Posts Tagged ‘Environment’

Ice Sheets Melting

Friday, September 21st, 2012

Data around the melting of Arctic ice is profoundly unsettling.  The summer’s low dipped to an ice coverage of the Arctic ocean of 24%.  In the 1970′s that number was around 50%.  This will have profound effects on the earth’s climate given, that as one scientist noted, “The Artic is the earth’s air  conditioner.”

As a pastor, there are areas where we are called to draw attention.  Taking care of the planet, sustainability, is a spiritual concept.  We are driven in our culture but an unquestioned bias toward “more”, at times driven, at least in my life,  by what New Church theology tags as self-centeredness and materialism.   It is much easier for all of us to indulge these more crass loves rather than fight them.  Important to note, the cultural systems within which we live will not call us to task.  Case in point – there appears to be great effort going towards exploiting now accessible resources in the Arctic as well as using now open sea channels.  A recent article in the New York times noted, “Some scientists think the Arctic Ocean could be largely free of summer ice as soon as 2020. But governments have not responded to the change with any greater urgency about limiting greenhouse emissions. To the contrary, their main response has been to plan of exploitation of newly accessible minerals in the Arctic, including drilling for more oil.”  I am frankly left unsure what to say.

As spiritual people, there is need to as best we can shake off the narcotizing effects of our own short term economic interests and speak with hope for a new world, for a change in systems in which the rush is towards things far different than exploitation.

Is “The Market” the best way to organize community?

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

Growing up in a highly entrepreneurial family, with both sets of grandparents and my parents having been self-employed, I have witnessed first hand the energy and creativity private enterprise can unleash.  It is a path that with a few different turns in life’s journey, that I may have chosen.

So I deeply respect those with that same entrepreneurial spirit.  It is “home” to me in many ways.

And being a pastor, it is important as well to share the limitations of a “market based” paradigm for the world.  Important to note, my parents went into business to serve others as well as realize their own creative passions.   So it is not about bashing private enterprise in any way. It is about saying that often, in living in a country dominated by markets, by private business, we can miss areas where the market actually fails our society.  That candid acknowledgement in turn is what will help us harness the best and mitigate the worst.

A case in point, is a recent article on the gas drilling in North Dakota.  With the current high price of crude, it makes financial sense for the drilling companies to (a) pump the oil out and (b) flare off the natural gas that comes to the surface with it as a cost saving measure, making more profit on oil extraction by eliminating the need to capture and pipe the natural gas.  The Market, as a coordinating mechanism, would say this is a logical decision because it yields higher profits.  But is it?  A few facts….

  1. 30% of Natural Gas extracted in North Dakota is flared off
  2. That totals 100,000,000 cubit cubit feet of gas per day
  3. Enough gas is flared off daily to heat up for 500,000 homes for a day
  4. The flaring adds 2,000,000 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere per year

I find it hard to defend the above.  It shows a limit in terms of the ability of the market to be a coordinating mechanism in our world.  Jesus consistently asked people to consider a “third way.”  As human beings, we break the world all too readily into two parts – “in” and “out”, “right” and “wrong.”  Markets are “good” or “bad”, “job producing” or “corrupt.”

We are asked, in my humble opinion, to move the conversation into that “third way.”  How do we tap into the energy of private enterprise and at the same time ensure that we consistently hold ourselves and our conduct to be more than the “market?”  There needs to be a bigger frame. Christianity has much to say about what they framework can look like.  I know many incredibly talented entrepreneurs who get that picture.  Just wish they got it in North Dakota!

Am I part of Creation or apart from Creation?

Monday, July 19th, 2010

With “Footprints” wrapped up, a few closing reflections.

From a Christian New Church/ Swedenborgian perspective, we as human beings were created as part of creation not apart from creation.  At one time we did live as placed creatures within creation.  That meant we could see God everywhere in creation – the two being inseparable.

Humanity however chose a different path – to place ourselves outside of creation.  So we held God with one hand and creation with the other.  With ourselves encamped in the middle so to speak, we now can “dominate” creation and yes even “dominate” God.  We can push both to the edges of our lives.

What does it mean to have pushed creation to that edge?  What does it mean to have God pushed to that edge?   As I understand NewChurch theology, when we become the sole and only reference point, our lives in a sense collapse in on themselves.  True happiness is when we bring God and creation back to the center.

Emanuel Swedenborg wrote extensively about that connection.  Want to know about the course of our life?  Look at a tree. Want to know how heaven is organized?  Look at the human body.

When we put ourselves on the circumferance, we can then look with awe, wonder, and curriousity into the center.  Ironically, we will then find ourselves not “lessened” but “strengthened” as we act in more integrity with the great notes of the Universe.

So that is where we choose.  Shada Sullivan offered moving reflections at the close of Footprints to that effect.  Yes, we can avoid leadership.  If we are honest with ourselves, as she said, that avoidance often stems from a desire to avoid responsibility.  Stepping up is challenging.  And we need to step up.  We need to really figure out our place in creation.  We need to candidly look at areas in our lives which are driven by greed and envy and obey God’s command – “Thou Shalt Not Covet.”  We need to take seriously the Sabbath – 1/7 of our lives dedicated to the active rest the Sabbath calls us to.    We can do all this with a smile on our face -with grace and elegance – with joy in our heart.  Those changes – a part of the Jesus’ 3rd way – in the end may actually be a part of returning home.

Avatar and the Oil Spill

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

Today we started working even more in earnest on an upcoming series called “Footprints” in which we look at issues around taking care of the planet.

This series is coming together with a lot of work from the Sustainability Small Group as well as the production team

What a topic. The video of the oil spilling into the Gulf was incredibly disconcerting. Avatar was incredibly inspirational in many ways. So there you have it – trying to walk that line between a candid discussion of what is and hopeful discourse of what could be.

The Bible is filled with many messages that help to move us forwards. One author noted that one cannot read the Old Testament without being struck by the overwhelming number of passages that deal with the fertility/ infertility of the land. The paradigm she spoke of was simple. We must move the discussion from being only about “possession” to being about “care.”