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Nurturing Creation News

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Here is a list of environmental news, events, and opportunities to learn and engage in the DC metropolitan area compiled by Reid Detchon of the St. Columba's Environment Committee. Published monthly, it captures the efforts of those engaged in nurturing creation in our local neighborhoods, to inspire your thinking and invite your participation. Help us build green practices in the DMV!

Published October 14, 2019

Dear Friends:

Just when you think that climate activism and awareness – marked by Greta Thunberg and the global student strikes – had reached a peak, here comes Jane Fonda to raise them to a new level.

You probably saw the items in The Washington Post this week (here and here) about the 81-year-old actor, who was arrested Friday at the Capitol in the first of 14 planned Fire Drill Fridays – but just in case, here are a couple of excerpts:

“Every Thursday evening, starting Oct. 17, there will be online teach-ins featuring climate scientists talking about different aspects of global warming. Fonda said she would like to ‘draw connections’ by discussing how violence against women increases in communities suffering from climate change. Then on Fridays, she will go to the steps of the Capitol building holding a placard and will refuse to obey three requests by the Capitol Police to cease and desist. …

“Does Fonda, who has a three-month old grandson, have a lesson from her earlier participation in political protests? She says, ‘I feel far braver now than I did before. I’ve got nothing to lose and this is it.’ …  ‘I’m 82 years old. There’s nothing they can do.’”

Some readers of this may not remember how controversial Jane Fonda was for opposing the war in Vietnam – an episode that left many in the country permanently embittered to her. But I had the privilege of meeting with her several times 20 years ago while she was married to Ted Turner, and I have no doubt at all about her sincerity and her passion. I’m inspired to join her at the Capitol – how about you?

* * * * *

More about climate protests below, but first this news from St. Columba’s!

Last Sunday we concluded our observance of a five-week Season of Creation. If you missed church, Susan Flanders offered a wonderful sermon, based on her own personal experience, entitled “Caring for Creation – A Response to God.” Here’s a brief excerpt:

“I have to confess I’ve come late to the realization that climate change is threatening our planet. I’ve never been a denier, but until recently I guess I just thought everything would work out. I don’t think that any more. I now think that we all are increasingly aware of the science, aware that climate change may be leading to climate crisis, and hence, if we fail to act, we will indeed be evil, as Thunberg said.

“Creation is all a gift – not one of us can make a tree, or a falcon or an antelope, a lily of the field, a rushing river or a mountain thrusting to the clouds. Our humanity, blessed with memory reason and skill – all of these things, all of life, has evolved over eons, and all of it is a gift. And when we neglect it, damage it, waste it, and yes, consume it or kill it with no regard for its preservation, we sin against God – we deny God, we wound God.”

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In lieu of our monthly meeting, on Sunday, Nov. 3, from 12:30 to 1:30 pm, the Environment Committee will host a special visit in the Great Hall from our partner in the Honduras Mission Project, Roy Lara. There will be food and plenty to time to interact with Roy – both at the event and optionally afterward over lunch at Guapo’s. Tom Bauder will be on hand to translate.

Roy is the inspirational leader of the Trinidad Conservation Project, long supported by several DC Episcopal congregations. Forest degradation and climate change are contributing to the hunger and poverty driving people out of remote mountain communities in Honduras. By restoring and protecting their watershed, they can improve their well being and resilience.

The project now has a US non-profit called Sustainable Villages Honduras, supporting the creation of a water and forestry reserve in the Las Nieves watershed – in the Santa Barbara region where their villages are located – in addition to ongoing family-oriented programs in food sovereignty, health, and sustainable agricultural practices.  

If you cannot join us on Nov. 3, you are welcome to participate in other events with Roy while he is in the area. Please contact Betsy Agle for more information.

* * * * *

Last Sunday, the Environment Committee had a table in the Common to share some of our accomplishments at St. Columba’s and to invite others to join in our work. (Welcome to the newcomers who signed up for this newsletter as a result!)

At the table we were pleased to greet visitors from the 5th grade Sunday school, who had devoted their class time to the theme “Kids Are Stewards of God’s Creation!” They discussed activities they could take on to help take care of the Earth. For example, Liam suggested collecting used batteries for proper disposal. (Actually, Liam, we do have a dropoff box for electronic equipment, batteries, and light bulbs near the door to Albemarle Street on the second floor – and on the first Saturday of every month the energetic Judy Smith­ takes them to the Fort Totten transfer station!)

Recycling was a popular theme in the responses, even of used-up Sunday school markers and plastic toys and Legos. Others supported helping the Straws Suck! campaign by making “little signs to offer to restaurants that will only give a customer a straw on demand.” Lauren wrote: “Ride your bike instead of driving.” Others said: “Walk to school.” “Pick up other people’s trash.” “Grate Patrol!! Make some sandwiches!”

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During last week’s meeting, our chair, Kris Moore, led a discussion of activities planned for the year:

  • During Advent, we will look for an opportunity to promote eco-friendly holiday items like LED Christmas lights.
  • Several people have volunteered to select a film and organize a screening during the annual DC Environmental Film Festival in March.
  • In the spring we will again support an Earth Day celebration at church, the annual plant sale led by Henry Beale (more hands needed for planting and preparation!), and possibly a stream cleanup with the Rock Creek Conservancy.

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It has been estimated that 4 million people around the world demonstrated in the streets on Sept. 20 to demand action on climate change – meeting the goal of making it “the biggest youth-led global demonstration in history.”

This came just one year after Greta Thunberg, the remarkable 16-year-old Swedish activist, began sitting all by herself every Friday outside the Swedish Parliament instead of attending school, with a sign that says: "Strike for Climate."

Episcopal Bishops, including Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, stepped out of their fall House of Bishops meeting in Minnesota to join the Global Climate Strike. As reported by Episcopal News Service, the bishops offered a statement that said, in part: 

“We Green Episcopal Bishops resolve to support a network of young climate activists in The Episcopal Church, building up to an Episcopal youth presence at the important United Nations Climate Summit in 2020, most likely to be held in the United Kingdom. … The Episcopal Church is already committed to action that will support a 1.5°C ceiling on global warming above pre-Industrial Revolution levels. We are working from the individual and household level up to regions and to the level of the whole Church to make the necessary transition to a sustainable life.”

As the bishops were striking, the Rt. Rev. Carol Gallagher, regional canon for the Central Region of the Diocese of Massachusetts, offered this “Prayer for Our Time and for the Earth”:

Dear God, Creator of the earth, this sacred home we share;

Give us new eyes to see the beauty all around and to protect the wonders of creation.

Give us new arms to embrace the strangers among us and to know them as family.

Give us new ears to hear and understand those who live off the land

and to hear and understand those who extract its resources.

Give us new hearts to recognize the brokenness in our communities

and to heal the wounds we have inflicted.

Give us new hands to serve the earth and its people

and to shape beloved community.

For you are the One who seeks the lost,

binds our wounds and sets us free,

and it is in the name of Jesus the Christ we pray.

Amen.

 

* * * * *

In an interview in Yes! magazine, author and activist Bill McKibben was asked, “Where do you see the greatest signs of hope?”

He replied: “I think that, for me, movements are the great sign of hope. The fact that people are beginning to come together in numbers to stand up. I mean, the great dramas of human history often concerned the many and the small against the mighty and the few, you know, the Rebel Alliance against the Death Star. And that’s what we face when we face Exxon and Chevron and Shell and so on. And our only hope is to gather in numbers sufficient to change the zeitgeist, to change the sense of what’s normal and natural and obvious. And if we can do that, then we can win. It’s not easy, but there’s enough instances of it happening in our history to give it the best try one can.”

* * * * *

At the United Nations’ Climate Action Summit, Thunberg memorably scolded world leaders for their inaction: “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words,” she said. “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth – how dare you!”

The video of her four-minute remarks has gone viral – and deservedly so. She reminds us vividly of the damage we are doing and leaving behind for our children and their children: “The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you.”

* * * * *

Susan Henderson, Executive Director of Interfaith Power & Light, is urging people to “pledge to be a Faith Climate Voter.” She writes, “Did you know that people who care about the state of our Earth are less likely to vote? In 2014, only 21% of environmental-minded registered voters went to the polls. That number doubled in the 2018 mid-term elections – 42%. Let’s keep that upward trajectory going!”

Here is the pledge in full:

  • “I pledge to vote with climate and Creation in mind.
  • “I am pledging to be a Faith Climate Voter to put love into action for every living creature and for every vulnerable community suffering the impacts of our changing climate, from sea rise, to extreme heat, to devastating droughts, to supercharged storms.
  • “I believe that our nation’s elected leaders and our public policies should reflect our shared values. By pledging to be a consistent voter and vote with climate in mind, I am communicating the values of caring for God’s Creation and our children’s future.”

You can add your name here.

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Upcoming events:

This month’s meeting of 350MoCo will focus on “Building a local Green New Deal” (“local” meaning Montgomery County). The group will meet from 7 to 9 pm on Monday, Oct. 14, in the conference room of the Executive Office Building in Rockville, 101 Monroe Street. Kristin Cook writes: “Help us design and promote a GND plan that takes big, bold steps towards fighting the two great crises of our time – climate catastrophe and severe inequality.”

* * * * *

On Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 15, a no-cost webinar will look at “Tools to Guide Congregations and Communities Through the Energy Transition” – introducing SEEK, the Sustainability Education and Energy Knowledge-sharing project, and demonstrating EPA’s ENERGY STAR for Congregations program. Both are designed for congregations, but can be used by any community seeking a framework and tools to help accelerate their energy transitions.

Register here for the webinar, which will run from 1:15 to 2:45 pm and feature Elisabeth Graffy, Director of the SEEK project at Arizona State University, and Jerry Lawson, National Manager of the EPA program.

* * * * *

Greening the construction of new commercial buildings will be the focus of a special meeting of the Montgomery County Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions – on Thursday, Oct. 17, from 7:30 to 9 pm in the Fireside Room of the River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 6301 River Road, Bethesda. Mark Nauman of the county’s Department of Permitting Services will describe proposed changes to the building code “that will reduce greenhouse gases and storm water runoff, increase native plants, and improve habitat for wildlife, among other important things,” Walter Weiss writes. “The talk will be aimed at people who are conservation minded, but who are not well informed about building codes.”

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich has floated a proposal to require all new homes in the county to have solar panels on their roofs starting in 2022. It would make Montgomery County one of the first jurisdictions in the country to mandate solar panels.

The regular monthly MC-FACS meeting will be on Tuesday, Oct. 15, from 7:30 to 9 pm at the IMAAM Center, a Muslim house of worship at 9100 Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring. You can also watch online.

* * * * *

Want to become part of the climate solution? The Environmental Justice Ministry at Cedar Lane UU Church, 9601 Cedar Lane in Bethesda, is offering a family-friendly Reverse Global Warming: Drawdown Workshop – on Saturday, Oct. 19, from 1 to 3 pm. The workshop is based on Project Drawdown, a coalition of more than 200 researchers and other experts from 22 countries led by author, environmentalist, and entrepreneur Paul Hawken. Over the course of five years of rigorous scientific research, they identified and modeled the 100 most substantive, already existing solutions for addressing global warming and revealed astounding news: that it is possible not just to slow global warming, but to actually reverse it by 2050.

* * * * *

On Sunday, Oct. 20, you can learn about the health benefits of a plant-based diet from physician and author Vanita Rahman at an event called “Eat for the Planet!” The Climate Action Group of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax invites all to a plant-based supper they will prepare. Dinner will be served at 6 pm in the Program Building at the bottom of the hill, 2709 Hunter Mill Road in Oakton, and Dr. Rahman’s talk will follow. Please RSVP so there will be enough food for all!

* * * * *

On Thursday, Oct. 24, from 2 to 3 pm, Catholic Climate Covenant is offering a free webinar on “How Our Food Choices Can Save the Planet”: How can we make food choices that are sustainable, less wasteful, and just? The webinar is especially timely as we approach the holiday season’s many food-centered celebrations. By registering, you will receive a link to the webinar recording if you can’t watch it then.

* * * * *

The influential theologian Thomas Berry – a seminal thinker about faith and ecology – will be the subject of a special conference at Georgetown October 30-31. It is free and open to the public, but an RSVP is required. The event will celebrate Berry’s intellectual journey and his “Great Work,” underscoring his contributions to the study of religions and cultures, Teilhardian studies, religions and ecology, and the Earth community’s way into the future.

* * * * *

Parishioners at St. John’s, Lafayette Square (1525 H St. NW), have formed an active “Care for Creation” committee that will host a Sunday forum series on the environment next month – to which all are invited. The Committee has also been taking steps to reduce or eliminate the use of plastic and implement other environmentally friendly policies at St. John’s.

The forum series will take place between services, from 10:05 am to 10:50 am, as follows:

  • Sun. Nov. 3 – Bob Musil, President & CEO of the Rachel Carson Council and former CEO of Physicians for Social Responsibility, will speak about how Rachel Carson’s environmental ethic and spiritual values are critical to current environmental justice concerns for people of color and low-income communities who bear the brunt of pollution and climate change.
  • Sun. Nov. 10 – Pete Marra, Director of the Georgetown Environmental Initiative and former Director of the Smithsonian’s Migratory Bird Center, will speak on the loss of biodiversity exemplified by the huge decline of North American birds. Slowing the loss of biodiversity across terrestrial and marine biomes is perhaps the greatest conservation challenge we face as environmentalists in the 21st century.
  • Sun. Nov. 17 – Reid Detchon, Senior Advisor for Climate Solutions at the United Nations Foundation, will ask, “What's God got to do with it? Protecting the environment as a matter of faith” – and discuss the scriptural basis for protecting the environment and the involvement of Episcopal institutions in environmental activism.

* * * * *

Helpful and hopeful:

A new opportunity from the Rev. Melanie Mullen, Director of Reconciliation, Justice and Creation Care in the Office of the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church:

The Task Force on Creation Care and Environmental Racism seeks to support and expand The Episcopal Church’s loving, liberating, life-giving relationship with God, with each other and with Creation. At our General Convention in 2018, the convening body allocated funds to this Task Force to support local and regional eco-ministry efforts. There are two different levels for funding requests: Seed Funding ($1,000 to $10,000) and Impact Funding (up to $25,000). The deadline to submit proposals is Sunday, Nov. 3application here. Questions about potential projects can be answered during our informational webinar on Monday, Oct. 14, at 8 pm. For more information, email Phoebe Chatfield or Sarah Alphin

Carol Janus, chair of the Diocesan Environmental Network, notes that Jodi Rose of Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake is offering one-on-one support for congregations interested in pursuing these grants.

* * * * *

Rock Creek Conservancy raised more than $220,000 at its recent annual gala – money for a good cause. If you want to pitch in but not at gala prices, you can contribute through Giant Food’s Community Bag program. The group will receive a $1 donation for every $2.50 Community Bag sold at the Giant store at 7142 Arlington Road in Bethesda during October. Look for the purple “Give Back” bags at self-checkout and on the rack with other reusable bags.

* * * * * 

Renee Schoof sent along news about a program called Tree-Mendous Maryland, which “aims to expand tree cover on public lands across the state, offering affordable and attractive trees for planting on community lands and open space” – this year focusing on native shrubs and trees. Church, civic, community, and school groups, homeowners associations, local governments, nonprofits, and others are eligible to purchase plantings from the program, as long as the shrubs and trees are planted on community and public land with prior approval from the landowner.

* * * * * 

Read this encouraging story about two Takoma Park residents who exemplify “a growing "rewilding" movement now seeks to reclaim yard space for nature” – appearing in, of all places, a “web-based science, research and technology news service” called Science X.

* * * * * 

This week’s Climate Forward newsletter of The New York Times shares some advice about talking to your children about climate change. Here’s an excerpt:

If possible, talk about solutions in a personal context. Highlight steps you’ve already taken as a family or as individuals to reduce your carbon footprints and brainstorm new ideas together. Taking action can be an empowering antidote to fear, Dr. Lise Van Susteren said. Encourage your child to take action with her peers as well, like joining a group at school or volunteering with a local organization. Collective action has mental health benefits, according to Dr. Maria Ojala. “We are social beings, and it’s very good for our well-being to work together with others and be part of a group,” she said.

You probably won’t get rid of your child’s fears altogether, and that’s O.K., Dr. Ojala said. The goal is to help your child cope with her fears in a constructive way to avoid hopelessness.

Finally, think about your own personal choices and lead by example, Dr. Van Susteren said. Your children are probably watching.

* * * * * 

The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations is seeking two interns to provide research, policy, and administrative support at its Capitol Hill office during the spring of 2020, from mid-January to mid-May. This internship will provide opportunities to learn and practice the skills of policy research and analysis, advocacy, and engagement. While the intern will have significant autonomy in their work, the staff works closely with them to provide an enriching experience and access to outside experts and resources; an intern can expect mentoring and training in skills desirable in any policy-based office. The internship will be full time and will include a stipend. The deadline to apply is Monday, Oct. 21.

* * * * *

Faiths for Forests is a global campaign and call to action by the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative, which includes GreenFaith as a partner. The campaign supports religious leaders, faith communities, and places of worship around the world to get involved in efforts to protect, restore, and sustainably manage tropical forests and to advocate for the rights of the indigenous peoples and forest communities that are on the front lines of the fight to halt and reverse tropical deforestation. The campaign encourages congregations to: 1) endorse the Faiths for Forests Declaration, 2) access educational materials on forests (issue primers, country fact sheets, and faith toolkits), and 3) share the campaign with others on social media.

Meanwhile, as reported by Inside Climate News, Pope Francis has convened nearly 200 bishops, climate experts and indigenous people from the Amazon in Rome for an unprecedented three-week meeting to discuss the fate of the rainforests and the world's moral obligation to protect them. According to the meeting’s preparatory document, “The Special Synod’s reflections transcend the strictly ecclesial-Amazonian sphere, because they focus on the universal Church, as well as on the future of the entire planet.”

The meeting represents the Pope’s latest effort to urge Catholics and people of all faiths to take meaningful steps to forestall climate change, and it comes as fires continue to consume the Amazon rainforest, destroying a critical tool for stabilizing the climate, threatening the homes and health of indigenous people and drawing global concern.

* * * * *

John More of St. John’s, Lafayette Square, writes, “I am involved with creating a large solar farm on vacant land at Dupont Commons, the 147-unit affordable housing project spearheaded by the Washington Interfaith Network (WIN) at Dupont Commons off East Capitol Street in SE Washington. We are working with New Columbia Solar and being funded by a grant from DC. Lower-income residents will benefit from a 50% reduction in their energy bills, and the HOA will receive rental income to help manage the property. Our partner is the Community Purchasing Alliance cooperative, which WIN and other organizations set up to contract for cheaper mass-purchased power (solar where possible). CPA has also helped member churches, schools, etc., put in solar energy (and rebuild roofs).”

In 2016, St. Columba’s joined a partnership the CPA organized for 16 churches and nonprofits in the region to lease 1.4 megawatts of solar panels for 15 years, including the 56-panel system installed on our roof (you can get a good view from the alcove in the Common). St. Columba’s agreed to purchase, at roughly $.06 per kwh, all the electricity that the panels produce (roughly 13,500 kwh per year). While the panels only meet a fraction of our total electricity demand, that portion costs 40% less than the standard 10 cents/kWh St. Columba’s pays on the grid (and half of what most individuals pay at home). The total up-front cost for clean electricity at a 40% savings? Zero dollars. The energy company arranged the installation.

* * * * *

Father Richard Rohr of the Center for Action and Contemplation offers short “daily meditations” by email. This recent one was called “Patron Saint of Ecology”:

One of the things Francis of Assisi is best known for is his love of nature. Pope John Paul II named him the Patron Saint of Ecology in 1979. Pope Francis entitled his encyclical about caring for our common home Laudato Si’ meaning “praise be to you,” a phrase which Francis used repeatedly in his Canticle of the Creatures.

St. Bonaventure (1221–1274), an early Franciscan mystic, taught that, “As a human being, Christ has something in common with all creatures. With the stone he shares existence; with plants he shares life; with animals he shares sensation; and with the angels he shares intelligence.” In saying this, Bonaventure was trying to give theological weight to the deep experience of Francis, who, as far as we know, was the first recorded Christian to call animals and elements and even the forces of nature by familial names, much as indigenous people have done for centuries: “Sister, Mother Earth,” “Brother Wind,” “Sister Water,” and “Brother Fire.”

Francis was fully at home in this created world. He saw all things in the visible world as endless dynamic and operative symbols of the Real, a theater and training ground for a heaven that is already available to us in small doses in this life. What you choose now, you shall have later seems to be the realization of the saints. Not an idyllic hope for a later heaven but a living experience right now.

We cannot jump over this world, or its woundedness, and still try to love God. We must love God through, in, with, and even because of this world. This is the message Christianity was supposed to initiate, proclaim, and encourage, and what Jesus modeled. We were made to love and trust this world, “to cultivate it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15), but for some sad reason we preferred to emphasize the statement that comes in the previous chapter, which seems to say that we should “dominate” the earth (Genesis 1:28). I wonder if this is not another shape of our original sin. God “empties” Godself into creation, and then we humans spend most of history creating systems to control and subdue that creation for our own purposes and profit, reversing the divine pattern.

* * * * *

On behalf of the Environment Committee,

Reid Detchon

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