Friday, April 23, 2010

Town Hall Wrap Up!

It’s been an exciting week here at Earth Ministry as we’ve finished hosting our four Town Halls across the state. Our speakers, ranging from pastors to a state senator to union workers, all spoke urgently both about the need to shut down TransAlta’s Centralia coal plant, as well as the great benefits that await Washington in a renewable energy future.

Citizens from Seattle, Redmond, Bainbridge Island, and Vancouver all learned that the Centralia plant is the number one emitter in the state of carbon dioxide (CO2), mercury, and nitrogen oxide (NOx). We were encouraged and emboldened to imagine removing the greatest source of climate change pollution in our state by 2015.

It’s an ambitious goal, but it’s also within reach.

One of the great highlights of the week was being able to spend time with author Ted Nace, whose organization Coal Swarm helps keep track of the fight against coal across the nation. At all four of the town halls, Ted repeatedly asserted that the fight against TransAlta here in Washington is one of the most (if not the most, period) important fights in the entire nation.

Why? Because Washington has the best chance of becoming the first state to get rid of coal completely. If we can do it here, we can show other states that they can do it, too. Our partners, the Sierra Club, have already shut down 128 new coal plants, victories that Ted noted were among the greatest in the history of environmentalism. Now is the time to begin shutting down coal plants already in existence, and Centralia is the best candidate.

It's important to note that shutting down TransAlta’s Centralia plant also means providing a just transition for the workers at the plant. On Sunday and Wednesday, union leaders spoke about the real life stories of career creation thanks to renewable energy. In Vancouver, the representative from the longshoreman’s union told us that union membership has gone from 106 in 1995 to over 200 in 2008 thanks mainly to the import of wind turbines!

In other words, the pieces are all here: career creation, climate protection, and pollution prevention. It’s a win-win situation for the planet, for Washington, and for workers.

Keep checking back for more information! I’ll try to keep bringing updates to the campaign. In the meantime, please check out Coal Swarm’s website. You can find the page on Washington and coal here. Also, consider reading Ted Nace’s Climate Hope, which provides some great details about the fights across the country against coal. If you don't have time to read the book, check out this radio interview with Ted where he talks about his work.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


by Clare Brauer-Rieke

At a Wailin' Jennys concert a couple of weeks ago, I heard a beautiful song called Arlington. As I know is the experience of many, I listen to words in music in a way I do not or cannot when they are spoken. On this evening, the words of this song communicated to me something I hadn't realized I had lost. I have forgotten how to "not know."

Where do you go, little bird
When it snows, when it snows
When the world turns to sleep
Do you know, do you know
Is there something in the wind
Breathes a chill in your heart, life in your wings
Does it whisper 'start again'

In this modern era, it can feel like there is so little we don't know about the Earth and its workings. The lyricist could have easily Googled "bird migration" or "wind formation," and found the technical answers to her questions within minutes; but I heard expressed in this song a resistance against this "objective knowing." The lyricist instead seems to suggest that we should ask our questions differently. We might instead ask as a way of reconnecting with a lost mysticism, a lost spiritual inquiry, and a lost world of mystery.

Where is your home, restless wind
Is it there, is it here
Do you search for a place to belong
Search in vain, search in fear
Or is your spirit everywhere
Is your voice every tree
Your soul of the air
If there's no home, is there no death

In this way of asking, we learn it isn't about the answers. It is about the questioning, the engagement, the wonder. As Earth Day approaches, let your celebration be one of the mystery and spirit of the Earth as much as all our access to knowing the Earth in facts and figures. In the quiet in-between space, allow for creative questioning and imaginative interpretation. Maybe what you discover will surprise you.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Beyond Coal

by Bryson Nitta

Hello! My name is Bryson Nitta, and I’m a new intern at Earth Ministry. Over the next few months, I’ll be working on EM’s Beyond Coal campaign.

It seems reasonable to ask, “why go beyond coal at all?” It’s true that coal is a marvelous resource: millions of years of sunlight and organic matter compressed and refined into dark, energy-rich stone. It’s cheap, efficient, and plentiful.

But as you may know, coal is also dangerous. When mined, it leaves behind dangerous waste; when refined, it produces toxic slurry; and when finally burned for energy, it sends tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, significantly contributing to global climate change.

As a person of faith, I oppose the use of coal because of its human, economic, and environmental costs. It is a misuse of our planet’s resources, especially when there are so many better and cleaner energy alternatives.

If you’re interested in learning more about coal, please join Earth Ministry/WA Interfaith Power and Light and our partner at our Beyond Coal Town Halls taking place this month:

Seattle, April 18th, 7pm
Olympic View Church of the Brethren
425 NE 95th St, Seattle, WA

Redmond, April 19, 7pm
The Old Redmond Schoolhouse Community Center
16600 NE 80th St, Redmond, WA

Bainbridge Island, April 20, 7pm
4450 Blakely Ave NE, Bainbridge Island, WA

Vancouver, April 21, 7pm
Water Resources Education Center
4600 SE Columbia Way, Vancouver, WA