Friday, February 26, 2010

Oil Caused Recession, Not Wall Street | Energy Bulletin

I just ran across this excellent article on the correspondence between oil price and the recession of 2008-2010. It is worth the read and serious consideration - especially when we are entering another phase with economic growth prediction without increasing crude oil production.

Oil Caused Recession, Not Wall Street | Energy Bulletin

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

New Developments at O.U.R. Ecovillage

For the past 8 weeks, I've been volunteering 4 days/week at O.U.R. (One United Resource) Ecovillage in Shawnigan Lake BC. O.U.R. is a community dedicated to theoretical education and practical demonstration of how human beings can live in healthy relationships with each other, the earth, creation and The Creator. O.U.R. has been developing for the past 10 years under the talented leadership of Brandy Gallagher and a growing group of community residents and volunteers. I've written about O.U.R. in earlier entries. Kailee volunteered and lived at O.U.R. from February till September in 2009. She completed an internship in sustainable food production, a certificate course in Permaculture design, recently added a Permaculture Teacher's Training program and Jan attended a workshop in natural building techniques.

Each day that I visit O.U.R., it seems that something is new and different. Last year, Kailee and the other members of the garden team made a major extension to the food production area and the natural building school almost completed the exterior of a new house. So progress is nothing new and in spite of this, the pace of change seems to be quickening. The educational portion of O.U.R. closes down in October and usually the community slows down for the winter. However, this year a government-sponsored Job Creation Program employed 8 people full-time on a permaculture-based landscaping project. This team of dedicated individuals have almost doubled the size of the garden, completed a path through the conservation area, developed grey water and rain water management systems, created a new pond, built new terraces with stone and tire retaining walls and added a labyrinth to the sanctuary garden. Every day is a new surprize!

As all of this incredible change is highly visible. However, I've discovered that there is another level of change that requires just as much work and yet, it is totally invisible. Most of my work is in this category. It includes things like setting up computer-based project management systems, assisting in new ways to raise funds for community operations, helping to define a business plan that enables community members to become financially independent and working towards a coop-based model of community ownership. While this level of change is not apparent to visitors at O.U.R., it does have some level of objective existence . Even if it is only on a computer screen or printed out of a piece of paper.

Beyond this, there is an even deeper level of change that occurs every day at O.U.R. This level of change also requires difficult and often painful work, and yet it leaves no visible tracks in the outside world. These deeper and invisible changes happen in the hearts and minds of everyone who lives in the community, works on its projects or visits the ecovillage. For some people, it is an exposure to an entirely different way of life. For others, it is a long and arduous journey for long-time friends who improve their communication and challenge their understandings as the ecovillage moves towards greater levels of maturity.

This process of improving relationships between individuals and the community, creation and The Creator is the real work of O.U.R. Ecovillage.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Upside down weather this winter

When you have a discussion about global warming, it is amazing how every event can be given tremendous significance - by both sides. In fact, I wish I had a dollar for every time I've heard someone say "I sure wish global warming would hurry up" in the middle of Winter. Part of this problem is a sincere confusion between weather, which changes rapidly and is highly variable, and climate which is best understood as a long term average of the seasonal weather events.

Having said this, I can't help but think that something unusual is going on. While the Canadian prairies have been suffering with a long frigid Winter, Southern Georgia has been experiencing a highly unusual snowfall and Washington DC has been paralyzed by blizzards, Winter passed us by on Vancouver Island. Last year our pond was frozen from November to March and we had 5 feet of snow in January. This year, the pond only froze for about a week in November. We have new ducklings on the pond, the grass is green, trees are budding and in Victoria, there are amazing blossoms on the trees through much of the city.

You only have to turn on the TV to see what this means to Vancouver's Olympic games. Much of the snow that they do have is being convoyed by trucks and helicopters from hundreds of kilometers away.

Now this is a weather event - and we were expected to have a la Nina event this year. Just the same, I would like to see the stats for other la Nina years and see how often there was snow in 49 of the 50 states - and at the end of February.

49 states dusted with snow; Hawaii's the holdout - Yahoo! News

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Oil Demand Up; What About Supply? -- Seeking Alpha

Today the IEA reported that oil demand is increasing from 84.9 million barrels/day in 2009 to 86.3 million bbls/day in 2010. Most of this increased demand is coming from Aisa. The IEA further predicts that demand will increase by 1.2 MBBL/day over the next 5 yrs to 90.9 Mbbls/day in 2014.

Unfortunately, supply is not showing any signs of increasing.

My prediction - just read the comments at the end of the attached article -

Or, for the short version, any recovery in the US economy will trigger an instant spike in oil prices. As soon as prices near $150/bbl, you will see another economic collapse that will be at least as severe as 2008/2009. This will likely occur before 2012.

There is another possibility, and that is China's banking system will have a severe setback and this will drastically reduce their demand levels. This could give us another 3 yrs or so before the next major price spike.

Oil Demand Up; What About Supply? -- Seeking Alpha

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Evil flourishes when good men (and women) do nothing.

There is an email message circulating, attributed to a Dr. Emanuel Tanay that makes parallels between the average German during the Nazi era and present-day Muslims. The email begins like this:

"A man, whose family was German aristocracy prior to World War II, owned a number of large industries and estates. When asked how many German people were true Nazis, the answer he gave can guide our attitude toward fanaticism. 'Very few people were true Nazis,' he said, 'but many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen."

The email then goes on to compare the story of the Nazi regime to the Islam of today.

"We are told again and again by 'experts' and 'talking heads' that Islam is the religion of peace and that the vast majority of Muslims just want to live in peace. Although this unqualified assertion may be true, it is entirely irrelevant. It is meaningless fluff, meant to make us feel better, and meant to somehow diminish the spectre of fanatics rampaging across the globe in the name of Islam.

The fact is that the fanatics rule Islam at this moment in history. It is the fanatics who march. It is the fanatics who wage any one of 50 shooting wars worldwide. It is the fanatics who systematically slaughter Christian or tribal groups throughout Africa and are gradually taking over the entire continent in an Islamic wave. It is the fanatics who bomb, behead, murder, or honor-kill."

I certainly agree that it is the fanatics within Islam who commit these atrocities and they have appropriated the name of Islam to support their cause. However, he also goes on to claim that the majority of Muslims are silent and therefore somehow complicit with these actions.
I strongly disagree with this claim. I have some very good friends in the Muslim community and they certainly speak out against violence. Yet there still seems to be alot of discrimination against them.

Long lists of violent acts committed by Japanese, Russians, Rawandans, Nazis and Muslims are given in great detail. Somehow the author doesn't mention the violent acts committed by Christians. In fact, the Nazis and Russians were predominantly Christians. Of the many global conflicts that were listed, somehow the author missed that Darfur is actually Muslims killing Muslims and Rawanda was Christian killing Christian (Rawanda is 56% Catholic, 26 % protestant and 11% Seventh Day Adventist). He also didn't mention that there are many more instances of Christians killing Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan than there are examples of Muslims killing Christians.

It also seems odd to me how much outrage there is over a suicide bomber and his victims and yet we don't seem to get as angry about the innocent men, women and children that are killed by predator drones, bombs, or just being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Somehow we don't get as upset by the fire bombing of Dresdan and Tokyo or the Atom bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki as we do when others commit similar violent acts.

The goes on to state:

"History lessons are often incredibly simple and blunt, yet for all our powers of reason, we often miss the most basic and uncomplicated of points:

Peace-loving Muslims have been made irrelevant by their silence."

I would argue that Peace loving people of all faiths are equally to blame. As Canadians and Americans, our soldiers are occupying Muslim countries and they are killing people - many of them innocent women and children - in our name. If we don't speak out, we are also guilty. This is especially true of Christians as we are the followers of the Prince of Peace.

I hope and pray that people of all religions (and otherwise) will wake up and realize that killing is always an offense to God - regardless of the name or nation that tries to justify the action. Speak out and tell our leaders that violence is not an acceptable solution - especially when this violence is used to further corporate interests.

One body, many members

"A number of blind men came to an elephant. Somebody told them that it was an elephant. The blind men asked, ‘What is the elephant like?’ and they began to touch its body. One of them said: 'It is like a pillar.' This blind man had only touched its leg. Another man said, ‘The elephant is like a husking basket.’ This person had only touched its ears. Similarly, he who touched its trunk or its belly talked of it differently. In the same way, he who has seen the Lord in a particular way limits the Lord to that alone and thinks that He is nothing else.” - (Ancient Hindu parable).

We live in an age of great divisions. Much of this comes from the political climate. We all agree that we are facing major problems and yet we can’t even have a conversation about something as simple as health care, let alone climate change or energy policy without falling into polarized and entrenched arguments. These disagreements are obvious in the public response to on-line news stories, but it truly saddens me that the same divisions exist within the spiritual community. Oddly the different viewpoints don’t seem to correlate with different religions. Conservative Muslims, Mormons, Jews and Christians all seem to have more in common than they do with the more liberal members of their own faith community. It troubles me even more that these same divisions exist in my own denomination - the Community of Christ.

The Community of Christ is a very small denomination with about 250,000 members that exists in over 50 countries. The church is headquartered in Independence, Missouri and about half of the membership live in the USA and Canada. Recently one of our church leaders posted a news item about health care reform on facebook and the passionate response from church members could have passed for a debate between Fox News and MSNBC commentators. Except for one thing, not only did people from both sides attempt to use scripture to support their position, they tried to use the same passage of Doctrine and Covenants 163 to prove their opposing viewpoints. Doctrine and Covenants 163 was counsel given to the church at the last World Conference in March 2007 and at that time the document was accepted by the entire membership as divine revelation. In spite of this, the document seems powerless to overcome the political gap.

It is easy to see that these serious political divisions are a major challenge in our time. However, it is important for Christians to realize that Jesus was born into a world that was as seriously divided as our own. Between the time of Malachi and the beginning of the New Testament, Israel had been conquered by Alexander the Great and brought under Seleucid rule for almost 200 years. During this time, Israel was dominated by the Greek language and culture. This cultural influence was so strong that the Holy books had to be translated from Hebrew into Greek so they could be more accessible to the majority of the Jewish people. A strong tension existed between the more cosmopolitan Greek speaking Jews, who mostly lived in the cities, and the more traditional Hebrew speaking Jews of the rural areas. This tension resulted in the fragmentation of the Jewish faith with Pharisees defining themselves as more traditional while the Sadducees embraced the progressive Greek influences. Conflict between these groups ultimately led to a civil war where the Seleucid King, Antiochus Epiphanes, captured Jerusalem, desecrated the temple and attempted to destroy the Jewish faith. This led to the Maccabean rebellion where a family of conservative Jewish priests led a successful guerrilla war against the Seleucids and ultimately recaptured Jerusalem and re-dedicated the temple (this is celebrated in the Hanukkah festival). The Maccabean victory resulted in an independent Jewish Kingdom that lasted 100 years; until the Roman invasion of 63 BCE when Pompey installed the Herodian dynasty to rule Israel as a client of Rome.

Jesus lived in a world of incredible religious and political division. Sadducees tended to favor Roman customs and authority. Pharisees tolerated Roman political rule but rejected Roman customs and used religious purity laws as a way to segregate Jew and Gentile and thereby maintain their influence. On the more extreme end, Zealots rejected both the political and religious authority of Rome and swore oaths to kill any Jews who collaborated with the Roman occupiers.

Nazareth of Jesus’s time was a rural backwater and a haven for the Jewish resistance. According to the Gospel of Luke, at the beginning of his ministry, Jesus stood in the synagogue at Nazareth and read from the Isaiah scroll:

“ The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the captives and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” (Luke 4)

This was a clear statement of the Mission of Jesus and it is difficult to imagine that the people of Nazareth did not understand this to be a dangerous political statement. However, when Jesus called his inner circle of twelve followers, they came from the entire spectrum of Jewish society. On one extreme, there is Simon the Zealot and on the other end you have Matthew the publican, who collected taxes for Imperial Rome. Somehow Jesus brought them all into a community that put His mission above their personal understandings and perspectives.

After Jesus was put to death, his followers were scattered. After His resurrection, they were gathered together but told to wait in Jerusalem until they received the gift of the Spirit. During the feast of Shavuot, 50 days after passover, Jews from all over the Roman world were gathered in Jerusalem. While the apostles sat in a closed room, the Spirit came upon them and they went out declaring the Good News to Jews from all nations - and each in their own language. As the Spirit fell upon this diverse group of Jews, they transcended their national and political identities and were brought into a vibrant community -

“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no poor among them. (Acts 4)”

As the apostles took the message of God’s Good News from Jerusalem to the Gentile world they saw that same Spirit unify Jews and Gentiles of many nations and bring them into a movement that lived the Mission of Jesus. Jewish Purity laws, traditions and rituals were put aside in favour of a fellowship that was based on compassion and unconditional love for God and humanity. The Spirit of Christ had risen in the body of the Church. This truly was a second resurrection.

The Apostle Paul quickly observed that long-held prejudice and class distinctions were not easily put aside. His letters frequently admonished Christians to put aside their earlier divisions and embrace the Unity of the Spirit. That way each person, with their own God-given talents and abilities could achieve their divine potential in building the Kingdom of Heaven on the earth. From 1st Corinthians:

“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body..... If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. “

The intent of this passage is to remind believers that every person has a unique and important contribution and this contribution must be recognized and accepted. Unfortunately, the analogy of the body and many members was not a new one. From the time of the ancient Greeks onward, the same analogy has been used to convince people that they are born to a specific station in life and it violates the divine order if they attempt to rise above their station. From the time of Constantine, christianity has been used as a means to control populations and keep them subservient to political tyrants. If God put the King at the head, who are you to question your role or the actions of the state? From Constantine to Henry the VIII and from Thomas Hobbs to George Bush, this idea has been used to claim imperialism and tyranny as a Divine Right. What right does the foot have to question the authority of the head? And if you were faithful to your place on earth, then God would surely give you a better place in Heaven. This is how our definition of Peace (civil order preserved by the threat of violence ) has overtaken the true meaning of God’s Shalom (“Peace” that comes with Justice, Love and Joy that appears when everything exists in a state that is faithful to the true order of its divine creation).

In 1830 the restoration movement - of which the Community of Christ is a part - was born with a vision to restore God’s earthly Kingdom. Not through violence, but through a realization that God’s infinite love transcends barriers of race, gender, culture and social class. The movement gathered thousands of European peasants and helped them make their way to America where they were given a chance to live according to their true natures. Unfortunately, even this movement has been affected by almost two centuries of North American culture and much of the contemporary political ideology has infected this church.

We were clearly reminded of this on January 17, when Community of Christ prophet/president Steve Veazey brought forward his latest counsel for the church . It starts with a quote from one of Paul’s letters:

As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3).

From this starting point, the counsel addresses:
- Issues of baptism and ecclesiastical authority:

Instruction given previously about baptism was proper to ensure the rise and cohesiveness of the church during its early development and in following years. However, as a growing number have come to understand, the redemptive action of God in Christ—while uniquely and authoritatively expressed through the church—is not confined solely to the church.

God’s grace, revealed in Jesus Christ, freely moves throughout creation, often beyond human perception, to achieve divine purposes in people’s lives. In harmony with God’s will, the Holy Spirit leads some people already committed to Jesus Christ through Christian baptism to further focus their response through church membership.

Individuals previously baptized of water in an attitude of humility and repentance and as an expression of faith in Jesus Christ may become church members through the sacrament of confirmation of the Holy Spirit.

and issues of sexuality and relationships:

It is imperative to understand that when you are truly baptized into Christ you become part of a new creation. By taking on the life and mind of Christ, you increasingly view yourselves and others from a changed perspective. Former ways of defining people by economic status, social class, sex, gender, or ethnicity no longer are primary. Through the gospel of Christ a new community of tolerance, reconciliation, unity in diversity, and love is being born as a visible sign of the coming reign of God.

As revealed in Christ, God, the Creator of all, ultimately is concerned about behaviors and relationships that uphold the worth and giftedness of all people and that protect the most vulnerable. Such relationships are to be rooted in the principles of Christ-like love, mutual respect, responsibility, justice, covenant, and faithfulness, against which there is no law.

If the church more fully will understand and consistently apply these principles, questions arising about responsible human sexuality, gender identities, roles, and relationships; marriage; and other issues may be resolved according to God’s divine purposes. Be assured, nothing within these principles condones selfish, irresponsible, promiscuous, degrading, or abusive relationships.

The membership of the Community of Christ are distributed across the entire USA, as well as the developing world. American members are passionately divided on issues as simple as universal health care - you can easily imagine how their opinions might differ on same-sex marriage. Then you must include the African and Latin American churches, where members come from countries where being a homosexual is a crime that can be punished by death. How can anyone hope to see agreement on these issues?

From my personal point of view, it is difficult to understand why people are so passionate in their disagreement on these issues. In both cases, it seems apparent that the specific choices are truly between the individual and God. It does not seem to affect other people. However, there certainly are bigger issues that affect each of us in a very direct way. For example, How do we balance the economy and the environment- and what do we do about global warming? What is the correct role of the military? How do we adapt to a world with increasing population and decreasing resources? How do we bring the concept of justice into our global trade agreements?

If a community of Christ - people who have experienced God’s Spirit and have committed themselves to the restoration of God’s Kingdom - can’t agree on issues that don’t even affect us personally, how can we hope to make progress on issues that require serious changes in our personal life-style?

To these questions, I place my meager hope in these closing words from Steve’s counsel:

When your willingness to live in sacred community as Christ’s new creation exceeds your natural fear of spiritual and relational transformation, you will become who you are called to be. The rise of Zion the beautiful, the peaceful reign of Christ, awaits your wholehearted response to the call to make and steadfastly hold to God’s covenant of peace in Jesus Christ.

This covenant entails sacramental living that respects and reveals God’s presence and reconciling activity in creation. It requires whole-life stewardship dedicated to expanding the church’s restoring ministries, especially those devoted to asserting the worth of persons, protecting the sacredness of creation, and relieving physical and spiritual suffering.

If you truly would be Community of Christ, then embody and live the concerns and passion of Christ.

The challenges and opportunities are momentous. Will you remain hesitant in the shadows of your fears, insecurities, and competing loyalties? Or will you move forward in the light of your divinely instilled call and vision?

This is truly a pivotal time for the Community of Christ. Like the early Christian fellowship, we are drawn from all nations, cultures and traditions into a body that is committed to the mission of Jesus Christ in the world. In April we will meet at the temple in Independence Missouri as delegates representing the entire church - and by extension our cultures, countries and traditions of origin. Will we be able to put Christ’s vision of compassion and unconditional love above our deeply held perspectives? In my opinion, it will take a miracle for the community of Christ to pass through this conference as a united body. However, I am hopeful that the Spirit will lead - if we will only follow. And on the brighter side, if this small denomination that is so representative of the world’s diverse population can find peace and unity on these divisive issues, perhaps we will have truly learned that:

The mission of Jesus Christ is what matters most for the journey ahead.”