Climate orphans – urgency, action, innovation, and our human community.

Spiritual activist and teacher Eileen Flanagan recently posted an important article and video from Ncholas Kristof, but she had an important prologue — based on her own experience living and working and talking with friends in Africa.  She’s given us permission to repost here.  Check out her upcoming web course!  

EileenFlanagan.jpgI always hesitate to post images that reinforce stereotypes about Africa. The truth is that African farmers have been leading the way in climate adaptation for decades, changing the way they plant crops to adapt to less rainfall, while western politicians debate whether climate change is real and human-made. [Lesotho, Nile, keyhole how-to] Last year at the Paris Climate Summit, I spoke to Africans who are both savvy about world politics–and the injustice of larger economies dragging their feet– while also courageously pushing for bolder action on renewables within their own countries. So this video represents only one African reality, but it is an important and tragic one. It’s also the reality that made me take up climate justice as a calling, especially being the descendent of famine survivors myself. This is why we can’t just wait four years or rely on phone calls to our fossil-fuel-funded politicians. We need courageous action here! The good news is that moving to solar here could also create jobs in the US neighborhoods that need them most, so it’s good for justice all the way around. It’s clear the Federal government is not going to solve this for us. It’s up to us.

The article and video from NIcholas Kristof are at the New York Times.

Other friends have posted and shared this as well.  Over at Beloved Planet [a specifically Christian faith-and-climate blog], the post on this article includes these two paragraphs:

“So, meet two little boys, Fokandraza and Foriavi, among the millions now dubbed “climate orphans” – their parents having left long ago to find work and money in desperate hopes of feeding the family. They live with their aunt, who can’t afford to feed her own children, let alone Fokandraza and Foriavi.

…Remember their names: Fokandraza and Foriavi. We will certainly hear them again, when the Son of Man comes again in his glory. “What you did for Fokandraza and Foriavi, you did for me. And what you did not do for them, you did not do for me.” (Adapted from Matthew 25: 31-46)”


ARTICLE Faith in Action: Opposition to Fracking —and other new fossil fuel infrastructure— Is a Moral Imperative

Rabbi Malkah Binah Klein and the Rev. Cheryl Pyrch, co-chairs of Philadelphia PA IPL, wrote the guest editorial for the June 2016 GRID Philadelphia Magazine.   

“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”

Jeremiah 29:11 (Nevei’im) (Old Testament)

Cheryl.MalkahBinahA low-level but corrosive despair and cynicism pervades our common life. We see it across the political spectrum, from politicians and CEOs who deny climate change, to ordinary folks who acknowledge the science but who feel too overwhelmed to do more than change lightbulbs. This despair is understandable. Predictions of ecological collapse are frightening. Moving to a new energy future is daunting, and it seems to move further out of reach with each presidential campaign speech. It’s tempting to believe half-measures and incremental change will be enough.

It’s tempting to believe the claims that hydraulic fracturing—or fracking—offers us a “bridge fuel,” that industry estimates of methane leakage are correct, that taxes on fracking are the answer to the public school funding crisis. It’s tempting to believe that jobs and income from fracking will revive the rural economy, that water contamination is a minor problem that can be solved, that carbon sequestration or some new technological breakthrough will be the “answer” so we can continue with business as usual.

But these claims are false, as most readers of Grid know. The evidence becomes stronger by the day: Methane leakage makes natural gas nearly as dangerous as coal. Building new wells—and continued use of old ones—will lock us into a future of ecological and economic chaos where those who have contributed the least to climate change—the poor, the young and future generations— will suffer the most.

This injustice, along with the wanton destruction of plant and animal life, makes climate change a moral issue.

Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light (PA IPL) opposes fracking because we are people of faith and hope. We are individuals and communities of many faiths, drawing from the deep wellsprings of our traditions, inspired to work together for the sake of our collective future. We are strengthened by multiple ways of understanding hope: We may point to the divine light within, to the words of the biblical prophets, to the promises of Allah in the Quran, or to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

GRID Philly coverAs people strengthened by faith and hope, as people of many backgrounds who are learning to pray and work together, we believe that a clean energy economy is within reach. We believe that we can build a world where all people have enough to eat and clean air to breathe. We believe that we can live on this earth in a way that allows all creatures to thrive. We believe that we can make the transition in a way that is just, that provides jobs and guards the welfare of all people in the state of Pennsylvania. We believe in a future with hope, and we know that future cannot include fracking—or fossil fuels of any kind. We are therefore focusing our efforts on preventing new fossil fuel infrastructure, including—but not limited to—that for natural gas.

We are a founding organization of Green Justice Philly, a growing and diverse coalition committed to building a healthy, sustainable and economically just Philadelphia region that opposes the development of Philly as a fossil fuel hub. In our resolution, “Covenant with the Future,” we ask the commonwealth to halt the march toward new fossil fuel infrastructure.

We call for…[finish reading at Grid Philly]

Shrinking your foodprint part 2—habits

Check back here for a one-a-day series of actions and solutions from now until 12/11, while the international climate talks (COP 21) are going on in Paris.  Check out this piece from the World Council of Churches about food justice and climate change called COP 21: how climate change affects access to our daily bread

Today, in part 2 of Shrinking Your Foodprint: foodprint-shrinking, efficient habits… (what we eat is coming tomorrow, I promise!)  Want more inspiration?  Refer back to this post for videos where you can listen to smart people talk about food, faith and food justice.

  1. Put the lid on when you’re boiling water.
  2. Only boil as much water as you need.
  3. Cover or contain things in the fridge (moisture makes the compressor work harder, and your food will be less edible sooner, too)
  4. Store food that needs to be eaten in high-visibility places.
  5. Cook whenever possible!  You’ll create less landfill waste, and use fewer take-out containers.
  6. Think of the oven as the SUV of your kitchen.  Use it when it’s the right tool for the job, but don’t leave it running when there’s nothing in it, and try to use all the space when it’s on.  You can also heat once, cook twice to save a little warm-up time.  In the summer: avoid the oven, it’ll heat your house up.  Must use it?  At night, when you can open the windows!   In the winter, when you’re done cooking, leave the door open for a bit (if you can, safely) to let the heat into the house.
  7. Choose a strategy: EITHER make only what you will eat, OR purposely make extra and freeze portion-sizes, pack ready-to-go lunches, or share with a neighbor.   Do you make award winning chili?  If your neighbor has a different quantity-cook specialty, make double and swap — 2 meals for one prep!
  8. Buy things in less packaging.  When you have a choice of heavier or lighter versions of the same food (think canned beans v. bagged beans), or refrigerated or shelf-stable versions (think salad dressing) choose lighter (fewer emissions to transport) or stable (eliminate refrigeration.
  9. Pick a month (January?) and make that the month you clean the coils in the back of your fridge or the vent at the bottom, change any filters, and check for a good seal with no leaks on both fridge and freezer.
  10. There is need to run hot water in the sink to wash your hands —its the soap, water, and friction that get the job done.
  11. Clean-up: Be efficient with your hot water when you’re finished with your meal.  Scrape your plates.  If you’re handwashing use a basin or stop the sink rather than letting the water run. If you use a dishwasher, experiment to figure out if you can skip the rinse, and see if your model lets you air dry instead of heat-drying.

Mmmmm. Food. Shrinking your foodprint part 1

Check back here for a one-a-day series of actions and solutions from now until 12/11, while the international climate talks (COP 21) are going on in Paris.  Check out this piece from the World Council of Churches about food justice and climate change called COP 21: how climate change affects access to our daily bread

There are so many ways to shrink our “foodprints.”  Today, we’ll address the one part of the puzzle most people don’t associate with climate change: avoiding waste

Don’t waste.  Seriously.  Food waste is a huge problem.  Click on the graphic below for lots more info.  In 2013 alone, Americans threw out over 37 million tons—or 74 billion pounds—of food (source).  Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 4.27.35 PM

Improve together! There is so much generational wisdom to tap into here.  Think about interviewing all the folks in your congregation or community who lived through culturally lean times, and cooked most of their own food.  You’ll find people who know how to make amazing soup stock from not-so-edible remainders.  You’ll find people who know how to plan a series of menus that draw on part of the one before, making something different and new (so it doesn’t feel like leftovers) using some of the same ingredients, so that you can use everything up.  You’ll find people with amazing systems for freezing leftovers that will be the basis of another meal — and finding them when they’re needed.  You will even find people who know how to “put up” backyard garden overflow.    Add to that our much-easier modern access to varied spices and recipes, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a great potluck+PDF recipe or instruction book.

Here’s an excellent demonstration by a guy in England (who uses the Food 52 website based in NY as his resource).  I find that quesadillas or wraps, pizza, omelettes and salad can absorb many small-quantity leftovers.

The rest of his waste-less-food page has lots of tips: I recommend the first video on the page (though I haven’t done it yet).

Pro tip: Sell By, Best By, and Use By dates are all a little different.  Learn more about what you can really eat and when, and remember that if you pop something in the freezer by one of those dates, you can safely eat it long after the date has passed.

Compost.  Food waste in landfills often doesn’t get enough oxygen to break down well, and ends up producing methane, a much stronger greenhouse gas.  Plus, your flowers and veggies will looooove your compost.  If you go for an indoor worm bin, you’ll also get compost tea.  Your houseplants have never looked better.   Tune in soon for a story from St. Martin in the Fields’ Blessing of the Heap.

Waste matters.    Food waste (not including the linked land-use changes) accounts for  About 1/3 of our food waste occurs at the consumer level.  That’s the place where we are totally in control.  Nearly 2/3 is wasted in production and distribution.  Consumers can help with the 2/3 part, too, by asking groceries for special lower-price bins of not-so-beautiful produce for example, or by working with groceries, restaurants, kitchens and food pantries to help with a gleaning program.  (Get a glimpse of the problem and some solutions in this National Geographic article; this partner article is subtitled: producing the food we throw away generates more greenhouse gasses than most entire countries do)

I’ll leave you with this, quoted in an article about a Food and Agriculture Organization report:

“Finally, produced but uneaten food vainly occupies almost 1.4 billion hectares of land; this represents close to 30 percent of the world’s agricultural land area.”

“We simply cannot allow one-third of all the food we produce to go to waste or be lost because of inappropriate practices, when 870 million people go hungry every day,” said the FAO’s director-general, José Graziano da Silva.”

Foxdale Retirement Community — caring for Creation in shared spaces

Check back here for a one-a-day series of actions and solutions from now until 12/11, while the international climate talks (COP 21) are going on in Paris.  News is about faith voices again!  Hear voices directly from the talks in these podcasts.

Tomorrow: some immediate actions for individuals and households!

Foxdale Village Retirement Community, a Quaker-directed community of incredibly busy “retired” people, partners with PA IPL in sponsoring and hosting programs for residents and the greater State College community, as well as in our tangible service project, Weatherization First. Their Foxdale Village Greens group is doing an incredible job of finding ways around apparent roadblocks, and always looking for the next challenge as they continue to shrink their community’s footprint.   They wrote up a number of their efforts for the county Waste Watchers Award, and kindly shared it with us.  They’ve been recognized by Centre County with an Emerald Award.

Foxdale Village has continued its active recycling program, this year recycling over 37 tons of glass, metal, plastic, and paper products, through Centre County recycling (who provided the statistics).  In addition, we recycle batteries, styrofoam, plastic bags, clothing, cardboard, CDs, DVDs, and other items to community sites throughout the area, and continue our twice a year yard sale that enables us to reuse and re direct furniture and “zillions ” of other items we no longer need. We even collect 1-5 gallon buckets that arrive via our food service, cleaning them, and distributing them for reuse.

New this year, with the help of county resources, we’ve expanded our composting,  giving any resident who wishes the opportunity to compost food and yard waste.  As far as we know we are the first (and maybe only) multiple-residence community to do this. As a result, our compost figures have grown significantly. In less than a year, we have contributed over 30 tons of food and yard waste to local composting.

This year Foxdale Village Greens have broadened their activities to partner with others in our community. 

  • This spring, we participated in the Sustainable Communities Collaborative partnership between PSU and the State College Borough. Two teams of students from Communication 420: Research Methods in Advertising and Public Relations Class came to Foxdale, conducting a survey and holding focus groups to help us take a deeper look into our recycling program and helping us to understand “The Motivation to be Green” in our community. The research produced good, useable information. In addition, the two student groups earned top honors at the Borough presentation at the end of the semester. 
  • This summer Foxdale was able to participate in the zero waste program at the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts. We were able to obtain large compostable bags that  enabled the environmental safe collection of food and compostable materials at the festival.
  •  EileenFlanaganHeadShotResized_miniWe have partnered with PSU’s Rock Ethics Institute, PA Interfaith Power & Light, and local churches in bringing two programs to the community. 
    •  In the spring we joined in bringing Eileen Flanagan, Quaker author, speaker & activist to Pasquerilla Spiritual Center for an, open to the public, talk and discussion of her newest book, Renewable.
    • This fall we co-sponsored and hosted an interactive talk covering the main points of Po12000841_10156255009660105_7046955859817689565_ope Francis’s encyclical, ‘Laudato Si’ on climate change, led by PA IPL’s Executive Director, Alison Cornish. The event was held in Foxdale’s auditorium the week before Pope Francis’s visit to the US and Philadelphia, and was well attended.
  • Residents in our workshop and members of our maintenance staff have participated in PA IPL’s community winterization program, Weatherization First. They have created insulating window panels and completed energy saving house repairs for folks who are not able to do their own.   
  • September 24, as a part of our 25th anniversary celebration, we hosted Business After Hours in the auditorium. We provided composting etc.. and had signs on all tables announcing that the event was a zero waste event and suggested that they should all adopt zero waste in their businesses. It was also announced, and a couple of us were there as resource folks. We have been members of the Chamber for 25 years also. It was well attended and we had a lot of interest.

We continue to look for ways to improve and expand our sustainable practices both with our Foxdale family and with the broader community.

We truly appreciate being part of the Centre County Recycling and Refuse Authority’s Green Partnership.  

Invite everyone, but don’t wait, Part 2.

Check back here for a one-a-day series of actions and solutions from now until 12/11, while the international climate talks (COP 21) are going on in Paris.

Today’s post shows how a small group can act meaningfully within a congregation before the whole congregation is fully and enthusiastically engaged, and how that engaged action can grow the “choir”.  It is a story that originates in my parents’ Friends Meeting (Quaker) in Western Massachusetts.  The idea is spreading quickly among New England Quakers, is being used by a Unitarians congregation in Virginia, and there is active interest from some groups here in Pennsylvania.   Want to try?

2. Voluntary Carbon Tax Witness

A few of the original members of Mt. Toby’s Voluntary Carbon Tax Witness group.

Since we are a multi-faith group here at PA IPL, before I turn this over to the Voluntary Carbon Tax Witness group of Mt. Toby Meeting,  I’ll note that Quakers often use the word witness to indicate that they are making a choice to live out their faith.  It’s a way of saying “This isn’t just a thing I am doing.  It is a thing I am doing because of my Quakerism.”  Similar ideas are called “carbon tithes” in some circles.

The basic idea is this:

  1. A group of interested people agrees to “tax” themselves a percentage of their spending on fossil fuels for their vehicles, their electricity (if applicable), their home heating, and their air travel.  Each makes their own commitment.  Names, but not amounts are publicized.
  2. They send their fees in to a dedicated sub account at their congregation.
  3. They decide quarterly where to gift those fees, giving to climate-related causes (emissions reduction projects, climate justice, adaptation projects, response efforts and more).
  4. They share their results with their congregation and beyond.

Members of this group have spoken about how meaningful it is to join together for this witness,  how heartening it is to see the amounts donated grow as the group grows— and sometimes shrink as people are able to reduce the amount of  fossil fuel they are using.

They encourage everyone to start at a low amount of voluntary tax, and then to revisit the amount and consider raising it.   The group has grown steadily in size, and conversation around climate justice and climate action at fellowship time occur more often and draw in more people.   Participants also talk about how much more aware they are of their fuel use now, but how that awareness is accompanied by a sense of empowerment and hope, rather than a sense of paralyzing guilt.

Check out their very helpful Voluntary Carbon Tax Witness page, with sample forms, a list of where they have made their quarterly donations.

Listen to Alan Eccleston of Mt. Toby describe the program, in context, in under 5 minutes, at the meeting of New England Yearly Meeting.

Read a reflection on the program at Quaker Earthcare Witness.