If future generations are to remember us more with gratitude than sorrow, we must achieve more than just the miracles of technology. We must also leave them a glimpse of the world as it was created, not just as it looked when we got through with it.
--Lyndon B. Johnson

Just Power

 

As a society, we all enjoy the benefits of readily available electricity.  There are many ways to generate power for electricity; however, these ways are not equal in their costs to people and the environment.  Power plants that use carbon-based fuel generate air pollutants as a waste product. The public health costs of air pollutants motivated the United States congress to pass the Clean Air Act of 1970.  It authorizes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate air pollutants.  The Clean Air Act has saved literally trillions of dollars in public health costs.      

Over the years, we’ve learned more about air pollutants and their effects on our atmosphere.  According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree that a specific group of air pollutants generated by human activity, known as greenhouse gases, are “extremely likely” to be the cause of global warming trends.  In 2007 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the EPA has authority to regulate these gases as air pollutants under the Clean Air Act.   

Currently, the full cost of power generation using carbon-based fuel is not borne equitably.  Greenhouse gases emitted by power plants have a greater impact on the people and ecosystems that are most vulnerable to poor air quality and the effects of global warming.  EPA’s Clean Power Plan brings justice to power generation by requiring controls for greenhouse gases.  The current administration has removed the plan’s webpage, but you can read EPA’s archived information about the plan.  Nothing in the plan prohibits the use of carbon-based fuel for power generation.  The plan simply requires the control of greenhouse gas emissions, so power generated from the fuel will reflect the true cost of power generation, instead of subsidizing the cost with the health of people and the environment.

By executive order, President Trump directed the current EPA administration to review all regulations related to energy.  In response, the EPA has proposed a repeal of the Clean Power Plan.  The proposed repeal is open for public comment until January 16, 2018, and the EPA is holding its only public hearing on the repeal this week.  Now is the time for people of faith to advocate for justice in our system of power generation.  

What You Can Do

  1. Tell the EPA to keep the Clean Power Plan by submitting comments on the repeal at: https://www.epa.gov/stationary-sources-air-pollution/clean-power-plan-proposed-repeal-how-comment
  1. Express support for the Clean Power Plan by writing a letter to the editor of your local paper.  Here’s an example of a letter to the editor.  https://www.wvgazettemail.com/opinion/gazette_opinion/op_ed_commentaries/people-of-faith-care-for-creation-and-clean-power/article_ad79d8ea-fe19-5ef3-8b36-cc6fe94bd1f7.html

Find suggestions for wording your letters and comments at: http://www.txipl.org/content/repeal-clean-power-plan

COP23

The 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was held in Bonn, Germany from November 6-17, 2017.  Bee Moorhead and Imaad Khan of Texas Impact represented Texas Interfaith Power & Light at the events, meetings, and activities of COP23.  See all of their reports from Bonn at http://texasimpact.org/engage/cop-23.  

Fiji's Bula Spirit at COP23

In November the world will gather for the 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  The island nation of Fiji has the conference presidency and promises to infuse the conference with their Bula Spirit.  Bula is both a greeting and a blessing of wellness and happiness.  The Bula Spirit is one of inclusiveness, friendliness, and solidarity.  This spirit is reminiscent of the Abrahamic greeting and blessing of Shalom / Salaam. 

As a Small Island Developing State, Fiji is already experiencing the effects of climate change.  They have lost shorelines and fisheries that were critical to their economy.  In February 2016, they were hit by Tropical Cyclone Winston, a category 5 cyclone with sustained winds of 185 miles per hour.  The Fijians tell their story of adapting to climate change in a series of videos. 

Climate Change Fiji - The Devastating Reality 

Climate Change and Fiji - A Global Challenge; A Local Response

Climate Change and Fiji - Leading the Global Charge for Action

Funding for climate change adaptations, like the ones shown in these videos, will be discussed at COP23.  An adaptation fund was established under the Kyoto Protocol.  Negotiations are underway to have it serve the Paris Agreement.  The fund raises moral questions that many countries are reluctant to face.  What responsibility do developed, high-carbon-emitting countries have to fund adaptations in developing countries?  Who will select and approve adaptations; the countries paying into the fund, or the country where the adaptation is implemented?   Developing countries are concerned that wealthy, powerful countries will make these decisions without respecting the social, cultural, and political factors in the developing countries.

Bula, Shalom, Salaam – the words may be different, but they all call people to care as much about others as they do for themselves when discussing the tough questions of climate change.  Texas Interfaith Power and Light will be at COP23 to help this spirit be heard.  Follow TXIPL on Facebook to get the latest news of COP23 activities.     

We're Still In - UNFCCC and COP23

In 1992 Government representatives and non-governmental organizations from around the world met at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to discuss changes in the worldwide climate system.  The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted by this conference.  It’s the first international treaty to acknowledge the adverse effects of changes in the earth’s climate.  The treaty’s stated objective isstabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”    

The UNFCCC treaty has been ratified by 197 countries, including the United States.  

A Conference of the Parties (COP) who ratified the treaty is held annually.  The 23rd COP will meet November 6-17 in Bonn, Germany.  The COP23 presidency resides with the country of Fiji.  They are the first Small Island Developing State to hold the COP presidency.  The Fijian Prime Minister recently presented Fiji’s vision for COP23.  

Each COP has numerous side events with opportunities for non-governmental organizations to participate.  TXIPL is making plans to attend COP23 and bring its activities to you.  You can prepare for COP23 by viewing TXIPL’s updates from last year’s COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco.  Look for TXIPL's COP23 rolling blog on the web as we get closer to November.  Until then, follow us on Facebook for our latest news on COP23.      

What Are You Doing on October 5th?

All the Abrahamic faiths teach that creation is a Divine gift, and we are the stewards of this gift.  Faithful stewards act in ways that sustain the life and balance of creation.  Since all energy comes from creation, energy conservation is an important part of our role as stewards.  Energy Efficiency Day gives us an opportunity to pause, reflect on our stewardship of energy, and make changes to become better stewards.  The day is intended to:

  • Raise awareness of the energy issues we all face and what we can do to solve them
  • Help people save money through education on efficiency techniques
  • Unite people who are passionate about cutting energy waste

TXIPL’s Religious Resources offer reflections on creation stewardship for Muslims, Jews, and Christians, as well as followers of other religions. 

Blessed Tomorrow provides Ten Reasons why people of faith, because of our belief in stewardship and commitment to justice, are uniquely called to lead the world's response to challenges such as energy usage.   

What will YOU do for Energy Efficiency Day?

Opportunities for Action

☼ Participate in the Light Bulb Challenge at Home 

☼ Participate in the Light Bulb Challenge at Your Place of Worship 

Go a Step Further:  Collect LED light bulbs for distribution at a food bank or other center that serves neighborhood needs

☼ Implement Quick Tips for Energy Efficiency                        

☼ Try Five Ways to Save Energy 

Go a Step Further:  Mobilize your faith community to help low-income households in your neighborhood implement some of these measures 

☼ Use the Energy Star® Program for Congregations to improve the energy performance of your place of worship

☼ Join Interfaith Power & Light’s Cool Congregations program

Opportunities for Advocacy

☼ Share energy efficiency posts on your social media 

☼ Talk with your local officials about issuing a local proclamation for Energy Efficiency Day

Go a Step Further:  Also ask them to participate in the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy 

☼ Add your name to Interfaith Power & Light’s petition to save the Energy Star® program from budget cuts

Go a Step Further: Contact your U.S. senators and representatives and ask them to fund the Energy Star® program

 

 

The Gift of Water

Water.  It sustains life as we know it.  People of faith trust in its power to purify and baptize.  We believe it is a gift from our Creator, God, YHVH, Allah. 

In Midrash Rabbah we are taught, “Three things are of equal importance: earth, humans, and rain…each word [in Hebrew] has three letters to teach us that without earth, there is no rain, and without rain, the earth cannot endure, and without either, humanity cannot exist.”  B’reshit (Genesis) Rabbah 13:3

From the Psalms we hear sung, “You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills, giving drink to every wild animal; the wild asses quench their thirst.   By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation; they sing among the branches.  From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.  You cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for people to use, to bring forth food from the earth.”  Psalm 104:10-14 (New Revised Standard Version)

In the Qur’an, we are told, “He created the heavens without any pillars that ye can see; He set on the earth mountains standing firm lest it should shake with you; and He scattered through it beasts of all kinds. We send down rain from the sky and produce on the earth every kind of noble creature in pairs.”  Qur’an 31:10  (Yusuf Ali translation)

Water is essential to life.  We depend on it for drinking, food production, and jobs.  Water continuously flows from place to place as it changes form through the water cycle.  This cycle is part of the earth’s climate system, and changes in climate affect the cycle.  The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Earth Observatory is studying these effects.  Already they are seeing the potential for more frequent and intense precipitation events, precipitation shifts from snowfall to rainfall, and an increased incidence and severity of drought.    

Most Texans use precipitation to meet all their water needs.  Rain and snow melt is collected in rivers and man-made lakes, like Lake Lewisville or Lake Livingston, or underground in aquifers that are replenished (i.e., recharged) by precipitation, like the Edwards Aquifer.  Water companies draw water from these sources, treat the water, and sell it to us.  The water cycle provides the precipitation for the water sources, but we have no control over how much precipitation falls or when it falls.  The water supply is limited and dependent on the water cycle.  For this reason, it’s important for us to conserve water.  As people of faith, we use the term stewardship.   When applied to water, stewardship means managing our water use to ensure there is enough water for all people and to sustain all of God's creation.  Faithfully conserving water is a way for us to thank God for the gift of water and to be a good steward of the gift. 

Resources for Water Conservation

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension 

Texas Living Water 

Texas Water Development Board

Save Water Texas 

 

Season of Creation

Friday, September 1, is the ecumenical World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation in the Christian religion.  On this day, Christians throughout the world enter the Season of Creation.   The season continues to October 4th, when many churches celebrate the Feast Day of Saint Francis of Assisi.  

The Orthodox Church’s Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople started the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation in 1989, when the Patriarch issued the first encyclical on the environment.  The observation has grown into a worldwide ecumenical event.  The World Council of Churches has invited churches to participate since 2008, and Pope Francis established the observation within the Roman Catholic Church in 2015.   

The Season of Creation is a time set aside for Christians to reflect on the gift of God’s creation.   It’s a time of repentance for self-centered actions that have damaged creation.  It’s also a call to action for the restoration of peace and wholeness (Shalom) to creation.  This call leads Christians to right relationship with God, each other, and all other living beings.        

Resources for the Season of Creation

Creation Justice Ministries 

Orthodox Church in America 

World Council of Churches 

Global Catholic Climate Movement 

Trees Are Cool

August 31, 2017 Legislature Update:  ​The Texas Legislature closed its special session on August 15th.  Neither SB 14 nor HB 70 passed.  These bills would have limited the authority of municipalities to regulate the removal of trees and vegetation.  Texas Interfaith Power & Light opposed both bills. 

TXIPL also was watching HB 7.  This bill required municipalities to allow tree planting credit in lieu of mitigation fees for tree removal.  The Senate amended HB 7 in ways that limited the authority of municipalities to regulate tree removal and restricted the value of mitigation fees.  However, these amendments were not accepted by the House.   In the end, the Senate removed the amendments before passing the final bill.  Governor Abbott signed the final version of HB 7 on August 16th.   The law will become effective on December 1, 2017.    

Thank you to Texas Impact and all of Texas Impact's members who worked to influence this legislation.  You spoke loudly for the importance of trees and vegetation in our communities.  They mitigate heat islands, air pollution, and the impacts of climate change.  By doing so, they are important to our public health.  

August 4, 2017 Legislature Update:​  HB 70 is still pending in committee.   Continue to contact the committee members, if you want to influence the bill's outcome.  

July 25, 2017 Legislature Update:  HB 70 is being heard by the Urban Affairs Committee today.  SB 14 was heard and amended by the Business and Commerce Committee this past Saturday.  Texas Impact's Weekly Witness on July 24th discussed the status of these bills and actions you can take to influence them.  Texas Impact also is partnering with Defend Texas Trees to oppose the bills.   

Many people enjoy the beauty that trees and vegetation bring to our communities, but their value to us extends far beyond aesthetics.  Trees and vegetation are our allies in battling heat islands and air pollution.  

Sunlight falling on dry pavement and buildings heats these surfaces to temperatures hotter than the air temperature.   The surfaces then release the heat into the air overnight and limit night-time cooling.  After several days, the cumulative effect of this cycle is a heat island, where we live, work, and go to school.  A heat island can be several degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the surrounding rural area.  

The negative effects of heat islands include increased energy usage for cooling and increased production of air pollutants and ground-level ozone.  Most significantly, heat islands cause an increase in heat-related illnesses and deaths.  These negative effects impact vulnerable populations the most:  the homeless; children and the elderly; those with health conditions; and those who do not have the resources to pay the increased cost of cooling their home.  Climate change may intensify urban heat islands and increase their negative impacts.

Trees and vegetation combat heat islands by intercepting sunlight and limiting the heating of pavement and buildings.  Moisture released from plants through evapotranspiration helps to cool the air.  Plants also absorb carbon dioxide and other pollutants from the air.  The Dallas Urban Heat Island report identifies the use of trees and vegetation as an effective mitigation strategy for the city's heat island.  Austin’s guide to heat island mitigation relies on research that shows trees and vegetation are effective in combating heat island effects.   A 2016 Urban Heat Management Study for Louisville, Kentucky specifically looked at vulnerable populations, resulting in one of its key conclusions being to prioritize tree planting and other vegetative strategies in residential zones.  

Since trees and vegetation are important to the well-being of communities, many cities have adopted ordinances, regulations, permits, and requirements specific to trees and vegetation in their region of Texas.  Bills related to these types of local ordinances, rules, and regulations have been introduced in the special session of the 85th Texas Legislature.  Texas Impact is following these bills and recently talked about them at their July 17th Weekly Witness Special Session Preview.  Contact Katrina for more information.

Town Hall Meeting Time

Sometimes Washington D.C. seems so far away that our voices can’t heard by our legislators.  It’s different in August.  The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are on recess, and our legislators are right here at home with us in Texas.  Now is our chance to talk with them in person and to have our voices heard. 

The Town Hall Project shows over two dozen town hall meetings scheduled by representatives in Texas this month.  If you’re not sure who your representative is, enter your zip code at this link to find out.  It also will give you a link to your representative’s webpage, where you can find a local phone number and office address.  You may want to schedule a personal meeting with your representative, if they haven’t scheduled a town hall meeting.    

Interfaith Power & Light’s Town Hall Toolkit will help you prepare to meet with your representative. The toolkit provides a means to research climate issues being considered by the House.  It also gives suggestions for participating in a town hall meeting and talking with your representative.  Interfaith Power & Light draws from the wisdom of diverse faith traditions and the findings of scientific research to develop positions on climate issues. The toolkit contains links to these positions, as well as links to current actions, such as speaking in opposition to the proposed defunding of EPA’s Energy Star programBeing informed will help you be an effective advocate on climate issues.    

Good luck, and go advocate!

We're Still In - Act

You’ve joined with others to say, “We’re Still In” the Paris Climate Agreement, and have committed to reducing your carbon emissions.   Now what?

Your carbon footprint is the sum of all the carbon-containing gases emitted by your daily activities.  Under the Paris Climate Agreement, each country submitted its own target for greenhouse gas emissions. The United States said it would try to reduce its emissions by 26% to 28%, based on emissions levels in year 2005.  Show the world that "We're Still In" by reducing your own carbon footprint this amount and by working with your faith community to reduce its carbon footprint.   Here are some resources to help you.

Cool Congregations    Interfaith Power & Light's Cool Congregations program helps faith communities reduce their carbon footprint.

Cooler-Smarter Top Ten List    The Union of Concerned Scientists describes ten things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint.

Sustainable Living Tips    The Global Stewards organization takes carbon footprint reduction a step further, with guidance on changing your lifestyle to one that is environmentally sustainable and carbon neutral.     

Climate Kids    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Climate Kids program provides educational activities and helps kids reduce their carbon footprint.   

Carbon Footprint Calculator    The University of California at Berkeley provides a carbon footprint calculator, with suggestions for carbon reduction actions that are specific to your household's carbon emission sources.   

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