I first fell in love with nature as a six year-old boy in the yard of my South Carolina home. Mom helped me catch a bumblebee in a glass jar, and I watched it with awe and wonder. This in turn led to “pet” lizards, frogs, turtles, snakes, and so on which we kept for a time on our screened porch. As I got older, there was fishing with Dad and Boy Scout camping trips to the Appalachian Mountains. These experiences helped me to develop a gut-level love of our fellow beings and our planet. Nature just makes me happy!

ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIONS

I think my actions started with Georgia Sierra Club membership (mostly outings) in the 1980s. Another important piece was when a buddy invited me to join the Audubon Society’s Atlanta Christmas Bird Count around 1990. This kicked off an intense love of birds but also a shocking awareness of birds’ rapid habitat loss as I observed Metro Atlanta growing northwards with each year’s bird count. In the early ‘90s, I think it was, my reading of Silent Spring further heightened my awareness that our planet was under attack. Also in the ‘90s I embarked on a career change and completed an environmental engineering degree at Georgia Tech. In the mid-90s, I joined a team that was monitoring the health of Fern Creek (UUCA Cliff Valley) with the Adopt-A-Stream program.

In President Obama’s second term, I became much more aware of the threat of global warming.  Working for the state, I was coleading Georgia’s effort to comply with Obama’s Clean Power Plan regulations, which would have reduced power company CO2 emissions. In December 2015, I was paying close attention to the Paris Agreement, under which 196 countries and parties pledged to reduce their carbon emissions. I reached out to UUCA’s senior minister to bring attention to this effort to our congregation, and he referred me to Hoke Kimball and Pat Russell, who were starting up what became the Climate Action Team (CAT). 

Highlights of my involvement with UUCA’s CAT have included organization of Earth Day (7th Principle) Sundays and teaming with others to win energy efficiency grants for our new campus. I’ve also engaged in activism to support more solar energy in Georgia and to protect the Okefenokee. And the biggest highlight is the camaraderie among this group of folks who are so passionate about Earth care.  

AT HOME

My wife Anna and I do our best to reduce our waste stream, recycling with DeKalb County and CHARM and sending food waste to Compost Now and to our backyard compost bin. Anna buys Earth-friendly toilet paper, soaps, and coffee. To reduce our carbon footprint, we have purchased electric cars (we are very fortunate that we can afford these) and a high-efficiency air conditioning system. And we manage our thermostat to be Earth friendly. We have also enrolled in Georgia Power’s Community Solar program. We use rainwater to water our plants and have purchased low-flow toilets. And we give to environmental causes. I have to give a shout out to Anna for willingly jumping into the environmental fray with me – this was not a prenuptial agreement! I think we do a lot, but, of course, we could do more. Reducing air travel and using mass transit come to mind. 

OUTLOOK FOR MOTHER EARTH

Sorry to say, but I am pretty pessimistic about Earth’s health going forward. I read the daily stories about the warming planet, the increasing wildfires, the increasing floods and storms, the plastic pollution, and the shrinking forest cover and animal populations.  Like many others, I put the blame for this squarely on humankind. And humankind continues to grow – from 7 billion in 2010 to 8 billion in 2023 and projected to reach 9 billion in 2037, per the United Nations. And what do our politicians and leaders still champion? More growth, it seems to me. Bigger cities, more jobs, more production, higher standards of living (carbon intense), and on and on. So I don’t have high expectations for a near-term turnaround. Hope I am wrong.

MOVING FORWARD

Despite my pessimism, I do not intend to throw in the towel on Earth stewardship. I think that underdogs have kept alive many important movements that seemed hopeless at the time: civil rights, women’s suffrage, and so on. Rachel Carson was the underdog in her day. I think that if underdogs had not spoken up, our air, water, and land would be in much worse shape than they are today.

Going forward, I’m not sure if I’ll continue advocating for state-level environmental initiatives. This has been a very frustrating experience with our conservative-controlled legislature and Public Service Commission. I do want to continue our household efforts at reducing our footprint. I am hoping to calculate a home carbon footprint to find out if our home efforts are really making a dent as compared to our past behaviors. I want to continue to set a good example for our extended family and especially for younger generations. I have a notion of possibly supporting college students in some way on their environmental journeys.

And I’ll keep on birdwatching, hiking, and paddling! Connection to this amazing planet is what gives me the strength to carry on with my environmental journey.  

• • •

JOURNEY WITH US: The Climate Action Team is for you because, well, the planet needs your urgent action – and we need each other as we navigate these changing times. Learn all about the group here,  and check out our minutes and take action table, our lending library and the Carbon Offset Fund. You can also request to join the Climate Action Team on Realm. Contact Nicole Haines to connect to the CAT and join us for our next Zoom meeting on Monday, May 20, at 7:30 PM at this link.