• sunset

    FAITH ... And God saw all that he had made ....

  • glacier

    SCIENCE ... and behold, it was very good.

  • girl-holding-hand

    JUSTICE ... As you did for the least of these brothers of mine...

  • people-holding-buckets

    ACTION ... you did it for me.

  • banana-leaf

    RESOURCES ... books, videos and online tools for earthkeepers

Who Pays for Smog?

In the lead-up to his 2012 reelection campaign, President Obama faced a ticklish problem. Under the terms of the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency was required to issue rules governing industrial emissions of smog, that murky ozone pollution driving an epidemic of respiratory diseases and birth defects in our country. But compliance with the EPA rule would have been costly to coal-fired power plants in key electoral states in the Midwest Rust Belt, and the president needed them to remain in office.

So, in a bow to political expediency, Mr. Obama instructed the EPA to delay finalizing the smog rule for several years. Well, several years is now up. This Thursday marks the court-ordered deadline for the EPA to publish its smog rules. And industry-backed groups are pressing an all-out campaign to make them as weak as possible. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Petroleum Institute, and the National Association of Manufacturers are pushing for a relaxed standard of 70 parts atmospheric ozone per billion. The American Lung Association and environmental groups are advocating a tighter standard of 60 parts per billion.


Thursday deadline for EPA smog rules.

The difference? In health terms, the industry’s proposal would result in 1.5 million more serious asthma attacks per year, and thousands of premature deaths, mainly among children and the elderly.

You might think this would be easy. The Centers for Disease Control reports that 25 million Americans suffer from asthma, and the number is growing rapidly. About half of them experience asthma attacks every year. About 9 people die from asthma every day. And the annual national medical bill for the disease was last estimated at an astounding $56 billion, and that was almost a decade ago.

For each victim of asthma, the personal cost is enormous. Of course, for the 3,600 who die every year, the discussion of cost is hugely ironic. But for the surviving sufferers, average individual yearly medical costs ran at $3,300 a decade ago, and we all know what’s happened to medical costs since then.

But asthma sufferers aren’t the only ones talking about cost. The industry lobby claims that tighter ozone standards will cause electricity costs to soar, as smokestack scrubbers costing tens of millions of dollars will need to be installed in many plants. They’ve been joined by dozens of mayors and governors from both sides of the political aisle in their appeal: It’s too expensive. We can’t afford it.

But this debate illustrates one of our great American industrial illusions, doesn’t it? As long as pollution doesn’t cost me anything, then it must be essentially free. If I can produce electricity at five cents per kilowatt-hour while generating lots of smog, then rules that will cost me six cents are pure losers. Losers to my shareholders. Losers to my customers.

But who are the losers today? Well, there are those 3,600 dead Americans. And there are those 25 million asthma sufferers. There are the families of black children, who have seen a 50 percent increase in asthma rates in the last ten years. And there’s that not-so-tidy sum of $56 billion in US medical costs for asthma, much of which is attributable to ozone pollution.

And – I suppose I should mention – asthma is only one of smog’s ill effects, which also include cancers, neurological birth defects and more. The province of Ontario alone counts 9,500 premature deaths per year from all effects of ozone pollution. There’s that too.

So maybe it comes down to this: Who should pay the cost of smog in a just country? Should it be the children and the elderly? Or should it be the people profiting from its use?

Just like you, we don’t want higher electric bills. But we’ll solve our problems (see below) without asking the kids, the aging and the poor to pay them for us.

Note: At Good Hand Farm, we generate most of the electricity for three houses and field irrigation pumps from solar arrays. The balance, we purchase from wind farm generators. It isn’t always easy, but it’s doable.

Global Companies Commit to Carbon-Free Future

Climate campaigners are used to failure and frustration. Most mornings, it feels like we’re once again putting our shoulder to the boulder and struggling a few feet up the hill, only to be sent sprawling by a finger-flick from the overwhelming moneyed interests arrayed against us.

But not this morning! Because this morning, a group straight out of the Who’s Who of multinational corporate giants has pledged to source 100% of their electricity from renewable sources to reduce CO2 emissions. Goldman Sachs, Johnson & Johnson, NIKE, Procter & Gamble, Starbucks, Steelcase, and Walmart have added their names to the RE100, an alliance of companies committed to carbon-neutral operations.

Starbuck, Nestle, Mars, Walmart and other commit to carbon -free future

Starbucks, Nestle, NIKE, Walmart and others commit to carbon -free future

The RE100 was founded last year by a group of environmentally-conscious companies including retailers IKEA and H&M, insurer Swiss Re, tech giants Philips and Unilever, and consumer products leaders Nestle and Mars. They have attracted 36 signatories over the year, including Infosys, Salesforce, SAP, DSM and banking giant UBS. But today’s announcement of nine giant signatories looks to turn the trickle into a flood.

And it’s not just the companies. We began the week with leaders of American and Chinese governments, from Obama and Xi Jinping down to the mayors of Beijing, Washington, Guangzhou, New York and Los Angeles agreeing to accelerate their carbon reduction plans.

And last evening, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton ended a five-year flirtation with the Canadian Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline. “I think it is imperative that we look at the Keystone pipeline as what I believe it is — a distraction from important work we have to do on climate change,” Clinton said.

What’s more, tomorrow, Pope Francis, pastor to one-fifth of the people on this planet, will address the US Congress with his message of love, justice and stewardship for all God’s creation, including our injured climatic systems, and the poor who suffer most of the consequences.

Can the news get any better? Well, yes. 115 church congregations have now added their names to the list of those committing to reduce their carbon footprints 50% by 2030, and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. They’ve taken the Paris Pledge, available to churches and individuals who want to join these cities, countries and corporations with personal pledges to act in love for God’s creation.

So we may have seen many discouraging days in these last years. But today, I’ve got a song in my heart. The long Narnian winter is beginning to thaw. The log jam is just beginning to break. People know what they need to do. And they’re finally taking the stand to care for God’s creation and its most vulnerable children.

“Now I’ve been smiling lately, thinking about the good things to come
And I believe it could be, something good has begun…” Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam

GOP House Climate Resolution: Cheers, and Sighs

And now, some good news from the GOP on climate change. Ten Republican members of the House of Representatives have signed a resolution that acknowledges manmade climate change, accepts that we bear responsibility for adverse consequences affecting vulnerable populations and our children, and commits to working constructively to clean up our mess.

We hear that more Republicans will come on board. But for now, it’s ten – about 4 percent of the Republican House Caucus. It’s a start. If all you’ve heard about the GOP’s approach to caring for the creation is that they’re suing the EPA and trying to defund it, that they’re trying to kill its climate pollution mitigation plans, and that they’re telling world leaders that American commitments on climate change at the global climate summit in Paris this December will be dead-on-arrival in Congress, then surely this offers a ray of encouragement.

Rep. Chris Gibson, R-NY

So we offer special thanks to Congressman Chris Gibson (R-NY 19th District), for leading this effort. And we’re thankful for Pope Francis, whose impending visit must certainly have prompted reflection on the part of politicians whose constituents embrace the pontiff’s appeal to act on climate pollution.

But whatever appreciation we can muster, Gibson’s resolution is still mixed reading. Yes, it goes a long way toward accepting the realities so long denied by the party. At the same time, it also offers a painful reminder of how much silliness must still be endured to garner even a shred of support from the majority in Congress. Just to get signatures from 4 percent of GOP congressional representatives, they had to invoke “American exceptionalism,” promise to oppose anything economically painful, and entirely ignore the effects of climate pollution on those living beyond our borders.

So, is it cheers for Gibson and his colleagues, or sighs for the herculean obstacles he faces? Here’s a sampling of both.


There really is a lot to like about this GOP resolution. It would be churlish to pick at the flaws, and ignore some of the real progress:

  • They acknowledge that it should be a conservative impulse to conserve the creation (“to protect, conserve, and be good stewards of our environment”). Cheers!
  • They admit that extreme weather is getting worse (“more frequent heat waves, extreme precipitation, wildfires, and water scarcity”), and is expected to worsen further (“longer and hotter heat waves, more severe storms, worsening flood and drought cycles, growing invasive species and insect problems, threatened native plant and wildlife populations, rising sea levels”). Cheers!
  • They admit that climate pollution harms the poor (“hitting vulnerable populations hardest”) and our children (“saddling future generations with costly economic and environmental burdens”). Cheers!
  • They admit that climate disruption is a threat to national security (citing military assessments that the effects of climate change are “threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad”). Cheers!
  • And they commit to working constructively to find solutions to human activities that lead to climate change. Cheers!

All good stuff. Cheers for you, Mr. Gibson!


But that’s not the whole story, I’m afraid. It’s clear that the resolution has been labored over to fend off as many objections as possible. And some of that editing looks ominous to those of us hoping for a thaw in congressional obstruction on climate action.

  • There is virtually no acknowledgement whatsoever of harm from our climate pollution on those outside the United States. While they acknowledge the harmful impact on “all Americans” and the “challenges we face as a nation,” you might think that they imagine that the impacts of our climate pollution simply stop at our borders. This point is not academic. Rather, it permits signatories to avoid entirely the moral debt that heavy polluters like the US now owe to vulnerable communities in Africa, the Middle East, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Central America, and island nations. Sigh.
  • Actually, there is one mention of harm abroad. The resolution acknowledges that US military planners view the effects of climate disruption as ‘‘threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions.’’ So yes, they indirectly agree that our pollution does indeed harm other nations, but their concern is specifically limited to the security impact that the resulting chaos will have on us and our military. Sigh.
  • And you’d think that a problem worthy of national and global action would be worthwhile, even if it cost us something. But it’s not just petty nitpicking to note that Mr. Gibson’s resolution stipulates that the solution must be costless: “Any efforts to mitigate the risks of, prepare for, or otherwise address our changing climate and its effects should not constrain the United States economy….” Well, global crises have a nasty habit of constraining economies. WWII wasn’t costless. Our response to polio, cholera or Ebola wasn’t costless. Protecting the ozone layer wasn’t costless. There are some things you do to survive and protect others that have costs. Do they really believe that this is an exception? Sigh.
  • Speaking of exceptions, they feel the need to stress that that’s exactly what we are. They call on the “tradition of American ingenuity, innovation, and exceptionalism” to act on climate. We suspect that American exceptionalism – the doctrine that the United States is fundamentally different from other nations – is inherently corrosive to efforts that call on all nations to begin seeing themselves as a global community to protect a shared inheritance for all of our children. Sigh.
  • Our least significant “sigh” we leave for last. The resolution commits its signatories “to study and address the causes and effects of measured changes to our global and regional climates.” To study climate change. You may wonder if they mean something like 12,000 peer reviewed studies over a period of twenty years? Actually, that’s already been done without them, at an average pace of roughly two such studies per day over a span of two decades. Sadly, those have been almost entirely ignored or rejected by congressional leaders. It could be significant, however, if it meant that they would reverse their votes earlier this year to cut funding for NASA and NOAA related to climate research.

So, we want to applaud anything that this Congress does to protect our Father’s suffering creation. Mr. Gibson’s resolution offers a lot to like, and we pray for his success. But to us, his labored final draft offers a sobering picture of the road ahead for him.

Perhaps we need a miracle, something we pray for earnestly. At the very least, we need citizens willing to speak out like Mr. Gibson is doing. We are pulling for you, sir. May God be with you.

J. Elwood

Exxon: The Evolution of a Denial Financier

In July 1979, Exxon scientists were worried. They delivered a sobering message to the company’s top executives: carbon dioxide from the world’s use of fossil fuels would warm the planet and could eventually endanger humanity.

For the next ten years, Exxon scientists led some of the best research on manmade climate change, leading to the conclusion that estimated a doubling of the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere would increase average global temperatures by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius (4 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit), and as much as 10 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) at the poles. Rainfall might get heavier in some regions, and other places might turn to desert.

“Some countries would benefit but others would have their agricultural output reduced or destroyed,” concluded one Exxon scientist, in the written summary of a 1978 company presentation.

Some countries would have their agriculture destroyed. That’s what Exxon thought. Destroyed. No food for some countries.

Inside Climate News has chronicled Exxon’s evolution from scientific leadership in the 1970-1980’s, to funding the constellation of climate denial front groups in the 1990-2000’s. It’s a must read for people wondering how America became the last global holdout of skepticism about climate science.

Here’s a quick summary:

Read the entire article here.

J. Elwood

Summer of Trump Yields to Autumn of Francis

And I can hardly wait.

Because it’s been a really long summer. And that’s coming from a man – an old, white man, at that. Makes me wonder how women and people of color must be feeling.

But still, it’s been grueling. It’s not just the narcissism, or the rudeness, or the stupidity, or the frivolity. It’s this: That constant drumbeat that we need to keep them out, suppress them, even kill them.

Them. You know, THEM.

Maybe they’re rapists and criminals. Maybe they’re terrorists. Maybe they’re stealing our jobs. Maybe they want us to acknowledge that their lives matter. THEM.

We need to build walls against THEM. We need to deport THEM. We need to stop THEM from devaluing their currency. We can’t let THEM vote.

I wish it were just Trump. But it seems almost everyone wants to make sure he’s not out-Trumped by anyone else. It seems to be the easiest ticket to popularity in an American election season: Make sure everyone hates and fears the dark and sinister THEM.

Pope_Francis_Korea_Haemi_Castle_19_(cropped)But while I hear it every night on the news, during the day I’ve been reading Pope Francis’ wonderful letter “On Care for Our Common Home,” or “Laudato Si’ (Be praised, my Lord).” If there are more striking polar opposites, I can’t think of any more pronounced than the message peddled by Trump (and Trump wannabees), and the hopeful message of Francis.

And that’s because – at least in part – Francis doesn’t recognize that any of us are THEM. The title of Laudato Si’ gives you the first clue: “Care for Our Common Home.” OUR home. Our COMMON home. It’s not an American home over here, and a Mexican, Syrian or Chinese home over there. It’s one home, shared by everyone, protected for everyone, or polluted for everyone. Treasured for everyone, or debased for everyone.

“We need to strengthen the conviction,” says Francis, “that we are one single human family. There are no frontiers or barriers, political or social, behind which we can hide, still less is there room for the globalization of indifference.”

“Whether believers or not, we are agreed today that the earth is essentially a shared inheritance, whose fruits are meant to benefit everyone. For believers, this becomes a question of fidelity to the Creator, since God created the world for everyone.”

But back here in the Summer of Trump, we’re treated nightly to plans to build a 2,000-mile wall to keep THEM out. “Nobody builds better walls than me, believe me,” says the orange-haired fellow. Never mind that net migration across that particular border is actually ZERO.

But for Trump and the keep-THEM-out crowd, their worst fears are about to be realized. They are – in fact – coming. THEM. But in this case, THEM is a smiling, one-lunged, Argentinian priest and his collection of bishops from all over the world.

He’s going to be greeted by throngs that will put to shame the pitiful little crowds that cheer and sneer for Trump. And Francis is not just going to comfort his audience with assurances that we are all common creatures of one loving Lord and Father. He’s got some tough love for us: We, on THIS side of the border, owe a staggering debt to THEM, on the other side.

“A true ‘ecological debt’ exists,” he has said, “particularly between the global north and south, connected to commercial imbalances with effects on the environment, and the disproportionate use of natural resources by certain countries (you know who he’s talking about, don’t you?) over long periods of time.”

In effect, we’ve been polluting the whole world’s atmosphere for so long, and gotten so rich by doing so, that we are far worse than mere equals of our poorer migrant brothers. We are, Pope Francis points out, deeply in hock to those who are suffering the global effects of our 200-year fossil-fuel binge.

So when Francis speaks publicly in Philadelphia or Washington, I’ll find a way to be in the crowd. I don’t expect to be entertained. I know that all quarter-million of us on the National Mall will be among the “twenty percent of the world’s population” that “consumes resources at a rate that robs the poor nations and future generations of what they need to survive,” according to Francis.

I expect him to tell us that we need to consume and pollute far less for the sake of our children. “The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes,” he has written. “Intergenerational solidarity is not optional, but rather a basic question of justice.”

I don’t expect it to be all that much fun. But I plan to be there. Because maybe, just maybe, the summer of stoking fear of THEM is finally yielding to the autumn of US.

If so, I want to be part of it.

J. Elwood

Download Laudato Si’ Digest : our own thumbnail version of Pope Francis’ letter “On Care For Our Common Home.”

What Hillary Can Learn from “the Donald”

Dear Secretary Clinton,

I’m sitting at my desk this morning, wondering: What happened? You may have never been the perfect candidate, but you were a smart leader, with a moral compass on behalf of the oppressed, whose instincts could mostly be trusted. You would listen to reason. And you were walloping any of the boys the politicos might send up against you.

But now, Bernie Sanders has won the hearts of the justice voters. Vice President Biden is being drafted by voters who long for some real heart. And the GOP has gone for a straight-talking reality TV star.

How the heck did we get here?

I think I have an idea. And just maybe, it can help you recover a bit of your mojo. You see, for months now, pundits have dismissed all the reckless crazies who shoot off their mouths at the drop of a hat. Trump was history when he called millions among us rapists. Cruz was pronounced dead when he likened Obamacare to Nazi Germany. Biden’s loose lips got him way out in front of the President on marriage equality. And Sanders foolishly welcomed the “socialist” epithet.

Those guys are all history, right? Actually, not right. Whatever we may think about immigration, health care, marriage or any other underlying issue, it seems that we voters sort of like people who will speak their minds. Even buffoons might be given a pass if voters think they’re telling it like it is.

Picture1And that brings me to your recent comments about the Keystone XL Pipeline. I may be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that almost no one believes you’re dodging this issue because of a valid technical constraint. You’ve said the “I have to keep my opinions to myself” because you were once involved in reviewing TransCanada’s application to build the tar sands pipeline through the middle of our country.

“I want to wait and see” what President Obama and Secretary Kerry decide, you said.

Well, of course you want to wait and see. But wait-and-see has been on a bit of a losing streak these days. We voters want to know what leaders really think. And your dodges make tend to make us suspect the worst, even if we’re wrong.

The worst? It’s not lost on us that ExxonMobil, a huge tar sands investor, has contributed heavily to the Clinton Foundation. We saw that as Secretary of State, you quietly supported the pipeline. We held our noses when one of your key campaign managers even went on to become a well-paid lobbyist for TransCanada. So we nervously ask ourselves, has she been bought off by Exxon? By TransCanada? By Stephen Harper’s Canadian petro-state?

Look, maybe you really once liked this awful project. But that was a long time ago. How were you to know that thousands of your countrymen were willing to be arrested in their efforts to stop it? That was before some 30,000 “pipeline fighters” locked arms around the White House, and before 400,000 of us marched through New York City to demand real climate action. That was before your own president vowed to reject the permit if Keystone XL would contribute to climate change – which it clearly will.

So maybe it’s time to take a lesson from “the Donald,” and all those other shoot-from-the-hip candidates at either end of the spectrum. Tell us what you’re thinking about Keystone XL. Tell us now. I’m just sure you don’t imagine that your silence is going to win you the drill-baby-drill vote. But it may cost you the support of millions of Americans who are attracted to people who seem to be speaking their minds – whatever may be in there.

You took a step in this direction last week, and I personally think it helped you. Even though President Obama has approved Shell’s oil drilling in the Arctic, you went out on a limb and opposed your former boss. “The Arctic is a unique treasure,” you said. “Given what we know, it’s not worth the risk of drilling.”

Hey, that’s good. The President may not be happy. Shell and the Trump crowd may be seething. But voters heard something different than “wait and see.” I bet you’re standing a little taller for all that.

Now, how about trying it out on that Canadian tar sands pipeline? We will feel much better about you, I’m sure.


J. Elwood

Pray With Us for the Creation!

We would like to invite you to participate in what may be the first truly global response by Christians to our many environmental crises. You can do it by joining in a Telephonic Prayer Meeting organized by Evangelical Christians engaged in various Creation Care ministries.

  • When? Tuesday, September 1, 8:00-8:50 PM  Eastern, 5:00-5:50 Pacific
  • Call in instructions: Dial 1-302-202-1106 – Conference code: 381142 (Kindly mute your line upon connecting.)
  • Who’s involved? Representatives of the World Evangelical Alliance, the Lausanne evangelistic movement’s Creation Care Network, Care of Creation, Climate Caretakers, Sojourners, Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, the A Rocha Christian conservation ministry, the Christian Reformed Church, the Presbyterian Church and Christians for the Mountains, among many others – including Beloved Planet!
  • How can I participate? Download the Pray for Creation prayer guide, call in and join numerous speakers in scripture readings, devotions and prayer for our world, for repentance, for those in power, and for the church. And forward this email to your friends, small group members, pastors, family members and the like. There’s room for everyone to join in prayer!

earthVirtually the entire global Christian Church has embraced next Tuesday, September 1 as a Global Day of Prayer for Care of the Creation. Patriarch Bartholomew of the Orthodox Communion inaugurated the observance some twenty-five years ago, calling on “every person, and above all the faithful, to constantly watch over his fellow man and the world, for the benefit of us all and for the glory of the Creator.” Cheers for the Orthodox! 200 million Christians.

Last week, Pope Francis joined in on behalf of the world’s Roman Catholics. “The ecological crisis therefore calls us to a profound spiritual conversion,” wrote the Pope in announcing the Day of Prayer. “Christians are called to an ecological conversion whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them.” Cheers for the Catholics! Another 1.1 billion Christians. With the Orthodox, the tally reaches 1.3 billion people called to prayer for the beloved planet.

In no time at all, the World Council of Churches, representing roughly 500 million Protestant Christians in 110 countries committed to observing the Day of Prayer, and extending it for more than a month-long “Time for Creation.” Hooray WCC! The tally? Around 1.6 billion Christians.

And now, the Protestant World Evangelical Alliance, representing more than 600 million Christians in 129 countries has added their “Amen” to the Day of Prayer. That’s 2.2 billion Christians. And that’s just about all of us. All praying for God’s healing of our polluted planet. All repenting of our toxic consumerist idolatry. All praying for God’s people to rise up to protect our Father’s world.

You can join us, wherever you are. Pray for biblical simplicity of life. Pray for the poor, who disproportionately suffer the effects of pollution caused by others. Pray for those facing extreme weather – drought, flooding, and intense storms driving hunger, conflict and human migration. Pray for all who rely on marine ecosystems, in the face of worldwide ocean acidification. Pray for those in the path of rising sea levels and melting ice sheets. Pray for those in power, to commit to bold and compassionate action for people of every nation.

And if you’re free at 8:00 PM Eastern Time on Tuesday, then call in and join us for a few minutes. This is our Father’s world. Let’s pray – and then act faithfully – for its healing.

J. Elwood

Note: If you cannot make it to our Prayer Call, but still want to pray with others, then click here to access several calls being hosted by Evangelical Environmental Network.