The Sirens are Sounding: Will we Heed Them?

I am not sure when we as a world community will wake up. Two devastating tornado outbreaks within a month’s time in our nation with the allegedly rare EF5 tornadoes packing winds of over 200 miles per hour seem to be as good as an alarm bell as any I have heard.

Climate change is a reality.  It is not just a made up myth to scare little children before bedtime or to make block buster movies like The Day After Tomorrow.  We are facing massive climate change.  The floods in Pakistan, Australia, and Midwest; the uncontrollable fires currently in Texas, Russia, and Africa, record breaking temperatures, record breaking snowfalls; these are all pointing to dramatic climate change.

Firemap 11 May 2011 — 20 May 2011  Source:

I know we all laughed about global warming when we had record low temperatures and snow in the Deep South this passed year.  But with an increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere comes an increase in temperatures and an increased ability for the air to hold more moisture. So it makes sense that precipitation will be more than usual.  And it makes sense that parts of the earth will be scorched of what little moisture is left preparing the land for fire which releases more CO2 into the air—a vicious cycle.

So what will it take for humanity to wake up and take steps to drastically reduce CO2 and other emission gases?

Bolivia took a bold step in that direction when it passed laws that reflected their indigenous people’s values.  This small South American country passed legislation that equated mother earth to have equal rights as humans. These rights include: “the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered.”

Bolivia’s Vice-President Alvaro García Linera stated. “It establishes a new relationship between man and nature, the harmony of which must be preserved as a guarantee of its regeneration.”

We need to follow Bolivia’s lead.  Our seventh principle states, “Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.”  This principle is in harmony with the actions that Bolivia has taken.  We, as Unitarian Universalists can no longer afford to have nicely worded principles that we can simply point to. We need our actions and our behaviors to reflect these principles not only in our daily lives but also in our activism to change our society towards one that is also in harmony with Mother Earth. In short, we need to be radically progressive in embodying our principles if we want a planet that is conducive to sustaining not just life, but human life.  Blessings,

From Compost to Social Action

I recently was at a congregation that was investigating what their next steps might be.  In discussing what their resources were and what the perceived needs might be in the community;  it arose in the conversation that they have been composting for years.  Thereby   creating a nutrient rich soil that is not being used. 

What about using the compost to grow a vegetable garden on their property and give the produce grown to the local food pantry. If regulations prohibit them from doing that, then sell the produce and donate the proceeds to enable the food pantry to purchase additional foods.   

It was noted that with the increasing number of families struggling to make ends meet in the current economic crisis that acquiring sufficient quality food will be difficult.  This would be one way of aiding the food pantry in town to provide additional quality food to those who are needing it.

The idea grew.  They had been contemplating having their Children’s Religious Education program this spring focus on the interdependent web of life and ecology.  The children could assist  in applying what they have learned by helping to grow the garden.  The parents and adults could also learn what the children have been learning by working alongside the children.  

It becomes an event that the entire congregation can participate in as a community.   It will aid in all of the members getting to know each other better in doing this service for others.  Beloved memories of this will live on in the history of the congregation. 

The compost which had been simply added to weekly would become a focal point in how the earth recycles itself to create soil.  It suddenly would become useful beyond just being there as home to earthworms.  Supplying it with food scraps and other vegetative matter suddenly becomes meaningful and useful instead of some concept idea that someone in the past convinced the congregation to do.

This simple resource already available to this congregation became a means to not only learn about values that Unitarian Universalists have but also how we apply those values to help better our world.   It became a possible means to help feed the hungry and aid them to survive the current economic crisis with hope.  It became a means to learn about ecology and recycling in practical ways.  It became a means to learning about food and its value to life.   It became a means for this small congregation to do some social action beyond their walls into the community in which they live.

I am excited about the possibilities this opens up for this congregation.  And I believe its goals are replicable for other congregations to also do in a simple yet profound way.   Blessings


When I first moved to Mississippi and Alabama, I noticed after the leaves had fallen from the oak and other trees, these round balls of green in the trees.  I had never seen this in trees in Chicago or in New England so it seemed strange to me.  I knew this was not a form of lichen or Spanish moss that is associated with the south.   When I mentioned this to others, I would sometimes get a nonchalant answer.  It was obvious that my new southern neighbors paid this strange sight no mind.  And they couldn’t understand why I thought this was so unusual.


The balls of green were the American Mistletoe.  One of two varieties that grow in North America. The Dwarf Mistletoe grows along the pacific west and southwest.  There are over 1300 species worldwide.  This is a hemi-parasitic plant which means that it is not entirely self-sufficient.  Once it has matured it no longer produces the sugars it needs through photosynthesis  and embeds itself into the bark of the host tree.  When looking at mistletoe in a tree, it looks like it is a natural branch of the tree only that its leaves are evergreen and it produces a whitish sticky berry. 

While long thought of as a parasite that eventually destroys its host, it turns out this plant is actually mutually beneficial to its host and the diversity of the ecology of the forests.  The Mistletoe provides shelter for nesting birds and small animals.  And several bird species feed on the seeds to survive the harsh winters.  There are also three species of Butterflies known as Hairstreaks that are totally dependent on the mistletoe for their existence.   The one pictured here is the Great Purple Hairstreak and the American Mistletoe is its feeding ground.

Most of us know the role that mistletoe plays in our Winter holidays.  It is prominent in Winter Solstice celebrations and Christmas celebrations.   But I had no idea it was so prominent a species in the American south.  And it is vital to a healthy forest ecology.

Published in: on December 27, 2008 at 1:04 pm  Comments Off on Mistletoe  
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28 September 2008: Bake Bread to Save the Planet

I am giving a sermon on Sufficiency on Sunday and in my research came across this man:  Satish Kumar.  He is the editor of Resurgence, a magazine dedicated to “raising awareness to the ecological and spiritual issues of our time.”  He has developed a Green Manifesto.  If you click on the link you can watch a short video about this manifesto. 

Anyway, he is promoting what he is calling Slow Sundays.  The first Slow Sunday was held on July 27 2008.  A day where we return to the more simpler days of family time, no shopping or consumerism, a day where we honor each other.  In short, a return to a sabbath rest.  He is also calling for this to be a day of baking bread as a defiant stance to the mass consumerism that has taken over modern global society.   He states that this act would reduce the carbon foot print of families significantly for that day.  It is a simple act.  A small act.  But a profound act that would reconnect people to the earth for our sustanence. 

In my early 20’s I baked bread quite a bit.  I enjoyed the kneeding and rolling of the dough.  It had a rhythmic flow to it.  There was something connective about the process and of course, something magical about watching the dough rise with yeast.  Bread was alive.  It was living food. My favorite bread to make was swedish rye bread.  Its aroma would fill the house with thoughts of well-being and nurturance.   

Satish Kumar is asking that 28 September 2008 be a day for baking bread.  A day to spend time with friends and family doing activities that are not consuming our resources or leaving a carbon foot print.  Its a small act.  But maybe it is always the small acts that bring about the biggest changes, like the butterfly flapping its wings here and causing a hurricane over the atlantic.

I think I will be baking bread in the near future… Blessings,

Published in: on September 5, 2008 at 11:32 am  Comments Off on 28 September 2008: Bake Bread to Save the Planet  
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