Learning

Becoming Political

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Many of us have an internally running script saying how dissatisfied we are with some political action. Every now and then I suggest to others that they should stop complaining on social media and do something more constructive. Here are some suggestions - modified from the American advocacy group, Climate Reality Project:

  • Call your elected officials’ offices, especially if a decision or vote is pending. Expect that you are talking to a staff member rather than the representative - who will nevertheless be monitoring opinions.

  • Ask for the staff person dealing with the particular issue. Leave a message if you don’t get through to a live person

  • Identify yourself as a constituent, when you are one.

  • Know your facts and state what you think the leader should do.

  • Note any expertise you have in the area.

  • Make the call short. There are likely many calls coming in.

  • Call all the leaders who have an impact on the issue - municipal, provincial and national

When using social media, share good information by linking to it rather than simply ranting..

When writing letters to the editor:

  • Keep it short (100-200 words) and note the article you are referring to. Expect even a short article to be cut - and make every sentence stand alone.

  • Check submission rules for the particular publication. Timely letters - sent almost immediately as a response are more likely to get published.

Summer Reading

A friend recently noted how much she had enjoyed The Overstory - mentioned in my own resource list and I highly recommend this one.

But you might also enjoy the summer reading list provided by Professior Stephen Bede Scharper of the University of Toronto, who teaches in several departments ranging from environmental studies to theology. Here it is:

If you are looking for new reading material for the summer, below is a list of books Stephen Scharper highly recommends - enjoy!

On environmentalism:

  • The Bridge at the Edge of the World by James Gustave Speth

  • For Earth’s Sake by Stephen Bede Scharper

  • This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein

On plant-based nutrition:

  • The China Study by T. Colin Campbell

  • The China Study Solution by Thomas M. Campbell

  • Natural Feasts by Deliciously Ella (cookbook)

On mindfulness:

  • The Secret by Rhonda Byrne

  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

  • Peace Is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh

  • Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Happy reading!

The Doughnut- an important perspective.

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That one? - Or this one?

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Canadians are fans of doughnuts with endless brands. But the one I have recently discovered is more than a calorie laden deliverer of sugar but a way to bridge economy and the planet. Kate Raworth’s doughtnut brings these two aspects of our lives together in a remarkably intelligent way.

I was moved after a recent conference to ponder the words in a distributed report entitled Church Growth Statistics. Not surprisingly totals were down showing a decline - and there was an underlying anxiety in what the report showed. If only 25% of the parishes studied were growing what did this predict for the future.

The benchmarks were the number of persons attending on Sundays and the average annual donation. From my not-for-profit director days, I would have used similar ones. What both depend on for a happy outcome is growth. Enter an aging population with aging buildings. The vocabulary shifts at this micro level the same way it does in the macro one. We start to hear about “sustainability”, or “sustainable growth” or” long term sustainability” as the video below shows. What is missing is the reality that we live on a planet whose capacity for growth has limits. To make it even worse, our collective practice of exploiting its resources make it even more devastated

Economics is complicated. So is politics We have to decide whether we are citizens or consumers in every realm in which we exist - even church land. I expect there will be some new perspectives on how we use words like growth and sustainability going forward..

Here’s some help with the doughnut:

You can also visit Kate Raworth’s site for more information here.

Plan B isn't Planet B

No Planet B is the title of a current post from the Parliament of World Religions. They are aunching a webinar series entitled Faith and Climate Webinar series and you can find out more about that here.

Their Climate Action Program is also launching a special "WebForum" page on the Parliament's website to provide background about the Faith and Climate Webinar Series and begin a discussion of webinar topics ahead of time. The WebForum will feature a lead essay by a panelist from the upcoming Faith and Climate webinar, with written responses from other panelists and invited experts from the field, as well as comments and questions from readers. Each WebForum topic will include background information about the specific webinar topic, with links to further reading in anticipation of the webinar itself.

Plastics - A mini-history

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To take on plastics is to take on consumerism itself:

 For some time we have agreed that too much is bad – but without doing anything about it.  Scientists, though were aware of it much earlier.  The current focus on microplastics – tiny bits entering the food chain – has increased awareness. As well as the perceptions changed by images of waste islands at sea or suffering animals, there has been a shift from seeing plastics and other waste as litter to understanding of it as a dangerous pollutant.

 Climate change is hard to understand – but plastics are everywhere in front of our nose.  I believe I share basic ignorance with most around me.  What is plastic, who makes it and where does it come from?  I turned to an article by Stephen Buranyi in the Guardian published last November for some basic information. It’s comprehensive, thorough and quite long so I am summarizing with some direct quotations:

  • ·Plastic is a global industrial product.

  • ·Plastic is a catch-all term for the product made by turning a carbon-rich chemical mixture into a solid structure.

  • The raw materials come from fossil fuels, and many of the same vast companies that produce oil and gas also produce plastic, often in the same facilities.

  • The story of plastic is the story of the fossil fuel industry – and the oil-fueled boom in consumer culture that followed the second world war.

  • To make it requires coal, water and air

  • By developing new plastic products – like Dow’s invention of Styrofoam in the 1940s, or the multiple patents held by Mobil for plastic films used in packaging – these companies were effectively creating new markets for their oil and gas

  • Thin plastic wrapping was introduced in the early 1950s, displacing the paper and cloth protecting consumer goods and dry cleaning. By the end of the decade, DuPont reported more than a billion plastic sheets sold to retailers.

  • At the same time, plastic entered millions of homes in the form of latex paint and polystyrene insulation.

  • Soon, plastic was everywhere, even in outer space. In 1969, the flag that Neil Armstrong planted on the moon was made of nylon.

  • The following year, Coke and Pepsi began replacing their glass bottles with plastic versions.

  • Plastic did more than merely take the place of existing materials, leaving the world otherwise unchanged.  It actually helped kickstart the global economy’s shift to disposal consumerism.

  • Plastic meant profit – but it also meant rubbish. A backlash started in 1969 heavily opposed by the industries that produced it.

  • Rather than blaming the companies that had promoted disposable packaging and made millions along the way, these same companies argued that irresponsible individuals were the real problem.

  • Household recycling was later seen as the answer – a solution pushed by the manufacturing industries as simple and effective. The problem with these rosy predictions was that plastic is one of the worst materials for recycling.

  • In the intervening years, global plastic production has rocketed from some 160 million tonnes in 1995 to 340 million tonnes today. Recycling rates are still dismally low.

  • Plastic isn’t just an isolated problem that we can banish from our lives, but simply the most visible product of our past half-century of rampant consumption. 

What prompted me to do more research on this was after reading the article on bioplastics (materials based on plants rather than fossil fuels) in Paul Hawken’s Drawdown, a book that I highly recommend in my book section here on the site. You can also go to the related Website.

I like the idea of a Drawdown challenge after just completing one. I want to be sure that a future one related to plastics makes me learn more about the industrial side and question its impact - not just my personal use.