June 2018 newsletter: Stay cool, and be of service

Dear Friends,

There’s hidden sweetness in the stomach’s emptiness.

We are lutes, no more, no less.

If the soundboxes stuffed full of anything, no music.
If the brain and belly are burning clean with fasting,
every moment a new song comes out of the fire.
                     —Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks

Ramadan Mubarak to our Muslim friends and members!  

With the solstice approaching, we are dedicating this newsletter to heat — we hope you will learn about extreme heat, keep cool (using as little energy as you can), and be part of community heat solutions.  Heat can be deadly, and community action really can save lives. We’ve also included some fun DIY challenges—solar ovens and low-cost coolers. Open your calendar to be ready for a few dates and announcements at the end.

Extreme heat may not seem dramatic, but it kills more people per year on average than hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, earthquakes, and floods combined. People who are young, or elderly, or ill are particularly vulnerable because their bodies are less able to maintain a consistent temperature.  

In cities and near industrial sites (including fracking operations) heat exacerbates lung problems by energizing certain types of pollution to form ground level ozone,, which  can cause permanent lung damage.  Outdoor workers and athletes are particularly vulnerable because they do physical work in full heat, and often in direct sun with little relief. Emergency responders are vulnerable to an uptick in distress calls. Firefighters are exposed to additional heat and must wear full, insulating safety gear.

Urban heat islands, night heat, and humidity (wet bulb temperature) all intensify the health impacts of heat.  Heat impacts do not land evenly, and community cooling centers can be as important for reducing summer isolation as they are for cooling off.  Human connection, heat plans, and check-in calls save lives.  

ACTIONS to take with your faith community or municipality (or both)

  • Prepare for heat waves by planning local multi-generational cooling centers or cooling parties.  Think about how to get the word out, and how to get people there so they’re not isolated.
  • Create a plan for hot-day check-in calls.
  • Talk about heat and workers in your local interfaith council.
  • Alison’s congregation on Long Island bought (and filled) collapsible, re-usable water bottles for day laborers.  Is there a place where outdoor workers and people without consistent shelter gather near you?  Could your faith community could show up with large cooler/dispensers full of cold water to refill bottles?   (bleach wipes keep dispensers clean even when people are doing dirty work)
  • Could you assemble something like this useful page from the Energy Coordinating Agency in Philadelphia for your neck of Penns Woods?
  • What could you do to reduce heat islands in your city?  Start now for 2019.
  • Check out the CDC’s guidebook on heat.  Pages 16-17 Being Prepared Before the Heat and page 18 Resources for Developing Extreme Heat Programs are terrific resources.
  • Air conditioners work by pumping heat out of an enclosed space, into the public space and they require a great deal of energy to do so, taxing the electric grid.  If the power goes out, everyone suffers.  Use air conditioners to stay safe and healthy but use only what you need.  Try fans, community cooling (movies, libraries, houses of worship), use your curtains, and change your cooking habits. Teach friends to do the same.  Can you share a stay-cool tip a week in your faith community bulletin or newsletter? Try hot-night recipes, ways to get the best air circulation of cool-night air, and maybe some of the DIY below.

Summer DIY

Dates of note

  • Tuesday, June 12 —allies including the Pennsylvania Council of Churches are supporting a lobby day at the Capitol in Harrisburg for 100% renewable energy.  If you can’t make it to Harrisburg, call your PA Senator and your PA Representative.  PA IPL’s one-pager on the policy.  The proposal is bipartisan in both PA House and PA Senate.  We suggest asking your legislators to find a friend with whom they can work across the aisle and sign on together. (Announced previously on our Policy Update calls, below)
  • Thursday, June 28 and Thursday, July 26 are 4th Thursdays, and would normally be our Sustained Advocacy Policy Udate Calls. We will have emailed summaries only in June and July. Calls resume in August 12:30-1:30. Get on the list to get both summaries and call reminders.
  • Tuesday, July 10 – we are seeking nominations for our annual visionary award.  Nominations are due July 10.
  • Saturday afternoon, October 27 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Mt. Lebanon (South Hills of Pittsburgh): PA IPL’s 2018 Annual Conference.  Mark your calendars now, and watch for more information very soon!  PA IPL is committed to multi-faith accessibility. Our most recent big event in Pittsburgh was on a Sunday afternoon.  The conference team will identify nearby opportunities for Saturday morning services for potential Jewish attendees, and is committed to holding next year’s conference on a Sunday.

Why do they give?
The Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields joined PA IPL four years ago, after naming climate change as a key social justice issue for the parish. Our Climate Action Team has benefited from PA IPL’s support, vision and resources as it seeks to make action on climate change and its interconnected issues part of parish life.  With PA IPL’s guidance and support we have been able to offer effective opportunities for education, advocacy, collaboration and personal transformation at the parish and in the community. Currently the parish is providing financial support to PA IPL for an effort to create a tool kit for developing similar congregation-based teams to design their own responses to climate change.

Consider supporting PA IPL’s work and mission with a financial donation from your faith community…and by sharing your stories with us.  Note: PA IPL has received a matching challenge that will match institutional donations of $250 or more — and automatic recurring donations from institutions or individuals — dollar for dollar.

Heat

O wind,
rend open the heat
cut apart the heat,
rend it to tatters.

Fruit cannot drop
through this thick air—
fruit cannot fall into heat
that presses up and blunts
the points of pears
and rounds the grapes.

Cut the heat—
plough through it,
turning it on either side
of your path.
                 —H.D. (Hilda Doolittle)

May your days be filled with the awe and wonder of a child discovering fireflies.

Invite everyone, but don’t wait.

Check back here for a one-a-day series of actions and solutions from now until 12/11.

Lots of times, people talk to us about feeling stuck in their institutions.  Here is the advice I always give: invite everyone, but don’t wait for everyone.  It’s remarkably simple, but remarkably powerful, too.  Some people are just worried about changing the place that they look to as a steady, stable presence.  Once they get a look at some of the changes, they don’t feel so scary.

Today and tomorrow we’ll share solutions stories about ways to start when there isn’t enthusiastic consensus.  Today’s story below (I’ll try to grab some photos of the cup cart on Sunday.. I thought I had some already!):

1: Don’t mess with my coffee hour!

1527133_10153692416215105_1314606005_nI go to a large church.  Four-services-a-Sunday large.  When we feed people and give people drinks, and even when we give them bulletins to read, we use a lot of stuff.  A few years ago, the Green Team wanted to move us away from styrofoam (yay, Green Team!).  They didn’t really want to deal with a Policy Decision because that felt too much like a Federal Case, and it might wear people out too much to get other things done, like Weatherization First projects.

Honestly, they felt a little stuck.  Then they had an idea.  What if there was a choice?  That might work for Sunday Coffee Hour, but how about all those meetings all over the church all week long?  What about the smaller coffee hour in the commons area off the Narthex after the earliest service?  The superstar sexton came back with the ansswer.  He recycled two cabinets that were pulled out of the kitchen when it was renovated.  He took the doors off and the drawers out.  He added some crossbars on the top, and added cup hooks.  He added industrial wheels.  He added towel-bar handles.  He added cushy non-skid shelf paper.  He added a small laminated sign that said “dirty cups” to the bottom shelf, which was big enough to hold an institutional-sized dish bin.

The Green Team put out a request for mugs.  They filled the mug carts and stationed them by the coffee.  They left the styrofoam, but pushed the stack back next to the urns, instead of in front, so the mugs would be the first thing folks would see.  Know what?  People don’t actually like drinking out of styrofoam. It’s still there, but it’s almost never used.   People are curious and sometimes amused about the origin of the mugs.  They’re sometimes conversation starters.  Personally, I like the mug that says if my dog thinks I’m the best person in the world, I shouldn’t get a second opinion.

Here’s the other thing that made it work, and it made the Super Wednesday supper switch to china work, too: no one expected the existing kitchen crew to do the dishes.  The Green Team volunteered —and got new volunteers.  The dish crew is one of the places that youth work alongside adults, and get to do real, valued volunteer work that helps the church run.  It has even lightened the (still enormous) load of the kitchen crew a tiny bit, since the dishwashers help with pots and wash the serving pans, too.

Helpful hint: a paste made of baking soda and a little water (or a wet sponge) gets coffee and tea stains off fast.  We like to spread out a big tarp and bring in a group of elementary and middle school youth and give the mugs a good cleaning once or twice a year.  The kids play music, and we buy them pizza and do some extra kitchen cleaning.  It’s time to schedule a mug night now!