This is not a drill

At my church our value and mission statement talks about how we ‘welcome without exception’.  This past weekend this statement was put to the test.  As a congregation we voted on whether or not to become a Reconciling in Christ (RIC) community; one that explicitly welcomes people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.  This vote was a true test of our mission statement and a timely moment to find out who we are as a congregation.  In a time when there is a lot of uncertainty for minority groups and emboldened hate crimes are occurring, knowing that my local congregation passed this with 95.2% of the vote brought tearful elation.

The results of a different vote the week prior brought me confusion, concern, and disappointment.  As someone who believes that the number one priority of every nation should be moving away from fossil fuels, the whole US election cycle was a disappointment.  The debates did not have any direct climate change questions and the topic was touched on for less than 2 minutes.  It appeared as though something that is incredibly important to me had virtually no prioritization with the candidates or moderators.  I empathize with Trump voters and agree that a shakeup in Washington would be beneficial.  It would be great to see term limits for politicians and having less “Washington insiders” in leadership roles.  To me, the views documented by Trump on his own website and his treatment of humans created a scenario where the ends would never justify the means.

The president elects website indicates that he intends to open onshore and offshore leasing on federal lands for fossil fuels and “Unleash America’s $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, plus hundreds of years in clean coal reserves.”  I think it is generally understood that there is no such thing as “clean coal” and I truly cannot imagine any scenario where increasing our production and use of fossil fuels will be a long term benefit.  Despite being white, heterosexual, male, Christian, and born in the US, I am afraid of the president elect.  I can only imagine how an undocumented lesbian tree hugging minority must be feeling at the moment.

This is a critical moment in history in my opinion, one of those moments where I think about a futuristic conversation with my children and grandchildren asking me what I did to protect human rights as well as the habitability of our planet.  While I have day dreamed many times recently about moving off of the grid and completely escaping the society that seems to be gaining a voice, I realize that I need to help shape it.  I need to Testify.  One other great thing happened at church this last Sunday was a well-timed sermon that I strongly encourage you to give a listen to, you can skip to the 9:03 mark and go from there.  It is important that we as a society, as human beings with compassion, and as citizens of this planet recognize this opportunity to Testify and stand up for ourselves and others.  We need to ensure our elected leaders understand that they were actually elected to follow (the will of the people).  The wonderful and timely sermon concluded with a great rendition of Leonard Cohens’ Hallelujah which of course only added to the tears already rolling down my face.

Confessions of a (Palm) Tree Hugger

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My family and I recently returned home from a Caribbean vacation where we faced a 100 degree temperature swing upon our arrival home.  Our family was overdue for a break from everything and in deciding where to go we chose some place warm and that would guarantee a fun time for the kids, Bahamas Atlantis Resort.  I had rationalized the carbon footprint of our flights and various other environmental costs of taking a trip like this and we did a great job of ensuring our house used minimal energy while we were gone.  At the recommendation of a friend, we even packed lots of dried goods to avoid significant costs for food while in the Bahamas since our suite had a full kitchen.

One thing I was unprepared for and unfortunately had not researched at all was a total and complete lack of recycling.  Imagine a resort with 2400+ rooms, water parks, restaurants, a golf course, and more that does not have a single recycle bin for guests on its property.  Now add in that the tap water has an undesirable taste and color, so bottled water is bought and sold in enormous quantities.  Then add in the normal things like aluminum cans, bottles, cardboard boxes, paper, etc.  Every single item has no potential to be recycled on the grounds.  I was mildly disturbed and had taken the ability to recycle for granted.

After inquiring with the resort staff, resort management company, and doing some additional research I learned a few things; the most important is that the Bahamas does not have any significant infrastructure for recycling.  An island nation that prides itself on tourism and natural beauty lacks a fundamental way to separate waste from recyclables…  The country is working on developing its recycling program and one of the local waste providers is just starting a recycling program.  There are also discussions about piloting a project to collect and ship recyclables to the U.S. and determine if that is an economically viable option.

Other items I learned which offered some hope are that the Atlantis Bahamas delivers their unused food to Hands for Hunger to help feed the needy and eliminate food waste.  The resort also self-treats all toilet and shower water and reuses it for irrigation, is switching to green cleaning products that have zero toxicity, uses CFL’s and has various other efforts in place to reduce electricity usage.

Despite those efforts, seeing countless recyclable containers be thrown in to the trash day after day was troubling.  Moving forward I will be more diligent in researching destinations and continue to use my voice when there are things that should be fundamentally improved.