Sunday, April 22, 2007

Earth Day

Earlier this month, Jenn wrote a favorable post about Al Gore's documentary movie, An Inconvenient Truth. I haven't seen the movie yet, but I agree with Jenn that people (I'm thinking primarily of North Americans, or - to narrow it more - Americans) need to get much more serious about taking care of our planet. I pointed out in a comment on her post that some high-profile evangelical Christian leaders don't believe Christians should get involved in environmental issues. Dave also added a bit more about this subject in a later comment.

Since today is Earth Day, lots of environmental articles are being featured on the Internet. Here's one view of the Christian Right's stance vis a vis the environment. The author mentioned, but did not link to the web site for, a group of environmentally responsible Christians who disagree with the highly visible, shrilly vocal and sadly out-of-touch yet familiar evangelicals and fundamentalists. Andrew Sullivan, a columnist for The Atlantic Monthly, calls the latter groups Christianists. It's his parallel to the term, Islamists, which many apply to radical, militant, fundamentalist Muslims. Sullivan, a gay Catholic Christian, wants to distinguish between the general body of Christians and the extremists who give the rest of us a bad reputation. Follow the links to the article and web site. You'll learn some interesting stuff. But before you go away, check out my Earth Day story:

When Dave and I were corps officers (pastors) at the St. Marys, Ontario corps (church), nearly 20 years ago, we had an opportunity to help the congregation take a small environmental action. Our ladies groups (there were several of them, attended by anywhere from 12 to 100 ladies each month, depending on the particular program) had gotten into the habit of using styrofoam cups for our refreshments. They were cheap and convenient: use them and throw them away, no dishwashing hassle. How could you not love that?

It so happened that several of us watched a news program about the destruction of the ozone layer one Sunday evening. The next day, the Home League secretary (a key leader for all the ladies' groups) and I talked about it and decided to encourage the ladies to start using china tea cups, even though that would create more labor. At the next general meeting, on Tuesday, we discussed it with the members. Several of them had seen the same show and all of them agreed that we had to do something, however small, to act responsibly. We all agreed that it was a matter of Christian stewardship - caring for what God has given us. That afternoon, we began using china cups, washing them, putting them away, etc. I was proud of "my" ladies. And you know what? They were all ages 65-85. They weren't young, college-educated, sophisticated liberals. They were older, small-town ladies who knew how to use the common sense that God gave them. Environmental responsibility is not just an issue for the young, the brilliant, the beautiful, the sexy - it's an issue for all people and, in fact, for every living being.

My challenge to myself, my family (immediate and extended) and friends is to celebrate Earth Day by thinking about what we can do to be more environmentally responsible. And then to do it.


Barbara said...

Cameron is starting to write a speech at school on Global Warming. He has Al Gore's book and is constantly looking at it. It amazes me how environmentally aware he is and how determined he is to make the world a better place. He has really made me stop and think. We will be making some changes in our household to try and make a difference.

Christian Camuti said...

I agree that we need to do things to better our environment, but there are so many inconsistensies. The politicians that cry for less dependency on foreign oil all ride around in SUV's that get single digit gas mileage. In North America we pride ourselves on big trucks, big vans and lack of efficient transporation.

When I see pictures of Europe with its efficient electric passenger rail, small energy efficient diesel engines, I think we North Americans are a little bit behind the eight ball.

Regarding Al Gore...personally I do not like him. I have my reasons, but they are not related to the environment. However since we are on the subject, there was a news story that aired while he was running for President about his Cadillac Escalade and the mileage he was getting in that. I believe Toyota offered to make a Prius hybrid car that would work for his use. (security etc.) He declined the offer and still was driven around in his Escalade that has a 6.0 liter v8 to push around its 3 ton mass at an efficency of about 8 miles per gallon.

Anonymous said...

It's amazing what your own kids do to shame you to become environmentally minded. Because of the direction we took from our kids, we recycle (we only have 1 garbage bag about every 2 weeks now). That's no mean trick here in Alberta, as they do not make recycling easy. You have to collect it, drive somewhere in town to the depot, and sort and empty your bins. When we look for vehicles, we will not consider the BIG HONKIN' trucks etc everyone in Alberta drives. We don't need the status symbol, so we have looked for something that is environmentally friendly (toyota corolla). It's all worth it, as we see ourselves as finding a way to be a part of the solution and not a part of the problem. The challenge for us becomes how else can we be environmentally minded, and how can we influence those around us to do so as well.


Erik said...

I sympathise. It's the small things that do it, but MANY people have to do (or let) these small things. Such as: using spare bulbs, driving only when it's really necessary (not for a small purchae), doing your dishwasher away (contacts-enhancing measure)make good use of airco and central heating, etc. In Europe many household electrical devices are designed for energy-saving , but that's not enough: many of them are superfluous (high-pressure cleaners, electric lawn mowers and hedge saws, even coffeemakers, tooth brushes and shavers are dispensable. And what to think of computers? Google has plans to build a provider building 50 miles from our villages that uses the equivalent of 70,000 households energy, a medium-sized town. They say it's also for the Groningen Academic Hospital, to store their X-ray photos, but also for blogging etc. But we need blogging to let the world be aware!

Stephen said...

Ok, here is my rant!!

Moving from a city (Toronto) where recycling has become a way of life to a city where lip service is given to this issue, has been discouraging. The govenment has bred a mentality that environmental issues are nothing but a left wing agenda that is anti-business. I take exception to that! I have had several discussions about this with many Albertans since I moved here nearly two years ago. It comes down to priorities - and the provincial government here in Alberta and it's right-wing, American - republican (sorry for the sterotype)ways is nothing short of self-serving that caters to big oil. They give lip service to the concept of being environmental yet are not prepared to pay the price. It has generated a population that is anal about low taxes that focuses on the present generation forgetting that our children and grandchildren will pay a huge price for such a narrow mindset. I mean, there was a huge uproar over the past couple of weeks from the city's tax payers to even to be prepared to corporately deal with this issue. I am, $8 is a lot to pay a month!! Ahuh! GIVE ME A BREAK!!! With only 3 million people in a province larger in land area than Texas, it seems that the environmental footprint is not that big. Yet the environmental footprint of this province is larger than much of North America.

Ok, so I have ranted - I have shot off my mouth and perhaps have even offended some of those who will read my response. What are we doing about it in our family? I do have to confess, that for a period of time, as a family we had become lazy in taking our recyclables to the depots. It had come about being frustrated by the lack of priority the city and the province placed on important issue. You have to make an effort to recycle - and that can be challenging with a larger family.

Today, we have tightened up:

- We are back to taking the drive to the back of the local mall to drop off our newspapers, plastics, glass etc.
-Every light bulb in the house with the exception of the living room and dining room are switched over to the compact florecent bulbs.
- We turn off the computers at the end of the day.
- We no longer water our grass - it's an arid environment in Calgary
- We only run the dishwasher when it is completely full and hand wash a lot of dishes as well
- I use fuel that is a "bio" blend (although that is not above controversy)
- I keep my vehicle at top engine efficiency
- We walk to church and the office a number of times a week
- we keep the thermostat turned down
- Every light bulb at the church that Gayle and I pastor, has been switched to compact florescent bulbs (we are talking about well over a hundred bulbs (accept the large sodium lights in the gym).

I am far from being environmentally sensitive. Personally, I have a long way to go to think "green". I know I can do much better. But it is about taking one step at a time in taking "ownership" in the corporate realm of the world in which God has placed us in the position of stewards of His creation.

Erik said...

I wanted to give a response to Evie's comment on my ship-building post, but I saw Stephen's story. I admire his program and copied it to check up to what level we maintain it also. Now about the ship-building: First, ships are I think the most environmental-friendly way to transport bulks and goods. We should also use ship traffic for person's transport and reduce flying. One forgets often that travel time on ships gives opportunity to do lots of work, especially in our computerized age, we also can have meetings etc. on ships. Holland-America Line, address to the business market next to the cruise market, I would say. Anyway, our ship-building activities in Holland have gone to cheap-labour countries such as China, simply following the market rules when the government stopped subsidies to this industry. It caused wounds just like the ending of coal mining and textile industry did, but in Western countries we live nowadays in service economies. I don't know better solutions, but I don't find it a shame, a shame is the organization of our national educational system (having graduated as many students as possible within the shortest time possible - which is the core of government financing universities and undergraduate institutes). Ironically, we have many Chinese students and we Dutch can take an example from them: they hardly do anything else but studying, so they fit quite well in such a system.

Stephen said...

I'm in the mood for another rant!

Al Gore:

He taken some things out of context in his award winning film, "An Inconvenient Truth". When it comes to Global Warming, there are a lot of factors at work - human activity is one of them. However, Gore is correct in saying that we have a responsibility to do something about our part in this global event.
Living on the door step of the Rockies, one can see the impact that climate change is having. No longer does the temperature go below -40C for days at a time (I don't think that's so bad, but it has devestated the pine forests of BC and now it's happening here in Alberta because of the mountain pine beadle. This beadle has no natural barriers to keep it from devestating millions of square miles of pristine forests here in Canada. It no longer get's cold enough to control these insects. Within a couple of decades, it is estimated these little critters will devestate the forests from coast to coast to coast (Pacific, Arctic, Atlantic)! As the glaciers retreat at an ever faster pace, the rivers that provide most of the drinking water for both Alberta and Saskatchewan are drying up. (the mountains received record snow fall this past winter and spring - but it will not translate into affecting the long term health of the rivers) Fomer crop growing areas are now desertfying. The semi-permafrost regions in the north of Alberta are disappearing, the boreal forest is advancing further north, farming is occuring in regions where it was not possible before. Birds found south of the border are now nesting up in Edmonton! It goes on and on.
Yet...this whole thing is an over blown leftist agenda! Fortunately, public concern and opinion is beginning to build and is felt in the halls of Edmonton and in Ottawa. Some of these politicians are now saying out loud that there may something to this thing called, "global warming."
Perhaps when there is no water coming out of their taps, when they drive their oversized, overpowered SUV's into the dead forests in the mountains and visit the family farm in what is now a semi-arid desert, will understand that there just might be a problem.
I promise, this is my last rant on this subject!

Jenn said...

it's all the little things that add up :)

Catharine said...

Many years ago we I was in a leadership position in the corps I also discouraged the use of styrofoam cups. We purchased mugs and used these each Sunday for coffee and tea. I have also taken "garbage" home for recycling when needed.

I have often had difficulty with the church not getting on board sooner with many of the environmental issues (even thought I know some of the issues are very politicized) since we have been entrusted by God to take care of what He created.