Thursday, April 15, 2010

View from My Window

by Emilie Oyen

When you live in New York City, and you have two little children and a working husband, and there is no maid nor nanny but just you to wash and clean and wipe and soak and nurture and discard and scrape and return and store and recycle and bottle and burn and bemoan... well, there is a lot of thinking time, and often thoughts drift to terror and fear of the end of nature.

For example, I have been told that food discarded into the trash and sent to a landfill does not necessarily decompose. And I am aware that a massive, two-Texases-sized sludge-y plastic-y landfill exists out in the Pacific Ocean. These two facts haunt me as I clean up after dinner. On certain days, I feel that massive, Texas-sized landfill growing on my mind. Is it because---as the consumer and cleaner for one small family domain---I am aware of our significant consumer role that contributes to this destruction? Is it because, as a mother, I worry for the earth's health beyond my own lifetime? Who knows, but carrying this burden of guilt and fear---combined with my limited actions to address it (farmer's market, reusable grocery bags, recycling)---I've come to regard myself as a "Paralyzed Environmentalist." Full of concern: too scared to do much about it. I suspect there is an entire breed of us.

Alas, one day while I circled my apartment muttering to

myself about bananas that have the audacity to come wrapped in plastic, my brother arrived, smuggling a Bokashi kitchen composter into the pristine environs of Upper East Side. They let you in with that? I asked. He smiled, I leapt! Easy, simple, earthy, and even sort of fun. It takes up a tiny corner in my tiny kitchen, and earns the space it keeps. It lightens our trash; it lightens my burden. I have already become friends with a community gardener who did a backflip when I asked if she would take anaerobic dirt, and who awaits my first delivery. And honestly, carrying out the simple process of mixing food scraps with Bokashi and mushing it into the compost makes me feel connected to the earth----at least in my thoughts.---which is, hopefully, a first step out of paralysis.

(Above photo, member of the future generation; simple indoor compost; brother's beer bottles.)

Two-minute Video Explaining Sustainability

A concise explanation of what sustainability is and why it matters is always tough - here's a pretty good explanation from Real Eyes Sustainability out of Ireland.

It doesn't get into the whole concept of Strategic Sustainable Development - the 5-level framework for planning, the process of backcasting from the 4 sustainability principles, etc. - but it's a great intro, certainly the kind of thing we need more of.

(thanks to Gil Friend and The Natural Step for bringing it to our attention, and to Igloo Animations for creating it!)

Stay going.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

On Earth as it is in Heaven

by Emilie Oyen

One morning several years ago I was walking through the woods in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Dew clung to the glowing early-summer leaves, the air was rich. It was silent. No interruptions. My mind drifted as I walked, I lost track of time, of myself --- the usual --- until that point, I looked up from my thoughts and found a shaft of light spilling through a break in the trees. And you know for a brief moment it felt like heaven. 

Have you ever survived a long brutal winter to find, one March morning, the stem of a crocus pushing its up through the cold dirt? Have you watched the light play against a choppy ocean? Have you marveled at the delicacy of a moth's wings? Nature is divine, and every day it offers another miracle.
Nature is divine and sacred and glorious, and it is thus no wonder that Christians --- specifically students at Christian colleges ---- are dedicated to caring for it. And they are caring for God’s creation through action, such as recycling projects, river clean-ups, ecosystem restoration, and promoting green building.
The Green Awakenings Campus Report is the first report to document a phenomenon that is growing and that is a hopeful, spiritual pursuit of sustainable practice. The report details how Christian students and campus are working together for the renewal of God’s creation, and inspires others to join.

“We were shown that God reveals Himself through two books, His Holy Word and the Book of Nature, and both are important,” said Brittany Bennett, a student at Eastern University.

The report is divided into five geographical regions (Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Southwest, and West) with a number of campuses featured from each region, interspersed with student leadership profiles. It’s very accessible --- open to any page and begin reading, or find a region and compare projects. The short, engaging pieces offer ways to connect with any of the described projects: whether to join forces or to start something new.
When asked why a green revolution, one student replied, “A green revolution is only a byproduct of a lifestyle of stewardship in which God calls us to live. I find gardening spiritual because God is life, and God calls us to live. There is something so intimate about God taking time to create on Earth, because He loves us, because He wishes to enjoy a relationship with us.”

Above painting: Parkway Ridges by Jeff Pittman