Friday, November 29, 2013

Checking the Math

5 pounds of coal--
two hours of electricity per person
I wanted to make a table display, an un-powerpoint visual to take when I’m speaking, a reminder that what flows invisibly from the wall as electricity begins as burning rocks. I recalled that the basement of an old house where I once lived in Georgia still had a large pile of coal. A friend lives there now, so on a recent visit he let me excavate and carry a few pounds home.

I had looked up the figures here. In coal-dependent Indiana,1133.312 tons of coal are burned for electricity per year for every 100 people. So I did the math and put it in chapter 3, page 40: 62 pounds per person per day of coal, an astounding figure.

I rechecked it. How could 62 pounds of coal mined, transported, ground into powder, burned to boil water into steam to power turbines, and then disposed of as coal ash every day—and this is a bare simplification of the process’s many steps—how can all that cost so little?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Book Is Out....

Here is a news article on the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) website about Inhabiting Eden...

New Book from Presbyterian Author Offers Biblical Guidance on Today's Ecological Crisis

I am delighted with the many invitations to speak and teach coming up. Please do contact me if you would like me to speak, preach, lead a retreat, or introduce the book to your church or another group. 

Next...on the problem of mistakes...! 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Energy Independence, Energy Dependence

The Louisville Festival of Faiths Fall Forum met at Bellarmine U. Friday. Titled “The
Energy Independence Boom: A Call for Religious Leadership,” it was planned by several local Catholic orders, including the Dominican sisters, the Sisters of Loretto, and the Sisters of Charity. My friend Robbie Pentecost, a Franciscan sister in Appalachia, was front and center in the planning and I was proud to know her. 

The controversial Bluegrass Pipeline ignited the event. It rose to local fame in August when the Sisters of Loretto, accompanied by the Trappist brothers of Gethsemani, denied access to their property in central Kentucky for surveying for a new flammable, pressurized, natural gas liquids pipeline. The pipeline is intended to reach the gulf coast, and its contents to be processed into plastic and other products, but religious leaders and others are opposing it publicly.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Cold Day, Hot Breakfast, Warm Hearts

It’s 27 degrees outside. I didn’t want to leave the cozy stove to make breakfast. So,
after a little inspirational reading, I tried an experiment I should have tried long ago.

The eggs and bread came from Esther and David Miller at the Jeffersonville Farmers’ Market (Winter Market is in our church’s gym). Butter came from an Amish farm nearby. I sliced a tomato from our garden to slip between toast and eggs, and added a dollop of applesauce on the side, made from apples from an abandoned tree three blocks away. Don chopped the fuel from our own fallen trees, the last of the ones that Hurricane Ike blew over in 2008. That fan, by the way, runs on the stove's own heat, and the catalytic combustor reburns the smoke so the stove's emission is no more than that of a cigarette, or so we are told. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Things Never to Doubt

Yesterday I was leading a Sunday school discussion of environmental justice. A social worker pointed out the high incidence of cancer in neighbors of the industrial area known as Rubbertown in west Louisville. Others brought up radiation poisoning in Afghanistan from U.S. weapons, the problem of products (classically, lead paint, asbestos, and DDT) becoming widely used before their dangers are known, the deregulation pressure from industries that profit from pollution, the difficulty of knowing the sources of what we purchase.

Everyone was concerned; everyone felt helpless. What we knew, based on Scripture’s many calls to justice, was that the poor should not bear the burden of pollution in their bodies so that consumers can enjoy cheap products and investors can increase wealth they don’t need.

Friday, November 8, 2013

How Inhabiting Eden Came To Be

Soon after college, I wanted to build an earth-sheltered house with skills I didn’t possess, on land I didn’t own, in a place I’d never lived. Having been surprised to learn that Campbell’s had not actually invented soup, I would research prices at the grocery, and write little essays on the economics, and the joys, of actual cooking, and on how transubstantiation works: with a bit of salt, butter, and practice, flour becomes crust; peaches become pie.

I think I was absorbing my landlords’ unspoken ethics. She was a serene virtuoso in cotton prints, her grand piano flowing with Tchaikovsky and Brahms. He wore a Lincoln beard and walked to the university to teach engineering. We woke to his whistling and hammering every Saturday, and in the afternoon we smelled his bread. He sent us out with their children to pick beans, and taught us to refurbish windows.