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.

PA IPL in the papers!

From the June 17, 2012 Williamsport Sun-Gazette: 
Like many people, I struggle to reconcile the idealism of my moral beliefs and the practical demands of daily life. While I grew up in Montoursville, I’ve spent the last two years studying theology in Claremont, California. In order to apply this education at the practical level, I’ve returned home to serve as an AmeriCorps member with Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light (PA IPL), a religious response to climate change.

With two other members of PA IPL, I recently took a four-day bicycle trip from State College to Washington, D.C. Throughout, I often found myself lingering behind my friends, at times overwhelmed by the beauty (and mystery) of my native state. I’ve been familiar with these kinds of scenes all my life, but I’m used to racing past them in a car. At a meager 10 miles per hour, though, the glory of Pennsylvania’s forests and mountains is unavoidable.

During one of these reflective moments, I asked myself: How many people in this world feel this sort of connection to their homes, their surroundings? How many are fortunate enough to witness what is given to us? Of course, this is a loaded question. We know that the world’s climate is undergoing dramatic changes. With our millions of vehicles and our coal-fired power plants, Pennsylvanians are responsible for one percent of the world’s total carbon dioxide emissions (more than 101 countries combined). We cannot deny that our daily actions have a detrimental influence on the lives of others throughout the world, including both present and future generations.

While the scientific community attests to the certainty of this information, they don’t tell us how we should react to these claims. Science only gives us information. Religion, on the other hand, teaches us that we have a duty to those whom are touched by our actions. This sentiment is expressed in the following two commandments: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself'” (Matthew 22:37-40). We should notice that loving our neighbors is similar to loving God. In a global economy, though, we must admit that our neighbors are spread throughout the world.

I understand that some may see these religious values as hopeless idealism. From a practical perspective, I recognize that, taken seriously, religious duties of caring for our neighbors may require limitations on industry. For me, this hits home. During recent visits with my family, I’ve witnessed the thriving economy of the Williamsport area due to investments by the natural gas industry. My friends and family have benefited a great deal, whether through employment, gas leases, or increased business activity.

While I offer thanks for the success of my friends and family, I also want to work for a future in which Pennsylvanians (including my nieces and nephews) will enjoy an economy that can thrive beyond the lifespan of non-renewable resources. A Pennsylvania with jobs and clean air, with economic success in the present and the possibility of the same in the future. The two do not have to be mutually exclusive.

This is not to ignore the fact that difficult choices have to be made. The transition from an economy based on non-renewable resources (whether coal or natural gas) to one based on sustainable resources would require sacrifice. The mere thought of such a transition can be daunting, even overwhelming. However, we can meet this challenge with incremental changes in the way we produce and consume energy. The EPA’s new rules to limit carbon pollution from any new power plant are a good example of this kind of change. We can also make immediate and simple changes in our daily lives: Drive less, use compact fluorescent light bulbs, turn off the air conditioner.

From a practical perspective, these changes are an important step in the right direction, but ultimately I look at this problem from a religious point of view. From this perspective, I recognize that what I have called a “sacrifice” is, in fact, a religious duty. According to this duty, our goal must be to ensure the best possible future for our neighbors and future generations.

Klotz is a Montoursville High School graduate who has returned to the area and works as an AmeriCorps member for Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light.

Help Reduce Industrial Carbon Pollution
Published on Patch on June 14, 2012 
 On Tuesday, June 19th, a hearing will be held in the Philadelphia City Council Chambers from 5-8 pm, regarding a proposed EPA rule that, if allowed to be implemented, could save jobs, lives, and avoid painful, long-term debilitating breathing issues for millions of people in our state and across the nation.

This rule would do one simple thing. It would establish a standard for new (only plants built after the rule goes into effect – “fair play”) power plants for their industrial carbon emissions. Many of the other pollutants emitted by power plants have long been regulated but carbon pollution has not.

In Delaware and Montgomery Counties over 300,000 people are at higher risk of developing asthma for a variety of environmental reasons.

Fossil-fuel burning power plants currently emit more than two billion tons of carbon pollution and other toxic pollutants into the air each year. This pollution fuels global warming and increases the number of unhealthy air days, resulting in more respiratory ailments, heart attacks, heat-related deaths, and other harmful health effects. Power plants are the largest source of global warming pollution in the country, and there are currently no limits on the amount of greenhouse gases like the industrial carbon they can emit.

As a member of the clergy, someone at risk for asthma, someone with a wife and friends who suffer with asthma, and someone who, along with you, will face the need to adapt to increasing climate change, I urge you to:

— Take part in the hearing in the Philadelphia City Council Chambers from 5 to 8 next Tuesday

— go to http://bit.ly/epa_carbonrule and send a comment directly to Lisa Jackson at the EPA

Your voice is needed now to support the proposed protections and to counter big polluters who are spending millions to get Congress to block the EPA’s action.

Thanks, Rev. Douglas B. Hunt
Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light  – http://paipl.org

From the Centre Daily Times on June 2, 2012
(Here is what it looked like in the physical paper, pictures and all.)
We were nervous about our first meeting with a congressional staffer. Why should they listen to regular folks like us?

But Sarah Wolf was welcoming, and we had a good conversation about climate change, energy efficiency and the EPA.

As we were saying goodbye she asked, “Aren’t you the people who rode your bicycles down here from Pennsylvania?”

Yes, we said. Three of us had ridden our bikes more than 200 miles in four days. Along the way we spoke at colleges and churches, and we stayed overnight in homes and community centers.
In the jaded world of Washington, that action — and the conviction that drove us to do it — impressed Rep. Thomas Marino’s staffer more than anything we had to say.

This is why our organization, Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light, believes that people of faith must take the lead in responding to the threat of climate change.

Throughout our four-day bike trip, we often found ourselves lingering, at times overwhelmed by the beauty (and mystery) of the Tussey Ridge, Shade Gap and Wolfsburg Mountain. Of course, we’ve seen these kinds of scenes all our lives, but usually when racing past them in a car. At a meager 10 miles per hour, though, the glory of Pennsylvania’s forests and mountains is undeniable.

People everywhere feel similarly about their homes and their surroundings. We are creatures of the land, bound intimately to the fate of our environment. Yet we know that the Earth’s climate is undergoing dramatic changes, that our daily actions have a detrimental influence on the lives of others throughout the world.

Scientific experts attest to the certainty of this information. They tell us that Pennsylvanians, for example, are responsible for 1 percent of the world’s total carbon dioxide emissions (more than 101 countries combined). But science cannot tell us how we should react to these claims.

Religion, on the other hand, teaches us to look beyond our self-centered actions, to see the broader implications of our acts and to sacrifice present pleasure for future gain.

In ancient Judaism, the people took sacrifices from the harvest to the Temple. Christianity sees Jesus’ actions as the ultimate sacrifice to redeem the whole creation. When Muslims fast during Ramadan, they sacrifice daily food and drink to focus on ultimate dependence upon God.

Transitioning away from our current wasteful practices, getting out of our cars and onto our bikes for example, is a kind of sacrifice. It is a sacred act that transforms daily actions into a means of ensuring the best possible future for our neighbors and for future generations.

At PA IPL our primary task is to help congregations and individuals see energy efficiency and the purchase of alternative energy as sacred acts. We know sacrifices now — doing without air conditioning, driving less, biking more — can help stave off the worst effects of a warming world.
These individual actions are important, but as we said to our congressional representatives, we need our government to make changes, too.

Legislation in Congress right now can lead the way in making government buildings more energy efficient, and new rules from the EPA can ensure that future power plants are held to high standards in reducing dangerous carbon pollution.

Climate change is a civilization-challenging crisis; scientists have been warning us for decades. It is time to follow what our faiths have taught us: a little sacrifice now can mean a better future for everyone.

Kris Klotz is an Americorps volunteer and Jonathan Brockopp is a board member of Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light. Both are from State College and can be reached at info@paipl.org.

Read more here: http://www.centredaily.com/2012/06/02/3215535/peddling-climate-concerns-in-washington.html#storylink=cpy

Cycling days 5&6

I’m writing this now from home in State College – hard to believe this adventure is over, it was such a whirlwind. We are so grateful to those of you who helped make it possible – we felt buoyed by your good thoughts and prayers and gratified by your continued outpouring of donations: we beat our goal of $3,000 for PA Interfaith Power and Light! That means 6,000 dollars, thanks to our matching grant from IPL national.

Our last day on the road was very pleasant – Joyce made a cyclist’s dream breakfast of eggs Benedict and asparagus, and we looked over maps while planning our final 35 miles into Washington. Just as we prepared to leave for our lunch meeting in Poolesville, though, Peter discovered his tire was flat again. Taking the tire apart he found, much to the surprise of his thumb, a small wire sticking through the tire. Good thing he has nine other fingers to play piano for Bernadette Peters tonight …

We had a great lunch meeting with representatives from local Presbyterian, Lutheran and Reform Jewish congregations, and afterwards, Peter quickly dashed over to the Presbyterian Church to have a look at their buildings. We are going to miss Peter and his readiness to share his knowledge and expertise so freely with others, but our loss is Maine’s gain.

The day turned quite warm (an amazing contrast to the freezing weather we had only a few days earlier), and we rode through some beautiful country on our last leg to Washington. The concentration of wealth was palpable, however, and the comparison with the poverty of Central PA couldn’t be more striking. As the roads got busier and traffic more annoying, we hit the old C&O; canal towpath once again for our ride in to DC. The going was slow, but seeing the Potomac river and the old canal locks was pretty cool.

We rounded one bend and could see the Washington monument, then a little farther on we glimpsed the Lincoln Center and passed the Watergate hotel. Soon we were riding up Independence Avenue and knew we had really arrived! We stopped briefly at the King memorial and then rode by the Smithsonian, around the Capitol building and to Reformation Lutheran Church, where Pastor Mike Wilker was waiting for us with cold water and a warm embrace. We didn’t stay for long, however, as we needed to connect up with Cricket (PA IPL executive director) who had our “meeting clothes” for us and our marching orders for the next day. Cricket was attending the Interfaith Power and Light national conference at Gallaudet University, and as people got wind of our arrival, they came out to greet us (see a short video clip linked from the national IPL Facebook page). Finally, Rev. Canon Sally Bingham, founder of IPL, came out and gave us a real hero’s welcome, beckoning us to bring our bikes right into the conference center where about 100 IPL folks gave us a standing ovation!

Peter and I stayed that night with Mavis and Rev. Phil Anderson, members of Reformation Lutheran and wise in all things political, who helped prepare us for our visit to Capitol Hill on Wednesday. We then joined Cricket and Rev. Cheryl Pyrch (board member of PA IPL) and split into two teams to cover as many offices as possible. Because Congress was in recess we didn’t meet any actual members, but we were able to talk at length with staffers in (so I am told) a much less hectic environment. Many of our meetings lasted 30 minutes or more as we urged them to support specific bills on energy efficiency (the U.S. government is a huge landlord – let’s start by making these buildings energy efficient: good for the budget, good for the environment!) and support new EPA Clean Air rules. We spoke to Republicans and Democrats, seeking common ground and trying to break the deadlock in DC.

Thanks to Cricket’s great work, all of them had heard about our bike trip and asked us about it. One staffer said to Peter: “we get a lot of people talking to us about the environment, but they fly their planes here to do it – you rode your bike in.” I think we really made an impression as we spoke passionately about the many people in Pennsylvania choosing between food and fuel, and about the people everywhere already suffering the effects of climate change.

After a long day, we tied our bikes to the rack of the car that Cricket drove down, piled in and headed for home (watching all those hills whiz by with amazing speed). We have a lot of experiences to process, many things to think through and much work ahead of us. Without doubt it was a successful, transformative experience and one that I hope we can repeat year after year. Thanks for being a part of it!

Jon, Kris and Peter

Cycling trip, day 4

Well, our longest day is behind us and we are waking up to find ourselves a mere 30 miles from our nation’s capital. Most of these days we have been on a 50 mile per day pace but yesterday we pushed the envelope a bit by riding 70 miles so that we could enjoy the wonderful hospitality of  Joyce Breiner (who is the executive director of Poolesville Green and a member of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Gaithersburg) her husband Dave Yaney and their son Alex. Kris and I can’t seem to pull Jon from his bottle of Advil long enough to update the blog so I’ll be the guest-blogger in this update of our trip (only kidding about Jon’s Advil… in fact, it’s much stronger stuff I can’t mention here for legal reasons).

Yesterday morning, we left the home of Pastor Dennis and Linda Beaver in Fayetteville, PA for a 12 mile morning ride to breakfast at the home of the Hersch family of Waynesboro Heights, PA who are members of Pastor Dennis’ church. They were very generous hosts and we were very thankful for their wonderful food and great stories. Jon, Kris and I were hoping they might adopt us so that we could enjoy more of their company and avoid the long journey ahead of us.
Once on our bikes we made our way over the Maryland border and discovered the lovely farm country and rolling hills of northern Maryland. The day was overcast and we had read that there was a chance of showers but in fact we avoided any rain and the temperature was cool and comfortable for the long ride.

There were a number of possible routes that we could choose to make our way to Poolesville. Originally we were following the suggestions provided by googlemaps which now has a handy bike option. Jon also had suggestions emailed to him by his high school buddy named Bill who is an avid bicycle enthusiast in the DC area. We opted to split the difference and start with the former and switch to Bill’s directions as we moved closer to our destination. As we started to encounter more frequent and increasingly larger hills Kris and I became skeptical of Bill’s motives.  On some of the worst hills, Kris and I began to wonder just what harm Jon had done to his friend Bill to deserve this level of punishment.

Our late breakfast kept us energized until we were finally ready for a lunch break at 2:30 in the village of Middletown. We opted for the Main Street Café in Middletown which we all thoroughly enjoyed and recommend to anyone who happens to be travelling through those parts. After our meals… and desserts… and coffee, we asked the staff the best way to Poolesville and made our way south.

That afternoon’s ride took us through more beautiful countryside on back roads until we found an entrance to the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal trail at Point of Rocks, MD. The C and O was a great break from the traffic of roadside touring and led us within 6 miles of our final destination in Poolesville.

Joyce and Dave have been wonderful hosts to us; holding dinner until our 8 pm arrival, providing a much needed shower, entertaining us with their wonderful stories and treating us to the best sleep of our trip so far. This morning we are enjoying another hearty breakfast and relaxing before we give a noontime talk at an interfaith gathering Joyce has arranged. After that, we have a mere 30 miles to Washington DC. With the end of our journey just around the corner, it’s hard to believe that we’re almost there.

Cycling trip, Day 3

Organizing a bike trip like this at the end of a semester is a bit of a stressor – it would be easier if I were on my own, but being responsible for two others and for making various arrangements has been tough. Don’t get me wrong – Peter and Kris are great companions, and so many friends and relatives have sent in good thoughts and prayers and donations that it has been overwhelming, but it really is a lot of work.
In fact, I had not realized the burden I was carrying until I let it go – this morning right in church. Toward the end of the service, Pastor Ed called for people to come forward to receive healing prayer. One member did, and folks surrounded her, putting their hands on her shoulders while the pastor anointed her forehead and prayed over her. It was a touching scene of support, and then he turned to us and asked us to come down to the front of the church.
And so the three of us did – stood in front of the pastor while all these people, perfect strangers, placed their hands on us while pastor prayed: for a safe journey, for our message of caring for God’s creation to be successful, for us to light up the hearts and souls of people we would meet along the way. I wept and embraced these complete strangers who were now to me like members of my own family.
The Methodist church of Orbisonia is a small church in a small town, like so many throughout Pennsylvania and the country. People are struggling, skeptical of outsiders and of politicians. Yet they are reaching out. They have acquired the old High School gym and converted part of it into an outreach center – they’re looking for $400,000 to complete the job.  It’s a beautiful dream, and I hope in a small way that PA IPL can help. Already Peter, in his matter-of-fact engineer way, has identified several ways that they can save hundreds of dollars a year in electrical costs (and carbon).  Just taking out the air conditioners during the winter, for example, would save a tremendous amount.
We arrived there as strangers and left as more than friends – that is what this trip is all about. Of course, the weather agreed, turning sunny and warm. Our ride out of Orbisonia was breathtakingly beautiful – through Shade Gap and Cowan’s Gap. Easy grades and gorgeous scenery – nothing better. We ate our lunch under the maple trees of Mountain View elementary school, even took a nap midday.  Somehow, though, the first 25 miles seemed so much easier than the second 25 miles. By 4, we were hallucinating about ice cream and finding the uphills so much longer than the downhills.
Peter and I were sure that Kris was underestimating the mileage…  But his directions held true and we finally arrived at the beautiful home of our hosts, Rev. Dennis and Linda Beaver, to a warm welcome, a hot shower and a cold beer!
Pastor Dennis is at the Evangelical Lutheran church in Waynesboro, but lives north of town. We’ll see the church tomorrow and visit with some members over breakfast. Already, we have shared many stories and many laughs – made all the more pleasant by Linda’s excellent lasagna. I feel full, well-fed, both physically and spiritually. I went on this trip to help others, but find that I’m the one who is being given so very much.
I wish for all of you a goodly measure of the grace that has surrounded us during this trip.
Jon (Kris and Peter)