Month: May 2012
Caring for the earth ~ Little things we can do
This the third and last of our series “Care for the Earth! Let’s keep it around for a while!” which is a simple way of talking about the sustainability of the planet. Here we want to give some ways that you can help care for the earth and reduce your ecological footprint.
All this arose from my attending my first Pax Christi retreat a month ago near Bradenton, Florida with Sister Paula Gonzalez, a Sister of Charity of Cincinnati. At 79 years young, and having given over 1600 talks and retreats, I admired her energy, her enthusiasm and her dedication to the cause of trying get people to care for the earth.
She listed things that we could do to help protect the earth.
Let’s start with transportation. She suggests the following:
Drive under 65 mph / Buy a hybrid automobile / Take the bus. / Ride a bike.
In regard to electricity: Change your light bulbs to energy efficient ones.
Turn out the lights in rooms your not occupying.
Check the drain on the cords of your tech appliances ~ TV, stereo, computer.
Buy Energy efficient (Energy Star) appliances.
Insulate your water heater. (There are waterless water heaters on the market.)
Turn your AC up to 78 at night and your heat down to 68 or 65.
In regard to water: Don’t buy bottled water! This is akin to the privatization of water and it comes in harmful plastic bottles. Instead, invest in a water filtration system beneath your kitchen sink as I have or you can attach one to add to your faucet. It will save you a lot of money over buying bottled water. I’ve also seen some that looked like a coffee pot. I fill up a few plastic bottles and put them in my car so I have drinking water there.
When you shave or are washing a few dishes, turn the water on and off rather than let in run. Take brief showers. If you’re in a drought area, wet yourself / then soap up / then rinse off.
In regard to paper: Sr. Paula showed us that she had kept her napkin all weekend and I’ve gotten in the habit of using paper towels over again. My only culprit is my printer, which eats it because of my mistakes. If you can, use cloth napkins, as I do. Buy paper towels that have half sheets and buy organic paper towels and toilet paper. I also buy my printing paper from sustainable mills and my printer is energy star and uses organic ink ~ a Xerox Colorcube.
In regard to food and groceries: Sr. Paula recommended cutting down on eating meat to reduce the pasture footprint. I don’t eat red meat anyway. But I do recommend looking into organic foods. There are lots of them in our Publix markets. Most of their meats are marked “all natural.” And beware of farm-raised fish because there full of antibiotics.
Also, use organic detergent products for your dishwasher and your laundry and stay away from Clorox. You may pay a few cents more, but isn’t the earth worth it?
I’d like to give a few final thoughts. First, to express my awe and gratitude to Sister Paula for her dedication to this important work. When one considers that we are already 30% beyond earth’s capacity for survival, we might want to despair, but Sister Paula calls us to hope and I feel that myself. This week we celebrate Pentecost and we’ll conclude with that but here’s a quote from the Earth Charter:
Let ours be a time remembered for the awakeneing of a new reverence for life,
the firm resolve to achieve sustainability, the quickening of the struggle for justice and peace,
and the joyful celebration of life.
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If we don’t understand creation correctly, we can’t hope to understand God correctly.
St. Thomas Aquinas
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COME HOLY SPIRIT!
FILL THE HEARTS OF YOUR FAITHFUL
AND RENEW THE FACE OF THE EARTH!!!
P. S. I’d like to offer my thanks to Mrs. Nancy O”Byrne,
Chairperson for the Northeast Florida Chapter of Pax Christi
who organized the marvelous retreat we had in Bradenton who brought us Sister Paula. Thank you, Nancy ever so much!
Caring for the Earth ~ Our Ecological Footprint
This is the second of a series on Caring for the earth ~ let’s keep it around for a while. In other words, to use the proper term, the sustainability of the earth. In our last blog, we said that Sister Paula Gonzalez had said that “humanity’s ecological footprint is already 30% beyond Earth’s capacity.
Perhaps the notion of “footprint” is hard to grasp. You know what a footprint is. It’s evidence that you’ve been around. Well, one’s “ecological footprint” is how much space you take up on the planet, in terms of what you consume.
If you look at the chart above that helps to explain it, unless you deny that CO2 is an issue, i.e. global warming as many politicians tend to do. CO2 emissions come from coal, oil and natural gas. And we’re way behind other countries in developing the use of solar and wind power. I mentioned in my last article that even the Pope for some years now has used solar extensively in the Vatican. When I took a trip across country in 2008 I was surprised to see wind farms all across Texas, known, of course, for its oil refineries.
Let’s look at that graph above. A person’s “footprint” is measured by usage of built-up land, nuclear energy CO2, fishing ground, forest, grazing land, and cropland. Notice that we Americans are the greatest offenders. What surprises me is Australia isn’t far behind! Then England, followed closely by Germany, Russia and Japan.
Note the two lines on the left side of the graph:
Humanity’s Total Ecological Footprint
CO2 Portion of Total Footprint
And between them the thin line of Earths Ecological capacity.
Worrisome, isn’t it?
Let’s reflect on what we’ve looked at so far:
What is your first response to these summary facts:
a) We are NOW living beyond the capacity of the planet?
b) The U. S. ecological footprint is twice that of the industrial world?
c) Almost half of our footprint is from fossil fuel use (coal, oil, natural, gas.)
Do you deny that this is happening? Do you deny climate change?
Are you fearful for your children and grandchildren?
Are you angry and frustrated at the inaction of our government(s)?
Are you at the point of despair?
As Pope Benedict challenged us in his New Year’s message, we have some lifestyle changes to make if we’re going to survive. Many of these are very simple things, like changing your light bulbs, saving water, paper ~ well, I’ll let you know in a few days.
Creator of this lovely world,
thank you, for the fruits of the earth that sustain our lives
and bring us joy and health and happiness
We are sorry that we have not cared for it as we should.
Please help each of us to do what we can care for this lovely earth,
so that it will be around for a while.
To You be all honor and glory. Amen.
In case you’re wandering why all the white space underneath the graph, that was scanned into a jpg; it scanned the whole page ~ nothing I could do about it.