Elders’ Meditation 3-22-2020

by Katy Lloyd

From John 4:1-41

Dear friends, how are you doing? How is it with your soul? How are you coping with adjusting to all the new normals in this time of Corona Virus?

If you’re like me you may have felt your emotions ping-ponging around like a ball in a pinball machine, bouncing from one fear to another. And truth be told, there are many legitimate reasons to feel afraid right now.

I confess that most days I am blind to God’s presence holding all of this together. My eyes are down in the weeds of the latest headline, or wondering how long our food—much less our toilet paper!–will last before we have to go back to the grocery store, or fear about our jobs (which can mean simultaneously being afraid of going back out there to work AND getting laid off), or worrying about the health of family members, friends, co-workers, those living on our streets, those in our prisons, those in senior living facilities, healthcare workers, first responders, and many of you, my dear Welcome Table family.

And so here we are, navigating a time that is full of fear.

Scripture tells us that God is love, and that Perfect Love casts out fear. So in this time of so much fear, how do we connect with that Holy Love, and invite that Love to calm our souls?

Some wise person once said, “Don’t let yesterday and tomorrow rob you of today.”

The truth is all we have—and all we’ve really ever had—is today, here and now, this very moment. God with us, in us, around us, through us, holding us, connecting us.

In the few moments I am present to the here and now, I feel like I can see God. I can rest in Divine Love. Here and now, I am okay. And you are okay. And we are more than okay, because here and now, we are here together. And I feel overwhelmed by gratitude. This gratitude is so powerful that I feel it casting out the fear that has taken up residence in the pit of my stomach, and replacing it with a sense of warmth, and wellbeing, and love. Right now, I invite you to take a moment to breathe in gratitude, and breathe out the fear. Gratitude in, fear out.

For Lent we are asking that beautiful question from Mary Oliver’s poem: What will you do with your one wild and precious life? With this one wild and precious day? This one wild and precious moment? This bird in the tree branch; that grasshopper in the grass; this baby, held in her parent’s arms? All the moments held together by a creative force of love so big and pervasive and all-suffusing that it’s like the air we breathe, and we don’t even see it most days?

I for one am so deeply grateful that you and I and Spirit have chosen to be in Communion together. I can’t literally see you, but I can see you through the love of God connecting us in the Spirit.

To close I offer this song that Liz Lang and I sing in our Threshold Choir and which we have sung to many folks at the bedside. Usually we sing it using the “A” word, but since it’s Lent we’ll use “Hosanna” instead. The words are,

“In this moment, there is love.
There is love.”

Climate Solutions: Reaching Net Zero Emissions

By Wahhab Baldwin

March 2020

We know from the IPCC reports that the world needs to reach net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions within 30 years. But what would that look like? Is it even possible for us to completely stop emitting greenhouse gasses?

I didn’t even know the answer to that question when I started this series, despite having read fairly widely on the climate crisis. But I have become convinced that it is not unrealistic to reduce our GHG almost to zero — say by 95% or more — within that timeframe, and that is without including carbon capture and sequestration (which may be needed in time, since we ultimately need to have negative emissions). This article is an overview of what that would look like for the United States.

To start, we need to understand what our sources of GHG emissions are now. The Environmental Protection Agency lists the following sources:

However, Land Use and Forestry serves as an offset, or sink, for greenhouse gasses, absorbing about 11% of the above emissions.

It’s not my intention here to go through the process of moving from where we are to where we need to be. Some of my other articles do go through that. California has been leading the way, and by studying them and successful European countries, we have plenty of good data on steps that work. Instead, let’s just jump ahead to 2050 and see what our nation looks like.

Electricity production can be replaced by a combination of wind and solar power, in addition to our current hydropower and nuclear. Nuclear currently accounts for nearly 20% of our electricity generation, and although many ecologically oriented people are opposed to nuclear energy, we don’t have time to replace it as well as the 64% of our electricity currently generated by fossil fuels. Germany phased out nuclear in reaction to the Fukushima accident, and deadly emissions spiked. On the other hand, even though new-generation nuclear power plants are much safer, produce less waste, and have other advantages over our aging light-water reactors, it is most likely both too expensive and too time-consuming to add new nuclear.

Because both wind and solar are intermittent sources, some form of energy storage will need to be used so that we can make full use of the energy produced at times of peak wind and sun, and have access to that energy when it’s dark and windless. While there are some forms of storage under development or in use, I believe the two primary forms in 2050 will be batteries and generating hydrogen. Currently, battery storage is quite expensive, but the price is dropping rapidly and will do so further as industrial-scale storage is more widely used. Hydrogen generation will be of great importance for industry but can also fuel generators[1] to act as “peaker plants” when more electricity is needed than is being produced.

It will be necessary to upgrade our electrical grid, both to reduce line losses and to make excess electricity from one area available in another. Use of micro-grids, including input from buildings with rooftop solar, will also make our overall grid more effective.

With zero-carbon electricity, dealing with transportation is not too hard. Thirty years gives plenty of time to replace our existing fleet of gasoline and diesel powered automobiles, busses and trucks with electric or fuel cell vehicles. Of the 29% of our GHG emissions that transportation represents, 82% represents light-Duty Vehicles and medium- and heavy-duty trucks. 9% of that 29%, or about 2.6% of our total, is aircraft, and while we may be able to make aircraft more efficient, we may not have carbon-free aircraft by 2050. As for trains and heavy ships, which account for about 1.3% of our grand total, I do not know if they can be made completely carbon-free, but they can certainly be made significantly more efficient, and simply eliminating hauling oil and coal will reduce their use.

Industry’s emissions come from burning fossil fuels for heat, as in making steel, from chemical reactions, as in making cement, from leaks from natural gas and petroleum system, and from use of petrochemicals (as in making plastics). Burning fuels for heat is over half of the total, and recent work both with solar arrays as well as small, modular nuclear reactors can be used to provide industrial levels of heat where needed. As the cost of carbon goes up, though taxes or otherwise, industry will learn to be more effective through eliminating leaks, recycling, including making use of waste heat, and choosing different chemical processes. For example, cement is responsible for 6% of global CO2 emissions. Cement manufacturers are already starting to produce lower-emitting cement and there is even discussion of making cement carbon-negative or replacing it. Dealing with plastics is challenging, and will need to be dealt with by a combination of methods.

Commercial and residential buildings reductions can be brought about by converting heating and cooking to electric, and through more efficient design for new buildings and retrofitting old ones. One source of emissions in this category is methane produced by landfills; the technology for capturing and producing energy from this methane already exists.

Agriculture produces GHG primarily from excess nitrogen generating N₂O (nitrous oxide), from cattle and other livestock producing methane, and from manure management. While we can reduce growing beef cattle by taxing it and providing delicious substitutes, some percentage of these emissions is probably irreducible.

So that’s it! Those are all the emissions we need to eliminate. We have seen that we already have the technology to reduce or eliminate all of them. There may be around 9% that cannot practically be eliminated. However, we still have the arena of Land Use and Forestry, which serves as a net sink of greenhouse gasses. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “In the United States overall, since 1990, Land Use, Land-Use Change, and Forestry (LULUCF) activities have resulted in more removal of CO₂ from the atmosphere than emissions. Because of this, the LULUCF sector in the United States is considered a net sink, rather than a source, of CO₂ over this time-period.” Currently, this offsets about 11% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. However, we can increase this number. Key methods are planting more trees, regenerative agriculture, and improving grazing management practices on grassland.

One hundred eighty years ago, there was a boom in sheep in New England — an estimated 4 million of them. By 1850 it is estimated that only 25% of New England was still forested. But when sheep farming stopped being widespread, the forest regrew. Today, New England is about 80% forested. So it is possible to recover. It is possible to be a carbon sink rather than a carbon emitter. We know how to do it. We simply need to act.

Elder’s Meditation 2-16-2020

by Kay Lloyd

Hold up a piece of paper, with a circle on one side and a square on the other:  
“What do you see on this piece of paper?”

What we see on the paper depends on our location.

What we see in the world also depends on our location: social, racial, economic, gender. 

As a white, heterosexual, cisgender woman, I was born into the dominant culture. I was raised in it, in my family, school, church, and society. Being part of this dominant view meant I never had to really, deeply consider my location. I never had to think about other perspectives than my own, other histories than my own ancestors, other stories than those of people who looked like me. I could just assume everyone saw the world the same as I did. Can’t we all just get along?

I think this is one definition of white privilege: I only see my side of the paper and assume that everyone else sees and experiences things from my same location—that my perspective isn’t particular to me—it’s just true. And most important, I don’t experience any consequences for doing so.

My understanding, what I’ve learned from people of color, is that very early in life you learn there are two sides, and have to move through the world with eyes on both sides of the page at the same time. And that doing so is absolutely necessary for survival. You learn white history, white language, what white people expect of you, all while being black. I’m told this is exhausting. That it takes a monumental amount of energy to navigate the world this way. 

Those of us who are white can help by acknowledging our location, and understanding how history, institutions and systems have unfairly advantaged us. As white folks, we have to learn there is more than one view on our education system, our justice system, our economy. There is more than one view on history, who we call heroes, who we elect into power. We have to humble ourselves, again and again, even if we think we already know all of this, because we have to be able to see what it is we’re trying to change, and how we can clear space for others to shine. Poverty, incarceration, and the boot of oppression based on race is real. So is the courage, beauty, and talent of people of color. There is so much to learn, and to keep learning. 

As I’ve continued to study Black History, especially in the last 4-5 years, I’ve been awed by the courage and tenacity of folks who overcame huge barriers—barriers my ancestors never had to face—to make their mark on human history. People like:

  • Claudette Colvin, who at the age of 15 refused to move to the back of the bus, nine months before Rosa Parks launched the Montgomery bus boycott. Claudette had been studying Black leaders like Harriet Tubman in her segregated school. When the bus driver ordered Claudette to get up, she refused. She said “It felt like Sojourner Truth was on one side pushing me down, and Harriet Tubman was on the other side of me pushing me down. I couldn’t get up.” 
  • People like Bessie Coleman, who despite a childhood of harsh poverty, discrimination and segregation in Texas, became the first female pilot—black or white—in 1921. She performed stunts at numerous airshows over the next five years, encouraging other African Americans to pursue flying, and refusing to perform where Blacks were not admitted. When she tragically died in a plane accident in 1926, famous writer and equal rights advocate Ida B. Wells presided over her funeral. You can look up Ida B. Wells too—she was amazing!!!
  • People like Glenn Burke, the first openly gay professional baseball player, who was also black. Burke played for the Dodgers in the 1970s, and endured slurs about his sexuality from fans and management alike. Despite a promising career, he was traded to the Oakland A’s in 1977 because, as one insider put it, “They didn’t want any gays on the Dodgers team.” He finally left professional baseball because, as he said, “I had finally gotten to the point where it was more important to be myself than a baseball player.” 

I give thanks for these and so many others, whose stories continue to inspire and challenge us. And I give thanks for this table, where we can all truly gather as God’s children, where God locates us in a new story of compassion and justice. Where we are woven into one, big, beautiful, multi-colored, holy body, as real as the bread and the cup that we share.

Let us pray:

Holy One, open our hearts to the stories we all need to hear, and the structural changes we need to make, to further your love and justice in the world. Together make us your one body, resurrected and sent out into the world to share your love.

ECO-nomics: Creating True Wealth by Addressing the Climate Crisis

by Wahhab Baldwin

February 2020

Ever since the merchants of doubt started spending huge sums to fight against the United States dealing with global climate change, we have heard the narrative that even if it is real, dealing with it is far too expensive and would destroy our quality of life. For example, Republican lawmakers claimed that the Green New Deal, if enacted, would ban hamburgers, air travel, and ice cream.

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Four Steps to Empowerment About the Climate Crisis

by Wahhab Baldwin

November 2019

Are you feeling overwhelmed, fatalistic, or despairing about the climate crisis? You’re certainly not alone. I have met young adults deciding not to have children because of their concern about the world they would be born into. Lots of children are feeling anxiety and depression about climate, and many of their parents are, as well. After all, the upcoming crisis is so huge, and our sense of agency, of ability to have an impact, feels so tiny. It is like watching a slow-motion train wreck.

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