This is the fourth and last Earth Month Messenger for 2020. But we pray that our joy in and concern for the Earth will continue and grow and blossom in the months ahead. In particular, there will be one special virtual event in June, that was not able to be scheduled in May that we hope all our followers will participate in — see PLASTIC below.
Beloved, we have been given a good creation, the love of a gracious God, and a spirit that invites us to delight, even as we love and serve the lord, through loving our neighbors, and being good stewards. In the midst of this pandemic, may we advocate for living in relationship with God’s creation, not through fear, something our world has plenty of these days, but through the delight that God has given to us, when we provide enough for all.
Pastor David Norse Thomas, May 10, 2020
Every little thing we can do to protect, preserve and cherish our fragile environment is important and worthwhile, but ultimately the future of mankind on this the planet depends upon our tackling the big issues, issues that are beyond the ability of a single person to change, issues that require collective action by communities and nations.
Communities and nations make change though policies and politics; individuals in democracies participate through advocacy and voting. Advocating and voting for policies that promote justice and sustainability is one way that we Christians demonstrate our love for our neighbors.
Across the globe, leaders are acknowledging that after the Pandemic, there will be a global effort of reconstruction, that presents the possibility of creating a new normal. We have learned, for example, that with fewer people out and about, and less traffic on the roads and in the air, the air and the water all around the globe have become significantly less polluted. We should all be advocating that the new normal will be a more just and greener normal.
Policy Issues We are Following at MPC
Environment – – the surroundings or conditions in which a person, animal, or plant lives or operates.
Justice — the quality of being fair and equitable
Environmental Justice —fair and equitable living conditions and a healthy environment for all.
One of the major points in the news we have heard about the Coronavirus is that people of color, especially those who are Latinx or African-American, are disproportionately affected; more cases, more deaths. One doesn’t have to ponder this issue too long to decide it makes sense. Many minority communities are victims of environmental injustice. That makes them high-risk in a pandemic situation.
Here is a list of 10 environmental justice issues that affect minority communities. These factors diminish the overall health of our fellow citizens.
· Air pollution
· Industrial Sites and Illegal Waste Dumping
· Mercury Exposure
· Water Safety
· Transit Justice
· Food Deserts
· Sparse Urban Green Space
· Lead Poisoning
· Climate Change and Basic Living
· Heat in the City
Imagine living in the dire shadow of all these conditions, where redlining years ago forced you into a specific area which then was surrounded with industrial sites that pollute the air and dump toxic waste, polluting the water. Naturally, these areas are poorly serviced by conveniences like grocery stores and reliable mass transit. Green spaces for children to run and play games are lacking. To add insult to injury the temperatures are going up, air conditioning is unaffordable and the cost of everything is more.
We should advocate with our congressional representatives for the passage of the Environmental Justice for All Act , H.R.5986: “A BILL To restore, reaffirm, and reconcile environmental justice and civil rights, provide for the establishment of the Inter-agency Working Group on Environmental Justice Compliance and Enforcement, and for other purposes.”
THE GREEN AMENDMENT
There is a growing movement in Maryland for an amendment to the state constitution that would state that citizens have a right to clean air, clean water and a healthy environment. What this would achieve is that the arguments of those who work for and advocate for health and environmental justice would be backed up by the state’s constitution and thus gain authority and credibility. Any enterprise that corrupted the environment would be in violation of this right to a healthy environment and thus unconstitutional.
This is a complicated legal matter and there are lots of different views and plenty of vested interests who do not want to see this happen. Green amendments are being pushed for in eighteen states. The movement is well under way in Maryland . Legislation was introduced in the General Assembly this year but like many legislative struggles it may take several years to achieve success. It is a struggle worth pursuing.
It has changed the way we live. It is everywhere. We use it without thinking, and then discard it without thinking. But now we realize that this material, with so many uses, made from petrochemicals from the ground, whatever its usefulness, is doing great damage to Earth’s environment and in many cases to Earth’s inhabitants also. That is why we have been supporting efforts to gain legislation to regulate and reduce the use of plastics, such as in plastic shopping bags. And this is why we are eliminating “single-use” plastics from Maryland Presbyterian Church.
But this is a global issue, not just a local one, as is graphically portrayed in the film “The Story of Plastic.” MPC is sponsoring a virtual showing of this film on Wednesday, June 10, followed by a Zoom-based discussion of what the implications are, and how we should respond. Here is a teaser .
Keep the date free. Plan to join in. Get your friends to join in also. Watch for a future communication with all the details.
Rachel Carson’s 1962 book, “Silent Spring,” raised the world’s awareness of the dangers of DDT, a widely used insecticide that played a large part in fighting malaria and other diseases, but also caused major damage to wildlife, especially birds. Bald eagles and the ospreys almost disappeared. Banning DDT in most countries has enabled these species to recover, with important benefits to ecosystems like the Chesapeake Bay. But Carson’s major contribution was to make the world realize that the earth and its inhabitants are vulnerable, that we humans need to be careful about the toxic substances we spread around, whatever their apparent benefits.
Right now, the most prominent equivalent to DDT is chlorpyrifos . Chlorpyrifos is called a “ broad-spectrum ” insecticide because it can kill a wide variety of insects. But its potential impact goes beyond insects. The insecticide is “toxic” to birds and “extremely toxic” to fish, according to the National Institute of Health. It’s also “extremely toxic” to non-target insects such as bees. Chlorpyrifos can also be toxic to children and adults. People can be exposed to the insecticide by inhaling it, especially from indoor air, and through the skin. The EPA also notes the possibility of exposure from treated golf courses.
The Obama Administration was preparing to ban chlopyrifos but this plan was not carried out after 2016. The current EPA has determined that a ban is not necessary – that the current regulations provide adequate protection.
Marylanders were not satisfied with this weakening of environmental safeguards and advocates here mounted a campaign over several years to introduce a ban, opposed by the agriculture industry and golf course operators. MPC members, led by our Sustainability Action Group for the Earth (SAGE) joined this effort, along with partner organizations including Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake and the Smart on Pesticides Coalition. In the closing days of the (abbreviated) legislative session, the Bill was passed through both houses of the legislature.
Governor Hogan just recently vetoed the bill.
Now the plan is to wait until the next legislative session, when it is expected that the veto will be overturned.
TO GET STARTED AS AN ADVOCATE
The first, most basic step in becoming an effective advocate is to know who are your representatives in the Maryland legislature and in Congress. Take a little time to do this. Use this link to connect you to a website where you will enter your address and be given a list of your state and federal representatives and links to connect to each of their websites, through which you can get their contact information.
TO CONCLUDE: A BEDTIME STORY REFLECTION
“The Great Realization”
CONTRIBUTORS to our four Earth Month Messengers this month: Joy Brown, Joe Wright, Sam Erdman, Carol Mason, Karen Wright, Lorraine Eakin, Lynn Flanigan, Jane Pennington, Bill Breakey.