Category Archives: christian environmentalism

Day 291: MLwC and green holidays

We have a house nearby our West Seattle home that is a veritable beacon of light every holiday season. Literally, you can see it for miles, if not smell it. There’s something about that many lights burning bright in the night that smells like…well, like electricity or something. People drive from miles around to see this house; the family has a big crane come out to drape the evergreens with the longest strings of light I’ve ever seen–and these aren’t LED lights, they’re the real deal.

I can’t imagine how much energy they burn, and I’m not sure what all this has to do with the holidays or the birth of Jesus. If I were a believer, I would be confused, if not offended, to have Jesus and the whole entourage within 4 inches of a rockin’ rendition of Santa and his merry reindeers. Every motif in the world is going on in that yard, with grostesque results. But I will admit: the kids love it. And it IS a neighborhood tradition.

So, in this season of good cheer and energy consumption, is it a total faux pax to consider the environmental impact of all these lights?

LED lights are all the craze, and that’s great because they use soooo much less energy than the big honkers. And you might want to put your lights on a timer, the christmas tree too–so you don’t forget and leave ’em on.

Everybody seems to be in the mood for one reason or another to simply buy less this year. I know we’re looking forward to spending at least some of our budget traveling to spend real time with those near and dear–a better gift for all of us, or at least we hope so. We’re thinking: share more time, meals, tea, coffee, whatever with your friends and family, and focus less on the mountain of gifts we’ve all come to dread. You dread getting stuff you don’t want, they dread buying it. Why do we persist in this madness?

Whatever you do buy, make sure it’s as recycleable, reusable, renewable as possible. Avoid the stuff with lots of packaging material. Maybe the companies that do that will get a hint.

And if you’re hosting dinner, etc, remember: Cloth napkins, real dishes and flatware. Just think how happy the earth will be to not get more plastic “presents” in landfills all because you did it differently this year. You go, you!

Daily Stats:

Car: 0
Bike: 0
Ped: 3
Bus: 0

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Days 218 thru 221: MLwC, the rainy season and the restlessness of desire

The rainy season has come early to the Northwest this year. The temp has dropped quickly and I’m having to pull a lot of tomatoes off the vine and ripen them indoors. I was thinking today of how this new season will impact my fledgling transportation habits…for example, I’m nervous taking my laptop in my pack when it’s raining super hard and I have an appt out and about.

Or am I just reluctant to change habits? Think things through and come up with new approaches? All through this project I’ve faced that reluctance. Sure, after a while I come around but at first, my response is always: couldn’t I just take the car? It’d be so much easier, not to mention drier. But I just bought two new bus ticket packets and I’ll be using them. And the bike is still a brisk alternative on a windy Autumn day, making me feel more alive and connected than the other two alternatives combined.

Speaking of which, I read a post over at NoImpactMan the other day which echoes some of the feelings I’ve had at various points in this project. To whit: he finds himself more able to be grateful for things when he has less of them. Makes me think of “less is more,” a truism throughout the world of design, art, and life.

But NoImpactMan isn’t talking about art, he’s talking about living in a state of gratitude rather than desire. And when you start to cut the unnecessary out of your life, and get back to more grounded ways of living each day, it becomes easier to cultivate gratitude and recognize socialized desire when it pops up.

Have you ever read the magazine Ad Busters? It’s pretty interesting, though sort of depressing sometimes. What I love about that magazine is how they nail our culture of desire and strip it bare to reveal the inner workings. Some of their pieces on how women are taught to view themselves through media bombardment as inherently flawed without the intervention of multiple products are at once spot-on, sad, and hopeful–that last because it’s good to see the issue discussed so intelligently and by people who truly understand the advertising media.

Here’s an interesting article by Bill McKibbon in Ad Busters, from a while back, that discusses the possibility of seeing ourselves not as individuals but as part of a larger system, a very very large system. Seeing ourselves thus takes satisfaction out of the hands of media and puts it back into our own hands, our community, our neighbors, our own lives:

The dirty little secret of our individualized consumer age is that it hasn’t made us quite as happy as it promised it would. In fact, to the degree that we can track such things, our sense of well-being has retreated almost as fast as the Arctic ice. Polling data on ‘life satisfaction’ shows it has been falling since the mid-50s; even a growing chorus of economists has begun to wonder if their constant prescription (More!) has lost its curative powers, or even turned subtly toxic. It’s not precisely clear why we find ourselves less happy, but the sociologists and psychologists seem to think it has something to do with loss of community. The same loss of community that the fossil fuel infrastructure made inevitable.

As we continue to strive for happiness through “more,” we fall further into despair. I hate to be so focused on this driving/transportation thing, but I really did find the same exact thing happened when I stopped driving everywhere. When I was driving all the time, I felt like I needed to drive even more and faster, faster! I needed to get past everyone in front of me! I didn’t even know why, I just needed to. Only when I stopped driving, and speed of arrival wasn’t the only unit of measure that counted, I felt happier. Less is more.

Daily Stats (Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun) (This office project must end soon!)
Car: 9.5
Bike: 6
Ped: 4
Bus: 15

Day 195-197: MLwC and more on Green Christians

tomato.jpg My neighbor Susan, from whom I learn so much and with whom I have a deadly serious tomato growing competition, recently dropped me a note regarding her evolving thoughts re the environment and Christianity. But first, let’s get back to that deadly serious tomato competition (Lower Cloverdale Tomato Wars). For those who are interested in such things, I believe Susan is the Big Winna this year, both in Quantity and Quality. We have a stunning selection of tomatoes–French salad, black Italian plums, an heirloom and a Japanese variety. All good but because of work earlier in the year, we neglected to properly prune our apple and pear trees and only too late did we notice that our tomato bed was in shade most the day. Anyway, right now, the Japanese variety–the Momotaro–is the run-away favorite, while the French salad are monster big and impressive, but not as snappy tart as the others.

But I digress. Susan mentioned to me that she’s noticing the presence of Earth Ministry at her college, SPU, and will be checking in with them to see what they’re up to. Earth Ministry is primarily Northwest based and is currently celebrating its 15th year anniversary–good for them! They have a quarterly publication called Earth Letter with contributions by such luminaries as Wendell Berry, Bill Moyers, Barry Lopez, Pattiann Rogers, and others. They’ve celebrated previous events such as the Celebration of St. Francis (even I know that St. Francis is the nature-guy in the constellation of saints) with talks by Terry Tempest Williams, Bill McKibbon, and others. It seems like an outstanding organization and a proud offering from this beautiful neck of the woods.

She also pointed to an article in the latest Sojourner magazine that includes three articles on the green movement and what it means (or should mean) to Christians and Christian leaders.

Here’s a funny thing: when I went to the Sojourner site, I found the articles and clicked through. The magazine is more than willing to let me read the article for free, but predictably asked that I give info on who I am, etc in order to get it. I could lie (Mary Brown/111 Brown St./Brownsville, OK) but I tend to not do that so often; giving them my real info wasn’t an option…because I don’t consider myself a christian (or anything else, to be honest).

See? That’s why I don’t like these artificial boundaries like religion and politics and what not. They lock people in ideologically and block others out. Well, I won’t get on that rant. It just struck me that I didn’t want to give my name to an organization with a strong religious identity to which I didn’t belong. I dream of an open source world.

Last but not least, I ran across a Blog for Green Christians, by Sander Chan out of the Netherlands. It’s interesting, you may want to check it out if this topic intrigues you.

Daily Stats: (Tue, Wed, Thur)
Car: 28 miles (trip to Eastside, 3 tasks)
Bike: 16 miles
Ped: 1 or 2 miles
Bus: 5 miles

Day 175: MLwC and the upside of Evangelical Environmentalism

Thanks goes out to Anne Shudy Palmer for directing me to an interesting article in The Grist regarding Christian Environmentalism about which I complained wrote a while back.

Anne directed me to an interview with Cal DeWitt, an evangelical environmentalist who has been working hard at building networks and communities that work to create a healthier, sustainable environment. He currently teaches environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin.

DeWitt has seen a major upsurge in evangelical participation in the environmental movement as the disconnect between individual rights and collective good comes under greater scrutiny. Regarding the potential rift between standard Republican industry bias and green sensibilities:

It is happening, and it’s going to increasingly happen. Maybe the best illustration of that, from a specific case, is Boise Vineyard Church — one of these megachurches in Boise, Idaho. The pastor there, Tri Robinson, is an interesting example of a present-day evangelical. He is, No. 1, strongly Republican. He has said, “The last election was the last in which I will be forced to chose between individual rights and the rights of creation. From now on, both of them have to be together, and the politicians should be listening.” His church’s recycling center is the only one in all of Boise. His people go up high in the mountains and restore trails.

And most encouraging is the growing lines of communication and mutual understanding between environmental groups and evangelicals:

There are meetings being held between Friends of the Earth and evangelical leaders. It’s a bit uneasy, but there’s a welcoming discussion. E.O. Wilson, for example, is interested in talking with evangelicals. There are a lot of these conversations starting now….

…40 percent of the Sierra Club is Christian. Larry Schweiger, president of the National Wildlife Federation, is an evangelical. A lot of environmental organizations have evangelicals in them, but they’ve been quiet about it. It’s all opening up now.

And what I like most of all in this interview is the clear appraisal of the standard agenda for most Christian groups: me and my family. As if we’re running out of humans. To paraphrase DeWitt, without a healthy planet, your family is going to be basical SOL:

The focus on the individual, the focus on the family, while it was initially attractive because it addressed regaining an evangelical voice in U.S. government and U.S. policy … if you’re only focusing on the family, to the neglect of your wider community, which is eventually the whole of the biosphere and the whole of creation, you can actually do yourself in by taking too narrow of a focus. We’re moving from a focus on ourselves, which was part of the individualistic lifestyle we had been developing in America, to incorporating the whole household of life, the whole biosphere, the whole creation, without which family and individuals really can’t function at all.

Thanks Anne, for sending this–you made my day. And thanks to connectors like Cal DeWitt who are looking for common ground across all kinds of organizations.

Daily Stats (Thur)
Car: 7 miles (2 tasks)
Bike: 0
Ped: 3 miles
Bus: 0

Day 152: MLwC and Christian Environmentalism

I was raised Southern Californian, which back then meant something more along the lines of west coast new-age power-thinking. Sometimes my mom went to an Episcopal church but I rarely attended and am basically a clean slate when it comes to dogma. In my adult life I’ve veered off towards american Buddhism via yoga and meditation and that, truly, has made me a nicer person to be around–including to myself.

Yesterday as I took a walk through Lincoln Park after work, I got to thinking about a stat I’d seen, that something less than 7% of bloggers include opposing perspectives on their blogs–and I’m not talking about including opposing perspectives only to trash them. I would fall into that category, for sure. On the other hand, I feel that much of mainstream news is based on divisive headline grabbing, so I don’t exactly feel like “opposing views” is getting short shrift in the world.

That said, the notion of Christian Environmentalism wafted into my head. I’ve heard some mention of the “movement” in the last 6 months or so but nothing recently. I realized this was an opportunity to include viewpoints that are more challenging to me in my thinking–and I like that a lot.

A quick search on Google blogs reveals a lot of Christian Environmental discussion wherein lefty liberals are trashed for making up the whole issue of global warming–false science, global warming as the new lefty “idol.” Whatever. Global warming is kind of like God–if it’s true, you can’t escape it. Time will tell.  Wikipedia has an entry for Green Christianity which seems a bit more charitable than the cursory view I gave the blogosphere–that entry is worth reading.

I’d wanted to find a more reasoned, reasonable discussion of environmentalism and was a little disappointed, until I stumbled on the Chrysalis blog by Tim Keyes. Here was a calm discussion of the various concerns of this planet we inhabit and our spiritual/religious relationship to it. I was relieved. Here’s a nice quote from the entry:

Long ago, when a clergyman asked British naturalist J. Haldane what can be learned of God through the study of creation, he replied, “God has an inordinate fondness for beetles.” God has an inordinate fondness for life, too, which is all around those who have eyes to see it.


What I like about this post is that it tries to understand our relationship with the amazing gift of life that is the natural world all around us. I didn’t do an exhaustive search by any stretch, but I did peek into a lot of posts and too many of them focus on the “man in god’s image” therefore what I do must be godly and good and dominion over the rest of nature means I get to use it for my own ends–which of course are God’s own ends too, since we are made in God’s image. There is a real, live tautology there.

I welcome any readers out there to send me to other sites, because I really want to know: is there a Christian Environmental movement? Or is it more rhetorical maneuvering to maintain the status quo? I want to be introduced to some of that good old fashioned Christian fury that Christ was famous for when he spoke out against injustice and big business.

And finally, Look at me, Ma! I managed to find opposing viewpoints that more closely reflect my own!

Daily Stats: Monday
Car: 0
Bike: 0
Ped: approx 3 miles
Bus: 0
Desk: sitting nearly all day! 😦