Sunday, May 25, 2008

Vermont Sustainable Heating Initiative in Bristol

Last Tuesday morning we had one of the most exciting events in the short history of the Vermont Sustainable Heating Initiative. As one of our student members put it, it was "one of the most important things we've done."

Basically we gathered all the players in the Bristol biomass heating community to discuss a potential LIHEAP pilot program in that area. There were people from LIHEAP, the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, ACORN, Norwich University, Pellet Vendors, Farmers, the Extension Service, the Bristol Selectboard, and two Addison County Legislators, among others.

It was (needless to say) very productive. We discussed the basic idea, and then broke up into sub-groups to address different aspects of the pilot project: the Human Side, the Burning Technology/Production & Farming side, aaaaaand Funding.

These committees will continue to meet, and hopefully make further headway. I was on the Human Side, which I'm particularly interested in as I would like to be certified to do Home Energy Audits in the future.

This will be followed by a meeting this Thursday in Montpelier about the heating situation in that area. We'll discuss a bulk purchase of pellets (or pellet purchasing co-op), and how we can make this transition. More on that to follow.

Two Books on Theology and Ecology

The Ecophysicsteacher has been in radio silence for the last month, but maybe that's just an indicator of my free time lately. So here on this Memorial Day weekend I find myself with time to read, write, and reflect on the last month's events.

Let's start with today and some books.

I recent read Serve God Save the Planet by J. Matthew Sleeth, which is basically a good introduction to the idea of Christian Ecological Stewardship. As someone who has been deep into this issue for a long time, I didn't necessarily find it challenging or novel, but for someone who is a non-scientist or a new Christian, this would be a great place to start. However, I must admit I was affected by the book. As a result of reading this book, I now wash my dishes by hand whenever I can (as it uses *far* less energy than a dishwasher), and I avoid red artificially colored foods. J. Matthew Sleeth, who is a doctor by trade, claims that most artificial red dyes are incredibly toxic to humans. No more cherry Kool-Aid for me!

I'm right smack in the middle of For the Beauty of the Earth by Steven Bouma-Prediger, which I just had to put down because it was so thought-provoking. I found the beginning compelling as he pushed the idea "We care for only what we love. We love only what we know. We truly know only what we experience." And so we must start with ecological literacy. We must know our place. After some meandering trips through different ecological habitats and statistics about the state of Earth, we were back to discussing theology. This is where I had to put the book down because it caused such a reaction in me. Basically the thrust of chapter 3 is that Christians are largely to blame for the destruction we currently see, and he cites four main reasons tied back to our flawed theology.

1. Misinterpretation of Genesis 1:28, aka "the dominance clause".
2. Neo-gnostic dualism, e.g. "only the soul matters - not the body", transfered to "only the Spirit and saving souls matter, not the creation"
3. Misled End-Times Theology, such as "It will just get trashed anyway."
4. (An extension of #1) If we apply the Christian-born sense of mastery over nature to Science, Christians are largely to blame for the ecologically-conscienceless results Science and Technology have produced.

I find these ideas all too true. I have thought these things. I have seen other people in churches express these misunderstandings, and having put all these complaints against Christianity in one spot fills me with a sense of repentance. Which is one of the reasons I am writing this: You are my confessional. Previously I had thought that all people need to repent of their ecological mis-behavior, but now it seems clear to me that Christians (more than other folk) need to examine their ideas.

If environmental reconciliation is to occur within the church we will need to directly address these misconceptions.