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 #103: Enjoy - and help - our Winter Birds!

January 19, 2023
Monika Weber-Fahr
And don’t forget to feed your birds…!, the lady in the gardening shop had told me in November as I left her store, equipped with some practical things for my terrace. Feed the birds - really? I had thought to myself, somewhat irritated. Was this not interfering with nature? My doubts must have shown on my face. It’s good for your garden…!” she added, “if the birds like your garden, in spring and summer they’ll eat 80 percent of the pests that may otherwise stop your flowers and veggies from growing. Great advice, but time took over and, as often happens, I forgot. I remembered her only two weeks ago - when I heard the calls in the Austrian radio for anyone with a little bit of time and motivation to Help Count Our Birds.   
The winter-time counting of birds - between January 6 and January 8 - is a big citizen science effort specific to Austria and Germany, orchestrated by birdlife Austria together with BluehendesOesterreich in the former and by Nabu and in the latter. In Austria, it takes place already for the 14th time, and from what I could gather over 23,000 people participated this year. You can check out the results yourself online; I found it rather interesting to scroll through what’s going in birds’ lives across different parts of Austria. Overall, it seems that the warm temperatures during the counting period affected how many birds showed up in everyone’s garden: Fewer of the feathered friends were spotted than last year, mostly - the experts say -  because they found good feeding opportunities elsewhere in nature. The most frequently spotted bird, by the way were Sparrow, Great Tit, and Tree Sparrow.
Foto: You can check the results from last week's Austrian bird counting effort online and see which birds were spotted in the areas near you - quite fun, and also helpful in figuring out which birds you may see when you decide to help them by offering food throughout the cold winter months.  
But counting is not all we would want to do for these most beautiful of little creatures. Winter is coming, finally, and they will be looking for food that nature is not giving them anymore as she should. If we pay attention, we will see our feathery friends looking for nourishment - and can offer some, in our gardens, on the balcony, or simply on the window sill. So last week, I decided to set up a Bird Feeder in our garden. And I discovered that, like most things, also feeding birds is not that simple. Firstly, not all Bird Feeders are equally great - one should pick (or build) a model that allows the birds to keep the food separate from the poop (of others). Actually buying a Bird Feeder was the next hurdle: I could not find the nice little corner store for bird equipment that I had dreamed of - they probably exist, but my research ended up leading me to an OBI market (there is one in St. Marx, reachable with the U3). OBI only has limited options for the Feeding Silos that are most highly recommended, so I purchased a little wooden Bird House-type feeder and only a small Silo. Later I found better options are available at the Lagerhaus markets - the S7 stops right in front of their Schwechat outlet: That’s for next time.
What bird food to buy? Apparently, one can do all sorts of things wrongly - but the main advice is: Look out for Ambrosia/Ragweed feeds. Ambrosia is a Northamerican invasive plant that causes problems for people with allergies, a good reason for European organizations to try limiting its spread through bird feed. Therefore, most bird feed will have signs saying Ambrosia kontrolliert - but only those with a sign that says Ambrosia frei will actually be (mostly) free of the unwanted seeds. At OBI’s I could not find any of those - and I ended up buying the wrong one, I think. Next time, I’ll check out some of the online options for Ambrosia-free feeds. Also, a tip from the lady in the garden store: Be aware of bird food containing Hirse (millet) - you might not want to find it all over your garden once spring and summer come.
Last Saturday then, I installed my Bird Feeders - everything is ready for the cold and the birds to come. What about your garden, balcony or windowsill? Want to join in the effort of making winter a bit easier for our bids? I can confirm: Feeding birds is not just something you may enjoy because it puts you in touch with these lovely little animals - it also seems indeed to be a service to nature: Since our civilization is steadily shrinking the habitats that normally would feed our birds, providing additional food throughout the winter helps maintain and sometimes even increase bird population and health, both for domestic birds and for migratory birds. In fact, the Natural History Museum here in Vienna just last month put out a new exhibition - “The Grand Bouffe ..”  explaining why and where birds in Austria struggle to find the food they need. Worthwhile checking out!
And if you want to take things further and also contribute to bird counting: There are global citizen science efforts to support birds at different times throughout the year  everywhere around the world - orchestrated by The next bird counting exercise in Austria will be in May - from May 12 to 14. I’ll remind you ;-).
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Blog #102: Glued to the Streets of Vienna?! 

January 12, 2023
Monika Weber-Fahr
Some of you may have seen it with your own eyes this week - anyone on their way during the morning rush-hour in Vienna would have had a chance: Protesters of the Letzte Generation Oesterreich movement had literally glued themselves to the street in many locations, looking to use the press coverage this brought them to draw attention to the massive gaps and delays  in policy action to combat climate change.  If you missed it, there are videos online from various news agencies, worthwhile checking out in that they convey the sense of determination that the protesters have about them. And just to clarify: The Letzte Generation or Last Generation movement has little to do with Last Generation Theology: While the latter is a belief that the second coming of Christ is around the corner, the former draws its name from a statement attributed to Kristalina Georgieva, then COO of the World Bank who warned in 2018 at the Katowice Climate Conference that “we are the last generation that can stop climate change”.
Having been on the road myself this Tuesday, on Lasallestrasse and on Praterstrasse, I respectively got to to watch the three or four protesters, brightly clothed in safety vests sitting on the street, facing the morning traffic while being surrounded by what seemed like 20 police cars and 60 or so police men and women. I walked away with a mix of contradictory feelings and thoughts. Yes, disrupting traffic creates a nuisance for many people - and it can be dangerous (what if there is an ambulance in the traffic that gets stuck) - but why are all these people on the streets in their cars in the first place, many of them young and solo-drivers? Should not most of us be using public transport?  And: The government has been slow in implementing new policies that would really get us closer to the climate goals, even the Austrian Court of Auditors has confirmed this, and despite some great initiatives such as the Klimaticket, the demands of the Government’s own Climate Council have been largely ignored sofar. Progress in reducing climate change relevant emissions matters enormously, for all countries, and doing so speedily is just as important. Sometimes I feel grateful that there are people who take on the task to protest, drawing attention to the need to get on with things here.
Foto: A protester in Vienna who has glued herself to the street, looking to bring attention to the urgency of introducing stronger climate change policies in Austria.  
Who are these people? Why should we care? And what makes them put themselves out there, in the cold weather and with the uncomfortable prospect of being shouted at by bystanders? And is it not dangerous to literally glue oneself to the street? When I saw the protesters on the street, they seemed to be rather regular people, of different ages and backgrounds. The Letzte Generation Oesterreich is only one of several similar organizations that have, over the past 15 months or so, undertaken very public civil obedience-type protests mostly in the rich parts of the world, including Just Stop Oil in the UK, in the US, Letzte Generation in Germany, and Extinction Rebellion. They seem to be motivated by a genuine concern for the future, guided by scientific insights on the climate crisis, and looking to pressure for faster policy action on things such as introducing a strict speed limit on motorways (to reduce petrol used when driving). A few weeks ago, having read about all the gluing-to-the-street protests over the summer, mostly in Germany, Switzerland and the UK, I tuned into a radio interview with some of the protestors and discovered that there are quite a few faith-based folks amongst them.  In fact, in Germany, the Evangelische Kirche has publicly sympathiized with the protesters’ cause and asked that they not be criminalized; on the catholic side, there is even a Jesuit is actively participating in the protests.
On the Anglican side, the picture is a bit more mixed. On the one hand, Extinction Rebellion has been seen interrupting services at St Paul’s in London and at Lichfield Cathedral to demand that the Church divests its assets from companies profiting from fossil fuels. On the other hand, there are individual priests who have joined the protest movements, and amongst church leaders there seem to be mixed reactions, with some expressing sympathy for the cause but not having a lot of time for the way the protests are delivered. In the meantime, some 30+ Anglican dioceses have begun or completed divesting from fossil fuels.
Indeed, many people I have talked to in the past days are quite annoyed about the protesters. All they do is disturb others, these views claim. I will not change my behaviors because someone glues themselves to the street. Well, yes and no. When the suffragettes demanded voting rights for women in the Uk in the 19th century, they did get a lot of sympathy but not a lot of action initially. It was not until Emmiline Pankhurst with her motto Deeds not Words began resorting to more radical methods that truely created disturbances that new legislation was actually introduced. Don’t get me wrong: I am definitely not advocating for climate change protesters to put bombs into postboxes! But I am wondering about just how much nuisance protesters will have to create so that policymakers in the end will find it easier to take the decisions we all need them to take.
Civil disobedience is a broad topic - and whether or not anyone chooses to participate is a very personal decision. In any case, it is a decision that I cannot but respect - at least here, where the protesters's cause is one I care so deeply about. 
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Blog #101: Austria in 2023 - Check out the Yellow Bins and other News! 

January 5, 2023
Monika Weber-Fahr
New Year, new rules - that does not only apply to eminent domains such as taxes or social services in Austria but also to the environment.  Here just a quick note on two things that are new in Austria this coming year - and that are worthwhile noting, certainly for those of us caring for God's Creation!
My favorite change: As of January 1st, across all Austria, any and all plastic packages - yoghurt cups, plastic bags, tooth paste tubes, whatever - will be collected together with plastic bottles and tetra-pack type drink containers, tins, and so on, either in the large yellow-green collection bins (see picture) or in yellow bags (depending on where you live in Vienna). Ever since I moved here, six years ago, I had found it so confusing: I was able to recycle plastic bottles - but anytime I purchased something that came in a plastic container, I knew that it could only go into the furnace.  So now, this has changed, thankfully - all plastic will now go to the same destination. The government seems to hope that the new regulations will help increase Austria’s performance in recycling plastic packaging by about 20%.
Foto: As of this year, every packaging made from plastic or tin can be brought to the yellow bins - not just plastic bottles and tetra-packs. So: Let's make sure we collect as much as we can!  
Why was this change introduced - other than to make life easier for confused people like myself?  Well, it turns out that Austria is great in recycling overall but struggles with reaching its goals on plastic waste recycling. The government would like to have at least half of all plastic packaging recycled by 2025 - and for that to happen, we now all get to use the yellow bins.
The second change worthwhile noting for 2023 relates to animal welfare and a rather horrid practice that the profit orientation and specialization in intensive animal farming has brought to raising chicken: Chicklet shredding or culling. In many countries - and until January 1 also Austria - industrial chicken farmers sort male from female chicks, with the aim to only keep the female ones as the male chicks cannot lay eggs. Rather than raising them, they are killed - usually by using shredder-type machines. Well: Not any more in Austria now
There are a few other changes - or continuances - most of them in the good-to-know-but-not-yet-great category. The Austrian government has decided to continue the subsidies for electric cars - with up to Euro 5,000 per car - a smart move, because Austria is well behind its goals for electrifying mobility. The Klima Bonus will be paid out again in 2023 - this time with regional differentiation, meaning that depending on where you live you will receive more or less to compensate you for the additional cost of the green transitions. And, of course, the Klimaticket continues to be available across Austria: For around 1,100 Euros per year - or 7 Euros a day - you can use any train or bus anytime for one entire year, as often as you want.
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Blog #100: Surprise yourself - with your Gift to God's Creation!

December 22, 2022
Monika Weber-Fahr
“What are Christmas Presents about?”, the Revd Canon Patrick Curran asked the 10:30 morning congregation at Christ Church Vienna last Sunday. While we all pondered, he gave us his answer: “Well, I think, Christmas presents are about surprises”. His answer got me thinking: Is there a surprise present that we hold in store for God’s Creation? Is there a gift, that I have been surprised to see others give to nature? Something really astonishing, in line with the Anglican Fifth Mark of Mission, our promise to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth? And is there something that I can surprise myself with?
Indeed, right this week, the world’s nations have given God’s Creation a gift that was alltogether surprising: In the early hours of Monday, 19th, a historic agreement was struck in Montreal by countries participating in the Convention on Biological Diversity that creates a strong new basis for global efforts to combat the destruction of nature and biodiversity loss.  As always with big international agreements, also this one is not far-reaching enough in some people’s views while others consider it too ambitious; in fact, even at the time of concluding the agreement, there were still some last minute concerns raised by a few countries - but luckily it seems that in the end all country governments came together. The new agreement’s details may go beyond your reading appetite - but the headlines are worth remembering: In the years to come, each of the countries that signed on will look to support moving at least 30 percent of the world’s land, coastal areas and oceans into conservation structures. In making sure that the efforts to protect nature and its biodiverse resources do not disadvantage those countries with a lot of land that needs protecting and now cannot be used for economic purposes otherwise, a lot of money is being put on the table.  Enough? Maybe not - time will tell. In the meantime, many of the other goals are also noteworthy, as well as the text of the agreement.  It includes, for example, a commitment to work towards halving global food waste, and the formal recognition of indigenous people’s rights to live and maintain their traditional lifestyles in protected areas.  In watching the Montreal conference proceedings over the past two weeks, I have been awed by the courage that delegates displayed in the end: Yes, they have given us - and nature - a great surprise gift in the end.
So what about you and me? Right before Christmas, the world’s nations have come to a truly surprising agreement - surprising in the sense that many observers did not believe they would make it in the end. Will we also give a (surprise) gift to nature?
Foto: Will we give God’s Creation a gift this year?  The world’s nations have surprised us with a new and very promising agreement to safeguard biodiversity.  Do we ourselves have a surprise gift in store? What will it be?. 
The most simple way to give a gift to nature is to just donate something to an environmental charity that you feel is doing good work. In fact, my son asked me last week for a reference - an organization that really really makes a difference on climate change. There are plenty of good online lists for this, such as 36 Organizations Helping Solve the Climate Crisis, or Best Climate Change Charities, or Five NGOs working for Climate Change in India.  You may have your own lists - based on the country you come from or belong to and based on where you feel you see a difference being made most effectively or based on a topic you feel passionately about.  For example, Diana, just told me about an NGO in the UK that plants trees and that she has contributed to for some time - at the occasion of the births of all grandchildren and godchildren. As it were, there are several Tree Planting charities to choose from in the UK, and Woodland Trust, Diana's charity-of-choice, is favorably reviewed there. My son, after some research, chose The Green Belt Movement, a charity set up by Peace Nobel Laureate Waangari Maathai, to help them plant and sustain trees in Kenya and beyond. As a church, by the way, we give to the Jane Goodal Institute, and sometime in the New Year they will come visit us at Christ Church to thank us and explain more about what they do.
But what about myself? Am I ready to truly surprise myself? Am I ready to change one of my many behaviors that cost God’s Creation so dearly? Instead of buying (new) things, make Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repair & Recycle my way of living? Eat less or no meat, eat seasonal, and cook carefully so as to avoid waste? Stay away - completely? - from single-use plastics? So many things to do - which will it be for me? And which will it be for you?
So: Let’s surprise ourselves - our Creator and Creation - with a gift! Let’s make the Anglican Fifth Mark of Mission our our guideline and help safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth, together, here at Christ Church! Merry Christmas to you all!
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