St. Lucy’s in Syracuse Reports on Sept. 26 Event

St. Lucy's in Syracuse, NY

I’ve been hearing from Catholics in various quarters about how they called attention to and honored the contributions of women in the Catholic church on Sept. 26. Here’s a note from Nancy at St. Lucy’s Catholic Church in Syracuse, NY:

At St. Lucy’s we elected to do it a little differently on the 26th because we have a priest who supports the participation of women & has been preaching about this for a long time. So a big crowd of women & many men do not go to be seated until after Father Jim processed. He turned around at the altar, raised his arms & asked, “Where are all the people? Where are our women?” Then the crowd processed in, with green ribbons tied around our arms (& also Jim’s) to show solidarity with “Our Irish prophet Jennifer.”

One of our organizers, Rachel Guido-DeVries, went to the altar & spoke about what we were doing & why. Women did all the readings at Mass, read the Gospel & gave the homily on the 26th, as well as choosing songs for the Mass about the contribution of women & doing an addition reading by Joan Chittister. This was all done with full support of our pastor & other leaders in our parish. It was especially moving to participate in giving Communion.

I hope many who participated in some way on the 26th will be in Milwaukee for Call to Action in early November & perhaps we can meet up there.

Thanks, Nancy. I look forward to hearing more reports from the field.

Don’t Hide Your Solar Panels Under a Bushel

Balcony solar water heaters in Zhejiang, China
Balcony solar water heaters in Zhejiang, China

I really want my urban D.C. row house to be as naturally powered as possible. But I’m lacking in both the finances and the DIY skills to make it so. This puts me in the position of a “beach-chair activist” when it comes to solar power. I read all the cool new solar developments with envy and dream of a day I can at least feel the sun in my shower.

I’m also hoping that my Columbia Heights neighborhood will start a solar panel cooperative (like they’ve done in Mount Pleasant, D.C.). And I want the U.S. to catch up at least with Europe in saving the planet. (I have a lot of desires.)

See how China and Europe are quickly expanding inexpensive residential solar hot water heating systems in the excerpt from On Rooftops Worldwide, a Solar Water Heating Revolution by the Earth Policy Institute’s Lester Brown.

The harnessing of solar energy is expanding on every front as concerns about climate change and energy security escalate, as government incentives for harnessing solar energy expand, and as these costs decline while those of fossil fuels rise. One solar technology that is really beginning to take off is the use of solar thermal collectors to convert sunlight into heat that can be used to warm both water and space.

China, for example, is now home to 27 million rooftop solar water heaters. With nearly 4,000 Chinese companies manufacturing these devices, this relatively simple low-cost technology has leapfrogged into villages that do not yet have electricity. For as little as $200, villagers can have a rooftop solar collector installed and take their first hot shower. This technology is sweeping China like wildfire, already approaching market saturation in some communities. Beijing plans to boost the current 114 million square meters of rooftop solar collectors for heating water to 300 million by 2020.

The energy harnessed by these installations in China is equal to the electricity generated by 49 coal-fired power plants. Other developing countries such as India and Brazil may also soon see millions of households turning to this inexpensive water heating technology. This leapfrogging into rural areas without an electricity grid is similar to the way cell phones bypassed the traditional fixed-line grid, providing services to millions of people who would still be on waiting lists if they had relied on traditional phone lines. Once the initial installment cost of rooftop solar water heaters is paid, the hot water is essentially free.

Is It Time to ‘Green’ Your Sex Life?

[Warning: Frank talk about sex stuff.]

Sustainably grown mahogany sex enhancer
Sustainably grown mahogany sex enhancer

The October 26, 2009,  Time magazine ran Kathleen Kingsbury’s article titled Sex and the Eco-City. Who knew that “green” creep had made it into the bedroom? Kingsbury describes a market of organic lubricants, biodegradable whips and handcuffs, vegan condoms, and glass or mahogany vibrators (even hand-crankable models, eliminating the need for batteries).

To top it off, some Catholic church folks have incorporated these green concepts into their teaching on Natural Family Planning! NFP is now the “back-to-nature” method of birth control. As the old Catholic joke goes: What do you call couples who practices NPF? Answer: Parents.

Here’s an excerpt from Kingsbury’s article:

As the green movement makes its way into the bedroom, low lighting is a must–to conserve electricity–but so are vegan condoms, organic lubricants and hand-cranked vibrators.  Another big enviro-sex trend: birth control that’s au naturel.

Like all good Catholics, my husband and I had to attend church-run marriage prep before we tied the knot last year. I was surprised, however, during the hard sell on natural family-planning (NFP), that this updated version of the rhythm method was being advertised not only as morally correct but also as “organic” and “green.” I was even more surprised when I found out that some of the most popular instructors of NFP–known in secular circles as the Fertility Awareness Method–are non-Catholics who praise it as a means of avoiding both ingesting chemicals and excreting them into rivers and streams.

The search for phthalate-free alternatives helps explain the increase in sales of sex toys made of such materials as stainless steel, mahogany–yes, you read that correctly–and glass. …

The Roman Catholic Church is catching on to the organic trend. “People pay $32 for eye cream because they’re told it is good for them and the planet,” says Jessica Marie Smith, who repackaged the NFP program at the diocese of Madison, Wis. “We figured we could do the same with NFP.”

NFP detects ovulation by monitoring a woman’s temperature and the amount of cervical mucus. But this process is not 100% accurate. And several studies on climate change note that the best way to protect the planet is to have fewer children. “Around the world, more than 40% of pregnancies are unintended, and full access to birth control is still unmet,” says Jim Daniels, Trojan’s vice president for marketing. “Meeting that unmet need would translate into billions of tons of carbon dioxide saved.”

To that end, Trojan makes latex condoms as well as ones made of biodegradable lambskin. Other brands offer a vegan variety that replaces the dairy protein in latex condoms with cocoa powder. And no, they don’t all taste like chocolate.

Read the whole article Sex and the Eco-City by Kathleen Kingsbury. And a shout out to Cindy for spotting this article.

Why So Glum, Climate Change Movement?

happyplanetSo, the planets in peril. Yeah. That’s bad. But hand-wringing never solved anything. U.K.’s Giles Fraser, canon chancellor at St. Paul’s cathedral in London, says the motto “Let’s make huge sacrifices in order to make nothing happen” is not the way to run a successful social movement!

“The climate-change campaign needs a sense of can-do enthusiasm”, says Fraser.  The language of “hope” and “salvation” comes to mind as a way religious folk can contribute to a global shift in consciousness about all of us living lightly on the earth.

Here’s an excerpt from Fraser’s recent speech:

Why is the climate-change campaign failing to change hearts and minds? Or perhaps it is chang­ing hearts and minds (we all do our little bit: recycling, green toothpaste, and so on), but is failing to affect our fundamental thirst for energy which drives the deeper changes that are taking place. Why?

One explanation is that many climate-change campaigners sweat gloom about the future. That hardly gives them a Henry V leadership style. It can sometimes seem as if their message is that if we try extremely hard, then we can just about stop any more changes. In other words: let’s make huge sacrifices in order to make nothing happen. With that message, it is hard to imagine how you might persuade someone to get out of bed.

At Lambeth Palace last fortnight, religious leaders got together to press a different message. We are the generation that is being called on to be heroes, to make a difference, to save the planet. Now that is the right emphasis.

The climate-change campaign needs a sense of can-do enthusiasm. It would be really something if that was what faith leaders were able to add to the mix: replacing gloomy defeatism with a secularised version of something we call hope.

Moreover, we may find that those who have sneered at the very idea of salvation will come to see the importance of this type of language. A biblical-sounding crisis requires a language and a philosophy commensurate with the size of the threat.–Giles Fraser

Read the whole speech here.

God and Money: Two Great Things That Go Great Together

csmlizandkimorigIn case you ever wonder what Sojourners interns do after they spend a year in SojoLand, check out A Spiritual Approach to Money in yesterday’s Christian Science Monitor. The lead photo shows 2006-2007  Sojo Internet/Organizing intern Kim Szeto and 2004-2005 Sojo public policy intern Liz Green participating the a Lazarus at the Gate project. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

In turbulent economic times, the watchwords are usually: Cut back. Live frugally. Hunker down and put money in safe places!

But here in Boston, small groups of churchgoers have been applying a different message to money management. During the past two years, they have studied what the Bible teaches about money and wealth, discussed their personal budgets, and taken concrete steps aimed at four commitments: “Living gratefully, spending less, buying justly, and giving more.”

With gratitude as a foundational principle, the study groups follow a 12-session curriculum called “Lazarus at the Gate,” referring to the challenging gospel story about a rich man who persistently ignored a beggar named Lazarus at his gate (Luke 16). They discuss passages from the Old or New Testaments that consider wealth as a blessing, a potential idol, a resource for meeting needs, and to be justly distributed.

Read the whole article here.