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February eBlasts

Lent is an opportunity to grow in love and gain strength and insight to confront the challenges of climate change and injustice without fear or guilt.

Bishop Bud Cederholm, one of the most prominent leaders on stewardship of creation in the Episcopal Church has recently observed that, while climate change is a most critical moral, justice issue that every person, faith community, state and country must address significantly because all life as we know it is at stake, “fear and guilt cannot sustain what we need to do to stop the degradation our neglect and actions are causing. Falling deeper and deeper in love with God’s creation and receiving God’s love is what sustains and empowers us to make a difference.”

Lent is an opportunity to gain strength and insight to “act with compassion and justice on behalf of our Creating God, the Earth, future generations, and our local and global neighbors including our non-human kin of all species.”

Three resources may be helpful:

Virginia Theological Seminary and the Society of St. John the Evangelist (SSJE) in Massachusetts have collaborated in creating a workbook, Growing a Rule of Life, and video to help Christians examine their lives and their responsibility to Creation. The workbook is available in single copies and sets of ten to support its use in a group setting.  Persons interested may sign up here for daily emails during Lent. There are additional resources here for group facilitators

The New England Regional Environmental Ministries are again sponsoring an Ecumenical Lenten Carbon Fast. The 2016 carbon fast will emphasize opportunities for action as well as spiritual exercises and informational resources. “The intention is to provide do-able actions which can make a difference; not to overwhelm people, or make them feel bad about themselves, or cause them to feel that the situation is hopeless.  We want people to empower people so they can challenge themselves to do more.” Persons interested may sign up here for daily emails during Lent.

The Diocese of Virginia Committee on Stewardship of Creation has put together an annotated list of books that collectively explore the ethical and practical challenges of exercising dominion over creation and the specific challenges that must be confronted in Virginia. The reading list is available here.

January eBlasts

AS we celebrate the Paris climate agreement, we should particularly consider its premises and implications:

Government can do only so much. The balance of the task is ultimately up to markets and the voluntary commitments of individuals, corporations, anFd institutions. 
 
A "Carbon Tax" can help. It has long been recognized in economic theory that a carbon tax is a technology-neutral means to create incentives for reducing fossil fuel consumption. Yale University with leadership from William Nordhaus is undertaking important experimental research to elucidate how a carbon pricing scheme might work. Pray that better understandings of carbon pricing may help build support for federal adoption of an equitable carbon pricing program.
 
Some or much of our consumption currently depends on infrastructure that we have limited means to control or change. Driving an electric car, for example, will not reduce carbon emissions if the electricity is produced from coal. Consider purchasing offsets.  The offset providers with a Green-e certification use offset purchases to fund increased capture of methane, a gas with 40 times the short-term effect on global warming of CO2 if not trapped.
 
Energy and Environmental policy are not uniquely captive to special interests. As Vincent T, DeVita’s recent book on cancer research vividly illustrates, vested interests are an intractable feature of any social process. Are the livestock producers, corn growers, coal and oil interests fundamentally any different in their zeal to protect their interests than cancer surgeons. Consider steps you may take to neutralize excessive influence of special interests through advocacy and otherwise.
 
Some climate resolutions are easier than others. Energy conservation is a winner under every scenario for our climate future. As an example, consider LED lighting, which is cheaper and more attractive than ever. Consider opportunities to replace incandescent bulbs.
 
Some utility sources of renewable energy may be better than others. If purchasing power from an electric utility that disaggregates distribution and supply charges, consider an independent supplier of renewable energy (wind or solar) that has no vested interest in sustained fossil fuel consumption as the source for power fed to the grid commensurate with consumption by your household or church.
 
Resolve to act as a mindful steward of Creation.  Preventing and mitigating global warming is a wicked problem. As the science regarding individual and policy choices becomes more clear and nuanced, stay attentive and adjust personal behavior and thinking to be in accord.
 
Some steps that are ostensibly sound environmentally actually are not. As an example, production of the lettuce in a BLT produces more greenhouse gasses than production of the bacon. Whether local food production reduces carbon emissions depends. Recycling is sometimes more environmentally burdensome than disposal of waste in a landfill. Like conservation, however, purchasing products with appropriate packaging and other steps to reduce waste are effective under every future climate scenario.
 
Unlike other New Year's resolutions more easily broken, the resolutions above can produce benefits throughout the new year and beyond. 

Happy New Year from the Committee for Stewardship of Creation!

December eBlasts

In his introduction to Laudato Si’, Pope Francis states that the challenge includes “a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development.” It is thus addressed to all people, whatever their faith.
 
At its conclusion, Pope Francis offers a prayer that can be “shared with all who believe in an all-powerful creator.”

A prayer for our earth

All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live 
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives, 
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.

The encyclical is dated on the Feast of Pentecost. As the nations convene in Paris, may their representatives hear the message of our Earth in their own languages.

November eBlasts

The appeal to persons of all faiths in Pope Francis’s Laudato Si’  and the responses of Islamic scholars and Buddhists as well as Christians of other denominations have been important in bringing renewed religious and moral attention to the urgency of action on climate change and its implications.

The urgency is well founded. A rise in global temperature of 1° C. is locked in,, and there is limited and diminishing opportunity to avoid serious disruptions that could cause parts of Earth to become uninhabitable from heat, as well as from flooding. Further, the longer action to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is delayed and emissions continue, future actions to mitigate will have less effect, and the damage to all forms of life, including a critical food chain in the oceans could be irreversible.

But there are reasons for hope as well, if we can muster the will.

  • Under scenarios developed by engineers at Stanford, a US transitions to 100 percent renewables by 2050 is feasible for each state. 
  • Using current solar technology (20% efficiency), the total global footprint spread over all continents to meet global energy demand through solar alone is roughly the same as the total area of Spain, i.e., for all global demand, less than the combined areas of Colorado and Wyoming. It is not necessary for Earth’s landscape to be covered over with solar panels. 
  • The Deep Decarbonization Pathway Project has identified pathways to deep decarbonization adapted for each country that could produce negative GHG emissions in the second half of this century. 


The issue is not whether we can achieve a transition to avoid catastrophe, but whether we and Earth's political leadership have the moral and political capacity to do so.  As Willis Jenkins, the speaker at our 2014 conference, has observed, that involves challenging both existing power arrangements and conventional understandings of moral accountability  We need new understandings of justice as well as political and moral strength.

 

How we much energy we use for heating and other purposes and our energy sources now can determine just how much of the planet will remain habitable in fewer than 100 years.

A week when temperatures have begun to cool enough for home heating, when Patricia morphs from a tropical storm into a Category 5 hurricane in fewer than 24 hours, and when prominent climate scientists publish a new study projecting that global warming could cause major urban centers in the Middle East to become unhealthy outdoors by the end of the century even for people exceptionally fit under a business-as-usual scenario, i.e., without significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, is a week that is a good time to be thinking about the meaning of “comfort” and what that may imply.

  • Empirically, people report being comfortable in their homes at temperatures ranging from 43 F. all the way to 86 F.
  • ASHRAE 55, the building code standard for comfort in US office buildings has become the global standard for comfort in office buildings. The code specification seeks to make a man comfortable in an office in a full business suit. Except in highly ceremonial settings, e.g., courts, does the standard have any continuing relevance as a standard of comfort?
  •  People in different countries have different expectations. A study in Norway found that people wanted their homes to be cozy and welcoming for neighbors, with higher heat and soft incandescent light – light that can now be emulated by 2700 C. dimmable LED bulbs. In parts of Japan, by contrast bright fluorescent ceiling light is not perceived as harsh and rooms may be heated as occupied with space heaters.
  • One concern when people build for energy efficiency, e.g., in a larger home, is that their net energy consumption will not be reduced – the rebound effect. How people choose to occupy their homes is an active choice.
  • People everywhere are sensitive to what their neighbors are doing, not just in Norway. When public utilities install smart metering and report on households’ energy consumption relative to their neighbors, consumption generally falls.

The call for a change in “Western” lifestyle given fresh salience by Pope Francis’s encyclical is a call that we must meet as a society, through changing social expectations, not just as individuals. How much energy we use and how that energy is created can determine just how much of the planet will remain habitable in fewer than 100 years.

Comfort: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/27/magazine/what-does-it-mean-to-be-comfortable.html

 

September eBlasts

Throughout Scripture, food is the chief way that God relates to the people of God.

Our relationship with food, God, and the environment is the focus of our Stewardship of Creation Conference this fall. With the help of our keynote speaker, Rachel Marie Stone (Eat with Joy), together with the panelists and workshop leaders, participants will be invited to discern a new relationship with food, one which honors both God and the world as God’s gift.

Please take a look at the new blog post on living out faith through food choices, A Feast for the Heart, contributed by Samantha Taggart, who will be leading one of the workshops during the Conference.

You may view the post by connecting here.

Moral Action for Climate Justice : A Response to Pope Francis's Call for a Conversation
The message of Pope Francis’s encyclical and his call for an inclusive dialogue presents and important opportunity to raise up the stories of the climate justice movement. On September 24th, when Pope Francis addresses the U.S. Congress, Moral Action on Climate wants to create a national-level platform for an inclusive, visible, and loud climate justice conversation - a platform to raise up the stories of the climate justice movement in the U.S.

At the outset of his Enclyclical, Laudato si’ (24 May 2015), Pope Francis makes clear that He wants to be a part of a conversation “about our common home” “which includes everyone.” He also makes clear that he does not want to talk about the environment or the climate in the abstract. Instead, he wants to “integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”

“A true ecological approach always becomes a social approach;
it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment,
so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”

Laudato Si’ On Care for Our Common Home - Papal Encyclical

Watch for Updates at: Moral Action on Climate

Taste and See that the Lord is Good: 2015 SoCC Conference

Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church
8 North Laurel Street 
Richmond, VA 23220

Saturday, October 3, 2015
9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

An invitation and an opportunity to explore the relationship between faith and food with a theologian, a chef, and a farmer::

Participants will be invited to discern a new relationship with food, one which honors both God and the world as God’s gift, with the help of our keynote speaker, Rachel Marie Stone (Eat with Joy),  and our panelists and workshop leaders, 

The program will include a "wholy meal"; cost is $15.00, "wholly meal" at lunch included. A program for children concerning the same themes will also be offered, including the "wholly meal."

Register online now.

Program Schedule

About the Speakers

August eBlasts

Living Waters: Wading In: An Interfaith Summit
Join us for an interfaith day of prayers, music, inspiring speakers and lively collaborative workships. Learn how the faith community has "taken the plunge" to protect the health of our waters.

Sponsored by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, and Lynnhaven River Now.

Check out the agenda and register at cbf.org/LivingWaters

July eBlasts

From the story of the Garden of Eden to the settlement of the Promised Land, a “land of milk and honey,”  God’s most fundamental blessings include the grace of food and the promise that agricultural cycles will yield their fruit in due season. Food is also the way we are intended to relate to God and each other.

It is through food that the people of Israel remember and celebrate God’s acts of deliverance (Passover seder), as well as express gratitude, show hospitality, ratify covenants, and define ethnic and religious identity. It is not surprising then that the misuse of food should be the cause of a breakdown in our relationship with God and others.

Our relationship with food, God, and the environment is the focus of our Stewardship of Creation Conference this fall. With the help of our keynote speaker, Rachel Marie Stone (Eat with Joy), together with the panelists and workshop leaders, participants will be invited to discern a new relationship with food, one which honors both God and the world as God’s gift.

Come let's explore this idea with a Theologian, a Farmer, and a Chef.

Saturday, October 3, 2015: 9am-3pm
Grace and Holy Trinity Church
8 North Laurel Street
Richmond, Virginia  23220

The program will include a "wholy meal"; cost is $15.00, "wholly meal" at lunch included.

Register now at www.thediocese.net

May eBlasts

“But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:14

Water is mentioned in scripture more than 700 times. Its significance is clear. Creation was based on it. Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt through it. Jesus was baptized in it. It is the liquid on which every form of life on Earth depends. It is obvious that we have a moral obligation to be stewards of clean water. 
       
Saint Andrew’s Church in Richmond recently took the stewardship message to the streets – literally. The congregation participated in a neighborhood cleanup and applied placards on storm drains in the Oregon Hill neighborhood which it has served for more than one-hundred years. The placards display the message, “No dumping, only rain down the drain.” The markers stress the importance of keeping litter and pollution out of the storm sewer system. Most storm sewers are nothing more than straight pipes to the nearest creek or river. There is no treatment. In older parts of some cities, like the Oregon Hill neighborhood of Richmond, the storm sewer is combined with the sanitary sewer. Trash and debris can cause it to overflow, releasing stormwater and sewage before it reaches the treatment plant. The congregation of Saint Andrew’s marked every storm drain in the neighborhood to raise awareness about water stewardship.

Churches across the Diocese are encouraged to take on similar projects. Contact your locality’s utility or stormwater department for information about storm drain marking and volunteer projects. The Committee on Stewardship of Creation can also help congregations make connections with their local government and volunteer organizations.

Contact us at socc@thediocese.net.

April eBlasts

During the Stewardship of Creation Committee’s 2010 Conference, Our Threatened Water Supply, Scott Kudlas gave a thorough and disturbing presentation on the threats to surface and groundwater supply in Virginia, particularly in Virginia’s Coastal Plain.

In The Oglala Road: A Memoir of Love and Reckoning, Julene Bair offers a thoughtful meditation on the depletion of groundwater as farming in Kansas has become progressively more dependent on pump irrigation, chemical herbicides and pesticides, large scale mechanization, and government assistance payments for production of commodities for livestock and ethanol production

The Ogallala Aquifer is the largest groundwater aquifer in the United States, running from the upper Great Plains in to northern Texas. It alone supports 30 percent of the nation’s draws on groundwater. As in Virginia, the health of the Ogallala Aquifer is threatened and is, in fact, effectively depleted in some regions of its southern reach.  One recent analysis of sustainable groundwater stores in Kansas determined that draws from the aquifer would need to be reduced by nearly 80 percent for draws from the aquifer to match the natural recharge rate.

A central tension in the book is how technological advance changed her family’s farm and enabled Bair's choice to continue her education and become a writer, at the cost of the aquifer. The family ambition was that children get an education and become professionals, very different from the Hopi who value strongly staying in place, as they have for 600 years.

The Hopi, Bair observers, give thanks for their desert home because it does not allow them to overstep their limits. In an area like Virginia, where the threats to water supply and sustainability are less apparent, can we, or can those living above the Ogallala find a way to do likewise?

A long interview with Julene Bair is here.

 

Using results from public opinion surveys conducted by George Mason University and Yale University, statisticians at Yale have developed an interactive statistical model of public opinion on climate change, dangers, and policies to mitigate climate change that is accessible on the Web.

The public opinion estimates in the statistical model are based on national survey data gathered between 2008 and 2014 by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason Center for Climate Change Communication. For details see methods and Howe, P., Mildenberger, M., Marlon, J.R., and Leiserowitz, A., “Geographic variation in opinions on climate change at state and local scales in the USA,” Nature Climate Change. DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2583. Email climatechange@yale.edu for more information.

The dangers of extreme heat
One of the least understood dangers for human health, extreme heat, is well documented in episode 8 of the Years of Living Dangerously series. Robert Faithful, a Green Fellow and member of the Stewardship of Creation Committee, is currently developing a resource guide for churches regarding the dangers of extreme heat and roles for churches in furnishing relief.

When first released in 2014, the episodes of Years of Living Dangerously were accessible only on HBO. The Years of Living Dangerously  video series is now widely available.

A Reflection on Salvation

What if Christians paid as much attention to those scriptures that emphasize communal salvation as they do to those passages that emphasize personal salvation?  A theologian/activist friend of mine puts it this way: Did Jesus come with an evacuation plan or a building plan?  It's time for the sleeping giant of the church to awaken to the moral challenge of our age. 
 
From: New England Regional Ministries: Day 40, 2015 Lenten Carbon Fast

An Earth Day Lecture by Fr. Daniel Horan, OFM

Monday, April 20 at 7:00 PM
St. Francis Episcopal Church, Great Falls, VA
In cooperation with St. John’s Episcopal Church, McLean
Free event
A reception will follow
 
Many Churches celebrate a “blessing of the animals” in commemoration of St. Francis, and many a garden feature a statue of the earth-loving friar. But is this the extent of what St. Francis can teach us about the care of all creation?
 
The question of creation and St. Francis will be explored in an Earth Day lecture by Fr. Dan Horan, OFM. Fr. Dan is a Franciscan friar of Holy Name Province (The New York province), a columnist for America magazine, and the author of several books including Dating God: Life and Love in the Way of St. Francis and The Franciscan Heart of Thomas Merton. A leading voice for the renewal of Franciscan spirituality for everyday life, Fr. Dan blogs at www.datinggod.org on a wide range of topics from creation care to popular culture, and everything in between. His current interests and writing include a recovery of a Franciscan theology of creation
 
St. Francis Episcopal Church
9220 Georgetown Pike
Great Falls, VA 22066

March eBlasts

Willis Jenkins, the keynote speaker at the 2014 Stewardship of Creation annual conference spoke of climate change as a “wicked problem.” Wicked problems are problems that can be defined in terms of other wicked problems, population pressure, fossil fuel dependency, ecosystem disruptions associated with globalization and commoditization of food production, among others. As Jenkins noted, the ethical dimension of wicked problems is that they challenge us to manage ourselves.

At first glance, church investments in fossil fuel companies might seem another wicked problem. But the conclusions in some recent policy research imply that the challenge of divestment might better regarded not as a challenge in managing ourselves, but rather as a challenge in confronting “structural sin”.

“Structural Sin” is a term deployed by Pope Francis to describe our degradation of the environment as not simply the sin of individuals, but as a sin of society reflecting the large scale of our social and economic systems and their harmful impacts. One implication is that change at an individual level is not sufficient, but that the entire functioning of our social and economic systems must change.

Churches are implicated in the structural sin of our society as investors in fossil fuel companies. Accordingly, whether divestment by churches from fossil fuel investments furnishes any absolution from structural sin or is a mere washing of hands (Mt. 27:24) is for churches an important question.

A recent policy assessment of the divestment movement is reason to think the later. Only 9.3 percent of current US energy use is supplied by renewable energy sources. Fossil fuel consumption accounts for 80 percent of US energy use.  While a transition to a decarbonized economy is feasible, it is a not something to be achieved quickly. Even assuming effective policy support, the transition will require decades.

Further, as market messages, the investments of churches in fossil fuel companies are too small to have an impact on company share prices. The effect of divestment would rather be to cede the church’s voice within the these companies to others without the same concern about climate change and its impacts.

In addition, state-owned companies account for 75 percent of all crude oil production. The top 13 energy companies in terms of measured oil reserves are all government-owned. The structural sin of those governments’ dependency on oil revenues will not be affected at all by church divestments of their shares in public companies.

The Catechism of Creation of the Episcopal Church states that as “congregations we can practice conservation and care wisely for our church properties. As individuals and congregations we can become examples and provide leadership to our local communities of wise stewardship. Likewise we can seek to influence our governments to develop wise environmental policies.”

The resolution adopted by the Virginia Diocese during its 2015 Council is to the same effect. It calls upon churches in the Diocese and their members to “advocate with relevant decision makers, both in government and in business, for changes to reduce the adverse environmental effects of energy production and use, particularly adverse effects which disproportionately affect the poor, both in this country and in foreign countries.”

Leading by example and advocating effectively for social and economic change are what we are called to do. We cannot purge our church or society of its structural sin simply by selling shares in companies currently vital to our economy.

 

On March 24, The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles will co-host a forum on climate change.

The 90-minute webcast of the Climate Change Crisis forum will stream live from Campbell Hall Episcopal School in North Hollywood, Calif., beginning at 11 a.m. (PST) / 2 p.m. (EST).

The forum will be moderated by Fritz Coleman, weather reporter for Los Angeles’ KNBC-TV news, and the keynote address will be delivered by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. Two panels, each 30 minutes, will focus on specific areas of the climate change crisis: “Regional Impacts of Climate Change” and “Reclaiming Climate Change as a Moral Issue.

Panelists will include:

  •  Bishop Marc Andrus of the Episcopal Diocese of California. He has made climate change a focus of his episcopacy.
  • Princess Daazhraii Johnson, former Executive Director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee, one of the oldest Indigenous non-profit groups in Alaska focused on protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. She currently serves on the SAG-AFTRA Native American Committee, the Dancing with the Spirit committee, and is an active member of her community.
  • Lucy Jones, seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and a visiting research associate at the Seismological Laboratory of Caltech since 1983. She currently serves as science advisor for risk reduction in the Natural Hazards Mission of the US Geological Survey.
  • Mary D. Nichols, J.D., chairman of the California Air Resources Board. She is responsible for implementing California’s landmark greenhouse gas emissions legislation as well as setting air pollution standards for motor vehicles, fuels and consumer products.

The forum will be the lead event for “30 Days of Action” leading to Earth Day, April 22.  The Days of Action are an invitation for individuals and groups to address climate change – to learn, advocate, act, proclaim, eat, play and pray.

“The Climate Change Crisis forum’s 30 Days of Action plan is intended to help individuals bridge that space of feeling helpless due to the magnitude of the crisis, to feeling empowered by joining a movement to reform communal behavior through individual awareness and action,” explained Bronwyn Clark Skov, The Episcopal Church officer for Youth Ministries and Lifelong Christian Formation. “The activities for each day have been designed by an interdisciplinary team to appeal to a spectrum of generations, diversities, interests and abilities. As we take up the real engagement of the Fifth Mark of Mission – treasuring this vulnerable earth – we do so in a variety of ways using the gifts God has given.”

To register for the live Webcast on March 24, contact bishopsoffice@ladiocese.org. There is no cost to attend, but reservations are appreciated.

Sign up here to receive daily email during 30 Days of Action, or for more information, please contact Bronwyn Clark Skov: bskov@episcopalchurch.org.

February eBlasts

Ann Hampton Callaway’s You Can’t Rush Spring, a new jazz standard, has a particular ring in the cold and enduring winter of 2014-15.

You can't rush spring
No matter how you try
A bud knows when to bloom
A bird knows when to fly

Global warming, it appears, is adding another verse.  A recent presentation by the meteorologist, Jennifer Francis, furnishes a timely and accessible explanation of how our extreme and extended winter is attributable to global warming and will not be rushed.

Francis writes:

This is where climate change comes in: the Arctic is warming much faster than elsewhere. That Arctic/mid-latitude temperature difference, consequently, is getting smaller. And the smaller differential in temperatures is causing the west-to-east winds in the jet to weaken.

Strong jets tend to blow straight west to east; weaker jets tend to wander more in a drunken north/south path, increasing the likelihood of wavy patterns like the one we’ve seen almost non-stop since last winter.

When the jet stream’s waves grow larger, they tend to move eastward more slowly, which means the weather they generate also moves more slowly, creating more persistent weather patterns.

At least, that’s the theory. Proving it is not easy because other changes are happening in the climate system simultaneously. Some are natural fluctuations, such as El Niño, and others are related to increasing greenhouse gases.

We do know, however, that the Arctic is changing in a wholesale way and at a pace that makes even Arctic scientists queasy. Take sea ice, for example. In only 30 years, its volume has declined by about 60%, which is causing ripple effects throughout the ocean, atmosphere, and ecosystem, both within the Arctic and beyond. I’ve been studying the Arctic atmosphere and sea ice my entire career and I never imagined I’d see the region change so much and so fast.

Francis’s presentation, NASA’s jet stream animation, and the rest of the article may be found here.

 

Grace Episcopal Church, Silver Spring, and the Greenfaith Certification Program are featured in a recent story in The Washington Post. The full article is here. Grace's experience is written up as follows.

Faced with an ever-growing array of faith-driven environmental programs at the national, local and denominational levels, Grace Episcopal Church became the third congregation in the Washington area to enroll in a two-year certification program through Greenfaith, an interfaith environmental organization. The ambitious program felt like the right fit, [The Rev. Andrew] Walter said, because it involved all aspects of the community’s life — everything from “greening” the building to changing the way the parishioners navigate their daily lives.

Environmental activism — particularly as it relates to the polarizing debate over climate change — can be fraught with political undercurrents. But, Walter said, he was unwilling to let his church’s efforts be “hijacked” by partisan controversy.

“My sense is there’s a growing awareness of environmental issues in the wider culture and society, and as that’s happened, there’s also been a growing theological understanding in the church,” Walter said. “Here at our own congregation, it’s sort of a no-brainer — people just immediately understand that the Earth comes from God, and we need to care for it.”

Greenfaith’s two-year certification process is the most comprehensive of the organization’s programs, requiring that congregations include their environmental efforts in worship services, their buildings and grounds, and their communities.

“It’s not for the faint of heart,” [Stacey Kennealy, director of Greenfaith’s certification program] said of the program. “But for those who are willing to commit the time and the energy to it, it has a huge impact on their environmental footprint, and it really greens their community from top to bottom.”

The promise of such a profound transformation is what captivated the Grace Episcopal community, Walter said.

January eBlasts

How many of us have admired old windmills during travel in New England or not failed to be drawn to the windmill in Rembrandt’s great painting? All of these windmills when built were designed for efficiency with the technology available.

The emphasis in modern wind power technology is no different, but a similar appreciation for form matched to function is not finding expression in the current aesthetic controversies over siting of wind turbines. Instead, aesthetics are among the grounds raised to challenge placements of modern wind power sites. The mill on its rise is the focal point in a landscape by Rembrandt that has been admired for centuries, but similar siting for modern wind power is challenged as threatening natural beauty.

The tension in balancing natural beauty and human artifact is not new, but ancient. The aesthetic sensitivity to nature in Japanese gardens has its roots in China’s agricultural transition toward intensive irrigated agriculture in its river valleys. Garden design in China, and later in Japan, preserved in confined spaces an appreciation for a landscape that was concurrently being destroyed in the agricultural transition to intensive rice cultivation.

And, in Virginia today, how many of us on a drive along a scenic Virginia by-way admire the bucolic charm of cattle grazing in pastures denuded of trees, perhaps even lolling in brooks – adding to pollution in the Chesapeake Bay? With the passage of time, aesthetic sensibilities change.

As wind power takes hold in Virginia perhaps in time, with proper siting and appropriate environmental protections, our wind turbines may also be appreciated as objects of beauty, as well as necessary features of any transition to renewable energy.

 

By now, the LEED Certification  for new construction is relatively familiar. 

Thanks to research  sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, there is now a wider recognition as well that offsetting the environmental impact from destroying an existing building and constructing a new, more efficient building may take as long as 80 years.

Improving the efficiency of our existing churches is not only desirable, but is in most cases the best stewardship alternative as well.

This recognition underlies development by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of a web-based analytical tool for establishing baselines and monitoring progress in reducing consumption of water, natural gas, and electricity from non-renewable sources with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Buildings, including churches, can earn an EnergyStar certification if their efficiency. Churches gaining a score of 75 or better, after verification by a licensed professional engineer or architect, will receive an EnergyStar certification.

One subpage of the EPA’s Energy Star website furnishes support specifically for congregational initiatives to reduce energy consumption.  This page has a link to a 38 page handbook, Putting Energy into Stewardship: Energy Star for Congregations (downloadable as a *.pdf  file) that has hot links to state and national resources for reducing energy consumption.  The handbook may be downloaded here.

Additional information on how the EPA Energy Profile Manager supports the Genesis Covenant endorsed by the General Convention in 2009 may be found here on the SoCC website.

December eBlasts

The Stewardship of Creation Committee is submitting a resolution to the 2015 Diocesan Council, Accepting Our Duty of Care for God’s Creation. The full text  of the proposed resolution, its supporting narrative, and a listing of selected sources considered during drafting may be found on the Committee website.

If adopted, the resolution will define concerns and a framework for advocacy and other measures in support of environmental stewardship. It should be emphasized that the resolution does not prescribe specific measures that should be supported or their timing. Those are matters reserved for prayerful consideration and discernment by churches and their members.

The resolution, instead, identifies concerns and calls for churches and their members to educate themselves regarding means to avert and mitigate global warming and its impacts, to incorporate ministry to those affected by climate-caused disasters into church mission, to celebrate creation in liturgy, prayerfully to consider changes to make in church operations and personal lifestyles, and to advocate with relevant decision makers for changes in course to avert and mitigate the effects of global warming.

As expressed in the Presiding Bishop’s recent pastoral message, “[t]he present moment is a critical one, filled with both challenge and opportunity to act as faithful individuals and churches in solidarity with God’s good creation.” In support of this concern, the Committee will be coordinating with other church denominations and other concerned interfaith and secular organizations to identify opportunities where advocacy framed in terms of environmental stewardship could be important.

This will be a new initiative for the Committee, but one fully consistent with the mission as conceived when the Committee was formed by Bishop Peter Lee in 1992 to implement a 1991 resolution of the General Convention. That resolution called for Episcopalians “to view environmental stewardship as a matter of highest urgency.”

As understood by the Committee, environmental stewardship is fundamentally a moral issue rooted in our covenantal relationship with God and God’s creation, i.e., that the issues are not purely scientific and that the Church is both a resource and a context for discerning and protecting the integrity of creation.

Through Holy Baptism, we are received into Christ's body, the Church. Within the Church, through the gifts of the Holy Spirit we may discern our place in God's mission. Through the General Confession, we may acknowledge our collective limitations.  Through the Holy Eucharist, we may receive grace and gain strength, courage and capacity for hope.
 
As a Church in the Anglican Communion, we are called "to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and renew the life of the earth.” Our accountability to God’s creation encompasses whether the whole of creation continues to flourish. By adopting the resolution, the Council will affirm this duty, its ramifications, and its urgent importance.

Bishop Shannon has established new procedures for discussing and amending resolutions before the 2015 Council. On January 10, the Diocese will hold a digital meeting on resolutions and the Diocesan budget that will somewhat follow the format of a webinar. In addition, there will be an opportunity for submission of comments and proposed amendments via email between the January 10 digital meeting and an open, in-person hearing on resolutions that will convene late afternoon on Thursday, January 22, at the Richmond Marriott just before the 220th Council convenes.
 

“God is among us, and within us, and around us, encountering, nudging, loving, transforming the world and its creatures toward the glorious dream the shepherds announced so many years ago, toward the beloved community of prophetic dreams, and the nightwatch that proclaims ‘all is well, fear not, the Lord is here.’”

The full message of the Presiding Bishop is on the Church website and below.

Advent and Christmas Message 2014

The altar hanging at an English Advent service was made of midnight blue, with these words across its top: “We thank you that darkness reminds us of light.” Facing all who gathered there to give thanks were images of night creatures – a large moth, an owl, a badger, and a bat – cryptic and somewhat mysterious creatures that can only be encountered in the darkness.

As light ebbs from the days and the skies of fall, many in the Northern Hemisphere associate dark with the spooks and skeletons of secular Hallowe’en celebrations.  That English church has reclaimed the connection between creator, creation, and the potential holiness of all that is.  It is a fitting reorientation toward the coming of One who has altered those relationships toward new possibilities for healing and redemption.

Advent leads us into darkness and decreasing light.  Our bodies slow imperceptibly with shorter days and longer nights, and the merriness and frantic activity around us are often merely signs of eager hunger for light and healing and wholeness. 

The Incarnation, the coming of God among us in human flesh, happened in such a quiet and out of the way place that few noticed at first.  Yet the impact on human existence has been like a bolt of lightning that continues to grow and generate new life and fire in all who share that hunger.

Jesus is among us like a flitting moth – will we notice his presence in the street-sleeper?  He pierces the dark like a silent, streaking owl seeking food for hungry and defenseless nestlings. He will overturn this world’s unjust foundations like badgers undermining a crooked wall. Like the bat’s sonar, his call comes to each one uniquely – have we heard his urgent “come and follow”?

God is among us, and within us, and around us, encountering, nudging, loving, transforming the world and its creatures toward the glorious dream the shepherds announced so many years ago, toward the beloved community of prophetic dreams, and the night watch that proclaims “all is well, fear not, the Lord is here.”

May Christ be born anew in you this Christmastide.  May his light burn in you, and may you labor to spread it in the darkness. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, and it is the harbinger of peace for all creation.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

Advent, a season of preparation in the Church year, is a particularly appropriate time to reflect on our values and how they find expression.

Some recent consumer research suggests that the “green consumption values” people express during Christmas shopping find expression throughout the year.


The researchers defined “green consumption values” as the tendency of consumers to express the value of environmental protection through the goods and services they purchase. To measure green consumption values, researchers developed a six-item scale, consisting of the following statements:

* It is important to me that the products I use do not harm the environment.
* I consider the potential environmental impact of my actions when making many of my decisions.
* My purchase habits are affected by my concern for the environment. 
* I am concerned about wasting the resources of our planet.
* I would describe myself as environmentally responsible.
* I am willing to be inconvenienced in order to take actions that are more environmentally friendly.

Their measurement goal was to measure consumption values exclusively, rather than broader attitudes toward socially responsible behavior or environmental consciousness.

Through a series of six studies, the researchers found that green consumption values are strongly related to the careful use of not just collective, environmental resources, but also personal resources. Both the tendency to use financial resources wisely and the tendency to use physical resources wisely are positively correlated with green consumption values. In other words, consumers that value green consumption also tend to value financial savings and to reuse and repurpose goods rather than quickly disposing of them.

If environmentally friendly products are more expensive or less effective than alternatives, consumers with this set of values may experience some conflict. Like consumers with different values, these consumers also resolve such conflicts through “motivated reasoning,” i.e., they tend to evaluate products that align with these values more favorably. In such instances, the psychological tendencies and limitations we all share – to reason toward results – are working in favor of Creation.
 

November eBlasts

A Prayer of Thanksgiving for the Beauty of the Earth
We give you thanks, most gracious God, for the beauty of earth and sky and sea; for the richness of mountains, plains, and rivers; for the songs of birds and the loveliness of flowers.
We praise you for these good gifts, and pray that we may safeguard them for our posterity.
Grant that we may continue to grow in our grateful enjoyment of your abundant creation, to the honor and glory of your Name, now and for ever. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer (1979), p. 840.

On September 20, 2014, Willis Jenkins spoke at the SoCC conference on "The Episcopal Church and Earth Care." A podcast of his keynote address to the conference, Climate Change as an Ethical Challenge: Religious Creativity and Empowerment for Change, is here.

 

Imagine going for a swim in the James River and your life jacket disintegrates. Imagine further that you wake up the next day with a deep chemical burn over the parts of your body that were in the water – a burn so severe that your skin begins to slough off. The boat you borrowed also has holes burned through the hull. This really happened to a five-year-old boy in Chesterfield County in the 1950s.    

The James River was one of the most polluted rivers in America well into the 1970s. Decades of unregulated industry and sewage discharges had turned America’s Founding River into an open sewer. Parts of the river had a pH of 3.0 (the equivalent of vinegar) and zero dissolved oxygen due to the presence of decomposing waste. Water temperatures near industrial plants exceeded 115 degrees. The only life that could be found in those parts of the river was anaerobic worms.

The Clean Water Act of 1972 changed that. Congress saw that a voluntary system of state and local governments “opting in” to establish anti-pollution measures was not working. Water safe enough to swim in and fish in became a national priority. Tougher regulation and federal grants for new treatment facilities rapidly changed the face of the James and other rivers nationwide. Over the years the Clean Water Act has been amended to include regulations that cover stormwater runoff. The James River is a vibrant habitat again. Fish and waterfowl are back and boaters can recreate without getting ill or maimed by acidic water. The Clean Water is an example of legislation that is working – so far.

The Clean Water Act is constantly under attack by parties that seek to lessen its regulatory coverage in the interest of business.  Other critics contend that it does not go far enough because there are few resources to insure accountability when states fail to meet water quality standards. Others argue that the Act focuses too much on controlling pollutants instead of preventing them.
 
The Committee on Stewardship of Creation encourages you to learn more and decide for yourself. There are a number of histories and discussions of the Act online.
 
The United States Environmental Protection Agency is currently considering amending the Act to further define the scope of the waters it protects. Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2011-0880 proposes to define “Water of the U.S.” to include tributaries to navigable waters and wetlands. The public comment period ended on November 14. More information can be found on the EPA’s website.   
 
http://www2.epa.gov/uswaters/definition-waters-united-states-under-clean-water-act

 

While it might seem obvious that building a power plant fired by coal, oil or natural gas will produce CO2 emissions and other pollutants over its lifetime, generally 40 years, until recently the committed CO2 emissions associated with construction of power plants fired by fossil fuels has gotten little attention.

The consequences of this omission are immense because the magnitude of global warming we will experience is determined by cumulative emissions, not by emissions in a single year. Further, CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere now exceed 400 ppm, 15 percent more than the 350 ppm threshold once considered a safe upper limit.
 
One recent study by scholars at Princeton and the University of California, Irvine, is a first effort at estimating from published databases how committed CO2 emissions associated with power plants fired by coal, oil and natural gas have changed over time. The study concludes that committed CO2 emissions have not declined in a single year since 1950 and that committed CO2 emissions are in fact growing rapidly, at an average rate of 4% per year between 2000 and 2012. Plants generating power from coal account globally for an estimated 67 percent of total CO2 commitments and are the largest global contributors to atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

Committed CO2 emissions are a measure of the inertia that must be overcome if the atmospheric concentration of CO2 is not to exceed catastrophic thresholds. As the authors conclude, “Reducing CO2 emissions will ultimately mean retiring CO2-emitting infrastructure more quickly than it is built.” Their study quantifies the magnitude of the challenge.

 

Building energy audits have been a staple for smart energy efficiency improvements for more than 40 years. A Dominion Virginia Power program available to churches in its service area goes one step further.

Zeroing in on heat losses in forced air HVAC systems, Dominion has devised a program for inspection and sealing of leaking air duct systems that may entail no out-of-pocket cost to churches. The duct system inspections must be conducted by contractors authorized by Dominion as service providers.

In addition to sealing leaks, the contractors will also adjust air flows to even temperature in the conditioned space. Further, sealing the duct system should improve indoor air quality by reducing exposure to pollutants.

Provided improvements or system functioning as inspected are above thresholds, Dominion will issue a rebate to the church. Some contractors may add an additional charge or may charge for other, additional services. There are a few contractors specifically marketing to churches who will not impose any additional charge for the duct inspection, and will take an assignment of the Dominion rebate so that the church will incur no cash outflow as well as no out-of-pocket cost.

A searchable list of contractors qualified by Dominion to provide this service is on its website. Churches taking advantage of the service should discuss specific terms with the alternative contractors who might service their location. If managing cash flow as well as out-of-pocket cost is important for the church, that concern should specifically addressed in discussions with contractors.
 

October eBlasts

Some hydrologists maintain that there is no need to worry about global warming from greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) because we will run out of water first.

Actually, as some recent research documents, how we produce electrical power implicates not only GHG emissions, but also water supply and water quality. Further, the demands on water supply of energy production are not currently well monitored.

The authors are Paul Faeth, a speaker at the 2012 Stewardship of Creation conference, and Benjamin K. Sovacool. Their research examines the water demands of alternative means for electrical power generation through steam-driven turbines. With this technology, cooling water is required whether power is generated using coal, nuclear fission, natural gas, or biomass. Water demands for cooling and consumption of water during electrical power generation are greatest for water-cooled nuclear, next highest for coal and least for natural gas. Worse, carbon capture and sequestration to reduce coal plant emissions increases the consumption demand on water supply from power production using coal.

By contrast electrical power produced by wind imposes no demand on water supply, and solar photovoltaic power generation imposes a water demand only intermittently, to clean solar panels. The only means to generate electrical power that simultaneously reduce water consumption and GHG emissions and improve air quality are through wind and solar photovoltaics.

In recent years, speakers at Stewardship of Creation conferences have shown that water supplies in Virginia’s coastal plain and elsewhere in the Commonwealth are already under stress. The supply constraints are not as obvious as in areas manifestly stricken by drought, but the threats to water supply are real and serious. Further, Virginia’s coastal plain is the area where population is growing most rapidly.

Minimizing the demands on water supplies under threat should therefore be a priority, but how water demands in power generation affect the sustainability of water supply is not currently monitored. Virginia’s most recently published energy plan includes no data concerning the demands on water supply from its existing and projected energy infrastructure.

Similarly, although water supply is clearly a critical issue, neither the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency nor the U.S. Department of Energy includes water in its policy models. Faeth and Sovacool’s research calls attention to this serious gap.


“A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”
- Wilderness Act of 1964

Here is some good news. The Wilderness Act turned fifty last month.  When President Lyndon Johnson signed the act on September 3, 1964 it created the National Wilderness Preservation system and protected 9.1 million acres of national forest. Today the amount of area protected under the act equals 109.5 million acres.

The United States was the first nation ever to formally enact a system for preserving wilderness areas for the benefit of its citizens and the protection of the wildlife that inhabits them.  The U.S. can proudly say that it has the most protected lands in the world.  

 Celebrate this important birthday by visiting a wilderness area near you. Visit www.wilderness.net and use its GIS map to see descriptions of wilderness areas and plan your trip.  

There are a number of proposed wilderness areas currently before Congress. See the list by following this link.
http://wilderness.org/article/113th-congress-wilderness-bills

 

As any patron of the Ten Thousand Villages chain will appreciate, the Mennonite Church has been exceptionally creative in alleviating poverty and promoting social justice through its engagement in markets.

A new adult education curriculum created by the Mennonite Creation Care Network, Every Creature Singing: Embracing the Good News for Planet Earth, demonstrates similar imagination and thoroughness.

The curriculum has been created to implement a July 2013 resolution of the Mennonite Creation Care Network calling upon Mennonite congregations to study creation care within their own ecological and social contexts. The resources are designed to support congregations, small groups or individuals wanting to explore questions like the following: 

  • What guidance does the Christian faith offer on issues like climate change and environmental injustice?
  • Where, in our circle of influence, is creation struggling, and what can we do about it?
  • How can we as a community be faithful in pursuing spiritual and household practices that help us care for the earth?

The curriculum consists of three units, each with four sessions, that respectively consider care for creation from three perspectives: Biblical and theological foundations; pursuing peace and justice; and choosing a simple lifestyle. An overview of the curriculum themes, resolution questions, and questions for church and community engagement may be found here.

Each session includes: suggested scripture passages; a reflective essay and discussion questions; suggested spiritual practices and household practices; circle questions that focus on the group's surrounding neighborhood; a leader’s guide; and thoughtfully selected links to Web informational resources relevant for effectively engaging in care for creation.

The curriculum may be downloaded or read online without charge. http://www.mennocreationcare.org/every-creature-singing

Additional educational resources on the Stewardship of Creation website may be found here: http://caringforgodscreation.net/SOC_Resources/Educational_Resources/

September eBlasts

With exceptions for a few well publicized, charismatic insect species, e.g., Monarch Butterflies, Honeybees, a sense that insects are only a nuisance is all too prevalent.

With that animus, entire yards are sprayed with “natural” products to eliminate “only” mosquitoes. When our homes are sprayed as well, we poison not only insects but the air that we, our children, and our pets breathe as well. As a result we are losing the plants and animals that live with us on this planet because we have done a poor job of sharing. 

In addition, as a result of globalization, our native insects have also acquired unwelcome neighbors. For exogenous, invasive insects, insects with no natural predators in an ecosystem, an alternative to spraying that is sometimes considered and effective is to import the insect’s natural predator.

Insects of which there are well over a million species, serve important functions in maintaining a balanced ecosystem. 

  • Insects are food for birds, reptiles and mammals. 
  • Birds can live on the energy provided by seeds and fruit, but all, except finches and doves, must eat insects…and a lot of them!  to produce their babies.
  • Insects pollinate many fruits, vegetables and flowers which we need to survive.

Bugs are like Santa Claus to humans.  Consider all these gifts.

All these  roles of insects help keep life on earth in balance. We need the help of beneficial insects in maintaining biodiversity.  The more diverse an ecosystem, the greater its resilience and the more oxygen, watershed protection, water purification, soil building and stabilization, moderation of weather systems, carbon dioxide sequestration, garbage recycling, pollination, and food it will provide.

Humanity must respect insects and their roles in a balanced ecosystem.

For fun and information listen to Dr. Arthur Evans on the Idea Stations.  His program is called “What’s Bugging You?”

Also:  http://arthurevans.wordpress.com/

 

The following Pastoral Message on Climate Change has been issued by Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori with the heads of the Anglican Church of Canada, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the  Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. A Pastoral Message on Climate Change from the heads of Anglican Church of Canada, The Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.

On The Episcopal Church website

September 19, 2014

We are united as Christian leaders in our concern for the well-being of our neighbors and of God’s good creation that provides life and livelihood for all God’s creatures.

Daily we see and hear the evidence of a rapidly changing climate. Glaciers are disappearing, the polar ice cap is melting, and sea levels are rising. Incidents of pollution created dead zones in seas and the ocean and toxic algae growth in water supplies are occurring with greater frequency.

Most disturbingly, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is rising at an unprecedented rate. At the same time we also witness in too many instances how the earth’s natural beauty, a sign of God’s wonderful creativity, has been defiled by pollutants and waste.

Many have reacted to these changes with grief and anger. In their outrage some have understandably focused on the neglect and carelessness, both in private industry and in government regulation, that have contributed to these changes. However, an honest accounting requires a recognition that we all participate both as consumers and investors in economies that make intensive and insistent demands for energy.

In addition, as citizens we have chosen to support or acquiesce in policies that shift the burdens of climate change to communities that are most vulnerable to its effects. People who are already challenged by poverty and by dislocation resulting from civil war or famine have limited resources for adapting to climate change’s effects.

While an accounting of climate change that has credibility and integrity must include our own repentance, we find our hope in the promise of God’s own faithfulness to the creation and humankind and in the liberation that comes from God’s promise.

God, who made the creation and made it good, has not abandoned it. Daily the Spirit continues to renew the face of the earth. All who care for the earth and work for the restoration of its vitality can be confident that they are not pursuing a lost cause. We serve in concert with God’s own creative and renewing power.

Moreover, we need not surrender to political ideologies and other modern mythologies that would divide us into partisan factions — deserving and undeserving, powerless victims and godless oppressors. In Christ we have the promise of a life where God has reconciled the human community. In Christ God sets us free from the captivity of blaming and shaming. God liberates us for shared endeavors where we find each other at our best.

While the challenge may seem daunting, the Spirit’s abundant gifts for service empower us to find common cause with people who exercise countless insights and skills, embodied in hundreds of occupations and trades. We have good reason to hope in all the ways God’s grace is at work among us. We can commend ourselves to the work before us with confidence in God’s mercy.

Opportunities to act imaginatively and courageously abound in all our individual callings. The Holy Spirit’s work in us leads us as faithful consumers and investors in a global economy to make responsible choices to reduce energy use, carbon emissions, and the wasteful consumption of water and other natural resources. As citizens, we have voices to use in educating children about the climate and in shaping public and corporate policies that affect the environment. The Spirit has also given us our voices to contribute our witness to public discussion of just and responsible use of natural resources.

We also have the resources and responsibility to act together for the common good, especially for those most vulnerable to the effect of climate change in the spirit of the seventh Millennium Development Goal, “to ensure environmental stability”. World leaders will meet this month in New York for a Climate Summit, and in December in Lima, Peru, to discuss global cooperation on climate change. Working under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), participants in the UNFCCC’s negotiations hope for an agreement in 2015 that will move toward reduction of carbon emissions, development of low carbon technologies, and assistance to populations most vulnerable to the effects of a changing climate.

We encourage you to take the initiative to engage decision-makers in this godly work in all arenas of public life — in government and business, in schools and civic organizations, in social media and also in our church life.

We are not powerless to act and we are not alone. “We have the power of the Holy Spirit and the indwelling Spirit of Christ to give us hope and courage.”i

The present moment is a critical one, filled with both challenge and opportunity to act as faithful individuals and churches in solidarity with God’s good creation.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

Bishop Elizabeth Eaton
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

The Most Rev. Fred Hiltz
Primate
Anglican Church of Canada

Bishop Susan Johnson
National Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada

A Catechism of Creation, p. 19

Resources for the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC)

Resources for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)

Resources for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC)

Resources for The Episcopal Church (including the Catechism of Creation)

The frequency in the Northern Hemisphere of extreme weather events, extreme heat, floods, and sustained droughts, has doubled since 2000.

During that same period, temperatures in the Arctic have warmed two times as fast as average temperatures elsewhere.

Recently published research connects these extremes with changes in high altitude wind streams attributable to the accelerated melting of Arctic sea ice. As a result of Arctic warming, there has been a slow-down in the high altitude wind-stream and wider, slower, relatively stationary oscillations (“standing waves”) in its circumpolar circulation that reach much more deeply into lower latitudes and remain relatively fixed or “blocked”, producing extended heat waves, droughts and floods.

The social and economic impacts of extreme heat, floods, and drought are more severe than hurricanes. The 2012 drought in the US Southeast is estimated to have caused more damage, $100 billion, than the $75 billion caused by Hurricane Sandy that same year.

Just as in ancient times, when extended droughts caused the collapse of the Bronze Age empires of the Hittites, Mycenaean Greeks, and the Middle Kingdom in Egypt, droughts today are curtailing agriculture, limiting the navigability of rivers, drying up lakes, and creating protracted water conflicts resulting at times in extreme violence, in an era when means of wreaking violence are profoundly more destructive.
 
With more understanding of causation, will we have more capability to act?

Virginia Theological Seminary is partnering with the Diocese's Stewardship of Creation Committee to create a one-day workshop, The Episcopal Church and Earth Care.

The workshop will tackle both the big questions (climate change) and the practical questions (addressed during the afternoon breakout sessions).
 
With an imaginative program of experts (UVA's Professor Willis Jenkins is addressing the ethical and religious dimensions of climate change and the Seminary's own Ragan Sutterfield is on the panel) and practical workshops (for example, Denise Swinsky from America Disposal Services will address the topic “Recycling – Right and Wrong”), this program connects ethics with action!

The workshop will take place on Saturday September 20, 2014 in the Addison Center, 3630 Bishop Walker Circle, at Virginia Theological Seminary (3737 Seminary Road, Alexandria, VA 22304), starting at 10:00 a.m. and concluding at 3;30 p.m.

A sustainable brunch will be served in the Seminary refectory. Although late registrations will be accepted, the Seminary respectfully requests that registrations be submitted on or before Wednesday, September 17, so that the refectory can accurately prepare for the event.

To register and for more information on the speakers and program schedule visit http://caringforgodscreation.net/Conferences/2014-Conference/

 

As global temperature warms, hurricanes may or may not become more frequent, but will become more intense.

Do countries “build back better”, adjust to loss quickly, or never fully recover, suffering long-term penalties?

A recent report published by the National Bureau of Economic Research considers their long term impact. The findings are not encouraging.
 
•    The economic impacts of hurricanes are comparable to banking and financial crises and the effects are more enduring, still evident after 20 years
•    Because the effects do not fade with time, countries repeatedly exposed to hurricanes suffer a growing penalty
•    The marginal impacts do not depend on country size
 
Linking their analysis of past hurricane impacts to projections of future hurricane activity, the researchers conclude that social costs of hurricanes will be $9.7 trillion larger than previously thought.

One of the afternoon breakout sessions at the September conference will explore the role of the church in building resilience to prepare for disasters and help mitigate their impact.

August eBlasts

For the so called millennials, the obligation to be green is a no-brainer.
Of course we should try to reduce our carbon footprint or recycle thereby reducing our capacity to create even more land-fills.

And they are exactly right.

But exactly how do we do these things?  Virginia Theological Seminary is proud to partner with the “Stewardship of Creation” (the committee of the diocese responsible for green initiatives) to create a one-day workshop that tackles both the big questions – climate change – and the practical questions – a congregational approach to national disasters.

With an imaginative program of experts (Willis Jenkins of UVA is addressing the issue of the ethical and religious dimensions of climate change and our own Ragan Sutterfield is on the panel) and practical workshops (for example, Denise Swinsky from America Disposal Services will address the topic “Recycling – Right and Wrong”), this is a aprogram that connects ethics with action.

Should the church calendar include a “Season of Creation”?

There is ecumenical support that it should. The late Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I proclaimed September 1 as a day of prayer for the environment in 1989. The Feast of St. Francis, October 4 on the Church calendar, is celebrated in the Episcopal Church and many other churches from the Western tradition.

These two dates, it has more recently been suggested, could mark a season “to reflect in a concentrated way on the foundations of redemption and sanctification, namely, the very creation itself that is redeemed and sanctified. … Now it is time to turn our attention to God’s relationship with all creation and with our relationship with creation (and with God through creation).”

As support, Let All Creation Praise, a website maintained principally by Lutherans, has compiled lectionary readings for the 3-year cycle, sermon resources, as well as resources for occasional services.

“What happens in worship shapes how participants inhabit time.” Willis Jenkins has observed. Jenkins likewise concurs with the website’s contributors that “[t]he experience of a Season of Creation through four Sundays in the church year alone will not bring the transformation in consciousness we need to address the ecological problems we face today in God’s creation.”

While that may be true, the contributors maintain notwithstanding that “unless we can see what worship can be like in a season devoted fully to Creator and creation, we will probably not adequately incorporate care for creation into worship throughout the rest of the year.”

The Nuts and Bolts of Stewardship

The Committee on Stewardship of Creation is introducing a new resource for congregations interested in taking on environmental projects. The SOCC toolkit is an easy to use resource list for congregations that are ready to get started on Creation Care activities but do not know where to start. The tool kit organizes projects by category and level of difficulty.

Categories include: building and grounds management, water quality/ conservation, energy and waste management. Projects in each category are organized from easy to high difficulty to help congregations take on projects in a planned approach. The tool kit has documents and links that include “how-to” instructions to be stewards of Creation.

The tool kit is still under development and we invite suggestions for additional resources. In particular, we are looking for resources about sustainable buildings and grounds maintenance and waste management.

Please submit resource ideas to Lorne Field at fieldl@chesterfield.gov or Emily Cherry at echerry@thediocese.net.

Visit the toolkit at: http://caringforgodscreation.net/Toolkit/

 

Trees  

I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day, and lifts her leafy arms to pray 

Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918)
A White oak (1886--- _______ )

Creation cycled carbon long before humanity exploited fossil fuels. 

For most of human history, dense forests covered much of the earth, absorbing lots of carbon. This was true even in many semi-arid areas like Palestine, Jordan, parts of Arabia, and the Indus River Valley.
 
In urban areas today there are not enough trees to sequester all the carbon that is emitted, not only by power stations, industry, commercial and residential buildings and cars and trucks, but by gas-powered lawn mowers, blowers and trimmers as well.

With greater recognition for the importance of large healthy trees in the urban areas which are the sources of so much emitted carbon, the development of urban forestry as a special field has been one result. Trees are not just part of a pretty landscape. They clean our air, help conserve energy, control storm water, absorb pollutants, and reduce noise.
 
Think long and hard before cutting a tree for more lawn or a patio. Are there alternatives that could preserve the tree as asset? Trees give neighborhoods character, and as landscape features add beauty and value to homes.

If your city or subdivision home doesn’t have major trees, such as a mighty oak, plant one, trim it while it is young (to give it a good start in life), call a certified arborist when you have concerns, and enjoy all its benefits.

Protecting and planting trees is a beautiful way to help preserve creation.

July eBlasts

Could your church benefit from professional landscaping advice available pro bono?

Members of the Virginia Society of Landscape Designers have volunteered to give churches an hour of free design advice, pro bono.  These certified professionals have many ideas to help your church accomplish the goals for your church property, whatever they might be.

  • Want to reduce maintenance costs, water consumption, use of fertilizers and pesticides?
  • Thinking about using more native plants, encouraging more birds and butterflies around your property?
  • Wondering what to do with wet areas?
  • Are there some unpleasant hot areas that could be turned into shady areas where people gather?
  • A columbarium might be your congregation’s dream.

If you are looking for landscape ideas for your church property, go to www.vsld.org and click on “Find a designer” to identify someone to help you.

This is a great time of the year to plan for fall or early spring planting.


A recent academic paper proposed that recycling by the American public should be examined as a symbolic act. As Episcopalians, we perhaps give symbolism more weight than some.


But how recycling is done also matters.

Effective recycling by consumers, businesses, and governments:

  • Protects groundwater by diverting toxic chemicals from landfills;
  • Supports recovery of “rare earth” elements from electronics reducing demand for raw materials from mining;
  • Reduces CO2 emissions by redirecting landfill wastes to feasible uses of recycled materials;
  • Allays threats to marine and other wildlife from plastic accretions in oceans, lakes, and countrysides;
  • Supports job creation by recycling facilities at 6x the rate of job creation by landfill operations.

At the 2014 SoCC Workshop in September, Denise Swinsky of American Disposal Services will be leading afternoon sessions exploring how churches can show leadership and recycle more effectively

New details on The Episcopal Church and Earth Care workshop at Virginia Theological Seminary, including biographies of speakers and facilitators are now posted on the Stewardship of Creation website.

Willis Jenkins, Associate Professor of Religion, Ethics, and Environment at the University of Virginia, will be the keynote speaker.

In partnership with Virginia Theological Seminary, the Committee on Stewardship of Creation is convening at the Seminary on September 20, 2014, a workshop on The Episcopal Church and Earth Care: Why does the Church care? What can the Church do? How can the Church benefit?

Willis believes that churches must do more than issue official pronouncements against climate change or in favor of specific policies. “Climate change represents a much broader moral and cultural crisis. So the creative, pragmatic action that is needed must show how we can become the sort of people and societies that can bear responsibility for the atmosphere. It’s more than policy.”

In 2009, Willlis received the Templeton Award for Theological Promise, following publication of Ecologies of Grace. His most recent book is The Future of Ethics: Sustainability, Social Justice and Religious Creativity (Georgetown 2013). An Episcopalian, Willis has been active in the national Episcopal Church over the years in many significant capacities.

Additional information on registration will be posted soon.

To create a resource portfolio for the workshop, the Committee is seeking photos of implemented projects undertaken by churches on church grounds that do any or all of the following:

- Decrease reliance on non-renewable energy sources
- Increase habitat for endangered species, e.g., butterfly gardens
- Protect water quality, e.g., rain gardens
- Increase reliance on native trees, shrubs, and ground cover in church landscaping
- Use energy efficient lighting to enhance sacred space
- Use daylighting to create efficient workspace
- Use innovative building design or landscaping to conserve energy by reducing heating or cooling demand

Please send photos and contact information about the project to socc@thediocese.net

For additional information regarding the workshop, please visit the Committee website, http://caringforgodscreation.net/Conferences/2014-Conference-Workshop/ 

June eBlasts

A Drop in the Bucket
The earth contains roughly the same volume of water that it did 4 billion years ago. It’s not making any more and it hasn’t lost any yet.  When seen from space it would appear that the blue planet has more water that its inhabitants could ever need.

However ninety-seven percent of that it is salt water in the oceans. Only three percent of the world’s water is fresh.  Eighty percent of the world’s fresh water is frozen in ice caps and glaciers. 99.5 percent of the unfrozen fresh water is unavailable because it is polluted or in aquifers that are too deep to reach. Out of the total volume of Earth’s water, only about 0.003 percent (streams, rivers and lakes) is available for human consumption. Suddenly, our supply of drinkable water seems so much more precious. 

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality estimates that Virginia’s population will increase by thirty percent by 2040. That population increase will result in an equal rise in water demand.  That translates into 450 million more gallons per day that will have to be drawn from the state’s rivers and reservoirs.

Think about it.

Do you let the water run while you brush your teeth?
Do you use tap water to wash your car?
Do you use tap water to irrigate your lawn?
Do you use tap water to wash your floors?
Do you let the shower run while it warms up?  

There are ways to conserve. Collect the water from your shower while it warms up so you can use it for other purposes. Rain water harvesting with rain barrels or cisterns can provide water for non-potable uses like washing cars and floors and watering lawns – and it will decrease polluted runoff.   

Most Americans going to the beach or picnics will leave glass bottles and glasses at home and take plastic instead. Too many leave spent plastic behind.

Glass may cut our feet. It also degrades to sand, which when compressed becomes sandstone. Now, so much plastic waste has accumulated that it also is finding its way into plastiglomerates, melted plastic- rock conglomerates. As the plastiglomerates sink to the ocean bottom, they will become part of a new strata that will, like the Iridium layer marking an asteroid strike at the Cretaceous/Tertiary boundary, become a geological marker of the Anthropocene.

The plastiglomerates may be a disturbing marker of our time, but perhaps as well less of a threat to life than other plastic waste. An estimated 46,000 pieces of plastic waste float in every square mile of ocean. Almost all of this waste has been generated since 1950. Over time, this waste gathers in garbage patches in gyres, cyclonic dead spots in the ocean, or sinks to the bottom. The persistence of the plastics in the environment is estimated in the range of hundreds to thousands of years.

Plastic waste also accumulates in oceans and lakes as micro particles. The micro particles leach chemicals and provide habitat for pathogens. Because the particles are small enough for ingestion by plankton, they find their way into the food chain with adverse effects that are still not fully known.

Using plastics well includes collecting and recycling plastic waste. It is not beyond our means to protect both our feet and the environment.

http://www.geosociety.org/gsatoday/archive/24/6/pdf/i1052-5173-24-6-4.pdf

A recent world opinion survey found that Chinese (64%) identify as environmentalists at more than double the rate of Americans or Europeans.

Chinese identifying as environmentalists also differ socially from European and American environmentalists. They are more conservative, devoted to family and Asian values. They are believers as well in the power of technology to solve the world’s problems. Because of China’s pollution, they have a greater sense of urgency than Americans and Europeans.

China is already the largest investor in green technology. In addition, with the recent 30-year natural gas deal with Russia, the Chinese should be able further to reduce their reliance on coal through increasing reliance on natural gas as a transitional energy source.

Europeans and American environmentalists, in contrast, tend to be liberal, highly-educated, politically active “cosmopolitans,” a minority. As European and American publics question investment in green technology disputing, and perhaps exaggerating, the costs, the Chinese are pressing ahead with broad public support.

How will this play out as UN climate negotiations resume in 2015?

Photo Credit: China Daily/Reuters

Survey Summary:  http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/may/07/more-chinese-than-europeans-identify-themselves-as-environmentalists

May eBlasts

What's in a name? Climate Change or Global Warming

The history of our creeds confirms that words have power and that word choices can nurture divisions.

Does anyone recall without some effort the substance of the “filoque” controversy which split the Byzantine and Roman Churches in 1054?

On the other hand, there are times when word choice does not matter. “Climate change” is a term sometimes used instead of “global warming” to avoid antagonizing climate skeptics. In scientific discussions, “climate change” is sometimes used because it frames questions in broader and more neutral terms. Neither choice alters facts, but in a scientific context the choice may stimulate more questions for further study.

A further irony is that the growing alarm about the human role in “climate change” that scientists are sounding in their reports is actually dampened by their use of that term. A recent survey conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communications and the Center for Climate Change Communications at George Mason University has found that choice of terminology has no appreciable significance for climate skeptics, but that the term “climate change” carries significantly less urgency for persons who accept a human role in climate change.

Calling attention to “global warming” may not be helpful in framing issues for further research, but is, it seems, essential for public recognition of the urgency that scientists perceive. The choice of words has power, even when a word choice fails to bridge gaps the more technical choice may operate to lull public concern.

BEST Images: http://berkeleyearth.org/graphics/physical-effects-of-warming (maps of earth surface temperature change for other seasons)
Yale-George Mason Survey Report: http://environment.yale.edu/climate-communication/article/global-warming-vs-climate-change/

Many Hands Make Light Work!

If you want to lend a helping hand to care for God’s Creation, here is a great chance. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is hosting its 26th annual Clean the Bay Day on Saturday, June 7. Dozens of bay, river and creek sites across Virginia will accept volunteers in this major cleanup effort.  This is a great stewardship activity for youth groups and the whole congregation.  To find a location near you, and to sign up your group or yourself, visit the Chesapeake Bay Foundation at http://www.cbf.org/clean.

The Straight Scoop on Pet Waste.
When you take your four-legged friend for  a walk – take a baggie too!
 
• One gram of dog waste can contain 23 million fecal coliform bacteria. An average dog produces 0.75 pounds of waste (7.82 billion fecal coliforms) per day.
• 3.6 billion pounds of pet waste are generated in the United States every year – enough to bury an entire football field 800 feet deep.
• Dog waste has high amounts of nitric acid that can “burn” lawns and adversely impact the pH of receiving waters.
• Pet waste in stormwater runoff ends up in waterways across Virginia contributing to recreational impairments from  E. coli bacteria.  
• Source tracking has shown that pet waste accounts for upwards of 50% of the bacterial pollutant load in urban watersheds.  
• EPA estimates that the waste from 100 dogs over a three day period is enough to close the Chesapeake Bay to swimming and shell fishing.
 
Pet Waste on left the street or in you yard will wash into storm drains and local waterways when it rains. The solution is simple - just bag pet waste and throw it in the trash!

April eBlasts

In the half-empty/half-full dialogue on climate change and sustainability, good news is welcome and, in the context of the latest IPCC report, timely as well.
And there is good news on renewable energy. The U.S. Department of Energy has recently reported that deployed wind power in the United States has the equivalent generation capacity of about 60 large nuclear reactors and has become the first non-hydro renewable energy source to approach the same scale as conventional plants powered by coal and natural gas. Efficiency is increasing as well. Since 1999, the average amount of electricity generated by a single turbine has increased by about 260 percent.

Wind’s future is also promising. The combined potential of land-based and off-shore wind is about 140 quads – about 10 times U.S. energy consumption today. Good news.

A real-time map of wind flows and velocities: http://hint.fm/wind/

Report from the U.S. Dept. of Energy: http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2013/09/f2/200130917-revolution-now.pdf

Technology optimists believe that limiting greenhouse gasses to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change is achievable through innovation.
Advances in LED lighting just within the last 5 years are cause for hope. Lighting accounts for 12 percent of U.S. energy demand. 90 percent of the energy consumed by a standard 60 watt incandescent bulb is dissipated as heat. An equivalently luminescent LED requires 84 percent less energy. The upfront cost is higher, but at current utility rates the LED replacement bulb should save $140 in operating cost over its lifetime.
 
Not all LEDs cast blue light. LEDs are available in warm whites like standard bulbs. Unlike the warm white rendering typical for fluorescents, warm white LEDs do not have a green cast.

LEDs also last about 25 times longer than a standard bulb. An LED put in service the same year as a 5th grade acolyte begins to serve should not need replacement before that acolyte graduates from high school, college, and is maybe starting a family.

In the half-empty/half-full dialogue on climate change and sustainability, good news is welcome and, in the context of the latest IPCC report, timely as well.
And there is good news on renewable energy. The U.S. Department of Energy has recently reported that deployed wind power in the United States has the equivalent generation capacity of about 60 large nuclear reactors and has become the first non-hydro renewable energy source to approach the same scale as conventional plants powered by coal and natural gas. Efficiency is increasing as well. Since 1999, the average amount of electricity generated by a single turbine has increased by about 260 percent.

Wind’s future is also promising. The combined potential of land-based and off-shore wind is about 140 quads – about 10 times U.S. energy consumption today. Good news.

A real-time map of wind flows and velocities: http://hint.fm/wind/

Report from the U.S. Dept. of Energy: http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2013/09/f2/200130917-revolution-now.pdf

Journey of the Universe, an EMMY® award-winning film, will be screened in Washington DC on May 6th at the World Wildlife Fund.
The program will consist of two parts:
•    the joys and experiences of a three year faith-based conservation program at WWF; and
•    the importance of inspiring wonder and awe regarding Earth’s ecosystems and species, especially through film.
Journey of the Universe weaves together the findings of modern science with cultural traditions of Asia, Africa, and the West. It explores evolution as a process of creativity, connection, and interdependence with the hope to inspire conservation and restoration. To watch the trailer and find further information on the Journey of the Universe project, visit: http://www.journeyoftheuniverse.org/.

SPEAKERS
Tom Dillon, Senior Vice President of Forest Programs at WWF
Dekila Chungyalpa, Director of Sacred Earth Program at WWF
Tom Lovejoy, Leading Climate & Conservation Scientist
Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim, Co-producers of the Journey of the Universe
and Co-Directors of the Forum on Religion & Ecology at Yale University

DATE AND LOCATION
Tuesday, May 6th, 2014
1.00 – 3.00 pm EST
World Wildlife Fund
1250 24th St, NW
Washington DC 20037
If you are interested in attending the event, please RSVP to Giavanna.parmer@wwfus.org.

SPEAKER BIOS
Tom Dillon, the Senior Vice President of Forest Programs at WWF, will give welcoming remarks. Since joining WWF in the early 90s, Tom established the WWF Vietnam and Laos offices in Asia, played a leading role in developing the Amazon Regional Protected Areas Program (ARPA) in Brazil and, has helped establish the Terai Arc in Nepal and India.
Dekila Chungyalpa, the Director of Sacred Earth program at WWF, will speak on the lessons learned from the past three years of faith-based conservation projects in WWF priority sites. Prior to initiating the Sacred Earth program at WWF, Dekila spent six years leading WWF's efforts in the Mekong region on large-scale strategies for hydropower and climate change and five years designing and managing community-based conservation projects with WWF's Eastern Himalayas program.

Thomas Lovejoy, one of the leading conservation and climate scientists today, will speak on the importance of reaching different audiences. He directed the World Wildlife Fund-US program from 1973 to 1987 and was responsible for its scientific, Western Hemisphere, and tropical forest orientation. He is one of the best known advocates for the science and conservation of biological diversity. He was the first person to use the term biological diversity in 1980 and made the first projection of global extinction rates in the Global 2000 Report to the President that same year.
Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim are the leading academics in the field of religion and ecology. They are Senior Lecturers and Research Scholars at Yale University where they teach in a joint MA program in religion and ecology between the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and the Divinity School. They established the Forum on Religion and Ecology after organizing a series of ten conferences at Harvard (1995-1998), which resulted in ten books. Their latest book is Ecology and Religion (Island Press, 2014). Mary Evelyn will give the keynote and they will lead the discussion following the film.

Cecil Frances Alexander’s celebration of all creatures great and small in “All things bright and beautiful” does not bring salamanders most immediately to mind.
Perhaps it should. Salamanders are a significant predator in forests; and, from recent research, the health and abundance of salamanders has an underappreciated significance in the global carbon cycle. Salamander prey consists almost entirely of leaf shredding insects that feed on the leaves falling from deciduous trees. During the insects’ digestion, the leaf carbon is returned to the atmosphere as CO2 and methane. Thanks to their voracious appetites, the salamanders limit the activity of leaf shredders, and dead uneaten leaves (47% carbon) accumulate on the forest floor sequestering carbon.
Other recent research reveals that salamanders are becoming smaller and less abundant and that this trend is attributable to climate change. Will these forest heroes also become victims?
Carbon sequestration
Size and abundance trend

Obtaining acceptable investment returns while fulfilling greater purposes challenges the Church Pension Fund and all fiduciaries of church endowments.
Until recently “Green Bonds,” debt instruments certified for investment in environmentally friendly and developmentally targeted projects, were issued mainly by the World Bank and other multilateral lenders. That is beginning to change. During March 2014, Unilever issued $415.7 million in green bonds to build a high-tech, low impact plant in South Africa. Toyota and other major firms have also issued green bonds. As a result of the trend, green bonds issued during the first quarter of 2014 rose to $7.4 billion, the highest quarterly issuance tracked to date.

The introduction in January 2014 of a set of voluntary standards for green bonds has been one important support for their growth. With the development of standards, green bonds are better able to attract capital. As one measure of the importance of this development, consider that the global debt market is $78 trillion in size, roughly $25 trillion larger than the global equity market. Nearly all green bonds are investment grade.

Standards and good information about the environmental and social impacts of green bonds now enable managers of pension funds and endowments to target investments for social and environmental impacts as well as financial returns. In addition, with good information on green investment opportunities, these managers should be able as well to reduce their investment risk from holdings that may become “stranded” as alternative energy efficiency technologies gain traction.

Investors Scoop Up Unilever’s Green Bonds, Wall Street Journal (Apr. 2, 2014)
Church Pension Fund: Overview of Investment Policy
Unilever Dry Foods Factory: Features and architecture

The choices we make for coffee hour have an ethical dimension.
If coffee is certified organic, flows of harmful chemicals into the environment are reduced and wildlife habitat is not impacted. If coffee is certified fair trade, the producers are paid a paid a fair price. If coffee is certified shade-grown, taller trees on a plantation provide habitat for birdlife, enrich soil, and protect against erosion. Through our choices for coffee hour we model care for creation and global social justice.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, our partners in common mission, has identified solidarity as a principle of justice. Solidarity “requires that human beings stand together in interdependence to act locally and globally on behalf of creation.” The injunction “to stand together in global interdependence” challenges our moral imagination in ways that we are poorly equipped to contemplate.  We are highly sensitive to suffering that we can perceive directly, but our emotions give us few tools to contemplate the suffering of those we do not know.
 
One pervasive means for relationship with people we do not know is the market. With globalization, the opportunities for such connections have never been greater. Our choices in the market determine the types of relationships we form and have moral consequences. And, as a recent study of Resources for the Future confirms, certifications can compensate for weak regulation to assure that people and creation in fact benefit.

Blackman, A. and M. Naranjo, Does Eco-Certification Have Environmental Benefits?
Your morning cup of joe and our fine feathered friends

March eBlasts

Planting trees can be a liturgical act
In the Philippines, each new priest in the Episcopal Church plants a “tree of life” upon ordination, and communicants plant trees after baptism, confirmation, and marriage. Trees and shrubs can help reduce runoff, stabilize the water table, buffer streams, and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Each of these steps also reduces the harmful impacts from lawns.

Lawns are the number one irrigated crop in the United States, using more chemicals per acre than industrial agriculture. In the Chesapeake Bay watershed, urban runoff is the only source of water pollution that is still increasing.

More can be done about lawns as well. Fertilizing carefully is one step. Have your soil tested to determine its nutrient needs. The Virginia Cooperative Extension offers soil testing to help you select the right type and amount of fertilizer for your lawn. Hold off on fertilizing until the fall. Spring rains wash away fertilizer which leads to fish kills in local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay.  

Another step is to plant drought-tolerant grasses when reseeding over the next month. New varieties of native grasses are now on the market that are deep-rooted and slow-growing. These can be used to start a new lawn and to overseed existing lawns. Look for products with these features to control lawn thirst and promote the health of our rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.

For more information...
scienceline.org
http://scienceline.org/2011/07/lawns-vs-crops-in-the-continental-u-s/waterefficiency.net
http://www.waterefficiency.net/WE/articles/25073.aspx
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
http://www.cbf.org/document.doc?id=61
Virginia Cooperative Extension
http://www.ext.vt.edu/

Spring at last!  Winter is passed!
Most of us would agree that we’ve had enough snow, ice and freezing temperatures this winter.  Spring is here and, for this season of the year, the Bible counsels: “Ask rain from the Lord in the season of the spring rain, from the Lord who makes the storm clouds, who gives showers of rain to you, the vegetation in the field to everyone.” [Zechariah 10:1]
Fanny Crosby (1820-1915), one of history’s most prolific hymnists, also noted – in her “Spring Hymn,” published in 1903 – the Lord’s role as our Creator God.
Despite having been blind almost from birth, this truly remarkable person wrote the lyrics for more than 8,000 hymns and gospel songs, as well as penning more than 1,000 secular poems and several patriotic songs in support of the Union cause in the Civil War.  Her work is contained in almost every Christian hymnal in use today.  As a matter of fact, she wrote the lyrics for two hymns contained in The Presbyterian Hymnal we use in our worship services – “Blessed Assurance” and “To God Be the Glory!”
Fanny Crosby’s “Spring Hymn” is one of only several pieces for which she wrote both the words and music.  [Internet: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Crosby_Spring_Hymn.jpg] Here are her exquisite “Spring Hymn” lyrics:

The winds have ceased their moaning, the winter storms have passed;
The lovely face of Nature is wreathed in smiles at last.
The pearly streams no longer in icy chains are bound;
The mountains glow with verdure, the hills with joy resound.

The world is full of sunshine, the birds are on the wing.
From distant climes they hasten to greet the gentle spring.
There’s music in the forest, amid the branches fair;
There’s music in the valley, and beauty everywhere.

O thou whose love beholdeth the world thy hand hath made,
Creator, Lord, Redeemer, in majesty arrayed!
We praise thee for the spring time, and all its golden hours,
For lake and sparkling fountain, for sunshine, birds and flowers.

And when thy voice shall call us to yonder blissful shore.
Where spring abideth ever and winter comes no more,
Beside the crystal river, among the ransomed throng,
We’ll blend our harps triumphant in one eternal song.

Have a happy and enjoyable spring.  And praise God – with heartfelt thanks – for the awakening beauty of this springtime of renewal and promised bounty.

Written by Bill Kling for the St. Andrews Creation Care Alliance

NEW SIGNS OF CREATION ARE EVERYWHERE
“If you’re looking for a sign, this is it,” read one posted several years ago on a marquee in front of a church along Route 17 near Gloucester Point -- and reads one now in our community.  It was and is an invitation to join the congregation for its worship service, sort of like others in the Northern Neck that read something like, “Welcome, stranger. Let’s get acquainted” or “We’d like to see you this Sunday.”

Some folks really need to see signs such as these as gentle reminders that they haven’t been to church in ages.  But there are other signs that are not on church billboards or marquees, and they remind us that God’s hand is constantly at work in his creation, in all the seasons maintaining and continuing everything around us in the world that he made for us.
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For example, as cold Winter is about to turn into Spring, have you noticed that the winter wheat seeds planted last Fall already are sprouting and turning our croplands into carpets of beautiful green pastels, a sure sign that Spring is just around the corner?  Or that crocuses, always harbingers of Spring, are poking their shoots up through the now-dried leaves that fell from trees and made last Autumn so brilliantly colorful for us?  Or that tiny buds are forming on our trees, preparing to burst into leaves and flowers, proclaiming Spring? Or that Canada geese couples are moving about, getting ready to nest along our many waterways?  Or that wild turkey hens can be heard clucking in our woods, indicating to gobblers that mating time is approaching?

In the Bible, David’s Psalm 24:1 tells us: “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it …” [Psalm 24:1]  And Paul, in his letter to the church in Corinth, makes the same point in a different context: “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” [I Corinthians 10:26]

God cares for his creation.  We should, too.  Indeed, we must.  So if you’re looking for signs to that effect, many are all around us – on God’s own ever-changing marquees and billboards.  Through season after season.  You can’t miss them.  Truly.  We are so blessed.

By Bill Kling for the Creation Care Alliance, published in the March issue of the Good News newsletter at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Kilmarnock, Virginia

February eBlasts

SNOW?  IT’S MENTIONED OFTEN IN THE BIBLE
We Virginians are having our coldest winter in years.  The Arctic has been sending us temperatures well below freezing, made worse by a wind-driven chill factor that makes it feel even colder.  And the snow is staying on the ground longer than usual, while ice patches linger on our side roads.  But snow is not new in most parts of God’s creation, even in those areas of the world we don’t ordinarily associate with the frozen stuff.  The Middle East, for example.  And the Holy Land.  We see few photographs showing snow in that part of the world.  Usually the photos depict the landscape there as mostly arid.  Actually, 9,200-foot Mt. Hermon, source of the Jordan River and visible from the Sea of Galilee area, has snow almost year-round.  Snow is mentioned a number of times in the Bible; in both the Old and the New Testaments.  In Exodus 4:6, God is speaking with Moses and turns his staff into a snake and back again, and then makes Moses’s hand “as white as snow” and back again.  In many instances, the Bible likens snow to purity, as in Isaiah 1:16, where the Lord says that, through repentance and forgiveness, “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow.”  But it’s at Isaiah 55:10-11 that God makes a direct and instructive analogy between his word to humankind and the earth he has created for us: “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”  When snow melts, it soaks slowly into the soil – causing seeds to sprout and feeding the roots of trees and plants – instead of spilling quickly, as heavy rains do, into the Chesapeake Bay.  So let’s be patient.  All this snow means that a truly beautiful spring, alive with multitudes of gorgeously colorful flowers, is just around the corner.  It’s one of the myriad wonderful particulars of God’s creation.

By Bill Kling for the Creation Care Alliance in the February, 2014, newsletter at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, Kilmarnock, Virginia

Wind energy rescues much of U.S. during polar vortex
Wind energy played an important role in keeping the lights on and homes warm during Polar Vortex week. For example, the American Wind Energy Association reported that as natural gas prices surged because of demand in Nebraska, the utility turned to 300 megawatts of wind to provide 13 percent of demand and keep prices down. It shut down natural gas flow because prices were up more than 300 percent. Further, in the Mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes states, the grid operator (which serves 60 million people) was able to turn to 3 gigawatts of wind output when numerous fossil fuel plants and two nuclear plants unexpectedly failed.  Very exciting for renewable energy!

January eBlasts

Suggested Ill-Conceived Energy Tips
Whatever may be true of the road to Hell, what is certainly true is that the path to energy efficiency has a lot of blind alleys.  Martin Holladay has recently offered on GreenBuildingAdvisor.com an amusing list of ill-conceived "tips." Counting how many on the list can be found in your church could be a good youth scavenger hunt. Happily, Holladay also provides a list of things worth doing. The lists are at http://bit.ly/1b2rX0W.

Stop and Say Hello
The Stewardship of Creation Committee will be at the Diocesan Council, January 23-25.  Please stop by our exhibitor table. We want to learn what your church is doing as a steward of creation and how the Committee may be able to help, either directly or by mobilizing other supports. Your suggestions for books, videos, websites, blogs and other resources that could help other congregations become better and more mindful stewards of creation will be helpful. As the Committee is currently updating its website as a Diocesan resource, your recommendations will be timely and valued.  A copy of the Committee’s 2013 Annual Report may be found at http://caringforgodscreation.net/Customer-Content/creationstewardship/CMS/files/2013_SoCC_Annual_Report.pdf). We are looking forward to seeing you.  If we miss you at Council, please email your suggestions to Tal Day, Chair, at htfairfax@yahoo.com

AMONG YOUR NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS …
… you might include this one: “In 2014, I promise to visit at least one national, state or local park; a wildlife preserve or management area; or some similar location protected by reasonable law against population growth, commercial and industrial development, and other such defilement of God’s creation.”  Here in Virginia, and in the rest of the Chesapeake Bay’s watershed, we are fortunate to have fairly easy access to a host of such places, many of them within the reach of relatively short auto daytrips from our doorsteps.  Indeed, some of them are right here in our beautiful Northern Neck.  “Why bother?” you might question.  Well, it can mean low-cost mini-vacations for you and your family as your budget is tight during our national economy’s “hard times.”  And it can make you and your family more aware of the history that even today affects your daily life in meaningful ways many decades and even centuries after it occurred – the founding of our nation, the Revolutionary War that made it possible, and the Civil War that preserved it; the Native American history and culture before European settlers arrived here; the architecture, agriculture and industry that preceded what we have today; and the beauty and bounty God so graciously bestowed on us all when he created this marvelous world.  The Bible tells us that the Lord gave humankind dominion over the earth, to care for it and all that is in it.  In a very real way, all these parks, nature preserves, historical sites and other protected areas in part meet our God-ordained responsibility to care for his creation.  Visit them often.  They will give added meaning to the old hymn:

                                      For the beauty of the earth,
                                      For the glory of the skies,
                                      For the love which from our birth
                                      Over and around us lies,
                                      Lord of all, to Thee we raise
                                      This our hymn of grateful praise.

                                                           Bill Kling, The St. Andrews Creation Care Alliance

November eBlasts

RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES AND THEIR ROLE IN EARTH STEWARDSHIP – PART 5
Continuing our series based on Gregory E Hitzhusen and Mary Evelyn Tucker’s recent article The potential of religion for Earth Stewardship, published in the Ecological Society of America’s September 2013 issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment (No. 7, vol 11). Religions help their followers to cope with change and transcend suffering. Christianity promises salvation in the afterlife but also celebrates Christ as an incarnate person who lived among us. Hinduism also creates the tension between this world and the next. Hinduism works towards attaining moksha, the liberation from the world of samsara, the cycle of death and rebirth, while also highlighting the idea of Krishna in the world. All cultural worldviews are expressed through rituals, symbols, art, music and many other media. Through this lens, the authors suggest that “Specifically with the help of the world’s religions, humans can advocate for a reverence for Earth, respect for myriad other species, reciprocity between humanity and the natural world….and renewed emphasis on sustainability.”

RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES AND THEIR ROLE IN EARTH STEWARDSHIP – PART 4
Continuing our series based on Gregory E Hitzhusen and Mary Evelyn Tucker’s recent article The potential of religion for Earth Stewardship, published in the Ecological Society of America’s September 2013 issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment (No. 7, vol 11). There are sometimes tensions and misunderstandings between scientists and religious organizations that arise from generalizations. Historical narratives around the separation of church and state, evolution and religiously motivated war can create skepticism. However, the authors argue that deeply religious figures have shaped political policy – William Wilberforce’s efforts to stop slavery; Ghandi’s freedom movement in India; and Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil rights leadership. The authors argue that “social justice traditions of faith-based communities provide a framework for environmental concern and action.”

IT’S BEEN HARVEST TIME IN GOD’S CREATION 
Farming is in the personal histories of many of us in our congregation.  Some of us grew up on farms, or we came from farm families, or we spent wonderful summers on the farms of relatives, or we lived our childhoods in rural areas. There was a time in America when farming was connected with almost every family in one way or another. Yet regardless of our personal histories – farms and non-farms – nowadays all of us living here in the beautiful Northern Neck of God’s creation are fully aware of farming.  It’s all around us all year long, from the harvesting of winter wheat and barley and the planting of mostly corn and soybeans in the spring; through the application of fertilizers and pesticides to cropland during the summer; to the harvesting of crops in the fall; and the planting of winter wheat and barley for reaping the following spring – starting the entire cycle all over again.  We watch huge farm machines being used to work the crops, often slowing traffic on our roads as they’re moved from field to field.  Agriculture has been part of Northern Neck life for hundreds of years, and part of humankind’s experience for millennia.  We welcome all of this farm activity because we know it’s so vital to the local economy and to life, itself.  Indeed, in his “Parable of the Seed” at Mark 4:26-29 in the Bible, Jesus compares agriculture – planting, growing, and harvesting – with the Kingdom of God.  Jesus says: “The Kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows – how he himself does not know.  The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head.  But when the grain permits, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”  So when you think about farming on the Northern Neck, also contemplate Jesus’s “Parable of the Seed” and the importance of the Kingdom of God in our lives.

By Bill Kling; The Creation Care Alliance of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Kilmarnock, Virginia.                                          

RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES AND THEIR ROLE IN EARTH STEWARDSHIP – PART 3
Continuing our series based on Gregory E Hitzhusen and Mary Evelyn Tucker’s recent article The potential of religion for Earth Stewardship, published in the Ecological Society of America’s September 2013 issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment (No. 7, vol 11). The authors contend that “..religion alone, like science alone, is unlikely to sufficiently empower Earth Stewardship; members of religious communities that are intent on promoting Earth Stewardship must therefore participate in a broader alliance of scientists, policy makers, and non-governmental organizations.” The Stewardship of Creation Committee attempts to do this by creating links with other Christian denominations and through organizations such as Virginia Power and Light, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and local universities. The drive of our conferences is to bring those stakeholders to the Diocese to share their perspectives.

RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES AND THEIR ROLE IN EARTH STEWARDSHIP – PART 2
Continuing our series based on Gregory E Hitzhusen and Mary Evelyn Tucker’s recent article The potential of religion for Earth Stewardship, published in the Ecological Society of America’s September 2013 issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment (No. 7, vol 11). The authors argue that creating a sustainable future is deeply linked to religious organizations because “the attitudes and beliefs that shape most people’s concept of nature are greatly influenced by their religious worldviews and ethical practices.” Globally, most people are associated with a religion and they are shaped by their religious beliefs. The study of the link between ecology and religion began back in the 1960’s and became an academic discipline in the 1990’s. Many robust organizations started to form out of this new field such as the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology (http://fore.research.yale.edu), the National Religious Partnership for the Environment (www.nrpe.org), GreenFaith (www.greenfaith.org) and Interfaith Power and Light (http://interfaithpowerandlight.org).

October eBlasts

RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES AND THEIR ROLE IN EARTH STEWARDSHIP – PART 1
According to Gregory E Hitzhusen and Mary Evelyn Tucker, in their recent article The potential of religion for Earth Stewardship, published in the Ecological Society of America’s September 2013 issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment (No. 7, vol 11), “Religious communities are playing an increasingly important role in advancing earth stewardship.”  They argue that “Mobilizing religious believers to contribute to responsible stewardship of the Earth requires a critical appreciation of the complexity of religious traditions and the ways that religious communities view nature, as well as the cultural and spiritual resources that religious teachings provide in confronting change and human suffering.” The authors encourage religious communities to forge partnerships and dialogue with scientists, economists, public policy makers and educators. Over the coming weeks we will take a more in depth look at their findings.

LEED certification. Learn about the program and its rating system.
How can you tell the difference between houses that look environmentally friendly and ones that actually are? Home certifications can help. Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) is just one certification that helps all sectors of the home-building industry use some of the best methods of sustainable design and construction. To learn more visit http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/17855511/list?utm_source=Houzz&utm_campaign=u366&utm_medium=email&utm_content=gallery1

September eBlasts

RAIN: ESSENTIAL FOR US IN GOD’S CREATION
There’s to have been a lot of rain this summer.  We seem to be getting some every day.  Occasionally in sprinkles and showers; at times in deluges with high winds.  So much rain that at times many of us complain about it.  Rain, however,
is vital in God’s creation.  Rain makes life itself possible.  We simply can’t do without it.  Farmers require rain in abundance to raise the livestock and grow the vegetables and fruit for food on our tables.  Critters in the wild rely on it for water.  Rain cleanses our environment.  And we humans need it for much of the water we drink, and for processing and cooking our food, bathing ourselves, washing our clothes, caring for our pets, and much more.  Here in Virginia’s resplendently green Northern Neck, we average about 45 inches of participation a year.  That’s quite a lot compared with the situation in many long-suffering western states, where severe drought conditions are the norm, and costly irrigation is obligatory for agriculture.  Rain is mentioned very early in the Bible – even before God made Adam and Eve – but only because of its absence.  After God had created the earth and the heavens, according to Genesis 2:5, “… no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up – for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth ….”  Rain came later, to be sure, but imagine what our lives would be like if there were no rain – or if we’d even live at all.  How would we survive?  What in the world would we do for food, or shelter, or clothing, or anything else?  Even fun?  Therefore, when it rains, be grateful.  Watch those precious raindrops as they fall from the sky.  Lift your eyes to heaven.  Say, “Thank you, Lord!”  Then say it again.
     
With thanks to Bill Kling for this article. The St. Andrews Presbyterian Church Creation Care Alliance, Northern Neck

The Challenge of Food Sustainability: Preserving Biodiversity, Forests, Cropland, Water:  An Interfaith Conference.

Location:  Church of Our Saviour, Charlottesville, Virginia
Date:  Saturday, September 21, 2013: 10:00 a.m. –  4:00 p.m

Registration Deadline:  Thursday, September 19, 2013

Registration Fee:  $25 per person; $20 per person for multiple attendees from the same church.  Fee includes a "sustainable" lunch and access to all program presentation materials. Follow either of the links below to register: 

http://caringforgodscreation.net/Events/EventView.asp?EventID=31663

http://www.thediocese.net/Events/EventView.asp?EventID=2416

July eBlasts

WHAT ON EARTH DOES ‘DOMINION’ MEAN?
“The Old Dominion” is one of Virginia’s nicknames, its origin dating from colonial times when what was to become our commonwealth was totally subject to the say-so of the English monarch, however arrogant and harmful.  That’s

one way we use the word, dominion, but what was God’s intention when he gave humankind dominion over the earth and everything in it [Genesis 1:28-30]?  Webster’s dictionary defines dominion as “sovereign authority.”  Was that really what God had in mind?  Are we sovereigns over God’s creation?  Free to rule the earth as we see fit?  Even destructively, regardless of how calamitous the consequences might be?  Not so, according to theologians and biblical scholars, among then John Wesley (1703-91), the renowned English clergyman, evangelists and founder of the Methodist Church.  “We are now God’s stewards,” Wesley reasoned in his Sermon 51, The Good Shepherd.  “We are indebted to him for all we have … A steward is not at liberty to use what is lodged in his hands as he pleases, but as his master pleases … [for] he is not the owner of any of these things but barely entrusted with them by another … Now this is exactly the case of everyone with relation to God.  We are not at liberty to use what God has lodged in our hands as we please, but as God pleases, who alone is the possessor of heaven and earth and the Lord of every creature … [God] entrusts us with [this world’s goods] on this express condition, that we use them only as our Master’s goods, and according to the particular directions which he has given us in his Word.”  Therefore, let’s take Rev. Wesley’s words to heart and serve as faithful stewards – good shepherds! – of this beautiful earth and its wondrous bounty that God, with his unbounded grace, has created for us.

Bill Kling,The St. Andrews Creation Care Alliance, Northern Neck Presbyterian Church

 

 This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land
This land is made for you and me.  Or is it?   A new documentary, Bidder 70, tells the story of Tim DeChristopher, an environmental activist, who attended a land auction selling off oil and gas exploration rights in Utah in 2006.  His bids disrupted the auction and he ultimately served 21 months in federal prison for his act of civil disobedience. The documentary has won twenty major film festival awards. Details about the documentary can be found at http://www.bidder70film.com/  

 

WHAT IN GOD’S WORLD WOULD YOU DO IF … ?
Many of us often ask ourselves what we would do should we encounter certain situations in this world God created for us.  Dangerous circumstances.  Unpleasantness.  Real embarrassments.  Dreadful behavior.  Or, for that matter,

opportunities to make genuine differences for good in the lives of other folks.  For example:

1.      What would you do if you saw someone mistreating a child or beating a puppy?

2.      What would you do if you came across someone dumping a load of rubbish by the side of the road?

3.      What would you do if you knew of someone who was all alone in the world and had no one with whom to talk or visit or share memories?

4.      What would you do if you observed someone intentionally polluting the Chesapeake Bay or its tributaries?

5.      What would you do if you witnessed a serious crime?  A murder?  A rape?  A robbery?  Drunk driving?  An assault or hit-and-run collision?

6.      What would you do if you encountered someone muttering incoherently and wandering aimlessly in public, or having a seizure on the sidewalk?

7.      What would you do if you became aware of a destitute family with small children and no food for them, or shelter, or clothing?

Consider all of these questions.  Ponder your responses.  Then ask yourself: “What would Jesus do?”  Open your Bible and read Colossians 1:15-17 about Christ Jesus as an essential part of God’s creation.  And read John 3:16-17 about why God sent Jesus to us.  And read Matthew 25:31-46 about what the Lord requires of us.  Then you’ll know what Jesus would do.  You surely will.

With thanks for this contribution from Bill Kling, The St. Andrews Presbyterian Church Creation Care Alliance, Northern Neck. 

 

June Blasts

An Exciting Opportunity for your Youth 

Interfaith Youth for Climate Justice (IYCJ) is a FREE program for high school students active in local congregations. IYCJ is a pilot project developed in partnership with the Greater Washington Interfaith Power and Light.  They are an interfaith learning community through which students gain the knowledge, skills and experience they need to be leaders for climate justice.  Students  engage in hands-on exploration of environmental issues, learn the environmental teachings of different faith traditions, participate in community service, plan and implement action projects and receive support in finding summer internships. Applications for the program are also open to Virginia youth.

Space is still available - Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Check out the application and details of the program at http://iycj.org/application-form/, or see the attachment.

Join us for the SoCC annual conference, The Challenge of Food Sustainability: Preserving Biodiversity, Forests, Cropland and Water on Saturday September 21, 2013 at the Church of OurSaviour, Charlottesville.

DIOCESAN GRANT OPPORTUNITY FOR ENERGY CONSERVATION PROJECT

The Stewardship of Creation Committee (SoCC) has discussed with the Diocese making a 2014 Mustard Seed grant award for a demonstration green church project to a church that is interested in becoming a Diocesan Demonstration Energy Conservation Project. The Diocese has indicated that it will look favorably upon a 2014 grant application for such a proposal from an interested church (i.e., no guarantee, but the Review Committee is supportive of the idea).  If an award is made, members of the SoCC would partner with the recipient to assist in reviews, general discussions, and making appropriate business contacts as part of the Project.

Mustard Seed grant awards range from $500 to $5,000.  A church that has already begun some energy efficiency initiatives would be weighed favorably.   If your parish is chosen as a Mustard Seed recipient for this project, your parish would need to agree to be the "Champion Parish" open for visits/discussions with other parishes once the demonstration project is started, and continuing even after the Mustard Seed Grant period is completed. The Project goal is to demonstrate that becoming "energy efficient" and implementing significant "energy conservation" measures can be done affordably and that becoming energy conscious makes overall fiscal sense (thus, freeing up funds for ministry and mission).   If you would like your church to be considered for a 2014 Mustard Seed grant award as a Diocesan Demonstration Energy Conservation Project, please email [Ben Gregg, Stewardship of Creation Committee, at bcgregg46@aol.com].

The Stewardship of Creation Committee is now on Facebook!

Like us on Facebook using the link below and find out all sorts of interesting things about the environment and what's going on in our state! This weekly email will be posted along with many other interesting articles and links. Please encourage your parishioners to like us as well; it's a great way to connect and exchange ideas!

 https://www.facebook.com/CommitteeOnTheStewardshipOfCreation?ref=hl

USA 'LEEDs' the Green Building Table

 
The United States Green Building Council has announced the most recent Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating systems around the world. Check out their website for more information at  
http://www.green-buildings.com/content/782653-top-10-countries-leed-building-most-certified-and-registered-projects.  North America leads the world with 611.6 gross square meters (GSM) LEED certified or registered, which is made up of 44,998 projects.
 
The top 10 countries with the most LEED certified or registered space are:

  1. United States (44,270 certified or registered projects)
  2. China (1,156)
  3. United Arab Emirates (808)
  4. Brazil (638)
  5. India (405)
  6. Canada (383)
  7. Mexico (322)
  8. Germany (299)
  9. Turkey (194)
  10. Republic of Korea (188)

 
We can expect the USA to come top since the rating system was founded here but it's an impressive number of projects that have adopted the standards both here and internationally. Well done!

Solar Energy Policies -- How Does Your State Compare?

Well, if your state is the Commonwealth of Virginia, the answer would be . . . not very good.  Recently, SmartPlanet.com ranked all 50 states based on how friendly (i.e., tax breaks, incentives, etc.) each state is to the use of solar energy.  See   http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/bulletin/how-solar-friendly-is-your-state/22305?tag=nl.e660&s_cid=e660&ttag=e660&ftag.  Wow, Virginia ranked near the bottom.  What to do about this dismal showing?  Write somebody -- your town mayor, your state representative, your Senator and Congressman.  Solar energy is too important of an obvious renewable energy resource to let our state fall far behind as others (including Washington, D.C., which ranked near the very top!) march into the future.  
 


April & May Blasts

An Exciting Opportunity for your Youth 

Interfaith Youth for Climate Justice (IYCJ) is a FREE program for high school students active in local congregations. IYCJ is a pilot project developed in partnership with the Greater Washington Interfaith Power and Light.  They are an interfaith learning community through which students gain the knowledge, skills and experience they need to be leaders for climate justice.  Students  engage in hands-on exploration of environmental issues, learn the environmental teachings of different faith traditions, participate in community service, plan and implement action projects and receive support in finding summer internships. Applications for the program are also open to Virginia youth.

Space is still available - Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Check out the application and details of the program at http://iycj.org/application-form/, or see the attachment.


 

Join us for the SoCC annual conferenceThe Challenge of Food Sustainability: Preserving Biodiversity, Forests, Cropland and Water on Saturday September 21, 2013 at the Church of OurSaviour, Charlottesville.

The SoCC committee held its May meeting on Saturday and started to pull together the final plans for our Fall conference on agriculture. Please put the date on your calendar and plan to start advertising the conference in your parish and town during the summer. The conference will be held on Saturday September 21, 2013 at the Church of Our Saviour, Charlottesville. Our keynote speaker will be Richard Cizik, President of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good.

Richard Cizik is an ordained Evangelical Presbyterian, http://www.faithandleadership.com/qa/david-gushee-and-richard-cizik-we-need-build-bridges-toward-the-common-good.  His Methodist DD is honorary.  The Evangelical Presbyterian Church is a separate, conservative denomination, http://www.epc.org/.

 According to Science magazine, he is considered one of America's "most dynamic public speakers,". He was in TIME Magazine's list of "TIME 100" most influential people in 2008.  The conference will also feature Michael Rodemeyer, Executive Director, Science and Technology Policy Intern Program, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia who will talk on Heritage Foods and New Crops: New Biology, the Church, and the Challenge of Climate Change. We will also have representatives from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to provide updates on Bay health and the role of agriculture in our state.   


WIND ENERGY BLOWING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

The Right Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland had a message of environmental hope this Easter. Read his letter below:

"Easter's message of hope and new life is a universal and much-needed one throughout the world, but particularly for Marylanders this year as we celebrate the passage of the offshore wind bill by the Maryland General Assembly.

I'm filled with thanks to .... all of our leaders who made this hopeful decision in 2013. ... People have asked me why a religious person has gotten all mixed up in the issues of renewable energy and the environment. I did because I believe that I am called, as all people of faith are called, to protect life — life in all its forms. For too long, we have been getting our state's energy from sources that make our neighbors sick and disrupt our climate. We can do better than this for the sake of our children and their futures. .... we have finally decided together to harness the creative power of the wind — God's creative breath which blew across the waters in the Book of Genesis.

The beginning of offshore wind power in Maryland makes me hopeful that we can all become partners with this divine energy of the work of creation and together we help to renew the face of the Earth."

What are we up to in Virginia? Visit the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality website wind energy page at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/PollutionPrevention/VirginiaInformationSourceforEnergy/RenewableEnergy/WindEnergy.aspx

to find out, and continue to encourage our legislature to keep moving in a positive direction with research and development of this God given renewable resource.

****************************************************************************** 
Need your morning Joe?
 
The Nature Conservancy website has an excellent article on environmentally friendly coffee. Find the full story at http://www.nature.org/greenliving/gogreen/everydayenvironmentalist/buy-sustainable-coffee.xml?src=e.gp.gogreen and read the summary below.

Seek out coffee beans that are Fair Trade Certified™ — this is your sign that the harvesters work under humane conditions and are paid fairly for their efforts. When growers are paid fairly, they don’t have an incentive to cut down forests to grow more coffee.

Purchasing coffee marked "shade grown" - Coffee trees grown in the shade of larger tropical forests help provide valuable habitat for migratory birds, other wildlife and endangered species. Better yet for any budding coffee snobs, shade-grown coffee beans ripen more slowly, providing a deeper, more luxurious flavor.

Unfortunately, not all shade-grown coffee is equal. There isno official, internationally agreed-upon system in place for certification, meaning that some shade-grown coffee can be a bit “shady” in practice. To find the shade-grown coffee that is best for the environment, look for beans that were grown in “rustic” shade cover — this means that the coffee trees were cultivated in 70 percent–100 percent shade cover, providing the maximum benefit possible for birds and other animal species.

Find the source of coffee beans that is closest to where you live and where the beans were originally grown. Buying coffee as local as you can will cut down on carbon emissions from transportation and distribution.

The United Nations has marked 2013 as the International Year of Water Cooperation. But how much do we know about water? Take this quiz below, provided by Bill Kling, from St. Andrews Presbyterian Church's Caring for Creation Team.

HOW MUCH DO WE REALLY KNOW ABOUT H2O? 
 
Water.  Adam’s ale.  Essential for our lives.  We drink it and cook with it.  Bathe with it and wash our clothes, cars and pets with it.  Swim and fish in it, and use it to irrigate our crops and fill our birdbaths.  Admire its vistas and spray it on our lawns and gardens.  And baptize with it.  Mostly, though, we take it for granted.  Here’s a water quiz published in Conservation Currents by The Izaak Walton League of America, one of the oldest environmental organizations:

1. The government samples every stream and river in the United States to
check for water pollution.     A True     B False
2. What proportion of rivers and streams do government agencies monitor
for pollution?     A 24%     B 48%     C 72%     D 96%
3. Of those monitored streams, what proportion is OK for swimming and
eating fish from them?     A 45%     B 60%     C 75%     D 90%
4. When was the federal Clean Water Act enacted?
         A 1898     B 1922     C 1972     D 1987
5. What is the major source of pollution in our rivers and streams?
         A Industrial waste     B Discharge from sewage treatments plants  
         C Rain runoff carrying pollutants from the land     D Landfills
6. What potential pollution sources are not regulated by the Clean Water
Act?     A Agriculture     B Logging     C Mining     D All of the above
7. What proportion of the small headwaters of our American rivers does
the Clean Water Act not cover?     A 15%     B 35%     C 60%     D 90%
8. Wetlands provide which of the following?
     A Flood protection     B Ground water recharge     C Wildlife habitat 
     D All of the above
9. How many gallons of water can a quart of motor oil contaminate?
         A 1,000     B 10,000     C 100,000     D 1,000,000
10. What proportion of our waterways and groundwater is contaminated by
antidepressants, birth control pills and antibiotics not eliminated by
waste treatment plants?
                      A 20%     B 40%     C 60%     D 80%
11. On average, how much of Americans’ drinking water comes from rivers
and streams?     A 25%     B 45%     C 65%     D 85%
12. How many gallons of water are needed to grow and prepare the food for
a typical Thanksgiving dinner for eight people?
         A 42     B 420     C 4,200     D 42,000

Answers:    1. B      2. A      3. B      4. C     5. C     6. D     7. C     8. D     9. D     10. D     11. C     12. D

 


 

TWO BROADCASTERS SPEAK ABOUT NATURE

Nature can open our eyes to God and help us understand life.  It did for Jack Perkins on a small, isolated island off the coast of Maine.  Perkins abandoned a 35-year broad-casting career, most of it with NBC, and he and his wife retired to the remote island to learn “more about myself and the God that had brought us to that point.”  Last month, in a cable TV interview about his new book, Finding Moosewood, Finding God, Perkins said: “What opened our eyes … was the beautiful nature on that island that we always took for granted.”  And, he said, they came to realize: “Nature is, in fact, a bunch of commercials for God who creates nature – who makes nature work to our benefit.  This was such a revelation – a blessed revelation!”  Another broadcaster with a deep appreciation for nature is Richard Bangs, award-winning host and writer of PBS Television’s travel series, Adventures with Purpose.  In a recent program about Mainland China’s Guangdong Grand Canyon, Bangs related: “This place means a lot to me.  For seven seasons, I was a guide in America’s Grand Canyon, and now any place that shares that name calls mine.”  As Bangs put it, “Whether or not we name it, we all seek a balance among the moving parts of our lives.  We strive for an agreement between our physical and spiritual worlds.  Whether consciously or not, we all long for a harmony that quietly returns us to our-selves.  It’s a gift to be able to share a friendship between belief and place – a soothing of the tensions between the curves and straight lines of our lives.”  Here in our beautiful Northern Neck, we, too, have such extraordinary places – the amazing rivers, creeks and tidal marshes of the Chesapeake Bay watershed; bounteous habitats for a broad diversity of flora and fauna; picturesque forests and productive cropland; and glorious star-filled nights.  They call us – if we but discern and answer their invitation – to reflect on the splendid nature around us.  On these “commercials for God.”  And on our place in this nature God created.

With many thanks to Bill Kling for this beautiful contribution. Bill is a member of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church on the Northern Neck.

March eBlasts 

Clean Coal -- Does Anyone Believe This?
The Clean Techies Blog recently reported that one of the U.S.’s largest electric utilities has agreed to close three coal-fired power plants in the Midwest, the latest sign of how the U.S.’s electricity supply is shifting away from coal to natural gas and renewable energy.  American Electric Power will shut down the three plants in Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky by 2015 — retiring a total of 2,011 megawatts of coal-burning capacity — and replace some of the power generation with wind and solar investments in Indiana and Michigan.  Good news for clean air and clean water.  As mindful stewards of creation, we realize that our electricity use is only "clean" if the source of the electricity is clean.  In Virginia, we might not have abundant renewable energy sources, yet, but there are ways to take positive actions.  For example, Dominion Power customers can participate in the "Dominion Green Power" program. For 1.3 cents per kilowatt-hour used in your home, you can support the development of renewable energy in Virginia and the surrounding region.   
 

Monrovia's suggestions for landscapers is a wonderful resource for spring. Who doesn’t love to see dainty, colorful butterflies in their garden? But of course, they’re more than cute and fun to watch, they are important pollinators! Here’s a quick review on ways to make your garden Butterfly-friendly. First thing, don’t use pesticides, for obvious reasons! Secondly, embrace the caterpillar...not literally, but remember it’s the caterpillar that becomes the Butterfly. So we need to provide plants that supply food and shelter for the larvae, and we can’t get too upset when they chomp through a few leaves. Just put a few of the host plants in with other perennials to hide the nibbled foliage. The Butterfly Life website (http://www.thebutterflysite.com/gardening.shtml) let’s you search by state to see what types of Butterflies live in your area. You can then find out which host plants they prefer. Many types of Grasses are enjoyed by Butterfly caterpillars, as are trees like Willow and Oak. Passion Flower vines, Ceanothus and Artemisia are a few more favorites.
 

Water is a finite gift, given for the Earth's use.  We need to preserve it and not just send it straight from Heaven to the sea (via our water leaks located throughout our homes).  The EPA says that more than 1 trillion gallons of waters gets wasted every year through preventable leaks (see http://www.epa.gov/watersense/our_water/fix_a_leak.html).  Let's all check the faucets in our homes and save this precious resource!  

 

Composting Batteries?
You bet . . . but only if the battery was made with graphene. What’s graphene? It is a carbon‐based, recently discovered energy source that combines the best characteristics of batteries (long storage) and capacitors (fast recharge, high output). Watch the video at the following link and be prepared to be amazed, and then ask yourself “why are not we powering everything with tiny, fast charging, biodegradable batteries?”

Learn more, or check out this article.

Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus
We are in Lent, that period between Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday during which we Christians prepare for Easter and the celebration of Jesus’s resurrection.  Tradit-ionally, it’s a time of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  Many
of us Americans observe Lent by “giving up” a favorite food or drink for the duration.  This year, the St. Andrews Caring for Creation Team invites our attention to Lent 4.5: Christian Simplicity – Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus.  Protecting God’s Creation.  Embracing Gospel Justice.  Nurturing Spiritual Fulfillment.  Pamphlets for this multi-denominational faith program had been available on a table in the Narthex, but if you didn’t get one before they ran out, information is available on the Internet at www.lent45.org.  “Imagine the Earth divided equally among all of us,” the Lent 4.5 material urges.  “Each person would receive 4.5 acres.  Now imagine that everything you need – food, energy, home, clothing, appliances, gadgets – must come from those 4.5 acres.  But it takes 22.3 acres to maintain the average American lifestyle.  There is a new way of observing Lent that helps us care for God’s creation by taking steps toward using only our fair share of its resources.  Moving in the direction of 4.5 is essential for anyone walking in the footsteps of Jesus today.”  The material outlines practical weekly steps that we can take, in complete accordance with Scripture, to simplify our lives.  “Caring for creation and living more simply,” Lent 4.5 reminds us, “are an essential part of faith for those who follow in the footsteps of Jesus today.”  The program’s objective, as you well might expect, is for us to go far beyond this current Lenten period in simplifying our lives and sharing the gracious bounty of God’s creation equitably and sustainably with others.  Let’s pray for it.  Please.  Let’s make it happen.  Please.


Join GreenFaith and the US Green Building Council for a two-webinar series on Green Building for Religious Institutions.  The webinar series will take place on two Mondays - March 11 and 18 from 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET.

Register for the webinar today.

All religious institutions undertake building and renovation projects.  They can reduce their long-term operating costs and create a healthier indoor environment – by building green.  Green building offers a chance to put beliefs into action and to make scarce capital funds stretch further.

The webinar series will introduce you to the moral, procedural, financial and practical aspects of successful green building projects.  Two leaders who helped their faith communities green their building projects will share their experiences.  It’s a can’t-miss for leaders of religious groups that will be conducting building and renovation projects in the next five years.

GreenFaith and the US Green Building Council offer a unique combination of tools and resources to help faith-based groups green their building projects.  The USGBC administers the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building program, and is the world’s leading green building organization.  

GreenFaith’s Building in Good Faith on-line resource is a unique tool that educates and equips faith groups to carry out successful green building projects.

Join us for the webinar series


Can U.S. Businesses Learn to be Energy Efficient?
Well, hopefully, the answer is yes! For example, in November 2011, Best Buy launched its Home Energy retail concept though its online learning center an physical departments within three U.S. Best Buy stores -- Chicago, Illinois, Houston, Texas, and San Carlos, California. The program provides technology products, solutions and services that help consumers understand, control and reduce their energy consumption and costs! What a great idea! I bet Best Buy didn't even know it was a Steward of Creation! (Hint: We all are!)  

February eBlasts

Interfaith Power and Light (an ecumenical group responding to climate change) invites us to participate in a carbon fast during Lent.  A very accessible guide with daily carbon fast suggestions, readings and prayers has been produced by Tearfund and can be accessed at http://interfaithpowerandlight.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/A-carbon-fast-for-Lent.pdf (attached to this email). Invite members of your congregation to join in and let the small differences add up!

 Energy Saving and Environmentally Friendly Tips for your Church

You’ve probably heard most of these tips before but it’s useful to have a check list! Perhaps you have a building management group or youth group (that needs some service hours) that can tackle a few jobs? Look out for more tips next week

  1. Maintain all exterior building walls - caulk windows; replace broken glass; do seasonal, walk-around Inspections.
  2. Use caulking to seal electrical and plumbing openings in walls, floors and ceilings to reduce air leakage and church mice!
  3. Install bike racks at church
  4. Organize a program for car-pooling to services and other events.
  5. Add weather stripping around windows and doors to reduce drafts.
  6. Smoke or 'candle' test exterior doors and windows for air leaks. Caulk wherever there is evidence of air movement.
  7. Eliminate master wall switches for groups of rooms. Control lighting of individual rooms where possible.
  8. Do not leave computers and monitors in sleep mode overnight because they will continue to draw power.
  9. Turn off hoses and faucets completely.
  10. Use bio-degradable drinking cups, rather than foam cups, or, use washable mugs.
  11. Use electronic bulletins & newsletters to reduce paper usage and waste.
  12. Rearrange furniture to avoid blocking heat and air distribution. Expose the vents by moving the furniture.

January eBlast

Fashion Tips from the SOCC

During the cold winter months, dressing in layers is quite possibly the best way to stay warm.  The multiple layers surrounding your body help to trap layers of warm air and, thus, protect your body from the chill of the cold winter air.  The principle applies to protecting your home -- and trapping in dollars from escaping your home budget.  There are many things you can do to make your home more energy efficient.  Consider new Low-E, argon gas-filled replacement windows -- by trapping a layer of gas between the interior and exterior part of your home less heat will be lost to the outside.  An added front storm door acts in the same way.  Other little things matter.  Keep in mind that every time you open your garage door on a cold winter day that entire space immediately comes into equilibrium with the outside temperature -- thereby exposing the adjacent walls to your home to additional cold weather extremes.  Consider doing what your mother (or grandmother) used to do -- sunshine management.  During the winter months, and especially if you have the newer, insulated windows, consider opening up your curtains that face the sun to allow for the greenhouse effect to provide some warmth to that particular room.  On bitter cold days, remember to go in and out o your house quickly, thus minimizing the amount of time that the cold air has to pour into your warm home.  Most of all . . . it is a matter of common sense and simply being aware that your choices (no matter how big or little) do make a difference. 

 

There's Always Another Energy Saving Tip to Consider!

Hopefully there's something on this list that you're already doing and something that you can add to your life; every little helps for God's creation, your energy bill and the churches energy bill!
No room in the church bulletin? perhaps this list can be posted in the church kitchen:
 
1    Electric ranges containing ceramic, halogen or induction range elements are more efficient than the type containing electric coils.
2    Self-cleaning ovens are better insulated than other models; therefore, they are more energy-efficient when used properly.
3    Eliminate preheating by not doing so when food requires more than one hour of cooking time.
4    Range vs. Oven - Cook on range-top burners when practical instead of in the oven.
5    Using pots and pans that fit the burners absorb more of the energy, reducing the amount of heat that is lost.
6    Use the broiler when possible as broilers uses less energy, and preheating is not required.
7    Double your recipes — and freeze half for later. Reheating uses less energy than the initial cooking.
8    Microwave ovens are about 33% more efficient than convection ovens and 66% more efficient than conventional ovens.
9    Microwaves Save Energy - Use the Microwave for reheating and cooking small quantities of food instead of ovens.
10    Don’t put hot food in the refrigerator. Allow hot foods to reduce naturally to room temperature before placing them in the refrigerator.
 
A Happy New Year to you all!

Let's hope that we can continue to to share the good news of God's creation throughout our diocese this year. We have an excellent website maintained by St. Paul's Alexandria parishioner, and committee vice-chair, Tal Day. Please encourage your parishioners to visit http://www.caringforgodscreation.net/default.asp or blog with us at www.caringforgodscreation.net/blog for lots of information and ways to improve our environment and get involved. The Episcopal Ecological Network at < href="http://eenonline.org/educate/bibliog.htm">http://eenonline.org/educate/bibliog.htm is another mine of information.

 If you are able, please come to our next meeting on Saturday, January 12 (10:00am to 3:00pm), at the Church of the Holy Comforter, 4819 Monument Avenue Richmond VA 23230. We will meet in the parlor of the parish hall, (entrance on Staples Mill Road). 

December eBlast

Don't Forget to Recycle or Reuse this Christmas!
 
Get creative with gift wrapping this Christmas! Seek out gift wrap that uses recycled paper or wrap gifts in bags or containers that can be used again. Once the gifts have been eagerly unwrapped, shred the gift wrap for colorful packing material for boxes that will be mailed through the year. Have a re-gifting party for items that you may not need or donate them to charity. Check out Christmas tree recycling collection for your town; most do curbside collection but if your tree goes out on the wrong day it will just end up in the regular trash. Stock up on LED tree lights for next year in post-Christmas sales. A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from the Virginia Stewardship of Creation Committee!

Rain and God's Covenant with Noah

With grateful thanks to Bill Kling for this article. Bill is a member of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, Northern Neck, Caring for Creation Team.

Superstorm Sandy, the Bible’s story of Noah and the flood, and a gospel song – Mahalia Jackson’s “Didn’t It Rain” – might’ve caused some of us to check if neighbors were building an ark.  Our Northern Neck withstood the storm.  Lots of rain, to be sure.  Creeks and ponds rose, but there was no widespread flooding and wind damage.  An ark wasn’t needed.  We escaped the grievous calamities Sandy inflicted on New Jersey and New York City; many of them fatal, all of them costly.  We might’ve recalled the reassuring rainbow in early October arched over the Chesapeake Bay waterfront – a beautiful sign of God’s everlasting covenant with Noah, in Genesis 9 “that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood t destroy the earth.”  God designated the rainbow as “the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”  This covenant, though, isn’t one-sided.  Often overlooked in reading the Bible story, God exacted certain requirements when he told Noah, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth,” and gave humankind the earth’s animals, birds and fish as food.  Then, Genesis tells us, God said, “For your own lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning: from every animal I will require it and from human beings, each one for the blood of another, I will require a reckoning for human life.  Whoever sheds the blood of a human, by a human shall that person’s blood be shed; for in his own image God made humankind.”  Be mindful, then, of God’s warning and don’t become inured to human lives lost to murder, warfare and terrorism.  Be concerned.  They, too, are God’s children.  A vital part of God’s creation.  Made in his image.  Precious to him.  As are we all.  In God’s kingdom, caring for each other matters.

Sustainable Christmas gifts that can last a lifetime
Many people receive catalogs from organizations such as Episcopal Relief and Development at this time of year with wonderful gift ideas such as buying chickens or a pig for a family in a developing country. The idea is a brilliant one! These grass roots projects are vital to lift people out of poverty and to help them to adapt to a world faced with climate change and development. The Episcopal relief and Development Christmas catalog can be found at www.episcopalrelief.org/giftsforlife Green gifts this year include 50 trees for $50 to reforest depleted land and help prevent mudslides, an energy efficient stove for $175 which reduces in-home pollution and uses less wood, and an individual share of a community garden for $35 to help produce nutritious food for families.

November eBlasts

Uranium Mining – Important Update!
We know that many Stewards are following the “Uranium Mining” issue here in Virginia.  The company that wants to mine uranium in Virginia is supporting a bill in the upcoming General Assembly calling for regulations to govern the proposed mining, according to lobbyists for Virginia Uranium. The move is widely seen by environmentalists and others as a way to authorize the mining while avoiding an up or down vote on the controversial project.

If approved, it would be the first full-scale uranium mining project east of the Mississippi.  Mining in the U.S. has traditionally taken place in arid areas of the West, and opponents of the mine say south central Virginia’s relatively wet climate and susceptibility to hurricanes, storms and even earthquakes increases the health and safety risks of uranium mining in the state.  “It’s a de facto lifting of the ban,” Robert Burnley, president of Strategic Environmental Advice in Richmond, a consulting firm working with mine opponents, and former director of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, says. “Once the regulations are in place, the mining can commence.”  Additional resources concerning this issue may be found on the Stewardship of Creation website at www.caringforgodscreation.net.  A Message from the Stewardship of Creation Committee, Diocese of Virginia.  Blog with us at www.caringforgodscreation.net/blog and attend our next meeting on January 12, 2013.
 
Recycling Old Sneakers
Another tip below from Chip Giller and Katharine Wroth from environmental magazine “Grist” about recycling less obvious items.

Got a pair (or a pile) of old sneakers that are too worn out to give to charity? Nike will recycle any brand of athletic shoe through its Reuse-a-Shoe program. You can drop shoes off at any Niketown store or Nike Factory store; the company also has other drop-off spots, and if there’s not one near you, you can mail shoes in. (Get details at http://www.nike.com/us/en_us/c/better-world/stories/2012/09/reuse-a-shoe ) The company processes and recycles the footwear to make sports surfaces for basketball courts, tennis courts, running tracks and playgrounds.  To date, about 28 million pairs of athletic shoes worldwide have been recycled through the Reuse-A-Shoe program. Perhaps a good youth activity for your church?

Books and Lectures Abound!
Renowned novelist, Barbar Kingslover has just published her fourteenth novel entitled Flight behavior. With a climate change theme, amazon.com describes it as " a restless farm wife ...encounters....a silent, forested valley filled with what looks like a lake of fire. She can only understand it as a cautionary miracle, but it sparks a raft of other explanations from scientists, religious leaders, and the media. The bewildering emergency draws rural farmers into unexpected acquaintance with urbane journalists, opportunists, sightseers, and a striking biologist with his own stake in the outcome. As the community lines up to judge the woman and her miracle, Dellarobia confronts her family, her church, her town, and a larger world, in a flight toward truth that could undo all she has ever believed." 

On Sunday, November 18, 2012 at 10:10am, at the Washington National Cathedral, climate scientist, Katharine Hayhoe, will consider the impact of environmental shifts on the earth, sea and atmosphere, and our vocation to protect and honor what we have received as a true gift. Hayhoe is the co-author of the book A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions, a book that untangles the complex science and tackles many long-held misconceptions about global warming. If you can't make it to the Cathedral, you can join a live webcast through the National Cathedral website, http://www.nationalcathedral.org/

Anglican Communion Conference on the Environment
At a recent conference of bishops concerned with the moral dimensions of environmental change, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Southern Africa posed the following question regarding the nexus of water, food, and energy:

“When you are receiving Communion, have you stopped to think about the water that we use to mix with the wine? Where has it come from? How clean is that water? Have you stopped to think about...those who do not have access to basic and of the resultant illnesses that go with poor sanitation and water? When you receive...wafers, have you spared a thought for those who do not have food? “

We are part of a global community and, just as we share in communion, so also our choices have consequences for others whom we for the most part know only as part of Earth's growing population. The bishops call acknowledged that the choices would not be easy, but would call for moral courage to act upon how our choices affect others. For more information about the conference, visit http://www.anglicancommunion.org/acns/news.cfm/2012/11/1/ACNS5225

October eBlasts

Is it okay to recycle soiled glass and plastic?
Last week our message was about recycling plastic. This tip below from Chip Giller and Katharine Wroth from environmental magazine “Grist” is a perfect follow-up. They’ve got tips and resources for green ways to get rid of everyday items you no longer need and we will take a look at some of them in the next few weeks. 

It seems like a silly question, but it’s one people wonder about: Can you recycle a beer bottle even if a lime wedge is stuck in the bottom? What about those last bits of peanut butter in the jar? The answer to both is a qualified yes: Put the items in with your regular recycling, and the recycling plant should be able to remove most contaminants. Paper recycling, however, is a more delicate process (which is why pizza boxes are a no-no). And in general, the cleaner your recyclables are, the less energy it’ll take to process them. We’ll drink to that.
 
Dear parish partners and shareholders,
 
"GOD MOMENTS" ARE ALL AROUND US
 
We get so caught up in the routines of our daily lives that we often miss God's little taps on our shoulders inviting our attention to the wonders of his creation. They're among what some folk call "God moments".

They simply happen.  They’re just there.  And we might really see them for the very first time.  Not many of them are major miracles.  Most are regular everyday ones.  And despite the worldly troubles, turmoil and pain around us, they can leave us with feelings of serenity and awe.  One happened last week: an aurora borealis (northern lights) that illumined the night sky over upper portions of our hemisphere; so amazing that news organizations reported it.  And there are the beautiful risings and setting of the sun, and stunning full moons, and solar and lunar eclipses.  Towering mountains and the Chesapeake Bay on beautiful days.  Trees newly leafed in spring, dainty does with fawns, and brilliant fall foliage in Indian summer.  Soaring bald eagles, and ospreys gliding silently over tidal rivers.  Cornfields in tassel, and ripening soybeans turning to gold.  Laughing children at play, and newborn puppies and kittens, their eyes yet to open.  Nature, all around us, ever-present, reminding us of God’s creation.  “God moments,” if we just pause to feel his little taps on our shoulders.  Take heart, therefore, despite life’ difficulties.  As the 19th Century poet, Robert Browning, expressed it in his Pippa Passes – “God’s in his heaven.  All’s right with the world!”  Yes, indeed it is.  Because he loves us.  The Bible tells us so.  Thank you, precious Lord!
With thanks for the use of this article by Bill Kling, The St. Andrews  Presbetyrian Church, Northern Neck.

September eBlasts

Mark Your Calendars for Saturday, September 29th!


"Educating People of Faith: Personal Choices, Agricultural Sustainability and the 21st Century Challenge of World Hunger,” a comprehensive conference on food resources in Virginia and the globe, is set for Saturday, September 29, at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 6000 Grove Avenue, Richmond.  The event, jointly sponsored by the Stewardship of Creation Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church, will include discussions on key issues involving food availability in Virginia and globally. The conference, scheduled for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., will include a luncheon focused on “Creation Stewardship and Diet.” September 29th is also noted as a "Day of Service" -- what better way to serve than to learn more about being an even better steward of God's amazing Creation! To register for this conference go to http://www.thediocese.net/Forms/Form.asp?FormID=36 ($25 per person, $20 for multiple registrants from the same church).  Visit us at www.caringforgodscreation.net; blog with us at www.caringforgodscreation.net/blog.  A message from the Diocese of Virginia's Stewardship of Creation Committee.


St. Paul’s Memorial, Charlottesville, is launching a program centered around the 2012 Diocesan Stewardship of Creation Conference that will study global sustainability.

The program will have three parts:

(i) a free eight-week online course launching during the week of August 27, 2012, that is available through Coursera – Introduction to Sustainability – taught by Jonathan Tomkin, an Earth Sciences professor at the University of Illinois;

(ii) weekly meetings during the course at St. Paul’s Memorial to discuss the study materials;

(iii) group attendance at the Diocesan Conference giving particular attention to the program segment concerned with challenges and opportunities to alleviate food insecurity, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Additional detail on the St. Paul’s Memorial program and links to the Coursera registration page and program materials may be found on the Stewardship of Creation website. http://creationstewardship.thediocese.net/Annual_Conferences/2012_Conference/Online_Learning/

For any participant seeking a certificate of completion, registration must be completed during the week of August 27. Persons may register later, it appears, but will not receive a certificate if registering late.

For additional information on the St. Paul's Memorial program, contact Lloyd Snook, lloyd.snook@gmail.com.

August 26, 2012

Okay, This is Cool!
Pollution-eating buildings?  Sounds like some teen-age video game?  Nope!  As reported in Smart Planet two companies (Alcoa and Toto) have launched a coil-coated architectural panel that employs antimicrobial technology to clean both itself and the surrounding air.  Alcoa says 10,000 square feet of the EcoClean panels ca clean the air as effectively as 80 medium-sized deciduous trees. Toto’s Hydrotect technology enables the panels to break down pollutants when exposed to sunlight. Once pollutants are broken down, the residue is washed away by rainwater.  Imagine the possibilities -- the city of the future might be relatively self-cleaning.  Now that's caring for God's creation in a really innovative and creative way!

August 19, 2012
Citizen Science - how to get involved in scientific research
 The August edition of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, a publication of the Ecological Society of America (ESA), is devoted to public participation in scientific research. This special edition can be accessed at www.frontiersinecology.org. It is a fascinating read with many articles on the history of public participation in ecological research, citizen science on a local scale and on a global scale. The public have spent many years recording data on bird sightings, plant sightings, animal distribution, weather data and astronomy. New phone apps have brought new opportunities (and challenges!) for participating and feeding data back into scientific databases. ESA has details about how to get involved in a project. Check out the following websites that they recommend for ideas on how to get individuals or perhaps your church group involved:

http://www.birds.cornell.edu/citscitoolkit/

http://www.citsci.org

http://www.dataone.org
 

July 22, 2012

Renewable Energy in the Future
These past few weeks of record temperatures combined with storm power outages has made us really appreciate our home and office air conditioning. We might perhaps feel better if some of that high energy usage was from renewable sources? The Renewable Electricity Futures Study (RE Futures) published by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), suggests that renewable energy can supply 80% of current electricity demand in the USA by 2050. The USA is blessed with many renewable energy sources: geothermal, solar, wind, and wave energy. There are big issues that need to be addressed such as updating the electricty supply infrastructure, but the report states that none of the issues are insurmountable in the long-term; the technology required is already available. For further information about this study visit

http://www.sustainablebusiness.com/index.cfm/go/news.display/id/23802

http://www.sustainablebusiness.com/index.cfm/go/news.display/id/23802

 

July 15, 2012

Go Meatless twice a week all summer.
What you eat matters. Cut out all meat twice a week to lose a surprising amount of carbon.
 
Keep your car out of your commute 1 day a week all summer.
Let someone else hassle with traffic. Not driving is still one of the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint.
 
Increase your thermostat by 2 degrees all summer.
You probably will not notice this slight change in temperature, but your carbon footprint an electricity bill will.
 
Line dry half of your laundry and wash it all in cold all summer.
Most of the energy used for your laundry goes into heating the water, and you will save even more by line drying.
 
Go Zero Waste for 1 month
If you like a challenge this pledge is for you. Slim your foot print and learn about your consumption habits by diverting all of your landfill waste.

 

July 1, 2012

At our last Stewardship of Creation meeting in May, we were privileged to have Mr. Karl Bren from the United Methodist Church and Mr. Bill Kling from the Presbyterian Church USA join us. they both gave us an idea of how their denominations are talking green issues. Over the next few weeks we will share some of their insights with you.
 
Does God love us - and only us? By Bill Kling
 
John 3:16 is the most familiar and most often-quoted verse from the Bible: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life." We learned this cherished verse when we were children in Sunday School, and we know it means that God loves us - but does it mean only us? Nearly all of the various versions of the Bible use world in that treasured verse, translating it from kosmos in the original Greek, but a few interpret it as people. Both, in essence, are accurate, but the predominant meaning of that old Greek word is world, which probably is why it's the origin of our English word, cosmos, meaning ordered universe. But in the original Greek, kosmos relates to all of God's creation, which includes but is not exclusively us. We are part of the world that God created, to be sure, but no the only part. We are part of the world that God loves, to be sure, but not the only part. We are part of the world that God loves, to be sure, but not the only part. The first chapter in Genesis tells us of everything that God created - together with us - and then he placed the earth in our care. And after he was done, Genesis 1:31 tells us "God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good." Yes, God beyond doubt loves us, but he also beyond doubt loves the rest of the world that he so marvelously created. The Bible tells us so, and we must care for that which God created and loves. We can can't we? We must, mustn't we?