In memoriam: John Roe

John Roe served as a member of the PA IPL Board from 2012-2015.  While factual, that is such an inadequate expression of the truth that it feels empty.

John joined the Board and became our Treasurer just a we we became an independent 501c3, and needed to move from informal Excel-driven records to something formal that would could continue to grow into for years to come.  Many people faced with this task would have done a couple of web searches, asked a few folks who might know a little bit more than they, and quickly assented to whatever seemed manageable — or simply declined the “honor” of serving as Treasurer in the first place.  Not John.  John did not do things part way.  John taught himself a great deal about nonprofit bookkeeping, and then nonprofit financial software, and sought solutions that would allow PA IPL to be nimble, but also as functionally transparent as good management requires, despite the challenge that we are a statewide organization and could not possibly build in sufficient oversight for financial records housed in just one place.

Similarly, he singlehandedly moved us from a rag-tag startup’s antiquated website to WordPress, building in sufficient backup and more robust technical assistance.

Most importantly, though, there was never a time in John’s service when he was not thinking deeply about our mission, and, in his example, challenging members of the board, staff, and volunteer leaders to lean into the hard parts, to find ways to develop and shape our voice, to speak and act as people truly rooted in faith, responding to the challenge to care for the Earth and the fullness thereof, the Earth and all who live therein. (Psalm 24)

John died at home, with family, in the darkest hours of the morning on Friday, March 9, 2018.  We miss him.

It is with gratitude for the gifts John cultivated and shared, with sadness that he no longer inhabits our Common Home, and with recognition that his leadership lives on in the hearts of so many at PA IPL and far, far beyond that we share his obituary, along with some links to his work and writing.  The obituary appears last.

John read and reflected on Laudato Si: On Care for our Common Home deeply, and led a 6-session ecumenical study of the text.  Read his reflections.
Reading Laudato Si
Chapter 1: Our Common Home
Chapter 2: The Gospel of Creation
Chapter 3: The Human Roots of the Ecological Crisis
Chapter 4: Integral Ecology
Chapter 5: “Escaping the Spiral”
Chapter 6: “It is we who need to change

John’s TEDxPSU talk debuted in 2015 and as he was developing the Math for Sustainability course, that led to the book which will be published in May 2018 (links below in the obituary for the book and website)

More about John’s life from John himself.
This obituary was published in Centre Daily Times on Mar. 17, 2018.  The link will take you to the page, where there is an online guest book.

John Roe October 6, 1959 March 9, 2018 John Roe — teacher, mathematician, rock climber, theologian, activist, and follower of Jesus — has departed from family and friends as well as the pain of cancer and has begun “a more focused time of peace and joy” with his Lord.

John was born and raised in England and was fascinated by mathematics from an early age. As a teenager he received a classical education at Rugby School, where he discovered his gift of expository teaching and experienced one of the big surprises of his life by becoming a Christian. At the University of Cambridge, John earned degrees in mathematics and played guitar in a Christian rock band. His doctoral research was conducted under Professor Sir Michael Atiyah at the University of Oxford, where he remained for a post-doctoral fellowship. As a visiting researcher in Berkeley, Calif., John met Liane Stevens, whom he married in December 1986. John taught mathematics at Jesus College, Oxford until 1998, when the family, now including two children, made a major move to the United States.

At The Pennsylvania State University, John was a professor of mathematics for 20 years, serving as Department Head for five years. John’s deep faith and study of Scripture motivated him to follow the example of Jesus by promoting equitable treatment of those without privilege and by welcoming marginalized individuals, including his younger child, who identified as transgender. His passion for the outdoors and rock climbing inspired his advocacy for the environment and sustainability, and he became a U.S. citizen in order to vote in the 2016 election.

John reflected with honesty and grace about his cancer journey, which began with diagnosis and extensive treatment at the age of 54. Links to John’s blogs about faith and sustainability, math, rock climbing, cancer, and transgender individuals can be found on his website.

John was an author of over 50 academic publications, including several books. His most recent and cherished project was the undergraduate textbook Mathematics for Sustainability, to be published by Springer in May 2018 [book website; review at the American Mathematical Society

John was devoted to his family: Liane, his wife of 31 years; his older child Nathan; his mother Judy Roe; his brother and sister-in-law Tim and Lindi Roe; and members of his extended family. He was preceded in death by his beloved younger child Eli (Miriam) Roe and his father Michael Roe. A memorial service will be held on Sunday April 8, 2018, at 3:00 p.m. at State College Presbyterian Church (132 West Beaver Avenue, State College). Donations in John’s memory can be made to MAP International, providing global health care to people in need; The Reformation Project, promoting inclusion of LGBTQ people in the church, and Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light, responding to climate change as an ethical and moral issue.

We know which way the wind blows. Testimony on air quality

Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline
Air Quality Permit Application
statement to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
by William A Lochstet, Ph.D.
Board Member, Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light

Bill was Speaker 31 at the DEP hearing in Lancaster on August 14, 2017, and was quoted in Lancaster Online’s article about the hearing.

The Transcontinental Gas Pipeline Company (Transco) is expecting to release 105.4 to 133.5 tons of NOx during the construction of the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline in Lancaster County. Since this is a non-attainment area for the ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), such emissions would exacerbate already excessive ozone concentrations. As a person of faith, I find that many traditions proclaim some form of the rule that we should all do unto others as we would like to be treated. And so, Transco is proposing to offset the impact of these emissions by transferring 106 tons of NOx Emission Reduction Credits (ERC) from Harford County MD.

Because of activity in Harford County, the air contains less NOx, and when it comes here, it can cancel the ozone creating effect of the emissions from the pipeline construction activity. This cleaner air is carried by the wind, whose average directions can be determined by a wind rose from Millersville University for Harrisburg International Airport (attached)[1]. This diagram divides the circle into 16 segments with 3 segments from the more or less proper southwest directions to bring air from Harford County to Lancaster County. Each of these segments represents about a 3% probability, so that we could expect the clean air to arrive about 9 or 10% of the time. Thus we would expect that of the 106 tons of ERC that only 11 tons would arrive in Lancaster County.

Another approach would be to examine the data in the Atlantic Sunrise Plan Approval Application[2]. Environmental Resources Management found 60 days for which the ozone concentrations at the Lancaster monitor exceeded NAAQS. They were able to identify 14 days for which the air quality at the Lancaster monitor was affected by air parcels that passed through the Baltimore area. Then the probability of air moving from Harford County to Lancaster County is 14/60, or 23%, so that we would expect 23% of 106 tons, or 25 tons of ERC to reach Lancaster County.

These calculations predict that Lancaster County will benefit from an offset of eleven (11) to twenty five (25) tons of the ECRs which would   not offset 105 tons of NOx. It does not meet the rule of “Do unto others as we would like to be treated.” A statement in the Air Quality Technical Report[3] is:

Transco’s approach to use ERCs to offset the complete, conservatively estimated                   amount of NOx emissions from Lancaster County will present a net benefit to air quality environment in the local area.

This statement cannot be true. Furthermore, the Code of Federal Regulations requires that the offset have the result “that there is no net increase in emissions of that pollutant.”[4] This requirement is not met. Thus this Air Quality Plan cannot be approved.

[1]. Available at:
[2]. Available at:
Appendix E; Memorandum from Mark Garrison, ERM, 6 December 2016.
[3]. Available at
Attachment C; Atlantic Sunrise Air Quality Technical Report, P. 9, bottom of page
[4]. At 40 CFR § 93.158(a)(2), and also 40 CFR § 93.158(b)(2)


johnbechtelFor new readers, we are one of 40 state chapters of Interfaith Power & Light (IPL).  While we have four related purposes, for me our primary mission is to mobilize all people of faith who feel an urgent moral duty to reverse the trend of climate change.

PA IPL is a fledgling. Born in 2010, we were under the wing of a “parent” until August 2013, when stand-alone non-profit status was secured from the IRS.  Our membership, budget, and staff are still small — small enough that your donation, participation, and membership matter.

We aim to grow tall and run fast, before we all run out of climate time.

My involvement began in 2012 as a member of the Finance Committee. Now I’m a newbie on the Board. In that capacity, I am sort of the self-anointed point guy to expand and diversify our presence in my region of our state.

I have lived in south central PA since 1974.  I know only too well that the topic of climate justice is still a hot potato in most church settings around here.  Yet at the same time, I sense that in our churches today a growing body of younger members want to break the silence on the subject, but are at a loss on how to do so in a spirit of shalom.  That’s the dilemma and the demographic I’ve been thinking about a great deal lately.

Soon I hope to introduce PA IPL’s cause to a “green justice” leadership group, at the Conference level of a leading denomination of our region.  These faith leaders in turn will know the best way to interpret PA IPL to their churches and recruit the “climate justice converts” of those churches to lend their voices and hands to our work.  So far, so good; we are knocking on the door.

But what happens when the door swings open?  What will PA IPL offer to this faith group?  What value can we add to their good work so far?  What might they accomplish, in mutual ministry with us, which could not be done without us?

The scope of the answer may surprise you, but here’s how I see it: PA IPL offers all of us the unique chance to get in on the ground floor in the making of a moral movement.

Movements rise on four wings:

1. Steeplechasers, not Sprinters
It took King, Abernathy, and Rosa Parks 11 years (1954–1965) to end legal segregation. Gandhi, Nehru and Patel needed 17 years (1930 -1947) from the salt march to the end of the British Raj. We at PA IPL are here for the long haul. We know that God may be slow, but is never late.

2. Youth, not Age
Rosa Parks was 31 in 1954. King was only 25. Nehru was 41 in 1930. Gandhi and Patel were older, but you see the point: we need Barb Donninis and Cricket Hunters more than John Bechtels in order to make the movement grow.

3. The Faithful, not the Faint-hearted
Mother Teresa was once challenged in a friendly way by a U.S. Senator, who asked how her good work could possibly make a difference in a place like India, where the needs are so great. She replied, “Well, Senator, we’re not always called to be successful, but we’re always called to be faithful”. I doubt Rosa Parks had success in mind when she took a seat in the front of that bus in 1954.

4. Pacemakers as well as Peacemakers
You may have to sit down in the front of the bus. You may have to stand up and march to the sea. You may have to divest certain stocks from your portfolio, as the United Church of Christ church body has formally called upon its members to do. You may have to take a public stand, in a visible action in Philadelphia  during Holy Week and Passover, as a  group of PA IPL leaders feel called to do.

Building a movement calls first for architects, then for artisans. The founders of PA IPL put us on our feet in record time.  Now it’s time to march.  Gandhi and Nehru got “Swaraj” going in the 1930s; but Patel’s the one who got it running.  We are now at that next stage.

One “Patel” who is worth all of the Darjeeling tea of India is the Rev. Dr. William Barber, the heart of the “Moral Monday” Movement in North Carolina. Here is what Rev. Barber recently had to say about the staying power of movements (and why Barb Donnini and Cricket Hunter roar):

“Every movement in America that has made a significant impact has had a deep moral framework. The fight against slavery had a moral center. The fight for labor right had a deep moral center. In the fight for women’s suffrage, one of its leaders, Sojourner Truth, emphasized herself to be in God when she said in her famous speech “Ain’t I a Woman?”: “Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with him.” All these movements drew on the interconnected tenets of faith, righteousness and justice. “

We do not strive for climate justice because it’s the smart, profitable or popular thing to do. We strive for climate justice here in Pennsylvania, as Rev. Barber strives for social justice down in North Carolina, because it’s the right, the moral, the holy thing to do. We feel a moral and holy duty to be here, and we aim to stay here, until the good work is done.