Monday, October 24, 2011

Crossing the Mountains

by Betsy Cannon

This weekend Jessie and I ventured to Yakima to discuss Greening Congregations.  As I had never visited Washington before moving to Seattle two months ago, this was my first time crossing the Cascades.  Although I understand the theory behind rainshadows, I was amazed to see the clouds and rain fade away as we crossed the pass and entered a beautiful, sunny day in Yakima Valley.

Jessie and I had a great discussion with members of Wesley United Methodist's Green Team as well as interested members of other congregations.  Everyone shared inspiring stories.  A Master Gardener spoke about how less than 1% of insects are harmful to gardens.  The rest are either neutral or beneficial, so it is better not to use pesticides.  A couple shared about how they designed their home to take advantage of the sunlight.  Another woman explained how she focuses on changing one behavior at a time.  Once that behavior became a habit, she moved on to another behavior, but if she had tried to adopt several changes at once, she would have failed.

Hearing about the work of each congregation was even more exciting than the individual efforts.  Working our way through the green fields, we discussed worship, education, individual stewardship, buildings and grounds, and community outreach.  One person told about the joy when her church held a Blessing of the Animals.  Wesley members shared about the recycling center that the church runs for Yakima and how they are advocating for county recycling.   Additionally, Wesley maintains an organic garden and shares its produce with members.  At Wesley and over the past two months, I've been astounded by the efforts of Earth Ministry's Greening Congregations.
To learn more about our Greening Congregations and how to get your church involved, visit our website.
As Jessie and I made our way back to the pass, we drove past orchards full of apples and towering walls of basalt.  Gradually, the trees transitioned from golden yellow to deep evergreen and rain began to beat against the windshield.  I found it difficult to believe that such different ecosystems are so close together.

Fresh apples, a stunning landscape, and dedicated people caring for creation made for a wonderful weekend.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Miracles of Restoration

by Betsy Cannon

Last Friday, the Lutheran Volunteer Corps members in the Puget Sound area, including myself, went on a tour of the Lower Duwamish River. This five mile stretch of river in South Seattle is the tribal land of the Duwamish people, an industrial center, and a Superfund site.  

As we boarded the boat, our guide handed each of us a map of the river.  As we unfolded them, we learned that a river once characterized by oxbows follows a nearly straight path today due to channeling.  Several of us identified with the attempt to regulate rivers in our hometowns.  Whether reversing the flow of the Chicago River or diverting the Mississippi away from the Atchafalaya River, we all remembered a time when humans have tried to control nature.

But more than the channelizing of the river, we were devastated to hear of the PCBs in the salmon, the toxins in the sediment, and cranes driven from their home.  An industrial shredder used to rip apart cars and appliances appeared as a monster looming on the bank.  Although the environmental degradation is terrible, it is equally incredible what has been accomplished.  Now, a park sits along a restored riverbank.  Toxic sediments are being removed from the riverbed with pinpoint accuracy.  Industries contain their chemicals, instead of using them in the open.  Cranes and other wildlife are migrating back.

There is still much work to be done.  Toxics in the water are well above health standards.  Pollutants banned decades ago remain in sewers and flow into the river.  The polluted water disproportionally harms minority and low-income communities.  With over 500 outfalls, contamination continues to run directly into the river.  Still, it is important that we claim our successes and remain hopeful.  Dedicated work can lead to recovery. 

On the boat ride back to the dock, I saw two sea lions surface as a kingfisher dove and snatched a couple of fish from the water.  To me, that’s a miracle.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Moving Planet Seattle

On Saturday, September 24th, Washingtonians gathered around Lake Union for a day of education, action and fun at Moving Planet Seattle.

In solidarity with over 2,000 events in 175 countries for's annual day of action on climate change,  Earth Ministry, Climate Solutions, the Sierra Club, 350 Washington, Washington Environmental Council, Transportation For Washington and many other community organizations came together to host Moving Planet Seattle.  In the theme of moving beyond fossil fuels, the day focused on the need to end our reliance on coal and oil and to take action on urgent issues facing Washington state and the Northwest, including halting coal exports and supporting a wider array of transportation choices.
Earth Ministry table.  Photo by Paul Anderson

Moving Planet Seattle kicked off with almost a hundred people taking action in workshops on coal and oil and continued into the afternoon with over a thousand people converging on Lake Union Park via bus, bike, on foot, on skate boards, roller skates, paddle-boards, sail boats, canoes, electric vehicles and more!  At the park, attendees attempted stand-up paddleboard yoga, rode a conference bike, registered for Undriving licenses, and learned how they could be involved at the many information tables.

LeeAnne at the rally.
Earth Ministry's very own LeeAnne Beres emceed the rally.  Each of the featured speakers spoke proudly of Washingtonians working to move our state beyond fossil fuels - including Mayor of Seattle Mike McGinn who rode his bike to the event and spoke out against coal export terminals. Washingtonians have also worked hard to end our state's reliance on coal, protecting our communities' health and God's creation.

The day ended at Plymouth United Church of Christ.  The young adult recipients of the David Brower Youth Award spoke about the environmental justice issues in their home communities.  The event also marked the launch of the new national United Church of Christ Environmental Justice Center in the Seattle area.

The iconic 350 photo.  Photo by Paul Anderson
Earth Ministry thanks the many organizations who made Moving Planet Seattle possible.  We  are blessed to have such wonderful partners!

Moving Planet Seattle Hosts:
  • 350 Washington State
  • Climate Solutions 
  • Earth Ministry 
  • Pacific Northwest Conference, UCC
  • Sierra Club
  • Transportation for Washington
  • Washington Environmental Council
Gold Sponsors:
  • Seattle Office of Sustainability & Environment
  • Seattle Parks & Recreation
  • Seattle Department of Transportation
Silver Sponsors:
  • Bishop's Committee for the Environment, Episcopal Diocese of Olympia
  • Home Performance Collaborative
  • Plymouth United Church of Christ
  • UnDriving
  • ZipCar
Bronze Sponsors:
  • BikeWorks
  • Cascade Bicycle Club 
  • Center for Wooden Boats
  • Seattle Dutch Bike Company
  • Sellen
  • Surf Ballard/WASUP Yoga
  • Urban Surf
Community Sponsors:
  •  aLIVe, CoolMom, Family Bike Expo, FeetFirst, FUSE, Maryhill Ratz, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Wildlife Federation, NW E-Bike, NW EcoBuilding Guild, Salish Sea Trading, SCALLOPS , Skate Like a Girl, Spokespeople, Transit Riders Union, YES! Magazine, Yoga for Bikers, and many more!