Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Environmental Preservation- A Matter of Faith

Faith communities are increasingly speaking out about the spiritual dimensions of environmental conservation. This stands to reason - Are you honoring the Creator by destroying the Creation?

Last February, we attended a Shabbaton Sedar at Kolot Mayim - Victoria's Reform Jewish Congregation. This Sedar marked the Jewish Holy Day - Tu B'Shvat - traditionally the New Year for Trees. Increasingly this event has become a focal point for environmental awareness in the Jewish Faith.

At the end of the Sedar, Kolot Mayim invited a young woman from the local Sierra Club to speak about environmental conservation. During the discussion, she related that the local Anglican Congregation had hosted a workshop on the environment last year. During that event, congregation members were invited to fill out a carbon footprint survey. Not surprizingly, the congregation members averaged 11 tons of CO2/person/yr. This is right on the Canadian average for CO2 emissions and it also equates directly to an annual oil consumption of 24 bbls/person/year - right on the Canadian average.

Congregation members decided to look at ways they could reduce their environmental impact and took this as their spiritual duty for the next year. The Sierra Club representative had just met with the congregation and found that the average Carbon Footprint had fallen from 11 tons to 6 tons/person/year. This equates to a decrease in oil consumption from 24 to 13 bbls/person/year.

How was this accomplished?

Some improvements were made by individuals. Each family had done a home energy audit (and followed the recommendations) and personal habits were changed (using more public transit, walking rather than driving, etc). In addition to this, a major contribution was made by car-pooling,buying more local food and grocery shopping as a group etc. The group efforts required more planning and caused some inconvenience. However, they had a major unexpected benefit as well. The congregation had become much closer and began to experience a true sense of community.

It is also interesting to note that a similar Carbon Footprint analysis was done at Koinonia. This survey revealed that the average person at Koinonia was responsible for 3 tons of CO2/yr. That equates to about 6 bbls of oil/person/year. That is about 25% of the American average.

Whenever we think about reducing our energy consumption or our impact on the environment we generally think about all the things that we have to give up. The Victoria Anglican congregation and the people of Koinonia would be quick to point out that we also need to consider what we get in return.

How do you assign a value on closer friendships, a genuine sense of belonging, a simpler life and greater harmony with the rest of Creation?

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