Simple, Serious, and Solvable: The Three S’s of Climate Change

Simple, Serious, and Solvable: The Three S’s of Climate Change

by Dr. Scott Denning. Scott will be leading a four-part series on the Three S’s of Climate Change beginning on May 6. Learn more and sign up online. 

Climate Change is Simple. Heat in minus heat out equals change of heat. When Earth absorbs more heat than it emits, the climate warms. When it emits more than it absorbs, the climate cools. This simple principal explains why day is warmer than night, summer is warmer than winter, and Miami is warmer than Minneapolis. It also explains why adding CO2 to the air causes global warming. The absorption of thermal infrared radiation by CO2 was first measured 150 years ago, has since been confirmed thousands of times by labs all over the world, and is extremely well understood. There is no doubt at all that adding CO2 reduces Earth’s heat emission and therefore causes global warming.

Climate Change is Serious.  Warmer average temperatures are associated with dramatic increases in the frequency of extremely hot weather. Warmer air evaporates more water from soils and vegetation, so even if precipitation doesn’t change the demand for water will increase with warmer temperatures. Adding water vapor to the air also means there is more water available for heavy rains when the right conditions occur: this means that in addition to more drought, a warmer climate will include heavier rainfall during extreme events. Warmer ice sheets release more water the oceans, which also expand as they get warmer. These two influences raise sea levels, threatening coastlines everywhere. Higher seas imply much more frequent coastal flooding, requiring abandonment long before mean sea level reaches coastal infrastructure. Without strong policy, these impacts will become more and more severe almost without bound, growing to become the most serious problems in the world and lasting for many centuries after fossil fuels are abandoned. The consequences of unchecked climate change to the global economy are unacceptable.

Climate Change is Solvable.  Preventing catastrophic climate change will require abundant and affordable energy to be made available to people everywhere without emitting any CO2 to the atmosphere. This will require both the development of energy efficient infrastructure and very rapid deployment of non-fossil fuel energy systems, especially in the developing world.  From an engineering perspective, both objectives are eminently feasible with mature technologies. Economically, the clean energy transition will be expensive, involving roughly 1% of the global economy. This cost is comparable to previous development achievements such as indoor plumbing, rural electrification, the global internet, and mobile telecommunications. Our descendants will better lives by developing and improving their infrastructure just as our ancestors did.

Climate Change is Spiritual. The moral implications of climate change are profound, challenging us at a level even beyond war and poverty to dig deeply to support what’s right against what’s wrong with the world. The potential for harm is nearly as great as the threat we faced from nuclear holocaust, yet the creeping nature of the threat makes it very hard to address. Confronting this challenge threatens to paralyze us into ineffectiveness with despair. Responding to this spiritual crisis calls us to Active Hope,  to prayer, and to Courageous Love!

Foodbank @ Foothills Serving Deep Need

From Rebecca Parish

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Apparently, the news is getting around — Foodbank @ Foothills serves 100 households! Volunteers Needed!
It was a somewhat chilly, cloudy, rainy sort of Mobile Pantry that Foothills hosted on Sunday, March 26, but we had record attendance anyway. We had at least a dozen new households register with the Food Bank for Larimer County and served A NEW RECORD OF 100 HOUSEHOLDS!!
It takes many hands to make this great work happen, friends. And lately, we haven’t had quite enough hands (we had about 20 volunteers for that 100 households served). We are counting on this community to step up with the volunteers to make food insecurity less of a reality for our neighbors. MAKE NEW FRIENDS WHILE MAKING A DIFFERENCE! You can get more information & SIGN UP TODAY at foothillsuu.org/foodbank.

My name is Patricia Miller and I am an immigrant.

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Patricia Miller speaking at Foothills on Jan. 22nd

My name is Patricia Miller and I am an immigrant. I was born in El Salvador and immigrated to Colorado during my country’s civil war. As a middle class family, we owned a house, had a bank account, and had a good job that we could present as evidence that we were worthy of a US immigration visa. 11 million other immigrants who came here in search of a better life did not have the same financial advantages. But the violence, poverty and hopelessness of their situations forced them to immigrate too. In the words of Warsan Shire, “no one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.”

When Trump opened his presidential campaign by accusing Mexicans of being rapists and criminals, he tapped into a widely shared sentiment in our society. After he was elected president, I felt such frustration that I was compelled to do two things: attend a like-minded place of worship, and become an activist for good.
While the church I attended was ignoring politics altogether, Foothills Unitarian Church posted those beautiful signs out front; among them, “We love our Immigrant Neighbors.” Here I found people who were grieving the presidential election and all its divisiveness just as fiercely as I was. I became determined to pass that love forward.
At that same time, a local grassroots organization named Fuerza Latina, or Latin Taskforce, organized an Immigrant Support Community meeting. I felt called to this group for many reasons; the main one being that when people don’t have rights, they are easily and frequently exploited and they struggle to pull themselves out of poverty.
Undocumented immigrants are a net positive for public budgets – they contribute more to the system than they take out. But the value of immigration cannot be reduced to a spreadsheet. Immigrants do not simply make America better off. We make America better – through our entrepreneurial spirit, our low incarceration rates, our culture, and our strong family values we enrich our communities.
Through fact-based sharing of information, Fuerza Latina aims to build support for undocumented immigrants in our community. We want to destroy the myths and prejudices that have been burned into our collective consciousness.
Thank you so much for supporting the work of Fuerza Latina so we can build a more resilient and inclusive community. And thank you for opening your arms and your church to this immigrant. I light our chalice in gratitude and in the hope that we can continue to work together to welcome everyone and to seek for justice for all.


Want to get involved?

The Fort Collins’ Immigrant Advocacy Group Fuerza Latina has been organizing powerfully in the past few weeks, creating what they are calling This is Our Home, a network of grassroots committees working on everything from addressing hate speech and bullying in our community to working with the police and the city.  Join one of these committees and help our community be the place we want it to be. Contact Cheryl Distaso. Within our congregation, we are working to hold a workshop with the Interfaith Community about what it means to be Sanctuary Congregations, and to work together on providing safety for immigrants in our community as many other congregations have done over time.  If you’d like to be involved in this effort, contact Anne Hall.

The power of presence

brene-brown-courage-show-up.jpgWhat can I do? When things feel off track in our lives or in our world, most of us ask ourselves this question.  We want to help, to act – do something! Yet so often, there isn’t anything really obvious to do, which makes us feel helpless, confused, and even more distraught.

One thing that is often overlooked is also one of the most powerful ways to have a big impact – which is to simply show up.  Show up for your friends with a phone call, email, or text asking simply, “how are you?” Show up for your children or grandchildren with your full attention sans phone or other distraction.  Show up for your friends or for others in the church with coffee, or a meal.  Show up on Sunday with a friendly smile and a “welcome!” Show up for your neighbors by cleaning off their walk as well as yours.  Show up for your own life, fully present.

The power of our presence is also instructive when it comes to our response in our greater community.  For example, the immigration-advocacy group, Fuerza Latina has launched 9 different committees to begin work in various ways to tend to the safety, protection and care of immigrants in our community.  At the meeting of the Sanctuary City group on Monday, I was struck by the power of two dozen of us in the room together, all self-selected citizens just wanting to “do something,” and struggling to figure out once again, what to do.

There were CSU leaders, dairy farmers, teachers, social workers, and scientists – and everything in between.  Together we stumbled through the questions and task before us, the question of organizing ourselves and coordinating, and attempting to articulate what it was we hoped to accomplish.  I’m not sure what will come of it, yet the showing up together remains important.  We need to be together, learn together, question and struggle together.

Throughout the meeting it struck me how many other meetings just like this are happening not just in our city, but across the country.  Democracy and human relationships are clumsy and slow and yet also beautiful and kind and so well-intentioned. Sometimes the lessons of showing up aren’t just about what you get done, but about cultivating the patience and the perspective to remain steadfast through all the messiness of the real work.

Fuerza Latina is just now getting clear about how best to leverage the great desire to “do something” that exists in our community.  I’ll let you know as these and other more action-based opportunities become more clear.

Until then, showing up for one another and for our immediate circle remains vital, and foundational.  We have a long road ahead, and our presence for one another and in our own lives is what will make all the difference as to whether or not we can keep showing up for our neighbors – and whether we can, as I said on Sunday, keep doing so with joy, laughter, love – and dancing!

Thank you for your partnership, and for your continued presence.

 

Highlights from General Assembly from Foothills Delegates

Five Foothills members – in addition to our current and future ministerial team Rev. Gretchen Haley, Diana McLean, and Sean Neil-Barron, attended the UU General Assembly (GA) in Columbus, Ohio, the last week of June.  It was, as always a powerful and somewhat overwhelming experience of learning, encouraging and clarifying all who gathered in our faith, values, and sense of purpose.

One of our delegates, Erin Hottenstein, shared her highlights from GA in her reflection last week.  This week, we invited the other four delegates to share their one big take-away from their GA experience.  Here’s what they had to say:

  1.  The powerful Sunday Morning Worship experience.

Judy Ohs writes, “I looked forward to Sunday morning at GA, remembering the last time I attended it was a very moving service, and I was not disappointed.

Glen Thomas Rideout was in charge of the music and choir, which was awesome.  He also read a poem he had written about the anture of God, saying god is waiting to be unshrunk!

Nancy McDonald Ladd gave a sermon, ‘In All Thy Getting, Get Understanding,’ with as much energy, humor and meaningful challenge as any I have ever heard.  She admonished us to ‘STOP having FALSE FIGHTS’ in our congregations – those fights about insignificant things like ‘the color of the paint for the bathroom,’ and instead get out in the mainstream of our lives, resisting things harmful to ourselves and others, and promoting the things needed for just living for all.  She said when we don’t get our way, we are ‘lovers of leaving’ (referencing the hymn, Come, Come, who ever you are), and that we need to put our personal preferences aside, and instead have the real and hard conversations with each other.  Only this will allow us to create real change, rather than becoming thoroughly agitated, but fundamentally unchanged.  She ended by saying that we need to ‘step more fully into encounters with the holy and the world,’ and in doing so we can love more and speak more.  We can reach out to someone whose hand is near to find support and keep it real.  The service ended with us all singing ‘Reach out and Touch Somebody’s Hand.’

It is my sincere hope that each of you will take the time to watch this service (video posted above).  It will lift your spirit and challenge your soul, and perhaps help you move out into the world to help create the change we need.”

Lindsay Smith added: “I have one request of our Foothills family: please watch the Sunday service. I found it deeply moving and hope we can use it as a common point of reference going forward.”

        2.  The welcome for young adults.

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Lindsay Smith writes: “As a first-time delegate to General Assembly, I appreciated the Planning Committee’s dedication to creating a welcoming space for young adults. Not only did the UUA set aside resources to help young adults get to GA, but supported us the whole week. We had dedicated staff and seating blocked off in the large general sessions. We even had ‘General Session Bingo’ to keep things interesting.

Many times I went back to the helpful guide on young adult programming in our (jam-packed!) schedule. I attended workshops on topics from interfaith work to the role of spirituality in mental health. I was happy to see many folks of other generations participating with us, too.

I was overjoyed to represent our congregation in the banner parade alongside my partner Nick. I felt proud to represent our Foothills community and loved seeing Rev. Gretchen, our president Erin, our new minister Sean, and many others cheering for us as we sang through the aisles.

Then, it was time to get down to business. The overarching theme of this year’s GA was racial justice. Youth and young adult UUs of color inspired me by sharing their deeply personal stories. They called us to immediate action with strength, courage, and love. Workshops on anti-racism helped start some of the uncomfortable but necessary conversations that need to take place among UUs and in the wider community.

GA left me inspired to connect with UUs both inside our home church and beyond. It was great to compare notes with delegates from churches across the country.

         3. The Choir 

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Nick Marconi writes, ‘Choir is a decision.’ These are the words with which Dr. Glen Rideout opened each rehearsal at GA, offering various reflections on the notion. Choir is a setting aside of time to come together and join in fellowship and purpose. Choir is the realization of the idea that we are stronger and more capable working in harmony—the embodiment of the mantra, “I put my hand in yours so that we may do together what we cannot do alone.” Choir is no mere blending of voices; it is a congregation, and it is deliberate.

In a week where very little else seemed deliberate, 180 of us dedicated ourselves to bringing the Sunday worship services to life. For me, it wasn’t the size of the choir or the audience that brought great meaning; 180 celebrants performing for a crowd of 3,000 is neither the largest ensemble nor audience I’ve experienced—even in Columbus itself, a city I had called home for many years. The real meaning came from the unity of purpose in a room that had lacked it over the course of several painful general sessions. The morning service brought renewed focus to disparate hearts. The afternoon service with Rev. Sekou and The Holy Ghost granted catharsis for those of us who have become all-too- frustrated not only with the prevailing tragedies of the world, but also with the perennial failures of conscience emerging from GA.

I cannot understand how we as a movement fail time and again to make meaningful solidarity with oppressed peoples. I cannot fathom the denominational cognitive dissonance it takes to be so moved by the reminder of our continual need to improve our relationships with minority communities and speak hard truths to those we call allies yet shirk away when called to take action. I pity what Rev. Dr. Susan Ritchie calls our institutional addiction to dysfunctional process that truly impairs our ability to live up to our best vision of ourselves.

I have little, if any, control over the course of global events or the UUA. But just as I had in GA, I can still choose to share music in my small part of the world. Choir is a decision, and I will always make that decision.”

4.  Commitments for Social Witness

Shirley White writes, “CSWAIWCS/AI  Huh?  I put my volunteer efforts at GA here, hoping it would give me knowledge I could share back home. Indeed, it did! Wanting to support this important work of our denomination, still I had to keep refreshing myself on what all those letters mean. They mean a lot! They imply work too important to be buried in acronyms and jargon.So let me translate….

Commission on Social Witness (CSW) supports our efforts to do our social justice work focused each year by choices made at GA, to concentrate our efforts on work that we are best, perhaps uniquely, poised to do in our troubled world.

Congregational Study/Action Issues (CS/AI) are selected by UU member congregations for four years of study, reflection and action. This year, delegates picked our next four-year Congregational Study/Action Issue to beCorruption of Our Democracy.”

Actions of Immediate Witness (AIWs) are issues deemed too immediate and important to go through a four year process. The Commissioners narrowed 8 completed proposals to 3, which the GA delegates passed overwhelmingly.

  1. expressing solidarity with Muslims,
  2. advocating gun reform following the Pulse nightclub massacre,
  3. affirming support for transgender people.

All will be further developed and highlighted in UU World.

We, at Foothills, do a lot of very important work. We might even be a standard bearer in the denomination. We could be more fully bringing our light to UUA/GA, by defining and proclaiming our commitment, particularly by sharing our successful collaboration with other communities and organizations in Fort Collins. Among others, we excel in programs of community collaboration in Faith Family Hospitality, One Village One Family, and  our ministerial leadership in vigils and actions of solidarity with our minority communities in times of stress and trauma visited upon them in our troubled times.

We have light to offer, as well as the opportunity to bask in the healing light that our denomination shines on the world’s pain. By engaging with the UUA, we can do more, especially by learning and engaging with social witness statement process we may accomplish more, and even be prepared to bring more of Foothills light to GA in New Orleans, 2017.

Update from One Village One Family

OVOF May 2016 Funny Faces OVOF May 2016b What a ride it has been. A year ago I saw a new acronym OVOF (One Village One Family) and learned of a new program just being started at Foothills Unitarian Church  in collaboration with Homeless Gear. I sent an email expressing curiosity and within seconds, I swear, Gretchen texted me asking if I would be a Village Lead. Gretchen’s enthusiasm is hard to resist and without further thought, I agreed. And I am so glad I did! It has been an interesting, rewarding, challenging, and very meaningful year.

Six Foothills Villages have been trained since May, but it has been common that Villages are not assigned to families right away. In our case, it turned out to take several months. That gave us time to do the necessary fund-raising. Originally, we were five Foothills Villages and each needed to raise $1500 that would help support our family to pay their security deposit or first month’s rent. Families admitted to the OVOF program must have sufficient income to pay rent, but they often do not have the savings to allow them to pay these extra fees. This initial, one time, support can make all the difference between persistent homelessness and stable housing.

To raise funds, Foothills started by devoting one month’s Share the Plate with the Foothills-OVOF program. Our almost 30 OVOF Village members then organized a fun and tasty pancake breakfast, donut give-away/donation stations at the Quail Hollow Neighborhood Garage Sale, and a family pizza evening at Odell Brewing Company. Between these few events, we raised the funds needed to support six families! While the Foothills OVOF Village members were responsible for the pancake breakfast, others, especially the Men’s Group, helped us out by cooking the sausage and pancakes. King Soopers, Lamar’s Donuts, Odell’s, and Domino’s were some of the other community businesses that have aided our endeavors. These few events enabled us to raise the start-up funds we needed.

My Village met our family at the end of August – right after this single mom had procured housing for herself and four teenage daughters. We helped her move, and get new tires donated for their suburban, a new car battery, some essential furniture, a laptop, and food. There were ups and downs, but we all enjoyed celebrating this family’s graduation last month as they met all the goals they had set for our six month One Village One Family partnership. There will still be challenges for this family, but they are in a much better place than they were when we met.

This is the tale of one of our six Villages, and each Village has a tale to tell with similarities and differences. There is no consistent pattern – each family has its unique challenges. But they all are so grateful for the support our Foothills Villages have provided as they searched for and obtained housing and worked to remain stable. These families now sleep in their own beds in their own homes. All of the participants, both Village members and our families, have expressed enthusiasm for this project. Many of the Foothills Village members have agreed to mentor a new family after a short break. A six month mentor commitment sounds long, but really the time flew by.

Newspapers are full of horror stories of the scarcity of affordable housing and the impact on the homeless. Foothills Unitarian Church has helped six families – six single women and 23 children find housing and begin to live more independent lives. Five of those families have remained stably housed for at least 6 months. Thanks to the Foothills-OVOF partnership, these moms and their children are no longer are living on the streets, in playgrounds, or couch surfing.

Our long-term plan is to have two or three Foothills Villages/year to sustain our impact on reducing homelessness in our community. I am proud of our church for taking on this project. I encourage others to consider joining One Village One Family. You won’t do it alone – you will have a Village at your side every step of the way.

If you are interested, you can make a difference by joining one of our upcoming Villages – please contact Gretchen.

Jane Everham, OVOF Village Lead
Anne Fisher, Foothills/OVOF Village Liaison

Climate Justice Month – What next?

We have just finished Climate Justice Month at Foothills, with a kickoff event, films, book discussions, a Friday evening service, an Earth Sunday intergenerational service, a bike-to-church breakfast, a wrap-up discussion and pledges of action.  We can’t say exactly how many folks’ lives were impacted, but we collected 66 action commitments and handed out nearly 50 Lose-a-Watt kits from the city.  Was it enough?  Did you notice?  What will we do next to engage our church in Climate Justice?

Perhaps now is the time to begin working to become a certified Green Sanctuary congregation.

What is a Green Sanctuary?  This UUA program provides a path for congregational study, reflection, and action in response to environmental challenges.   Several steps are involved, starting with establishing a team representing various aspects of church life.  The team assesses current church programs and practices in four areas –

  • environmental justice
  • worship and celebration
  • religious education (for children and adults)
  • sustainable living

(Note – this is not just about the building.)  For more information see: http://www.uua.org/environment/sanctuary

Once the assessment is complete, the team proposes an action plan with 12 projects in the four areas and the real work begins that involves the whole congregation.

Congregations that complete the program are accredited as Green Sanctuaries in recognition of their service and dedication to the Earth.  It is a program that changes a church’s realization of its role in climate justice, an important step that we could decide to take.  Are we ready?  Is it time?

To learn more about this program, see website above or contact Peg MacMorris (peg.macmorris@gmail.com) with your questions.

 

In partnership,

The Foothills Climate Justice Team