Good morning, Friends!!
I have been putting this off. I think it’s time we return to Resolution B023 – Environmental Justice. The whole issue of renewable energy has been fraught with political overtones and I do not want this to be a political discussion. Big corporations have also had much to say on this topic. It’s very hard sometimes to sift through the rhetoric and find reasonable arguments and answers to the many questions raised in a discussion of the stewardship of our planet and life on Earth – especially when they come from a hot-button topic such as climate change. I also have my own biases but I don’t want my opinions to cloud the issues for anyone. What I think is most important is becoming informed on the issues at hand, knowing how to filter the information we all hear in the media, and then prayerfully respond as we each attempt to live out our Baptismal Covenant. So, with that said, let’s look at two other resolves in this resolution:
Resolved, That the 77th General Convention calls on congregations, institutions, dioceses, and the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of The Episcopal Church, to work for the just transformation of the world’s energy beyond and away from fossil fuels (including all forms of oil, coal, and natural gas) and toward safe, sustainable, renewable, community controlled energy, and that fossil fuel workers and their families be supported during the transition to a “postcarbon” society; and be it further
Resolved, That the 77th General Convention calls on congregations, institutions, dioceses, and the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of The Episcopal Church to resist the development and expansion of ever more unconventional, dangerous, and environmentally destructive sources of fossil fuel and move toward conversion to more sustainable sources…
Solar and wind power are two of the “renewable energy sources” we generally hear about. Currently, the technology to bring these to our homes – especially in Michigan – is expensive. We might want to investigate ways that a community or even a congregation could work together sharing the cost to bring solar power to our buildings. The media has covered many stories of wind turbine providers who have been turned away from communities, often for lack of understanding. Are we willing to go out and support some of these changes in energy resources for the sake of our planet and future generations? Are willing to face perhaps some personal inconvenience and initially higher costs so that others may have a future?
There are other forms of renewable energy that don’t seem to be as controversial, including bioenergy, hydropower, and geothermic energy. While these forms of energy seem on the surface to be very benign, we need to ask the right questions. What will be their long term effect? For example, is the burning of biodiesel fuel cleaner than what we currently use? When we harness water resources to create hydropower, are we negatively impacting a fragile ecosystem? Once again, education will help us respond responsibly. The second website listed below provides a good explanation of these various form of sustainable resources.
And then there’s the issue of fracking (hydraulic fracturing) for natural gas. Sensational movies like Gasland have told one side of the story while the large energy companies have told quite a different side. How are we to figure out what’s accurate? Just a simple Google search will turn up millions of articles on this topic. With anything we read or see, we must recognize that the speaker has a bias; we must learn to “read between the lines” to know how to weigh the information presented. I recently heard a very well done radio ad speaking of the safety and benefit of fracking. The homemaker tells of her concerns about this source of natural gas until the energy company representative comes and explains to her community just how safe the process really is. It sounds wonderful and helpful until the last line reveals that the ad is paid for by the gas company. I think they may have a bias on this one! We must be informed. As I tell my physics students, if they cannot explain the topic to someone else, they likely don’t understand it well. If I can’t explain what fracking is, how can I form an educated opinion about its use?
So what can we do?
- We can listen with an open mind.
- We can read articles that present both sides of these issues and weigh the merits of each.
- We can take a coffee hour to discuss our congregation’s response to issues of environmental justice.
- We can pray for wisdom and understanding, for a willingness to get involved and be informed, for strength and courage to speak out to protect the planet.
All of these topics are interesting and important in themselves but they become even more crucial when we begin to consider the lives of those affected by our decisions: the people that live near gas and petroleum sites, the border communities impacted by rising seas from a warming climate, our children and grandchildren who will have to live with the planet we leave them.
In my Google search this morning, I found a few helpful resources –
This one is from Popular Mechanics responding to 10 myths about fracking:
This article is from The Guardian discussing the importance of renewable energy:
Finally, on the Anglican Communion News Service website, an open letter from one concerned about his community and the future:
This is only a small beginning. Let’s work together for a big outcome!!
~ Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council