Category Archives: Act!

China-US Collaboration on Climate Pollution

Much has been made of the historic agreement between President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping – representing the world’s two largest carbon polluters – to finally begin cooperating on cutting CO2 emissions. After an initial deluge of sniping from US politicians, the world seems to have concluded that this could be the breakthrough that the Creation has been groaning for.

Ms. Elwood's indoor clothesline

Ms. Elwood’s indoor clothesline

We are thankful for the progress, and hopeful that India will come along next, leading to a global agreement in Paris next summer. But not all cooperation in caring for God’s Creation is between governments. Citizens can make a difference too.

Consider Barbara Elwood, American grandmother and keeper of laying hens. Ms. Elwood has just installed a new indoor clothesline, offering a little more comfort to the wintertime clothes-drying at her home in New Jersey. The grandkids like to pretend that the drying laundry is a jungle, and happily take their afternoon naps beneath the colorful assortment of tee-shirts and boxers.

In a matching gesture of East-West cooperation, Mei Lin Wong of Hong Kong has installed window clothes-drying racks outside her 24th story apartment windows, together with two-thirds of her fellow tenants. On a breezy day, Ms. Wong’s building flutters gaily with the wash hung out to dry, sparing the world thousands of pounds of CO2 pollution every year.

Ms. Wong's laundry hanging form the 24th floor in Hong Kong

Ms. Wong’s laundry hanging from the 24th floor in Hong Kong

In Nearby Guangzhou, Kue Ching Zhao hangs the week’s laundry from the wrought iron of her 4th story balcony, joining virtually all her neighbors in drying the laundry without drawing on China’s coal-choked power grid.

And some thirty miles to the southwest in Macau, Lifen Huang dries the wash for her three daughters on an impressive latticework of iron bars and improvised closet hardware, all suspended three stories above the narrow street below. Ms. Huang reports that, despite the copious loads of laundry drying in the breezes of the South China Sea, she has never lost even a single handkerchief to the winds.

Ms. Zhao's laundry drying on the 4th floor in Guangzhou (l.); Ms. Huang's in Macau.

Ms. Zhao’s laundry drying on the 4th floor in Guangzhou (left, upper balcony); Ms. Huang’s in Macau.

Together, Ms. Elwood and her Chinese collaborators are saving amazing amounts of carbon pollution. In the US alone, some 88 million electric dryers consume 106 billion kilowatt hours of electricity every year, and account for an incredible 109 million tons of annual CO2 pollution. Half of that pollution is absorbed into the oceans, raising acidity, killing off coral reefs and threatening entire marine ecosystems.

“Year by year,” said Ms. Elwood, “people I know are becoming more aware of the impact of climate disruption and carbon pollution. Clotheslines almost disappeared from our households for a time, but they’re making a much-needed comeback. Kudos to my Chinese partners for their remarkable achievements!”

We were unable to reach Ms. Wong, Zhao and Huang for comment. But given the intense pollution of China’s air and water, we’re confident that they feel the pretty much the same.

Note: A 40-foot retractable clothesline of the type used by Ms. Elwood can be had for less than $10 by clicking here.71gPg9RugzL._SL1500_

Clean Wind Electricity for Your Home

It seems the landscape for national and global climate policy just changed pretty significantly this week, didn’t it? With the new Senate leadership, efforts to kill climate-friendly policies are already in gear. And “greatest-hoax” climate denier Sen. James Inhofe is set to take the reins of the Environment and Public Works Committee.

From one point of view, US environmental policies are now largely in the hands of the man who has written: “I stood alone in saying that anthropogenic catastrophic global warming is a hoax.” Not the National Academy of Sciences, or the EPA, or the American Geophysical Union, or the American Meteorological Society – but James Inhofe, who claims that the 97 percent of the world’s climate scientists have simply conspired to pull the wool over the eyes of mankind.

Now, maybe this makes us mad. Maybe we’re depressed. Maybe we’re ready to give up.

Switch your home electric from coal to clean wind!

Switch your home electric from coal to clean wind!

Well, if so, maybe it’s time for us to actually DO something about it. Here’s a suggestion: Let’s stop complaining about oil-funded politicians complicit in the abuse of God’s creation, and take action ourselves. And here’s one big – and easy – thing we can do: SWITCH FROM DIRTY COAL TO WIND ELECTRICITY FOR YOUR HOME RIGHT NOW.

I just did it, and it was simple. Some of you know that solar PV provides lots of our electricity here at Good Hand Farm. Eight years ago, we installed panels that basically run the farm, and that provide about half of our house needs. Earlier this year, we took advantage of an essentially free program to solarize two of our neighbors’ homes.

But the balance of our electric needs – not covered by our solar production – was still filthy. The power we had to buy from our New Jersey utility (JCP&L) comes from coal (43%) and gas (17%) – that’s 60% from fossil fuels. And most of the balance is nuclear.Picture1

So instead of just fuming about oil-funded politicians running congressional policy, I decided to do something. With a few clicks – and one phone call – I found a 100% wind-power producer that my utility accepts, and made the switch. There were a range of options and prices, but I like the choice I made. My previous dirty electricity cost me 9.63 cents per kWh. My new provider, Stream Energy, charges 9.98 cents, fixed for one year.  That might run me about $2.00 per month more than I was paying for coal. Nothing changes on my bill, and my electric utility continues to service everything just as before.

Except for one thing: We no longer use any fossil fuels and greenhouse gases to power our home and farm.

Want to give it a try? Details will vary depending on where you live, so go to this page to find out who covers your area. And if you want to try the choice I made, then just click here, and then choose the “Enroll-Now” option. (If enough of you go this route, I’ll start to get further savings on my bill, and then you can do the same thing with your friends.)

And in the bargain, maybe you can look in the mirror tomorrow, and stand a little taller. Maybe our politicians are bent on the unfettered abuse of our Father’s world, but you don’t have to follow them.

You are not powerless. It may feel that way sometimes, but you can affect what happens on God’s good earth. Take the step, and join me on the road to a cleaner, more sustainable world.

May I Please Have a Water Bottle?

On a recent Sunday morning, September 21, we were packing up with about forty students from Christian colleges as far away as Indiana and North Carolina, headed into New York City for the People’s Climate March. As usual, I bellowed out to everyone as we were walking to the vans: “Make sure you go to the bathroom! Anyone need anything? It’s going to be a long day!”

Sure enough, several of the students did indeed need something. “May I please have a water bottle?”

Oh…. Ah, yes, water bottles.

Let’s be clear. These are absolutely fantastic earth-keeping college students. Many of them are studying environmental biology, or peace and reconciliation issues. Some are just back from studies in post-genocide Rwanda, or are planning organic farming internships for next summer. All of them care enough about God’s creation to have traveled for hours to sleep on the floor for a weekend of climate action. But water bottles?

“You know,” I stammered after an awkward moment, “plastic bottles are something we just don’t use much around here. Um, could we lend you an aluminum canteen?”

Photo by Chris Jordan and The Midway Film Project, who are raising funds to launch a film on Midway plastic pollution.

Photo by Chris Jordan and The Midway Film Project, who are raising funds to launch a film on Midway plastic pollution.

Thank God, awareness of plastic pollution is growing among young people. Many have read about the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” They’ve seen images of decomposed sea birds whose stomachs were filled with brightly-colored plastic bottle caps. They’ve seen photos of Midway Island or the Maldives, beset by an unending sea-borne plastic tsunami. These are the remotest places on earth, and our plastic is all over them.

In our family, we kicked the plastic bottle habit years ago. It’s not always easy, but we manage.

And some major jurisdictions are already taking action. California has now banned single-use plastic bags, following the lead of Mexico City, Dehli, Mumbia, Bangladesh and Rwanda. Here in the U.S., Portland and coastal North Carolina also restrict the use of plastic bags.

But for real change to happen, average Americans like us are going to have to change our attitudes toward packaging – bags, bottles, boxes, and all, and especially plastics. Maybe our hearts need to change, and that might happen if you take a moment to watch a trailer for the Midway film about albatrosses and plastic pollution. Or take three minutes and watch the little film below about where our plastic ends up.

Because your plastic water bottle will still be here for your great-great-great grandchild to deal with. Please watch.

Clean Solar Electricity for Your Home

“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children…” (Proverbs 13:22).

Our neighbor Mary lives in a small house bordering our produce field.  She’s retired, and lives modestly on a fixed income. Like many of us, she’s watched as utility costs have gone up year by year. A few years ago, we replaced her drafty single-pane windows. Last summer, we blew in insulation to make her attic and walls more weather-tight. And in the last few months we’ve insulated her basement ceiling to warm up her floors in winter.

All these efforts have had amazing results. Her daily electric usage has fallen a long way – by 20 percent in the last year alone. And her heating oil usage has come down by about one-third. But despite all these efforts at efficiency, electric costs just keep going up. Over the past decade, average electric charges in this country went up about 4% per year. With almost all its customers affected by back-to-back hurricanes Irene and Sandy, our local New Jersey utility – JCP&L – has repeatedly been granted rate hikes. Mary now pays 18.4 cents for every kilowatt-hour she uses.

Sungevity arrived at Mary's house a few days ago

Solar installers arrived at Mary’s house a few days ago

But all that’s about to change. Just a few days ago, a work crew from Sungevity, a solar power developer, arrived to install solar panels on Mary’s south-facing roof. The system will provide 94 percent of Mary’s electric needs. She’ll be left with a monthly electric bill of about $4.00. So she can relax about ongoing spikes in utility rates.

How much did all this cost? Well, up front, nothing at all. Mary is leasing her solar system over 20 years. The lease payments are just about the same as her current electric bills. In fact, Sungevity projects that she will save $24,866 in utility payments over the life of the lease, but it could be worse as rates keep rising. Her lease payments, which are fixed up front, will total $23,259 – $1,607 less than the utility cost she’s saving.

Panels going up: the roof array at about 50%

Panels going up: the roof array at about 50%

So Mary’s got totally renewable, clean electricity at a savings of $1,600 or more over the life of the lease.

Of course, money isn’t all Mary’s saving. She has two sons and a granddaughter, so the world she leaves them makes a big difference. And with her system, she will reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next 20 years by 144,548 lbs. That’s more than 65 tons less CO2 for the next generation to deal with.

What does that actually mean? Well, here at Good Hand Farm, we plant a lot of trees. Just two days ago we added eight more peach trees to our backyard orchard. But Mary’s system will have the same effect on atmospheric CO2 as planting 1,685 trees, according to EPA equivalency tables. That’s 1,685 trees! You may not see that many all week.

But there are other useful comparisons as well. According to the EPA, the greenhouse gas savings from Mary’s new rooftop savings will have the same effect as:

  • Taking 13.8 cars off the road for a year.
  • Cutting 23.5 tons of garbage going to the landfill.
  • Driving a car 156,012 fewer miles.
  • Recycling three full garbage trucks, rather than dumping them in the landfill.

And all this comes at no up-front cost to Mary. In fact, she eliminates uncertainty about future utility prices, and saves real money over the term of the lease.

Almost finished! It will provide 94% of Mary's electricity

Almost finished! It will provide 94% of Mary’s electricity

Solarizing your home won’t work for everybody. State incentive programs play a major role in determining whether or not it makes economic sense. You’ll also need a sunny rooftop or an open patch of lawn. And if you rent, your landlord will have to make the final call.

But if it could make sense to you, why not look into a no-cost leased PV system for your home, business or church? If you contact us, we can provide a referral which will reduce your electric costs even further. Do it for yourself. And, of course, do it for your kids.

“Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children.”  Ancient Indian Proverb

Solar Power Your Home for Free

“… the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness….” Luke 1:78

It’s about time that we celebrated some good news at Beloved Planet!

Yesterday, our family took a step that will save more than 35 tons of CO2 emissions. Woo-hoo! 35 tons! It won’t cost us any money. It doesn’t involve biking to work, or shivering in the winter, or reading by flashlight. We’re not going vegan, or selling our big old farmhouse.

No cost, no work, no sacrifice, but big carbon savings? You bet. You see, we’re leasing a rooftop solar PV system for our neighbor’s house. And it will save more carbon than the average American emits in two years.

As you know, carbon emissions are serious business.  Earth-heating greenhouse gas concentrations are at their highest levels in hundreds of thousands of years. And not by a small margin, mind you. Earlier this year, atmospheric CO2 concentrations ticked over 400 parts per million. That’s 43% higher than it’s been at any time in human history, and headed much higher still in the next few decades. The main reason is the burning of fossil fuels, with clearing of land a distant second.

Courtesy: Skeptical

Courtesy: Skeptical

On average, humans today emit a total of 4.7 tons of CO2 per capita every year. We drive our cars, and light our streets, and watch TV, and cool our homes. We fly where we want, and eat lots of meat. We import our groceries from around the world: wines from Australia; bottled water from France, flowers from Israel. And all that burns fossil fuels: coal, gas and oil.

It really adds up. 4.7 tons of CO2 every year, for every person on the planet. Much of it gets absorbed by the oceans, which are becoming dangerously acidic from all that carbon. But some remains in the atmosphere, raising concentrations year by year without fail.

Of course, not everyone emits the same amount. Newly-prosperous Brazilians emit only 1.9 tons per person. In the Philippines, it’s less than a ton. For the 35 million people of Uganda, only 0.1 tons apiece.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are the carbon hogs. Tiny Qatar, with all their oil: an almost incomprehensible 44 tons of CO2 emissions per person. Kuwait’s not far behind, at a whopping 30 tons. At #11, there’s the first big country: Australia, at 18.3 tons. That’s four times the global average. What’s wrong with those people?

And #12? Well, that would be the United States. 314 million people, generating 17.2 tons of CO2 emissions per person. 4.5 percent of the world’s people, emitting 16.5 percent of its earth-heating gases.

We’re so far off the charts, that it seems impossible to fix it. But I don’t think that’s true. People everywhere are improving their energy efficiency, and changing their lifestyles for the sake of their call to be earth-keepers. And some people have homes with sunny southern exposures; if you’re one of those lucky ones, today you can cut your electric bill – and possibly eliminate your home’s carbon footprint – for free. Here’s how we did it:

Our neighbor's house will save 35 tons of CO2

Our neighbor’s house will save 35 tons of CO2

Our neighbor has a smaller home next to our old farmhouse. Her average electric bill is $64, and it’s been going up about 6 percent every year. She’s on a fixed income, and doesn’t like the risk of price spikes related to all the storm damage we’ve been having these last few years. And here in New Jersey, none of us like those Pennsylvania coal-fired power plants upwind that foul our air with sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury and carbon pollution.

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Black Friday Bargains

What a wonderful Black Friday I’ve had! You won’t believe the deals I found. I can’t blame you if you didn’t do as well. Take a look.

Picture1First, I enjoyed breakfast and a long walk in nearby Kittatinny State Park with three new friends (from Beijing and Taiwan) plus three old ones: Barbara (not really “old” of course!) and two of our kids, Nathan and Sarah. Who can even begin to value new friendships? They’re among the most precious things we have, don’t you think?

After lunch, I planted five pecan trees, plus a maple, two redbuds and three Carpathian walnuts. I ran the numbers, and my savings are absolutely amazing. I learned that a pecan tree can yield around 100 lbs. of nuts per year, and that pecans wholesale for $5.69/lb. They take around seven years to begin bearing, and call for some TLC in the meantime. But with a purchase price of around $8 per sapling, I figured the annual return on my investment will be around 75%! That’s the value of the nuts – not the shade, beauty, carbon sequestration, wildlife habitat and all those other good things that trees offer.

And finally, my son Nathan and I wound things up by hanging a birdhouse he built on a tree facing a meadow near the river. Bluebirds next spring!

So, I end up my day with three new friends, a new investment potentially yielding 75% pretty much forever, and a secure nesting place for one of our most beautiful native birds.

So, how’d you do?

Happy Black Friday!

We’re Joining Yeb Sano’s Fast for Climate Justice

“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?” Isaiah 58:6

As of today, we at Beloved Planet are joining a fast, declared by the Philippines’ delegate to the global climate talks in Warsaw, Poland. We will be fasting on behalf of the victims of Typhoon Haiyan, dedicating ourselves to prayerful witness to the suffering of millions of the world’s most vulnerable people. We join our voices with those demanding that the major powers of the world enact meaningful climate policies.

We are also standing with other faith communities who have joined the fast, including the Interreligious Eco-Justice Network and the Interfaith Moral Action on Climate.

typhoonAnd we are encouraging our readers to prayerfully consider fasting with us, and to add their names to the growing list of signatories of the Eco-Justice Network’s commitment to fasting and prayerful witness during the balance of the Warsaw summit, which concludes on November 22.

As delegates from around the world arrived in Poland on November 9 for the international climate negotiations, Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the Philippine island of Leyte, with 195 mph winds, gusting to an unimaginable 235 mph. Now called the world’s strongest tropical cyclone to make a landfall on record, Haiyan was the thirtieth named storm in the Pacific this year, and the second extreme weather event to devastate the Philippines in one year. The death toll currently stands at 3,600, but estimates of the uncounted dead run much, much higher.

In Warsaw the following day, Filipino climate conference delegate Nadarev (Yeb) Sano, made an impassioned plea to delegates representing the world’s people to take real climate action to protect his country, which is extremely vulnerable to rising sea levels and increased storm activity associated with global climate change. Mr. Sano has begun a fast for the duration of the conference to call for real action on climate change.

The plight of the Philippines stands as grisly witness to the injustice of climate policies around the world – and most notably in the United States. On average, each American emits more global-warming gases than 22 Filipinos. And yet, as seriously as climate disruption is affecting the U.S., we are far less vulnerable to today’s extreme weather than our Filipino counterparts. Indeed, the ten most climate-vulnerable countries in the world emit on average less than one twentieth the greenhouse gases per capita than their American counterparts. And they are also approximately twenty times poorer.

Small wonder, then, that delegate Sano has begun to fast – perhaps a desperate measure to attract attention to the delay and inaction of the rest of the world.

Whatever his motivation, we are joining with him. Perhaps you would consider joining us? If you’re not used to fasting, then you have a range of options – eat only one meal per day, fast for a shorter period, limit your diet to simple foods like bread and water, or whatever you settle on.

And to signal your solidarity, visit the Eco-Justice website and sign up for the fast. But don’t stop there! There are others who will surely come along once you do. So pass the word!

Last of all, if you’re like me, you probably need a reminder to pray, and to give generously. Once you’ve skipped a meal or two, this reminder comes along about every 15 minutes! And once you’ve prayed, consider giving generously to relief for the people of the Philippines. You can do so by clicking here.

Thanks for caring about your suffering brothers and sisters, and may God bless you.

J. Elwood