Monday, November 29, 2010

Putting Faith Into Action in the Washington State Legislature

By: Jessie Dye

Earth Ministry is a member of the Environmental Priorities Coalition in Washington State, and each year works with 24 other statewide organizations to pass the best legislation for the natural and human communities of our state. This year, with tough budget decisions and polarized political debates, the faith voice is more important than ever in articulating our best common future. Please join us and religious communities around the state in working to pass these four bills in the Washington State Legislature’s 2011 session:

Coal Free Future for Washington
With the failure of national legislation to set a cap on greenhouse gasses that would protect the world’s poor from climate change, it falls to each state to deal with pollution within its borders. Coal Free Future for Washington protects our communities from our state’s single largest source of dangerous and toxic pollution, the TransAlta coal-fired power plant. This bill will transition the dirty plant off coal in order to address Washington citizens’ widespread concerns about the health impacts of coal ash and mercury, climate change, and air and water pollution caused by the TransAlta plant. The legislation also seeks funding to invest in the local community for economic development, providing new opportunities for workers affected by the transition from coal to more sustainable and reliable energy. Earth Ministry is proud to be one of the leaders of this campaign.

Reducing Phosphorous Pollution
Words celebrating the blessing of living water are found throughout the Bible, and it is through sacramental water of baptism that we join the Christian faith. However, phosphorus from industries, wastewater plants, septic systems, and even our lawns can cause algae blooms and impact water quality, fish habitat, and recreation in Washington’s lakes and rivers. Controlling this discharge often costs millions of dollars in wastewater treatment upgrades for industries and municipal wastewater plants. The Freshwater Pollution Control Act is a common-sense, cost-effective approach to reducing phosphorus in waterways by restricting the sale of phosphorus lawn fertilizer in the State of Washington. Our lawns don’t need the extra phosphorus and our lakes and rivers don’t either.

The 2011 Clean Water Act
A central teaching of all Christian denominations is upholding the common good. Protecting our watersheds and requiring polluters to clean up their toxic mess is one way to care for the well-being of our communities. Each year millions of gallons of petroleum pollute our lakes, rivers and marine waters through toxic oil runoff from our roads and cities, a serious threat to our health and environment. Working for Clean Water (the 2011 Clean Water Act) will fund job-creating projects all over the state, by building clean water infrastructure that will clean up our waterways. Now is the time for the oil companies, who profit from the pollution, to put Washington back to work and provide a cleaner environment that we’ll be proud of for generations.

Budget Solutions for Our Environment
Caring for both people and the planet isn’t just a catchy slogan, it is a requirement of our faith. Washington State needs a proactive approach that will improve our economy while maintaining environmental protections. A key element to the long-term economic health of our state is protecting our clean water, clean air and special places. By sustaining core environmental protections, continuing investments in parks and preservation, and requiring companies and others to pay their fair share for the services they receive, we can strike a balance that even in hard times will protect our public health, economic future, and quality of life for all God’s children.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Snow Daze

By: Dana Swanson

I’m from the Midwest – my rosy cheeks have braved biting Chicago winds and salted sidewalks for many winters. Safe to say, snow isn’t anything new. Regardless, frantic flakes dancing about outside the window pane evoke a familiar childhood excitement. Something about the whimsical way snow falls from the heavens continues to mystifies me.

There are, however, certain things that set apart the recent Seattle snowfall from ones in years past. First, I was assured it rarely snows in Seattle. Since I wasn’t expecting to see snow this year, it all the more precious. Second, when it snows in the Midwest, the colorful oozings of autumn have already been replaced by the barren, gray of winter. But last Monday, that was not the case. Accustomed to deciduous trees losing their leaves before the first snow fall, it is strange to see veiny oranges and reds graced by white powder as they cling to the branches.

Where are the dormant days of winter? So much life remains beneath the furry white blanket. The vibrant green blades of grass, not yet browned by the winter months, peek through the light layer. Chunky white flakes gently highlight flower petals, casually loitering amongst the remnants of warmer days.

If one questions the beauty of creation, on days like today she need not search beyond the flakes caught on her eyelashes. Each individual snowflake sparkles with a splendor that cannot be replicated. Yet when they come together, the flakes whisper a silent winter blanket over the Earth. It is our responsibility – and privilege – to care for this planet so that future generations can revel in the glory of the winter's first snow.

I encourage you to be faithful stewards of creation - attend the Environmental Priorities Coalition's Legislative Workshop on Saturday, January 8 from 9:30am to 2:15pm at Seattle Pacific University. This annual event is your opportunity to be involved as Washington's 25 leading conservation groups prepare for the upcoming legislative session. Come learn about the Environmental Priorities for Washington State, as well as ways to faithfully advocate for creation. Registration opens in December - check Earth Ministry's event page for more information.

Use your voice this Legislative session to speak for creation - do it so your children will have a chance to appreciate the tickle of melting snowflakes on their grinning cheeks.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Take Action Against Northwest Coal to China

By: Joelle Robinson
Earth Ministry Board Member

On Tuesday, November 16, members of faith, business and environmental communities gathered in Longview, WA for a hearing regarding the intended coal export terminal. Several Earth Ministry supporters were present, including myself and Program and Outreach Director Jessie Dye. (Jessie was quoted in an NPR story that ran on KUOW and KPLU - listen to the story here.)

Some background on the issue: coal companies are targeting Northwest Ports as the gateway for coal export terminals that would send staggering quantities of U.S. coal to China. The first terminal, proposed by Australia-based Ambre Energy, would annually export 5 million tons of Wyoming coal from a Longview port.

While Washington invests in clean technology jobs for wind, wave, and solar energy, the coal export terminals would reverse major commitments to reduce the state’s contribution to global warming pollution.
Learn more about the proposed coal facility's specific threats to Cowlitz County.
For farmers, landowners, and communities, transporting coal to China is more than a nuisance—the coal dust poses a public health threat. According to Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad studies, 500 to 2,000 pounds of coal can be lost in the form of dust from each rail car. Each 100-car train may spill 20,000 pounds of coal dust into our rivers and towns.

Additionally, a major source of mercury in Washington is air deposition from Asia. Mercury is highly toxic, and coal-fired power plants in China are not subject to modern pollution controls. Such toxins are harmful to ecosystems, but also to human populations; exporting large amounts of coal will be detrimental to our brothers and sisters in China, as well.
Take action and sign a petition urging elected officials to oppose a Washington State coal export terminal.
The good news is that the exportation of coal and the subsequent health affects can be prevented. As people of faith, our values tell us to speak against such environmental neglect. I encourage you to sign this petition, voicing your concern for the people who will be impacted by this terminal.

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    Eating and Giving Thanks

    By: Dana Swanson

    The cornucopia, overflowing with vibrant colors and shapely gourds, serves as the centerpiece for this traditional November feast. Deeply hued cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie garnished with whipping cream and a bronzed turkey arranged upon a platter – iconic images of everyone’s favorite gluttonous holiday.

    When we think of Thanksgiving, the image that comes to mind is of family and friends gathered around a table of steaming food, autumnal aromas tickling our nostrils as we break bread – and our belt buckles – together. Careful not to scald our palms, we share our mashed potatoes and cornbread, giving thanks for the bounty of the year’s harvest.

    In my family, it is tradition for everyone to go around the table and share some things we are thankful for. Between ambrosial bites, it isn’t commonplace to contemplate where the food - now rapidly disappearing from the table - came from. Actually, there is usually chatter concerning who brought the cheesy cauliflower dish, but nothing about the field where that cauliflower spent its days before meeting the cheddary goodness.

    Living in an age of supermarkets and Big Macs, it is easy to overlook where food comes from. Seduced by food already prepared – stuffing in a box or cranberry sauce from a can – we don’t realize how deeply eating impacts the Earth. According to environmentalist and farmer Wendell Berry, the fact that the industrial eater doesn’t realize eating is an agricultural act renders him or her a victim; passive and uncritical consumers, industrial eats consume food unaware of the connections between eating and the Earth. When we buy potatoes from Brazil, we are supporting a food system marinated in fossil fuels. From petroleum-based chemicals used to combat pests and weeds to the gasoline it takes to ship a potato thousands of miles, our food economy is contingent upon sources of fossil fuels. In "The Pleasures of Eating," Berry offers some additional insight on the politics of food:
    “We still remember that we cannot be free if our minds and voices are controlled by someone else. But we have neglected to understand that we cannot be free if our food and its sources are controlled by someone else. The condition of the passive consumer of food is not a democratic condition. One reason to eat responsibly is to live free.”
    Berry proposes that a significant part of the pleasure of eating comes from one’s knowledge of the lives and the world from which food comes. In other words, by recognizing the connections between eating and the land, one becomes more than a passive consumer. By realizing we are participants in agriculture, we might begin to ask questions - where did this food come from?

    For all meals, but especially for the meal with a holiday all its own, I challenge you to consider where your food comes from. Be a responsible consumer; choose a free-range turkey rather than an industrial raised butterball. As your fork clinks against your plate this Thanksgiving, let freedom ring.

    Wendell Berry’s “The Pleasures of Eating,” as well as other musings on food, can be found in Food & Faith: Justice, Joy and Daily Bread, available for purchase from the Earth Ministry Online Store.