Season of Light, Season of Hope

So many religious traditions feature light in their celebrations this time of year.  For Jews, the lights of Hanukkah recall the miracle of the temple lights miraculously continuing though the oil supply was running out. For Christians it’s the lights of Christmas, recalling the star that led to Jesus.  For African Americans Kwanza’s seven candles recall the seven principles of Kwanza.  For Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains, Diwali, the festival of lights, symbolizes the triumph of light over darkness.

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As laborers for environmental justice and as people of faith, we must not let this season pass us by without basking in the light of hope that it reveals to us.  We are of many faith traditions, but we all are drawn to this light of universal human hope—that the world, that life, that humanity should be, can be, and will be better.  And it is our efforts, and those of countless others, that will make things better. 

Will we ever see the completion of this work---the achievement of a perfect world and a perfect humanity?   Indeed, will humanity and the world ever reach such a perfect state—a world without pollution, humanity living in perfect harmony with nature?  Of course not.  Humans are not perfect.  We are prone to make mistakes over and over again.  So the struggle to make the world better, to live more in harmony with nature is, and always will be, and endless effort, an ongoing mission for humanity.  But the realistic hope is that we can make it all better---much better! 

Let’s enjoy the light of hope  that this season reminds of and keep on working to make it a better world.

Suddenly Colder Than Normal? So Where’s the Global Warming?

If you’re living somewhere in the middle latitudes, you might be experiencing suddenly colder than normal weather at times.  Some around you maybe prompted to ask, “So where’s the global warming we’ve been hearing about?”  Of course, you are probably aware of the differences between climate and weather, weather being a more short-term experience, which can include considerable volatility.  Climate is the long-term picture.

However, a longer-term pattern of suddenly colder and then suddenly warmer weather in the middle latitudes, according to climate scientists, is likely an effect of general global warming.  Here’s why.   

Global warming is causing the polar regions to warm twice as fast as the middle latitudes.  This is due to the fact that ocean ice in the artic is being reduced quite rapidly.  Thus, the reflective white surface is being replaced by the dark ocean surface, which causes more heat to be absorbed, and yet more ice to melt, and warming to accelerate in the arctic from this feedback loop.

This accelerated warming in the arctic is causing a reduction in the temperature gradient, the contrast between the temperatures of polar regions and those of the middle latitudes being reduced.  This reduction in temperature gradient affects the jet stream, weakening it, reducing its speed, and causing it to dip more north and south rather than remaining a mostly west-east direction. 

This dipping can bring colder air down from the arctic or bring unusually warm air up from southern regions.  So, for example, the beginning of December could be colder than normal with a sudden change later in the month to much warmer than normal.  Once in a while this happens within the normal climate ranges, but the pattern seems to be repeating more than normal, probably as a result of global warming that especially affects the polar regions.  So watch the rest of the winter in the middle latitudes.  What will January, February, and March be like?  You might be able to detect this global warming effect.

Christmas Eve Fifty Years Ago

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On Christmas Eve fifty years ago, the astronauts of Apollo VIII were orbiting the moon.  From that lunar orbit, they saw repeated, awe-inspiring “earth rises.”

And so, inspired by the beauty and grandeur of the Creation that they observed from their lofty position in space, they were inspired to read from the Book of Genesis:

  1. In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.  And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

  2. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

  3. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

  4. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.

  5. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.

  6. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

  7. And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.

  8. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called the Seas: and God saw that it was good.

The astronauts continued reading in turns the verses of Chapter 1 of Genesis.  But the end of Verse 8 where it says “and God saw that it was good” is, I think, a key theme of this Creation account—that the Creation is good. The words of Verse 8 are repeated in Verse 31 with a conclusion: “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.”

Let’s remember on this fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo VIII reading of Genesis, that the Creation God has given us is supremely good, and as such, we should treasure it and preserve it.

Shale Development Rising as Safe Haven for Big Oil What are the Implications for Health and Safety?

According to an article from BLOOMBERG carried yesterday in Crain’s Cleveland Business , shale development is accelerating.  It is being seen by Big Oil as a safe haven during volatile world market oil prices. 

Much of this is being driven by falling shale oil production costs.  For example, huge increases in the length of laterals in unconventional wells has added to increased productivity and hence, lower costs. 

We need to consider what this means for the health and safety.  Of course, one worrying trend is the furious pace of new petroleum pipeline construction with its accompanying health and safety risks.

Another concern is the continued use of “bomb trains,” trains of tanker cars carrying such products as the highly volatile Bakken oil.  These trains are being routed through many highly populated areas.  Most of the cars are single-hulled, and even the double-hulled cars have been deemed unsafe.

Apart from the very real explosion risk, these oil trains are off-gassing VOCs along their routes, exposing communities to carcinogens and other toxins.

No, shale development is not winding down.  It is changing its focus in some areas, but it is still rising and threatening the health and safety of communities across the country.

Have you Heard of the Sunrise Movement?

The Sunrise Movement, led by new member of the House, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has recently been demonstrating in the Capitol for the new House to put A Green New Deal on the Agenda in the upcoming Congress.

One of the main goals of the movement is for the U.S. to achieve 100% renewable energy.  The Sunrise Movement wants to get Dems on record supporting the Green New Deal before the new Congress convenes next month.

Representative elect Ocasio-Cortez has called for the creation of a select committee in the House to lead the Green New Deal effort.  She has called this proposed committee “the best solution on the table right now that will actually wok to avert crisis.”

Scotland expects to achieve 100% renewable energy for that country in 2020.  Such countries as Denmark and Germany are not far behind.  The U.S. needs to get on board. 

A comprehensive plan for achieving this goal in the U.S. can be found at thesolutionsproject.org

So yes, it CAN be done---even in the U.S.  According to the Fourth National Climate Assessment from the federal government, released in November, climate change, if not averted, could cause tremendous physical and economic damage to the United States in the years ahead.

Many thanks to the young people of the Sunrise Movement who are bringing the goal of 100% renewable energy to the attention of the Congress and the entire nation.

Renewable Energy, An Important Part of Creation Care

A December 5 report in Earth System Science Data concludes that worldwide CO2 emissions are expected to rise 2.7% in 2018 as compared to 2017.  This is the second year in a row of large emissions increases after a lull between 2014 and 2017.  This report comes just after the Fourth National Climate Assessment which predicts dire environmental and public health consequences for the U.S. if the country does not cut back on CO2 emissions.

Scientists have been warning us for some time of approaching impacts from oncoming climate change.  But now, increasingly, Mother Nature is speaking to us directly.  In plain sight for all are catastrophes all around the world, including massive fires in California and Australia, more intense hurricanes, alarming flooding of coastal areas due to rising seas, bleaching of corals in the ocean, increasing desertification, massive melting of permafrost in the Arctic, unprecedented extinction of animals, etc.  Yet, political leaders profess a denial of the facts, some saying “Don’t believe your lying eyes. Let’s just continue business as usual.”

Some of the climate science deniers and fossil fuel corporations even say “Well, it’s too late anyway, so why should we bother to change our ways.”  But the point is, the sooner we act, the less expensive it will be to address climate change and the more likely we will be able to reduce its severity and impact. 

The Creation we have, the one God gave us, should never be taken for granted, and it should never be abused as we humans have been abusing it---especially we humans in developed nations like the United States and Europe.  We are not doing enough!  Obviously pulling out of the Paris Accords is absolutely the wrong way to go.  Even though Europe too has fallen short, at least they are projected to cut CO2 emissions by about .7% in 2018 because of their increased investments in renewable energy.  At the same time, the U.S. is still the largest emitter of CO2 per capita.

Ohio and the federal government would do well to accelerate investment in renewable energy.  And, to really be effective, this will have to include significant government subsidies.  Some other countries are making tremendous progress. PBS just ran a report on Scotland.  The country expects to be on all renewable energy by 2020!  Germany, Denmark, and some other nations are on track to reach that goal within the next decade or two.  In the U.S., we haven’t even seriously begun on that path.  It’s time we got started.

MEDIA RELEASE on Ohio's SB 250

For Immediate Release

Contact

Cheryl Johncox, 740-360-0420 Cheryl.johncox@sierraclub.org Teresa Mills, 614-507-5651, Tmills@benohio.org

Ohio Senate Votes to Limit Freedom of Speech

December 6, 2018 (Columbus, OH)- The Ohio Senate voted 23-5 to pass Substitute Senate Bill 250, legislation that is unnecessary and will limit Ohioans freedom of speech and assembly. Despite consistent opposition from organizations and citizens, the Senate Judiciary Committee reported the bill to the Senate floor today. The bill which seeks to severely limit the actions of concerned citizens and citizen watchdog groups, who would seek to hold corporate entities accountable for environmental, and property damages.

"Ironically, This vote comes just days after the publication of news that Energy Transfer Partners builder of Rover pipeline is responsible for 800 violation while building Rover and one other pipeline across Ohio and Pennsylvania. As well as, just a day after landowners filed suit against Enbridge's Nexus pipeline for breach of contract." Said Cheryl Johncox.

Teresa Mills, Executive Director for the Buckeye Environmental Network said; "Citizens still regard the bill as an infringement on their constitutional rights guaranteed under the First Amendment. The bill remains vague to the point that it would be a violation of the Chilling Effect doctrine, the Vagueness doctrine, and the Overbreadth doctrine; all of which are designed to protect our First Amendment Rights. Because the legislature continues to moving this bill forward, one would also have to ask if they themselves are in violation of the law."

Opposition efforts will move to defeat Substitute Senate Bill 250 in the Ohio House.

Ojibway Prayer

Grandfather,

Look at our brokenness.

We know that in all creation

Only the human family

Has strayed from the Sacred Way.

We know that we are the ones

Who are divided

And we are the ones

Who must come together

To walk in the Sacred Way.

Grandfather,

Sacred One,

Teach us love, compassion, and honor

That we may heal the earth

And heal each other.