The Positive Effects of Veganism on the Environment Submitted by Winifred Thomas (posted February 2015)

There are many reasons for eating a vegan diet.  Some do so because they are offended by the fact that animals raised for food in our culture are treated very badly.  Some people are repelled by the thought of eating animal flesh.  There are others who believe that raising animals for human consumption is very harmful to the environment. I have been eating a vegan diet now for about 2 1/2  years and find it very suitable for my body.

I was inspired to become vegan because I believe that animal protein is not good for the human body.  I have known for a long time that eating a vegan diet puts less stress on the environment, but I have not gone to the extent of studying the issue.  I appreciate the opportunity to write this article; it has encouraged me to do some research on the subject.

I did the research for this article on the internet.  There is a lot of information, and I would encourage those who feel inspired by the subject to make their own internet inquires.  I will focus on two aspects: the effects of gases emitted into the air and the amount of water used by producing meat for our tables.

There are three kinds of gases that contribute to global warming: Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane and Nitrous Oxide.  Scientists concur that the increase of these gases in the atmosphere is major contributor. Politicians are not so sure.

According to the Worldwatch Institute, a staggering 51% of global greenhouse-gas emissions is attributed to animal agriculture.  Cows must consume sixteen pounds of vegetation to produce 1 pound of meat. Producing just one hamburger uses enough fuel to drive a small car twenty miles. If one person exchanges meat for a vegan diet she/he will reduce CO2 emissions by 1.5 tons every year.  If every American dropped one serving of chicken per week for a year it would save the same amount of CO2 emissions as removing 500,000 cars from the road.  Methane is also produced by animal agriculture.  Chickens, turkeys, pigs and cows are collectively the largest producers of Methane gas in the United States.  Methane is 20x more powerful at trapping heat in the Earth's atmosphere than CO2.  Sixty-five percent of Nitrous Oxide is produced by the meat, egg and dairy industry and Nitrous Oxide is 300x more powerful at trapping heat in that Earth's atmosphere than CO2.  These figures are stunning and increase my resolve to continue my vegan lifestyle.

The preservation of potable water is becoming more urgent all the time.  We in the United State find this hard to believe because good, pure water has been readily available to us.  We do, however, know that this is not a world wide experience.  Again, the consumption of water by the industry of animal agriculture is notable.  Nearly one half of all water used in the United States goes for raising animals for food.  This, of course, includes the water used to raise the grain to feed the animals.  At least 80% of grain raised in this country is fed to animals which will be consumed by humans.  It takes 2,400 gallons of water to produce a pound of meat and 25 gallons of water to produce a pound of wheat.  One person can save more water by not eating meat than by not showering for 6 months.  A vegan diet requires 300 gallons of water a day whereas a meat eating diet requires 4,000 gallons. I think these figures stand alone. I personally find them compelling.

I know that a vegan diet is not for everyone but I think it is not difficult to believe that, as a nation we could work towards eating a lot less meat.  We tend to center our meal on meat. I have learned that it is just as possible to center my dinner on a sweet potato.  Change is difficult but it can be fun as well.

People’s Climate March (posted January 2015)

On September 28, 2014, Winky Thomas, Joanne and Bryn Douds and Eva and Robert Kresofsky joined approximately 400,000 marchers, including mayors, ministers, celebrities and other concerned citizens in the largest People’s Climate March in history.  We met people from all over the world.  We marched with the People of Faith contingent which was estimated by GreenFaith to consist of over 10,000 marchers.

It was quite thrilling to see the different banners and floats representing various denominations and religions. At our staging area, there was an inflated mosque and a wooden replica of Noah’s Ark.  There were over 2800 rallies in 168 countries on September 28 – truly a worldwide call for action to confront climate change.

The march was not intended to obtain tangible commitments from individual countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that threaten the world’s ecosystems.  Rather the goal was to draw attention to climate change and build momentum for a global agreement to be culminated in Paris in 2015.  The march generated intensive media attention which will hopefully lead to increased demands for climate controls around the world and put pressure on decision makers to act.

We are at a critical time in world history to tackle this problem.  The Global Carbon Project recently reported that greenhouse gasses increased 2.3% in 2013, largely due to big increases in China and India.  Climate experts have stated that an increase of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels would cause even more disastrous consequences from disappearing glaciers, rising water levels, flooding and extreme weather conditions.

Combatting climate change is a challenge but also an opportunity to work together to make a collective difference.  This will require changes in the way the world produces and consumes energy, companies to change the destruction of rain forests and alter the means of production and individuals to conserve energy in their daily lives.  One example of a simple change each of us could make is to buy non-aerosol pump sprays rather than aerosol sprays as they do not damage the ozone layer.  Each of us can make a difference.


Eco Tips

Eco-tip for January 2014

Food: Worldwide meat production releases more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transportation sector combined (Source: UN Environment Programme). Start small by eliminating meat one day per week, or challenge yourself by takinga week-long vegetarian pledge. See www.meatlessmonday.org or www.vegetariantimes.com for good recipes and more information.

Eco-tip provided by GreenFaith: www.greenfaith.org

Eco-tip for February 2014

Energy: The average US home has enough air leaks to equal an open window.
Sealing and insulating your home can save you up to 20% on heating and cooling costs, and upwards of 10% on your total energy bill (Energy Star). Find an experienced certified contractor, or follow Energy Star’s do-it-yourself guide tosealing and insulating: http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=diy.diy_index
Eco-tip provided by GreenFaith: www.greenfaith.org


New Homes for Our Feathered Friends

During these cold winter days, don’t forget to check out the new birdhouses in the garden on the South Orange side of the church. They were made by Winky Thomas and hung up by Bryn


 Humanity’s Job Description:  Compassionate Caretaker, Responsible Steward

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.  Genesis 2:15, New Revised Standard Version

Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind
* in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth,* and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ So God created humankind* in his image, in the image of God he created them;* male and female he created them. 

God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ God said, ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.

Genesis 1:26-29, New Revised Standard Version

Because we worship and honor the Creator, we seek to cherish and care for the creation.

Because we have sinned, we have failed in our stewardship of creation. Therefore we repent of the way we have polluted, distorted, or destroyed so much of the Creator's work.

On the Care of Creation – The Evangelical Environmental Network

We are to be humble regarding the idea of ownership and to be open to the demands of solidarity. Our mortality and our weakness of judgment together warn us not to take irreversible actions with what we choose to regard as our property during our brief stay on this earth. We have not been entrusted with unlimited power over creation, we are only stewards of the common heritage.

Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Bartholomew, Common Declaration, 2002

When asked to identify a Biblical passage about the environment, many Christians think of the “dominion” passage in Genesis (Gen. 1:26-7).  And when they’re asked about what they think this passage teaches about the environment, they pause uncomfortably.  Why?  Because most Christians think that this passage teaches that human beings can treat the earth in any way that we want.  Understandably, they’re not comfortable with this thought.

But is this really the Bible’s teaching on our role in creation?  Let’s start by examining another passage – Genesis 2:15, quoted above.  The key to understanding this passage lies in its final two verbs – translated as “till” and “keep.”  What do these verbs mean in their original language?  “Till” (shamar in Hebrew) is translated elsewhere into English in the Bible as “serve,” as in the famous passage from Joshua, “As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)  And “keep” (abad in Hebrew) appears in Aaron’s famous blessing with the meaning of “protect” – “May the Lord bless you and keep you,” (Numbers 6:24)   So, according to this Scripture verse, humanity’s job description can be understood as to “serve and protect” the garden – a meaning with strongly positive, caring connotations.

With this interpretation in mind, let’s return to the “dominion” passage.  When people think of this passage, their negative reactions come from three different sources.  First, some people react negatively to the idea that God gives human beings a higher rank than other parts of creation.  “Deep ecologists,” for example, who believe that plants, animals and eco-systems are valuable apart from their usefulness to people, object particularly to this idea that God values people more than other parts of the planet.

Secondly, many people react with concern to God’s commanding people to “multiply.”  Leading Chinese environmentalists, among many others, have written at length about the dangers that human overpopulation poses to the environment.

A third reason that many people dislike this passage is that they assume that “dominion” means “exploitation.”  Seen this way, the “dominion” passage represents nothing less than a divine warrant to destroy the earth.

We have three responses to these valid objections to this important passage.  To those who don’t like the idea of human dominion, our response is that, like it or not, human beings have enormous power over the earth.  There is simply no denying the fact that humanity has far more influence over the rest of the planet than any other species.  We don’t have a choice – we have dominion.  The only choice we have is how we chose to exercise it.

We share concerns about human overpopulation, but not simply because we’re simply concerned about simple numbers of people.  The consumption of a US child creates a much bigger environmental impact than the consumption of a Chinese or African child.  Yes, population is important - but human population levels usually level off when poverty levels fall.  We’re more concerned about the environmental impact of our consumption, and believe that this poses a greater long-term threat.  What’s more, Genesis’ encouragement of human “multiplication” clearly reflects the reality that during the Biblical period, infant mortality was high and average lifespan short.

Finally, to those who think that “dominion” is the same as “exploitation,” we recommend taking a second look.  Dominion in itself is morally neutral.  What matters is how we choose to use it.  Will we exercise our dominion over the earth with responsibility and loving-kindness, like God exercises dominion in relationship to us?  Or will our dominion be more selfish and destructive?  The choice is up to us.

In recent decades, theologians from across the spectrum have recognized that our God-given job description is to care for the earth with responsibility and compassion, to protect the planet’s capacity to support life.  There is no serious theological debate about tTeehis fact.  The challenge now?  Putting this belief into action.

We value and embrace differences; affirm, inspire and nurture faith in God