Friday, September 23, 2011

Interfaith Power and Light Meeting

I took part in the second annual meeting of PA-IPL last weekend: "The human face of climate change: food, faith, and other necessities.".  The auditorium in the Paterno Library on campus was packed for the plenary talks by Bill Easterling, dean of earth and mineral sciences at Penn State, and Jim Deming, Minister for Environmental Justice in the United Church of Christ.  A series of workshops followed in the spiritual center on campus.   Some notable moments of the meeting for me:

  •  Bill Easterling's talk.  He is a member of the IPCC and his particular field of expertise is global food security.  His basic message (backed up by a host of statistics): Up to the end of the twentieth century or so, global food production was rising fast enough to meet the needs of the population (with a little room to spare).  The problem of getting enough food to those who needed it was "a political not a biological one".  But now, said Easterling, "I'm not so sure".  Food production increases are neck and neck with population increases.  Add the disruptive effects of climate change and the growing demand for a meat-rich Western-style diet (which is a much more inefficient way of meeting biological needs) and one sees a future in which many more people go hungry.  And this prediction is based on industrial agriculture in the temperate North doing everything it can to maximize production - which carries environmental costs of its own.
  • I attended a workshop on "Cool Congregations".  The title interested me but it turned out that the main subject was making church buildings/houses of worship more energy efficient.  Lots of useful information from professional energy auditors but I was startled by the working assumption (which must be based on experience) that "your house of worship is probably only in use for four hours out of the week". Really?  Our congregation meets in rented space in an elementary school so the discussion doesn't apply directly - but what do we make of these spaces standing so empty for so long, many of them (as we were reminded) burning up thousands of gallons of oil the while?
  • It was a pleasure to connect up with one other GreenFaith fellow form this year.  Amy Reumann works on public advocacy for the Lutheran Church in Pennsylvania, based out of the state capital, Harrisburg. She is a board member of PA-IPL and came up to State College for the meeting.
  • The question and answer session after the plenaries was lively! At one point those attending were asked - what direction should PA-IPL be taking? Many answers were suggested - one that struck home to me was the idea of developing and expanding specific partnerships with people/groups directly impacted by climate change in other parts of the world, like Jitokeze Wamama Wafrika which was represented at the meeting and works on "building the capacity of women affected by droughts and conflicts in semi-arid regions of Kenya."
  • PA-IPL held a press conference to issue a thoughtful statement on Marcellus Shale drilling for natural gas in Pennsylvania.


byron smith said...

Is the talk by Bill Easterling available online anywhere?

John Roe said...

He had a lot of slides - I can ask him whether those are available. Also, I made an audio recording, but I would need to check before making that public.

PA-IPL said...

@ Byron: on the list at my desk is to investigate the possibility of making regular conference calls with speakers and topics of interest available to PA IPL folks. I would actually like to begin with Bill Easterling's talk, as it was a rare combination of focused, factual, and understandable by those outside the discipline (most of us!).