While I’m pretty sure that it would be some sort of cumulus-based transport (read “clouds”; see Acts 1:9, 1 Thessalonians 4:17, and Revelation 1:7; 14:14-16), we can be certain that it would not be a private jet.
This Wired News article looks at the practices of various companies committed to reducing manufacturing and industrial waste. Cutting waste makes good economic and environmental sense.
“Anything that’s waste is an inefficiency in the process, and inefficiency is lost dollars,” says Patricia Calkins, vice president for environment, health and safety at Xerox. A cost that is often overlooked is that associated with waste management. “Skyrocketing landfill costs during the late 1980s and early 1990s” helped push companies toward minimization of waste.
Carpetmaker Collins & Aikman, after initiating a carpet recycling program in its plant, reduced its costs for shipping waste to landfills, which “has saved the company an estimated $1 million. It has saved several million dollars more by reducing the amount of raw materials it buys.”
Of course, reducing inefficiencies at any point in the system reduces waste overall. This reality is behind what Hewlett-Packard’s change in “the design of its plastic molding tools, for example, to eliminate a lot of the plastic material that was used between parts as runners.”
“That was all scrap that just went to the floor,” says David Lear, HP’s vice president of corporate, social and environmental responsibility. “The biggest win is not recycling, but engineering the material out of your system so you don’t need to worry about landfilling it.”
The whole phenomena of waste reduction points to the dynamic compatibility of economic and environmental concerns and runs counter to conventional wisdom. Good stewardship of the environment need not be at odds with good economic stewardship.
If you’re inclined to praise GE for its “green” makeover, featuring cutesy ads like the one in which the baby elephant dances playfully in the rainforest, William Baldwin has some practical suggestions in a piece in this week’s issue of Forbes.
“Should you show your support by buying a few shares of this ecologically hip company? There are better ways to help the environment,” he contends. These include: opposing windmill subsidies, buying hormonal milk, and not recycling newspapers.
This review in the latest issue of Books & Culture by John Copeland Nagle, associate dean for Faculty Research and professor at the Notre Dame Law School, reflects on a book on the environmental history of China, by Mark Elvin.
Nagle begins the piece with a brief personal anecdote of his experience with environmental problems in China:
On the morning of March 20, 2002, I left my windowless office in the Tsinghua University Law School for a short break. Then I saw it: a bright orange sky, which soon turned brown and finally a dusky gray before eleven o’clock in the morning. What I was seeing was dust. Lots and lots of dust. So much dust, in fact, that two days later the United States Environmental Protection Agency reported that the particulate levels established by the Clean Air Act had been exceeded in Aspen, Colorado, because of the millions of dust particles that had been blown all the way from China. I soon learned that it was Mao’s fault…The orange sky that I saw in Beijing that morning was the predictable result of overgrazing and its resulting desertification.
The review is well worth reading. Nagle writes that Elvin’s book
recounts how generations of Chinese have labored to modify the natural environment to better achieve their own ends. Three thousand years ago, China was a land where forests filled much of the landscape, elephants and other wild animals roamed, and rivers and lakes provided abundant freshwater. Today most of the forests and wild animals have long since disappeared, China suffers from some of the worst air and water pollution in the world, and the government is struggling to create the legal and social mechanisms necessary to halt and reverse its deteriorating environmental conditions.
The laundry list of environmental mistakes over the millennia in China, along with China’s classification as a “developing nation,” makes it nearly inexplicable how China is exempt from greenhouse gas emission standards under the terms of the Kyoto protocol.
Nagle ends his review with a somewhat hopeful conclusion that one of the positive consequences of the great numbers of Christian converts in China is that they might help address China’s environmental dilemma. He writes, “The last several decades have produced an extensive literature that explores the extensive biblical teaching concerning creation, stewardship, and our duty to care for the natural world in which we live.”
But this speaks to the need for freedom of speech and the practice of religion. In distinction from a place like the United States, where religious leaders are free to engage in debate over environmental policy, “the challenge is far greater in a country where the practice of religion is strictly regulated, and where the first hints of political activity inspired by religious beliefs are just emerging.”
Foreign Policy hosts this exchange on environmental issues and economics. Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, gets the first word and Bjørn Lomborg, adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School, gets the last word.
I’m not quite sure what to make of this local story: “Four people are charged for their alleged involvement in killing two bald eagles.”
The details of the alleged crimes are as follows: “Prosecutors say two teenagers shot the eagles in the Muskegon State Game Area with a .22 caliber rifle in April 2004 and then chopped them up with a hatchet.” Since the bald eagle, one of the nation’s revered symbols, is an endangered animal, it is protected by both state and federal laws.
Given the law of the land (the Endangered Species Act), it makes some sense that those involved would be prosecuted for illegal killings of protected animals. But here’s the strange thing: two of the alleged participants are “charged with one count of animal cruelty, which is a four-year felony.” Unless I’m misunderstanding something, the eagles were “chopped…up with a hatchet” after they were killed. How can you be cruel to something after it’s already dead?
And just in case you were wondering which is considered more severe, the two men “are also facing one count each of killing a bald eagle, which is a 90-day misdemeanor.”
It’s hard for me to fathom why anyone would shoot and slaughter bald eagles, but that perversity is almost matched by the irrationality of the possible sentences.
Gregor Mendel, a monk and Abbot of Brünn, was born on this date in 1822. Mendel’s work opened up the promising and troubling field of genetics. He is often called “the father of genetics” for his study of the inheritance of traits in pea plants.
For information about what might be identified as the contemporary offspring of Mendel’s work, see the Acton Environmental Newsletter on Genetically Modified Foods, including Rev. Michael Oluwatuyi’s “How Will We Feed Africa?” and my article, “A Theological Framework for Evaluating Genetically Modified Food.”
Who needs sustainable cities? It appears that China does. Slashdot reports that a leading architect of the sustainable city movement, William McDonough, has been commissioned by the Chinese government to create “a national prototype for the design of a sustainable village, an effort focused on creating a template for improving the quality of life for 800 million rural Chinese.” A quick survey of McDonough’s clients includes Ford Motor Company, Fuller Theological Seminary, the Grand Rapids Art Museum, and IBM Corporation.
In an interview on sustainability, McDonough cites environmental concerns as key. “The goal is a safe, healthy, just world, clean air, soil and power, that is elegantly enjoyed,” he says. “In the 70s we saw the hegemony of fossil fuels. So what would be the next design philosophy we would want to work with?”
McDonough repeats the popular axiom that the Stone Age did not end because humans ran out of stones. Indeed, that something must change in China is increasingly less debatable. A report by the Energy Information Administration of the Department of Energy identifies China’s horrible pollution situation:
“A report released in 1998 by the World Health Organization (WHO) noted that of the ten most polluted cities in the world, seven can be found in China. Sulfur dioxide and soot caused by coal combustion are two major air pollutants, resulting in the formation of acid rain, which now falls on about 30% of China’s total land area. Industrial boilers and furnaces consume almost half of China’s coal and are the largest single point sources of urban air pollution.”
News media are beginning to recognize the significance of China’s dilemma, since “China accounts for about 12 percent of the world’s energy demand, but its consumption is growing at more than four times the global rate…. The country’s top environmental officials have warned of ecological and economic doom if China continues to follow this pattern.”
A recent USA TODAY story relates the economic impact of China’s worsening environmental situation. Citing Pan Yue, deputy director of China’s State Environmental Protection Administration, the report finds “Environmental injury costs China 8% to 15% of its annual gross domestic product.” It continues, “In the north, encroaching deserts are prompting human migrations that swell overburdened cities. In the south, factories have closed periodically for lack of water…. The World Bank estimates such shutdowns cost $14 billion annually in lost output.”
China’s pollution illustrates as well the fundamental flaws in the Kyoto Protocol. As a developing nation, China is exempt from the constraints of the agreement, despite it’s enormous and growing population, and it’s huge share of global pollution. Robert Mendelsohn, professor in the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, wrote that “Kyoto is consequently a complex country-by-country agreement that includes everything from nothing to extreme measures. It is no surprise that the USA did not finally agree to Kyoto as it was negotiated.”
For more reading about the legitimacy of governmental roles in promoting sustainability, see the Controversy between Charles C. Bohl, Director of the Knight Program in Community Building at the University of Miami, and Mark Pennington, Lecturer in Public Policy at the University of London, in the Journal of Markets & Morality issue on the New Urbanism, “To What Extent and in What Ways Should Governmental Bodies Regulate Urban Planning?”
Rev. Richard Cizik of Viriginia is being hailed as “in the vanguard of a striking new movement: evangelicals prodding President George W Bush to take action on global warming. And his stance cannot easily be dismissed as radical nonsense, as the Green cause is traditionally mocked by the Right.
He is the Washington representative for the National Association of Evangelicals, America’s largest evangelical group. With 30 million members, the NAE is possibly the most powerful voting bloc in the country.”
On the heels of a National Association of Evangelicals call for heavier involvement in politics, the Acton Institute reflected on the role of Christians in politics, and urged caution lest the moral authority of clergy be exploited.
Earlier this year (March 18), Rev. Gerald Zandstra (then director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Stewardship, currently on leave from Acton) was interviewed for a BBC News program about the role of evangelicals in the formation of American public policy. Click here to view video (wmv) of the story, and here to hear the audio (mp3).
Courtesy the Evangelical Ecologist, “A group called ‘Operation Noah’ has re-written parts of Scripture to fit their climate change message,” and goes on to compare two “versions” of Psalm 24.
I suppose this is just the next logical progression; if Scripture can’t be twisted by some perverse hermeneutic to fit your agenda, just change the text!
Author Ruth Jarman writes, “I hope it doesn’t look sacrilegious to re-write the word of God according to Ruth.” No matter if it actually is sacrilegious…just so it doesn’t look like it.
Otherwise, how would this bit of (unaltered) Scripture apply?