Monday, March 28, 2011

Let the Sun Shine; Let it Rain!


Ric Masten’s song says, “Let the sun shine, let it rain.” And we might as well. As Tina Whittle said last week, she can’t cast a spell to stop the Spring from coming. And I say, “Glory hallelujah to that!” I told my mom that I was going to do a sermon on the weather and she replied, “Did ya’ll run out of things to talk about over there?”

Even though the changing weather is a constant thing, news of the weather and other natural events has caught my attention recently. I usually read my news on the internet – but sometimes also watch it on TV. In addition to the daily war news, the big news also seems to center around weather and natural disasters. And I’m reminded of this Creedance Clearwater song.

(Note to reader: Here you have to imagine me going over to the piano to play and sing“Bad Moon Rising.”)

I see the bad moon arising.
I see trouble on the way.
I see earthquakes and lightnin'.
I see bad times today.


CHORUS:
Don't go around tonight,
Well, it's bound to take your life,
There's a bad moon on the rise.

I hear hurricanes a-blowing.
I know the end is coming soon.
I fear rivers over flowing.
I hear the voice of rage and ruin.

(CHORUS)

Hope you got your things together.
Hope you are quite prepared to die.
Looks like we're in for nasty weather.
One eye is taken for an eye.

(CHORUS)

Yeah – if you watch the news, seems like there is always a bad moon rising.

But you know --- weather happens! You’ve probably heard the old saying:

“Whether the weather be fine, Whether the weather be not, Whether the weather be cold, Whether the weather be hot, We'll weather the weather, Whatever the whether, Whether we like it or not.”

Fortunately, we live in a pretty good climate here in South Georgia – and we’ve had to face few natural disasters – although we’ve had some times of drought that have been pretty tough. Now many of you have lived other places and have weathered some difficult storms. I had the opportunity to spend four Januarys in Chicago when I was in seminary. They required us to go for what they called the “J-term” just to make sure we were committed. One year, we had what I would term an outright blizzard while I was there. And it was a Saturday. We had class scheduled that Saturday because we had Monday off for the MLK holiday. And I had to cross over that midway at the University of Chicago – where the wind comes sweeping up from the Lake. Since it was Saturday, no one was about – and the sidewalks and roads were not cleared. So there I was trudging through this snowstorm – all by myself – (and this is before I had a cell phone) when it occurred to me ---- “Jane, you could slip down and hurt yourself – and be covered by snow really soon – and freeze to death – and no one would know it. Your classmates would think you just didn’t come. Jane – you could DIE out here.” That was scary. I made it to class and shared that I would just stay in that building overnight rather than go back out into the storm. Fortunately a group of hardy seminarians agreed to walk back with me and keep me safe. I’m sure you all have some similar scary weather stories. But for the most part, we weather the weather, whether we like it or not.

More recently, though, we’ve seen situations where folks have not been able to weather the weather and other natural events. You can’t blame Mother Nature – she’s just doing her thing – rocking and rolling, stretching and blowing, raining and pouring, temperatures soaring, at least she’s not boring, for sure.

Now please know that I’m not one of those climate change skeptics that say nothing is different than it has always been. Al Gore and lots of scientists have convinced me that climate change is real – and that this change is at least partially our fault. That “our” fault by the way – is not some generic pronoun standing for humanity--- it means – ME and YOU too; especially me and you because we live in the United States of America. I’m not using the projector today – but I’m sure you’ve seen the maps and the graphs that demonstrate how much of the carbon footprint comes from OUR big boot.

But what about all these natural disasters – some weather related and other geological? Are there really more of them? Saundra Schimmlpfennig, who is the founding director of the charity rater, does a pretty good job of responding to that question. Here’s what she says in a Huffington Post article:

“1. Some disasters are no more frequent nor severe than before but appear that way because they receive more news coverage. Earthquakes may seem more frequent because there are more stations set up to monitor earthquakes, and because we are now able to quickly receive news from all over the world. This creates the impression that there are more earthquakes than ever before. According to the U.S. Geological Survey …’earthquakes of magnitude 7.0 or greater have remained fairly constant throughout this century and, according to our records, have actually seemed to decrease in recent years.’

“2. Some natural disasters are no more frequent nor severe than before, but cause far more damage due to population growth and urban migration. The more people who are in the area, the larger the number of people that will be affected by a disaster. Overpopulation as well as urban migration may force people to live in marginal areas such as on unstable hillsides, in flood plains, on top of fault lines, or in shabbily constructed buildings. All of these factors increase the odds that more lives and livelihoods will be severely affected by a natural disaster.

“3. Some natural disasters are more frequent and more severe than ever before due to environmental degradation and climate change. Deforestation, over-grazing, river channelization, hardscaping (covering large swaths of landscape with asphalt and concrete), and many other activities impact the frequency and severity of natural disasters. Although the tsunami (in the Indian Ocean) was caused by an earthquake, the destruction it caused was greatest in areas where the mangrove swamps had been destroyed. Mangroves act as a sponge absorbing much of the force of the waves. In Thailand, the places with the greatest destruction were those with sandy beaches where the waves could travel kilometers inland, unimpeded.

“Also, climate change is raising sea levels and changing weather patterns in many parts of the world. As sea levels continue to rise, low-lying coastal areas become more prone to damage by wave surges, tropical storms and other coastal issues. Areas with increased rainfall risk flooding and landslides, while areas with decreased rainfall face crop failure, desertification, wild fires and other serious issues.”
(http://www.huffingtonpost.com/saundra-schimmelpfennig/why-are-there-so-many-nat_b_520992.html)

I also paid a visit to the Environmental Protection Agency site for some more verification. Their 2007 report indicated the following:

“Since 1950, the number of heat waves has increased and widespread increases have occurred in the numbers of warm nights. The extent of regions affected by droughts has also increased as precipitation over land has marginally decreased while evaporation has increased due to warmer conditions. Generally, numbers of heavy daily precipitation events that lead to flooding have increased, but not everywhere. Tropical storm and hurricane frequencies vary considerably from year to year, but evidence suggests substantial increases in intensity and duration since the 1970s.”

They further caution us that: “It is important to understand that directly linking any one specific extreme event (e.g., a severe hurricane) to human-caused climate change is not possible. However, climate change may increase the probability of some ordinary weather events reaching extreme levels or of some extreme events becoming more extreme. For example, …it is probable that heat waves will become more likely and progressively more intense over the course of decades under current climate change scenarios.” (http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/effects/extreme.html)

Now – you can go watch Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth or read any number of scientific reports to understand the connection of carbon dioxide output to climate change – and I’m sure you’ve seen many of these. But here’s a quick summary from Environmentalist Bill McGibbin of 350.org of the increase.

“In 1750, at the dawn of the industrial revolution, people lived in communities that were largely self sustaining. Populations were more or less stable, and people pretty much lived their whole lives not far from where they were born. The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 279 parts per million (PPM). Today, after centuries of improvements in public health, with vastly larger populations working in carbon-powered economies and driving many millions of cars, carbon dioxide measures 389 PPM, at least 39 PPM more than the outside limits of what has assured life as we know it. Keeping in mind that one must not confuse weather, which is immediate, with climate, which is long-range, and that perturbations in trends can and do occur, still it is painfully clear which way the wind is blowing, to borrow from Bob Dylan.” (http://www.350.org/)

Some folks say they feel so sorry for our Earth and what we are doing to her. But I say, the Earth WILL win in the end – until the sun dies out or some huge meteor implodes it into smaller pieces. The earth will survive for a very long time. But humanity and other living things on earth may not if we make it an impossible, unlivable, environment.

As Unitarian Universalists, we’ve stood for years with the environment – and we stood up early in this debate to say that we were going to do better. In 2006, we formalized our intent with a “Statement of Conscience” passed by our General Assembly. This statement is too long for me to share in this sermon. You can look this up on UUA’s web page. But I do want to read the 11 statements of personal practices that are included in the Call to Action. I share these in hopes that we can re-commit to these today. Yes, this is your altar call – if you will. I have been to Mount UUA.org and received these 11 commandments – or “calls to action.” After each statement, I invite you to say “Amen” as your commitment. Now, I know we can’t be perfect, but your hardy AMEN will indicate your commitment to focus on doing better than you have been doing in the past.
1. Reduce our use of energy and our consumption of manufactured goods that become waste;
2. Use alternative sources of energy to reduce global warming/climate change and to encourage the development of such sources;
3. Choose the most energy-efficient transportation means that meet our needs and abilities (e.g., walk, bike, carpool, use mass transit and communication technologies, and limit travel);
4. Determine our personal energy consumption and pledge to reduce our use of energy and carbon emissions by at least 20 percent by 2010 or sooner and into the future;
5. Reuse, recycle, and reduce waste;
6. Plant and preserve trees and native plants and choose sustainably harvested wood and wood products;
7. Eat and serve energy-efficient food that is locally produced and low on the food chain;
8. Use financial resources to encourage corporate social responsibility with reference to global warming/climate change;
9. Model these practices by committing to a life of simplicity and Earth stewardship;
10. Consume less, choose appliances that are rated energy-efficient (e.g., by the EPA Energy Star Program), and choose products and materials that are made from renewable resources and can be recycled at the end of their usefulness; and
11. Commit to continue to learn about the science, impact, and mitigation of global warming/climate change and communicate this knowledge by teaching about and discussing the problems and dangers of, and actions to address, climate change.

Now since I have been to the Mountain – I feel called to issue you and additional challenge. Here it is!

ENJOY this WONDERFUL Spring weather that we are having. This is a BEAUTIFUL time of year in Statesboro. Do not take it for granted. Not only are the days beautiful—but the nights are too. Rainy Nights in Georgia – never get me down. Enjoy the sunshine and enjoy the rain – and know it takes both to make a rainbow. And enjoy the wondrous moon. Tina explained to us last week that when it’s low in the sky – it looks bigger to our brain, though no one knows why. I know that’s true when I was visiting my son at a Florida beach, I saw that big moon rising over the Atlantic, and told him I wanted a picture of him with it. So I took my camera out and took the picture. But, alas, my camera has no brain. And the moon was much smaller in the picture. But oh, it’s glorious when it’s big in our brain. It’s a waning moon now – but I love it at every phase. I don’t see a BAD MOON Rising. I SEE a GOOD MOON Rising.

And I hereby take the liberty in this pulpit to change the lyrics (with apologies to John Fogerty) for a different verse to that Old Creedance song.

I see a good moon arising.
I see blessings on the way.
I see sunshine and rainbows
I see good times today.
Come on out tonight – and have the time of your life.
There’s a good moon on the rise.
Come on out tonight – and have the time of your life.
There’s a good moon on the rise.


May it be so!

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