Climate Change: Doing Something About It Is Right Under Your Nose

Climate change seems like one big, monstrous, global problem with no easy answers. And to some extent, it is. But let’s step back and look at what caused climate change: consumerism– an ever- increasing demand for more and more and more consumer goods, along with the waste incurred in both the production and disposal of all our “stuff.”

I’ll give you a person example of how much more “stuff” we’ve managed to accumulate here in America within one or two generations. My mother, born in 1933, had a mere two skirts and three blouses as a girl. She kept all her possessions in one small wooden box. In contrast, I took three bags of unused and no longer wanted clothes out of my closet and gave them to charity this past Saturday. And this removal of three bags of my clothes barely made a dent in the overall clutter of our house. Within a century, my family has gone from a minimalist lifestyle to a house packed full of items we may or may not even use on a regular basis.

We could call this “upward mobility.” We could call this a “triumph of American capitalism.” Or we could call this a trend towards gluttony, avarice, and waste. I’ll plead guilty to it all.

There are downsides to this robust consumer economy we’ve built up over the last several decades. Not everyone enjoys it, and the disparities of wealth continue to spread apart. And we have littered our world with the detritus of this constant production and disposal of goods we don’t keep and likely don’t need.

The solution? We need to consume less and waste less. We can all take actions in our everyday lives to reduce waste and put our own consumerist tendencies on a diet:

  • Buy less stuff. You’re enabling a wasteful economy by continuing to buy stuff you likely don’t need.
  • Use less energy. This is not rocket science. Turn off lights you aren’t using. My pet peeve: turn off your car in the school pick-up line. Roll down the window if you need fresh air. Combine errands. Don’t run the heat or air conditioning to excess.
  • Just say no to all the plastic bags you’re offered at the store. Take your own re-useable bags.
  • Recycle, re-use, or re-purpose stuff after you’re done with it. Donate unused and household goods to charity. Re-use clean paper bags and shopping bags. Compost vegie scraps. This isn’t hard, and you’ll feel better about yourself. I promise.

Are these steps hard? No. But is everyone doing them? No, and I don’t understand why.

Wastefulness is not a virtue, and it’s time we all try a little harder to curb our excesses. It’s up to every one of us, not just as a culture, but in our individual, everyday lives as well.

Recommended resource:

The Sustainable Home: Practical Projects, Tips and Advice for Maintaining a More Eco-Friendly Household by Christine Liu. (Quarto Publishing Group/White Lion Publishing, just released October 4, 2018). This excellent new book offers a wealth of practical tips on living more sustainably. The author’s discussion of how consumerism has resulted in a plethora of environmental problems is quite good. Tips are well organized by “rooms” of a typical house (living room, kitchen, bath, etc.). Many of these suggestions are obvious, but clearly many people are still living quite wastefully and not heeding them yet. This book would be a terrific resource to share with those not quite on-board with sustainable living. If all of us adopted just a few of these suggestions, we would make a dent in improving our world.

Cynthia Coe served as an Environmental Stewardship Fellow of The Episcopal Church and is the author of three books connecting environmental issues with a life of faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Earth Day 1970 – Shock and Awe

When I was a third grader at Abraham Lincoln Elementary School in Kingsport, Tennessee, I participated in the very first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. Lest you think events like Earth Day don’t impact children and youth, this very first Earth Day opened my eyes to why we all need to take care of the one home we all share.

I remember the bright blue and green posters hung along the halls of my school, but what I remember most is the short field trip we took that crisp and sunny April day. It was a field trip of only a few city blocks, but it shocked me into realizing how badly people in my community had trashed our natural environment.

Passing neat brick houses and well kept yards in our small city, we stopped by a creek running through the neighborhood. Trash covered every single surface of both banks of the creek. It was appalling, disgusting, shocking. I remember my friends and I were frightened, as well. Thousands of the old “pop-top” aluminum can lids littered the banks of the creek, and we were afraid to take a step, knowing how these razor sharp lids could easily take off a toe or a finger.

It was a moment of personal experience for the care of the earth. I lived in a chemical plant’s company town, and we knew the smokestacks belched out toxins we all breathed in. But the company paid virtually everyone’s paychecks, and there was nothing we as third graders could do about this powerful source of pollution. But the trash covering the banks of the creek running through the middle of town was a sin of a personal nature – every single one of us could take actions to keep trash out of the creek and off the ground.

Decades later, in writing resources to lead children and youth in creation care, I came across research saying that “shock” tactics such as this field trip to the creek are not necessarily effective in promoting environmentalism. Research shows that developing a sense of awe and wonderment for the beauty of nature is much more helpful. If a child learns to love one small bit of the natural world, he or she will likely grow up to love and want to take care of all of nature.

I think it takes both shock and awe to learn to take care of the earth. We all need a kick in the tail occasionally to get us to face difficult situations. But children also need time and space to play, have fun, and become comfortable in the natural world.

Many of us growing up in the late 1960’s and 70’s had that blissful, unplugged time and space in nature to develop this sense of awe and wonder. I spent hours upon hours using a magnolia tree in my backyard as my own personal “fort” – a play activity enjoyed by children all over the world since time immemorial.  One of the most fun times I had as a Girl Scout was setting up our very own “camp” – carving out our own special place in the forest for our small band of girls, setting up seating areas and tables, making it feel secure and comfortable. We experienced the magic of playing outdoors in an unstructured environment, with little supervision, allowed to let our imaginations run wild.

I hope children you know will get to have a magical time in nature, too. I hope all children will get to play in the woods and use their imaginations to turn tree stumps into chairs and tables and turn magnolia trees into comfortable playhouses. I hope we all, someday, live in world where the environment gives us a sense of awe, not shock.

Cynthia Coe is the author of Wild Faith: A Creation Care Curriculum for Youth and Considering Birds & Lilies: Finding Peace & Harmony with the Everyday World Around Us. For news of upcoming publications and for blog posts, please follow this blog or her author page on Amazon.  

 

Wild Faith – About This Book

Making a direct connection between spirituality and the natural world is new for some of us.  And sometimes, we need a field guide when discovering or exploring a new feature of the natural world.

In my book Wild Faith, I’ve tried to provide a practical, “hands-on” field guide to exploring the deep connection between spirituality and nature.  For some people, this connection is obvious.  For others, you might have suspected that going outdoors and finding spiritual peace must be connected somehow, but you might have not quite put your finger on how nature and spirituality is connected.  For yet others, you might have previously thought of “spirituality” as something you only did in church buildings or via other more “traditional” routes.

While working on this book, I discovered that the connection between nature and spirituality is actually quite ancient and well established.  Moses found his calling while out in the wilderness by himself.  Jesus went out for a wilderness experience in the desert immediately after his Baptism.  Early Christians, the “Desert Fathers and Mothers” found deep spirituality by leaving the cities, leaving their church communities, and going to live in the wilderness by themselves or in small communities of like-minded spiritual seekers.

I’m currently working on a book about this deep connection between nature and faith – and how it is more relevant today than ever.  But in the meantime, I invite you to take a look at Wild Faith, a collection of prayers, liturgies, meditations, and activities to help you lead young people in discovering the link between faith and nature for themselves. 

To download the Kindle edition of Wild Faith, please go to: http://amzn.to/2fyTiy5 .  (If you don’t have a Kindle e-reader or tablet, you can download the Kindle to your laptop or other device; it’s free as well, easy, and quick.)  A print edition of Wild Faith is also available of this book and available through Amazon, B&N, and other distributors. 

Please visit my website, www.sycamorecove.org and “like” my Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/sycamorecove/ . 

Blessings, Cindy

Read A Novel, Learn About Creation Care: A Book List of Favorite Environmental Novels

Getting our heads around environmentalism can be tough.  News reports may focus on places and problems far away from us.  The science of climate change is debated back and forth, perhaps leaving us frustrated, confused, or just plain exasperated by all the conflict.

An easier – and undoubtedly more enjoyable – way to get our heads around environmental issues is to read a good novel.  Here are some of my favorites, great for a book group (or just plain enjoyment):

Barbara Kingsolver, Prodigal Summer   (Set in the wilderness of Appalachia, this beautiful book celebrates the natural world. Written by a marvelous writer and book club favorite.  Be sure to check out her other books, too.)

Anna Patchett, State of Wonder (This is a page turner. Set in the rainforest of South America, the story is an adventure story involving the hunt for a miracle drug.)

Elizabeth Gilbert, The Signature of All Things (The author of Eat, Pray, Love is such a good writer that she carries off this story of a middle-aged spinster who watches moss grow.  I kid you not.  One of the best novels I’ve read in a long time.)

Theresa Weir, The Orchard  (This was a Target Club Pick I ran across.  Lots of human drama, along with why you really need to rinse apples before eating.)

Tracy Chevalier, At the Edge of the Orchard  (The real Johnny Appleseed stars in this novel, set in the pioneer days of Ohio. The story is gritty, with abusive and alcoholic characters who are not part of the usual Johnny Appleseed tall tale.  Just published in Spring 2016)

And…News Flash: I’ve just reduced the prices of Kindle editions of my two new creation care books.  Wild Faith: A Creation Care Curriculum for Youth is now $3.49.  Earth Our Garden Home: Creation Care Lessons for Children is now just $2.99.  Perfect for gifting all your teachers or youth group members.  If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download the app for free.

Happy Reading!  If you have additions to this list, please feel free to comment and add your own favorites.  Blessings, Cindy