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Climate and Sustainability

Basics

Over the last 30 years, Texans of all walks of life have become more concerned about human impacts on the environment. Increasingly, stories about environmental destruction and its effects on human health dominate the news and people are feeling those impacts in very real ways—in bans on fishing due to mercury contamination, in increasing asthma rates, and in ozone pollution days in Dallas and Houston, for example.

To fuel our modern lifestyle, forests are cleared, toxic waste dumped...

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Over the last 30 years, Texans of all walks of life have become more concerned about human impacts on the environment. Increasingly, stories about environmental destruction and its effects on human health dominate the news and people are feeling those impacts in very real ways—in bans on fishing due to mercury contamination, in increasing asthma rates, and in ozone pollution days in Dallas and Houston, for example.

To fuel our modern lifestyle, forests are cleared, toxic waste dumped into rivers, and chemicals spewed into the air. We are using the earth’s resources faster than they can be replenished, and scientists tell us that global warming is the biggest environmental crisis that we have faced, not just in our time, but in the entire history of human civilization. Our diverse religious traditions share a common call for people to care for the earth and live in respectful balance with other animals and people.

Texas continues to have more renewable energy potential than any other state, but in recent years clean energy discussions have taken a back seat to concern about electric reliability. Meanwhile, though cheap natural gas, made possible in large part by Texas’ controversial hydraulic fracturing—or “fracking”—boom, has kept energy costs low, fracking has left many communities and landowners dealing with collateral damage and unsustainable change.

Renewable energy continues to be key in addressing many of the concerns that Texas faces and will face. As renewable technologies become more cost-competitive and concerns about fracking mount, legislators should recommit to making Texas the nation’s clean energy leader and update the state’s clean energy goals. Texas’ long-term plan for electric reliability must include a commitment to clean energy that promotes long-term energy independence, human health, and care for God’s creation.

The state’s focus on electricity supply has elevated interest in energy efficiency and other demand reducing measures. Lawmakers should place particular emphasis on consumer-directed efficiency programs that yield benefits for the grid and the individual ratepayer. Too often, energy efficiency programs take a one-size-fits-all approach that rewards the heaviest users while minimizing the significance of small consumers. Legislators should affirm that energy efficiency is a community-wide effort, and craft policies that make energy efficiency attractive and effective for all ratepayers, including those who are low-income or otherwise disadvantaged.



 

 

“If you need me, I'll be in a barn in Nacogdoches with a bunch of Baptists, making art out of recycled glass.” That was the caption I put with this photo (on the right) when I posted it to my facebook profile on Tuesday evening. Part of me really did want to stay there forever, working side by side with members of the local community—one person cutting bottles, one mixing colorful tumbled glass pieces in a large tub to make “mulch,” one arranging broken shards into a mosaic, one making a pattern on a plate with glass pebbles.

“The most important thing is to learn how to think,” I enthusiastically told the class of 50 eighth-graders at my son’s school. I looked into their faces. Some of them were bright-eyed, engaged, actively listening—some of them were dozing off. Most seemed somewhere in-between.

I don’t think their overall lack of interest was completely my fault—by now they’d heard five other Career Day presentations and it was getting close to lunchtime. Plus, I didn’t have a drug-sniffing dog like the Border Patrol agent in the classroom across the hallway did. I bet that was interesting.

"Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth." Genesis: 1:26b.  What does that include? "It begins in discovering that our neighbors are far more numerous and diverse than we have heretofore imagined.  From the microbes on our skin and in our guts to the yet-undescribed insects of tropical forests to the denizens of undersea thermal vents and the bacteria of Antarctic subglacial lakes, we are one body of creation.

A Gold  LEED certification at the convention center was a major factor that led Episcopalians to select Austin, Texas for the 2018 Episcopal Church General Convention. The convention is held every three years and draws hundreds of clergy and laity.

I have a confession. Sometimes I allow self-righteous Christians to get the best of me.  (Caveat: I am one of them.)  Take charity, for example. We love to talk about keeping government small. Let the church take care of the people!  But Americans give only 2% of our income to charity, and Christians are no better than average.  In fact, as World Vision CEO Rich Stearns gently points out, only 2% of our 2% goes to fund international aid for the poorest of the poor.  Suffice it to say that the American church is not doing a great job of fulfilling Jesus’ commands.

Scripture, tradition and reason form the three-legged stool that undergirds the Episcopal Church, and environmental questions must be examined within that context. It is foundational for the life of the church and explains why Episcopalians aren't encumbered by a strict and obligatory belief system. As a denomination it has grown with both the progressing constructs of Western Civilization and the evolving thought processes dominant since the Age of Enlightenment.



Urban gardening and agriculture in public spaces are becoming accepted as potent means for personal transformation, small-scale economic activity, and for larger-scale climate mitigation and adaptation. This week, Dallas Interfaith Power & Light will be touring the East Dallas Promise of Peace community garden at White Rock United Methodist Church – built, of all places, on top of an unused parking lot! Based on the early feedback, we expect this will be the first of many opportunities to tour community gardens in the ambit of sacred spaces.

In early 2012, I started a Dallas Creation Care group to convene people of different Christian denominations for fellowship and support for environmental stewardship within the church.

"Demographics are destiny, some say, and there’s plenty of truth to that. If you live in the South, you’re more likely to be an evangelical Christian than if you live in San Francisco. And if you live in San Francisco, you’re more likely to be an environmentalist (or at least recycling your soda can) than if you live in San Antonio.

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