Monthly Archives: May 2013

Rev. Richard Cizik: Climate change and the ‘burn it all downers’

Written by Rev. Richard Cizik. This article first appeared in the Washington Post On-Faith blog on May 21, 2013. Content reproduced by permission of the author.
Rev. Richard Cizik. OdysseyNetworks

Rev. Richard Cizik. OdysseyNetworks

Pastor Mark Driscoll, who ministers in Seattle, told a Catalyst gathering a few days ago that “I know who made the environment and he’s coming back and going to burn it all up. So yes, I drive an SUV.” No joke. That’s what he said. Actually, Driscoll says it was all just a joke.

A lot of people didn’t get the humor. Maybe it was because last week scientists declared that CO2 levels had reached 400 parts per million (ppm), and 350.org released their film, “Do the Math” on the crisis of climate change.

Reputable scientists in this impressive film say “civilization is in jeopardy.” [Disclaimer: I am in the film saying oil companies should be held liable.]

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The Racialization of Climate?

I recently returned from several weeks in Kenya, where a group of North American scientists, teachers and church leaders were examining the impact of global climate disruptions on poor farmers in that country. We travelers shared a profound commitment to creation care. We also shared a sincere faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As we met with farming and church groups, we heard dolefully repetitious themes: the planting seasons are disrupted, often cutting harvests from two per year to one or less; droughts are much more frequent; more intense floods are washing away fertile soils; changing climatic patterns result in new crop pests never seen before….

At every visit, we took pictures of our new Kenyan friends. But I can’t help noting: They all look so different from me. Their suffering moves me. But at some level, it’s a bit harder to see their suffering as my suffering. Would it be different if they looked, spoke and dressed like me?

This is the question addressed by Albert Hamstra, a career missionary with the Christian Reformed Church, and a member of our traveling team.

A Question

Written by: Albert Hamstra

Hamstra planting a tree near Nairobi

Hamstra planting a tree near Nairobi

What if the main people who were suffering from the effects of environmental degradation and climate change were white? Would the reaction to it be any different in the USA and Canada than it is today?

One of the reasons these problems are so difficult to address is because they have been racialized. Whenever “the other” is of another race, sustained empathy with them is extremely difficult and rare. It becomes easier to find reasons for our indifference and inattention.

This scenario has been played out repeatedly in many situations so that most, if not all, of our major social/ethical challenges are racialized.

We Christians have been given the grace to escape from the destruction of racialization and the racism that accompanies it. This is a significant reason why the Church is especially qualified to address issues of the abuse of creation. We know God the Creator; therefore there is no “other” whom we can dismiss as having less value.

I encourage us to spend a few minutes imagining what it would be like if the main people who were suffering from the effects of climate change and environmental degradation today were white. What does that image say to us?

Albert Hamstra serves the CRC as its Global Impact Director. This post first appeared on May 1, 2013 in the CRC’s World Renew volunteer website.

Saying No to the Drive-Through

There are 254 million passenger vehicles in the U.S. – one for every licensed driver, plus 64 million extras. And we drive everywhere. Walking, biking, running – all the healthy ways of getting around – are beginning to fade from the national consciousness.

The consequences of our obsession with not-walking are piling up in the form of health costs, congestion and pollution. And our car-culture contributes in a major way to the 17.2 tons of CO2 emitted, on average, by every single American, four times the 4.6 tons emitted by the average global citizen.

Picture1There are hundreds of ways to cut our driving emissions. Here’s a simple way to start: If you are able to walk, resolve to never again use a drive-up window.  Buy your coffee or deposit your paycheck standing on your own two feet, with your car engine turned off.

You’ll figure out other ways to care for God’s injured creation, but saying no to the drive through is a small step in getting started.

Your Spare Fridge is Robbing you Blind

Remember those stories about banks and credit card companies that would slip in a charge of a few cents every month, and no one would bother to check it out? Someone must have gone to jail, right?

Well we had one of those – no, two! – in our house. It seemed so sensible: a second refrigerator is great for the holidays, and for the garden harvest, especially when we have lots of asparagus waiting to be delivered. In fact, at one point we had FOUR fridges humming along!

Elwoods' 2nd fridge is now mostly "off"

Elwoods’ 2nd fridge is now mostly “off”

But watch out! Every fridge plugged in costs us about $100-125 per year in electric cost, and generates 0.8-1.0 tons of CO2 emissions.  Catch that?  A TON OF CO2 FOR EVERY FRIDGE.

And it was so hard to kick the habit! We meant to scale back for the longest time.  But what were we supposed to do with all the junk we had in the freezer?  Turns out most of it was pretty much junk, especially when compared to the cost of keeping it frozen. The happy ending is that the Elwoods are now down to one running refrigerator, and it’s an efficient one. (If yours is more than ten years old, toss it immediately. You’ll recoup your costs in a couple years, and save major emissions.)

Can my Shower Head Protect the Creation?

About ten years ago, we changed our shower heads.  We knew we were saving money and CO2 emissions, but we didn’t know how much.  Now, we’ve done the math, and it’s pretty amazing.

RSCN4342_1275We saved the old shower heads, so we tested them against the low-flow type we’ve been using.  With our level of water pressure, our shower heads use 1.1 gallons per minute, compared with 1.7 gallons for the old ones.  That means that for an average shower, we use 4.5 gallons less hot water than we used to.  For our family, that means we save more than 1.1 tons of CO2 emissions per year, and $138 in electric bills.  Over the last decade, we’ve kept more than 11 tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere with these little things.

But the manufacturers say that many standard shower heads use a whopping 6 gallons per minute.  Ours weren’t that wasteful, but if they were, then our little investment of $10-15 per shower head would have saved 9 tons of CO2 and $1,200 in electric bills every year!

RSCN4341_1270Hint:  There are many types of low-flow heads, but we like the ones with a cut-off valve, so that we can reduce flows (without cutting them off entirely) when not rinsing, or when shampooing or shaving.  Some cut-off valves are either on or off, but we prefer the ones that can reduce a little at a time.  Ours are chrome V-shaped wires that rotate in either direction to easily reduce or restore flow.

Here is a link to our favorite shower head, priced at $10.

Kicking the Plastic Bottle Habit

Ever wonder what goes into making those plastic water bottles we use almost every day? You’ve got three guesses.

  • Soybeans?  Nope.
  • Corn syrup?  For once, no.  Last guess.
  • Hmm. Petroleum?  Bingo!

images bottlesIn America alone, we use 15 to 17 million barrels of oil per year making water bottles.   If you fill a bottle about one-quarter full of oil, that’s how much oil went into making the bottle!  We Americans spend $11 billion per year on the things.  Worldwide, we use 31 billion of them every year.  About 10% get recycled.  The rest go … wherever!  When burned, they emit one of the world’s deadliest toxins: Dioxin.  And the one you discard today won’t break down fully before the year 2500.  Continue reading

Try This Water Filter!

You already know how nuts it makes us that we consume so much bottled water – and so many plastic bottles.   As a country, we consume 29 BILLION plastic water bottles per year.  And at a retail price of $1.25 for a 20-ounce bottle of Dasani, that’s $8 per gallon – more than twice as expensive as a gallon of gas.  Have we gone crazy?

The PUR 198-Cup Dispenser/Filter

The PUR 18-Cup Dispenser/Filter

Not only that, but making the bottles takes petroleum.  Here’s the simplest way to think about it.  Fill a plastic bottle one-quarter full of oil: that’s how much of the gunk it took to make the bottle alone.  And that’s not the end of the story: the water gets shipped from distant places, including – of all places – the Fiji Islands, using that much more oil.  And once your bottle is in the land fill, it leaches chemicals into the soil and ground water for generations.
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