50 Ways to Help Save the Earth: How You and Your Church Can Make a Difference
The green movement has taken root among Christians, with individuals and churches embracing eco-justice as a vital part of discipleship. In this four-part series, we will be excerpting chapters from 50 Ways to Help Save the Earth: How You and Your Church Can Make a Difference by environmental activist Rebecca Barnes-Davies, who makes a clear connection between caring for the earth and living one’s faith. Taking action is important, but it’s also about “not doing,” says Barnes-Davies. Knowing when to let go of control, doing no harm, resting, celebrating, and trusting that God is doing the work to care for creation, are all essential elements to her approach. Each chapter offers seven action items, ranging from individual efforts to activities that encourage the involvement of church and community. There are practical suggestions, relevant facts and background material, success stories, additional sources of information, and appropriate scripture references.
Want to win a copy of 50 Ways to Help Save the Earth? See contest rules just below our excerpt.
Watch What You Eat
The foods we raise, consume, and ship around the world require vast energy and natural resources. In addition, they also impact local ecosystems. Natural balance is overturned in streams, lakes, and oceans when we consume more fish than can be reproduced naturally. Also, genetically engineered crops raised for consumption influence wild plants, upsetting biodiversity. Finally, factory farming and industrial agriculture reduce the varieties and types of produce and animals and limit the genetic diversity that used to exist around the globe.
Eat your fruits and veggies! Eating lower on the food chain saves energy and other resources. When you eat a variety of grains, fruits, and veggies, you will diversify both your diet and the animal kingdom.
Try to buy “simple” foods. If the ingredients list includes a lot of ingredients you don’t recognize, try to choose a simpler item.
Buy dolphin-safe tuna if you eat tuna.
If you buy …
This is not a suggestion to drink less water. It is, instead, a suggestion to curtail wasteful, personal use of water in our homes and congregations. There are both simple and more complicated things that we can do to reduce our water consumption. While one in six people in the world still lacks access to safe drinking water, most of us in the United States have potable water whenever we want. If we had to walk a few miles for the water we use to drink, clean, and cook, we probably would think a bit more about it and would certainly use less of it. While the world’s population grows, access to clean water is going to become an increasingly serious concern…
I’ve done a fair share of shopping in my lifetime. I’ve shopped for shoes, for good restaurants, and for colleges. One thing I’ve never done is shopped for a church.
So begins my part in the latest shopping trend. Just two months out of college and two weeks into a new job in New York City, I’m starting my brand new life as a working woman. I have an apartment, I have a paycheck (albeit miniscule), but I still don’t have a church.
It’s not an easy transition to make. My experiences with Mass at my alma mater, Fordham University, were some of the richest of the past four years. The emphasis on Ignatian spirituality, the incredible community, phenomenal preaching, support and fellowship that occurred every Sunday night at 9 p.m. in the University Church ignited my faith life, and heightened my awareness of the way God can work through others. But knowing I can no longer call that church home is disheartening. How can I ever find a church and a faith community that has everything my college campus ministry had?
Over the past five months, President Barack Obama and his family have been visiting local churches and meeting ministers in the search for a new spiritual home. After notoriously breaking off his relationship with former pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright last year, Obama withdrew his membership at the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. In D.C., the Obamas have had a bit of a chaotic church shopping experience — as lines formed hours before morning services in anticipation of the President’s arrival. The fear of feeling on display is what reportedly led Obama to select Evergreen Chapel, the nondenominational church at Camp David, as his family’s primary place of worship.
The Obamas’ shopping experience sheds light on what seems to be a growing trend among young spiritual seekers. After a move, graduation, or relocation, many find themselves visiting multiple places of worship, and weighing all options to find a spiritual home that works for them.
The young and the parish-less
After graduating from college, …
While supporting local farmers, eating organic, and eating lower on the food chain are all healthy and helpful, gardening is the hands-on way to connect with the beautiful biodiversity of God’s good earth. It is the most direct way to make sure food, seeds, and the knowledge of growing food stays in the local community. It is also a way to make sure heirloom plants do not become extinct and that your produce is raised exactly with your standards. When it comes to climate change, small gardens with a variety of plantings may be a good way for local communities to prepare…
For those of us of the “spiritual but not religious” generation, it’s a hymn to our ears when a visionary like Michael Franti (of Spearhead) sings, “God is too big for just one religion.” Among my peers, monotheism may not be on the way out but mono-religionism is long gone. We spend less time in churches, but more time embodying spiritual principles through practices like yoga and meditation.
Globalism and discount airfares have bred a whole new level of cross-pollinated, hyphen-empowered seekers. A friend of mine calls himself a Zen-Baptist, while we all know of Sufi-spinning Jews, born-again Hindus, and more mongrel faiths than God likely intended when the Tower of Babel fell.
I was raised in a liberal Catholic household, where mysticism was encouraged, women’s choice and gay rights supported. Over the years, when home environment gave way to church dictates in defining the family’s religion, I rebelled and sought other outlets. Living in the southwestern United States, where Native American practices are frequently seen if less frequently understood, consideration of “the other” seemed natural. Practices tied to the earth would evolve into the center of my search.
But early in my Catholic education, I had learned about Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk known for his contemplative approach to Christianity. Even when I broke out to pursue my own spiritual path — which favored Eastern philosophies over what I considered, in my loving non-judgmental state, “stupid insane repressive Catholic dogma” — Merton’s teaching stayed with me. His questions were my questions, and they seemed to anticipate my feeling that “the official rules” were just so much static, and that the music was something to find beyond all that noise.
Globalism and discount airfares have bred a whole new level of cross-pollinated, hyphen-empowered seekers. A friend of mine calls himself a Zen-Baptist, while we all know of Sufi-spinning Jews, born-again Hindus.
Apparently, his influence is still powerful—and cross-generational. In June, The International Thomas Merton Society hosted its eleventh biennial conference at Nazareth College in Rochester, NY. Over 300 people attended, 20 of …
Many of us grew up being told to turn off the lights when we leave a room or to not hold the refrigerator door open while looking for a snack. While small, these and other suggestions to conserve energy are still important. Those who have taken any of the various online “ecological footprint” quizzes have learned that it would take four to ten Earths if everyone were to consume energy the way a middle-class American does. Knowing that we only have one Earth, and that most of our energy right now comes from nonrenewable, unsustainable sources, it is essential that we learn the most important ways to reduce our personal energy consumption. Small commitments add up…
Heidi Minx’s tattoo-inspired clothing and styles have been featured by Spencer’s Gifts and peta2, on snowboards, guitars and the bodies of rock musicians worldwide, but lately the New York-based merchandising maven has her designs on matters of the heart. After working with Tibetan refugees in India last year, Minx launched the nonprofit organization, Built on Respect, enlisting grassroots support from bands such as Pennywise, Sick of It All, Channel 3 and the Cro-Mags along the way. When in India, Minx shares her business savvy by working with the Tibet Hope Center, Jamtse in Action, and the Institute of Tibetan Thangka Art; back home her goal is to educate anyone interested and “make a positive difference in as many people’s lives as possible.”
Busted Halo: How does this sort of work tie in with your spiritual beliefs?
Heidi Minx: I’ve never been too good ‘on the mat’ or sitting still to meditate. But to me, Built on Respect is dharma in action, “putting others before self,” to use the Tibetan Children’s Villages motto.
BH: How did you transition from the world of fashion to philanthropy?
HM: Fashion was almost more of an accident, it really just happened when people began to pay attention to tattoo art, and my own individual style. If I find that at the end of the day it has no benefit, and isn’t making the world a better place, then what the hell am I doing? I know I am very idealistic, I think years in the punk and hardcore worlds limited my vision to black and white — there is not much grey. If I firmly believe in something, I put my whole self into it, and don’t let much get in the way. I certainly don’t have a ton of money; some days, I seriously wonder how I pay my rent, but somehow I do. You can’t always write a check to make things better — I’ve always thought education is the great equalizer. Poverty, sickness
This began around his first birthday, when he developed a massive love for flags. Every time we passed one on our walks, he’d point straight at it, his face lit up. This past Fourth of July, when a local realtor stuck business-card-bearing flags into every lawn on our street, Matthew was in ecstasy. My husband and I joke that in sixteen years he’ll shun any political candidate who doesn’t wear the stars and stripes on a lapel pin.
It’s not that he knows what the flag stands for, of course. I’d guess that his passion is a mix of things: the movement of cloth in the breeze; the bright colors; the fact that he sees something he recognizes. But his unabashed enthusiasm has made me think about my own relationship to Old Glory — and to the republic for which it stands.
I’ve never been what you’d call a patriotic person. Yes, I’ve always loved the Fourth of July, but it’s more for the barbecues and the fact that it’s the first real holiday of the long lazy summer. In college and my early twenties, when I studied and then worked in Paris, I diligently tried to avoid being pegged as an American. Living abroad gave me a new perspective on our country: I was critical of our consumption of fuel and food, of the fact that we did not make learning foreign languages a priority. Whenever someone mistook me for Italian or Spanish (which happened often), I was loath to correct them.
Like many Americans, my patriotism grew after 9/11. The magnitude and evil of the attacks affected me deeply. These terrorists just don’t get us, I thought to myself. They don’t realize that most Americans are, fundamentally, generous and good people. The heroism of rescue workers, survivors, and mourning families and friends made me proud. My country became something to defend. But, all too quickly, our government’s response to the attacks made me retreat into my former feelings. The last several years …
When Dr. Hill removed his future son-in-law’s ruptured appendix two weeks before the wedding, it gave me a great line for the homily: “Salim is the only guy in history who is happy to see his father-in-law coming toward him with a knife.” It also gave me confidence in surgery. As I watched Salim and Bridget dance at the reception, I thought, “If Dr. Hill can make somebody that well, that quickly, maybe I should give him a call.”
Had to happen sometime. After passing fifty without ever having gone under the knife… it was time. The hernia on my bellybutton that used to be golf ball-size, was now a baseball. My waiting for it to fix itself didn’t seem to be working.
Dr. Hill looked at me and said, “Let’s see. You have to go to Alaska and help out in parishes in a couple of weeks. We could take care of this on Friday.”
“I have a lot this weekend. Alumni Weekend. A talk, masses,” I said.
“OK, then we’ll go on Monday,” Dr. Hill replied, noting the date on the chart. My fervent hopes that this could be put off until August were not working out.
“That only leaves me nine days recuperation. Will that be enough time?” I asked.
“No time is good for these things. Might as well just get it done,” opined the good doctor. “You don’t want to run into trouble up in Alaska. But it’s up to you.”
It wasn’t the hospital or the operation itself that bothered me. I’ve spent a lot of time in hospitals… just never as a patient. No, what worried me was pain. I’m no candidate for suffering. I’m just a priest, not Jesus. I was a linebacker years ago — more apt to cause than suffer pain.
Fortunately I knew the hospital, Lourdes, in Camden, NJ, very well from my 15 years as a priest at Holy Name Church there. But this was new. Pre-op: EKG, blood and urine …
Fathers: They’re revered, adored and at times feared — even despised. No matter how you see your dad, you can’t argue with the fact that the way he fathered impacts your idea of family.
Anthropologist Don Conway-Long is fascinated with the shifting role of fathers in an ever-changing world. He teaches courses on gender and critical masculinity studies at Webster University in St. Louis. Conway-Long shares his thoughts on baby boomer and Generation X parenting on this Father’s Day.
Busted Halo: What’s your personal experience with fatherhood?
Don Conway-Long: I’m a stepfather, grandfather and uncle. I have three, thirtysomething daughters whom I inherited in their early teens. I’m not their biological father, but does that really matter?
BH: How involved was your father with raising you as a child?
DCL: He wasn’t. His generation didn’t do that. There were also other circumstances. We were a military family where there was discipline and rigid, sex-oriented roles — men did this, women did that. It was also a generation where the fathers worked all day, and then became weekend warriors when they made you do things they wanted to do. That’s the memory many of us had. I believe that’s partly behind our generation’s desire to not father like our fathers did. My father, who’s 78, regrets it now. Interestingly, he’s a truly involved grandfather. It’s a common thing that happens to men of his generation. They may not have been involved as fathers, but they become really involved with their grandkids.
BH: When did society’s concept of fatherhood change?
DCL: Three things happened to our generation. There was a renegotation of power between men and women. Women’s attitude changed, they no longer accepted that they had to stay at home. They became more powerful, and more demanding about sharing responsibilities at home. The economy also changed, and raising a family now required two breadwinners. The third piece was psychological. Dad wasn’t there for them, so the men of today recognize that as the missing link for connecting with their children.
In the few days since we published our interview with Jim Caviezel, events surrounding the election in Iran have added special resonance to his new film, The Stoning of Soraya M. (opens June 26). In the movie, based on an actual event that occurred in Iran in 1986, an Iranian woman is the lone voice protesting the stoning of her niece under Sha’ria law.
In the following interviews, the film’s star, Shohreh Aghdashloo, director Cyrus Nowrasteh and producer Stephen McEveety (Braveheart, The Passion of the Christ) discuss what compelled them to make this powerful and disturbing film. As Iranian-Americans, Aghdashloo—who is familiar to American audiences for her Oscar nominated performance in House of Sand and Fog—and Nowrasteh have very personal connections to both the subject matter of their film and the way a very similar mix of Islamic law and civil justice is playing out in the current Iranian election crisis.
Busted Halo: This has got to be a really tough week for you. This movie has suddenly taken on a deeper resonance because of events in Iran. Can you talk a little bit about what you’re feeling this week?
ShohrehAghdashloo: Absolutely, it’s amazing. I have mixed feelings, I have to tell you. I feel happy, I feel sad. I feel sad for the people who are dying. I feel happy for the people who have decided at last, after 30 years, to take their destiny in their own hands. I am happy to hear all the dialogues that are coming out of Iran now, when before we were only hearing monologues coming down from the clerics dictating how people should live, talk, walk, and behave. Now we’re hearing dialogues. We’re hearing people asking for — shouting for — recounts, and we’re hearing the government saying yes we are going to recount. This is all very healthy; of course very dangerous as well.
Being at the center of one of the highest grossing movies of all time can be both a blessing and a curse for an actor. The world now recognizes their name and face, but a role can be so iconic that they’ll have trouble breaking free of it in audiences’ minds (Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, for example.) If the role in question happens to be Jesus of Nazareth, that effect can be magnified many times over. It is a predicament that Jim Caviezel knows all too well. When Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ was released in 2004, Caviezel, a devout Catholic, went from being a Hollywood actor who worked steadily to being the star of one of the most controversial — and profitable — films in movie history.
Since then Caviezel has kept a relatively low profile, but when Passion producer Stephen McEveety approached him about The Stoning of Soraya M. (opens June 26), based on the true story of an innocent Iranian woman who was stoned to death in 1986, Caviezel signed on. He plays Freidoune Sahebjam, the French-Iranian novelist/journalist whose 1994 book inspired the film, a supporting role to the film’s stars, Academy Award nominee Shohreh Aghdashloo (House of Sand and Fog) and Mozhan Marnò. Caviezel hopes the movie will draw attention to women’s rights violations around the world. (To get involved with organizations working on this issue, click here or see our list of contacts at the end of our Q&A.)
In the interview that follows, 40-year-old Caviezel is surprisingly open about faith in a secular world, the effect The Passion has had on his career and why, five years after The Passion, he was drawn to another project that takes place at the controversial intersection of religious belief — Islam in this case — and graphic violence.
My life is quite busy. By day, I am an educator for young people and adults caught up in the criminal justice system. By night, I am a freelance writer. By vocation, I am an ordained minister seeking to reach the world in nontraditional ways. And by age, I am a thirtysomething New Yorker trying to live in and enjoy the city. My load is so full that I think it’s becoming harder to spend time with friends, and also, sadly, God. I am not one to say that I am too busy for God. But I must admit that I’ve become too busy to connect with Him in the traditional way I’ve been taught. I’m talking about the “waking up at 5 a.m. to pray, meditate, read my bible and worship” kind of way. But instead of getting down on myself with the “Bad Christian” pity party, I’ve searched for another connection option; a technological, mobile one, if you will.
This is the information age. It is also an age when we connect to others through mobile devices and social networking. Being the techie that I am, I recently decided to use this technology to help me connect with God in a more consistent way. Ironically, the technology they make us believe we can’t live without has helped me stay connected to the God I can’t afford to live without.
So this is an ode. Better yet, this is a literary blessing to all of the technology (a.k.a. tech angels) that I believe is being divinely used to help me maintain my relationship with the Father. These tech angels are also showing me that, although I have a lot going on, I can still make time to feed my soul. So for all their help, I pray for a blessing upon them.
God Bless the iPhone — You’ve seen the commercials. If you have a need, there seems to be an iPhone application for it, even if it is a spiritual one. Do you ever get the desire to read your bible …
What does it mean to religiously attend church, temple or synagogue, live in a community where G-d’s laws are first and foremost, and then deliberately go on the internet in order to break one of the most sacred of commandments: Thou shall not commit adultery? It is no surprise that the internet has become an electronic meeting place for married men and women looking to have affairs; it may come as a shock, however, to learn that the web is also the hub for a growing number of ultra religious married people looking to start extramarital affairs with people who share their faith.
On sites like Craigslist and AshleyMadison.com (which carries the motto “Life is short. Have an affair.”) people who self-proclaim as “religious” can be found seeking out others of their faith tradition to be unfaithful with. In the past, philandering religious men went to strip clubs and so-called “kosher” brothels to retreat from their wives in secret. But there appears to be a trend of religious men and women seeking out affairs online; and one man has founded a website tailored specifically to his community’s needs.
“Every day I would see ads on Craigslist from the “frum” community. My wife and I started talking to them and realized there was a big need for this,” said Jerry (who does not wish to disclose his last name for safety), founder of Shaindy.com. Shaindy.com is tailored mainly to the religious and Jewish seeking extramarital affairs. Though the site is only two months old, Shaindy.com — with the tag line, “Jews Can Have Fun Too” — already has 2,500 members paying $99 annually for the right to log on and seek out other married people interested in having an affair.
“People always like to think that we are holier than thou,” Jerry said, who himself is a member of the Orthodox community. “Our community has the same needs as any other community — dating, drugs, cheating or whatever, and it’s silly to think we are ‘different.’”
Clearly they know it’s not Halachic
In fact, …
I attend church in a left-leaning parish that specializes in outreach services to students at the local university. It succeeds so well that every Sunday night at 7 p.m., the place turns into Studio 54 — a magnet for coltish, confident, overachieving young Catholics who glow as though someone tossed them into a swimming pool filled with chrism.
Or so it seemed to me two and a half years ago, when I began to attend catechism classes offered through the parish’s RCIA program. I was a thirty-four-year-old bachelor and grad school dropout. Since leaving the academic life, I’d bounced from one office job to the next. My own glow had long since faded.
But, in church, the promise of renewal hung in the very air. Through the rite of baptism, I was to be reborn in the spirit. Why, I began to wonder — as I watched the young Olympians prance off to drink microbrew and (I imagined, gnashing my teeth) abuse their flesh — could I not also hope for a backward projection of ten measly years, to the time when women wanted to date me and men gave a hoot in hell for my views on the threat of Russian expansion in the Baltic?
As I memorized the difference between doctrine and dogma, and the importance of perfect contrition, I filled my closet with Ed Hardy t-shirts and highlighted my hair. Every Sunday after Mass let out, I dutifully took my place in the small smoking section by the parking lot, waiting for God to grant me admission to a Ph.D. program, along with a girlfriend with bangs and a nose ring.
A fool’s errand
It didn’t happen. After smoking hundreds of cigarettes and striking as many Mickey Rourke-ish poses, I realized I was on a fool’s errand. An overripe thirtysomething can only keep his dignity in the company of his coltish juniors if they’re being threatened by town rowdies, and he’s Billy Jack.
The unofficial start of summer usually begins with barbecues, a long weekend away, visiting relatives, or heading to a beach town to visit your summer share cottage. Whatever your choice has been in the past, this year’s dreadful economy is bound to make at least some, if not most, of us reevaluate our summer vacation plans.
Even if financial concerns aren’t causing you to take a second look at vacation plans, you may be tired of the same old, same old. So Busted Halo decided to take a look at 5 possible vacations — ranging from lavish steals for the budget conscious, to family friendly activities, to serving those in need.
Want to experience a new culture at a low cost and simultaneously help others in need? Several organizations now offer the opportunity to help others in the third world, improve the environment, or serve the needs of others in another area. Often these vacations last for about a week — you learn about a new culture, meet fun people with similar concerns, and get to travel to a foreign country at the fraction of the usual cost.
One should note that while the word vacation is in the title of these adventures, they should not be mistaken for traditional vacations. This is hard work — in might mean waking early and finishing a day’s work long into the evening. A trip I took to Nicaragua had us up at 6 a.m. to paint a roof before the sun baked down on us by 10 a.m. When the weather got too hot, we’d move on to an indoor repair project, or play with orphans,
For some it was the shot heard round the world. When Cardinal Francis George got up to preach on a cold Saturday evening more than a decade ago his message was even more bracing than the Chicago weather outside Old St. Pat’s church. “Liberal Catholicism is an exhausted project” he said. “Essentially a critique, even a necessary critique at one point in our history, it is now parasitical on a substance that no longer exists. It has shown itself unable to pass on the faith in its integrity and is inadequate, therefore, in fostering the joyful self-surrender called for in Christian marriage, in consecrated life, in ordained priesthood.”
It was a sermon that stung many in the congregation who had walked over from a nearby hotel where the National Center for the Laity (NCL) had been sponsoring a large conference on the Church in the 21st Century. This all occurred during the Paleolithic age of the internet when human activity was still primarily reported on by editors at print publications or producers at TV networks. The dawn of the blogosphere was still ages away — information evolutionists place it sometime in late 2001 — so we were spared the wildfire of invective, accusation, incrimination and virtual excommunication that characterizes much of the scorched-earth blogologue among Catholics today. Sadly the same cannot be said for the current controversy regarding President Obama’s invitation to speak at Notre Dame, which has ignited an ugly — and too-often anonymous — call and response in the fractious choir of Catholic punditry.
I was there that night listening to the Cardinal in a pew at the back of Old St. Pat’s, but I have to confess that, selfishly, my overriding emotion was simply relief that my presentation at the NCL conference that afternoon had gone smoothly. I had been asked to give a short talk on how I was able to reconcile my life as a secular musician and singer/songwriter with my Catholic faith. I had never addressed a religious group before and I had been struggling …
Some call it intuition. Divine insight. Animal instinct. God’s Will. Whatever we label this natural ability to tune in to a deeper inner voice, the question remains: How do we develop discernment in the middle of chaos and indecision?
He may not call it the voice of God, but according to pop-sociologist Malcolm Gladwell, best selling author of The Tipping Point, relying on your first gut reaction is a good way to gamble when it comes to making hard decisions.
In his follow-up book about how we make decisions, Blink, Gladwell looks at a team of firefighters interviewed about their decision-making process during moments of emergency. He concludes that when these professionals make decisions — like evacuating their entire team seconds before a burning ceiling collapses — they don’t logically compare all available options. Instead, they draw on impulse and previous training to assess the situation quickly and act.
What Gladwell is driving at, and what has baffled scholars for ages is: How do we decide? His premise, basically, is that we subconsciously process information more quickly and more efficiently than we might think. This leaves a question of context: If we really are evaluating millions of facts very quickly, how can we move toward a more intentional process?
A more intentional process
James Martin, a Jesuit Priest and author of several books including Becoming Who You Are, believes this kind of sensitivity is formed when we recognize the desires of our own heart.
“God is always calling us to make right decisions,” explains Martin. “His voice is like a drop of water on a sponge: it encourages, leads, and comforts you. It is a gentle invitation. But the spirit that pulls you away from God is like water falling on a stone: it is severe, startling, and causes a gnawing anxiety.”
For St. Ignatius of Loyola, 16th century Spanish saint and founder of the Jesuits, the discernment of spirit requires calm, rational reflection. “If you plunge a cup into a pond and scoop up muck from the bottom,” says Martin, “it will take awhile for …