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Reflections

I have a friend whose elderly father calls California the land of fruits and nuts.

And he’s not talking about things we eat.  While perhaps teetering on the line of being offensive, but also considering myself to fall into those categories

I think the play on words is rather clever.

What can also be said about our countrymen and women to the far west is that they are serious about environmental awareness.   Trailblazing serious.

Check out what their lawmakers are doing these days.

Almost a decade ago, California became the first state to ban single-use plastic bags – you know, the little flimsy plastic bags often used by grocery stores – saying that shopping bags had to be recyclable, reusable.

As a result, the heavy-duty reusable plastic bags were made available for the bargain price of a dime.  These heavier cousins to the flimsies were designed for dozens of uses.  And yes, they were technically recyclable.

So most retailers considered them exempt from the ban, and peddled them across the state.

But there was a problem, and it was a critical one…                                                                                                  These new bags seemed disposable enough that most people didn’t reuse them or recycle them, despite a clear recycling symbol emblazed on each one.

The incredibly unfortunate outcome? In 2023 residents of California disposed, by weight, more plastic bags than they did prior to the law.

Today in our gathering we celebrate the strides that we’ve made in caring for our planet’s well-being.

This doesn’t sound like such a great example of celebration material, does it?

But the story doesn’t end there.

Staying on top of the reports coming from their environmental watchdog agencies, lawmakers in the Golden State are back at it.

Democratic State Senator Ben Allen is sponsoring a new bill that bans all plastic bags at checkout lines.

This, my friends, is an example of what we’re highlighting today…paying attention, prioritizing, and willingness to take meaningful action, which is the ONLY way we are going to turn round this ecological crisis.

And there are things to be celebrated, successes that can put green hydrogen in our own gas tanks, empowering us to remain in driver’s seat of eliciting change.

The fact of the matter is, there is a lot to be worried about when it comes to the climate and nature.   It’s nearly impossible not to know this.

But it’s imperative that we take pause now and again to have such celebrations to bolster our hope.

Why? Because (and this is a biggie)… hopelessness breeds apathy.   And apathy, regarding most things, and certainly THIS thing, is a death warrant.

But we’re not apathetic.  We’re warriors with green war paint. Our imperative is to be realistic, to be tuned in, to avoid downplaying or “greenwashing” the situation.

And to remain hopeful and active all the while.

So let’s have glimpses at some successes from this past year that help our hope.

The Atacama Desert in Chile is home to the only solar thermal tower in Latin America.  Its construction began in 2019 and should completely replace this country’s fossil fuels by 2040.,

The smallest of the Canary Islands, El Hierro is the only island in the world to have functioned for 28 days in a row using only wind and water power.

This 1 million-year-old volcanic island is on its way to becoming 100 per cent energy self-sufficient.

Paris wants to become one of Europe’s greenest cities. What’s it doing to put its money where its mouth is?  Planting trees, and lots of them.

By the end of this spring there will be 470 trees….oaks, ashes, maples, cherries…that will grace an area formerly used as a busy roundabout.

A little closer to home, the first solar-covered canal in the U.S. is to be completed within a couple of years.

After a historic agreement between leaders of the Gila River Indian Community and the US Army Corps of Engineers, Arizona is the recipient of this pioneering renewable project, which will supply clean energy and reduce water evaporation in this arid state.

On a rather fun note, Britain won the first ever Litter Picking World Cup, which occurred in Tokyo last November. Participants from 21 countries, including the United States, gathered in Tokyo to compete for the title by picking up the most litter within 90 minutes.

The aim of the ‘Spogomi World Cup’ is to raise awareness of environmental protection, particularly reducing plastic waste from flowing into ocean.

The tiny Caribbean island of Dominica is treating its sperm whales like ‘citizens’ with the world’s first marine protected area.

The reserve not only will protect the whales, but it will also help fight climate change because this endangered species has nutrient-rich poop that plays a vital role in capturing carbon dioxide.

It’s not only corporations and governments that are making a difference.

In Rio de Janeiro dozens of young people planted a green corridor in the city that will be a future safe passageway for their most emblematic and endangered species, the golden lion tamarin.

These trees will eventually connect two patches of forest together, providing an ever-larger habitat for the monkey.

Wind power is a major piece of the puzzle in de-carbonizing the grid. But the giant turbine constructions usually rely on carbon-intensive materials like steel.

Swedish company Modvion is taking on this problem by creating a ‘net zero wind power’ by erecting wooden towers, and recently debuted the world’s tallest wooden wind turbine.

We could go on and on with examples of efforts, big and small, global and local, all making a difference.

As is usually the case, our sacred gatherings on Sunday morning are opportunities for us to pause to receive inspiration from without…from words, music, images.

And then to turn our attention inward to examine ourselves, and the applicability of those inspirations to our own spiritual journey.

For those of us who are environmentally conscious, considerations for our planet are very much a part of our theology….a significant part of how we ‘do’ religion.

Here’s a tidbit of religious information you may not know. The Bible is around 728,000 words in it.

The first of all those words are about the Earth…

Excerpts from Genesis, Chapter One,

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 

 “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” God called the vault “sky.” 

 “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.”  God call the ground “land.”

 “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees.

 “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years.

 “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” 

 “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the creatures that move along the ground.”

And God saw that it was good.

Usually biblical scripture these events happening in one tidy week. I’m not entirely sure about the historical accuracy of that creation narrative.

But today that doesn’t matter. Today is about the sacred gift from the Universe to us which we call our Mother Earth.

It’s about the beauty and perfection in which she was formed and was meant to be.

Today is a celebration of our journey to loop back to what she was created and meant to be, and how we can personally be a part of that.

We each have a chance to step forward in our personal lives to deepen our commitment to efforts to care for the Earth.

Specifically each of you now have the opportunity to consider what activity(ies) you can individually engage with which will foster such deepening.

This can be anything from listening and truly absorbing what you take from this gathering, and integrating it into your cognitive and soulful knowing…from that to committing to make multiple concrete changes in your life.

There is no pressure, there is no expectation for some bar to be met.  Only a gentle but earnest invitation to personally engage in this process, beyond where you are now.

You’ll notice that there is a pencil and slip of paper in your bulletin (the slips of paper are reused paper that our Steering Committee retreat agenda was printed on from yesterday).

After some time of quiet in which you can contemplate your new Planetary Pledge, you can take your pencil and paper and inscribe your pledge on the paper.

Then we will all come forward and deposit our pledge slips in the communal bowl, and while you’re at the bowl, if you’d like you can share with all of us what your pledge is.

 Your pledge basically consists of filling in the blank of this promissory statement:

For the coming year, my pledge to deepen my commitment to Earth’s well-being will be to _________.

 

We will now go into a time of quiet reflection in which we discern what our renewed commitment will be.  The chime will be rung when we will then  be invited to bring our pledges forward.

These pledges are representative of us individually and us collectively. What we do reflects who we are.

This collection is us.

We will have an Earth Day service in late April, and we will incorporate our pledges into that celebration (as well as check in with you about how you are doing with the pledges you made today!).

We take such care to do this today, and return to it again in a couple of months, because we are not our own….we belong to the Earth, and the Earth belongs to us and to our descendants.

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