Loud Machines and Climate Silence

The other day I read an article in the Guardian, The Great Climate Silence by Clive Hamilton.  I found it easy to agree–no one is really talking about or dealing with the coming catastrophe of climate change.  Having had these issues on my mind for a while, I moved on to other things that day.  But sometimes it is the little things that break through to our hearts.

This morning, I was planning to walk over to Evergreen Cemetery for the Warbler Walk sponsored by Maine Audubon, but though I searched everywhere, I couldn’t find my pair of binoculars. So I left the house feeling that sense of frustration I am sure we all feel when we can’t find something.  As I walked, I opted to forego the warblers, and go by Capisic Brook near the Hall School.  I wrote previously about the cutting of trees that is going on for construction of the new school.

Hall School Tree Cutting 1The big loud machines are still there, but today I was startled to see that they have also cut trees between the school and the brook, a whole section that I thought should be safe. The wide swath of trees that made for a little wilderness in the city, is being narrowed so that the sanctuary is no longer as much a sanctuary.

I am not in on any of the planning or decision-making, so I feel very helpless and sad and angry about all of this, wishing there were someone I could yell at, like, Really, you have to cut those trees too?  Isn’t it bad enough that you destroyed the trail on the other side of the school?  Meanwhile the big machines kept digging up the earth near the pathway, now widened to a road, that goes over the brook.  As I walked back over that pathway, I heard the plaintive chirps of a woodpecker that I have often seen in this little ecosystem.

On my way home, I thought about the article about climate silence.  But this time, my frustration and grief and anger were open, and I felt for the earth as a whole what I had been feeling for my little brook and its trees and birds and newly blooming trout lilies.  Why are we doing this?  Isn’t it bad enough that we’ve already caused extinctions, and destroyed so many ecosystems?  Why do we just keep on destroying more and more?  We’ve got to get out of our denial, face our grief, and break our silence.

And for some reason I also thought about the proposal to borrow money to re-build four of the other elementary schools in Portland.  Most progressives I know are in favor of that proposal, but when I think about climate change, I have misgivings.  It is not about particular trees or construction damage, or not wanting the best schools for our kids.  But just as Clive Hamilton suggests, no one takes into account the coming catastrophes as they go about making plans for the future.  The new Hall School is slated to be a “green building.” So yes, that is good.  But there are other issues, too.

The one that came to my heart today is debt.  I think about cities in Michigan that are under “emergency management” because they went bankrupt from debts they could not repay.  Those managers, with no democratic accountability, can close school districts, sell off common resources like parks and museums, and change public water systems, such that the children in Flint were poisoned by lead.  If we take into account the coming climate catastrophes, wouldn’t it be wise to get our cities and ourselves out of debt?  So that we can preserve local control when things get worse?  Do we really want the banks to be in charge when everything gets more chaotic and difficult?

Everything shifts when we include climate change and the earth ecosystem in our conversations about the future.  What questions might you start asking, that you haven’t been asking up until now?

Loud machine

[Forest City Trail sign, with big machine digging up the earth]

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Bearing Witness for the Future

PUC Hearing Net-Metering Rules Oct 17

Photo by Livio Filice, via Facebook. (I am in the front row in a yellow solar shirt.)

Yesterday I participated in the public hearing held by the Public Utility Commission for new net metering rules in Maine.  From one testimony, I learned that these proposed rules are the most regressive, anti-solar rules in the nation.  In another testimony, Conservation Law Foundation attorney Emily Green questioned whether this process is even legal, since the changes are drastic enough that they are no longer really net-metering rules, but rather serve to eliminate net-metering–and thus are not within the purview of the Commission. Also noted was the fact that no economic impact statements had been prepared, prior to the hearing, as required by regulation.  Sadly, none of this made it into the story run by the Portland Press Herald today.

I gave testimony, too, but not on technical details or the effects on jobs or existing solar customers.  I spoke in my role as a minister, taking a look at the bigger picture.  Here is what I said:

I want to speak of our responsibility to the future generations, our grandchildren and their grandchildren.  Every gallon of oil we use today is a theft from the quality of life for those future generations.  If we take our responsibility seriously, we should be doing everything possible to shift all of our energy use to renewables, as soon as possible.

That responsibility to the future generations is why my family downsized from a 2000 square foot home to a 1000 square foot home–so we could afford to put solar panels on our roof and use less oil.  It only works for us because of some kind of net metering–solar produces energy during the day, and more during the summer, so we need to draw from the grid at night and in the winter, from the credits we build up during the sunshine. Net-metering makes it work.

But even so, there are only so many things I can do as an individual.  We need to be moving collectively toward an energy policy that will leave a livable future world for our grandchildren.  It is that serious!  We are creating in our time the story that the future generations of human beings will live.  Will it be a story of hardship?  Wars over declining resources? Chaos, and violence? Or will it be a story of human beings living in mutually beneficial relationship to each other and to all beings of the earth?

I know which story I am committed to–and I think we all want that.  It means doing everything possible to encourage the transition to renewable energy.  I pray that you will go home tonight and think of those future generations–our grandchildren and their grandchildren.  I pray that we might leave them a beautiful world–a world we know is possible.

We were told that all testimony was recorded and will be able to be seen at the website of the commission, but it is not posted yet, as far as I can tell.  The website is very difficult to navigate. If you want to find out more about this rule making case, you can follow this link.  If you want to make a comment on these proposed changes, you can do so at this page, using the case number 2016-00222.

There is a lot more to say about all this, but for today I will leave it with my prayer–that we might leave a beautiful world for the future generations.