Tag Archives: Low Carbon Diet

The Road is Made by Walking

The COP21 talks began in Paris today, following last week’s worldwide climate marches. Here is a reflection I offered at the Unitarian Universalists of San Mateo on November 15,  as part of our climate justice service preceding these momentous talks. Prayers and social movements are both made with our feet, so I’m pleased to say that during this service 15 families signed the Paris Pledge, described below. Our pledges joined thousands of others, taken to Paris by Rev. Sally Bingham of Interfaith Power and Light, which has been leading on this issue for nearly 20 years.

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This year, a number of us have been on a journey toward greater awareness of the ecological impact of our choices, knowing that it is the cumulative impact of all these choices that creates the world our children will inherit.

It has been fun and energizing to walk this road together, hearing one Sunday that Pam is saving shower water for her garden plants and the next Sunday that Shawn and Karyn were so excited about their new electric car and the next that Barb is teaching people how to re-landscape for both drought tolerance and food production. We are building a new way here, holding hands and singing with stubborn gladness as we go.

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In two weeks, in Paris, 80 world leaders will gather to – we hope – sign binding carbon emissions targets that will set the world’s major economies on a new course, one that will begin to turn the barge of the global economy away from fossil fuels. It is exceptionally important that this agreement be signed. The nations failed to do so in 2009, but I feel the tide turning in the past year, and I am hopeful.

If our leaders fail us (as they have been known to do periodically in the past), we must continue to lead them – as in the suffrage movement, as in the civil rights movement, as in the gay rights movement – from right here, in these progressive, justice-making pews, until they wake up and join us!

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Of course, there is also much to grieve in the climate crisis, and later Emily will lead us through a ritual to acknowledge and feel these losses. Grief and joy both reside deep in the heart, and we know that our ability to feel sadness directly affects our access to joy. And with this joy comes the desire to act, the resolve to keep walking the path, come what may. Joy and resolve, these are our marching orders.

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In response to the urgency of this ecological moment, Interfaith Power and Light has created the Paris Pledge as a sign to world leaders that we take this seriously and they must do so, too. The Paris Pledge states this: “In an act of solidarity with global leaders and nations at the 2015 UN Climate Talks in Paris, I pledge to reduce my carbon pollution 50% by 2030 and to become carbon neutral by 2050.” Many faith leaders have taken this pledge as representatives of their faith communities, including many UU congregations.

This past spring, we voted unanimously that our congregation would “Commit2Respond” to the climate crisis, so Rev. Ben, too, has signed this pledge on our behalf, as an act of both faith and solidarity – faith in our congregation’s will and commitment to truly live out our mission in the world and solidarity with every living thing. Whatever we do next as a congregation, we can do it from within this commitment to ecological health, with the joy and resolve that we will not sit on the sidelines or wait for a better time, but rather be part of the solution.

The great news is that, from my research and conversations, I know that congregations who make improvements to “go green” end of saving heaps of money that they can use for programming instead of power bills. It also feels really good – really clean – to use less fossil fuel. My family bought an all-electric Nissan Leaf this year, and I can attest to how very much lighter I feel, knowing that I am driving a solar-powered car.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn your order of service, you will find a copy of the Paris Pledge. As we deepen into meditation, ask yourselves if you, too, can commit to the changes, both internal and external, needed to sign the pledge and reduce your personal emissions by half over the next 15 years. It is a challenging but very achievable goal, one that we can support each other in meeting as individuals and a community over the years to come. It is time to act.

If you do sign the pledge, please drop it in the offertory basket toward the end of the service. Making this pledge is another powerful step we can each take along the road.

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May it be so.

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Low Carbon Diet I

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So what does a Low Carbon Diet look like? I’ve been thinking about this and researching the idea for a couple of months now, as I get ready to begin, and a few things have become clear to me:

1) Everything we touch and do in modern life is coated with a veneer of petroleum; even organic strawberries from the farmer’s market get there by truck, to say nothing of an Ikea bookshelf. That said, it is clear that some things “cost” much more than others and therefore one can get much more bang for the buck in specific areas.

2) Airline flights are the worst of the worst. Not only does one 2-hour flight equate to a month of driving in terms of emissions, because the emissions are happening at high altitude, it’s like super-injecting the atmosphere with carbon dioxide. The carbon calculators say to multiply miles flown by 1.9 to compensate for this effect. Yikes. So air travel is the best place to start reducing one’s footprint.

3) Cars are the next worst. A gallon of gas emits 20 pounds of CO2, taking up the air space of 20 of those giant yoga exercise balls. Ditching my 20 mph SUV last year for a 40 mph Golf diesel was a move from gulping to drinking. But regardless, every tank is 300 pounds of carbon. Yikes again. Time to think harder about those trips to the store/mall/city, given that every trip I take from my town to anywhere else is a round trip of 40-80 miles….

4) The best place to start is with knowledge. The best carbon footprint calculator I found was http://www.coolcalifornia.org. The calculation is more detailed but only takes about 15 minutes, and the pledges you can make are very specific, which makes them useful. But you can’t save your results — which is totally lame. Another pretty good calculator has been developed for church congregations and members: http://www.coolcongregations.org/calculator. It has adequate detail and you can save your personal profile and update it later. The main drawback is that the pledge list is flawed — you can’t subtract things from the list and you can’t double up on pledges (for instance, pledging to reduce more than one long-haul flight per year)

We’re taking our family’s baseline footprint this week. Then we’ll see where we’re at and what comes next.

The Tides They Are a’ Chaaaan-gin’

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Check out this map of my town. My house lies in the middle of it, just above that dark blue band indicates where the new tideline will be once seas have risen 55 inches, as they are expected to this century. Within the light blue area — the hundred-year flood line — is our local sewage treatment plant, at least 100 homes, and the entire community of Princeton, along the top edge of the map.

Over the years climate change talk has often seemed abstract and distant to me. Even as I do my bit to recycle and use less Stuff, somehow these choices still felt optional, as if I were doing a good deed for the future. But being Good can be tiresome, and what difference did it really make if I bought these pretty shoes or not, in the grand scheme of things?

The truth is it doesn’t make much difference, hardly any at all. The machine of global capitalism is vast and overwhelming, and my individual choices don’t matter more than a whisper in a storm.

But they matter to me. As I have begun researching sea level rise and learning about its causes — of course most are a result of human-caused global warming — this has all become much more personal. This will affect my home, my children, me.

And so it is time to get real about my personal carbon footprint and what impact my choices actually have.

My family is going on a Low Carbon Diet, starting now. Stay tuned for details!