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a human agenda

a human agenda

I, along with many EPA staff, are becoming increasing alarmed about the direction of EPA under your leadership. The policies this Administration is advancing are contrary to what the majority of the American people, who pay our salaries, want EPA to accomplish, which are to ensure the air their children breath is safe; the land they live, play, and hunt on to be free of toxic chemicals; and the water they drink, the lakes they swim in, and the rivers they fish in to be clean.”

These are parting words from Mike Cox, a retiring twenty-five year EPA employee, part of a letter sent to EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt.

Clean air is not a liberal agenda; it is a human agenda.

Clean water is not a liberal agenda; it is a human necessity.

A clean environment, an environment as free as possible from toxins harmful to life, human and otherwise, is not a liberal agenda; it is a human agenda.

The Environmental Protection Agency is not the enemy; not the enemy of progress, not the enemy of profitability. The EPA is the friend of the people, the friend of the earth, the friend of our children and grand-children. Only a fool would poison his own family for a short term gain. I pray neither we nor our elected leaders will be foolish …

this is our home

this is our home

This is our home, the home we share, the home given us as a gift and a blessing by our Creator, the home entrusted to us to preserve and protect and enjoy.

Cedar River tributary
Cedar River woods

This is our home! — the home we bequeath to our children and our grandchildren and to generations of children of God to come. And this home will feed them and enthrall them and delight them, too … if we care for it.

The new administration is proposing and enacting dramatic changes in governance on many fronts: a travel ban on immigrants and refugees from a few particular Muslim-majority nations, expanded deportation of undocumented residents, repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, removing protections for transgender youth, ramping up the nuclear arms race, a budget that sharply increases defense spending and makes radical cuts to program and agencies that are intended to serve and protect the most vulnerable of our citizens.

But of all the newly implemented policies, one of the most disturbing to me is the virtual abandonment of environmental stewardship. Here’s an excerpt from a New York Times op-ed by William Ruckelshaus, who served as the first administrator of the newly-created Environmental Protection Agency from 1970-1973 and again as EPA administrator under Ronald Reagan from 1983-1985:

One of the factors leading to the creation of E.P.A. was the recognition that without a set of federal standards to protect public health from environmental pollution, states would continue to compete for industrial development by taking short cuts on environmental protection. The laws that the E.P.A. administers create a strong federal-state partnership that has worked well for over 40 years. The federal government sets the standards and the states enforce them, with the E.P.A. stepping in only if the states default on their responsibilities.

Budget cuts that hurt programs that states now have in place to meet those duties run the risk of returning us to a time when some states offered industries a free lunch, creating havens for polluters. This could leave states with strong environmental programs supported by the public at a competitive disadvantage compared to states with weak programs. In other words, it could lead to a race to the bottom.

A race to the bottom is a race to a despoiled home, a ruined planet. Environmental protection is not a partisan issue. Ruckelshaus is a Republican, a Reagan Republican. If you pit business against environment, both lose. Both lose! Gutting the EPA serves no useful purpose, no purpose at all, except for some small short term profit for a few resource-exploitive industries at the expense of long term disaster.

And gutting the EPA seems to be the goal. Here is a sampling of proposed cuts in the fiscal 2018 Trump budget taken from a OregonLive report:

Beach water quality testing
2016 budget – $9,500,000
2018 proposed – 0

Diesel emissions reduction act
2016 budget – $50,00,000
2018 proposed – 0

Radon testing
2016 budget – $6,000,000
2018 proposed – 0

Environmental education
2016 budget – $8,700,000
2018 proposed – $555,000

Chesapeake Bay
2016 budget – $73,000,000
2018 proposed – 5,000,000

Puget Sound
2016 budget – $28,000,000
2018 proposed – 2,000.000

Great Lakes restoration
2016 budget – $300,000,000
2018 proposed – 10,000.000

Environmental justice
2016 budget – $6,700,000
2018 proposed – 1,500,000

Climate protection
2016 budget – $95,000,000
2018 proposed – $29,000,000

In other words, the government of the people, by the people and for the people has no interest in cleaning up polluted swimming beaches, dirty air, and poisoned homes, and has no interest in preserving some of our nation’s natural gems like Chesapeake Bay, Puget Sound, and the Great Lakes which account for 1/5 of the freshwater surface on the planet. There is no needed federal investment in preparing the next generation of good stewards of our precious natural resources and no interest in pursuing environmental justice, no interest in addressing the unbalanced impact of environmental degradation on vulnerable populations.

And climate change? The greatest looming threat to life in earth as we know it, undisputed by the overwhelming majority of climate scientists? We don’t need to worry about that. Making a few more bucks matters more. Right?

I pray that the administration will heed wise counselors like William Ruckelshaus and the will of the American people, the majority of whom who do care about preserving the environment (Gallup polling) even if the economy is adversely impacted, and do the right thing. This is our home!

god help us!

god help us!

Scott Pruitt, who as Oklahoma’s attorney general spent years suing the Environmental Protection Agency over its efforts to regulate various forms of pollution, was confirmed Friday as the agency’s next administrator.

God help us! I mean that quite literally — God help us! Because we have now as the steward of  lands that will outlive us and must remain viable in order to sustain the lives of our children and grandchildren a man who has done his best to undercut any attempts to preserve that viability, a man who has favored economic gain over environmental protection. May God help us and may God change his mind!

let the mountains (and the people) be!

let the mountains (and the people) be!

I have just returned from a nine day stay in West Virginia, enjoying the “wild and wonderful” landscape and doing work to help a low income family in Summers County. The people of West Virginia are hardworking and independent and more vulnerable to environmental health risks than residents of almost any other state.

Mountain top coal mining is doing great damage to the longterm viability of the West Virginia ecosystem and already constitutes a dire threat to human health by contaminating and/or shutting off sources of drinking water.

The Appalachian Community Health Emergency Act (H.R.526 – ACHE Act) asks the federal government to put a moratorium on new mountain top removal projects until its health risks are properly and fully assessed. Please ask your representatives to co-sponsor this bill and show that we are indeed “united” states when it comes to protecting each other from grave threats to health and well-being.

disconnected faith?

disconnected faith?

Cool Congregations logoIn a couple of weeks, our congregation will be hosting a “Cool Congregations” workshop, intended to promote an informed and committed response by people of faith to the serious environmental threat posed by global warming. We sent out a mailing describing the event to churches of every denomination in the metropolitan area and to all the UCC churches in northeast Iowa.

This week I have been making follow-up calls to a selected list of churches that had received the mailing — I had the A’s and B’s and C’s!

I have been surprised — and disheartened — by the palpable disconnect between many of these faith communities and any sense of responsibility for the health of the planet. Maybe it’s because the issue of global warming has become so politicized, though it is most difficult for me to see how this is in any way a partisan issue. Or maybe it’s because churches believe that even talking about global warming means being co-opted by some broader “liberal” agenda.

That is what I find disheartening, and disturbing. Who better should care about this earth than those who believe God made it? Who better should be eager to do all we can to keep it beautiful and pristine and life-sustaining than those who believe God made it good and left us in charge of keeping it good? What is the value of a faith that serves only to prepare us for “another life” and largely neglects this one? Where is the integrity in a faith waits longingly for a “new world” while letting this one “go to hell?”

Life is God’s gift to us, a most precious gift indeed. And we honor God best by taking good care of that gift … in its entirety! Not just taking care of souls, but bodies too! Not just honoring the Word, but the Word made flesh! Not just valuing the Spirit, but all that the Spirit brings to life, all that the Spirit brought to life when it moved over the waters at the dawn of creation!