Earth Day has been around 41 years. Good Friday has been around for about 2,000. But today is the first time they’ve ever converged, and it won’t happen again until 2095, when we’re all worm food. Most of us anyway.

So today seems like as good a time as any to ask, WWJD about the environment?

We don’t have to look far for evidence. The Bible – go ahead, I’ll wait while you dust yours off or find another book to prop up that broken leg on your night stand – says quite a lot about the environment, starting with Genesis where it says God made man a steward of the Earth.

In fact, The Good Book contains some of the earliest – and finest — examples of environmental writing in the Western tradition.

 Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.0rg and the author the first and perhaps best book about climate change, points out that the 38th and 39th chapters of the book of Job contain some of the most gorgeous environmental descriptions ever written. It start’s with God’s question to Job about who created the glories of the earth, and culminates in Chapter 39 as God continues the interrogation:

 Do you give the horse his strength, and endow his neck with splendor?  Do you make the steed to quiver while his thunderous snorting spreads terror? He jubilantly paws the plain and rushes in his might against the weapons. ..Is it by your discernment that the hawk soars, that he spreads his wings toward the south? Does the eagle fly up at your command to build his nest aloft? On the cliff he dwells and spends the night, on the spur of the cliff or the fortress. From thence he watches for his prey; his eyes behold it afar off…

Elsewhere in the Old Testament, odes to the glories of creation abound. Genesis, Isaiah, The Song of Solomon and the Psalms.

In fact, Psalm 104 echoes the language of the book of Job, only as praise instead of rebuke:

The trees of the LORD are well watered,
   the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
 There the birds make their nests;
   the stork has its home in the junipers.
 The high mountains belong to the wild goats;
   the crags are a refuge for the hyrax.

 He made the moon to mark the seasons,
   and the sun knows when to go down.
 You bring darkness, it becomes night,
   and all the beasts of the forest prowl.
 The lions roar for their prey
  and seek their food from God.
  The sun rises, and they steal away;
   they return and lie down in their dens.

The New Testament as well gives us guidance:

Matthew 6:26 – Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

Romans 1:19-20 – …since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

And Revelation 11:18 – The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great — and for destroying those who destroy the earth.

It’s pretty clear that God would not be happy with the way things are now. In fact, there’s  an old bumper sticker that said “Jesus is coming, and boy is he pissed,” which later became the lyrics to a country song, so you know it’s got to be true.

Witness:

  • An effort to extract oil from the tar sands in the stunningly beautiful boreal forest in Alberta, Canada, has resulted in a denuded toxic quagmire the size of England. And they want to do the same thing in Utah.
  • A year since BP’s ill-fated Macondo off-shore  well dumped nearly 5 million  gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico, followed by  2 million gallons of chemical disbursing agents, we still can’t calculate the damage to fragile marine life, coral and delicate coastal marshlands, where tar balls are still washing up.
  • And in Japan, well, only God knows how that mess will wind up.

A few years ago, a controversial Anglican priest in the U.K. named Rev. Jonathan Hagger delivered a sermon on climate change and creation.

Unfortunately, it no longer appears on his highly entertaining and considerably irreverent blog, which is titled “Of Course I Could Be Wrong…,” but I did manage to save a portion of it:

“When God became human in Jesus Christ, God did not just take on the appearance of a human being, he took on the substance of a human being. The molecules that formed the body of Christ, were exactly the same, with nothing subtracted, as the molecules that form all our bodies. And these molecules can be found, in some form or another, in all animal life and plant life. In fact, they come from the very ground we stand on. They come from the very stars we would see in the night sky if we didn’t have such appalling light pollution in our city. They come from the beginnings of the universe. Therefore, just as we are part of everything, so was Jesus.

That is why we are told, that, at the moment God died on the cross, the whole of creation responded. The very fabric of our planet screamed out in pain and anguish because, it felt the crucifixion. Most human beings, alive at the time did not feel the crucifixion because in their arrogance they had cut themselves from creation. We still do not feel the crucifixion because we are still too arrogant. We do not feel the crucifixion of Christ and we do not feel the crucifixion of our planet. In our arrogance we believe Jesus died just for us. But Jesus is God incarnate in creation so he redeems all creation not just the miniscule little bit of creation that comprises of human beings.

God looked at everything he had made and he saw that everything was good. Everything pleased him.

It would be pleasing to God if we took more care of those things that please God. If we begin now to take proper care of the earth, to live in creation, not against creation, we just might, with the help of God, end up with a habitable planet to hand on to our children. But to achieve this we are first, like Saint Francis, going to have to learn to live in union with creation not at the expense of creation.”

I hope you’ll give that some thought this Earth Day. This Good Friday.

— John D’Anna

An excerpt from our forthcoming column in The Mesa Republic:

We’re glad to see our fair city is encouraging everyone to participate in Earth Hour.

In case you didn’t get the memo, Mesa will be among 4,100 cities from 87 countries whose residents will dim their lights for an hour Saturday night at 8:30 p.m. local time to call attention to climate change and energy conservation.

Around the country, monuments such as like the Empire State Building, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City, the Las Vegas Strip and Simon Cowell’s soul will go dark for an hour.

The Earth Hour Web site, myearthhour.org, has a bunch of cool videos with ideas on how to observe the event, but frankly if you can’t figure out what to do for an hour in the dark, you’re not watching enough Cinemax.

We know some of you don’t believe in climate change, but, still, turning out the lights can save you a few bucks, which you could then donate to your favorite charity. Did we mention we were on furlough last week?

Anyway, it must be OK because a bunch of red states like Florida, Arkansas and Georgia are doing it along with as well as the pinko states.

— John D’Anna

One of our favorite YouTube destinations when our boss thinks we’re working —  besides celebrity nip slips and the infamous exploding whale of course — is Peter Sinclair’s Climate Denial Crock of the Week.

Sinclair, a graphic artist and environmental activist, put both skills together to create a series of authoritative, well-researched and entertaining videos that debunk pretty much every arrow in your average climate change denialist’s quiver.

The Medieval Warm Period. The Broken Hockey Stick. The “Unstoppable” 1,500 Year Warming Cycle. The How Can There Be Global Warming When We Just Had a Blizzard? All of them pretty much get blown up, not unlike the aforementioned whale.

He even takes on the whole “Climategate” stolen e-mail controversy.

Only trouble is, we never seem to be near our computer whenever we’re near a climate change denier. And even if we were, we probably wouldn’t have enough gummi bears in our pocket to get them to sit still long enough to watch it.

Enter technology.

Fast Company’s Dan Nosowitz has a cool post about four new iPhone apps to shut up climate change skeptics and to show them how to fix the damage they’re doing.

The first one, Skeptical Science, has handy drop down menus outlining the major categories of denier arguments, then breaks them into subcategories. It summarizes the argument, provides you with the science that debunks it, and even provides links to the studies the science is based on. Best thing is, it’s free.

The next one Nosowitz describes is the Jungfrau Climate Guide, which gives you data about the Jungfrau region of Switzerland. For instance, if you happen to be standing on a glacier, it can tell you how much that glacier has receded and how fast. We decided to pass on the $9.99 iTunes price, mainly because we have no plans to be in Jungfrau anytime soon and because we couldn’t find a way to hide it on our expense account for our day job.

In any case, we’d love to see the developers create a similar app for our beloved Sonoran Desert, which has warmed considerably in the last 30 years and seen a remarkable change in monsoon patterns. But we digress.

The other two apps,  Greenmeter ($5.99) and GreenYou ($0.99), are calculators of sorts. The first helps you analyze your vehicle and your driving habits so you can be more fuel efficient, and the second helps you calculate your carbon footprint.

Of course we couldn’t find an app that calculates the energy your iPhone uses in downloading all these apps. But give ’em time.

— John D’Anna

Everyone in Arizona it seems is all giddy these days over an impending execution.

It’s supposed to go down this weekend and will be attended by all kinds of dignitaries, singers, Apache Indian dancers and even school children.

We even got an invitation to share in this special moment.

The instrument of death in this case will not be lethal injection, however. Most likely it will be an axe or a chainsaw, or possibly both.

And the sad thing is, the accused committed no crime, other than being stately, majestic and beautiful.

On Saturday, folks will gather up in the White Mountains of Arizona, a region whose gorgeous forests have been ravaged by wildfires and bark beetles, to pay homage to the most beautiful tree they could find left standing.

And cut it down.

This year, Arizona has been chosen to supply the “People’s Christmas Tree,” which will stand outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington this holiday season.  Each year a different state gets the so-called honor, and this is Arizona’s first time. The excitement has been building. This week’s arborcide will be feted in all the press, and kids across the state have been asked to make ornaments to adorn it.

An exhaustive search began after last year, and this summer a fine blue spruce specimen from the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest was finally chosen above all others. It is 85 feet tall — the tallest tree since the Capitol tree tradition began in 1964 — and has a canopy of some 30 feet.

Some folks say it could have sprouted before Father Kino came to Arizona in the 1600s, but most likely its seedling days were about 200 years ago, or roughly the time Abe Lincoln was born.

And irony of ironies, it’s being called the Aldo Leopold Centennial Tree, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the year the great author and environmentalist came to work for the U.S. Forest Service in what was then the Arizona Territory.

Now, we enjoy the pagan tradition of the Christmas tree as much as anyone. Even live trees, because most of them are grown and harvested specifically for that purpose. But we think Aldo Leopold would join Druids everywhere in being appalled.

We’re guessing that nobody really thought through the environmental implications of this particular case.

Fear not. We did the math. Or actually got someone else to do it for us.

Believe it or not, there are actually formulas for calculating the weight of a living tree based on its height and the diameter of its trunk.

Esther Bowen, a graduate student in Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago, crunched the numbers for us and found that Arizona’s tree has a biomass of about 2,200 kilograms, which is a scientific way of saying it weighs more than 2 1/2 tons, at least half of which is carbon that is not being released into the atmosphere.

That’s just for starters. The plan is to truck this trophy around Arizona to show it off, and then take it on a circuitous path across the rest of the country so everyone can get a gander at it.

Esther found a formula that calculates the the carbon intensity of trucking — who knew? —  at  0.288 kg CO2/ton-mile. Given that the straight line from Arizona to D.C. is about 2,300 miles, they’ll  belch 1,600 kilograms — or nearly 1.75 tons of carbon into the atmosphere from that one truck alone. Actually more, because as we said, they plan to take the scenic route.

We found other calculations that indicate that if this tree were to be left online, it would continue producing as much as 100 pounds of oxygen a year while taking a similar amount of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

And the kicker is that they don’t plan to cut down just the one tree.

There will be 75 smaller “companion trees” apparently to keep the People’s Tree company.

Even if they’re half the size of the guest of honor, that’s 80 tons of carbon we’re pumping into the air to get them to the nation’s Capitol. And don’t forget that there’s an entire semi-truck they’ll need just to carry the 5,000 ornaments we’re shipping as part of the deal.

And we didn’t even ask who’s paying for all this, but our guess is that at least some of your tax dollars will be at work here.

We keep hoping our environmental president will issue some sort of last-minute pardon, like the one traditionally bestowed on the White House turkey at Thanksgiving, but it seems unlikely.

Which is too bad, but that seems to be the way Washington works.

They get the tree, we get the stump.

— John D’Anna

 

 

So even if you don’t care about the polar bears or the guy in the Maldives whose whole country is about to get swamped, or the melting glaciers or disintegrating ice shelfs or the killer hurricanes or any of that other stuff, here’s why you should care about climate change.

It’ll cost you more to get hammered.

Last month, a scientist in the Czech Republic (motto: Like Czechoslovakia but easier to spell) reported that climate change is adversely affecting both the quality and the quantity of the hops they grow there for their fine Pilsners.

According to a report in Discovery.com, Martin Mozny,  a climatologist at the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute and Bar and Grill, studied weather patterns, crop yields and the acid levels of the delicate Saaz hops, which make the best Pilsners. His team looked at data from1954 t0 2006 and determined that  acid levels had dropped 0.06  percent every year. To maintain their bitter taste, hops need to contain alpha acid levels at a certain percent, but Mozny’s team found that the levels are dropping dramatically and predicted it’s only going to get worse because of continually rising temperatures in the Czech Republic as well as parts of Germany and Slovakia.

But it’s not just beer.

For several years, the French have been complaining about the quality of the wines they’re getting from certain regions and how the woeful grape yields are driving up the cost. In fact, Greenpeace just released a huge report saying basically the same thing the Czechs found, but with wine.

“The average annual temperature (in wine-growing regions) has significantly increased, leading to major shifts in the wine production calendar. The harvesting season is occurring much earlier than normal and higher temperatures are proving detrimental to the vines,” the report says. “Wines end up having higher sugar levels and alcohol content while retaining less acids – which means they are unbalanced with an overripe flavour and heavier texture.”

Now we know what you’re thinking — who cares about the French? We feel the same way, although that Carla Bruni is quite the dish. What’s she doing with that dopey Sarkozy guy anyway?

But the point is it’s not just France and the Czech Republic or even Europe. There’s a reason they call it global warming.

Which brings us to Mexico.

Several studies have shown that tequila production is a nasty business and creates a pretty big environmental mess — and that’s before you drink it. Basically, it takes 10 gallons of water to produce one gallon of tequila. Much of that water is then discharged back into the environment, along with the used agave pulp, which emits a putrid oil. It’s not treated as wastewater before it’s discharged back into the water table, which has created a pollution nightmare for the indigenous people who try to make a living farming the land.

So what’s that got to do with climate change? To begin with, tequila is made in a desert environment that can ill afford to contaminate its very finite water supply. And like grapes and hops, agave plants depend on certain levels of acidity in the soil and stable annual weather patterns.Yet increasing droughts and desertification from climate change is changing the quality and quantity of the crop yields.

So what can we do about it? There’s the usual baby steps — walk more, drive less, compact fluorescent bulbs. But the big thing you can do is go to 350.org and participate in the worldwide call to action on climate change Oct. 24.  You can also sign a sort of virtual petition calling upon our leaders to address the climate crisis.

The number 350 represents the parts per million of atmospheric carbon dioxide that most scientists say we need to get to before we can stabilize our changing climate and head off the violent storms, melted ice caps and floating polar bear carcasses that will almost certainly be the consequence of doing nothing. Currently we’re at about 390 — before the Industrial Revolution, it was 280.

And we here in the U.S. are among the largest greenhouse gas belchers in the world, even though we represent a small portion of the world’s population. 

In December world leaders will gather in Copenhagen to negotiate a global response to climate change.

Today is international Blog Action Day, and we’re proud to be joining writers around the world in asking our readers to take action.

Some folks say there’s nothing to worry about. We respectfully disagree. We’ve been writing on this issue for a while now. We’ve interviewed some of the smartest people in the business and read their research. We don’t pretend to know everything, but we’ve seen enough disinformation and hidden financial motives from the deniers to set our B.S. detectors to DefCon 5.

But don’t take our word for it. Do your own research. And after you do, go to 350.org and send a message to our leaders that you care about our planet, that you’re tired of the way big oil companies are ruining our environment. And tell them that if our politicians are going to continue to drive us to drink, we at least want something better than Sterno.

— John D’Anna