Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Green Bishop speaks for the earth

South Africa's 'green bishop' takes Christians to task on earth usage
by Fredrick Nzwili
May 30, 2007[Ecumenical News International]

South African Anglican bishop Geoff Davies stirred debate among church leaders and theologians attending an Ecumenical Water Network conference in the Ugandan capital when he asserted that Christians were making a mistake if they believed God only cared about humanity, while the rest of creation existed for the benefit of people.
"Everything God created is good and has value. We make a mistake of thinking God is only concerned about us at our peril," the former bishop of Umzimvumbu (which means "the home of the hippopotamus" in Zulu) told the May 21-25 conference in Kampala that discussed Africa's water crisis.

Davies quoted Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan environmentalist and first African woman Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, who says we cannot live without the rest of creation and that we are dependent on it.

Davies is currently executive director of the Southern Africa Faith Communities' Environment Institute and he said that human beings could not live separated from nature, nor see nature as an object to be exploited.

"If the natural environment does not survive, we won't," warned Davies, who shocked a congregation one Sunday, when he halted a service he was leading to tip a rubbish bag full of bottles, plastic and other junk onto the floor of Cape Town's St. George's Cathedral. "The reality is that we are now in the midst of the sixth extinction. There have been five previous ones, millions of years ago. The big difference is that this time, we humans are causing it," he said.

"We must remember water is an integral part of the natural environment and we must look after the totality of the natural environment, if we are to survive and if we are to have clean water," said Davies, who has been dubbed the "green bishop" by some of his peers.

His comments in Entebbe triggered strong reactions with some leaders agreeing with him while others stuck to the view that human beings were created to have dominion over nature and thereby had a right to use resources to live.

"The Church is being challenged to play her prophetic role in raising justice issues and viewing environment and water issues as part of faith," the Rev. Maritim Rirei, a Kenyan Anglican church leader, told Ecumenical News International during the meeting.

Rirei agreed with Davies that humanity is slowly destroying itself, by failing to take action to save the environment. "There's a need for a paradigm shift in the interfaith focus on environment, theological training and advocacy," he said.

The Rev. Canon Grace Kaiso, executive secretary of the Uganda Joint Christian Council said churches should lead the way in calling for responsible stewardship of the environment, because poor stewardship would undermine Jesus' mission of ensuring that people enjoy fullness of life.

Read it all HERE

Thursday, May 24, 2007

NPR and Climate

NPR has an ongoing series about the earth's climate. Currently they are asking for your questions and input. The story follows:

NPR and National Geographic are taking a yearlong journey around the globe, exploring how the Earth's climate shapes people, and how people are shaping the Earth's climate.

We'll see how, in the distant past, climate change sparked the evolution of humans in Africa and guided our migration to new lands. We'll also look to the future to see how we might be able to slow climate change -- and adapt to it.

Click HERE to add your thoughts and questions.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Growing Connection

Here is a site for a grassroots project developed by the UN and American Horticultural Society. A way to grow locally and support others around the world to improve nutrition.

The Growing Connection links people and cultures in a revolutionary campaign that introduces low-cost water efficient and sustainable food growing innovations hand in hand with wireless IT connectivity. It provides a sound educational foundation, and offers hundreds of families, both in America and abroad, a concrete opportunity to earn income and climb out of desperation. Perhaps most important, The Growing Connection engages people – a network of committed individuals - in an elegant solution to one of mankind’s fundamental challenges.

How does it work? School gardening programs and community gardens in the U.S., Ghana, Mexico and Nicaragua grow vegetables in an EarthBox system. that becomes a common growing platform for all participants. Students grow food, conduct horticultural experiments and share their lessons and experiences with each other using IT connectivity. Through modern IT installations, The Growing Connection participants in U.S.,, Ghana, Mexico and Nicaragua are directly linked. And importantly, they are also connected to sources of vital information and advice on growing food. Those once the most isolated can now grow, learn, and chose their own opportunities and destinies.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Theory of "Anyway"

From Georgia Interfaith Power and Light:

The Theory of "Anyway"
by Sharon Astyk

My friend Pat Meadows, a very, very smart woman, has a wonderful idea she calls "The Theory of Anyway." What it entails is this - she argues that 95% of what is needed to resolve the coming crises in energy depletion, or climate change, or most other global crises are the same sort of efforts. When in doubt about how to change, we should change our lives to reflect what we should be doing "Anyway." Living more simply, more frugally, using less, leaving reserves for others, reconnecting with our food and our community, these are things we should be doing because they are the right thing to do on many levels. That they also have the potential to save our lives is merely a side benefit (a big one, though).

This is, I think, a deeply powerful way of thinking because it is a deeply moral way of thinking - we would like to think of ourselves as moral people, but we tend to think of moral questions as the obvious ones "should I steal or pay?" "Should I hit or talk?" But the real and most essential moral questions of our lives are the questions we rarely ask of the things we do every day, "Should I eat this?" "Where should I live and how?" "What should I wear?" "How should I keep warm/cool?" We think of these questions as foregone conclusions - I should keep warm X way because that's the kind of furnace I have, or I should eat this because that's what's in the grocery store. Pat's Theory of Anyway turns this around, and points out that what we do, the way we live, must pass ethical muster first - we must always ask the question "Is this contributing to the repair of the world, or its destruction."

So if you told me that tomorrow, peak oil had been resolved, I'd still keep gardening, hanging my laundry, cutting back and trying to find a way to make do with less. Because even if we found enough oil to power our society for a thousand years, there would still be climate change, and it would be *wrong* of me to choose my own convenience over the security and safety of my children and other people's children. And if you told me tomorrow that we'd fixed climate change, that we could power our lives forever with renewables, I would still keep gardening and living frugally. Because our agriculture is premised on depleted soil and aquifers, and we're facing a future in which many people don't have enough food and water if we keep eating this way, and to allow that to happen would be a betrayal of what I believe is right. And if you told me that we'd fixed that problem too, that we were no longer depleting our aquifers and expanding the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, I'd still keep gardening and telling others to do the same, because our reliance on food from other nations, and our economy impoverishes and starves millions, even billions of poor people and creates massive economic inequities that do tremendous harm. And if you told me that globalization was over, and that we were going to create a just economic system, and we'd fixed all the other problems, and that I didn't have to worry anymore, would I then stop gardening?

No. Because the nurture of my piece of land would still be the right thing to do. Doing things with no more waste than is absolutely necessary would still be the right thing to do. The creation of a fertile, sustainable, lasting place of beauty would still be my right work in the world. I would still be a Jew, obligated by G-d to Tikkun Olam, to "the repair of the world." I would still be obligated to live in way that prevented wildlife from being run to extinction and poisons contaminating the earth. I would still be obligated to make the most of what I have and reduce my needs so they represent a fair share of what the earth has to offer. I would still be obligated to treat poor people as my siblings, and you do not live comfortably when your siblings suffer or have less. I am obligated to live rightly, in part because of what living rightly gives me - integrity, honor, joy, a better relationship with my diety of choice, peace.

There are people out there who are prepared to step forward and give up their cars, start growing their own food, stop consuming so much and stop burning fossil fuels...just as soon as peak oil, or climate change, or government rationing, or some external force makes them. But that, I believe is the wrong way to think about this. We can't wait for others to tell us, or the disaster to befall us. We have to do now, do today, do with all our hearts, the things we should have been doing "Anyway" all along.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Green San Francisco

Grace Cathedral and all sorts of institutions are going green in San Francisco. Click HERE to see more.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Poverty and Climate Change

Reflections on poverty and climate change
Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori
Sunday, May 20, 2007
San Francisco Chronicle

Before I became a priest, I was a professor of oceanography. One of the things I learned was that oceanographers couldn't just study squid or fish in isolation. We had to study interconnected systems. We had to understand not only the animals' environment, such as the water, but its chemistry and circulation, the atmosphere above the ocean and the geology below it. And that, I believe, is how we must understand our world: We must see everything, and everyone, as interconnected and intended by God to live in relationship.

Two of the most significant crises facing our world -- climate change and deadly poverty -- offer an example of such interconnectedness. By understanding how the two crises, and the people they affect, are connected, we can begin to understand how humanity can triumph over both. Extreme poverty -- that is, poverty that kills -- afflicts more than a billion of God's people around the world. Nearly 30,000 of these people will die today. That's 1 every 3 seconds. The factors that propel this kind of deadly poverty include hunger, diseases like AIDS and malaria, conflict, lack of access to education and basic inequality. Climate change threatens to make the picture even more deadly. As temperature changes increase the frequency and intensity of severe-weather events around the world, poor countries -- which often lack infrastructural needs like storm walls and water-storage facilities -- will divert previous resources away from fighting poverty in order to respond to disaster. Warmer climates will also increase the spread of diseases like malaria and tax the ability of poor countries to respond adequately. Perhaps most severely, changed rain patterns will increase the prevalence of drought in places like Africa, where only 4 percent of cropped land is irrigated, leaving populations without food and hamstrung in their ability to trade internationally to generate income.

Conversely, just as climate change will exacerbate poverty, poverty also is hastening climate change. Most poor people around the world lack access to a reliable-energy source, an imbalance that must be addressed in any attempt to lift a community out of poverty. Unfortunately, financial necessity often forces the choice of energy sources such as oil and coal that threaten to expand significantly the world's greenhouse emissions and thus accelerate the effects of climate change. This cycle -- poverty that begets climate change, and vice versa -- threatens the future of all people, rich and poor alike, and of all things in the world that God so loves.

This relationship between deadly poverty and the health of creation was not lost on the world's leaders when, at the turn of the 21st century, they committed to an ambitious yet attainable plan to cut global poverty in half by 2015. This plan, which established the eight Millennium Development Goals, included a specific pledge to create environmental sustainability. 2007 marks the halfway point in the world's effort to achieve these goals, and while progress has been impressive in some places, we're nowhere close to halfway there. President Bush and other world leaders have made bold commitments, but many of them have yet to be realized. How can the United States help put the world back on track?

First, our nation should make good on the promises it has made to expand foreign aid targeted at fighting poverty, cancel the debts of poor countries and seek fairer international-trade rules that allow people living in poverty to empower themselves in the fight against poverty.

Second, our nation's leaders should recognize the emerging consensus that we can no longer ignore our role in safeguarding the health and balance of God's creation. We must take seriously our share in the global responsibility for reducing carbon emissions, and work with other nations to provide the resources and technology transfers that will allow poor countries to address their energy needs through clean-energy sources that will not hasten the rate of climate change.

Of course, it is not the United States alone that needs to deliver. When the leaders of the G8 meet in early June in Germany, climate change will be at the top of their agenda. The health and well-being of Africa is also on the agenda, but much further down. Now is an ideal time for Americans to write, call, or e-mail President Bush and urge him to work with other leaders in the G8 to consider climate change and deadly poverty side-by-side as facets of the same problem. The good news is that Americans are getting involved like never before. Faith communities such as the Episcopal Church, from which I come, are organizing in communities all over the country, as are citizens from many other walks of life. Millions of Americans have joined the call for comprehensive solutions to poverty through efforts like ONE: The Campaign to Make Poverty History, and groups like the U.N. Millennium Campaign are working with citizens in all parts of the world. To be successful, though, the effort needs even more voices. It needs all of us.

At the very beginning of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures, we hear of God's creation of the universe and his proclamation that the whole of it is very good. Ultimately, this story is an account of relationships: the bond of love between God and the world, and the interconnectivity of all people and all things in that world. It is only when we take seriously those relationships -- when we realize that all people have a stake in the health and well-being of all others and of the Earth itself -- that creation can truly begin to realize the abundant life that God intends for every one of us.

Katharine Jefferts Schori is presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church.

Read it all HERE

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Cathedrals going green

UK. Climate change poses an unprecedented challenge to Englands Cathedrals
Wednesday, 09 May 2007
BYM Marine Environment News

Climate Change and Environment Minister Ian Pearson said England's historic churches and cathedrals face the same tough choices forced on us all by climate change.
Speaking at the Cathedrals and Climate Change Conference at Lambeth Palace, organised by the Association of English Cathedrals, Mr Pearson welcomed the commitment of churches and cathedrals to join the national effort to cut carbon emissions and start adapting to the inevitable impacts climate change will have on our historic environment.
Mr Pearson said: "Cathedrals are important spiritual, historic and cultural buildings. Many of our churches and cathedrals have stood for hundreds of years. They play a vital role as a focus for worship, as the hub of faith communities, as a cultural symbol for the region and as international icons that make an important contribution to the tourism economy.
"Be that as it may, they are not immune to the effects of climate change. We need to take care of our cathedrals now, as they need to be prepared for the more extreme weather of the future and must start adapting if they are still to be standing a century from now.

Read the whole article HERE

More information on the Church of England's National Environmental Campaign can be found at: The contact for the Church of England is Alexander Nicoll.

Saturday, May 5, 2007


A year of food life
By Barbara Kingsolver, with Steven L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver

I have just started reading this new book by Barbara Kingsolver et al. Already enchanted, as ever, by Kingsolver’s mesmerizing flow of words, I decided to do a running commentary on this blog. The first bit that jumped out at me is the idea that we may as well sit down and drink a quart of motor oil at every meal – it would save money and resources that go into our daily fare. According to A, V, & M, “each food item in a typical US meal has traveled 1500 miles. Besides transport, there is fertilizer, farm equipment, warehousing, processing, packaging, and refrigeration. Here is an option Kingsolver suggests that does not take much effort on our part:

“If every US citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week.”

That is BARRELS, not gallons. With that and driving 55 on the highways – we will end
the fuel crisis.

Friday, May 4, 2007

UN Global Warming Meeting

Good news and bad news. Although a deal is in the making, many warn that it is not enough.

From Ekklesia

Experts and observers, including NGOs and faith groups, at the United Nations climate change conference in Bangkok say a deal has been done on ways to combat global warming, despite trenchant opposition by China to policies restricting economic growth.

The areas of dispute included language regarding the Kyoto protocol (about which the US remains skeptical), the true costs of cutting emissions and how they will be borne, and the role of nuclear power.

The third part of this year's assessment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) looking at ways to curb emissions and the economic factors involved is due to be released later today (4 May 2007).

But environmentalists remain tight-lipped about what is really being achieved in the midst of much political horse trading.

"One direction seems to be that there isn't the investment going into renewable technologies and energy efficiency that's sufficient for them to meet the potential they have to tackle this problem," Catherine Pearce, international climate campaigner with Friends of the Earth UK, told BBC News in Bangkok.

The draft report assesses the likely costs to the global economy of stabilizing greenhouse gases at various concentrations in the atmosphere.

Aiming for a total greenhouse gas concentration equivalent to 650 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide would reduce global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by about 0.2%, it says, whereas a more ambitious target of 550ppm would cost about 0.6% of global GDP.

The current atmospheric concentration is approximately 425ppm, and many climate scientists now argue that only agreeing to keep below about 450ppm can prevent major climatic consequences.

Read more HERE

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Gasoline Tankers and Black Swans

Bishop Marc Andrus of the Diocese of California writes following the tanker truck accident in the Bay area.

Gasoline tankers and black swans
May 1, 2007 at 12:39 PM
“Huge leaping flames from an exploding gasoline tanker melted the steel underbelly of a highway overpass in the East Bay's MacArthur Maze early this morning, causing it to collapse onto the roadway below and virtually ensuring major traffic problems for weeks to come.”

This was the opening of the San Francisco Chronicle article on the MacArthur Maze crash on Sunday, April 29.

Monday night, April 30, we had the Taize’ service in Grace Cathedral. The diverse, devout crowd of 240 people who chanted and prayed for their communities’ deepest concerns had come from all over the Bay Area, many from areas affected by the crash. Students from CDSP took BART; people from Walnut Creek and other East Bay communities took BART. They were all smiling about the experience.

I think this crash, expensive, terrifying, inconvenient, is what we might call a “black swan” event. The great American poet, James Merrill, in his poem “The Black Swan,” has a very Anglo little boy, in a field of white and light, see a black swan on a pond. At the end of the poem, in ecstasy the boy exclaims, “I love the black swan.”

Unintended, unimagined events, wrecking our models and our plans, can lead us to where we need to be, can be occasions of love, and produce the happiness and mode of life for which we long at the deepest level of our being.

As many of you know, I didn’t have even our low emissions/high fuel efficiency hybrid car when I first came to the Diocese. Everything was walking, bus, or BART. I re-learned some things during those months: I was happier being with humanity while traveling, than in my wondrous car (even with its six-CD changer, and the GPS); the people on the bus and BART often spoke to me about their faith, their search for God, their desire to connect with a church, and moving on the earth while leaving a smaller carbon footprint was satisfying.

We need to make an effort to reduce our carbon emissions. Maybe this black swan event is an invitation to change our way of life, to consciously maintain the forced, unlooked for change and embrace it, to say, “I love the black swan.” Try to take public transportation twice during the workweek, or to walk or ride your bicycle to work twice a week. And, if you can afford it, look into your next car being a hybrid. Or, follow the example of my friend, Marion Grau, who teaches theology at CDSP, and do most of your smaller travel by foot and bicycle, and when you need to drive use a shared car. She says that the shared car organization of which she is a member works so well that even if she requests a car the day before she needs it, she usually gets it.

The spiritual truth here is that the ways of God, humility and simplicity, are not only good for our planet, our beautiful home that is in so much trouble, but also produce happiness in us, as we align ourselves with the image of God within and among us.