efficacy of the animal testing model.

In light of the above evidence, we gain an insight into why there are serious doubts both inside and outside of the scientific community on the reliability of the animal testing model to predict the suitability of a variety of medicines/drugs for human health and thus its advancement.

In light of the above evidence, I submit that the animal testing model fails several of the previously outlined caveats and parameters for scientific research. It ought therefore, to be rejected.


[1] Linzey and Linzey, The Ethical Case Against Animal Experiments, references over 200 different research papers and reports on the theme. Also, Knight, The Costs and Benefits of Animal Experiments.

[2] Bailey and Taylor, “Non-human Primates in Neuroscience Research: The Case Against its Scientific Necessity.” I am grateful to Prof. Knight for this reference.

2a Kathrin Herrmann and Kimberley Jayne Animal Experimentation: Working Towards a Paradigm Change. 51 experts have contributed to this book. E-Book Availability: Published ISBN: 978-90-04-39119-2 Publication Date: 30 Apr 2019 Hardback Availability: Published ISBN: 978-90-04-35618-4 Publication Date: 04 Apr 2019

[3] Pound and Bracken, “Is animal research sufficiently evidence based to be a cornerstone of biomedical research?” BMJ 348 (3387); also, BMJ editor F. Godlee’s accompanying editorial, “How Predictive and Productive is Animal Research?” BMJ 348: (3719).

[4] Knight, Costs and Benefits, 4, 57-9. For the number of animals used, see 9-17. For species, sources and categories of use, see 18-28; also, USFDA (2004) Innovation or Stagnation: Challenge and Opportunity on the Critical Path to New Medical Products.

[5] My emphasis. USFDA, Innovation or Stagnation: Challenge and Opportunity on the Critical Path to New Medical Products, 2004.

[6] Linzey, “Cruelty to Animals is as if a Man did not Love God.” In The Ark: Journal of Catholic Concern for Animals, 220 (Spring): 5. We may think this is a modern thought but as previously noted, Philo gives similar commentary when condemning practices which cause mental anguish to cows separated from their newly born calves.

[7] I add a personal note here to support Knight’s point. When my dogs were in quarantine in Bahrain I arrived to find three adult Baboons in the same block and that one had escaped. The chaos and the fear and distress of the apes were evident from their screams, their throwing of faeces and the attempt of the escapee to avoid recapture. The process took nearly an hour whereupon the animals were removed to the laboratory at Bahrain University.

[8] Knight, Costs and Benefits of Animal Experiments, 36.

[9] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-43863191 24th April 2018.  Also, Zack Adesina, BBC Inside Out, London, UK 22 January 2018

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-42717083.

[10] My emphasis. See, www.nmrm.org.

[11] Palfreyman, Vinod and Blander, “The importance of using human-based models in gene and drug discovery.” In Drug Discovery World Fall (2002): 33-44.

[12] https://www.crueltyfreeinternational.org/what-we-do/breaking-news/sir-david-attenborough-calls-end-brain-experiments-monkeys.  Also,         

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/david-attenborough-primates-neuroscientists-cruel-brain-tests-a7230711.html.

[13]My emphasis. Signatories: Sir David Attenborough, broadcaster and naturalist; Simon Bearder, PhD, Emeritus Professor, Department of Anthropology, Oxford Brookes University; Marc Bekoff, PhD, Emeritus Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado. Nedim C. Buyukmihci, VMD, Emeritus Professor, Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis; Herbert H. Covert, PhD, Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado Boulder; Paul Furlong, PhD, Professor of Clinical Neuroimaging, Director, Aston Brain Centre, School of Life and Health Sciences, Aston University. John P. Gluck, PhD, Emeritus Professor, Department of Psychology, University of New Mexico; Research Professor Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Georgetown University; Jane Goodall, PhD, DBE-Founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace. Colin Groves, PhD, Emeritus Professor of Bio anthropology, Australian National University; Eleonora Gullone, PhD, Affiliate Associate Professor, Centre for Developmental Psychiatry and Psychology, Monash University; Steven Harnad, PhD, Professor of Psychology at Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) and Professor of Cognitive Science at the University of Southampton. Catherine Hobaiter, PhD, Lecturer, School of Psychology and Neuroscience, St Andrews University; Jessica A. Mayhew, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology & Museum Studies and Primate Behavior & Ecology Program, Central Washington University; Dr Monika Merkes, PhD, (Public Health) Honorary Associate, Australian Institute for Primary Care & Ageing, La Trobe University. Anna Nekaris, PhD, Professor in Anthropology and Course Leader, MSc Primate Conservation, Oxford Brookes University; Hugh Notman, PhD, Associate Dean, Learning Technologies & Associate Professor, Anthropology, Biological, Athabasca University. Ian Redmond, OBE, Field biologist and conservationist, Ambassador, UNEP Convention on Migratory Species, former Envoy for UN-GRASP; Vernon Reynolds, PhD, Emeritus Professor, School of Anthropology, Oxford University and Founder of the Budongo Conservation Field Station, Uganda; Lori K. Sheeran, PhD, Professor, Department of Anthropology & Museum Studies and Primate Behavior & Ecology Program, Central Washington University. Jo Thompson, PhD, Executive Director, Lukuru Foundation, Democratic Republic of Congo; Richard Wrangham, PhD, Ruth B. Moore Professor and former Chair of Biological Anthropology, Harvard University and President Emeritus, International Primatological Society.

[14] http://www.atla.org.uk

[15] http://lan.sagepub.com.

[16] http://animalresearch.thehastingscenter.org.

[17] 2015:4.23-29. Published as Linzey & Linzey, 2017.

[18] Dr Sharma is a member of EGC-MHRD Core Expert Committee to Consider Discontinuation of Dissection of animals in Zoology/Life Science in Indian Universities and Colleges, The Ark (Spring 2012):29-30.

[19] Linzey and Linzey, The Ethical Case Against Animal Experiments, 4.29

[20] Discussions at Winchester University in 2017.

Earth Day 2020 by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, whose mission is to work with civil and faith communities for developing local solutions to global problems, including climate change, plastic pollution, and threats to biodiversity. Earth Day promotes programs ranging from low-impact actions to “a billion acts of green” to address the paramount challenge of our time.

Of course, every day is earth day! Every day is an opportunity to celebrate “the earth as the Lord’s and that all who dwell therein belong to the Lord” (Psalm 24.1). Every day is a reminder of our vulnerability and solidarity. In fact, today, more than ever, we are also reminded of our responsibility to the earth and each other in light of that interdependence between the earth and all its inhabitants. The ecological responsibility and the respect of the sacredness and the beauty of every human person, of the elderly and the disabled, the poor and the marginalized, the sick and the suffering, are today the universal categorical imperative for the whole humanity.

In recent weeks, with the alarming spread of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), we have been painfully reminded of the interconnection among human beings throughout the world. So we are obliged to reflect further on the exigency and urgency of our response to issues that are increasingly gathering momentum and threatening our survival.

While it may be strained to draw sweeping comparisons or simplistic connections between the human impact on the natural environment and a global crisis like COVID-19, can we not wonder whether the mandated human isolation to prevent the spread of the virus has resulted in clearer water and cleaner air and in a reevaluation of our relationship with nature and its ability to heal us? We hasten to add, of course, that no loss of human life can ever justify any ecological renewal of the planet, but there is no doubt that individual action and community response are vital in encountering climate change and the coronavirus pandemic. And we fervently pray for the quick return of normalcy in these surreal times.

Crisis is a moment of clear and definitive judgment. And the COVID-19 crisis is a compelling moment of truth and assessment of our respect and regard for the precious gifts that we have received and been entrusted with by God. Over the past decades, we have underlined and declared that when we are isolated from God, then we, inevitably, if not inadvertently, also exploit the planet’s resources. Indeed, we have repeatedly associated and even identified such behavior against God’s creation with sin. Like us, the earth, too, is suffering from “isolation” and alienation. “The whole of creation is groaning with labor pains to this day . . . eagerly longing for . . . its liberation by the children of God” (Romans 8.19–22). This time of uncertainty and insecurity has taught us to care for one another. Will we also learn, at last, to mitigate our impact on the environment?

As a result of the ecological disruption created by the global crisis of this coronavirus pandemic, Earth Day will be celebrated electronically this year throughout the world. How paradoxical that the earth continues to inspire, instruct, and invite us toward a renewed commitment and restored covenant with creation. How will we respond? Our prayer is that this critical moment will be for all of us and for the entire planet an occasion for renewal and redemption, for liberation and transformation, as well as for inspiration and illumination.

INTERVIEW ON THE CRISIS OF COVID-19 WITH HIS ALL-HOLINESS BARTHOLOMEW, ARCHBISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE-NEW ROME AND ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH

Orthodox Christians are preparing to mark this week the most important holiday of the Christian world – Resurrection Sunday. The festive feeling is eclipsed by the tragedy of the situation and quarantine restrictions imposed due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. This year, we cannot traditionally gather at Holy Week liturgies and personally greet one another in temples at Easter services. We are aware that isolation, together with our deep faith and sincere prayer, will overcome evil.

On the eve of Resurrection Sunday, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew spoke in an exclusive interview with Ukrinform about the philosophy of existence in times of crisis, the lessons of the current situation, and about how believers should behave amid the pandemic in everyday life and while celebrating Easter.

‘SOCIAL DISTANCING’ IS NOW A WAY OF CARING FOR OUR NEIGHBOR

Question: Your All-Holiness, the greatest Orthodox holiday of Easter is approaching. Would You be so kind to recall times from the history of Christianity when believers could not attend holy ordinances and perform sacraments for objective reasons? How have these obstacles been overcome in the past?

Answer: Easter is indeed the feast of feasts, the night that St. Gregory of Nyssa describes as “brighter than any day.” It is the source of all other feasts and the center of our liturgical calendar, the feast that gives meaning to our faith and life. This is why it is so vital and crucial for Christians all over the world.There have indeed been occasions in the past when Christians have been unable to celebrate Easter. History has experienced pandemics and plagues. And Christianity has experienced persecution and punishment. We need only think of the periods of oppression and martyrdom – both in the early Christian Church, but also in more recent times. The difference today is that we are aware of science and medicine, which in the case of the pandemic of COVID-19 propose a self-isolation for the protection of our lives.In the early Church, monasticism was described as “white martyrdom” in contrast to the “blood martyrdom” of the martyrs. Today, our moral decision as human beings in accepting “social distancing” is a way of confronting the virus and caring for our neighbor.

Question: There is much debate now about whether sacraments can become a source of infection. What is the best way now for communion, confession, baptism, church marriage, etc.?

Answer: It is tempting, but also a form of escapism to dwell on the details of sacramental life. In the Middle Ages, scholars and superstition thrived on discussing topics such as the exact moment when the bread and wine were transformed into Christ’s body and blood, and how precisely a confession or baptism was valid or invalid.As we indicated in one of our addresses to the faithful, what is at stake is not our identity as believers, but only our identity as human beings that “bear flesh and dwell in the world;”

Our faith is a living faith, and there is no exceptional circumstance that can limit or suppress it. What must be limited and suppressed in these extraordinary circumstances are gatherings and large congregations of people. Let us remain in our homes. Let us be careful and protect those around us. And there, from our homes, strengthened by the power of our spiritual unity, let each and every one of us pray for all humankind.

THE WORLD HAS ABRUPTLY CHANGED, JUST LIKE THE RELATIONSHIP OF ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS WITH THE CHURCH

Question: In Ukraine, we have examples when some churches and their leaders do not adhere to general quarantine rules, exposing the lives of believers to danger. Is there the responsibility for such actions in the church world?

Answer: As Orthodox Christians, it is important that we remember not simply our personal or pious obligations, but also our communal and social responsibility. The success of those working so hard to respond to and overcome COVID-19 depends on our participation and cooperation. This is an invaluable contribution to all of society, a sacrifice equally worthy of praise and gratitude as those fighting this battle on the front lines.

Question: How should practicing Christians behave during the quarantine? What tips for maintaining spiritual and moral stability can You give?

Answer: We speak of this time as a crisis – from the Greek word κρίσις – which means that we will be judged by our response to the circumstances that we face. This is an opportunity for us to learn life-changing and world-transforming lessons.

All of us recognize that what we previously considered “normal” in our world or “routine” in our life has been shattered and turned upside down. What we were accustomed to, what we have taken pleasure in, has abruptly changed or stopped. No longer can we take even the simplest things for granted.

For us as Orthodox Christians, this also applies to our relationship with the church and, above all, with God. We can no longer take traditional or conventional ways for granted – like attending a service, lighting a candle, kissing the icons, singing with the choir, lining up for communion.In this crisis, then, we have learned that the church is more than just a building. We have discovered that each of our homes and families are called to become and to be what St. John Chrysostom describes as a “small church” (ἐκκλησία μικρά) – not just in name, but in actual practice. We should all be thankful for this precious lesson to our Lord who assures us: “where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Mt 18:20). Indeed, Jesus Christ is closer to us than we to ourselves.

THE CHURCH MUST NOT BE AFRAID OF THE USE OF TECHNOLOGY FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD

Question: Now we can see many examples of the “transition” of the church to the online mode. Is this a positive practice in Your opinion? Will there be a live broadcast of the festive Easter service from the Ecumenical Patriarchate?

Answer: One of the positive outcomes of this universal challenge is that we must now think deliberately and creatively about our relationships to one another. Working together from a distance, through the diverse means of modern technology, has provided not only the possibility of supporting one another as a means of consolation and survival but also of advancing our dreams and programs as a way of cooperation and progress.

We are deeply encouraged to learn of new ways ventured by churches, which were previously reserved toward such changes. After all, we are a living tradition, and the Body of Christ is an organic, vibrant community. We must always be attentive but never afraid in our use of technology, which must be employed as a means for the benefit of the people of God.So, we rejoice when we hear of the diverse ways with which churches are responding to their vocation at this critical moment. We are delighted to see how they are uniting their efforts in addressing their faithful and focusing their attention on their pastoral needs.The Ecumenical Patriarchate will indeed broadcast the Easter vigil from the Phanar, as well as all the services throughout Holy and Great Week.

THIS CRISIS HAS REMINDED US THAT THE WORLD IS LARGER THAN ANY SINGLE RELIGIOUS COMMUNITY

Question: What lessons do You think we all need to learn from this situation of a common threat to humanity and a common confrontation with it?

Answer: The lessons that all of us have learned will prove indispensable when we emerge from this crisis. We have been reminded that the world is larger than our individual interests and concerns, larger than our jurisdictional parishes and congregations, larger than any single church or religious community.We have realized that we must always do something more than what only affects our lives or our families.

We have admired the doctors and nurses, who sacrifice their lives for the healing of others. We have witnessed those working in grocery stores and pharmacies, those driving trucks and delivering goods, and especially those volunteering their time or donating their money for our more vulnerable brothers and sisters. All these actions of selfless love exude the fragrance of the Resurrection.Ultimately, we have learned what the Scriptures and Saints have always known and declared – that “whoever does not love their brother, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen” (1 Jn 4:20).

Permit us to close with our wholehearted and fervent wishes to all the people in Ukraine – to those who have already celebrated Easter on April 12 and to those who are celebrating Pascha on April 19 – our sincerest paternal wishes on the “feast of feasts” at this challenging time. Christ is Risen, my beloved brothers and sisters, my dearest families and children. The clouds of darkness and shadow of death have been overcome by His Resurrection.

Χριστός Ἀνέστη!Olga Budnyk, Istanbul-Ankara
* You can watch the services from the Ecumenical Patriarchate live on Facebook.

A Daily Reading Program on the Christian Theology of Creation- April 2020

The Vision and Spiritual Direction of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew along with Other Orthodox Patriarchs

A Course of Daily Theological Reflection on Christian Responsibility for the Care and Keeping of God’s Creation Month Four April 1 -30, 2020

The OFT is endorsed by the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States a P.O. Box 7348 a Santa Rosa, California 95407 a (707) 573-3161

Introduction During Great Lent, Christians are called to follow our Lord Jesus Christ onto the cross. This allows us to participate to some extent in His Resurrection at Pascha. This year, wherever we live, Lent will be different because we are facing a worldwide epidemic of the corona virus. This means that the manner in which we experience the cross in our Lenten journey will have a unique set of dimensions. Parishes and parishioners are already facing drastically new conditions with neighbors who may be fearful of infection and suffering from anxiety about illness or even a painful death. Food shortages are already emerging in some areas. How can we provide charity and help under these conditions? Church services are being interrupted and in many communities cancelled. How do we become more self-sufficient in our own prayers? This is a test that many of us are or will shortly be facing. As we pray for guidance, it will arrive in many forms and from different directions. Already from across the Orthodox Church we are learning of novel ways to respond.

From the Ukrainian Bishops in the USA we receive a prayer of healing that all of us may use. See: https://ukrainianorthodoxchurchusa.com/news_200310_1.

From the far-off tiny Church of Georgia, we hear that His Holiness Patriarch Ilya has been given a vision on how to address this new coronavirus. He tells us to fear not! See his vision related at: https://Orthochristian.com/129044.html

From the monks of Mount Athos we are invited to pray the Jesus Prayer every evening at 10:00 PM local time to restrain the impact of this worldwide epidemic.

From His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew we have a special letter of guidance and direction that applies to us all. (See April 2, below).

From parishes small and large we learn of shelter for the homeless, food for the hungry and guidance for those who may be sick, stressed or facing some other need.

What we don’t yet have, but what these readings from Church hierarchs are steering us toward is a genuine Orthodox Christian way of life, i.e., a Christian culture. What appears to be guidance on ecologically conscious living should also be recognized as a gateway into a whole Orthodox way of life.

These writings from patriarchs and bishops provide vision and direction on our Christian responsibility to shape a lifestyle that is harmoniously connected to God and neighbor and harmless living. Their guidance gives direction for how to live in the modern world and the new earth that is now emerging.

Yours in service to God’s good earth, EM – MR – EC – FK editors

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Wednesday The Great Challenge of Our Generation April 1, 2020

As Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has written: “Climate change affects everyone. Unless we take radical and immediate measures to reduce emissions stemming from unsustainable excesses in the demands of our lifestyle, the impact will be both immediate and alarming.”

Therefore, each parish and every individual should seek out ways of practicing prayer and care for God’s creation by applying the fundamental principles of scripture, theology and tradition with regard to our relationship with the natural environment by considering changes in our attitudes and habits with regard to food and travel, by reducing consumption of fossil fuels and choosing alternative sources of energy with regard to lighting and heating, as well as by raising and promoting awareness with regard to the divine gifts of water and air.

Every parish and community is invited and encouraged to open a fruitful dialogue on this challenge of our generation. HE Archbishop Elpidophorus, Protocol No. 22/19, September 1, 2019

Q What is global climate change? Q How might members of a parish address climate change? Q Why is this an important issue for Orthodox parishes?

Reflection

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Thursday Message Regarding COVID-19 April 2, 2020

The voice of the Church cannot be silent in such times. Our words… take the form we have learned through the ages: through the liturgy and through instruction, with encouragement and consolation…. We entreat you to respond faithfully and patiently to all the difficult but necessary measures proposed by health authorities and nations. Everything is being done for our protection, for our common good, to contain the spread of this virus. Our liberation from this distress depends entirely on our cooperation.

Perhaps some have felt that these measures undermine or harm our faith. However, that which is at stake is not our faith – it is the faithful. It is not Christ – it is our Christians. It is not the divine-man – but human beings. Our faith is a living faith, and there is no exceptional circumstance that can limit or suppress it. What must be limited and suppressed in these extraordinary circumstances are gatherings and large congregations of people. Let us remain in our homes. Let us be careful and protect those around us.

We see our neighbors suffering from the consequences of the virus, while others have already fallen and departed from among us. Our Church hopes and prays for the healing of the sick, for the souls of the departed, and for courage and strength to the families of the afflicted.

This trial, too, shall pass. The clouds will clear, and the Sun of Righteousness will eliminate the deadly effect of the virus. But our lives will have changed forever. This trial is an opportunity for us to change for the better. In the direction of establishing love and solidarity.

Beloved children in the Lord, may the blessing of the Lord, through… the All-Holy Mother of God, accompany us in our journey, transform our voluntary isolation into genuine communion, and become our prayer and destination to appreciate the meaning of this, so that we may return to that which is true [and] pleasing to God! Have courage! And may God be with us! HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, The Phanar, March 19, 2019

Q How can this COVID-19 trial be an opportunity for us to change for the better? Q. How might the coronavirus epidemic change our lives? Q. What will it take for the changes we make now to endure into the future? Reflection

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Friday Responses to the Coronavirus Epidemic April 3, 2020.

We are in a special situation while facing a great problem, which is not only our problem but the problem of the whole world – the appearance of the coronavirus. I invite all our faithful to be disciplined and to accept everything that is proposed and to implement that in their life for their own interest. Life is the greatest gift of God that we must preserve. Let us be disciplined, let us listen to what expert people suggest…. HB Patriarch Irinej of Serbia, Belgrade, March 15, 2020

Be courageous, my brothers! Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos gives us hope! God created our planet with so much love and He will not abandon it. Be courageous and stay strong! HB Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria and All-Africa, Metropolis of Memphis, at prayers for protection from the deadly coronavirus, March 21, 2020

It is time to seek refuge in the privacy of our homes, until the wrath of this plague is past. HE Teofan, Archbishop of Iasi, Metropolitan of Moldova and Bucovina, Iasi, Romania, March 18, 2020

Turn every house into a small church and pray, asking for the immense grace and mercy of God on mankind. Abide by the self-protection measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Our Church is with you and by your side. She loves all of you and prays for you all. We act responsibly because we love, not because fear knocks at our door. We are looking forward, praying, to Easter. And then the whole Creation will shine in the light of Resurrection, joy, hope. Take courage, my brothers, The Lord is with you. HE Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens, March, 2020

After each liturgy, the faithful will not be allowed to kiss the cross [or] holy icons, which must be cleaned systematically with disinfectant solution. With regard to Holy Communion, the Holy Mysteries of Christ should be offered and the spoon should be wiped after each partaker with a cloth impregnated with spirits (with regular refreshing the impregnation)…. The priests, the abbots and abbesses of the monasteries must adhere strictly to hygiene rules and disinfect their hands during the day at least once every two hours…. HB Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus, March 23, 2020

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Saturday Another Type of Fasting April 4, 2020

In an age of technology we should extend our fasting rules to include technology in order to gain spiritual peace during Lent. At least during the beginning of Lent, us let try to be less dependent on cell phones, social networks, and email accounts, lest the anxiety, which they throw at us, get inside us.

Technology can be a blessing, but it also has a very subtle reverse dimension, because of the way it fragments our thinking to a large degree. We become so dependent on technology that it becomes very difficult for us to break away.

I think it is necessary, in the world in which we live, to embrace such a type of fasting, a media quarantine. Fasting is a sacrifice and I think it is a sacrifice to give up our phone. It would be very beneficial to detach ourselves as much as possible from those things that do not bring us peace. HG Bishop Ignatie of Huşi, Sunday Sermon, Romanian Orthodox Church, March 1, 2020

Q Why do Orthodox Christians fast? Q. What benefits emerge from fasting? Q. How might a fast from technology become beneficial? Reflection

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Monday Voluntary Restraint in the Use of Material Goods April 6, 2020.

We should consider every act through which we abuse the world as having an immediate negative effect upon the future of our environment in which our posterity will live. The way in which we face our environment reflects the way we behave toward one another. It reflects upon the way in which we relate to our children, those born and those who are yet to be born.

Human beings and the environment form a seamless garment of existence. Humans are created as spiritual beings in which resides the image of God (Genesis 1:26). Our bodies are created from material nature, the dust of the earth. Interconnectedness between our nature and our environment lies at the center of our liturgy….

The asceticism of the Orthodox Church requires voluntary restraint regarding the use of material goods, leading to a harmonious symbiosis with the environment. We are required to practice restraint. When we curb our desire to consume, we guarantee the existence of treasured things for those who come after us and ensure the balanced functioning of the ecosystem. Restraint frees us from selfish demands so that we may offer what remains at the disposal of others. Avarice, which has its roots in the lack of faith and making of a god out of matter, we consider idolatry. Restraint is an act of self-control and confidence in God, but it is also an act of love. This willful asceticism is not only required of anchorite monks; it is required of all Orthodox Christians according to the measure of balance. Asceticism is not negation, but a reasonable and tempered utilization of the world. His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, New York City, NY,November 13, 2000

Q How is our relationship to the environment related to our interaction with people? Q. In what ways does the liturgy connect our nature to our environment? Q. Why can asceticism be understood as an act of love? Reflections

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Tuesday Facing a Global Climate Emergency April 7, 2020

Climate change is a result of greed, inequality and wanton destruction of God’s Earth, the repercussions of which are felt by all, most especially by the poor.

We are in the midst of a climate emergency…. The world is nowhere near meeting emission reduction targets and the latest IPCC report highlights that “only with rapid and far-reaching” transitions in the world economy, on a scale and at a rate without historical precedent, can the 1.5º climate [goal] be achieved. It is therefore a time to reconcile ourselves with creation through concrete repentance and urgent action. …

During this critical and trying time, we acknowledge …this current crisis and affirm ourselves as prophetic witnesses. Jesus has given us a choice between God and mammon and for those who choose to obey, we have no choice but to pursue Justice (Micah 6:8). His Eminence Seraphim, Metropolitan of Zimbabwe and Angola, Patriarchate of Alexandria and All-Africa,, December 3, 2019

Q How is global climate change a result of greed and inequality? Q. What does it mean that we are in the midst of a climate emergency? Q. What is prophetic witness? Q. How is justice a dimension of this witness? Reflections

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Wednesday Unite to Combat Climate Change World April 8, 2020

World Environment Day, celebrated on 5th June every year, is the main method of the United Nations to make people aware of the worldwide environmental demolition and to attract the action of various political and human resources.

The day’s agenda gives a human face to environmental issues. It empowers people to becoming active agents of sustainable and equitable development; to promote an understanding that communities are pivotal to changing attitudes toward environmental issue; and to advocate partnerships which ensure all nations and peoples enjoy a safer and more prosperous future.

World environment day is a popular event with colourful activities such as street rallies, bicycle parades, concerts, essay and poster competition in schools, tree planting as well as recycling and cleaning up campaigns. The theme of this year’s environment day is thought provoking “Your Planet Needs You – Unite to Combat Climate Change!”

We in Kerala are worried about the weak and sporadic rains in this season of normally heavy and incessant downpour. It is explicitly felt that the rhythm and balance in nature is disturbed. Although climate change can seem complex, there are a variety of simple actions that individuals and communities can take to make a difference. A few of the actions which we can employ are energy conservation, education programmes to create awareness, planting trees, using less petrol vehicles and recycling projects.

I exhort all Church members to observe the day with seriousness and learn to go back to the nature. A simple, natural and unsophisticated lifestyle is the best cure for these maladies. Let us join our hands to save our planet. Let us all unite to combat climate change and make this planet a commodious dwelling place for the posterity. His Beatitude Metropolitan Paulose Mar Milithios, The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, (aka The Indian Orthodox Church), March 22, 2010

Q How is global climate change a result of greed and inequality? Q. What does it mean that we are in the midst of a climate emergency? Q. What might you do in your community to address climate change? Reflections

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Thursday “Sub-Creators” in the Image of God April 9, 2020

We human beings… are called to continue and to extend the mystery of Christ’s Transfiguration on the mountain. As Metropolitan John of Pergamon has affirmed, “the distinctive characteristic of the human is not so much that we are a logical animal, but rather that we are an animal that is creative.”

Endowed as we are with freedom and self-awareness, entrusted with the power of conscious choice – “sub-creators” formed in the image of God the Creator, living icons of the living God – we have the capacity not merely to manufacture or produce but to create, to set our personal seal upon the environment, to reveal new meanings within nature: in a word, to transfigure.

Through our creative powers, through science, technology, craftsmanship and art, we enlarge the radiance of the transfigured Christ, revealing in all material things the glory that is latent within them. That is precisely what we are seeking to achieve through all our ecological initiatives. HE Metropolitan Kalistos of Diokleia, Symposium on the Adriatic Sea, June 9, 2002

Q What does His Eminence mean by the concept of “Sub-Creators” Q. How may we reveal the glory latent within material nature? Q. How are these concepts part of the Church’s ecological initiatives? Reflection

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Friday Our Huge Responsibility to Save our Planet April 10, 2020

In order to respect God’s creation we must become conscious that everything in the world belongs to God who created it. Consequently, we humans are under no circumstance proprietors of God’s creation, but people who accept his commandments, that is, the rules of His management.

Hence, we become conscious that we have a serious responsibility for environmental protection, which is associated directly with the respect, which we each and all owe to the Creator, that is, to God. Hence, the whole of creation, our planet and whatever exists on it, is God’s wider habitation…. Man, as an inseparable part of this habitation of God, must be protected in every way…. The same applies to every part of creation. In this way we show special reverence to the Creator.

Under no circumstances may man create an opposition with his environment; that is, the wider space of nature in which he lives. We must not fall victims to the new times where unfortunately many people from inhuman arrogance and the unacceptable issues of colonization and the inconceivable lack of control over the industrial revolution and the unjust exploitation of man towards his fellow human beings, see nature as their adversary and enemy which they should besiege, pillage, conquer and rudely rape, changing her… into a huge cemetery…. HB Patriarch Theodoros II, Pope of Alexandria and All-Africa, Alexandria, Egypt, September 8, 2012

Q Can you summarize human responsibility to God for the care of the earth? Q. What are consequences of failure to observe these responsibilities? Q. How are the duties of a custodian different from those of an owner? Reflection

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Saturday Responsibility to Steward the World April 11, 2020

The world around us has changed. This is a simple, but true statement and it relates to a fact that cannot be denied. Advancements in medicine, science, and technology have reshaped how we live, work and interact in our daily reality; and in so many ways these advancements have benefitted and enhanced our earthly existence. However, we must acknowledge that they come with a cost.

As we look around us, we notice that the economic engines that drive our country, as well as the world economy, are causing a greater number of people to live in large urban areas, rather than rural locations where they lived in the past. These large concentrations of humanity result in people living farther away from the sources of their food, greater consumption of natural resources, and the build up of pollution of our land, water and air. Moreover, with the world population now topping seven billion, one must wonder how many people our planet can really sustain.

When we read the first and second chapters of Genesis, we see that the description of the earth is truly beautiful. This gift alone is reason enough for us to what to preserve what God has given to us, not to mention that it is the earth that sustains our physical needs. Beyond this, however, it is clear that God not only intended for us to be users of the planet, but He also bestowed on us the responsibility to be its stewards. HE Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver, Open letter, August 2019

Q How do the advancements in technology change our lives? Q. What is the difference between a user and a steward of the planet? Q. Is population an issue for Orthodox Christians? Q. Why? Reflection

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Monday Our Spiritual and Religious Duty April 13, 2020

The human being is on earth, not as a stranger who came to receive a monetary profit, but as a careful owner who cultivates the earth for future generations and takes care, not only of his own profit, but also of the good of his neighbors and those far off.

Moreover, the care of protecting the Creation of God in all its beauty and harmony is not only our practical task but also a spiritual and religious duty, a fulfillment of the commandment of God and a trail of moral feeling.

The Black Sea region has suffered from many sad consequences of an unreasonable selfish use of nature and this has been especially dramatic in our century.

Today we must understand the need to work together for the transfiguration of this wonderful piece of land, for the improvement of the condition of the Black Sea, the pearl of our planet…. HB Patriarch +Alexey II, Primate, Russian Orthodox Church Yalta, Russia, September 24, 1997

Q What does it mean to live on earth and care for the good of future neighbors? Q. Why is protecting God’s Creation our spiritual and religious duty? Q. How can we Orthodox work together in peace and harmony? Reflection

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Tuesday Respect and Holy Regard for Animals April 14, 2020

For members of the Orthodox Church an icon is not to be regarded in isolation, simply as a picture on a religious subject…. Much more significant is the fact that an icon exists within a specific context. It is part of an act of prayer and worship, and divorced from that context, it ceases to be authentically an icon. The art of the icon is par excellence a liturgical art.

If Orthodox icons depict not only humans, but animals, does this not imply that the animals have an accepted place in our liturgical celebration and our dialogue with God? We do not forget that, when Jesus withdrew to pray for forty days in the wilderness, he had the animals as his companions: “He was with the wild beasts” (Mark 1:13).

What the icon shows us – that the animals share in our prayer and worship – is confirmed by the prayer books used in the Orthodox Church. It is true that, when we look at the main act of worship, the Service of the Eucharist, we are at first disappointed; for in its two chief forms – the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom and that of St Basil the Great – there are no direct references to the animal creation. Yet, when we pray “for the peace of the whole world,” this surely includes animals. As one commentator puts it, “We pray for the peace of the universe, not only for mankind, but for every creature, for animals and plants, for the stars and all of nature.” HE Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware), Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain, Iasi, Romania, January, 2019

Q What does Orthodox theology tell us about respect for animals? Q. How are Christians supposed to view icons? Q. What do icons teach us about how to view the world? Reflection

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Wednesday Living Simply April 15, 2020

Dear friends, If we do not live more simply, we cannot learn to share. And if we do not learn to share, then how can we expect to survive? This may be a fundamental religious and spiritual value. Yet it is also a fundamental ethical and existential principle.

Each of us is called to draw a distinction between what we want and what we need, or – more importantly – what the world needs. Greed and gratification reduce the world to a survival of the fittest; whereas generosity and gratitude transform the world into a community of sharing.

We are invited to pursue a way of sacrifice – not a sacrifice that is cheap, but a sacrifice that is costly. As King David once said: “I will not offer to the Lord my God a sacrifice that costs me nothing” (Second Samuel 24.24). We must be prepared to make sacrifices – material and financial – that are genuine and even painful. And in this regard, whether we like it or not, more is demanded from the rich than from the poor. HAH, Halki Theological School, June 18, 2012

Q How are sharing and survival connected? Q. Why is sacrifice a virtue? Q. How can sharing transform the world? Reflection

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Thursday The Long Journey from the Head to the Heart April 16, 2020

Sacrifice is primarily a spiritual issue and less an economic one. Similarly, in speaking of the environmental crisis, we are referring to an issue that is not technological or political, but ethical. The real crisis lies not in the environment but in the human heart. The fundamental problem is to be found, not outside, but inside ourselves, not in the ecosystem, but in the way we think. Without a revolutionary change within ourselves, all our conservation projects will ultimately remain insufficient and ineffective.

We know what needs to be done and we know how it must be done. Yet, despite the information at our disposal, unfortunately very little is done.

It is a long journey from the head to the heart; and it is an even longer journey from the heart to the hands. We … will explore ways and means to bridge the unacceptable gap between theory and practice, between ideas and life. HAH, Halki, Turkey, June 12, 2012

Q How is the real crisis of the environment primarily in the human heart? Q. What do the words “revolutionary change within ourselves” mean to you? Q. How do we in daily activity change the attitudes of our hearts and mind? Reflection

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Friday The Transforming Blessing of the Holy Spirit April 17, 2020

Without the Holy Spirit:

God is far away,

Christ stays in the past,

The Gospel is a dead letter,

The Church is simply an organization,

Authority a matter of domination,

Mission a matter of propaganda,

Liturgy is no more than an evocation,

Christian living a slave morality.

But with the Holy Spirit:

The cosmos is resurrected and groans with the birth-pangs of the Kingdom, The risen Christ is there,

The Gospel is the power of life,

The Church shows forth the life of the Trinity,

Authority is a liberating service,

Mission is a Pentecost,

The liturgy is both memorial and anticipation,

Human action is deified.

HB Patriarch Ignatius IV (Hazim), Statement to the Fourth Assembly of the World Council of Churches, Antiochian Orthodox Church, July 20, 1968

Q Why is the health and life of the Church dependent upon the Holy Spirit? Q. What is necessary for the Holy Spirit to enliven your own life? Q. How is our Lord Jesus Christ connected to the Holy Spirit? Reflection

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Saturday The Order of All Things is Troubled April 18, 2020

The order of all things is troubled. Nature’s forces are explored and exploited in ways unsuitable to the harmony of the natural order. Nature is assaulted by human egocentric will. The uniqueness and sanctity of the human person is directly threatened. And all of humanity, coerced by the uncontrolled powers of haughty reason and the incurable weaknesses of moral and spiritual conduct, is moving along the precipitous edge of a yawning abyss.

In view of such changes and developments toward the unforeseeable future, it is necessary to seek out the prophetic charisma of the Church through the invocation of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter of our life and of the entire world. Moreover, this, not in order for us to disclose whatever human beings may be planning, or to forecast their consequences or to make known what only God has established by His own authority (Acts 1.7).

Christian young people do not limit themselves to the claim of respect for human rights. They also advocate another aspect of what is right, namely, human responsibility and duty, for without the latter the former proves equally inhuman, as much as its violation does. They advocate, as well, the notion of justice as mercy and the restoration of all things to a condition of harmony, that is to say, the transcending of transactional justice with a justice that combines collectively all virtues. HAH, The Millennial Youth Conference, Istanbul, Turkey, June 18, 2000

Q How are the forces of nature being exploited? Q. Why is it necessary to seek out the prophetic charisma of the Church? Q. What is the role of Christian youth in the notion of “justice as mercy”? Reflection

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Monday Christ Brings Healing to the World April 20, 2020

The Resurrection of Christ grants to faithful Christians the certainty – and to all humanity the possibility – of transcending the adverse consequences of natural calamity and spiritual perversity.

Nature rebels when the arrogant human mind endeavors to tame its boundless forces endowed by the Creator to its seemingly insignificant and inactive elements. In considering from a spiritual perspective the grievous natural phenomena that plague our planet repeatedly and successively in recent times, we acknowledge that these are inseparable from the spiritual and ethical deviation of humanity. The signs of this deviation – such as greed, avarice, and an insatiable desire for material wealth, alongside an indifference toward the poverty endured by so many as a result of the imbalanced affluence of the few – may not be clearly related to the natural occurrences in the eyes of scientists. Yet, for someone examining the matter spiritually, sin disturbs the harmony of spiritual and natural relations alike. For, there is a mystical connection between moral and natural evil; if we wish to be liberated from the latter, we must reject the former.

Our Risen Lord Jesus Christ, the new Adam and God, constitutes the model for the beneficial influence of a saint on the natural world. For Christ healed physical and spiritual illness, granting comfort and healing to all people, while at the same time bringing calm and peace to stormy seas, multiplying five loaves of bread to feed the five thousand, thereby combining the reconciliation of spiritual and natural harmony.

If we want to exert a positive impact on the current negative natural and political conditions of our world, then we have no other alternative than faith in the Risen Christ and fulfillment of his saving commandments. HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Pascha Letter, 2011

Q How may humans enter into and participate in the transfiguration of the earth? Q. How is the earth defiled by human action? Q. How do we understand Jesus Christ as a model for our own lives? Reflection

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Tuesday Reading the ‘Signs of the Times’ April 21, 2020

In many parts of the world, indigenous cultures have been undermined by seductive images from the supposedly civilized world, propagating the idea that happiness is only to be found in consuming more and more material products.

For better or worse, we are living in an age when the destinies of all human beings and all human communities are ever more closely intertwined. Patterns of behavior and consumption in one corner of the globe can affect the lives and livelihood of people who live at the other extremity of the earth.

This new proximity, this closeness, need not be a bad thing if we learn to read the “signs of the times” (Matthew 16:3). To some degree, we are all drawn closer by a common experience of fear and suffering as the consequences of climate change are felt in different ways. At a time when climatic emergencies of many different kinds are affecting the lives of hundreds of millions of people, we have no moral choice but to “bear one another’s burdens” as the New Testament (Galatians 6:2) enjoins us. HAH, Ilulissat, Greenland, September 7, 2002

Q How have indigenous cultures been undermined by the modern world? Q. How is all human destiny intertwined in the current age? Q. What are the signs of our times? Reflection

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Wednesday The Starting-Point for an Environmental Ethic 22/4/2020

The Orthodox Church assumes as its starting point for an environmental ethos the teaching of the Bible…. Let us concentrate on the biblical account of the relationship between humanity and the creation. The first noteworthy point is the restriction placed on the first-created not to consume a certain fruit.

Beyond serving as a basis for Christian asceticism, this commandment indicates environmental significance a the authority granted to humanity over nature is not absolute. While humanity was created to rule over earth, its rules are subject to restrictions ordained by the Creator. Trespassing against these rules results in fatal consequences. Today we witness death approaching because of trespassing against limits that God has placed on our proper use of creation.

A second point is that the gift of paradise to the first-created was accompanied by the commandment and responsibility of humanity “to work it and preserve it.” Working and preserving constitute an active responsibility. Therefore, any passivity or indifference toward environmental concerns cannot be regarded as proper.

A third point is that the consequences of the transgression of the first-created [the Fall] had cosmic implications, producing thorns and thistles in the environment. This rebellion incurred the corruption and destruction of the ecological balance, which continues to this day, whenever we violate the commandment of preservation and abstinence, proceeding instead to misuse and abuse of the earth.

Finally, we should observe that the Creator took special care during the great Flood, so that through Noah, the plants, the clean animals useful to humanity as well as the unclean ones that appeared of no consequence, should be preserved from extinction. This divine concern constitutes a vindication of our interest in the survival of those species that are vulnerable to extinction. HAH, Symposium of the Adriatic, June 6, 2002

Q What is the purpose of an environmental ethic? Q. How would you describe each of the biblical principles that HAH lists? Q. Can you name other biblical principles not listed in this collection? Reflection

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Thursday Developing a Spiritual Worldview April 23, 2020

Humanity’s reckless consumption of earth’s resources threatens us with irreversible climate change. Burning more fuel than we need, we contribute to droughts or floods thousands of miles away.

To restore the planet we need a spiritual worldview that cultivates frugality and simplicity, humility and respect. We must constantly be aware of the impact of our actions on creation. We must direct our focus away from what we want to what the planet needs. We must care for creation. Otherwise, we do not really care about anything at all.

In our efforts to contain global warming, we are demonstrating how prepared we are to sacrifice our selfish and greedy lifestyles. When will we learn to say: “Enough!”? When will we understand how important it is to leave as light a footprint as possible for the sake of future generations?

It is not too late to respond. We can still steer the earth toward a suitable future for our children. But we can no longer afford to wait. Together with our political leaders we must act with urgency. Deadlines can no longer be postponed; indecision and inaction are not options. We have choices to make. The time to make a commitment to heal the earth is now. HE Archbishop Seraphim of Zimbabwe, On Global Disruption, June, 2014

Q What is a spiritual worldview? Q. Why is it essential to develop a spiritual worldview? Q. How are frugality, simplicity, humility, and respect involved? Reflection

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Friday Developing a Spiritual Worldview April 24, 2020

Developing a Spiritual Worldview Dear friends, If we do not live more simply, we cannot learn to share. And if we do not learn to share, how can we expect to survive? This may be a fundamental religious and spiritual value. Yet it is also a fundamental ethical and existential principle.

Each of us is called to draw a distinction between what we want and what we need, or – more importantly – what the world needs. Greed and gratification reduce the world to a survival of the fittest; whereas generosity and gratitude transform the world into a community of sharing.

We are invited to pursue a way of sacrifice – not a sacrifice that is cheap, but a sacrifice that is costly. As King David once said: “I will not offer to the Lord my God a sacrifice that costs me nothing” (2 Samuel 24.24). We must be prepared to make sacrifices – material and financial – that are genuine and even painful. And in this regard, whether we like it or not, more is demanded from the rich than from the poor. HAH, Halki, Turkey, June 12, 2012

Q What is the difference between wants and needs? Q. Distinguish between cheap and costly sacrifice? Q. Which do you choose? Q. Why does HAH say we must be prepared to make sacrifices? Reflection

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Saturday Conservation and Compassion April 25, 2020

There is a close link between the economy of the poor and the warming of our planet. Conservation and compassion are intimately connected. The web of life is a sacred gift of God ― ever so precious and ever so delicate. We must serve our neighbor and preserve our world with both humility and generosity, in a perspective of frugality and solidarity alike.

Faith communities must undoubtedly put their own houses in order; their adherents must embrace the urgency of the issue. This process has already begun, although it must be intensified. Religions realize the primacy of the need for a change deep within people’s hearts. They are also emphasizing the connection between spiritual commitment and moral ecological practice.

Faith communities are well-placed to take a long-term view of the world as God’s creation. In theological jargon, that is called “eschatology.” Moreover, we have been taught that we are judged on the choices we make. Our virtue can never be assessed in isolation from others, but is always measured in solidarity with the most vulnerable. Breaking the vicious circle of economic stagnation and ecological degradation is a choice, with which we are uniquely endowed at this crucial moment in the history of our planet. HAH, Address before the World Council of Churches, August 12, 2005

Q Is there a link between the economy of the poor and global warming? Q. How are spiritual commitment and moral ecological practice connected? Q. Why is solidarity with the most vulnerable virtuous? Reflection

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Monday Man Made Disasters April 27, 2020

Man Made Disasters Man-made disasters, which have been assuming an increasingly menacing scope as civilization is developing, reflect what is happening inside the human soul. Without a profound spiritual analysis of the role Man plays in the Universe such disasters cannot be prevented. Many people have failed to learn the lessons of the Chernobyl catastrophe that mankind has been treating the land, water and air, and the entire environment merely as a consumer.

It is impossible and not worthwhile to try and stop the development of science and technology. But people will not be guaranteed against tragedies similar to the one that occurred twenty-five years ago if they do not learn to use the natural materials and the technical achievements of civilization wisely, with care for each other and everything God has created.

[Scientific and technological development] cannot be non-ethical. It must be combined with devotion to the eternal moral standards and the ideals of mutual respect and love. This is the guarantee of a worthy future for our people and the world as a whole. His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All-Russia, “Chernobyl is God’s Punishment,” April 27, 2011

Q Why are man made disasters a reflection of the human soul? Q. How does the Chernobyl disaster exemplify seeing the environment as a consumer? Q. Why is scientific and technological development an ethical issue? Reflection

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Tuesday All In the Same Boat April 28, 2020

In the Arctic, melting glaciers are threatening the way of life of traditional hunters. In our home region of southern Europe, we have seen an alarming combination of heat waves, drought, fires and also floods. Scientists inform us that these phenomena are connected.

When we visited Brazil last year, the region was still recovering from a highly unusual drought. Brazilian scientists told us that illegal deforestation was leading to a decrease in rainfall and making fires more common. Fires and deforestation in Brazil are among the many factors which are altering the climate, and hence the environment, here on the northern edge of the earth.

These linkages ought to bring home to every nation and every community how closely involved it is with every other nation and community. It should be more obvious now than ever that no state or ethnic group or economic class can hope to advance its own interests indefinitely at the expense of the remainder of mankind. To restate a simple truth which has guided all of our floating symposia on Religion, Science and the Environment, “we are all in the same boat.” HAH, Nuuk, Greenland, September 9, 2007

Q How are traditional ways of life being threatened? Q. Why are melting glaciers and droughts in Southern Europe related? Q. How can mankind advance it’s collective interests? Reflections

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Wednesday A Grieving Earth April 29, 2020

The holy hymnographer Joseph presents the earth as grieving and protesting voicelessly for the many evils with which we burden her.

If this holy hymnographer thought back then that the pollution of earth by humankind would cause the wrath of God today, humanity in its entirety should all the more realize our ultimate destructive behavior against the creation of God.

Certainly, the earth was created well-equipped to offer shelter to the human beings and was ordered by God to cover their needs. However, we do not draw from earth’s resources what we need in moderation, so that we allow its productive ability to remain sound and intact; instead we are depleting her natural resources.

The aforementioned holy hymnographer Joseph personifies earth, which, addressing man, complains that the Master of humankind and God whips her instead of him, for God wants to spare the human being; the earth, however, bemoans her suffering due to humankind’s mistakes and cries to people: “Come to your senses and appease God in repentance.” HAH, Day of Prayer for Creation, September 1, 2005

Q Why is the earth grieving and protesting? Q. Why is it important to preserve the productive ability of the earth? Q. How do human being come to their senses? Reflection

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Thursday A Lost Identity April 30, 2020

We as Christians, taught by the Holy Tradition and by the experience of the Holy Church Fathers, link always the mentioned theme with the need of repentance because when man fell, due to his sin, he lost his identity. Because of his tendency toward transgression, man became weak and cannot find in himself strength to go back to his Creator. Man accepts God’s love and becomes a being of communication, a being as communion, improving, with alI the Saints, his God-likeness.

So man becomes the custodian of the creation which is created by the will of God for the only reason – to become one in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1, 22-23; 4,15).

The human being is called to protect the work of God’s hands because the deeds of God protect [nurture] him. The creation needs for its existence God, as it cannot exist by itself. Man is searching for eternity and he is determined to care for the conjunction of unity and differences. Love disables divisions, while the Spirit assembles all. His Beatitude Patriarch Irinej, Metropolitan of Belgrade and All-Serbia, Serbian Orthodox Church, August 31, 2012

Q How is the fall related to environmental destruction? Q. Why are human beings the protector of God’s works? Q. How can man reclaim his lost identity? Reflection

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Friday Reuniting the Universe Under Jesus Christ May 1, 2020

Cosmology is a form of knowledge which is given to us in Christ by the Holy Spirit. “The mystery of the Incarnation of the Word,” wrote St. Maximus the Confessor, “contains within itself the whole meaning of the created world. He who understands the mystery of the Cross and the Tomb knows the meaning of all things, and he who is initiated into the hidden meaning of the Resurrection understands the purpose for which God created everything from the very beginning.”

If this is so, it means that everything has been created by and for the Word, as the Apostle says in Colossians 1:16-17, and that the meaning of this creation is revealed to us in the re-creation effected by the same Word taking flesh, by the Son of God becoming the son of the earth….

In this perspective the Fathers maintain that the historical Bible gives us the key to the cosmic Bible. In this they are faithful to the Hebrew notion of the Word, which not only speaks, but creates: God is “true” in the sense that his word is the source of all reality, not only historical, but also cosmic reality…. That is why, as St. Maximos says, we discover, or rather the Gospel discovers for us, that on the one hand, the Word “hides himself mysteriously in created things like so many letters,” and on the other hand, “he… expresses himself in the letters, symbols and sounds of Scripture.” HB Patriarch Ignatius IV of Antioch, Zurich, Switzerland, March 10, 1989

Q What is Christian cosmology? Q. What is the ‘Logos,’ referring to what HB calls the Incarnation of the Word? Q. How does this relate to the created world? Reflection