Nov 1, 2013

"Curiosity is a Gift from the Creator"


Don Searles caught my attention, Did you hear Roger’s statement on climate change?

Not just because he’s my dad or because I was late to church and had gotten caught, but because I’d never heard Dr. Paynter speak about global warming. Ever;  especially during a sermon. Who does that? What’d he say? Dad heard – Climate change is real and it’s being caused by us. It’s our responsibility to respond to it, and even if we’re not causing it – it’s our responsibility.

Big and bold, for sure. The funny thing about growing up in First Baptist Church is everything I learned about environmental care I learned from the people of FBC. When I was a kid it wasn’t Sunday School or parables that molded my worldview, it was the examples I saw lived by the adults in our church community. By example I learned to be curious about doing the right thing, always. Ask questions, find solutions, share.


Christian eco author, family man and full time Kentucky farmer, Wendell Berry recently told Bill Moyers, “We have to ask what’s the right thing to do and go ahead and do it.” Probably the greatest thing about First Baptist Austin, to me, is the embodiment of that value. In that light my father’s recounting of how Rev. Roger Paynter sees climate change just makes sense.

So here’s what Roger actually said on Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013.** A declaration I can share pride in:

“Science and faith are not enemies. Curiosity is a gift from the creator, not something to be afraid of…

“What speaks to me most is a theology that we all need more of; a theology that all of life is sacred and holy. All the earth is holy ground, though we’ve done our part to make it unholy enough.

“Just this week the most comprehensive study yet was released – demonstrating, from a consortium of the strongest scientists we have in this world, that there is climate change and despite what the head in the sand crowd wants to believe, it is mostly our responsibility.

“God gave us this extraordinary, amazing gift of Creation which is HOLY indeed, and we have consistently misused it, not only with environmental abuse, but fouling it daily with hate and bigotry and greed…”

-- Rev. Dr. Roger Paynter, 9/29/13


Right Reverend Dr. Roger Paynter 


The FBC Green Team is moving forward with some great initiatives to reduce their facility’s carbon footprint this Fall. 

**Visit http://fbcaustin.org/audio to hear Roger’s whole sermon.
** Visit http://vimeo.com/76122933 for Bill Moyers’ interview with Wendell Berry.

Dec 31, 2012

Exterminating Nature

Exterminating Nature -- The dissolution of North America's last natural habitats -- and those who live in it.  

"Ernest"

"Over the past four centuries, gray wolf populations in North America have been decimated by overwhelming increases in human population, development of agriculture, and expansion of industrial forestry. Moreover, hundreds of thousands of wolves have been trapped, poisoned, shot from helicopters, and sterilized, among other modes of destruction. By the beginning of the twentieth century, wolves had nearly vanished from the eastern United States, most of southern Canada, and the Canadian Maritime provinces. By 1960, the wolf had been exterminated by federal and state governments from all of the United States except Alaska and northern Minnesota. The distribution of the gray wolf in North America is now confined primarily to Alaska and Canada…
"In Canada, the gray wolf is still found throughout much of its historical range." -- Following the Last Wild Wolves, McCallister, 2011
The former ranging area of the North American gray wolf. (Fullsize)

Am i going off the deep end? As a tree-hugging environmentalist i have to say: there's a silent war on nature, unintentional and ignorant. We complicity pave over, pollute, and exhaust the resources and natural habitats each member of Creation depends upon. After reading Following The Last Wild Wolves, by Ian McCallister, I feel i can't emphasize this point enough.

FTLWW gives the reader a sense of how nature really works (via infinite micro and macro relationships) and how we've singularly remade this continent over the last few hundred years by replacing nature with human society and material endeavors. The book tracks McCallister's observations of North America's iconic yet collossally few remaining gray wolves, as the wolves hunt, birth, nurture, travel, hide, and protect their families in a cycle that's older than the modern concept of time. 
"Except for humans and possibly the African lion, gray wolves once had the most extensive range of any terrestrial mammal. They were found in a variety of environments, from dense forest to open grassland and from the Arctic tundra to extreme desert, avoiding only swamps and tropical rain forests. Now wolves occur mostly in remote and undeveloped areas of the world with sparse human populations.

"On the North American mainland, gray wolves were once found everywhere expect the southeastern United States, California west of the Sierra Nevada Range, and the tropical and subtropical regions of Mexico. The species also occurred ... throughout the Arctic Archipelago and Greenland." -- Following the Last Wild Wolves, McCallister, 2011
Not so long ago gray wolves were everywhere on this continent. As apex predators with impressive ranging skills, organizational abilities, diets and intelligence, their presence is/was indicative of large, healthy ecosystems teeming with challenges and opportunities for wildlife. Today, the last remaining undisturbed North American gray wolves are pretty much found only in the Great Bear Rainforest of coastal British Columbia. This area, though beautiful, has remained inhospitable to commercialization thus far, but it's not safe from near term plunder.

Gray wolves, undisturbed.

Proposed commercialization of Great Bear Rainforest.


How Do We End This War?

As we begin a new year i'm drawn to grandscale armchairing. In the wake of everyday personal problems, celebrity gossip, Congressional can-kicking, audacious distractions, religious / non-profit / civic / PTA and other community failings, and all the rest -- we're losing Nature. People are unaware. We're losing that which sustains us. If Following the Last Wild Wolves is any indication, we should preserve and leave be the last remaining wild places on earth before they're lost forever. We owe ourselves, our children, and our spirits -- if you believe in anything spiritual that is.

Who has the authority to protect nature? You. Stuff on your personal todo list 2013 should include: increasing your commitment to carbon mitigation and divestment, water conservation, waste reduction and reuse, and protection / restoration of natural habitat.

You must share your concerns about nature with those around you, even if in the form of just sharing this short blog. You must seek out ways to improve your relationship with the planet by getting outdoors, shopping smarter, being more politically active, leading a community group, changing your own habits for goodness sake, making big investments or donations -- you must. 
"Only a fool would rather die than die without a tribe, but this is the last chance to reverse your stance…" -- The Last Poets - from Delights of the Garden

Oct 29, 2012

Factoids: "Hurricane Sandy"

On the road today, reading the news from Pensacola over breakfast. Once again, the weather is making front page, lead-story, headline news. Here's what USA Today's Monday morning edition has to say about Hurricane Sandy:

  • Sandy is the biggest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic, more than twice the size of Hurricane Irene, with clouds extending some 2,000 miles from Canada to Florida.
  • The rain that is forecast to fall in some Mid-Atlantic state areas would be expected to occur once every 500 to 1,000 years.
  • Blizzard warnings have been issued for higher elevations of the Appalachians, and could bring as much as two feet of snow to VA, WV, KY, and NC. 
  • Hundreds of thousands of Americans have been ordered to leave their homes for higher ground. 
  • Sandy has already killed more than 60 people in the Caribbean. 
  • Sandy could directly affect up to 60 Million Americans. 
  • Forecasters expect this "superstorm" to be felt as far inland as Chicago and the Great Lakes; the National Weather Service is warning of waves 20 to 25 feet on Lake Michigan by Tuesday. 
  • High winds currently extend more than 500 miles from Sandy's center. 
  • Sandy's destructive potential is rated 5.8 on a scale of 0 to 6, by the NOAA.

2012's Sandy more than 2x the size of 2011's Irene

Sandy's Economics

Most commerce along the Eastern seaboard is shutdown until further notice. For example: 
  • All schools, freight carriers, mass transit, trains and subways are shutdown in heavily populated areas such as New York City, Washington D.C. and Phildelphia, until further notice. 
  • The New York Stock Exchange has canceled trading for Monday and Tuesday. 
  • Experts say flooding in New York's subway system cannot be prevented; subways stopped running Sunday morning. 
  • More than 6,800 flights had been canceled by Sunday evening. 
  • Meteorologist Mike Williams of AccuWeather said damage, including losses, could top $100 Billion, "far worse than Katrina."

Page 3A, USA Today print edition, 10/29/12. 

For more basic info on Global Warming and what it's projected outcomes might be i recommend clicking around on Environmental Defense Fund's info page or digging deeper into any of several environmentalist's books; Lester Brown's Eco-Economy comes to mind as a good starting place. Write me if you're interested in more book recommendations.

Young people prepare for the storm surge;
from USAToday.com