Last autumn, Rev. Kate Mosley facilitated a Sunday School class on how to “green” our families. This dovetailed well with the “Drawdown” class Dr. Dabney Dixon led a few years ago.
As Kate so beautifully framed it, embracing a spirituality of ecology offers a profound way to love our neighbor, which includes our human and animal neighbors, as well as the natural world. And as tireless climate activist, Bill McKibben, stated in a recent The Guardian op-ed, ending our dependency on gas and oil is a concrete way to love our neighbors in Ukraine, currently under siege. McKibben writes, “[Russia’s recent invasion] is a war underwritten by oil and gas, a war whose most crucial weapon may be oil and gas, a war we can’t fully engage because we remain dependent on oil and gas. If you want to stand with the brave people of Ukraine, you need to find a way to stand against oil and gas.”
The following are thoughts on how by deepening our commitment to the natural world, we can find ways both to reduce our waste and cut ties with oil and gas, further revealing the “kindom” of God, as we learn to depend more on each other, and less on things.
While it is always good to reduce one’s individual environmental impact, the looming climate catastrophe will not be solved by individual action alone. Indeed, we can become so mired in every single decision about our “carbon footprint” that we get too bogged down to organize for systemic change. We are not called to face this crisis as “perfect,” autonomous actors; we are called to work together to rebuild the world in such a way that will sustain and support future generations.
Guided by the same love and devotion that birthed the Tempestry panels, let’s continue to work as the (collective) Body of Christ to pursue bold climate initiatives, such as our plan to install solar panels on the NDPC campus. Let’s figure out the most effective ways for us to advocate and agitate for policy change (hats off to Rep. Becky Evans for her leadership at the State House). And as climate activist, Dr. Genevieve Guenther, stated on a recent episode of The New York Times podcast, “The Argument,” in addition to voting for climate candidates and giving money to activist groups such as the Sunrise Movement or 350.org, “one of the most impactful things that you can do is simply talk about climate change, especially when it’s embarrassing or awkward to do so … We as a culture need to normalize that it’s actually healthy not to be happy in the face of climate change …. [Our distress] means that we’re actually human beings who are having an appropriate and ethical moral response to the suffering that is coming down the pipe for everybody, including our own children.”
While systemic change is imperative, it is also true that changing the world often starts with changing ourselves, and that offering a counter-cultural example of less and more thoughtful consumption can provide a model for others.
The following are suggestions, many provided by Kate Mosley, for how we might reveal the kin-dom of God right now, by making choices in our lives that reflect our love for God’s creation, past, present, and future. Eternal gratitude to the many NDPC members who are already knee-deep in these practices.
- When possible, drive less and fly less. Carpool, take public transportation, bike, or walk (hello, Annie Godfrey and Jack Kittle!) Can’t stomach biking up the steep, Atlanta hills? Consider an e-bike! When it’s time for a new car, consider an electric vehicle or hybrid—though the jury is still out on whether purchasing a new e-car is more sustainable than just hanging onto your old car for longer and simply driving it less. When the time does come for a new car, the Nissan Leaf and the Ford Volt offer two moderately priced alternatives to the higher-end electric models.
- Install solar panels on your home. There is a Federal tax credit for doing so through Dec., 2023.
- Eat less meat. Consider meatless Mondays, or “vegetarianism till 6pm” or other regimens that help wean ourselves from having meat at every (or any) meal. Know that poultry is less taxing on the environment than beef. When and if you do eat meat, buy from a local farm with more humane and sustainable practices. Same goes for your produce, if your budget allows.
- In general, buy less, consume less, dispose of less. Bring your own bags wherever you shop – not just to the grocery store, but to every store. Recognize that there is an environmental (and often human) cost to, say, impulse purchases on Amazon that are not reflected in the cheap price. If you can afford it, buy fewer but better-quality items, and repair those items rather than replacing. (Get to know your local shoe repair store!)
- Embrace vintage! When you do make purchases, consider doing so second-hand. Goodwill is always a source for incredible bargains and cool finds. Also check out the online clothing thrift store, thredUP, or Decatur and Avondale’s own Finders Keepers, which offers higher-end men’s and women’s fashions, as well as a furniture store. Sweet Repeats in Buckhead has a fantastic selection of high-end kids and maternity goods, as does Jack & Jill in Avondale. And don’t forget about Queenie’s Consignment in Oakgrove.
- Compost! Many of us do backyard composting, and that is fantastic, but if you can afford it, consider signing up for Compost Now’s Working at an industrial level, Compost Now is able to compost SO much more than we can at home, including cooked foods, meat, bones, paper towels, avocado pits, and even old clothing as long as it is made of natural materials. They will give you bags of compost for your garden, or you can donate your bags to local farms. They even offer gift certificates if you are looking for an amazing present for a friend or loved one.
- Educate yourself on what your municipality actually recycles. A lot that goes into single-stream recycling ends up in the landfill. There are many reasons for this – from contamination to the fact that China used to take a lot of our recycling and doesn’t anymore. So, be very careful about what you put in your municipal recycling. City of Atlanta, for example, doesn’t actually recycle glass, and only recycles plastics #1 and #2.
- Get to know CHaRM Atlanta, i.e. the “center for hard to recycle materials.” Located in Grant Park, CHaRM takes many items that city of Atlanta and other municipal programs do not, including glass, plastics #4, 5, & 6, Styrofoam, electronics, old mattresses, old bikes, etc. You have to make an appointment to drop your stuff off, and you have to sort it yourself, but it is an amazing and efficient operation. My husband, Sam, takes a big load every month or so and would be happy to talk to you about the nitty-gritty details ([email protected])
- Join a “buy nothing” group on FB. This is basically a group working with a “gift economy” mindset, matching folks that have stuff to donate with folks who need that particular item.
And finally, please take heart: none of us are going to be perfect when it comes to this, and none of us are to blame for this catastrophe. That blame lands squarely on the shoulders of the oil companies who suppressed information on climate damage for decades. But now the catastrophe is before us, and we must act. Have faith in our collective powers. Act justly and love mercy, and know that when we live in harmony with our planet, we are walking humbly with God.