This December, Concordia College entertained audiences with beautiful choral and orchestral music during the annual Concordia Christmas Concert. This year’s concert was themed “The Beauty of the Earth” and featured a number of environmentally focused pieces. Some examples included material from the UN Environmental Sabbath Service, Jean Richie’s song “Now is the Cool of the Day”, and arrangements of two 19th-century hymns–“This is My Father’s World” and “For the Beauty of the Earth”. These portions of the concert, woven together with traditional Christmas hymns such as “Joy to the World” and “For the Beauty of the Earth” drew clear links between the Christmas season and the beauty of our natural world. Through efforts such as these Concordia strives to weave sustainability throughout all aspects of the college experience.
Lutherans Restoring Creation partnered with Presbyterians for Earth Care for their bi-annual conference at Stony Point Retreat Center in NY August 6-9, 2019 where over a hundred earth-keepers gathered. Below are some of the remarkable reflections during our time together processing how to take some of the Bible’s directives to bring us to the frontline. Using the World Cafe Method, participants conversed around the three following verses and considered how the Word could help them (and their faith community) progress from movement to action.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. ” John 15: 5
“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”
For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.
Romans 12: 4-6
Here are images of our time together at Stony Point Retreat Center:
A request from Kim Acker, member at University Lutheran Church in Palo Alto, to be public witness:
I know you accept the reality of climate change, but what to do about it may remain unclear. Here is my request:
Please take a moment away from the rush, the day-to-day relentlessness.
Pause to feel what’s present for you about climate change. Drop into your vulnerable heart.
Within that space of openness within you, consider my invitation:
We don’t yet know how to talk about climate change. To talk about it in the same breath we talk about Trump, doesn’t do it justice. To talk about the planet our children are inheriting (my children are your children) requires courage and vulnerability. Whether we are conscious of it or not, many of us are feeling the effects of living in the context of ecological degradation and even the prospect of extinction. Our feelings include fear, guilt, and grief. And sitting beside those feelings, there is also joy—joy for the wonder and breathlessness of our natural world and the best of who we are together.
We are experiencing the end of the fossil fuel age.
Many of us are also victims of the fossil fuel industry’s playbook: Create doubt and hopelessness. Doubt the solutions. Debate them. Believe that it’s too late and our personal actions won’t make a difference. All these strategies make us strange bedfellows with the power structures of fossil fuel.
What those powers don’t want us to remember is that we are the sleeping giant. We have power as a people, but we have forgotten it. We don’t feel it when we are alone behind our screens. We have forgotten it because we largely live in isolation from one another and cherish our freedom and independence.
The ending of the fossil fuel era invites us to create a new world of not only using less energy and renewable energy, but also to live in greater relationship to one another and to acknowledge the truth that we live in an interconnected web of life.
In the last few months, I’ve been organizing the 3-day The March for Fossil Fuel Freedom. The march is designed to:
1. build community, develop local leaders, and build local capacity for the movement as a whole (not just this march).
2. show our legislative and corporate leaders with our physical presence on the streets that we stand for the new world, and the ending of the old.
3. use a divestment strategy asking Wells Fargo to be the first American bank to divest from funding new fossil fuel development.
The local indigenous community led by Pennie Opal Plant with Idle No More SF will stand at the head of our march. Having the opportunity to learn from the experience of local indigenous activists like Pennie has nourished and humbled those of us organizing the march. The international women who are leading the indigenous movement have already had success in Europe by working their way into the boardrooms of five European banks to demand divestment. This march follows in their footsteps.
Join this movement. Be part of this community in any way you can. Yes, we need money, but money isn’t enough. We need bodies.
This is your community—it’s local.
These are your leaders—invest in them.
Do this for yourself. Marching will help you remember that we are part of something more powerful than we can imagine alone. Acting together feels good.
How you can support our effort:
· March for all or part of the march (Sunday marchers are particularly needed)
· Come to a dinner. On Saturday, I will be speaking about my passion–divesting from the industrial food system and supporting local farmers growing soil that sequesters carbon. We will celebrate with good food, music, song, and fellowship.
· Come to the rally on Monday, March 18.
· Reach out to your community, share this message, and invite them in.
· Offer your skills (we are in short supply of media professionals)
· Sponsor a marcher.
Thank you for taking time to consider my invitation to be part of building our power as a people.
The Wartburg College REUSED store is a way for students, faculty, and staff to participate in sustainability on campus. It is a place to get and donate used school and office supplies year-round. All supplies in the store are free to encourage reusing materials to cut down on waste.
“By having a REUSED store on campus, it promotes second hand buying and donating unwanted items instead of throwing away things. Buying second hand and donating unwanted things is one of the many ways people can practice sustainable living,” says Ariel Hall, student manager for the Sustainability Department at Wartburg College. The REUSED store “encourages students to think about how the decisions they are making today affect the environment of their tomorrow. Preparing our students for their future, regardless of major or job choice is something Wartburg strives to do–especially when preparing students to care for their environment after graduation.”
The REUSED store has been around since the beginning of the sustainability program at Wartburg College. Hall says that it would not be very hard to set up a program like this at other schools. She suggests starting by getting students to donate used materials on campus. From there, it’s all about advertising to the community and getting students to donate and shop for REUSED supplies.
Learn more about Wartburg College’s Sustainability Office and REUSED store.
After graduating from Grinnell College in Iowa and attending graduate school in Italy, Cain found herself in Decorah, Iowa working for various agricultural non-profits. Cain is now taking on a new adventure as Sustainability Coordinator in the Center for Sustainable Communities at Luther College. Expanding on her previous experience, Cain is excited to to continue working “at the intersection of agriculture and the environment.”
As the Sustainability Coordinator, Cain is responsible for helping Luther meet its various climate goals, including the goal to reach carbon neutrality by 2030. She says, “My goal is to help the Luther community and our larger community of Northeast Iowa develop the skills, knowledge, values, and habits of mind necessary to be responsible citizens of communities that are striving for a more equitable, prosperous, and environmentally responsible world.”
When asked about the purpose of a sustainability coordinator within an institution, Cain answered: “Institutions that employ a sustainability coordinator are setting an example for other schools, colleges, businesses, and governments. When a college has a sustainability coordinator, they are proclaiming that sustainability is a priority and it is something that is worth dedicated resources. The role of a sustainability coordinator will help students, faculty, and staff coalesce together and work collaboratively to solve some of the biggest problems facing our communities and all species on Earth.”
Learn more about Luther’s Center for Sustainable Communities.
Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pa., has flipped the switch on its 3.9 MW solar array, supplying 30% of the university’s electricity needs.
Built by WGL Energy Systems, the project is employing sheep to help maintain the surrounding grass and weeds. A flock of approximately 30 sheep will come from local Owens Farm in Sunbury starting in April 2019.
At an event to unveil the solar system, Susquehanna President Jonathan D. Green called the sheep “the most environmentally responsible lawn-mowing team of any college or university.” The sheep were also on hand for Wednesday’s event.
“In nine years, we have gone from the Sierra Club’s list of ‘Schools Who Burn Coal’ to the Sierra Club’s list of ‘Cool Schools,'” said Michael Coyne, vice president of finance and administration and co-chief operating officer at Susquehanna. “It hasn’t been easy . . . but as the warnings about climate change have reached a new level of alarm, all that work has proven worth the effort. To shed some light – pun intended – this solar field isn’t our final destination; it’s a milestone along the way to the university being a carbon-neutral campus.”
Read the entire article from Solar Industry.
Augustana College’s Sustainable Working Landscapes Initiative (SWLI) has expanded its program and will partner with the cities of Davenport, Geneseo, Morrison and Rock Island. Augustana students and faculty will be conducting research and creating solutions for real-life challenges facing each city. This is the third year the college has partnered with local communities.
“The partnership is a win-win for all those involved. It creates learning experiences for students while sharing Augustana’s most valuable assets, its students and faculty, with our local communities to help tackle the challenges facing them,” said Dr. Michael Reisner, the director of the Upper Mississippi Studies Center.
Beginning in 2016, the SWLI entered into a two-year partnership with the Scott County Health Department to identify a more preventative approach to solving the lead poisoning health crisis in the county. More than 300 students completed 14 course-based projects spanning 8 areas of study, including accounting, business, economics, geography, public health, psychology and environmental studies.
Learn more about the current projects in Augustana’s SWLI.
How do we care for all that God has created?
What happens when our answer differs wildly from others?
This year’s speakers at Mid-Winter Convocation will help us navigate the challenges of how we live, what we eat, and our fraught relationship with the land.
- Melanie Harris, Professor of Religion, Texas Christian University
- Barbara Rossing, Professor of New Testament, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
- Kathryn Schifferdecker, Associate Professor of Old Testament, Bible Division Chair, Luther Seminary
- Norman Wirzba, Gilbert T. Rowe Distinguished Professor of Christian Theology, Senior Fellow, Kenan Institute for Ethics
Register by December 14 for the early-bird rate.
The Office of Information Technology (OIT) at Muhlenberg College has been on the forefront of campus sustainability initiatives. Not only do all the new college computer purchases meet EPEAT Gold standards, but energy reduction mechanisms are constantly being introduced.
Most recently, a pilot program to automatically hibernate public computers not in use for more than 10 minutes has been tested. Also, multiple servers have been consolidated into one. Both of these efforts have significantly reduced energy consumption.
Muhlenberg is also considering future expansions of the Green IT program with technology to detect room occupancy to turn off technology when a room is not being used.
Learn more about Muhlenberg Green IT initiatives.
Finlandia University began a program to recycle batteries on campus. Battery Recycling bins have been placed around campus. The bins were funded by the International School of Art and Design, designed by Rick Loduha with the help of Heather Dunne, and will be maintained by the Sustainability Committee.
About 650 incoming California Lutheran University students worked to help the hills above Ventura recover from the Thomas Fire as part of a partnership with the City of Ventura that began over 10 years ago. The incoming freshmen class removed bottles and other trash exposed by the fire and helped spread mulch around surviving plants in the Ventura Botanical Gardens, Serra Cross Park and other areas of Grant Park. The benefits of mulching include reducing surface erosion, absorbing rainfall, reducing downstream runoff, protecting seed banks, providing favorable moisture and temperature for seed germination and suppression of non-native weeds.
The students participated in “You Got Served” during New Student Orientation. It is the university’s largest service-learning project in terms of student participants. Cal Lutheran’s Community Service Center has worked with the City Volunteer Ventura! office on the annual program since 2008. The partnership allows all the incoming students to work together on a single project that introduces them to Cal Lutheran’s commitment to service and justice and connects them with the local community in a meaningful way. Cal Lutheran President Chris Kimball and other faculty and staff members worked alongside the students.
Christina L. Erickson, PhD, is Professor of Social Work and Environmental Studies at Augsburg University. Her work explores the intersections of social work as an applied profession and the experience of humans in their natural, social and economic environment. Dr. Erickson views social work knowledge, skills and values as essential to responding to and ameliorating environmental degradation.
Dr. Erickson published her new book, Environmental Justice as Social Work Practice, with Oxford University Press this past summer.
Environmental Justice as Social Work Practice places the natural environment as central to practice. Utilizing the Phases of Practice and micro to macro levels of practice, the book integrates neatly into a college semester course. Chapters cover important components of social work such as theory, ethics, conceptual foundations as well as distinct chapters on micro, mezzo, and macro practice. Each chapter expands the discipline’s commitment to and applied efforts in the environmental movement while recognizing the unique contributions social work has to offer to ameliorate environmental inequities. Chapters include real-world stories from environmental social work practitioners, case studies, and boxed sections highlighting organizations and people who bridge the human and natural justice divide. The textbook provides a framework for social work educators to bravely and competently teach environmental social work as a stand-alone college course or to incorporate into a traditional practice course.
View the book here, from Oxford University Press.
This past January, St. Olaf College offered “Environmental Sustainability in Japan” for a third time. Thanks to generous support from the Luce Foundation’s Initiative on Asian Studies and the Environment (LIASE), students in the course spent a month studying Japanese responses to the environmental challenges that arise from modern lifestyles.
Check out the class website, where 17 students share their thoughts through text and image.
The students share their experiences from the trip and how the it impacted them. Student Eli Dotson describes the class as a mix of farm chores at the Asian Rural Institute and academic work, all while being integrated into a “like-minded community,” working together “to create a daily rhythm far different from the quotidian realities of life in the United States.”
Gettysburg College opened its doors in November 2007 as the first Campus Kitchen in Pennsylvania! The project was initiated by Louisa Polos ’07 and is currently managed by the Center for Public Service and student Program Coordinators. Louisa first learned about The Campus Kitchens Project as a volunteer of DC Central Kitchen. She left inspired by the experience and wanted to start a program at her school, so she made it happen!
Campus Kitchen has served 57,260 meals since its origin in 2007. In this time, the organization has also recovered 110,928 pounds of food, all through 7,334 total hours of volunteer work. To read more about how this organization works at Gettysburg College, visit the Campus Kitchen website.
Augustana is in the first year of a three-year $375,000 grant from the Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies, a nonprofit dedicated to helping society, the arts, and the environment.
Helping guide the effort are two students: Incoming senior Hatem Khalfaoui, a native of Tunisia studying business and computer information systems, and pre-law student Anna Steinwand, who grew up learning from her father, who is co-chair of the environmental studies program at Concordia College.
Augustana surveyed students about their sustainability literacy earlier this year and plans to resurvey to measure the grant’s effectiveness.
“[Having] a high response rate to our survey was very rewarding,” Khalfaoui said. “It showed us the level of students’ engagement and interest in sustainability. A significant number of people who took the survey also took the time to share their ideas and recommendations for sustainability efforts on campus.”
Some of Augustana’s areas of focus for this grant are on green transportation, sustainable dining and drinking, conservation competitions for students, and academic programming around campus.
“I pledge to preserve, conserve, and protect the world’s natural resources to the best of my ability. Specifically, I will follow the three R’s of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle in my local environment by doing as many of the following as I can, and I will encourage others to do so…”
This pledge began at Carthage College, Kenosha, WI, in October 2010. It is intended to serve as a model for college and university students and everyone else. Please feel free modify the text to fit your group or community and pass it along.
To view the rest of the pledge, visit Carthage Sustainability.
When one ton of plastic bags is reused or recycled, the energy equivalent of 11 barrels of oil is saved! By bringing your own bag to the grocery store, you can save thousands of plastic bags from ending up in landfills, or even worse in ecosystems where they can harm living creatures.
Look for alternate uses for the bags you’ve collected
- Old bags make great in-car trash containers.
- Use them as shoe protectors in the garden.
- Re-use them to clean up kitty litter, or to pick up dog droppings when walking your pet.
- Use them in your smaller waste bins around the house.
- Fill a few with shredded paper and tie them off for cheap, reusable packing materials. They’re also a handy way to maintain the shape of your favorite tote.
- Cut a slit in your bags and use them to protect clothes from dust, moths, and other pests.
- Take them with you for easy disposal of diapers.
To see other tips, visit Valparaiso’s sustainability page.
From idea to team to movement: Central States Green Team
Central States Synod voted to become a Lutherans Restoring Creation synod in June 2015 and empowered their LRC Mission Table to begin working on ways to help congregations care for creation through worship, education, buildings and grounds, discipleship and stewardship, and education. February 2016 they hosted a retreat at Camp Tomah Shinga in Junction City, KS for over 20 people excited to help churches in their communities integrate eco-justice in their ministries. Then they organized a follow up event that summer to share what they had learned with fellow ELCA members in other areas of their synod. This Green Team Mission Table just keeps hosting workshops at their assemblies and gatherings all over!
In February of 2018 the group “retreated” again to Tomah Shinga!
Twenty-eight passionate youth and adults from Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Minnesota gathered at Camp Tomah Shinga (outside Junction City, Kansas) on Saturday, February 17, 2018 to learn more about how to empower their congregations to “green” their worship, education, buildings and grounds, discipleship in daily life, and public life/advocacy efforts. The workshop was presented by members of the Central States Synod LRC Mission Table in partnership with Camp Tomah Shinga. Participants represented Central States Synod congregations from St. Louis, Florissant, Prairie Village, Olathe, Topeka, Waterville, Salina, Manhattan, Lindsborg, and Wichita in the Central States Synod, along with congregations in Lincoln,
Nebraska, and Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Upcoming this spring the Central States Synod offer more learning opportunities: Register for their next gathering here!
Everyone is invited to attend the day-long Creation Care Workshop led by members of the Central States Synod Lutherans Restoring Creation Mission Table in Kansas City.
Register online at Eventbrite (click here)
Learn how to incorporate creation
care into your congregation’s
• Worship life
• Educational programs
• Discipleship of members at home/work
• Buildings and grounds
• Public ministry and advocacy
Global Climate Action Summit Faith-Rooted Affiliated Workshops
The Episcopal Diocese of California, GreenFaith and Interfaith Power & Light held two days of climate action workshops at Grace Cathedral as part of the Global Climate Action Summit that took place in San Francisco from September 12 – September 14. Leaders and experts representing many faiths facilitated the workshops and participants engaged with issues of faith, climate change, local and global action, and learned about environmental praxis from a multi-faith perspective.
Click here to see photos from the gorgeous Grace Cathedral, images from the Talanoa Dialogue sessions, and some specific slides shared by Presbyterian Dr. Richard Lyon with references to Christian texts to make the case for Evangelicals to be called to care for creation.
Read descriptions of workshops held at diocal.org.