Posted by: NCC Poverty Initiative Director | March 14, 2012

Limericks for chemical policy reform

This weekend for St. Patrick’s day, many will receive funny leprechaun dolls, wear odd green jewelry and attire, and insert green plastic accessories on food.

Most of the chemicals in this festive green stuff have not been tested for safety.  Although all these things are regulated under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), this 36 year old law has failed to protect us from dangerous chemicals. Of the more than 80,000 chemicals in our everyday products, only 200 have actually been tested for safety.

So – we’re sending limericks to our Senators asking them to strengthen TSCA.

Here are a few:

A temple of the Holy Spirit
should not have bad chemicals near it.
“TSCA is broken!”
God’s people have spoken.
We need Congress now to repair it.

There once was great politician
Who, though (s)he was not a physician
Knew that toxics were bad
And it made him(her) so mad
(S)He wrote TSCA a brand new edition.

Toxic alphabet soup: keep at bay.
PFCs, PVC, BPA.
For our health and well being
We need laws overseeing
the chemical chaos today.

Senator, can you help me please?
All this chemical dust makes me sneeze!
I don’t want Bisphenol
In my kid’s favorite doll,
Fixing TSCA should be just a breeze.

Some ick toxic chemical dust
Is making our bodies go bust.
If TSCA were fixed,
That dust would be nixed,
So TSCA reform is a must.

On shopping trips for brand new babies
We ask for the toxic-free playthings.
But without Irish luck
Parents are sadly stuck
Without knowing toy chemicals’ safety.

Got a clever limerick about the need for chemical policy reform?

Send your limerick, or one of the limericks above to both your Senators.

Posted by: NCC Poverty Initiative Director | February 21, 2012

Cross on my Forehead, Future Generations on My Mind.

In many traditions, the ashes used on Ash Wednesday come from burning the previous year’s Palm Sunday leaves. We recognize, in a very tangible way, that the palms from the previous year go back to dust, back into the soil. Eventually, the nutrients in that dust feed new life: This is the way of God’s world. We also come from dust and to dust we will return.

With a cross on my forehead, I’ve got future generations on my mind: What new life will be nurtured when I am gone?

This question is particularly challenging when the literal dust that sheds from our everyday products carries toxic chemicals that are poisoning the Earth and getting into our bodies. Some chemicals even bio-accumulate, becoming more potent as they move up the food chain; or they are associated with chronic diseases, disabilities, or other health concerns.

This Lent, the National Council of Churches is asking seniors to commit to defend the generations ahead, and to ask peers to do the same.

If you are a senior, click here to speak out.

If you’re not a senior, or if you have already signed the petition, click here to ask other older adults in your life to sign this letter.

Wishing you a blessed Ash Wednesday,

Shantha

Posted by: Chloe Schwabe | February 17, 2012

Guest Blog: Toxics,Cancer, and My Fight For Us All

*Teresa Eickel is the Interim Executive Director of the Interreligious Eco-Justice Network. IREJN is one of our key faith partners in our Environmental Health Initiative. Please enjoy this special guest blog she wrote on her experience as a woman of faith fighting cancer and the upcoming activities IREJN has for people of faith to make Connecticut healthier and toxic-free . Teresa and Reverend Tom Carr, one of our NCC Eco-Justice Working Group members, are two founders of IREJN.To learn more about IREJN’s work visit www.irejn.org.

Teresa Eickel, Interim IREJN Executive Director

Teresa Eickel, Interim IREJN Executive Director

The date was Thursday, November 18, 2010. Six days earlier, I was flying high – I was an opera singer who had just made her solo recital debut at one of the most prestigious performing organizations in the world, the Ravinia Festival. It had gone so well that the concert’s sponsor called the Festival President on Monday morning to tell him how great the recital was. Now, however, I was sitting in the doctor’s office with my mom, listening to a nice young oncologist tell me that I had cancer.

I was 37 and a self-described health nut with a minimal family history. I didn’t drink or smoke and I exercised and ate broccoli every single day. I meditated, practiced yoga, and went to church. I wasn’t supposed to get cancer. And despite the conventional wisdom that young women don’t get breast cancer, there I was. I had a 5cm tumor and lymph node involvement, which meant automatic chemo, surgery, and radiation. Over the next five days, I called my friends and family and told them the news. They were as shocked as I was. My brother-in-law told my 6 year old niece that I was sick and the medicine was going to make me lose my hair. Listening to her cry broke my heart.

I was determined to enter treatment in top physical and emotional condition, so did everything I could think of to get ready for chemo over the next two weeks – I read about side effects and supplements and I stocked up on organic foods. I upped my yoga practice and started seeing a therapist who specialized in guided imagery. It was like preparing for a really crummy marathon.

terri in chemotherapyI started chemo on Dec. 14 and lost all my hair on New Year’s Eve. For four months, I went every two weeks to get pumped full of the chemicals that would kill the cancer. Throughout that time, I kept exercising, kept eating right, kept meditating and praying. Some days were harder than others, but I always got up and got going. I finished chemo on March 22 and had surgery on April 14, one day after my niece’s 7th birthday. It was a long, nine hour surgery with a long six week recovery. I got back to walking as soon as I was released from the hospital and I got clearance to go back to yoga five weeks after surgery. It was so freeing to get back to a semblance of normal Terri.

I wasn’t done yet, though – at the end of May, it was onto radiation. I went to radiation every day for five and half weeks. A combination of emu oil and aloe vera kept me from burning too badly and my hair started to grow back, albeit grayer than before! It was around that time that IREJN offered me the position of Interim Director and I jumped at the chance. I had been working for non-profits for a while, but always had a special place in my heart for IREJN and our work. I also firmly believed that environmental factors played a large part in my cancer and I was eager to join the fight and help keep this from happening to other people.

This belief in the role of toxins and cancer has been reinforced time and again, no more recently than last night as I sat on a panel with the esteemed Mary Evelyn Tucker who made the salient point that climate change, the destruction of biodiversity, and toxins are inextricably linked. We can’t afford to choose one issue as more pressing or important over the other because each one is playing its own, extremely important role in the environmental devastation that we are experiencing. We need action and we need it now.

I am proud that IREJN is working with the Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Connecticut and the National Council of Churches on the ban on BPA and other toxins. It’s important legislation that is coming up during this session and I urge you to support it. I will definitely keep you posted.

TeresaIREJN (and our work on toxics) is one of the beneficiaries of an upcoming benefit concert, scheduled for Friday, February 24 at 8:00 at the Asylum Hill Congregational Church. Sponsored by Opera Noire, the concert was initially created to raise funds that would help me and another breast cancer survivor, Jolie Rocke Brown, pay some of our medical expenses not covered by insurance. However, Jolie and I both wanted to give back, so we each chose a non-profit – Jolie chose the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Research Foundation and I chose IREJN, to support our work to ban toxins and other known carcinogens. Both the TNBRCF and IREJN will receive a portion of the proceeds from that concert. I hope that you will be able to attend – the concert will be fabulous and will feature opera, music theatre, and spirituals. A free-will offering will be collected and all donations are fully tax deductible. We will also be distributing information on upcoming toxics legislation, so there are lots of reasons to come!

I still have some treatments in front of me – I get a drug called Herceptin every three weeks until May. But my recent scans showed that I am cancer-free and I pray every day to stay that way. My determination to raise awareness about the impact of toxins on public health remains unchanged. Even though I have had a very personal experience with breast cancer, it’s not just about me and it’s not just about breast cancer. We all deserve to be safe and healthy.

Posted by: NCC Poverty Initiative Director | February 7, 2012

Congregations Energized for Environmental Justice

A packed house of over 200 persons gathered on January 30th at Highland Christian United Church of Christ in Portland to explore “Environmental Justice and Faith” at the third annual Earth Care Summit.  Participants represented over 50 congregations and religious groups from across Oregon and SW Washington.  The event was sponsored by Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon’s Interfaith Network for Earth Concerns and Oregon Interfaith Power and Light project.

LeRoy Haynes

 It began with a delicious southern style locally grown vegetarian meal prepared by Po’ Shines Café, a mission of Celebration Tabernacle that provides needed training and employment. The evening moved quickly into a powerful keynote by Dr. Leroy Haynes, a well-known civil rights leader, pastor of Allen Temple Christian Methodist Episcopal Church and incoming EMO Board president.  He fired participants up to care about our “Mother Earth who is dying,” but he said, “It is still not too late.”  His presentation included both scientific and poetic insight about the continuing degradation of the earth for all its creatures as well as the environmental injustices disproportionately suffered by people of color and the poor.  He also shared his story of successfully fighting a lead plant in a poor African American neighborhood as a pastor in Dallas, Texas.

A congregational greening case study of Nativity Lutheran in Bend, OR focused on its orchard and community gardens which have built community among people of diverse socio-economic levels.  By being welcoming, an amazing amount of talent and resources came forth.  A new door was punched from the fellowship hall to the garden.  Later, participants sharpened their earth caring skills by choosing two of eighteen roundtables and presentations offered on everything from making solar energy accessible to all to principles of environmental justice, from faith and the Farm Bill to environmental health.  Mike Branch from the Muslim Educational Trust closed with an inspirational blessing.

The mutual inspiration among congregations was powerful. Surely, the renewed vision of those attending will enrich their leadership in their local congregations enabling them to steward Creation and address environmental injustice in creative new ways.

This account of the Earth Care Summit was written by The Rev. Vern Groves, United Methodist Church, Ret.

Posted by: wjlayton | February 2, 2012

New Mountaintop Removal Resources

Mountaintop removal coal mining is dramatically damaging God’s good Creation and impacting the health, homes, and lives of our neighbors in Appalachia. At the same time, mountaintop removal mining can be difficult and controversial for a community to discuss.

The National Council of Churches has created two new resources to help your faith community talk about mountaintop removal and pray with our sisters and brothers in Appalachia to end the destruction of God’s beautiful mountains. Our worship resource contains prayers and sermon starter ideas for talking about mountaintop removal in a worship context. Our faithful reflection guide contains questions for reflecting on mountaintop removal as people of faith. You can download both resources here

Your congregation might also consider using the faithful reflection guide as part of a listening session to help your community to learn more about mountaintop removal. For more information on listening sessions, email me or call me at (202) 481-6931.

In addition to these resources, a recording of the NCC’s Fall 2011 webinar on mountaintop removal is available on our YouTube channel. There, you can hear Baptist minister Greg Griffey pray and talk about mountaintop removal from a faith perspective.

If you’d like to learn more about ways your community can talk about mountaintop removal, email me at william@nccecojustice.org.

Posted by: NCC Poverty Initiative Director | January 23, 2012

Tell Congress Only God Should Move Mountains.

Two recent studies have revealed the following shocking facts about mountaintop removal coal mining:

  • Mountaintop removal sites, even those that have been closed for decades, continue to harm water quality, poisoning aquatic life and damaging the health of all those who live downstream.1
  • Infants have as much as a 42% higher risk of birth defects in mountaintop removal communities. 2

Last year we saw legislators in Washington continue to threaten the few regulations which protect God’s rivers and streams from the destructive effects of this kind of mining. We know that these attacks will only increase in the coming year. For those of us who care about God’s Creation and our neighbors in Appalachia, now is the time to speak up.

Mountaintop removal destroys and pollutes the homes of our neighbors in Appalachia. Mountaintop removal is what it sounds like; in order to reach coal seams, companies blast the tops off of mountains, then often place the resulting rubble in neighboring valleys and streams. Mountaintop removal sites pollute watersheds for years after the coal has been removed. All the creatures and people who live downstream suffer.

We know that many of you have long opposed mountaintop removal coal mining because of the irreversible destruction it does to God’s mountains and people. Our faithful voices will only become more important in the coming year. Please join us in continuing to raise our voices against mountaintop removal by signing the NCC’s petition today.

1“Cumulative impacts of mountaintop mining on an Appalachian Watershed”

2 “The association between mountaintop mining and birth defects among live births in central Appalachia, 1996–2003″

Posted by: NCC Poverty Initiative Director | January 17, 2012

King Would Not be Silent on Earth’s Plight

King would not be silent on Earth’s plight

(Re-posted with permission of the author.)

Kansas City Star Special Insert, January 14, 2008, page 8

Like some who try to address contemporary issues through the lens of historical figures and time frames, I wish never to be guilty of attributing to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stances he would have never considered or subscribed to.

Saying that, I have every reason to believe that if Dr. King were around today, he would have much to say about global warming, environmental sustainability and our need to act immediately.

These concerns would be rooted in his strong belief that persons are to strive to live in harmony with both the physical and moral laws of God and acknowledge the consequences of our living in disharmony with such laws.

Therefore, global warming and our inability to work on issues of sustainability as a human race should make recognizable the lethal consequences of our failure to address this rampant disharmony.

Dr. King would readily perceive the danger we face with global warming, evidenced by victims still recovering in the Gulf region, the diminishing habitat of polar bears in the far north, and growing drought-like conditions in his native South and in the West.

And I do believe he would have a problem with our speaking of democracy and human rights with a “fork-like tongue” with some nations and not with others when our steady diet of energy consumption is at risk.

I’m convinced that if Dr. King were living today, we in the U.S. would be taken to task for our voracious consumerist appetite that has led to the depletion, destruction and destabilization of much of God’s creation.

We would be reminded that at least a quarter of the world’s population does not have access to electricity or safe drinking water, and that we are the world’s leading polluter and emitter of greenhouse gases in our disproportionate use of nonrenewable energy sources.

We would be challenged to look beyond our own comfort to consider the welfare and survival of our world and take the lead in turning the above picture around.

Also, being a man of faith and reason, Dr. King would have been persuaded by the evidence of scientists, fellow Nobel Prize laureates on the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and former Vice President Al Gore.

I can imagine Dr. King challenging us with their forewarnings of the rising sea levels and the Earth’s surface being blighted by drought.

He would remind us, too, that these changes represent justice issues both here and abroad, as the poor will disproportionately suffer from our collective inability to recognize that “The Earth is the Lord’s.”

Dr. King would want us to communicate the message of dangerous disharmony to our elected officials. He would want us to tell the U.S. auto industry to engineer for even more miles per gallon than already agreed to by the president and Congress.

Dr. King is so right: “No individual can live alone; no nation can live alone. … We must all live together. … Or we will perish together as fools. We are tied together in a single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. … Whatever affects one directly affects all.”

We would be posited with this question from Dr. King: “What will happen to humanity if I don’t help?” Conservation would be emphasized, as it could relieve us of the pressure of jumping into quick fixes without considering all the risks and exploring other alternatives.

Conservation could help us from mounting faulty foreign policy objectives and adding to our position as a debtor nation. Everyone would be invited to do their part in conserving these “God-owned” and “God-given” precious resources.

Indeed, Dr. King would want people of faith to lead the way in contributing to environmental sustainability, as energy conservation could lead to more physical exercise, less pollution and numerous other direct benefits to human health.

He would want us to recognize that we’re quickly running out of time, and the time to begin doing the right thing is always now.

Posted by: NCC Poverty Initiative Director | January 2, 2012

Welcoming a new colleague!

ImageJonathan Stauffer, a Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) volunteer from Polo (Ill.) Church of the Brethren, began work with the Church of the Brethren Peace Witness Ministries in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 19. He assists with advocacy work, particularly on issues dealing with creation care, poverty and hunger, and rural development. He contributes to the ―Called to Witness― newsletter and the Brethren Advocacy Page on Facebook.

He is also working on projects through the National Council of Churches such as the Faithful Budget Campaign, and serving with the NCC Eco-Justice Program by managing social media, editing educational resources, and helping coordinate workshops at the 2013 Ecumenical Advocacy Days conference.

On his free time, he enjoys spending time outdoors, talking with friends, photography, reading, or catching the occasional Ultimate Frisbee game. His musical talents include singing and playing the Djembe, a West African hand drum.

Before committing to BVS, Jonathan had experience in assisting the installation of several solar panel systems and a small wind turbine. He also worked as a substitute teacher and volunteered regularly as counselor at two Brethren camps in the Midwest. After his time of service, he hopes to settle on a career that utilizes his talents and involves his passion for eco-justice.

Jonathan has been enjoying the walks to work on Capitol Hill and building community at the Brethren House. He is looking forward to serving the Church of the Brethren in this capacity.

You may contact Jonathan by phone or email. Office: (202) 544-2393 Email: JStauffer@brethren.org

Posted by: NCC Poverty Initiative Director | December 22, 2011

Christmas, Luke 2:7 and the Blessing of Animals

This devotional is featured from the Presbyterians for Earth Care 2011 Advent Devotional. To access the whole devotional, click here.

***

And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7, NRSV)

There was no room for Him among people, in the inn. And so He was born among the animals. The most humble yet warm and inviting place, a manger, a feeding trough, we imagine stuffed with hay, a soft and inviting place for a newborn. No newborn nursery for Him. Nothing fancy. Nothing even ―human. He was born among the animals.

On this Lord’s Day, we confront an earthy reality: the Lord of all dwelling among the beasts. He was to meet beasts again, in the wilderness of Judaea, where wild beasts dwelt (Mark 1:13). And he had a love for the creatures with whom we share creation: birds (Matthew 6:26; Luke 3:22; John 2:14), sheep (Luke 15:4ff.), foxes (Matthew 8:20), cattle, oxen and donkeys (Luke 13:15), just to name the ones in Scripture. By inference, if on the day of his birth He lay in a manger, we may assume there were sheep, and perhaps goats and donkeys as well, and maybe even horses and camels, since this was an inn.

How beautiful and mysterious that the incarnation took place among animals. They welcomed Him, we may presume. I find that my friends who are dogs, cats and horses generally welcome me without judgment and accept me with eager anticipation. A new-born baby must have been a cause for great curiosity among them!

There is a legend that the animals can speak on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I wonder what they would say to us. Would they thank God for the gift of Christ, as we do? They will if we show the same love and respect and trust for them as Jesus did, daring to be born among them. When God came to walk with us in the per-son of Jesus, God started among animals, sharing space with them. I wonder if we can learn to share our space with them lovingly, respectfully, gratefully, kindly, responsibly.

We are called as followers of the Lord Who came on Christmas Day to live lives of gratitude, and to love our neighbors. And our neighbors are not just our human neighbors, though they are our nearest kin. We share the earth in a delicate balance with neighbors non-human, who outnumber and pre-date us by a great order of magnitude. Our particular gifts, skills and adaptations do not make us better than our animal neighbors: they give us a greater responsibility to enjoy, defend and live in dynamic harmony with the biosphere. Seven billion humans have placed a great load on this planet; can we so live as to love all our neighbors, sharing resources, habitat and lifestyles mutually energetic and life-giving?

Instead of piling up stuff on Christmas day, give the gift of love, respect, fun and generosity by including animals as God did on the very first Christmas. Be merry!

What can we do?

  • Consider blessing animals on Christmas Day. This is easily as good a day as St. Francis Day, or the Environmental Sabbath in June. Say “thank you” to the animals for welcoming Jesus.
  • Give a gift to your local Humane Society or Animal Shelter.
  • Consider volunteering time with an organization working with animals: a therapeutic riding center, a raptor rehabilitation pro-gram, or a dog rescue group. Support and volunteer with an animal rights organization such as the World Wildlife Fund, the Audubon Society, or the National Humane Society.

More Information:

  • Readings from a Christian perspective include Christianity and the Rights of Animals (New York: Crossroads, 1987) and Animal Theology (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994) by Andrew Linzey; and Ask the Animals (Harrisburg: Morehouse, 2006) by Elizabeth Canham.
  • From an interfaith perspective: Blessing the Animals (Woodstock, Vermont: Skylight Paths, 2006) by Lynn L. Caruso.
  • From scientists, three wonderful and thought-provoking books: Reason for Hope (New York: Warner, 1999) by Jane Goodall; The Ten Trusts (New York: Harper One, 2003) by Jane Goodall and Marc Bekoff; and The Animal Manifesto

Prayer:
O God, in Whose love we celebrate today, thank You for Your greatest gift, the gift of Yourself in Jesus Christ. We are grateful that You came to walk among us, embracing the whole of creation by being born among the animals. Give us a childlike delight and joy in our animal neighbors. Watch over and protect them. Help us to always live kindly and respectfully with them, taking delight in their amazing abilities, their beauty, their play, and their right to share the earth with us unmolested. On this most holy day, we thank You for all our neighbors, and ask that the generosity You have shown to us may be the mark of our lives as we live on this earth; through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Stan Adamson is Pastor of St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, Boulder, Colorado, the first PC(USA) Earth Care Congregation in Colorado. He has been blessing and welcoming animals in the worship life of St. Andrew for two decades. He shares his life with his wife Clare, his Cairn Terrier friend Maggie, and three Arabian horses, Kally, New Moon and Kara.

http://presbyearthcare.org

Find Presbyterians for Earth Care on Facebook.

Two things happened within the last week to put mountaintop removal coal mining (MTR) in the news. Oddly enough, the first came to my attention when I returned to the office after a meeting in which I happened to mention that MTR hadn’t been in the news since the EPA objected to 19 mining permits  back in September.

Returning to my desk, I decided to check the latest news from the budget debates in the House of Representatives, and saw that, among many other anti-environment riders (additional items attached to a bill, which may have little or nothing to do with the original bill), was a provision to prohibit the EPA from creating or enforcing stream buffer A Mountaintop Removal Site: For perspective, note the house-sized tractors.zone rules at surface coal mining sites. Stream buffer zone rules stipulate that land may not be disturbed within 100 feet of a stream, and are of some help in protecting watersheds from the effects of mountaintop removal mining. Thankfully, this rider, and most of the worst anti-environment riders, did not get included in the final version of the budget bill, but the incident serves as a reminder that God’s mountains and flowing streams, and the homes, health, and livelihoods of our neighbors in Appalachia, continue to be vulnerable to attacks by proponents of mountaintop removal mining.

Almost simultaneously, a new scientific study was published in the prestigious peer reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study, by researchers at Duke University, offers more strong evidence of the destructive effects of MTR on water quality, and thus on everything and everyone downstream from MTR sites. You can read the full text of the study here.

Now is the time to speak out as faithful voices against the destruction of our Creator’s majestic mountains and the polluting of the homes of some of our most vulnerable neighbors. To help the NCC take action against mountaintop removal, sign our petition to stop this destructive, unjust practice. You can also share our new worship resource  on MTR with your faith community.

For more information, contact me, Will, at william@nccecojustice.org.

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