Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Let's Stretch the Advocacy Muscles

By Mikaila Gawryn
Outreach Associate

I'll admit it, I am an advocacy lightweight. Up until very recently I lived life believing that I was one of those people that took action "on the ground" instead of in politics. Arrogance aside this probably came from the fact that I didn't think I could make much of a difference in politics. I was much more into volunteering, changing one lightbulb at a time, that sort of thing. And then
I heard someone ask the question "How good are those light bulbs if the energy company is grossly inefficient?" She explained to me that the power of my individual action could be magnified, when I worked within a larger system. Thus, I decided to pick up the weights, even if I had to start very small.

Government 101

Of the three branches of government the legislative branch is responsible for listening to the people (who vote them in and out of office!), and forming laws based upon the people’s will. In the legislative branch there are three levels of government, depending on what kinds of laws you want to create. These levels are the federal, state and local branches. As citizens we have access to these branches, because they represent us!

Legislative Branch

Federal: congress (Senate and House of Representatives)
State: legislature (Senate and House of Representatives)
Local: city council (some cities have different names)

Perhaps you don't feel like "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" material (I sure don't!). The great news is that you don't have to be versed in political lingo or fluent in the scientific terminology of an issue. In fact, as Jessie Dye, our Outreach Coordinator often says, political advocacy is as easy as ordering pizza.

1) Know what you want on your pizza. If you’re not an expert on an issue find one that you trust and see what they are advocating for. Many organizations have the time and resources to research important issues and summarize what they believe should be done, take advantage of this!

2) Know who to call to get your pizza. Call the toll-free Legislative hotline to convey your views on bills and issues. Give the nice operators your name and address (like the pizza place) and they will contact your legislators for you. Tell the operator what bills or issues you are supporting and why; the why involves your values. Remember, you don’t have to explain or defend specific points, any more than you have to tell them how to make the pizza. Legislative Hotline: 1-800-562-6000

Ten to fifteen contacts is all it takes to get the attention of a representative.

Already have the legislative hotline on speed dail? When the legislature is in session call you representative at their office. Or go to the Washington State Legislature website, click and email them. 10-15 calls or letters to a legislator is enough to get their attention. One way to expand the impact of one call is to set up a phone tree. Telephone Trees are time-honored because they work. They work because most people respond better to a personal call from someone they know than to an impersonal piece of mail or message. The mechanics are pretty straight forward.

Finally, accept the invitation to speak through the media. Local papers have Letter To The Editor sections and online forums where you can post your thoughts on issues for other citizens and representatives to read. These venues are a breeding ground for conversation on contemporary issues and are taken seriously as one way for the voice of the people to speak. Take a look at these opportunities for participation in local media or similar ones near you:

Seattle PI-Sound Off

Seattle Times Letters to the Editor

So let's try this advocacy thing out! Luckily we have lots of issues to talk to our representatives about. See you at the Capitol!


Advocacy Essentials Handout, Jessie Dye
Faith Based Advocacy, Jessie Dye
EM 2008 Advocacy Days Bulletin
Effort to Overturn 20-cent Bag Tax, Kathy Mulady & Amy Rolph
Effort to Overturn 20-cent Bag Tax, Kathy Mulady & Amy Rolph

Monday, August 25, 2008

Ask Deanna: Field Games for Kids

by Deanna Matzen

I'm afraid my timing isn't the best with this blog post. In Seattle it feels as though summer is drawing to a close as kids are getting ready to start school. While I hold hope for a beautiful September and October, this post may not do you much good. But hopfully it will plant a seed that will mature next summer.

This issue of Ask Deanna is about field games for kids with an ecology theme. "Anne" was in charge of her church's family camp and wanted to know if we had any resources for their camp with the theme of "Handle with Care".

Thankfully, I had not the power of the internet at my finger tips, but rather the power of interns who have worked at summer camps. So I want to share with you the games we suggested to Anne. If you have a favorite field game with a sustainbility theme, please post a comment with the description.

Mosquito, Salmon, Bear
There is a field with a line drawn half-way across. Before the round, each team decides what they're going to be, either mosquito, bear, or salmon, without letting the other team know. One team stands on one side of the line, about three feet away from it, facing out, and the other team stands on the other side of the line, about three feet away, facing out. At the count of three, the teams all turn around (so the two teams will be facing each other) and make the noise/action of the animal their team chose. Salmon chases mosquito, mosquito chases bear, and bear chases salmon to the other side of the field. Whoever is the chasing team tries to tag as many people as they can, and when they do, that person joins the other team.

The learning part comes after a few rounds, where you take one of the animals out of the food chain (the salmon) and just have the bear and mosquito. And what happens? There will be a ton of mosquitoes and no bears. In the first part you can (hopefully) point out that generally the teams moved back and forth in size and all stayed relatively equal because that's how the food chain works. When one animal gets taken out, problems arise and the food chain doesn't work. So even though mosquitoes might be annoying, they feed the salmon, which in turn feed the bears, which feed the mosquitoes.

Nature Scavenger Hunt
Send out teams to find different items in nature (i.e. leaf, needle, flower, pine cone, etc.). The first team back with an example of each item or the team with the most items wins. Items to be "found" can include things to describe. A variation could be to have the children take photos of what they find using a digital camera.
For further ideas, see:
Nature Scavenger Hunt (National Wildlife Federation)
Earth Day Nature Hunt (Windstar Foundation)

Recycling Relay
Start with a loose pile of recyclable and non-recyclable items, have teams move them from one end of the field to the other, placing them in the appropriate recycling or garbage receptacle. Points are deducted for mis-placing items and bonus points are given for the first team to finish. Alternatively you could have the children sort the items into three categories: Reduce, Reuse, or Recycle.

For further ideas, see:
Recycling Relay (Idaho Department of Environmenatl Quality)
Lesson Plan: Recycle Relay (Solid Waste District)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Greetings from a Wisconsinite!

Hello, Hello!

My name is Chris Olson and I am the new volunteer from the Lutheran Volunteer Corps at Earth Ministry. I come to you from the little town of Cumberland in northwestern Wisconsin. I recently graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where I studied rural sociology and environmental studies.

"Rural sociology?" you say, "What the devil is that?" Well, rural sociology examines rural people and the numerous issues facing rural (or relatively urbanized) populations. These issues include urban sprawl and loss of farmland, changes in rural populations over time, poverty in the rural setting, the evolution of agriculture and agricultural technologies, organic farming in rural and urban environments, sustainability issues, and natural resource consumption and conservation to name a few. It took me almost two years to I settle on rural sociology as a major but it was an experience during the second semester of my freshman year that pointed me on a path that would help me discover my passion for the environment and how people interact with the world around them.

During the spring of 2005 I took a class titled Environmental Studies:The Social Perspective taught by Jack Kloppenburg, who would later become my rural soc. adviser and good friend. One of the projects for the class was to spend a morning working on a nearby CSA farm. Waking up one cool, spring morning I gathered with a small group of other students to carpool across town. As I arrived at the CSA and stepped out of the car, I soaked in the view of the rolling fields stretching out before me. Over the next few hours I took comfort as the morning sun slowly warmed my back as I crouched to plant potatoes, felt the dark soil give way as I learned how to use a push plow, and listened to the stories of those working in the field next to me. I was connected to the earth and the people around me in ways I had never been before. This experience stirred something deep inside me and over the next year I struggled to understand its significance. Knowing how my food was grown, where it came from, and who was affected by it became very important issues to me as I thought about the implications of our global and local food systems. I finally realized that I was being called to work for social and environmental justice and through the rural sociology major I could study issues that would empower me to do that.

I'm excited to spend a year as an LVC volunteer where I will focus on living out the ideas of social justice, intentional community, and simple living. I'm also very excited to join the Earth Ministry team where I will learn to empower others working to integrate the tenets of sustainability and creation care into their congregations and faith communities. I look forward to a year of challenge and growth as well as one of fun and celebration.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Thundering Hooves

By Jessie Dye

Have you ever seen that which is in your imagination, that which you have read about or heard tell of, come to full fabulous life as if by some miracle of God or mind? This has happened to me twice; may I live to see it happen again.

The first time, my little son lost his small stuffed wolf (Wolfie) under sad circumstances. One year later he found a tiny abandoned puppy, a Navajo res dog not four weeks old, dumped and alone in Monument Valley. That puppy looked just like the lost stuffed one. “Wolfie, you are a real dog now!” we said. He came home with us and he’s now 75 pounds of big, joyful and goofy dog-hood.

The second time I saw something of fiction spring to glorious life happened last week. LeeAnne Beres and I met Joel Huesbey of Thundering Hooves in his pasture during a warm sunset in the Walla Walla Valley. Joel spoke eloquently about the end of oil, the need for healthy agricultural systems, his grandfather’s farm ethic, and the Omega 3’s and 6’s of pasture finished beef. It was as if Wendell Barry’s Mad Farmer had sprung to wiry, handsome life in front of us and was extolling sustainable agriculture in real time.

Joel is one member of a multi-generation family farm in Touchet (pronounced too-chee), Washington. Their German Lutheran immigrant ancestors founded Thundering Hooves more than 100 years ago. It was a good farm, a team effort to raise the beef cows that supported them. The family worked hard and made a living for most of a century. They still do, but a new vision came to the ranch when Joes graduated from Washington State University in agriculture.

Water was scarce, petroleum based fertilizer expensive, and feed lots grew more inhumane. Joel realized cows could be raised for beef differently than the huge agri-business spreads that bought from his neighbors and paid the farmers darn little for their work. He decided to pasture-finish his cows, feed them what God and nature wanted ruminants to eat (author’s note: not corn), and preserve them from the heath risks and awfulness of feedlots.

To do this, the family had to market their beef differently; Clarice and Keith Swanson, Joel’s sister and brother in law, joined to manage the business end. I met Clarice seven years ago at the University District Farmer’s Market in Seattle on a clear Saturday morning in October. I’ve been buying their meat ever since, to the satisfaction of my coronary arteries and the spirits of the cows I eat.

T. Hooves continued in Jessie’s next blog; or see

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Greetings from Bellingham

by Eric Pfaff, former Earth Ministry Intern

Did you miss the early spring plantings of vegetables? Have you been jealously watching your neighbors' gardens grow from patches of soil into ripe, red tomatoes and thick green beans?

While there's nothing that can replace a full summer of gardens, there are vegetables you can plant now for a late harvest and some "baby vegetables." Spinach, lettuce, arugula, beets, carrots, and radishes are all popular, the first three for doing better in cooler weather. More quick information can be found here, a la my good friend Martha Stewart (and her syndicated column).

And just remember: There's no time like the present... to start gardening!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Cowness Of It All

By: Mikaila Gawryn
Earth Ministry Intern

The "unadulterated cowness", as Billy Collins writes, grounds me. Or is it the "black and white maps of their sides" that captures my imagination? For a hundred reasons the image of a cow on green pasture under a bright blue sky tells me that the world is at peace.

Sadly, this image, though familiar to many American's is less and less a real representation of how cows actually live in the U.S. As you may know, most conventional diary operations (and conventional now means large-scale) are a industrial mix of laboratory and production line, appropriately dubbed factory farms. These factories turn out dairy products quickly and in huge quantities, but at what price and with what quality?

One of the best parts of our 3 Months 300 Miles Food Challenge so far
has been getting to know the fabulously "unconventional" Golden Glen Creamery located in Bow Washington. This family run dairy produces the finest milk, butter and cheese I've ever tasted and all with a commitment to healthy cows and healthy environments!

One aspect of this commitment is Golden Glen's choice to be rBGH free. Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone has been a controversial topic since its approval by the FDA in 1993. Physicians and nutritionists have made strong cases against its use for human and environmental health reasons. However, going against the flow can cost small dairies like Golden Glen Creamery a lot. In a 2007 press release Puget Consumer Cooperative explained that rBGH cows produce on average ten percent more milk than non-rBGH cows do.

Unfortunately, our country's farming policies don't help Golden Glen out either: “The use of rBGH has been banned by every developed country in the world, including Canada and members of the European Union, except the U.S. . . . this is due in part to the fact that rBGH has been proven to increase the amount of IGF-1, Insulin-like Growth Factor, in cows milk and that further research strongly links IGF-1 to colon, breast and prostate cancers". rGBH is not a safe option for human health, but what about the cows?

"The use of rBGH has been banned by every developed country in the world, including Canada and members of the European Union, except the U.S."

rGBH also affects the dairy cows that are injected with it. According to the same 2007 press release rGBH has been linked to higher udder infection rates and hoof disorders, causing pain and discomfort to the cows themselves. Supporting family run and rBGH free dairy farms strengthens local economies, protects human and environmental health and promotes treating God’s animals with care. Golden Glen Creamery also keeps their cows in the pasture as much as possible, meaning the cows are actually eating the green stuff they are supposed to!

So as a part of our 3 Months 300 Miles Food challenge I am committing to buy from Golden Glen Creamery. Their milk can be found all over Seattle at PCC Markets in beautiful glass bottles (that's right! Like the ones the milkman used to deliver!). Or check out one of the farmers markets where they will be selling in person! Just go to their website and check out their Calendar of Events.

What if you don't have Golden Glen Creamery products near you? Ask for them! As a small business literally churning out high quality products Golden Glen's success is dependent on you and I requesting them! So chat up your local super market and tell them that you want to see the milk from the green pastures and the blue skies!

- Dairy Products rGBH Free.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Carbon bombs

by Eric Pfaff, Earth Ministry Intern

Check out this video. It discusses how your ordinary, average cheeseburgers may actually be quite harmful to the environment.

I find, personally, it is much easier to look at the carbon footprint of food I purchase from grocery stores--but at restaurants, I tend to ignore it. It's always a "treat" to ignore the implications my eating has on the environment when I eat out, or it's too difficult to find a restaurant that specializes in organic and/or local.

Unfortunately, though, restaurants can be some of the most unsustainable places, even withholding the cheeseburger. I guess the problem is finding these restaurants around the Puget Sound Area (where I am). Any suggestions?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Friday Farewell...

By Kaitlin Torgerson, Outreach Coordinator

Last August, I journeyed into the Lutheran Volunteer Corps after a summer of working at a Bible camp in the wilderness of Montana.
I went straight from the backcountry to a week of orientation in Washington, DC to the Puget Sound and the Earth Ministry offices. I showed up straight out of college without an ounce of an idea of what this year would hold. Now here I am, after one year, one major auction event, two new staff members, three wonderful housemates and friends, four trips to Olympia for lobby days, and five final days at Earth Ministry. This Friday, I say farewell to Earth Ministry and start searching for my next steps.

Earth Ministry has been a true blessing for me this year. It’s hard to even begin to describe what I’ve learned this year, and I’m sure I’m just starting to realize what a gift this year has been. More time and space is needed to fully understand its impact. But just to start things off, here’s a quick top-ten of what I’ve learned with Earth Ministry:

  • What it really means to be a person of faith and how to live out my values
  • A greater definition of Creator
  • Website Maintenance
  • Appreciation for ecumenism
  • How to read a bus map
  • Nonprofit and office etiquette
  • Some of my skills and talents and embracing who I am
  • Advocacy 101—speaking with my legislators
  • More about climate change and its impacts, local foods
  • Why people of faith care about the environment

I’m certain in a few months this list will quadruple. It’s hard to wrap my head around leaving this place and hearing my next calling. I do know something here has touched me deeply and I’m not ready to leave Seattle just yet. My plans are still uncertain, but I do know I’m staying in Seattle and am busy job searching (and am certainly open to suggestions) Thank you to all the Earth Ministry staff, congregations, and colleagues I’ve worked with in this past year. Thanks for sharing part of you life with me and allowing me to learn from you. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to work with such talented, passionate, and caring people. I couldn't have asked for a better agency to be placed.

And in a few short weeks, please give a warm welcome to Chris, the new intern with the Lutheran Volunteer Corps. It sounds like he's going to be great!