Reflection By Kolya: “Local Actions of Faith Add Up to Transformation”
Call to Advocacy
RiverWise - Anne Arundel County
Faith-Based Outdoor Education
10,000 Trees Program - MD/PA/VA/DC
Call for Volunteers
Blue Water Congregations - Baltimore
Covenantal Partners Program - 2 open slots in Baltimore!
The recent water crisis in Toledo, OH where residents were told they must not drink their own tap water due to toxic levels of microcystin (from a green algae bloom shown left) is deeply troubling and begs the question that the Chesapeake Bay Foundation answers - yes, it could happen here: "That's because the same blue-green algae that poisoned drinking water there is also found in the Chesapeake region." This sobering story about Lake Erie illustrates the preciousness of water and the ripple effects of our choices. It's also spelled out in Matthew Paul Turner's blog that indicates we are all complicit to some extent, but our faith communities can lead us out of this mess:
"Why is the water system in Toledo plagued by this toxin? The toxins are being created by the annual algae bloom in Lake Erie, which in turn is caused primarily by chemical fertilizers that are used in industrial agriculture and are running off into the waters of the Great Lakes. It is not difficult to see our complicity in this tragedy. My desire for fast and cheap food – for beef and chicken fattened at break-neck speeds on Midwestern corn, for soda and other products sweetened with High Fructose Corn Syrup, for cheap bread made with Midwestern wheat – has led to the citizens of Toledo being unable to drink or use their local water. These realities should give us pause, and lead us into lament and repentance. But I cannot do these things on my own; I need to be part of a church community that is nurturing a deep sort of economy among its members and neighbors, in order that alternative ways of eating and being can begin to be imagined and worked out – slowly and attentively – over time." (emphasis mine)
Being a part of a faith community committed to healing the wounds of God's Creation can enable us to contribute to a deeper transformation on global scale. I recall an aphorism popular among activists during my college days: Think Globally, Act Locally. More recently, I have become aware that even this perspective may lack a sufficient local lens. Writer-farmer-poet Wendell Berry shines another light on this by noting that too often our "global thinking" can lead us to distance ourselves from defending the actual earth upon which we reside. "The question that must be addressed," he contends, "is not how to care for the planet, but how to care for each of the planet's millions of humans and natural neighborhoods, each of its millions of small pieces and parcels of land, each one of which is in some precious way different from all the others." Theologian Ched Myers echoes this need to focus on our concrete local environmental context of the faith community when he proclaims "the best way to orient [the faith community’s] work and witness is through bioregionally-grounded planning and action which focuses on the actual watersheds we inhabit." (Chesapeake Watershed defined here.)
This seems so relevant to our work planting trees through the 10,000 Trees Program, which restores the air, water and soil in our own neighborhoods and larger watershed. Imagine my excitement when I discovered that the nearly 5,000 trees that this program will plant this year can also contribute to a global tree planting registry sponsored by a United Nations program that was launched with Wangari Maathai (Nobel Laureate & founder of the Greenbelt reforestation movement in Kenya, Plant for the Planet), called the Billion Tree Campaign. Similarly, you can register your home’s or congregation’s rain barrel on a national registry sponsored by the River Network and see how your efforts are fitting into a bigger picture.
All this and the actions listed below are opportunities to contribute to a healing transformation of God's world. By caring for the watershed within which we reside, we are healing not only Creation, but also our relationship with it, affirming our utter dependence upon God's good gifts. In so doing we are living out our faith traditions' call to be stewards, caretakers, and guardians of God's beautiful world.
Kolya Braun-Greiner, MDiv
Other Local Actions that influence cumulative global healing:
Call to Advocacy
Trash-Free Maryland – We recently reported that the ban on Styrofoam food containers was passed in DC and will take effect January 1, 2016. Similar bans are also in the works in Montgomery County and Prince George’s County. Montgomery County will likely introduce this bill on September 8th and will vote on it by the end of October. Councilman Hans Riemer is leading this effort and has nearly the full council for support. Find your Council Representative here, and email them to show your support for a ban on Styrofoam food containers. Political will is hard to come by, and our representatives need to know you support this ban! Such bans are important for restoring balance to Creation because Styrofoam clutters our waterways and is not recyclable. Congregations that serve Styrofoam at their coffee hours will not be affected, but if you serve Styrofoam at a public venue (homeless shelter for example), this bill might affect you. Please email Julie Lawson at Trash-Free Maryland if you have questions.
- Stop Cove Point - Dominion’s plan to build a massive $3.8 billion liquefied natural gas export facility at Cove Point on the Chesapeake Bay threatens communities and the entire watershed with an expanding network of fracking wells and gas pipeline infrastructure. Just this past week, a Maryland Circuit Court judge ruled that the Board of Commissioners in Calvert County, where the facility would be built, had illegally exempted Dominion from local zoning ordinances. If you are a resident of Calvert County, you can sign this petition to hold your elected leaders accountable to local ordinances. by Watch this inspiring video of protesters asserting why Cove Point expansion must be stopped. Click here to stay informed of this campaign.
- EPA Clean Water Rule - IPC supports EPA Clean Water Rule EPA-HQ-OW-2011-0880 which defines Waters of the US. Recent changes to the Clean Water Act have called into question protections for nearly 60% of our nation's stream miles and 20 million acres of wetlands. In Maryland along, clarifying protections for ALL streams would impact the drinking sources for 77% of Maryland residents. You can read these facts and more in this letter prepared by Clean Water Action, which IPC has signed on to and will be submitted to the EPA. If you would like to use this letter to submit your own comments or need additional information, you can all Andy Galli at Clean Water Action at 410-235-8808. You can also file your own comments to the EPA by clicking here.
- EPA's proposed Clean Power Plan - The EPA will take public comments until Oct. 16 on proposed rules to limit power plant carbon pollution. If you would like to tell the EPA to limit pollution from power plants, Interfaith Power and Light has set up a page to help you do that here.
RiverWise Congregations (Anne Arundel County)
Have you always wanted to become a trained Master Watershed Steward? Now’s your chance – and you can help your congregation at the same time!
Offered to congregations in Anne Arundel County, this program provides grant funding for technical & financial assistance of between $20K-$60K per place of worship to help beautify grounds and reduce polluted runoff. Once a new Steward from your congregation becomes trained as a Master Watershed Steward, their capstone project will be a fully-funded stormwater project at your congregation! Contact email@example.com for more information.
Attendance at one Informational Session is required prior to application. Please register for a session at http://www.aawsa.org/. Spots are filling fast!
Faith-Based Outdoor Education
IPC will be developing a faith-based outdoor educational field experience in 2015. We need your input to help us design a program that meets your needs and interests. Please complete the survey here.
To respond to either of these questions, please contact: Kolya Braun-Greiner at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please visit our Volunteer Signup page if you can donate time or money to IPC's work! We're looking for volunteers in a variety of areas, including Spanish translators, Advocates for upcoming legislative issues, IT/website support, social media support, Outreach/Education, and board committees.
Blue Water Congregations (Baltimore)
Raindrops keep fallin' on your head when you leave services? Contact email@example.com for more information on the Blue Water Congregations program, which offers the financial, technical, and spiritual guidance needed to implement stormwater mitigation projects on congregational grounds.
How will those stormwater fees be spent? Share your ideas with Baltimore City representatives at two of these remaining community meetings.
Covenantal Partners Program (Baltimore)
Does your green ministry need new energy or new direction? Would your group benefit from a spiritually-based visioning session and guidance? IPC can come to your group and lead a visioning session to help you map out your next steps. Email Jodi Rose for more information or to express interest.