Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

The Religious Society of Friends (aka Quakers) maintains a long tradition of queries, thoughtful questions to help Friends think deeply about important issues. (I alway carry a copy of Britain Yearly Meeting’s Advices & Queries given to me by my Friend Esther, who replaced the plain Quaker red cover with a multi-colored one.)

Similarly Quakers have a tradition of testimonies, statements about issues that Friends have found vital for our faith and practice.

In August I will have the honor to attend and participate in the annual gathering of Baltimore Yearly Meeting to be held in the North West corner of Maryland at Frostburg State University. In filling out my registration form, I scanned the workshop offerings. The following workshop arrested me.

Bottled Water and the Quaker Testimonies: Can They be Compatible?

Americans spend $15,000,000,000 a year on bottled water. The world spends $15,000,000,000 a year to develop and to provide potable water to the developing world. The petroleum used to make the plastic bottles would fuel 100,000 US cars for a year and 80% of those bottles go to land fills. 3,000 children die each day from polluted water. We will use the Testimonies to examine our role and to set a new direction.

Leader: Byron Sandford is Executive Director of William Penn House, a Texan with roots in the Chihuahuan Desert of West Texas and southern New Mexico.

I have written before about bottled water and the trouble I have with it. (I don’t even think about all the plastic bottles we use for soda and other fizzy drinks since I think they are stupid products that my dad used to remove barnacles from his boat and forget people drink then. But hey, drink the carbonated stuff if you like it). I understand that we can be in situations where we have little choice but to buy and use bottled water unless of course we cannot afford to do so.

Recently Auntie Doris got her very own SIGG water bottle (she actually nicked her mom’s which sat in a cupboard in Gurensey). Why not use our own water bottles that we fill ourselves? In the US, the water industry goes unregulated. The water we buy in bottles comes untested by the government and often is no better than filtered tap water (which we already pay for through taxes and our water bill). Sometimes it is much worse.

One of the biggest issues around bottled water that has weighed on me recently is about plastic products. Plastic: What a wonderful and awful product! So versatile, and it’s in EVERYTHING (probably even Cool Whip!). And it is not going away for a very very long time. Like pretty much never.

I recently have pondered this query:

Can I live without plastic?

To which I have had to answer a resounding NO, at least not with my current lifestyle (no I do not refer to the gay lifestyle, whatever that may be, but to the American lifestyle of one who you will find constantly on-line, on the phone, or on a plane).

So then I asked the question,

Can I live one day without plastic?

Sure on the island of Iona on a retreat, but consider all the plastic required to get me there and and hold all my stuff.

Finally I have considered,

Can I live one hour without plastic?

Barely. But I could spend one hour, barefoot, lying on the grass in my back garden. (Hey, that sounds like a great idea to do right now!)

I will continue to hold this query up in my mind. As a Christian, I feel I need to be a good steward of the Earth’s limited resources. As a Christian living in the US, I feel that any effort I can do, I need to do since my country is one of the largest contributors of waste and the use of petroleum-based products in the world.

I realize that I am connected to people all over the world. I can never make the “perfect choice” that will not have any negative consequences. But I can be thoughtful. I can grapple with these things. I can listen to what the Spirit has to say to to help me do justice, love mercy and walk humbly before God among me. (Micah 6:8)

Now if you do use plastic bottles, try to recycle, although I don’t see recycling as a real solution. It requires energy to transport these bottles and more energy and waste to “recycle” them. Most of these bottles do NOT get recycled anyway as creatively illustrated in the following video.

Read Full Post »

Phew, so nice to blog about everyday things and not one of those L O N G and serious blog entries. I arrived in Rochester, NY yesterday and tonight did a talk, Homo No Mo? A Provocative Evening with Peterson Toscano. I did excerpts from Homo No Mo and Queer 101, (the scene with Chad & Federico Garcia Lorca) and then a little bit from Transfigurations.

The amazing thing about the presentation is that it was only confirmed late yesterday afternoon, and through the wonder of social networking via Facebook, loads of people got invited and a good number turned out. Alex at Pride Network and Nils of the Eco House (who I know from New England Quakers) organized the event. So yes, Facebook is awesome.

I stayed in Eco House, a cooperative living arrangement where they do loads of things to live in such a way to decrease their environmental footprint. They hang their clothes to dry (dryers use tons of energy), they buy local produce, maintain a vegetarian household (then went vegan while I was here–thanks!), they share one car among seven people, they each have bikes including a house bike (yes, I rode a bike around town), and they don’t flush the toilet when one only pees (which I also practice at home–if it’s yellow, let it mellow. if it’s brown, flush it down. But at home it is easier when it is only my urine in the bowl).

Tonight Nils and Gena and I biked down to to Equal Grounds, a queer run cafe/bookstore/gourmet chololate shop below where Alex and Eric live, both from the Pride Network. We all talked about so many things. This is what I love about what I do. It is like being in an advance, independent study graduate course. Eric, from Portland, told me he is studying something like Eco Psychology (I know he called it something different). We talked about E.O. Wilson, the TED talks, the pros and cons of having an LGBT Resource Center with paid staff, the phenomenon of cross-dressing straight frat boys, the demographics of MySpace and Facebook users, Ferdinand the Bull (read by Nils–see the 1938 Disney cartoon here) and the coolness of Portland, OR.

Okay in other news some glad some very sad…

  • Barack Obama got caught up in the ex-gay debate.
  • Dumbledore is gay (and I have my suspicions about Professor Mcgonagall)
  • The US House of Representatives have postponed their vote of the Equal Non-Discrimination Act.
  • USA Today featured the story of transgender Methodist Pastor Drew Phoenix.
  • Doris Lessing FINALLY wins the Nobel Prize for Literature and talks about the state of feminism.
  • Blogger Disputed Mutability is with child and still maintains life as a blogger (kinda, and she has loads of material to share, and I will get to hang out with her soon).
  • Steve Schalchlin muses about the science behind Musical Healing, (not to be confused with sexual healing).
  • Alex Resare has a new blog address.
  • Bruce Garrett is trapped in his new car and refuses to get out.
  • And here is the sad one, blogger Darian Aaron, shares the shocking story of his friend, fellow-writer Ramone Johnson, who became the target of a homophobic physical assault in NYC. Ramone writes about his experience here.

Ramone, contributer of About.com’s Gay Life column shares,

As I write this I don’t know what hurts worse: My stomach or my eye or the fact that a gay bar kicked me out and refused to help me. I’ve spent the past five years trying to empower gay men, hoping with all my heart that we can one day roam the streets without being afraid, and here I sit at my computer, hurting physically and psychologically. If we can’t protect ourselves who will?

Perhaps we need some legal protection. President Bush? You out there? No need to veto all the good laws.

Tomorrow I fly off to Columbus, OH where I will see my buddy, Bobby Painter, in the lead role of Joseph spinning around in his Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat (aka Princess Dress!)

Read Full Post »

I Agree with the Pope!

Rarely have I agreed with the words of Pope Benedict XVI, but this weekend the head of the Roman Catholic Church addressed a half million young people and urged them to ensure that water be equally shared in order to avoid conflicts. The Canadian Press quotes the Pope stating,

“Before it’s too late, we need to make courageous choices that will recreate a strong alliance between man and Earth,” Benedict said in his homily. “We need a decisive yes to care for creation and a strong commitment to reverse those trends that risk making the situation of decay irreversible.”

He said water needed to be preserved since “it unfortunately becomes a source of strong tensions and conflicts if it isn’t shared in an equitable and peaceful manner.”

I have so many problems with bottled water. In fact, I nearly included a whole bottled water section in The Re-Education of George W. Bush. I already have my character Chad assisting President Bush with a Legacy Makeover in which he suggests the White House goes vegan. One fact I do share is that in order to produce one liter of cow’s milks, it requires 990 liters of water. (and don’t get me started about all the CO2 and waste that gets thrust on the environment as a result of the dairy industry).

But back to bottled water. Unless you are in a place where healthy drinking water is not available (and sadly that is many places on the planet), why buy it?

  1. We already pay billions of dollars in taxes towards securing safe drinking water in most of our cities in North America and Europe.
  2. The water “manufacturers” mostly sell the water in plastic bottles, a petroleum-based product. (The US currently spends more than $2 billion dollars per month on a war in part because it gives us access to Middle East oil).
  3. More and more studies show that heat breaks down the plastic in these bottle and toxic chemicals enter our bodies, something potentially bad for all of us but especially harmful to children and pregnant women. Even if you don’t keep your plastic water bottle in a hot car, before you get it the companies often keep their product in warm warehouses. The extreme heat affects the plastic so that we drink it along with our water.
  4. Most of the water is not even pure spring water like many of us would like to think. In fact, it is often no better than the tap water many folks turn their noses up at. Some tests show that the quality of some brands is actually worse than tap water.
  5. At most gas station “food marts” we end up spending more on water per liter than we do for gasoline (petrol).
  6. Then there is all the water bottles that get into our landfills. Sure some folks look to recycling as the answer, but millions of these plastic bottles get dumped in the trash and add to the growing eco-disaster we have created for ourselves.
  7. The environmental costs of transporting all of this bottled water in CO2 producing vehicles are outrageous (especially when you insist on drinking water flown in from Fiji.)
  8. Now that we are used to paying for water, at a premium, what is to stop it from becoming a commodity that gets traded on open markets creating a situation where something that is vital for life becomes yet another thing that separates the haves and the have-nots?
  9. The fight over reliable water sources go back to ancient times (look at the Hebrew scriptures to all the fuss over wells). Don’t we have enough to fight over right now? Do we need to add water rights to the fray? (sadly this has already begun in communities in the US and UK).

There are no perfect solutions. Not all public water is safe, but most is. We often feel powerless to address the many needs and problems around us, but we can do loads to stop the madness of the bottled water craze. Mainly we can choose to not be part of that system. Buy a non-plastic water bottle and fill it up with tap water (get a filter if you need one). SWIGG has a vast selection of really cool and safe bottles.

And let’s educate each other. If you want to learn more about bottled water, check out AllAboutWater.org and BottledWaterBlues.com. Also read Charles Fishman’s excellent article, Message in a Bottle.

Read Full Post »