Living Light
Welcome! You have found the site of the CreationKeepers team (Christ Church's Eco Church Committee), which shares ideas and experiences about how we can all lighten our environmental footprint. We do this because we see our planet and its resources at a breaking point and believe in the power of personal examples. Most weeks, we will reflect on some aspect of living, working, shopping, consuming, reading, learning, etc. These are all local experiences and can easily be adopted by others in our community. Our authors (Rosie and Monika) look forward to any comments or ideas that you may also have and want to share. Send us your ideas at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Blog #119: The Green Man in our Churches

May 11, 2023
Monika Weber-Fahr
It had stirred quite a few controversies, over the past months: The picture of a Green Man - or rather: of his face - on invites to King Charles’ coronation festivities. I had not really followed the debate, mostly perhaps because it seemed more of a British-tabloid tempest-in-a-teapot kind of thing. But last week’s coronation events themselves - which I did follow, as a good member of the Anglican Communion - brought a lot of the opinions on this mythical creature into my social media feeds. So I decided to do a bit of research to find out what’s up with this Green Man - after all, the gentleman seems to feature as decoration, if not as a symbol, in many of our churches while also reminding us of the omnipresence and beauty of our environment, perhaps featured as some male version of Mother Nature.
What I found was beautiful. Firstly, no one seems to really know where the Green Man as a symbol or a picture comes from originally. Some claim celtic origins, whispering words like paganism or naturalism. Yet, the rather widespread use of the symbol seems to suggest a certain universality of meaning, related to nature and its nourishing forces. Secondly, the term itself, used for what really is a “foliate head design seen everywhere in European medieval church decoration of the eleventh to sixteenth centuries” was apparently introduced or popularized by a British aristocrat, Lady Raglan, in an article she wrote in 1939  for the British journal Folklore, titled The “Green Man” in Church Architecture. Thirdly, the image of what seems an ancient archetype symbolizing nature, birth and rebirth, perhaps representing the cycle of new growth that occurs every spring, can be found well beyond the British Isles or even Europe - there are examples of similar figures from the Lebanon and Iraq, dated to the 2nd century, and similar figures in Borneo, Nepal and India. Fifthly, the Green Man and its symbolism seem to occupy people’s minds well beyond the coronation invitation: When you google Books on the Green Man, you get well over a 100 million hits, Goodreads lists 45 books on the topic, and hundreds and more come up on Amazon when searching for Books Green Man. And sixthly, there are even songs and poems featuring the Green Man.
Foto:Foto: A foliate head was depicted on the invitation for the coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla, designed by heraldic artist and manuscript illuminator Andrew Jamieson - an ancient figure, symbolic of spring and rebirth.   
Interestingly, though, I could not find any reference to Green Man pictures or sculptures, or even gargoyles, in Austrian Churches - neither in our Christ Church building nor in the older churches across the country that would have been built in a period when foliate heads were part of the decoration. But we don’t have to go too far to find them - Green Man symbolism features in a few churches in neighboring or nearby countries - such as in Germany’s Bamberg Cathedral and in Romania’s Richis’ church. Wherever we find the foliate heads, and whatever you think about them: For me, the Green Man in our churches is a lovely reminder that our natural environment has been present in our faith for long and perhaps anchored somewhat deeper in people’s minds and hearts than today. Maybe the invitation to King Charles’ coronation can also be an invitation to re-kindle our relationship with some of these connections.
So today’s is kind of an unusual LivingLight Blog - inviting you to explore history and art around the Green Man, a truly beautiful environmental symbol, joining us in many olden churches with so much positive presence - and yet a symbol that meets controversy. Despite my research, I can’t give you proper conclusion - but rather an invitation: To join me in exploring the resources I have shared above, and maybe to enjoy a poem, written by Charles Causely.
"Green man in the garden
Staring from the tree,
Why do you look so long and hard
Through the pane at me?
[..] [..]
But when I softly turned the stair
As I went up to bed
I saw the green man standing there
Sleep well, my friend, he said." 
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Blog #118: The Miner's Daughter says...

May 4, 2023
Monika Weber-Fahr
Yes, it’s me: I am a coal miner’s daughter. My dad worked in the coal mines in the German Ruhr area, and even though I have myself never been down in the shafts (women supposedly bring bad luck, or so they said at the time) I distinctly remember the black spots that had become permanent fixtures on his skin, and that could not be washed off, just like the semi-permanent dust in the air that made my mum wash our curtains once a week. This was in the late sixties, of course, before we had regulations that forced the coal fired power plants next door to install filters, but even then I grew up with the pride and sense of belonging that characterizes so many mining communities around the world, stemming from the undeniable fact that a miners’ hard work is truly indispensable - simply because our world does not function without the ores and minerals that are being dug up and extracted from the earth. And yes, the machines get bigger, the locations are more remote, but the personal risks that people take and the environmental damage that mining causes do remain - as does the fact that practically everything, from the spoon we use to eat through to the chair we sit on and the bicycle that takes us around, is built on mining.
And yes, as odd as they may seem, these were indeed my thoughts yesterday when I walked through the exhibition Mining Photography that is currently on display in the Vienna Kunst Haus in the third district (Hundertwasser Museum). If you don’t know much about photography - or much about mining - there is lots to learn here, in particular if you are young enough to not remember how film cameras used to look like, and how much the shops where we would pick up the prints would smell like really weird chemicals. At the time, we should probably have realized that taking pictures requires resources that others dig up someplace or produce in a chemical factory - but as it were, it all seemed rather far away. In the really early days of photography though - sometime between 1717 and 1800 - the inventors and early users were of course acutely aware of the use of salt, copper, and silver, to name but a few, if only because that is what they were experimenting with in order to figure out how to fix an image captured by a camera. The exhibition traces the pathways of the early inventors, looking at materials and where they came from (incidentally, did you know that for many years cotton was used for prints?) and already this material history is fascinating enough to make a visit at the Kunst Haus worthwhile.
Foto: One of the spectatular pictures on display at the Mining Photography exhibition at the Kunst Haus Wien - shedding a different light at the beauty that photography tends to convey.   
The curators also take a look at what the extraction of mineral resources involves, in particular the often dismal working conditions underground and above, the destruction of the environment, and the all too frequently ruthless treatment of people who live or make a living where someone else may want to mine.  I still wonder about that part of the exhibition, though.  Not because it’s wrong: Well beyond my personal history as a miner’s daughter I had the chance to spend part of my professional life working with mining companies around the world on the environmental, social and economic impact that their activities resulted in, and I can confirm the story that the pictures in the Kunst Haus tell us. It’s true: the process of mining mostly is ugly. Many companies have managed to improve it - but at their core, the extractive industries do destroy things. They do so to create other things. Wealth, beauty, practicality, mobility.  Whatever makes modern societies tick. Including the beauty of photography. It’s worthwhile spending some time to reflect on this - because it means that there is a responsibility innate in every item produced using these resources. The responsibility to care!
Nicely, the exhibition picks up on this theme - the theme of caring - when taking us into the 21st century part of the history of photography and its materials. Because these days, the environmental footprint of photography has more to do with what it takes to produce a smartphone than with the sliver and cobalt used in the early photographic processes. And the big story about phones is the story about waste: About five (5!) billion phones are expected to be thrown away this year, turning phones and the metals used inside them to e-waste that in many places is neither recycled nor safely deposited. The exhibition has interesting perspectives to share on e-waste management, the incentives for doing the right and the wrong thing, all things we would want to know about because they involve our responsibility to care. And just in case you were wondering: Here in Vienna, e-waste - including phones - is not only collected systematically but it is also stripped off all valuables and recycled; Austria has rules for this, and so does the EU.
Should you go and check out the exhibition? Well, it’s not your typical photography exhibition - and even though it does contain much beauty it also is very much an exercise in learning. You won’t be disappointed, though, on that end, I promise! Curious? If so, then hurry: You only have about three weeks left - it’s only open until May 29. Then the entire museum will close for six months for energy efficiency renovations.  Even more reasons to go right now - and to enjoy some of Hundertwasser’s extraordinary works while you are at it.
Feeling inspired? Want to contribute? Remark on or question something? Please send thoughts about or suggestions for the Living Light Blog to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Blog #117: Green Stuff at Christ Church

April 27, 2023
Monika Weber-Fahr
“But what do you actually do?”, she asked me last night with what seemed like a mix of curiosity and exasperation. The very same question - and the very same sentiments - had stood in front of me already twice, at different points, throughout the last years. Each time, the question was asked by fellow Christ Church members whom I had invited to join what the Anglican Church calls The Environment Committee and what Rosie and I, when we set it up in late 2020, called The Creation Keepers. The answer to the question was simple then, and it’s simple now: We do whatever we have inspiration and time to do - framed by the intent to help parishioners “embed environmental concerns in our worship, teaching and action” (that’s what Christ Church’s mission statement says) and “strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth”.  High intentions? Too high?
The good news is: Over the last year, we actually got a fair bit done. Some of us came together in September to jointly take the journey to the Vienna Water Museum - located out in the Höllental near the Mountain Rax -  to learn about how our water makes it into the city, and to enjoy the nature that surrounds it. Furthermore, we decided at the Church Council to continue with our financial support to an environmental charity, namely the Jane Goodall Institute here in Vienna who do a great deal for environmental education of children. As a parish, we celebrated Creationtide 2022, with prayers, selected readings and topical sermons, including a special sermon about our - personal -  responsibility for God’s creation that was offered by Pastor Esther Handschin of the Methodist Church in Vienna. Throughout the entire year, Christ Church’s shop team helped avoid waste with every item they collected, stored, displayed and sold - making sure many everyday items that otherwise may have ended up in a landfill found a new home and new use. Also throughout the year, the s’Häferl’ team helped avoid food waste every time they came together, chopping veggies and meats from left-over food donations from Vienna’s supermarket chains and restaurants and preparing meals for the homeless. Finally, throughout the year, 49 blogs were penned, by yours truly as well as by the many Haiku contributors that shared CreationCare thoughts over the summer.  Together, we raised awareness of things that everyone here at Christ Church Vienna can do in contributing to environmental stewardship, in how we live our lives, how we learn, how we appreciate God’s creation and how we pray and worship. From what I can tell, there is a small but evolving readership that is actually taking on some of the tips offered in the blogs. So yes, some of our intentions did make it into reality.
Foto: Last year, one of the CreationKeeper activities was to organize a walk along the Wasserleitungspfad in the Hoellental - where the water comes from that we use here in Vienna in our everyday life.  We learned a lot - including to be grateful for the ingenuity of the engineers that have devised the pipelines and the service of the men and women that take care of the pipes every hour of every day.  What activites should we organize this year? Ideas? Want to be involved?   
And what about next year? Let’s take a moment and look towards the coming twelve months - let’s explore some ideas and answer the question that I was asked last night: What do you actually do? Some things are already planned - like this weekend’s guided Walk in the Park. Maybe we should consider another iteration in the early autumn? A guided tour of the Vienna Incinerator had been another suggestion for some time - it might happen in September or October, on a weekday afternoon. Undertaking an ecological impact assessment of our Church building is something else that I am currently exploring - the Vienna OekoBusiness Office partially subsidizes such assessments; they are short & sweet and should give us ideas on cost and benefits of our options, such as considering to replace or complement our current gas-based heating system with electric heating for our pues (see also Blog#110: Hot Seats for Our Church). CreationTide 2023 is coming up - this year with a mighty river as a symbol: Should we take the hint and finally organize a Danube Clean Up? After all, World Clean Up Day is coming up on September 16! A little further out in 12 months to come, there is another season of Lent waiting for us: Should we think about an environmentally themed lenten course for 2024? And finally, there are another 50 blogs to put together, including some beautiful summer haikus.  Altogether, it seems there is a lot we can do here at Christ Church in contributing to safeguarding God’s Creation!
What are your ideas? Is there a specific topic you’d want us to explore for a blog? Or an activity you’d like to see organized? Do send a message to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - let's talk about what we can do, and whether maybe you want to be part of one thing or another!
Feeling inspired? Want to contribute? Remark on or question something? Please send thoughts about or suggestions for the Living Light Blog to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Blog #116: CreationKeepers on the Screen

April 20, 2023
Monika Weber-Fahr
Nearly 20 years ago, I was one of the first among my friends to read it: Der Schwarm, written by German Author Frank Schaetzing, had been published initially only in German, and while I got to enjoy what would eventually become one of the most widely read environmental Science Fiction thrillers, everyone else in my then-home Washington DC was waiting for the English translation to come out. Last month, a mini-series based on the book was released, and now there is no such language gap any more: English-speakers as well as German-speakers can watch Der Schwarm - the Swarm - for free on the ZDF Mediathek, just make sure to seat the language setting on the bottom right of the screen so that it works for you. And do hurry: Sometimes the ZDF Mediathek removes films after some time from their platform. Thereafter, Amazon Prime may become your only option.
Worthwhile watching? Well, it’s the Germans’ most-costly ever produced Mini-Series, so it better be good! But perhaps you want to first check out the book? It’s an absolute pageturner - be prepared to not be able to put it down once you start. An environmental Sci-Fi, its storyline is about marine scientists around the world who begin noticing weird changes in biology and behavior of whatever lives in the seas; as these changes accelerate and become more threatening, a rapidly evolving set of discoveries and action unfolds. Apparently, the background has been fabulously well researched - so be prepared to also learn a lot while being entertained. Like so many other books and films that feature environmental challenges also Der Schwarm has an Armageddon-type feel to it, but there is also a positive element in the description of how eventually a constructive resolution emerges (and no, I am not spoiling your anticipation for book or film by telling you their end), so my overall verdict on the Mini Series is positive!
Foto: The Swarm ("Der Schwarm") is an action-filled eco-thriller that was released on the ZDF Mediathek online last month in English and German. While the Mini-Series has its drawbacks - some lengths, and occasionally odd technology choices - it's still worthwhile watching, if only for its depiction of an emerging environmental disaster and the eventual resolution.    
Normally, I don’t like watching environmentally-themed (action) films or reading related books - mainly indeed because of the apocalyptic perspective that most of them take. And even though I had enjoyed reading Der Schwarm at the time - mainly because it’s simply so well written - I had kind of forgotten about the book until last week when I heard it mentioned in the recording of a talk that took place here in Vienna’s Volkstheater, with Samira El Quassil and Friedmann Karig. Together, the two authors have published an extraordinary book called Erzählende Affen - a title that would translate Narrating Apes. I have not read their book - but just listening to their talk I learned some fascinating insights into how narratives, including those around environmental challenges, rather than facts shape how we interact with the realities that surround us. For example, most environmentally themed films depict indeed apocalyptic settings, complete with rebel-type renegades trying to prevent some kind of disaster from happening, typically in action-filled eco-terrorist kind of ways. Rarely do such films feature those that actually cause the environmental disasters - the industries or decision makers that benefit from and lobby for poor policy decisions. Where is the Wolf of Wall Street version of an eco-thriller? And is this narrative one of the reasons why we spend more time discussing about the kids that glue themselves on the streets to protest against climate change than about those that earn millions with fossil fuel-based industries and prevent positive change from happening?
It’s worthwhile to occasionally examine why we think the way we think about a particular problem - that’s the short version of what the authors at the panel discussion said.  For example: Why do we worry about our individual carbon footprint - with the prerequisite guilt if it’s too large and if we feel too inconvenienced to reduce it - rather than worrying about the industries that do not offer us convenient alternatives? As it were, I had not realized that it was BP - yes, British Petroleum! - who suggested ordinary citizens use the carbon footprint concept when, in 2003, they took out ads around the world that asked people whether they even knew their own footprint. With that simple question BP managed to flip the narrative away from their own involvement in Climate Change, while seemingly pinning the accountability for the world’s carbon problem on the individual consumer. Kind of convenient for BP, it seems!
So what kinds of narratives are brought to us via the films we are watching when it comes to environmental challenges? Mostly, it seems, the entertainment industry pretends that climate change is not happening - less than one percent of of all US-based TV and film productions released between 2016 and 2020 name the word climate change even once. And when climate change is featured, it tends to be depicted as an unavoidable apocalypse - the recent political satire Don’t Look Up just being one of many many examples
But let's not be intimidated by Hollywood and instead remain on the lookout for good films with new perspectives on climate change and environmental challenges! And yes, they do exist! My personal favorite is and remains Woman at War, an icelandic-ukrainian comedy-action film, released in 2018. I will not review it here - but rather invite you to check it out; you can find it online on Amazon, I believe. And in the meantime, do check out The Swarm/Der Schwarm, and feel invited to send a note and tell me what is your personal favorite! 
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