Tuesday, 26 Mar 2002

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.

I walked home last night under a beautiful rosy sky, appreciating the calm after a long and tiring day in the office. Mondays can be like that, especially when my assistant is out.

Yesterday was mostly consumed by endless phone calls and emails — nearly all catch-up work from the week and a half I was away. I was in Austria at an energy fair and in Washington, D.C., where I made the opening remarks for a wonderful new organization called Rachel’s Network. Inspired by the work of Rachel Carson, this group of women plans to have a prominent role in healing the planet. I also had the great fortune to attend a meeting with Tim Wirth of the United Nations Foundation.

One of the more important of yesterday’s phone conversations was with the steering committee of California Interfaith Power and Light. The group is a leading force in California, and played a major role in getting Californians to cut their electricity use during the months last year when we were threatened with rolling blackouts. Throughout the state, congregations heard the message that, “If you love your neighbor, you will conserve; whatever you turn off, your neighbor will be able to keep on” — and the neighbor just might need a respirator. We proved that people can and will conserve if they see the need.

Sally Bingham with a CFL.

Although we believe that conservation is a moral issue as much as a political one, we also support public policies that promote renewable energy. In particular, we are supporting a Renewable Portfolio Standard under discussion right now in the California legislature. Bill AB532 calls for 20 percent of California’s energy to come from renewable resources by 2010. This is the right thing to do, if we care about clean air and the generations that come after us.

During the phone call, we also discussed upcoming events, our invitations to an advisory board, and our compact florescent light bulb program. Right now, my office floor is covered with 500 CFLs, which I’m hoping to get distributed soon. Our program sells these bulbs at cost to youth groups, which then sell them at a profit. Once they have paid back the loan for the bulbs, the groups can keep whatever they make on the sales; they are free to charge whatever they think members of their congregation can afford to pay. We don’t know how successful this program has been yet, because we just got the bulbs and only 600 have been distributed. I suspect that congregation members will like the program and buy the bulbs. It is better than youth groups selling candy and cookies (healthier, that is), and educational besides. Moreover, compact fluorescents save a great deal of money and cut electricity use, thereby helping in our mission of reducing green house gas emissions.

After spending more than a week out of the office, the mail piles up, too. Yesterday I opened a large envelope containing the magazine Science & Spirit. Bill McKibben is on the cover, and an article about our work is inside. The story, which is about the role that religion can play in the environmental movement, features several people and organizations, along with an account of a protest last year in Washington, D.C., where 22 of us were arrested. It is always affirming to see the work of the religious community picked up in the media, and I recommend the magazine for those looking for resources on faith-based environmentalism.