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Lenten Reflection - Transportation

Lenten Reflection:  Transportation

 

Lent programWeekly Reflection

Choosing mindfulness in a car-centered society


And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.    Micah 6:8

Constant movement is the rhythm of the large city that never sleeps.  The energy generated through noise and endlessly changing motion is thrilling to many who experience it as raw creativity, potential adventure, and unfettered fun. 

To some, such movement implies that all is well, that our world is healthy and growing.  Certainly the wheels of life and commerce are moving as people are working, caring for their families, and educating young people.

Rapid means of transportation play a central role in accessibility to both work and entertainment.  Mobility has made the world smaller and broadened opportunities for more comfortable lives for many, even for those who struggle.  Cars in particular are a wonderful tool that many of us cannot imagine our world without.   

But like all blessings, the impact of a car-centered world on the lives of our yet-to-be-born great grandchildren must be carefully assessed. 

Sometimes our society behaves like an adolescent who has not yet worked full-time nor paid all the bills associated with being self-sufficient.  Our society might hear scientific reports about our Earth’s health, but not believe that it has a role in changing it.  While our culture may behave this way, the Gospel invites us to choose differently.

Imagine the Earth as a single house, with multiple floors and many rooms.  Everything that happens takes place within that Earth-house—all food grown, all living and dying, all resources mined and materials created.  As with our own homes, if the air conditioner’s engine burns out, there will be no cool air inside.  The downstairs bathroom is affected by the plumbing problems in the upstairs bathroom. Residents sharing the kitchen need to navigate each other’s needs. This Earth-house is a wonderful place given to us by our Creator.  Living well within it means recognizing our interconnectedness, our relationship with all things.         

Automobile emission issues are part of our Earth-house.  Many cities measure air quality daily.    We’ve learned to cope with “smog alert” days and have become, perhaps, somewhat numbed.  This past spring we learned about an extended hole in the ozone layer over the Arctic, five times the size of California.  This degradation which exceeds for the first time the worrisome loss over Antarctica, may not have even registered in our minds (see http://ozonelayerdepletion.org/).  Just as a leaking roof affects everything inside, greater amounts of radiation coming through a compromised atmosphere challenges every living creature on Earth. 

When we take a holiday drive of 300 miles we know the cost of that tank of gas and feel it in our wallets.  A new perspective is required to recognize that driving that distance also creates 6000 pounds of carbon dioxide that is measured in compromised air quality around us.  With millions of cars on the road, we are all affected, with children and elderly people struggling most. 

What is the meaning of a call to “walk humbly with our God?”  We are blessed with a beautiful world full of a million signs of God’s love and presence.  Perhaps realizing that we must be more mindful of the ramifications of our choices for God’s Creation is an invitation into more intentional living.  Walking humbly with God can mean slowing down a little so that we will recognize God’s movement around us.  Walking humbly is an invitation to learn more about the gift of our atmosphere, of the trees that transform carbon dioxide into oxygen, of the lives of people we will never meet whose futures depend on our thoughtful choices in preserving our resources. 

This fifth week of Lent let us examine the many means of transportation that are available to us, remembering also to give thanks for our own feet.  Slow down.  Car pool.  Coordinate trips. 
Take a bus or train. Choose wisely and walk humbly.

Watch these short reflections on the Earth as a village.

The Miniature Earth

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=fA6MhyK60iI

If the World Were 100 People (updated)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6eTr4ldDYg&feature=related

Look ahead to Earth Day, April 22ndhttp://www.earthday.org/

 

Church Lent programThis Week's Practice 

Abstain from driving one day


This week let us begin by reflecting on the differences between our own transportation needs and our preferences.

Many of us spend a lot of time in our cars:  taking kids to school, elderly friends to doctor’s appointments, buying groceries, hauling mulch, going to work.  Driving is a symbol of independence, as any new driver will tell you. 

Since 1994 World Car-Free Day has invited anyone interested to pause and to assess their transportation choices.  In the past decade this international movement has grown considerably, with some municipal governments offering incentives to those participating. The organizers hope that this awareness day, held annually on Sept 22nd, will serve as a catalyst in a movement toward creating city-wide sustainable transportation systems. http://www.worldcarfree.net/about_us/global/

Officials in Virginia have offered a “Try Transit Week”.  Cities in Brazil have opened new bike lanes, organized cultural events around the World Car-Free Day, and encouraged group biking. The municipal government in Beijing banned cars September 22nd from the center of the city and added 300 bus shuttles to its congested roads.

For many of us, getting around without a car will be a challenge of organization.  We will need to navigate distances using public transportation, our bike or our own feet.  Many enjoy being creative.  One local organizer spent the day riding the available bus lines around his city talking with people about the ease of the commute, the savings, and how doing so makes a difference for our Earth. 

From another perspective, giving up car riding can make a difference in our personal stress level. Consider this interesting research employing a commuter survey of riders of cars, buses, bicyclists and walkers:

Behavioral travel research has neglected to examine the role of mindfulness in the context of the work commute. Mindfulness is a psychological construct that has been associated with improvements to mental health, social engagement, and behavioral regulation.

Bus users, walkers, and bicyclists reported significantly less stress than drivers. Walkers and bicyclists reported greater positive journey-based affect than drivers and bus users. Additionally, walkers and bus users maintained relatively greater perceptions of time affluence than drivers. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1369847811001197

Each step that we take, no matter how small, makes a difference – one mile at a time.  Together, let us take one step this week.

 

Environmental church programCHURCHES IN ACTION

Creative transportation thoughts

 

Stone Church of Willow Glen, San Jose, CA (Presbyterian Church, USA) 

Excerpted from http://www.stonechurch.org/CoolCampaign/AprilChallenge.php

Challenge: Drive Smarter

Keep your car tuned. A car that runs well uses less gas. Every month check to see if your radiator or anything else is leaking, if there's enough coolant in the radiator overflow bottle, if the battery terminals and air filters are clean, and if the drive belts are tight. You can check these things while you're filling up at the gas station. Follow your owner's manual recommendations for motor oil and fuel, avoiding high-octane fuel unless it's specified. Every spring and fall, have a mechanic perform a basic tune-up and be sure to change your oil every 5,000 miles--the improvement in fuel efficiency (15 - 50% depending on the shape your car is in) will more than make up for the cost.


Inflate properly. Keeping your tires properly inflated can reduce your gasoline consumption by 6% which could save you $40 per year in gas cost, and will reduce the chance you'll have a blowout. Because tires lose pressure each month and with every 10°F drop in temperature, you should check that they--including the spare--are at the maximum recommended pressure once a month. Buy a two-dollar pressure tester at your hardware store or borrow one from the Home Greening Kit, and check your tires while you're filling up.

Don't idle. Letting your car idle for just 20 seconds burns more gasoline (and therefore emits more carbon dioxide) than turning your car off and on again does! Furthermore, contrary to popular belief, idling can actually harm your car, since it causes gasoline to condense on and damage your cylinder walls and spark plugs. The wear and tear on your ignition will cost you an average of only $10 a year, which will be repaid many times over by gas savings.

Challenge: Drive Less

Shop close to home. By shopping at local stores and eating at nearby restaurants, you'll cut down on the amount of driving you do and by shopping at local businesses; you'll be supporting your local economy! Of course if they are close enough to your home, don't drive at all.

Create an "Errand Day." Postpone errands until you can combine two or more into one multi-stop trip, and note that you'll save even more gas if each errand takes 20 minutes or less because a warm engine is much more energy-efficient than a cold engine. Then, try not to retrace your route and, if you can, park your car at one stop and walk to your other errands. Besides saving time and gasoline, you'll also reduce wear and tear on your car.

 
Lent programWHAT CHURCHES ARE SAYING

 

Member Denominations of the Colorado Council of Churches

Excerpt the Environment statement from the Justice Commission, January 2011

…The member denominations of the Colorado Council of Churches:

  1. Support efforts toward environmental justice, defined as the fair treatment of people of all races, cultures, and incomes with respect to environmental laws and policies. (Environmental Justice)
  2. Support policies that develop effective alternatives to one-car/one-driver transportation, especially as those policies decrease energy use and pollution, and minimize urban sprawl. (Transportation)
  3. Support policies that preserve open space and wildlife habitats. (Open Space and Habitat)
  4. Support policies that preserve and enhance air and water quality. (Air and Water)
  5. Support policies that reduce the use of fossil fuels, and that encourage alternative energy sources. (Energy)
  6. Support “right to know” legislation that requires genetically engineered foods to be labeled in grocery stores. (Genetically Modified Food)

http://www.cochurches.org/publications-curriculums/public-policy-statements

Prayer for Week Five - Transportation

O Giver of Life, 
you called your chosen people 
to journey with you 
and blessed their movement 
with guidance and grace. 
Support our human family as we search 
for alternative means to fuel our journeys. 
Give us the creativity and courage 
to act differently to protect your creation 
and share its resources fairly. 
Amen

Imagine if the Earth were divided equally among all of us. Each person would receive 4.5 acres. Now imagine that everything you need – food, energy, home, clothing, gadgets – must come from those 4.5 acres. But it takes 22.3 acres to maintain the average American lifestyle.There is a new way of observing Lent that helps us care for God’s creation by taking steps toward using only our fair share of its resources. Moving in the direction of 4.5 is essential for anyone walking in the footsteps of Jesus today.

Our Ministry

Lent 4.5 is a seven-week faith formation program which inspires and informs Christian communities on how to use the traditional Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving to protect God’s creation, embrace Gospel justice and nurture spiritual fulfillment. It offers practical opportunities for people of faith to apply the values of Christian Simplicity to their everyday lives.


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