LIVING LIGHT
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 #54: The Little Engine That Could   

January 20, 2022
Monika Weber-Fahr
For years, I have been reading and watching - with my then young children - stories about trains, mostly The Little Engine That Could and Thomas the Tank Engine. Little did I know at the time that the two had been written within 14 years of each other, and that both had a Christian faith-based context. The Story of the Engine That Thought it Could goes back to a sermon published in 1907 by the Brooklyn based Swedish Rev. Charles S. Wing, later inspiring multiple children’s books, including the one that many of us may know, by Watty Piper, in 1930 and beyond. In the meantime, Thomas the Tank Engine, whose adventures I got to follow throughout many little film episodes, goes back to the Three Railway Engines, a book series published by the Reverend Wilbur Audrey, an Anglican Priest, in 1945, based on stories he used to tell his son when he was down with the measels.
Taking a train is something many of us think about in this period of the year, with icy rain, sleet and snow making car travel all but unpredictable. Adding an environmental rationale makes the case even stronger: Taking a train instead of a car for medium-to-long distances does reduce one’s carbon footprint from that journey by around 80%, replacing a flight with a train even more so. As always, the devil is in the detail of such estimates - how many people are in the car or in the train at the time you travel, where does the train’s electricity come from, and so on. By and large, though, the transport community is clear: Taking the train is better than taking the car or a plane.  It should come as no surprise then that Austria’s and the European Union’s ambitious climate goals - becoming carbon neutral by 2050  - will require moving much traffic from the roads onto the rails. Hello, Thomas the Tank Engine, and your many brothers and sisters!   

 

Foto:The Little Engine That Could is a much beloved children's book (and film) with an encouraging message: Even when facing doubts, at times one actually can overcome despair. Not just in children's book, also in real life trains are set to lead the way out of some parts of our environmental predicaments. Source: Taken off youtube. 

But where does this leave those of us who must, for personal or professional reasons, travel longer distances? Vienna to Berlin. Vienna to Paris. Vienna to Brussels. Vienna to Amsterdam. Vienna to Hamburg. Vienna to Rome. And back, of course. Well, Austria, The Little Engine That Can, provides - somewhat uniquely in Europe today - the answer to this question: The NightJet. Over the last twelve months, I have taken the NightJet to multiple of Europe’s larger cities, respectively saving myself a hotel night, arriving refreshed in the morning, and by and large having enjoyed the experience. You can book the NightJet - through the regular OeBB website or app - in three classes:  Seating Carriage, Couchette, and Sleeper Cabin. Costs vary between around Euro 40 (traveling while sitting up) to Euro 200 (single Sleeper Cabin)  If you are treating yourself to a Sleeper Cabin, you’ll find this to be a pleasant experience, it comes with a made bed with white sheets, and they even give you a little paper bag with water and some munchies, as well as breakfast with coffee, yoghurt and Gebaeck offered upon arrival.  You can choose between sharing the cabin with one or two others or being on your own. Women traveling can indicate that they’d prefer the company of other women. Also, you can book a whole cabin for your family; my better half and our kids made that choice once on a trip to Frankfurt and greatly enjoyed it. While the Austrian NightJets take you to destinations in Italy, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Switzerland, other countries also operate Night Trains - offering the opportunity to go even up to Sweden and elsewhere. And, while it may seem a stretch, it's feasible: Getting to London from Vienna means that you take the NightJet up to Brussels and then get yourself on the EuroStar. Leaving in the evening, you can be at St Pancreas for lunch the next day.
COVID has gotten many of us to re-think how we approach public transport, mostly based on the perception that - surrounded by so many people in a small space - a virus might have a feast and infect everyone, certainly when taking off their masks to drink or eat. Online research did not tell me much about whether or not trains are indeed hot-beds of infection. I can say for sure, though: When traveling overnight in a single cabin, or just with your own family members, there is literally no-one whom you will see or meet. You can open the window at your leisure and not ever leave until you need to exit the train.  So: All good on that front.. 

 

Foto: Taking the Austrian NightJet to reach far-away destinations across Europe can be a pleasure. Source: Happyrail.com .

Maybe the NightJet will also become for you The Engine that Can, what do you think? Incidentally, the original story’s message is one that can inspire this and other environmental choices we get to make, now and in the years to come. The Little Engine That Could is about hope in the face of despair, and about the choices we make - the choice to try things anyways. Because yes, we can.
Inspired? Thoughts or reactions? Or ideas for forthcoming blogs?  We look forward to hearing from you - best via email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

Blog #53: Farming for 10 Billion   

January 13, 2022
Monika Weber-Fahr
Yesterday, I looked up how many people we had on the planet in the year I was born. My boys had asked, and all of us were somewhat shocked to find out that in my own personal lifetime, the world’s population had gone from 3.2 billion to 7.9 billion. We kind-of knew, I guess, but this was still a fact that took some time to stomach: The number more than doubled within 50+ years?! For a bit, we played around with the numbers in the online world population clock, and we found out that by the time my 16-year old would be 50, in 2055, we would have reached 10 billion people. Whowh! How are we going to feed ourselves? There is only one planet to offer resources for food and drink and shelter. Can we do this without destroying it?
Insofar as food is concerned, there seems to be an interesting - if somewhat surprising - answer, and some of it can even be found here in Vienna. The future may well be about insects! That one can eat the protein-rich little guys should not come as a surprise to us Christians: Mathew (3:4) is quite clear in describing John as a man who ate locust and wild honey. And Leviticus 11:21 goes further in specifying as “insects you may eat: all kinds of locusts, winged locusts, crickets, and grasshoppers”. Yet insects are, by all means, no ancient source of food: Today, around 2000 insect species are eaten worldwide in countries across Asia, South America, and Africa. You can find them dried, deep-fried, as crisps, in bags, on trays, in boxes, on markets, at stalls along the streets, or even in supermarkets.  

Foto:A new exhibition at Vienna’s Technical Museum - foodprints - explains some of the science and technology behind new food solutions, including those involving insects.  Plus you might  get to actually taste some chocolate (with mealworms).

But why are insects a solution to feeding a growing population? I found the answer in Farming for 10 Billion, a World Bank podcast that lays out the rationale in easy-to-understand terms: Insects are much easier and more efficient to farm than livestock; they need less land and time to produce the same quantity of food than livestock. Plus: They can be used to feed livestock, holding the potential to eventually replace controversial sources such as soybeans. This would be an important move since today’s ever expanding demand for soybeans to feed livestock has been one of the main drivers behind deforestation in places such as Brazil.  And on top of all this: Many of the insects feed off society’s organic waste, opening up an important opportunity to create a more circular economy for food production and waste management. The challenge now - and that’s why businesses and international organizations are getting involved - is to get insect farming to scales large enough to actually produce the amounts that will be needed in the future. But progress seems to be in sight for this climate change-busting food source.
Here in Europe, the EU Commission has approved - only last June - the use of dried yellow mealworm as an approved food, one of the first insect products.  If you want to see - and taste - such products in real live, check out the new foodprints Exhibition at the Technical Museum in Vienna, currently open until the summer.  It’s a small exhibition, with perhaps 10 or so stands - taking you through different food-stuffs, from bread through cocoa and mushrooms, explaining how nutrition, science and technology interact and have led to huge improvements in yields, preservation, availability and affordability of food. Most exciting, the exhibition features a tasteLAB; when I was there, I got to check out chocolate with crunchy mealworms (really! And good!), and I got to take a look at the original little animals).  It’s worth the trip - just take the U3 and connect easily with the Tram (either 52 or 60), very smooth; they are open daily through 6pm. 

Foto: ZIRP is a Vienna-based start up using insect protein to produce all sorts of goodies. Some of Zirpinsect products are on exhibition at the Technical Museum in Vienna right now.

As residents of Vienna, we might be interested to know that one of the more advanced start-ups in using insect protein for food hails from right here: Zirpinsects has developed a product range that includes, sofar, burgers through energy bars - all featuring protein from insects. If you are in the do-it-yourself mood, you can check out recipes online or get yourself a cookbook. I also discovered that Hollers, a fancy Steakhouse in Wiener Neustadt, offers multiple delicious looking insect dishes, and the Australian Pub right here in Vienna serves a hoppers&mealworms dish. As a newly minted beekeeper myself, I will try this spring what I can best do with the drone larvae that so often goes unused and thrown away: Barbecued, sauteed, or even as fritters or  ceviche, there seem to be many options.  Stay tuned for a Blog on that specific aspect sometime in April or May ;-).
Inspired? Thoughts or reactions? Or ideas for forthcoming blogs?  We look forward to hearing from you - best via email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

Blog #52: New in 2022 for the Eco-Minded in Austria  

January6, 2022
Monika Weber-Fahr
The New Year is bringing many exciting - and positive - news for those caring for the environment here in Austria. Most of these news are buried or hidden in information that has to do with taxes or somewhat abstract sounding rules and regulations. This blog digs a little bit into some of the regulatory changes that will come along in the coming year - both to help us understand what’s actually going on, and to see what it may mean for each of us here in Vienna.!
Austria’s big Eco-Social Tax Reform has come into effect on January 1st, 2022.  Throughout this year and thereafter, the Reform will introduce both general tax cuts for firms and individuals and, at the same time, it will levy new taxes on activities and items that come with a heavy CO2 footprint. One of the big shifts is that the Tax Reform introduces carbon pricing: Similar to Germany’s carbon pricing system, fixed prices will be introduced on an increasing scale, throughout 2025; thereafter carbon prices will be shaped by the European Carbon Market. For those of us living in Austria, this means that services and products involving a carbon footprint will get slowly more expensive: Petrol, the Austrian newspapers tell us, may go up by 9 cent per liter by the summer; Diesel and heating fuel even a bit more. Plus, there will be further increases in some of the taxes and insurances for cars. There are also changes in taxes and fees specifically for firms with a heavy carbon footprint; those of you interested may want to dig deeper into the legislation
Much of what the Tax Reform brings will make life a bit more expensive for many - at a time when COVID related hardships and inflation are already putting a burden on the country. Therefore, as a buffer, the Tax Reform brings a number of ways to make things easier. Firstly. the Government will introduce a Klima Bonus - a fixed amount of cash-per-person that everyone is to receive sometime after July this year; the format and amount are yet to be announced. Also, there will be subsidies for switching to new clean(er) heating systems - for example up to 7,500 euros for a heating exchange (based on information that I could find) - plus an option to deduct much of the non-subsidized cost from your taxes over the coming years. The Reform brings also extra options for low-income households to help switching their heating systems. And for those thinking of purchasing an electric car, there will be continued financial support - both for the car and the electric fueling station that you might want to install by your house.

Foto: In 2022, parking in Vienna will get tougher for those who commute into town: Practically everywhere parking will be limited to two hours at a time - unless you are a resident and have purchased a ParkPickerl (monthy Parking Ticket exclusively for residents).

The city of Vienna is doing their bit, too. The big goal this year is to begin reducing the number of people commuting into town with their car by half until 2030 - from 200,000 to 100,000. In order to achieve this, as of March this year, all parking in the streets of districts 1-9 will be organized in Kurzparkzonen or Short-Term Parking, Monday through Friday, 9am-10pm. Whoever parks their car will be limited to two hours at a time and be required to pay a parking fee. Only actual residents of Vienna are exempt - and that only if they have purchased a Park Pickerl or Parking Ticket for 10 Euros a month. Similar measures will be applied in nine of the districts outside of the Gürtel. This will make life for those of us using a car to get around more expensive and more tedious, but at the same time there will be new facilities for park&ride along the respective end-stations of many of the U-Bahn and S-Bahn routes, including in Leitha, Baden and Wiener Neustadt. There are of course options to pay for a place in a garage - or one could seriously begin thinking about switching to car-sharing. 
Why is all this a good thing? The simple view: Higher prices for high carbon-intensive products and services should get us to buy ur use these things less. And there is a pathway for what we should do instead: Exchange our old heating systems for new systems that use less fuel. And switch from using our cars to public transport or bicycles. Now, our survey last year told us that over half of the Christ Church community does not even have or use a car - but the news are still good for us.  Wiener Linien will introduce more and more frequent services in 2022. And, most exciting for me, personally: They will put 3000 new WienMobil Bikes on the road. This new Bikesharing system will not only bring many more stations where to find or leave your bike - but it will also involve bikes that feature 7-gears and can be located and brought back to physical as well as digital stations.
So a lot of switching and changing is in the air for 2022. Let’s make the most of it!
Inspired? Thoughts or reactions? Or ideas for forthcoming blogs?  We look forward to hearing from you - best via email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

Blog #51: Speaking Truth to Power  

December 30, 2021
Monika Weber-Fahr
He chose a Sunday to leave us: Desmond Tutu, Anglican priest and Archbishop emeritus, uncompromising fighter against apartheid, activist fighting for social justice in its many realms, Nobel-prize winner, husband, father, grandfather, as charming as he was morally uncompromising, died on December 26 at the age of 90. Honoring him, I read many obituaries over the past days that paid tribute to him, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s, the BBC’s, the Guardian’s, the Washington Post’s, the South African TimesLIVE’s,  the South African Business Day’s. None of them mentioned Tutu’s fight against climate change, and how he is - was - challenging all of us to take an active stance against the behaviors and politics of climate change. Yet, only last February, our then intern, Rosie Evans, had featured Archbishop Tutu in this Blog as one of the foresightful church leaders calling on Christians to change the tides on Climate change. In paying tribute to his life, we would like to use today’s Blog to share three key elements of his teaching that you might find illuminating and inspirational in regard to climate change and the environment!
Adaptation apartheid is how Archbishop Tutu had described the situation already in 2007: Climate change was - and still is - hitting disproportionately the poor and those in the Global South. Those who can adapt more easily are the countries and people living in the Global North, the very same whose industrial development had actually caused the changing climate in the first place, an ethical dilemma often described as climate (in)justice. No wonder that such language would come from Tutu - someone who called environmental destruction the human rights challenges of our time. Two weeks ago, Patrick had circulated an invitation to an online lecture about his life - The Gospel according to Mpilo Desmond Tutu. Regrettably I missed it - but I am sure it would have told us about the ethics of justice and forgiveness so fundamental to his teaching. 
Divesting from fossil fuels was a focus for Tutu’s climate campaigns. Just as he did during apartheid years, he challenged the financial system - those who invested and those who benefited from these investmens - to divest from the perpetrators of climate change. Back in 2014, he went public with an anti-apartheid style call for a boycott of the fossil fuel industry.  “We live in a World dominated by greed”, he noted at the time. “We have allowed the interests of capital to outweigh the interests of human beings and our Earth.  It is clear [the companies] are not simply going to give up; they stand to make too much money”.  In 2019, he wrote an OpEd in the Financial Times, referencing the 1,00 institutions who had by then divested $11tn from the sector and invested in renewable energy, challenging others to do so. Only with everyone’s participation would the world push itself to the tipping point from which one clean energy would be cheap enough that fossil fuels could be outlawed. “Apartheid [was] a global enemy”, Tutu wrote; “now it is climate change’s turn”.
Speaking truth to power was perhaps one of the most defining characteristic of Archbishop Tutu’s approach to life.  It was also the title of the 2021 Desmond Tutu Annual Peace Lecture - offered jointly by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Graca Machel, Mary Robinson and Thuli Madonsela. The Annual Peace Lectures, held on or around Tutu’s birthday in October each year for the past 11 years, have become an important platform for leadership messages on the future of humanity. This particular set of four lectures, in October 20221, was very moving. For this Blog, I chose to quote from Mary Robinson, mostly because she also spoke directly to and about Archbishop Tutu. Demanding climate justice cannot be separated, she said, from wider struggles to end exclusion, discrimination and injustice. And while it’s easy to be disheartened, she recounted a moment when, while traveling in New York with the then Archbishop, he was chastised for being an optimist. His answer, said Mary Robinson, was: “Oh, no, I’m not an optimist. I’m a prisoner of hope.”  Reflecting on this statement, she spoke about the human qualities needed going forward. Navigating our collective path through the challenges ahead would take human qualities of grace, faith and love “so wonderfully embodied by Arch". 
In honoring the Archbishop, activist for peace and justice throughout his life, what better thing to do than to reflect on these qualities, and on his acts and commitments. “Real power lies not with those with the biggest bombs or bank accounts”, he wrote in the FT in 2019. “it resides in the people who elect them to power, invest in their schemes and tolerate their trampling on the rights of others. We must use this power wisely!"
RIP, Archbishop Tutu. You are right: There is a lot for us to do, as we go into 2022 this week!
Inspired? Thoughts or reactions? Or ideas for forthcoming blogs?  We look forward to hearing from you - best via email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..