Positively Green: A Service Day Alternative to State Patty’s Day

On February 23, 2013 Penn State students hold the third annual Positively Green day of service.  Last year, 30 students, faculty and staff undertook a two-hour training session, and then went out into the community, helping State College neighbors make their houses more energy efficient.

We began at 10:30 am, with a full day of activities:

10:30 AM  Training in the Frizzell Room of the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center (corner of Curtain and Allen on campus, right across from the libraries)

12:00 PM  lunch!

12:30 PM  move to local worksites to begin energy efficiency work in low-income homes

3:00 PM   regroup at Pasquerilla (with cookies!)

4:00 PM   adjourn

image10911ith financial support from the Rock Ethics Institute and generous donations from our corporate sponsors (Lowe’s and Wal-Mart),our students changed light bulbs, installed weather-stripping, and upgraded homes with low-flow shower heads and hot water pipe insulation (see more pictures here). Students also learned how to discuss energy usage and encourage folks to make lifestyle choices that save energy and protect our planet.




Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light is proud to sponsor the first student IPL in the nation—thanks, Penn State students, for being part of the climate change solution!


A Simple Wish

This letter from PA IPL member and former intern Barb Donnini was published in the Good Steward Campaign newsletter, as well as in the Centre Daily Times here.

A Simple Wish
I wish for an excellent quality of life for every human being, for biodiversity and for a great outdoors to exist for my children.

It is for these reasons, and my desire to follow moral guidelines, that I am deeply disturbed to learn of people who think climate change is not real, but is instead an elaborate scam to raise taxes.

The World Health Organization estimates that 150,000 deaths are directly attributable to climate change.

In a sick ironic twist, the people hurt the most by climate change aren’t emitting the most (or even a lot). The most affected nations are the poorest. Their citizens are barely able to subsist day to day, let alone pay to cope with the new effects of climate change on their communities (extreme drought in Africa, for example).

What’s being asked of all of us is small: Conserve energy in your home and encourage clean energy projects. This doesn’t mean changing your political party. It means signing an online petition, helping a nonprofit or supporting national policy that increases renewable energy usage.

Even if you still aren’t convinced, we can all agree that conserving energy is a good thing, if just for financial reasons.

I’d like to believe that most can identify with right versus wrong, fair versus unfair. It isn’t fair that we use much more energy than needed while so many others feel the consequences.

We have one chance at preserving the planet – the risk is too great to do nothing.

Climate Cliff

This letter from PA IPL board president Rev. Bill Thwing was published on 12/10/2012 in the Johnstown Tribune Democrat

Nation facing more ‘cliffs’ than fiscal

Three recent news stories have caught my attention.

While headlines scream that a “fiscal cliff” looms and that Republicans and Democrats can’t reach agreement, another, smaller story whispers that China and the United States have traded places as world economic powers.

Apparently, as recently as 2006, the United States was the largest trading partner around the world, with 127 countries versus China’s 70.

By 2011, that ratio had reversed, with China now serving as the largest trading partner for 124 countries and the United States serving 76.

Wow! That’s a really big “fiscal cliff.”

A second article catching my attention was “Study: CO2 emissions increase by 3 percent.”

Apparently, China and the United States have now also switched places as the world’s biggest polluter. The amount of heat-trapping pollution the world spewed rose last year by 3 percent with China being the world’s biggest carbon dioxide polluter. The United States and Germany reduced their emissions.

Worldwide, we’ve added nearly 9 ppm of CO2 emissions in only one year! That’s a huge change.

In 2006, CO2 was advancing by only 1 ppm per year. It looks to me like we humans are heading for a “carbon cliff.”

Which cliff is worse: The domestic fiscal cliff that leads to another recession, the balance of trade cliff that leads to the loss of world economic dominance for the United States, or the carbon cliff that leads to climate chaos, failing nations, mass extinctions and the potential collapse of human civilization?

All these cliffs can be avoided simply by agreeing to work together on solutions for the common good.

Rev. William C. Thwing


The link to the letter online is here: http://tribune-democrat.com/editorials?start=10 Rev. Thwing’s is the second letter.

Congratulations to Cool Congregations 2012 Pennsylvania Honoree

For immediate release December 12, 2012                           
Also posted online right here!

For more information: (contact Cricket Eccleston Hunter at chunter@paipl.org/814.876.2597)
Pennsylvania congregation wins national honors
Faith communities lead the way on saving energy, addressing climate impacts
In a year marked by increasing climate disruption, a Johnstown congregation has been honored for its participation in the 2012 Cool Congregations Challenge.  St. Paul’s United Church of Christ has received an Honorable Mention for its efforts in Engaging Congregants and Communities, and is among more than three dozen congregations honored this year by Interfaith Power & Light, a national organization mobilizing a religious response to global warming.
 “This year, we have witnessed the catastrophic impacts of global warming, from Superstorm Sandy to widespread drought, floods and wildfires,” said The Rev. Canon Sally Bingham, founder and president of Interfaith Power & Light. “As people of faith, we know that it’s not enough to talk about climate impacts. We need to take action now, and these congregations are leading the way with their creative and meaningful projects.”
St. Paul’s UCC’s interim pastor, Rev. Bill Thwing notes that as a result of their outreach work, St. Paul’s decided to became a “Creation Care Church.” In the process, they have gained new regular worship attenders.  Members of the congregation have stepped forward and taken initiative to share the congregation’s work; many congregants see their creation care work as part of the congregation’s effort to become a “mission-based church rather than a membership-based church.”
Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light helps Pennsylvania faith communities save energy and advocate for clean energy policies. Learn more at www.paipl.org.
For more information on the Cool Congregations Challenge, including success stories and congregational and individual carbon calculators, see www.coolcongregations.org. 

Ethics of Drilling Excerpt: Effects on Poverty and Social Injustice

One is forbidden from gaining a livelihood at the expense of another’s health.
Rabbi Isaac ben Sheshet, Responsa  #196

We believe that we serve God through establishing justice – and economic gains that come at the expense of harming others are unjust. Many towns in Pennsylvania have already gone through one or more cycles of boom and bust from oil and coal production.  Typically, these cycles have brought riches to few but lasting economic and social problems to many, ranging from depressed economies to scarred and infertile lands.  So far, the Marcellus Shale developments, especially without taxes or impact fees in place, seem more likely to continue this destructive pattern than to break from it.  In addition, illegal or ethically questionable practices by drilling companies have set neighbor against neighbor.

This needs to change.  Strong state or even national level regulation could help prevent a “race to the bottom” by either smaller units of government or private citizens.  It would also help prevent a “not in my backyard” mentality, whereby local groups oppose drilling in their area while still using natural gas extracted from other areas without concern.

A fee or tax system on current and future operations is imperative, and it should take into account not only short-term costs to communities, but the broader, longer-term issues such as mitigating climate change by investing in clean, sustainable energy technologies and long-term sustainable community economic development.  Knowing what we do about the history of extractive industries in Pennsylvania, we believe that it would be unethical to move forward without trying our utmost to ensure that past mistakes are not repeated.

Therefore, PA IPL can support drilling only when a state-level system is in place to prevent the repetition of such “boom and bust” cycles and to encourage long-term, sustainable economic development in communities where drilling takes place.  Furthermore, PA IPL supports efforts to help communities cooperatively resolve conflicts engendered by decisions about drilling.

Distortions to our political system

You shall show no partiality; you shall not take bribes, for bribes blind the eyes of the discerning and upset the plea of the just.
Deuteronomy 16:19

One important reason why our nation has moved so slowly to address the increasingly urgent crisis of global climate change is that fossil fuel companies have spent millions and millions of dollars trying to convince politicians to look the other way.  It is clear that many companies involved in developing the Marcellus Shale are behaving in a similar fashion.  This creates a system that is the exact opposite of what our faith traditions teach.  Instead of valuing the “least of these,” instead of protecting the most vulnerable, instead of listening to the voices of the people, our system is following the lure of money.  While this problem is obviously not limited to Marcellus Shale drilling, it is clear that a difficult situation is made much worse by this abuse of the public trust.

Therefore, we call on elected officials throughout Pennsylvania, whether serving in local, state, or national capacities, to refrain voluntarily from accepting any contributions from companies involved in the exploration, drilling, production, transportation and sale of natural gas.

Leadership in Faith Communities

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.
Matthew 5:14-15

Because global climate change is as much a moral challenge as a technical or scientific one, it is imperative that communities of faith take leadership roles in addressing this challenge.  One important way to do so is to lead by example, to demonstrate the choices that can be made right now, without waiting for any additional laws, regulations, or other governmental programs.  Pennsylvania currently gets more than one-half of its electricity from coal-fired power plants and another quarter from natural gas.  If we stop fracking in Pennsylvania but do not switch to buying clean electricity, the overall effect will be to support a coal-based economy and ensure that drilling for natural gas will continue outside of Pennsylvania.  That would not be moral leadership.

Therefore we call on congregations and all faith-based institutions, to reduce their energy usage, switch to sustainable energy sources such as solar and wind energy, and speak with their constituencies about these choices.  We also call on faith-based institutions to refrain from entering into financial agreements with natural gas exploration or extraction companies until the issues highlighted here are adequately addressed.

Selinsgrove: Interfaith Creation Care

On April 19, several members of PA IPL attended an  interfaith workshop put on by the Rivertown Coalition for Clean Air and Water.   There were workshops and a wonderful closing Litany of Dedication, shared below.  Look back next week for Bill Sharp’s remarks, which he kindly scribed so that we can include them on the blog (thanks, Bill!)

As you plan events within your faith communities, think about when words, images, or ideas from other traditions might enrich a discussion in your community.  As you plan interfaith gatherings, consider the balance between appealing to all and sharing differences: what, when, and how best do we gain from interfaith practices, and what, when and how best can we gain from multi-religious opportunities?   

Interfaith Creation Care Symposium
Closing Ritual
Litany of Dedication
(Editor’s notes: this Litany uses a notation common to many denominations: leaders read the regular text, the congregation joins or responds with the bold. The full prayer comes to under 1.5 pages of 12-point font.)

Creator G-d, in the beginning your Spirit, your Wind, your Breath hovered over the formless earth, and with your Word, you created all that exists.  You breathed life into your creation.  you created green plats to produce oxygen so that your creatures might breathe fresh air.  To keeping the air pure and fresh for all creatures,
I dedicate myself.

Holy G-d, you separated the waters from the dry land and made rippling brooks, flowing streams,  rushing rivers, and immense oceans and seas.  You gave us the cycle of the seasons, the rain and the snow and the giant glaciers.  To keeping the water clean and pristine,
I dedicate myself.

Lord, you made the dry land that it might produce plants of all kinds and be a home to your creatures.  You formed mountains and valleys, small hills and great plains.  To the proper, sustainable, and healthy use of the land for growing crops — planting seed, growth, and harvest, for building homes, shelter, and other structures,
I dedicate myself.

G-d of beauty, you created plants to purify the air, to feed your creatures with nuts, fruit, berries, vegetables, roots; to provide shade from the heat of the sun; to make a beautiful world with all its variety for us to live in.  Help us to use the resource of wood wisely and to plant and renew these wonderful gifts.  Thereto,
I dedicate myself.

Most marvelous G-d, in your almighty goodness you created all the members of the animal kingdom, each to its purpose, interdependent, each doing its part — the animals of the sea, the air, and the land, co-existing with us.  Such wonders you have created: the ultraviolet light-seeing bees to pollinate the flowers, the goldfish with its eyesight superior to all other creaturs, the dog with its super sense of smell, the horse with its strength, beauty, and speed, the birds with brilliant plumage, the ffogs wiht their spring chorus.  Mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates you created them.  To preserve their habitat, to avoid and overcome threats to their extinction, to provide them with a pollution-free existence,
I dedicate myself.

Last, but not least, Holy Lord, you created us —created in your image to have relationship with you.  Out of love we were created, for you, Holy G-d, are love.  We were placed on the earth for a purpose.  For that purpose you, over time, gave us intelligence, the use of our hands to create, the desire to discover and invent, the ability to use tools to control our environment and to bring about bigger and better things.  you gave us fire to cook our food, to build community, to warm our homes and to cleanse.  To carry out the purpose for which you made us,
I dedicate myself.

Lord G-d, the first command you gave to us, your creatures, was to shamar the earth, a word with many meanings — not just to care for or have dominion over but to treasure, celebrate, protect, keep watch over, secure, defend, preserve, and keep in all its original pristine beauty. you have made us the protectors, the custodians, the defenders, stewards and guardians of your creation.  To these ends,
We dedicate ourselves.

Let us pray together,
Holy Lord G-d, help us to find ways to live lives that are simpler, that will use fewer resources, and to seek to use renewable resources.  Help us to share with others who do not have.  Give us the fortitude, courage and will to stand up for what is right and against injustice against your creation, the poor, and those who have no voice.  To those who would pollute the air and water; risk the health and welfare of your people; destroy the streams with runoff, spills, and mine waste; who strip the land; all for profit, help us say “No.”  To politicians who turn a blind eye to toxic waste and pollution in exchange for kickbacks and to those who issue gag orders not to discuss health issues caused by industry’s pollution, give us a voice to say, “No.”  To those who operate in darkness and secrecy to deceive the public, knowing that what they are doing is destructive and wrong, give us the strength to shout, “NO.”  To all who indiscriminately kill and destroy your creation, make us declare a resounding “NO”!  Enable us to carry out our task to be about the care and redemption of all that you have made and to carry out the mandate to speak publicly to the world in solidarity with the poor and oppressed, calling for justice and proclaiming God’s love for the world.  We ask this in your holy name.  AMEN