It’s our annual week to explore gratitude and to casually enjoy the company of others before the full waves of holiday hype crash upon us. Good health, family, friends, and material comfort are low-hanging sources of gratitude. As you prepare for or recover from over-feasting or intense family-ing, here’s an assortment of things you might add to your gratitude list before Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales dominate your mental airwaves.
Take a moment to breathe deeply and feel grateful for…
our lungs, which contain 300 million balloon-like structures known as alveoli. Go ahead, take another deep breath.
the moths that feed the Yellowstone bear, which can consume an average of 40,000 moths a day. At this rate, the bear can consume around one-third of its yearly energy requirements in just a month.
the human femur, which has four times the strength of the same size unit of concrete.
the more than 12,000 different ant species that make up a total of 1 million billion ants living on Earth. Why? According to Iowa State University: “Ants are among the leading predators of other insects, helping to keep pest populations low. Ants move approximately the same amount of soil as earthworms, loosening the soil in the process and increasing air and water movement into the ground. They keep the ecosystem clean of dead insect carcasses and aid in the destruction and decomposition of plant and animal matter. By carrying bits of plants and animal remains into their nests, the soil is fertilized and nutrients recycled through the world’s ecosystems. They carry seeds and help plants disperse into new areas.”
cougars, who – by eating herbivores with seeds in their stomachs and then leaving scat across a large range – are able to plant about 94,000 plants every year.
our hair (regardless of how much remains on your head). In the average lifetime, each of us will grow around 600 miles worth of hair. This is about twice the length of Lake Superior and equivalent to about 428.4 inches per strand of hair.
the 30 plants that generate 90% of the foods humans eat – even though there are over 80,000 edible plants in the world.
the brain’s storage capacity of 86 billion neurons and 1,000 trillion connections those neurons form with others. Think about that!
the orchid Vanilla planifolia, which is the source of one of my favorite flavorings.
all of the trees that surround us and redistribute up to 95% of the water they absorb into their roots and leaves. They reduce erosion and flooding and impact microclimates with the powerful cooling effect of their transpiration.
The Climate Action Team is grateful for its members, for all of you who have stopped by and talked with us after a worship service, for those who have checked out a book from our lending library, for those who have donated to the Carbon Offset Fund, for the support of the church’s staff and lay leadership, and for the ongoing efforts of all in the UUCA congregation and larger community to save and savor the Earth.
Recent promotions from the newly-formed mass incarceration advocacy group have used the language of “church-wide” to generate engagement on this very important issue. In fact, our board of trustees, led by David Yamashita, has as one of its goals to “support social justice with one all-congregation initiative.” This has gotten me to wondering.
At last week’s Social Justice Roundtable, a member of the Social Justice Coordinating Team voiced that, in her mind, all initiatives led by the church’s social justice groups are church-wide and inclusive. Indeed, a look at almost every Weekly Update highlights opportunities to participate with our Partners in Education locations, to contribute to Women Empowered’s supply drives, and to help provide meals in local shelters alongside members of the Homeless Advocacy Team.
As this year’s pledge drive pushes for a successful conclusion, we are reminded of our responsibility as members to regularly share our time, talents, and treasure. Is that commitment reflected in the participation rate of our various social justice groups? Could one scan the congregation on a Sunday morning and find that most attendees are active in one of these groups – or perhaps a non-UUCA social justice organization?
It seems like everyone agrees that social justice is woven into the cloth of UUism. Our longer-time members recall UUCA’s role in Atlanta’s civil rights history, and I’ve heard some bemoan that that time may have been the pinnacle of our social justice efforts. Is that so? Have other issues or needs diluted our social justice focus? Did the loss of our social justice staff position several years ago lead us off course somehow? The goal of the board to support one all-congregation initiative suggests the answer may be “yes.”
My understanding is that the board’s responsibilities generally revolve around policy, finance, and staff oversight – not necessarily program. That falls to RE, arts, worship, and music leadership. This pseudo-programming goal and the board’s intention to task a new assistant minister with social justice coordination makes it clear that the powers-that-be want UUCA to better exercise its social justice muscles and to operate with congregational solidarity in addressing pressing needs. I feel sure that current social justice team leaders would welcome wider congregational participation.
Many questions arise then: Who decides the issues that deserve the congregation’s focus? Is that a staff-driven, board-driven, or congregant-driven call? Should social justice groups lobby board leaders and staff or pitch proposals for future “all-congregation” initiatives to some decision-making committee? Is the good work currently being done by our social justice teams perceived as too diffuse, minimally impactful, and small beans? Is there a recent precedent of all-congregation initiatives that have generated widespread engagement and delivered big results? If so, how could we replicate that success?
The passion that motivates members of UUCA’s social justice teams is real. Small in size, these groups meet regularly, plan carefully, and work hard to live UU values. And these groups regularly invite the whole church to magnify their impact. Let’s be clear: these social justice groups are not simply representatives of the congregation. They are the wheels that keep UUCA’s social justice work on track. Whether greater impact requires board sanction or the efforts of a dedicated staff person is yet to be seen. The call to work towards the sixth principle – “the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all” – calls on all of us, that’s “church-wide,” to share more generously of our time, talents, and treasures to help a world in need.
He-who-shall-not-be-named testified this week in his New York fraud trial. Horrific fighting between Israel and Hamas entered its second month. Environmental groups around the world began revving their bases’ engines in preparation for the 2023 UN Climate Change Conference, which kicks off in two weeks.
And there’s a cat in my lap.
The CDC reported this week that the number of American newborns with syphilis shot up exponentially over the last ten years. House Republicans continued to disagree about funding the government when its current funding expires on Nov. 17. Some of Tuesday’s state elections focused on protecting abortion rights, legalizing pot, and shielding the richest from a “wealth tax.”
I don’t have a cat. I used to, but he’s been gone for over 15 years. He was a great cat, but this one? She’s not mine.
The Supreme Court began considering this week whether violent domestic abusers should be allowed to possess firearms. The American Library Association reported that book bans – and attempted bans – have hit record highs. After almost two years of war, about one-fifth of Ukraine is occupied by Russia.
The cat made her first appearance in my backyard a year ago and wanted nothing to do with my visiting family, who called to her from the fire pit. I figured she had snuck under the fence from a neighboring house. I didn’t see her again for months. Until this summer.
She returned, and she had company. A tiny striped kitten followed along, wide-eyed and very wary. Over several visits, the two built up the courage to climb the stairs and lounge in my deck chairs. The kitten was still nursing, and Mama didn’t seem to mind my presence.
Over three months, the duo made occasional appearances in the deepest part of the back yard, on the back deck, and even on my front porch. The kitten doubled in size and grew to appreciate a gentle pat and tug on the ears. She doesn’t accompany Mama anymore – I haven’t seen her in weeks. And the fact that a neighbor recently shared a video of two coyotes walking in front of my house in broad daylight doesn’t bode well.
But Mama has become a regular solo visitor. She now loves to be pet and circles around my legs until she’s gotten all the affection she can stand. I’ve begun rewarding her with a small bowl of milk, and I think she’s hooked. Now she looks through my glass kitchen door, waiting for an invitation inside. It’s not going to happen. She’s not my cat.
Earlier this week, on a picture-perfect afternoon, Mama jumped into my lap, stretched herself out with her chin resting on my wrist, and fell asleep. I took the picture you see here to prove to others that it really happened. Even as the news of the world whirled around my head, I became singularly aware of this fellow being, this life source, this trusting visitor. I watched her breathe, stroked her neck, and felt her lightness on my lap. Amidst all the troubling news, she was a furry comfort, and I rested in the warm brilliance of “the interdependent web of all existence.”
We interrupt your normally-scheduled blog content to report that you have done something… GREAT! That is, if you have donated to UUCA’s Carbon Offset fund over the past several years. The Climate Action Team oversees the fund and voted several months ago to pay off the debt on the electric vehicle (EV) charging stations located in the parking lot on the side nearest the sanctuary. The COF grant, proposed by Sue Certain and Bryce Thomason, allocated $10,730 to pay off the debt incurred by the purchase and installation of the EV charging unit. You will now find a sign at the charger celebrating the generosity of all who contributed to the fund.
But wait, there’s more! The move to our new campus offered us the chance to be intentional about a larger green space, and the Climate Action Team approved funding from the COF to secure a plan to do just that. We are in the final stages of contracting with Shades of Green Permaculture to design a full-site plan that the church can implement with volunteer help as funding allows. This will be much more than a traditional planting plan. It will include water retention and storage as well as healthy land use. The cost of the permaculture plan is expected to be approximately $3,600.
Project Phoenix helped ensure that our facilities are energy efficient and minimize UUCA’s carbon footprint. Now, through the Carbon Offset Fund, the Climate Action Team is moving us toward a greener stewardship of our campus and our service to local EV drivers. You can learn more about the Carbon Offset Fund and make a contribution here. It’s an especially great thing to do after you have taken a trip – by car, plane, or cruise ship – that has had a negative carbon impact on the planet. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, 8 to 10% of global CO2 emissions are caused by the travel and tourism sector. Are you interested in calculating the carbon impacts of your travel and more? This calculator is a good starting point.
A huge thank you to all who have contributed to the Carbon Offset Fund! Demonstrate how how much you save and savor the Earth by making the COF a regular part of your post-travel giving at UUCA.
A new member of the Climate Action Team shared at our most recent meeting that she tended to pay the most attention to federal environmental issues. Our group’s activism around congregational, local, and state initiatives was not as familiar to her. At that meeting last week, we talked about the city of Athens’ city-wide composting program and a pilot compost initiative in East Point. A member shared details of her recent tour of the Compost Now facility west of the city. Another member reported about her participation in last week’s DeKalb Green New Deal Summit. We learned that language for the CAT’s contract for a campus permaculture design is in final review. For a group that thinks globally, the CAT is certainly acting locally.
Local action in support of global environmental goals was on full display at the Oct. 15 Ray Day, a community celebration hosted by the Ray C. Anderson Foundation on farmland at Serenbe in Chattahoochee Hills. Fellow CAT members Julie Simon and Lizanne Moore joined me for the free event, which included over 50 exhibitors, solar and EV displays, and hands-on family activities.
Ray C. Anderson was a respected corporate CEO who, at the height of his success, had an epiphany that he “called his mid-course correction – the beginning of his quest to prove that sustainability was not just the right thing to do, it was the smart thing to do for business,” according to the foundation’s website. “Ray was a gifted storyteller and inspirational catalyst who changed the way we think about consumerism and production,” the site’s biography continues. “His masterful penchant for storytelling was matched only by his uncompromising determination to brighten his corner of the world. What started as one person’s mission to change his company’s thinking stimulated a greater transformation: one that carried with it the momentum to break from the status quo.”
Ray Day’s exhibiting organizations ran the gamut from big names like Sierra Club Georgia, Drawdown Georgia, and Georgia Organics to smaller groups like LiveThrive/CHaRM, Whispering Hills Natural Green Cemetery, and WunderGrubs Farms. All of them seek in some way to disrupt elements of the status quo that contribute to accelerating environmental collapse. It’s sometimes easy for my cynicism to lead me to devalue the impacts of some of these non-profits, but the call to “act locally” can not be overstated.
Our lives are lived locally – within our homes, our neighborhoods, and our counties. My recent reading has me exploring national and global metrics that argue that widespread collapse has begun, but it’s what’s happening outside my door and outside my car windows that really grabs my attention on a daily basis. There’s the growing number of neighbors who contract yard crews that rely on deafening gas blowers. According to this New York Times editorial, “hydrocarbon emissions from a half-hour of yard work with the two-stroke leaf blower are about the same as a 3,900-mile drive from Texas to Alaska in a [Ford F-150] Raptor.”
As I type this, chippers are grinding the branches of beautiful trees that were felled in a close-by park to make space for a county sewer pipe upgrade. The project is just in time since, within two miles of my house and on a site UUCA considered during its relocation search, over 470 new apartments are being built in the massive Resia development (left), just across Memorial Drive from two other developments by the Kensington MARTA station that will add 500 apartments. Nearly 1000 new apartments means a lot of flushing toilets and much greater resource usage.
And there’s what’s happening with the clearing and land degradation for the City of Atlanta’s controversial “Cop City” facility seven miles from my house in the Weelaunee Forest. And there’s the unregulated industrial sludge waste that’s being dumped at dozens of sites around the state and threatening ground water quality, including 45 miles from me in Braselton. And there’s the titanium dioxide mining being considered 280 miles from me that threatens the critical stability of Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp, a national wildlife refuge that boasts extraordinary biodiversity. That’s 50 species of reptiles, 60 species of amphibians, 40 species of mammals, 600 plant species, 34 kinds of fish, and 200 bird species that call the largest blackwater wetland in North America home, according to this piece in Garden & Gun.
Thinking globally keeps us mindful of the UU seventh principle and the complex realities that shape the present and future. It’s acting locally, though, that brings reality home and empowers us to make choices that align with our values. That involves choices about our (conspicuous) consumption, our energy use, our financial investments, our philanthropic generosity, our political activism, our spiritual practices, and our self-care. The Climate Action Team helps its members think globally, act locally, and feel supported as they do both.