143 arrested at Tar Sands Action Interfaith Day!

Over 300 people gathered today in Lafayette Park across from The White House to participate in the Tar Sands Action civil disobedience.Today was interfaith day.  The Key Stone XL Pipeline is something that will affect everybody in the United States and beyond our borders.  Rose Berger and Tim Kumfer brought together people from various faith traditions (Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Franciscan priests, and Unitarian Universalists) to show that faith communities are concerned about the environment, the inter-connected web of life, and the environmental injustices this pipeline will cause.

The day started out with a Jewish Song Service.  The leaders of this service explained to us that in Jerusalem, traditionally, the Jews and Muslims, gather to sign together in the square before going to their respective worship services and wanted this to be a reflection of that.  Singing happened for about 45 minutes – Rev. Craig Roshaven led the group in “We are a gentle angry people.”  This was followed by a short interfaith service.  Unitarian Universalists (UUs) were represented by Barbara Ford.

Then the rally started – Bill McKibben spoke as did James Hansen about how important this action was today and how brave people were being.  “What started out as a protest has become a movement” McKibben stated.  And all those there today and the previous 7 days are a part of this movement.

The group lined up in front of the White House, and, after “refusing to follow a lawful order”  (standing in front of the White House) around 143 people were arrested.  Today’s protest has become the largest day of arrests at the pipeline protest.

UUs were well represented among the protesters.  Approximately 40 people were there on behalf of their faith community.  14 UUs were arrested, while 11 others served as observers and support people, and one chaplain was present and available for pastoral concerns.With the faith community being so large, the tone for the protest was peaceful and involved lots of signing.  James Hansen, climate scientist, decided he wanted to be arrested with “religious folk” and gave a shout out to the Methodists.

The police systematically arrested the women and then the men, putting them into vans for transport to Anacostia Detention Center.  It was a long hard day for all involved.  UUs started their day at 9am and were all finally released (after post-and-forfeiting $100) by 3:18pm.  Most were tired, exhausted, and a bit dehydrated.  At the same time, they all seemed proud, changed, and glad that they represented their faith community and its values by witnessing for it.  Several UUs commented that they also appreciated seeing UUA staff support at the Tar Sands Action Rally.

I’ll be following up with individual stories over the next week or two so make sure you check back to learn more about what inspired each of the 14 arrested UUs to participate in this act of non-violent civil disobedience.

UU Church of Palo Alto readies solar panels

In their December 2006 Green Sanctuary Candidacy Application the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto (UUCPA) decided to raise money to pay for the increased cost of purchasing green electric power.
Also during that time they had congregation members writing carbon dioxide reduction pledges on colorful plastic leaves and hanging them on a small madrone tree in their courtyard. Now that the total pounds of CO2 saved is just under 100,000 the leaves are displayed on their bulletin board.
UUCPA is taking their green energy a step further; instead of buying green energy, they are going to make green energy.  UUCPA has installed new solar panels that they are ready to turn-on once the city of Palo Alto gives them the go-ahead.  The solar panels are on the roofs of two walkways, facing SE and SW. They will produce up to 12,000 watts.  We wish them good luck and hope they get the approval soon!UUCPA became an accredited Green Sanctuary on September 9, 2009.

Going to jail for peacefully disrupting an oil and gas lease auction?

That may soon be the fate of Tim DeChristopher. By peacefully participating in civil disobedience, Tim DeChristopher now awaits his sentence.

Peaceful Uprising: Defending a Liveable Future Through Empowering Non-Violent Action is asking folks to Show your Support, Speak your Truth, and Take a Stand!

On July 26th 2011, climate activist Tim DeChristopher will be sentenced at the Salt Lake City federal courthouse. On March 3rd, Tim was found guilty of two felony counts for participating in a peaceful act of civil disobedience. He could face up to ten years in federal prison, along with a $750,000 fine, for outbidding coal, gas, and oil companies as they attempted illegally purchase thousands of acres from the public.

First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City is standing in solidarity with Tim DeChristopher as he awaits his sentence.  Through their outreach work, First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City, has engaged other UU congregations (including):
First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee, WI
Unitarian Universalist Church of Medford, MA
Newark, New Jersey, Unitarian Universalists
UU Peace Fellowship in Raleigh, NC
Unitarian Church of Harrisburg, PA
Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Northwest Tuscon, AZ
Prairie Circle Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Grayslake,IL
and Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth (UUMFE, Facebook page)
in standing in solidarity with Tim DeChristopher.

Today, Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (UUA) has shared information about this debacle through the use of UUA social media.

How is it that participating in the American tradition of peaceful civil disobedience, a historical tool for social change,  a crime?

Peaceful Uprising asks folks to stand in solidarity with Tim DeChristopher and send the message loud and clear that:
We will not be intimidatedWe will not sit idly by as our government uses Tim DeChristopher as an example to deter other activists. We will not compromise when it comes to defending our right to a healthy and just world.”



Important up-coming dates for environmental activists

It’s time to put on your organizing hat and mark your calendars!

The Fall offers multiple events for those concerned about the environment to rise their voices and be heard on a larger scale by joining with others nationally and internationally to draw attention to issues that are important to us!

Green Sanctuary congregations, Unitarian Universalist congregations, and other faith communities are called to witness as well as take action to slow down, if not reverse, the trend of climate change.  We know that there are things that we can do as individuals, as congregations, and as a faith community. Take the opportunity on these dates to organize and raise our collective voice to show the world that we care about the environment, the Earth, ourselves,  as well as each other.

Each event has lots of ideas and tools for organizing – use them!  And share with us what you plan to do to make a difference.

September 14th – 15th
The Climate Reality Project
24 Presenters. 24 Time Zones. 13 Languages. 1 Message. 24 Hours of Reality is a worldwide event to broadcast the reality of the climate crisis. It will consist of a new multimedia presentation created by Al Gore and delivered once per hour for 24 hours, in every time zone around the globe. Each hour people living with the reality of climate change will connect the dots between recent extreme weather events — including floods, droughts and storms — and the manmade pollution that is changing our climate. We will offer a round-the-clock, round-the-globe snapshot of the climate crisis in real time. The deniers may have millions of dollars to spend, but we have a powerful advantage. We have reality.  The Climate Reality Project is founded by Al Gore.

September 24th
Moving Planet: A day to move beyond fossil fuels.
Moving Planet will be a day to put our demands for climate action into motion – marching, biking, skating – calling for the world to go beyond fossil fuels.  This event is sponsored by 350.org.  If you participated in 350.org Day in 2010 you’ll want to make sure that you do something on this day (the past two years it has been in October…note: this year 2011 it is in September).

October 1st-15th
EcoChallenge: Change begins with you.
The EcoChallenge is an opportunity to change your life for good. For two weeks every October, we challenge you to change one habit for Earth. You choose your challenge, we connect you with other EcoChallengers, and collectively we prove that small actions create real change.  This is sponsored by our friends at the Northwest Earth Institute who have provided discussion courses that are popular amoung UU congregations including but not limited to: Choices for Sustainable Living, Menu for the Future, and Voluntary Simplicity.

October 16th
World Food Day, a worldwide event designed to increase awareness, understanding and informed, year-round action to alleviate hunger.

October 24th
Food Day, a national event committed to:

  1. Reduce diet-related disease by promoting safe, healthy foods.
  2. Support sustainable farms and limit subsidies to be agribusiness
  3. Expand access to food and alleviate hunger
  4. Protect the environment and animals by reforming factory farms
  5. Promote health by curbing junk-food marketing to kids.

 November 3rd-4th
Interfaith Action to Protect Creation.
This interfaith day seeks to “awaken our nation’s leaders to the urgent need for immediate and effective action to address climate change.  As a people of faith our common teachings proclaim us to be caretakers of the land which we have been charged to respect and care for, this blessing of earth, and we are also compelled by our faith to be a voice with members of our human family who are most vulnerable, who suffer the most from impacts of climate change.”

10 Things You Can Do Right Now!

Interfaith Power and Light – A Religious Response to Global Warming is one of the many organizations that the Green Sanctuary Program encourages congregations to become involved with.

They do impressive work and we are proud to support it.  Today I was looking on their webpage and found “10 Things You Can Do Right Now!“.  You can check it out for yourself – its what we’ve been encouraging all along.

Some notable “things” are:

  • conduct a home energy audit
  • be an Energy Star congregation
  • stay informed.

Do you have other things that you would add to a list of “Things You Can Do Right Now”?

The End of a Long Summer – Book Review

The End of the Long Summer
by Diane Dumanoski

Dumanoski artfully demonstrates both the nature and cause of or environmental problems and suggests an alternative mindset that may help us see our way through the pending climate crisis.  She fully believes that although we are headed toward a time of uncertainty, likely brought about by the impact of human behavior on the environment, humans have evolved over millennia of similar uncertainty and we are made of the stuff with which to adapt—but only if we become more flexible, holistic and realistic in our collective worldview.

She illustrates self-perpetuating processes, such as the chemical interaction of chlorine with ozone, wherein each individual molecule of chlorine can cause the destruction of multiple molecules of ozone, having a disproportionate impact on the ozone layer.  This hole in the ozone further triggers a self-perpetuating cycle of planetary warming, because as the polar ice caps melt, there is less ice to reflect sunlight, causing further warming.  Additionally, increased water is available to absorb the solar rays, and decreased ice is available to deflect them, resulting in even more warming.  In short, small events can have disproportionately disruptive—and unpredictable—impact.  Because of the unpredictable nature of the these massive systems, she recommends humility in our actions.

In order to rectify the situation, which at best means our species might survive the pending planetary changes coming our way, we must adopt a new perspective of not only the world but our place in it.  We must recognize the earth as a living organism, with an intricate balance struck between many systems. We must recognize the limitations to our knowledge.  And lastly, we must reverse the trends of globalization and develop local food, water, and healthcare systems that can meet the needs of the local population without excessive dependence on foreign goods since these may become unavailable as weather systems become unpredictable and oil supplies dwindle.

While I would not categorize this book as uplifting, I would categorize it as a must-read for anyone seriously interested in the work of sustainability.  You will come away with a better understanding of the science involved and a deeper commitment to activism on a local level—both of which will fuel your passion for the Green Sanctuaries projects you’re working on!

The Window Dressers – Rockland, ME

Diane Schetky, Chair Green Sanctuary Committee, First Universalist in Rockland, ME, wrote to the Green Sanctuary Program to share “A Happy Story.”

“Last fall our church underwent needed energy saving improvements in response to an earlier audit. We caulked leaky windows, installed window inserts (made by members of the church),  two fans in the sanctuary and an energy saving blind for large window at the rear of the sanctuary. We repositioned thermostats and upgraded to an energy efficient industrial strength dishwasher.

Dick Cadwgan & Frank Mundo, The Window Dressers

The sanctuary became a comfortable 10 degrees warmer during our hard winter as a result of the window treatment and fans. This along with our generous and hardworking window insert makers (AKA the Window Dressers) inspired members of the church to order window inserts for their homes. A total of 210 custom window inserts were made and sold for the cost of materials, alone.

We were astonished to learn that as a result of the energy improvements in the church, that our fuel consumption was down 25 % over last year for the first quarter of this year and we had saved almost $665. The fuel company wanted to know how we’d done it and commented that almost all of their customers’ fuel consumption had gone up over this winter.

The Window Dressers have taken their project to a new level. We are reaching out to churches in the community trying help them replicate out window insert project with a goal of making 1,000 inserts next fall in time for winter. Some of the inserts will be made available to low income families in the community. The inserts are fairly easy to construct with the proper equipment. They consist of wooden frames cut to order covered on both sides with a clear polyolephin shrink film. The barrier stops drafts related to poor-fiting sashes and jambs. Dead air between the film layers acts as an insulator. A compressible foam edge gasket allow for a snug fit into a window frame from the inside and pull tabls allow for easy removal.”

First Universalist in Rockland, ME was accredited as a Green Sanctuary on November 4, 2009.  Check out the full list of accredited Green Sanctuaries at the UUA website.

The Power of Community – Film Review

The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil.
Dir. Faith Morgan.
The Community Solution.

I saw this movie a week ago and I can’t stop talking about it. It is absolutely the most uplifting movie I have yet seen on the topic of the multiple pending environmental disasters towards which the human species seems to be careening.  With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Cuba abruptly lost 80% of its import-export business.  For a tiny island producing only three cash crops and heavily dependent on foreign oil, foreign food, and petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides for the food they did produce this was catastrophic.

Immediately they faced what oil geologists tell us we will all face: a peak oil crisis.  Peak oil is the term used to describe the phenomenon experienced when the production of oil, a finite resource, reaches its peak and begins to rapidly decline.  In short, we will run out of oil.  We in America, similar to Cubans in the late 80’s, are dependent upon petroleum-based pesticides and fertilizers, and oil-guzzling tractors and combines as well.

The situation in Cuba was dire.  People on their way to work had to wait four hours for a bus, only to find that there was no work due to power outages or lack of supplies.  They then had to wait another four hours for a bus home.  Within weeks, children were showing signs of malnutrition and babies with low birth weight were born.

I will not ruin the surprise and tell you how they got themselves out of that mess, but only that they did and how they did it is a lesson for all of us, which is what makes the movie so uplifting and worth seeing.  As a sneak peak, I will say that currently, 50% of the food in Havana is grown by organic urban agriculture.  My friend who’s a habitat biologist tells me their coral reef is the healthiest on the planet.  That means there’s hope for Earth yet.

UUA and EnergyStar training webinar

The UUA and the Green Sanctuary Program are excited to announce that we’ll be co-sponsoring an EnergyStar training webinar.

ENERGY STAR training session on the Web, using WebEx.
Topic: UUA and ENERGY STAR: Green Sanctuaries and Portfolio Manager for Congregations
Date: Monday, May 16, 2011
Time: 7:00 pm, Eastern Daylight Time (New York)
Session Number: 718 921 981

To attend this training session, you must first register for it.
Once you have registered for the session, you will receive an email message confirming your registration. This message will provide the information that you need to join the session.
The training session is to introduce congregations to the EnergyStar for Congregations Portfolio Manager.  If you are unable to attend this session it will be recorded and available on-line after the training session for you to “attend” at your leisure.
The UUA is encouraging all congregations, especially Green Sanctuary involved congregations, to join EnergyStar for Congregations.  One of the most useful tools that they have is the Portfolio Manager, which can benefit your congregation in many ways including:
*Managing of Energy and Water Consumption for All Buildings
*Rating Your Building’s Energy Performance (versus other similar buildings)
*Estimating Your Carbon Footprint
*Setting Investment Priorities
*Verifying and Tracking Progress of Improvement Projects
*Gaining EPA Recognition (like the UU Congregation of Atlanta and First Parish in Needham)
I hope that you will consider attending this training.

Youth Service Projects on Earth Day

Happy Earth Day!

In honor of this very special day, we thought it might be timely to post some information about environmental service projects that youth might be interested in. Activism is essential, and today’s youth are strong advocates for Earth justice. For those of you out there looking to engage in some projects on Earth day, or in the days and weeks that follow (or, even better yet…everyday!) here are some ideas. These all come from a book by Barbara A. Lewis, titled The Kid’s Guide to Service Projects. There is an entire chapter dedicated to environmental service projects, and here are a few of my favorites. Some of these projects will be ongoing, some of them can be a one-time event. While these are very general, the idea is for individuals to take the service project and adapt it to the area in which you live. Enjoy!

  • Plant a garden on your school grounds
  • Encourage your school to recycle paper, newsprint, cardboard, glass, plastics, aluminum cans, chemistry lab wastes, etc.
  • Hold an environmental fair at your school
  • When you shop for school supplies, buy folders and notebooks made from recycled paper.
  • See if your school with agree to switch to recycled paper products for the whole school (office paper, stationary, toilet paper, paper towels, etc.)
  • Make presentations on environmental issues to community groups, local garden clubs, the health department, PTA, mayor’s council, and other organizations in your area
  • Work with your neighborhood or community to clean up abandoned buildings and vacant lots
  • Volunteer to help with neighborhood curbside recycling pick up
  • Try to get a state or city ordinance passed requiring deposits on recyclables
  • Organize a carpooling campaign to cut down on air pollution, or organize a “Bike it” campaign
  • Start a compost pile with natural refuse
  • Check your tap water at home for lead or chemicals
  • Take household toxic waste to a proper facility

There are many more ideas on how to get involved in community activism and Earth justice, and these are just a few general ideas that may help you get started. Remember, while some people may think that Earth day is only one day a year, we must encourage them to treat everyday like Earth day- participating in events and ongoing projects like these show that we are actively participating in Earth day everyday of the year!