The Rev. Mitchel C. Hescox
(Readers Note: This is a response to a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed. The WSJ declined this response.)
How do you measure the cost of a child's life, or a permanently damaged brain, or ability to think? Whether it's 10 IQ points or total cognitive disability, we have the moral responsibility to defend our children, each child from preventable threats,especially mercury emitted from coal generated electricity. Mr. Potts in his recent Wall Street Journal OP-ED Mercurial Regulators Making Fishy Calculations, makes some fishy calculations of his own. According to Drs. Leonardo Trasande and Yinghua Liu, methylmercury costs our economy in children health costs up to $8.4 billion annually in 2008 dollars. Hardly the paltry $6 million Mr. Potts claims.
Coal isn't cheap by a total cost standard. The Harvard Medical School estimated that coal fired electricity costs each of us an additional $0.11kWh over what we pay on our meter, effectively doubling the cost. In other words, utilities get the profits, we suffer the costs. According to the most recent available information one in six babies are born with enough mercury in their tiny bodies to cause IQ loss,brain damage, and a potential host of other health problems.
Let's call it for what it is. Mr. Potts is asking us to continue to hide the true costs of burning coal to produce electricity in the brains and bodies of our children,subsidizing their profits by sacrificing our children's health and well-being.
When I was growing-up, my Mom had a saying, "If you made a mess, clean it up. Coal generated electric utilities have been making a big mess for decades and have never cleaned-up their mess until forced to do so. Today, over 102,000 miles of rivers and streams, almost 8,000,000 acres of fresh water lakes, 250,000 acres of wetlands, and 30,000 sq. miles of the Great Lakes in the United States are contaminated with mercury, and fish consumption advisories exist in all 50 States. Yet we have been giving special breaks and what amounts to subsidies to the coal fired utility industry for over twenty years. In August 2011, the nonpartisan research and analysis unit of Congress, the Congressional Research Service (CRS), wrote that Congress has given special consideration to coal electric generation for over 20 years. In fact, other industries rightly have been regulated to clean up their air pollution, including mercury, while coal-fired utilities have been given a free pass to keep polluting and harming our kids. Many utilities continue fighting to delay installing pollution control on their plants, a good number of which are over 40 years old. They continue to maximize their profits without investing or upgrading these aging relics whose cost has been amortized long ago.
In addition to mercury, asthma continues to threaten life itself as 130,000 kids and adults suffer from asthma attacks induced by particulates that the MATS regulation would eliminate. All told, the health benefits from enforcing this standard would save a minimum of $40 billion per year and cost the average electric user around $6.00 per month or $72 dollars per year. Not poisoning one in six babies born in the United States is worth six bucks a month to me, and I believe most Americans feel the same.
However, instead of investing in new technologies to make coal cleaner, the industry cries foul, keeps polluting, files law suits, puts our children at risk, and banks the profits. Let's stop telling fish stories and start telling the truth.
It's time to build a new American economy on clean energy, defend our kids,and stop living in the past. We have solutions, but the decision is ours. Today we stand on the precipice of a new energy industry. Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF )says the clean energy transition is now self-sustaining and inevitable. Morgan Stanley states the "tipping point is near for going off the grid."
Let's stop telling fish stories and instead go to work and rebuild America's greatness with an energy market build on real costs. It's the right thing to do; it's the American way.
by Alexei Laushkin
Yesterday morning a number of pastors from around Richmond gathered for a prayer breakfast on creation-care and the Clean Power Plan. We were honored to have Levar Stoney the Secretary of the Commonwealth for Governor Terry McAuliffe in attendance with us. We prayed for Levar and gave him a bible continuing the signatures of 35+ pastors who were calling on the Governor to reduce carbon pollution and help ensure energy freedom in the commonwealth. The full statement form the pastors is reproduced below.
Click here to view a short segment from the sermon I delivered that morning.
Richmond Ministers Calling for the Leadership of 'Caleb'
In the account of the Exodus, God's people had a bright future ahead of them, if they only would trust in the Lord and lean not on their own understanding. The days of wandering in the desert aren't too different than the days we inhabit. Then like now, the challenges seemed stacked against us. Then like now, people doubted and didn't have faith that God would provide a way through his people. Then like now, God still has more to do with each of us.
In the book of Numbers we find the account of Caleb. Moses through God led the Israelite refugees through Sinai to the edge of "The Promised Land." He then sends twelve men to explore this land of milk and honey. After 40 days, they return. One, Caleb, sees the hope for a better future. The other eleven forget what God has already accomplished and ferment yet another fearful revolt against God and Moses " crying out, "If only we had died in Egypt."
Returning to Egypt was an oft repeated demand throughout the Exodus. For many of us when faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges, we want to separate, go back, go our own way often without God's guidance or leading.
Whether we like to admit it " most of us fear change. That's where we stand today when it comes to climate change.
According to the American Lung Association State of the Air Report, 35.6 million kids in the United States live in areas with unhealthy air. In Richmond alone, the number of children with pediatric asthma exceeds an astounding 24,000. The childhood epidemics of asthma, autism, AHDH, and allergies impact as many as 1 in 3 children in the United States, with strong links to the overuse of unclean fossil fuel-based energy. We in the developed world have benefited greatly from our past energy sources, but not without costs borne by our children's health. The decision to be stewards of our children's health is ours. Today we stand on the precipice of a clean energy revolution - one that could provide energy freedom for all, grow our economy, empower families to generate their own energy, protect our children's health, and protect national security. This isn't an illusion or pipedream. Business giant Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) says the clean energy transition is now self-sustaining and inevitable.
The Clean Power Plan will help us get to this future, and that's why we are calling on Governor McAuliffe to lead. We urge Governor McAuliffe to boldly embrace his opportunity to implement limits on carbon pollution from power plans so that we can protect our future generations. It's time to be a Caleb.
by Alexei N. Laushkin
Tomorrow ministers will gather for a day of prayer for creation care at St. Paul's (815 E Grace St, Richmond, VA 23219). I spent a good portion of today praying and fasting for Governor Gov. Terry McAuliffe, whose leadership is crucial when it comes to creation-care and energy freedom in Virginia.
Tomorrow the pastors gathered will cite the example of the Exodus and the biblical example of Caleb as we call on Governor McAuliffe to take up bold leadership under the Clean Power Plan that will reduce pollution and create jobs.
Today I also had a chance to visit Richmond Hill. Right after the Civil War the Sisters of the Visitation established a monastery and girls school. Since that time daily prayers have been offered for the healing, reconciliation, and welfare of the city, and today I was able to pray for our current moment when it comes to creation-care and human life.
The prophet Jeremiah takes time to note that because God's people had turned away from the one true God and instead served their own idols and neglected justice and righteousness that the animals and the plants also were neglected. The flourishing of creation was muted because God's people did not take their stewardship seriously.
When we see that kind of evidence today, what I mean is the 24,000 children in Richmond alone who suffer from pediatric Asthma. The latest childhood epidemics are Asthma, Autism, AHDH, and Allergies impacting as many as 1 in 3 children in the US with strong links to petrochemicals and fossil fuel energy. When we see that kind of evidence than indeed our starting point must be prayer.
But not just prayer but prayer that leads to personal transformation and private and public action. You see Jesus is now the ultimate Lord and steward of creation, and we must follow his example when it comes to striving for a better way to steward our Father's world. We all have a role to play. Come Lord Jesus.
Alexei Laushkin is the Vice-President of the Evangelical Environmental Network
President Obama and his Administration have already made great strides towards implementing his Climate Action Plan, and his proposed FY2016 budget hopes to continue this forward momentum.
Here are a few things that stood out to us:
Also related to the Administration's climate efforts, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released a draft regulation on methane leaks. We are generally supportive of the 111b process for new and modified sources offered in the draft and the impetus created for a 111d standard to deal with existing sources. The new standard must only be considered as a first step in eliminating fugitive methane that poses as a tremendous threat not only to our climate but to children's health and welfare.
We look forward to continuing to support the President in his historic efforts to fight climate change, and building bipartisan support across our nation for strong clean energy future and defending our children's health.
The Bible provides a direct mandate to be caretakers of the garden (Gen 2 v.15). While creation still belongs to God, he has graciously entrusted it to our care and stewardship. This was our first calling, recorded early on in Genesis 1 and 2, and we remain God's caretakers over all creation today.
Check out what Bill Hybels, Tri Robinson, Joel Hunter, and others have to say in this 26:00 minute documentary.
by R. Scott Rodin, MTh, PhD
Ten years ago I faced a crisis of faith. I'd been raised to believe that there was a pecking order to God's love: our eternal souls first, our physical bodies a distant second, and creation a very distant third. Life and faith were evaluated through this criteria screen, and creation almost always paid the price.
What caused me to question this flawed filter was my Trinitarian theology. In considering God's triune nature I reached a point where I could no longer accept that God cared less about how we treated his creation than by how we treated one another. I wasn't sure where to go next, but I was determined that the Trinity would prevail in wherever this took me. I began by stepping back and looking again at creation through the lens of relationship and not utility. Let me explain.
We believe that our God is triune in his very nature. This means that the nature of God is defined by relationships at the most profound level. It also means that he created a world that would feature relationships as its defining mark. Quantum physics, the Genome Project and a wide array of scientific discoveries continue to affirm that our universe is an amazing display of interrelatedness and interdependence. In this way creation declares the glory of its Creator. When humanity entered the scene, God continued the theme, created us male and female for the highest form of created relationship. And he immediately placed us in a garden with the command to tend it.
We witness four levels of relationship that are established in Genesis 1-2; our relationship with God, with our self, with our neighbor and with creation. How else would a triune God create than by establishing everything in the context of relationship? We were meant to live in whole, meaningful and mutually fulfilling relationships at all four of these levels.
This relational understanding of creation is critical if we are to grasp the breadth of the devastating impact of the fall. Scripture tells us that the fall brought brokenness to these relationships at all four levels. Our relationship with God was broken, requiring the mediation of priests, temples and sacrificial rites. Our relationship with our self was broken, requiring us to find meaning and purpose in a life now dominated by sin and its consequences. Our relationship with our neighbor was broken ushering in the history of 'man's inhumanity to man'. And our relationship to creation was broken, relegating us to work the earth and produce a crop from the sweat of our brow.
With this Creation-Fall backdrop understood in Trinitarian terms, I turned to Christ's work of atonement. There is a powerful moment in The Passion of the Christ is when Mary works her way through the crowd to come to Jesus' side as he falls under the weight of the cross. There Mel Gibson takes Jesus' words of victory and hope from Revelation 21:5 and has him speak them to his mother on the way to Calvary, "I am making everything new!"
Indeed he was. Our understanding of the atonement must be as comprehensive and inclusive as that of creation and the fall. We are told that everything that was lost in the fall was restored in Christ. The broken relationships at all four levels were taken up into Christ in the Incarnation, healed by his wounds on the cross, and restored in his resurrection. Paul tells us, "Just as one sin resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in the justification and life for all people." (Romans 5:18)
Here was the critical moment in my journey. If God created us for whole, loving, and fulfilling relationships at these four levels, if we then lost everything in the Fall, and Christ subsequently bought all of it back for us in his life, death and resurrection, then it follows that God has given back these relationships to us saying, "Take care of these, they are not yours. You lost them and I bought them back for you. It cost me the blood of my Son. These are precious gifts. Steward them out of your love for me."
That settled it for me. My commitment to creation care became the unquestionable result of my Trinitarian faith. The moment I realized that all of life's relationships at every level of my existence were precious gifts from God, my understanding of faithful stewardship was expanded further than I ever could have imagined. For me the most radical expression of that steward responsibility was a redeemed understanding of my call to care for God's creation.
So as a result of this Trinitarian journey, here are my newfound commitments.
R. Scott Rodin has been in not-for-profit leadership and consulting for over twenty-seven years. He is the President of Kingdom Life Publishing. He also serves as a Partner and Executive VP for Strategic Alliances for Artios Resource Partners and he is a Director and Principal of the consulting group of OneAccord NFP.