What We Do

Children’s Message: Footprints

Yesterday, for our Annual Meeting and conference, PA IPL member University Mennonite Church hosted the worship service.  Following the opening hymns, Bethany Spicher Schonberg offered a fantastic children’s message that could be used in many contexts and any faith community.   On request, she wrote it up for us.  I hope many of you will use it!

Footprints on the Earth: Helping Children Understand Environmental Impact

Materials needed: a globe, a giant boot, a tiny toy shoe (the one from Monopoly works great)

Show children the globe. What do you see here? A globe, yes. This is a way for us to imagine the world – the earth – because the real one is too big for us to see! We’re sitting on the earth right now, right about here. Show location on the globe. Who made this earth that we’re sitting on? Who made the light, the sky and oceans, trees and animals and all the continents that we see on the globe here? God did. And God gave this earth to us to care for and to walk on.

Now, there are two ways that we can walk on this earth. We can walk in big shoes or little shoes. Show two shoes. If I were to step in the mud with this shoe (show giant boot), what sort of footprint would I make? And what if I stepped in the mud with this shoe (show tiny shoe)? If I were trying to walk around this globe here, what shoes would work best? What if I wanted to dance on this globe? 

It’s the same with the real earth. Whenever we use something on the earth – like water – we’re making a footprint. And whenever we throw something away – like a piece of paper – we’re making a footprint. We can make big footprints or little footprints. So, here’s a test. If I turned on the water and let it run for an hour, is that a big or little footprint? What if I turned on the water just long enough to get a drink? And if I colored on ten pieces of paper and then threw them all away, is that a big or little footprint? What if I colored on one piece, turned it over and used the other side and then recycled the paper?

This week, whenever you use something from the earth or throw something away, think about your footprint on the earth. Is it a big stomping footprint or a little dancing footprint? God gave us the earth to walk on and God can teach us to walk in smaller shoes.

Close with a prayer.  

Micah and Bethany Spicher Schonberg
Plowshare Produce

One Year

Here at PA IPL we are preparing for our 1-year anniversary.  To celebrate, Barb Ballenger has given us permission to share her delightful song lyrics from our big Kickoff weekend in 2010.  Please feel free to use them, but, of course, credit where credit is due.  Look for her cheers next week…

The Climate is a-Changing

(To the tune of The Times They are a-Changing, By Bob Dylan)
Come gather round people wherever you roam    
And admit that the sea levels you have grown.
And accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone
If the planet to you is worth saving.
You better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone,
Cause the climate is a-changing.
Come scientists, pragmatists, beautiful minds
And add up the numbers a couple more times
While Congress ignores all the obvious signs
That we can’t win the game we’ve been playing.
Cause the temperature’s rising along with tides
And the climate is a changing
Come all you deniers and stand on the on the shore
Of an island that soon won’t be there anymore
And try to believe it’s a stunt by Al Gore
To make all the wealthy start paying.
Tell me how do things look from the new ocean floor?
Cause the climate is a changing
Come people of prayer and people of faith
Tell me how will you look own God in the face
When asked why we made such a mess of the place?
Did you stand like a prophet a raging,
Or did you step on the gas just to keep up the pace?
While the climate was a -changing?
Come mothers and fathers from throughout the land
Tell me what did you help your kids to understand
About the true cost of the purchase at hand?
Did you teach them the earth is worth saving?
Do they realize things won’t work out like they planned
If the climate keeps a-changing?
Now people of conscience and people of creed
Who cannot ignore how the earth cries with need
And who see what’s connected to all of this greed
It’s time that we began engaging
With people who long to reverse the degree
Of the climate that is changing.
The Cycle Round  — this one is great for a bike-to-worship celebration!
(sung to the tune of “Don’t throw your trash in my backyard”)
I. Don’t park your car in my driveway, my driveway, my driveway, don’t park your car in my driveway, my driveway’s full.
II. With one bicycle, two bicycles, three bicycles, four bicycles, fives bicycles, six bicycles and one built for two.
III.  Idling in traffic jams, traffic jams, traffic jams

Idling in traffic jams won’t get you very far. 

The Little Light of Mine
·       This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine …
·       Don’t need no ‘lectricity, I’m gonna let it shine…
·       To shed some light on climate change, I’m gonna
·       To build a world we can sustain, I’m gonna …
·       Put it under a bushel? No! I’m gonna let it shine
·       Ain’t no one gonna “poof” it out….
Sowing on the Mountain
(Guy Carawan, George Tucker)
Sowing on the mountain, reaping in the valley
Sowing on the mountain, reaping in the valley
Sowing on the mountain, reaping in the valley
You’re gonna reap, just what you sow.
Look at what their greed has done to our mountains…
You’re gonna reap, just what you sow.
Look at what their oil has done to our ocean.
You’re gonna reap, just what you sow.
Look at what our factories have done to our atmosphere…
You’re gonna reap, just what you sow.
Things are gonna change cause
There’s power in the people… 
You’re gonna reap, just what you sow.  
 The Garden Song

(Dave Mallet, Pete Seeger)


Inch by inch, row by row / gonna make my garden grow. /All it takes is rake and a hoe and a piece of fertile ground. Inch by inch, row, by row/ someone bless the seeds I sow. Someone warm them from below till the rain comes tumbling down.
Pulling weeds and picking stones/ We are made of dreams and bones. Need a place to call my own for the time is near at thand. Grain for grain, sun and rain, find a way trough nature’s chain
From my body and my brain to the music of the land.
Plant your rows straight and long.  Temper them with prayers and song. Mother earth will make you strong if you give her loving care. And old crow watching hungrily from his perch in yonder tree. In my garden I’m as free as that feathered thief up there.


For the Beauty of the Earth
(FS Pierpoint and Conrad Kocher)
For the beauty of the earth, for the beauty of the sky
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies
God of all to thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.
For the wonder of each hour
Of the day and of the night.
Hill and vale and tree and flower
Sun and moon and stars of night
God of all to thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.
For the joy of human love
Brother, sister, parent, child
Friends on earth and friends above
For all gentle thoughts and mild
God of all to thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.
For each perfect gift of thine
To our race so freely given
For thy constant love divine
Peace on earth and joy in heaven
God of all to thee we raise 
This our hymn of grateful praise.

Nothing more than nothing

During lunch at PSU IPL’s  Positively Green event, Cricket Hunter read this story, which someone passed on to her many years ago.  If anyone recognizes it, please let us know so that we can properly attribute it.

“Tell me the weight of a snowflake” a coalmouse asked a wild dove.

“Nothing more than nothing” was the answer.

“In that case, I must tell you a marvelous story” the coalmouse said.  “I sat on a fir branch close to the trunk when it began to snow; not heavily, not in a raging blizzard, no, just like in a dream, without any violence.  Since I didn’t have anything better to do, I counted the snowflakes settling on the twigs and needles of my branch.  Their number was exactly 3,471,952.  When the next snowflake dropped onto the branch — nothing more than nothing — as you say — the branch broke off.”

Having said that, the coalmouse fled away.  

The dove, since Noah’s time an authority on the matter, thought about the story for a while and finally said to herself “Perhaps there is only one person’s prayer lacking for peace to come to the world.”

Cricket adds: the small choices I make daily and weekly to reduce my impact on the world are my prayers, my contributions to a healthier climate.  Today I hung the clothes on racks in my living room, and my family and I are using only cold water in the handwashing sink during Lent.  What were your snowflakes today?

A Baha’i Perspective

Bill Sharp generously shared these words with us at the Interfaith Convocation service, teaching us first a bit about Baha’is, and then sharing exerpts from texts with his thoughts.
Bahá’ís are followers of the nineteenth century Persian teacher Bahá’u’lláh who spent most of his life in exile and his last days in what is now northern Israel where the Bahá’í World Center is located.  Today a terrace of gardens ascends Mount Carmel at the place he designated for the seat of a council that guides a virtual global Bahá’í congregation.

The Bahá’í Faith has roots in Shi’a Islam and the Sufi tradition but is an independent world religion with members in most of the world’s countries.
Bahá’ís believe that Bahá’u’lláh’s spiritual role is to confirms the message found in Genesis (chp. 45) that God will never leave or forsake the human race.  We call this Progressive Revelation.  Bahá’u’lláh said that his mission was to provide teachings for the emergence and eventual spiritual transformation of the modern world.
We are here in an interfaith gathering.  Let me recite a passage from Bahá’u’lláh that speaks to the importance of such meetings: 
“… [C]onsort with the followers of all religions in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship, to proclaim that which the Speaker on Sinai hath set forth, to observe fairness in all matters.
“They that are endued with sincerity and faithfulness should associate with all the peoples and kindreds of the earth with joy and radiance, inasmuch as consort­ing with people hath promoted and will continue to promote unity and concord, which in turn are conducive to the maintenance of order in the world and to the regeneration of nations.  Blessed are such as hold fast to the cord of kindliness and tender mercy and are free from animosity and hatred.”
There is another reason I am privileged to be here tonight.  My belief is that we are meant to live well and prosper physically and spiritually in this world, and germane to this is a statement from Bahá’u’lláh’s Tablet of the World
In regards to “… that which is conducive to the advancement of mankind and to the reconstruction of the world:”

First:  “It is incumbent upon the minister of the House of Justice to promote the Lesser Peace ….  This matter is imperative and absolutely essential inasmuch as hostilities and conflict lie at the root of affliction and calamity.”

Second:  “Languages must be reduced to one common [auxiliary] language to be taught in all the schools of the world.”

Third:  “It behooveth man to adhere tenaciously unto that which will promote fellowship, kindliness and unity.”

Fourth:  “Everyone, whether man or woman, should hand over to a trusted person a portion of what he or she earneth through trade, agriculture or other occupations for training and education of children….”

Fifth:  “Special regard must be paid to agriculture.  Although it hath been mentioned in the fifth place, unquestionably it precedes the others.”
This fifth passage is relevant to me because my vocation is sustainability and because my attention increasingly turns to how we draw sustenance from God’s Good Earth. This sentiment was echoed by an American contemporary of Bahá’u’lláh’s, Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said:  “Every man has an exceptional respect for tillage, and a feeling that this is the original calling of his race.”
At the heart of such passages is our respect for sustainability.  To Bahá’ís, how we live during our time on the Earth is as important to our spiritual development as the life in the womb is to our physical development.  
God created us to know and worship Him.  The Earth seems to have been created to support life as we know it for many millions of years to come.  Untold generations to be born will share our destiny of reverence to God and right living only if we fulfill our duty to God, and to them, to be good stewards. 
Emerson also wrote that fortunate is the man or woman who is awakened to worship by nature.  I believe that this worship is founded in the gratitude we each feel for God’s bounty of land and water and sun.  It is found in the work we do as well.  Bahá’u’lláh said that work performed in the spirit of service is worship.  Much of our work today, perhaps the most important work we have to do, is to preserve the bounty of the Earth.
I believe that we are meant to live well, to live in community, to live in peace and to prosper on the land, to draw from it, as Bahá’u’lláh said in a letter to physicians, not only our subsistence, but our health.  To do that we must learn to live sustainably, that is, to live within the means God has provided for our own well being and for that of all generations to come.  The future thus starts in the present moment.  It lies in our hands.

Changing Our Climate: an Op-Ed by Rabbi Daniel Swartz

Our climate is changing – both literally and figuratively.  The list of weather events that may be linked to changes in the global climate is already long, and it keeps growing longer with each passing season.  Droughts, floods, record-breaking heat waves, fires, even monster snow storms are all signs that climate change is part of our present, not just our future.

But the “climate” is changing in other ways as well. Many have been focusing on negative changes – the climate of acrimony and vitriol in political discourse, or the still sour economic climate.  But there are some positive “climactic” changes as well.  For me, one of the most significant is the growing involvement of faith communities around the globe in addressing environmental concerns, including global climate change.
How is something that seems intensely scientific, like the changing composition of our atmosphere, or intensely political, like global treaties dealing with use of fossil fuels, a faith issue?  Prayers don’t yield scientific data – but once science tells us what IS happening, our faith traditions can help us figure out what we OUGHT to do about it.  And while even a close reading of such traditions won’t reveal a detailed energy policy, certain basic guiding principles are shared by many faith communities.
For example, our world is good – one might even say “very good” – and we are supposed to help tend it and protect it.  It is simple wrong to think selfishly only of ourselves and to ignore the needs of generations to come.  Making money should not be the ultimate goal of humanity – we are meant to look after each other, particularly those who need the most protection – the “widow, the orphan and the stranger” or the “least of these.” Finally, one can find even in quite ancient sources an understanding that it is better to prevent harm than to try to repair damage after it has occurred. 
Taken together, such principles do at the least suggest a course of action to address climate change.  Solutions that especially benefit the poor, like increasing energy efficiency and thus reducing the disproportionate burden from high energy costs that those in economic straights face, should be a top priority.  Even in the present political climate, it should be possible to forge tax incentives and the like to make our homes and businesses more energy efficient.
We also should take the needs of future generations into account by promoting clean and sustainable energy sources – which, as was noted in the State of the Union, also can be a wise investment in the future of our economy.  Last but certainly not least, attempts to strip EPA of its power to address CO2 emissions and thus protect public health and the environment from the various ravages of climate change is not only short-sighted, but could be viewed as immoral.
But does thinking of climate change from a faith and moral perspective actually make a difference?  After all, you don’t have to be religious to think that fairness is a good thing.  A faith perspective, however, brings not only a sense of moral authority to an issue – it also can move us beyond paralysis.  Looking at the scientific and political difficulties facing any attempts to address global climate change, one can feel downright depressed and overwhelmed – and so there is a natural tendency to want to ignore or deny the whole thing, to remain stuck with our head in the sand.  But understanding that we can bring our faith to bear on this issue first of all fills us with the added strength of knowing we are doing the right thing.  And because faith has so often triumphed against great odds – worse odds by far than those facing a lasting and just solution to climate change – we can begin to replace depression with hope, paralysis with sustained action for the good. 
That is why this weekend (February 11-13th) Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light is joining with IPL affiliates across the country in sponsoring a “preach-in” on climate change.  I’ll be addressing these concerns from a Jewish standpoint at Temple Hesed this Friday, and others across the state and nation will be doing so from a wide variety of other faith traditions.  Because we already know that the climate is changing – and we know what type of solutions are needed. The only question that remains is – do we have enough faith to make it into a change for the better?

Help Keep the EPA Working to Protect our Environment

On January 2, 2011, for the first time, the Environmental Protection Agency began to regulate carbon emissions, having declared that they form a significant danger to human health and well-being. In the absence of comprehensive legislation on climate change, this is the only recourse the administration has for regulating carbon and thereby fulfilling our obligations under international law.

Now Congress wants to force the EPA to stop, and is even taking aim at the Clean Air Act, one of the most successful pieces of legislation ever. We need to let our senators know that climate change is a moral issue, and that we have an obligation to ourselves, our neighbors and to future generations to reduce carbon pollution. We just completed a successful letter-writing campaign, but we still urge you to call the senators (or your representative) and tell them to protect public health and defend the Clean Air Act.

Senator Casey’s phone numbers:
Washington, Toll Free: (866) 802-2833
Harrisburg, (717) 231-7540
Philadelphia, (215) 405-9660
Pittsburgh, (412) 803-7370
Scranton, (570) 941-0930
Erie, (814) 874-5080
Bellefonte, (814) 357-0314
Allentown, (610) 782-9470

Senator Toomey’s phone numbers:
Washington, (202) 224-4254
Harrisburg, (717) 782-3951
Philadelphia, (215) 597-7200
Erie, (814) 453-3010
Allentown, (610) 434-1444

Calling takes only a minute (you simply need to give your name, hometown, and a very brief message), but it makes a big difference.