Monthly Archives: August 2017

Harvey should be the turning point in fighting climate change

Harvey should be the turning point in fighting climate change

People walk along a flooded road’s median during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey on Tuesday in Houston. (Brendan Smialowski/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)
August 29 at 8:46 PM

Vernon Loeb is managing editor of the Houston Chronicle.

I’ve covered the news in Houston for 3½ years and have already seen two devastating floods and now what is being described as a one-in-800-years flood brought on by Hurricane Harvey.

That suggests to me that something is happening here that’s way bigger than the largely made-up tiff between Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner (D) about whether Houston should have been evacuated before Harvey dumped trillions of gallons of rain on the nation’s fourth-largest city.

There’s no denying Texas is politically polarized, with all its major cities liberal and Democratic, and the rest of the state, and all its statewide elected officials, conservative and Republican. So there’s no end of discord and rancor if one wants to find reasons for blame and finger-pointing.

Houston, meanwhile, can be its own worst enemy when it comes to flood control. A big part of its freewheeling, entrepreneurial identity is its lack of zoning, which has produced more than 600 square miles of subdivisions, strip malls and concrete prairie. It’s not hard to wonder whether this vast expanse of what was once coastal plain was really the best place to build a major city.

But anyone who has lived through four straight days of torrential rain that may surpass 50 inches knows perfectly well that no zoning code, infrastructure improvements or flood control regulations could have done anything to deal with this much water inundating a major metropolitan area this quickly.

And it is an unbelievable amount of water. Not wanting to risk my car on Sunday morning, I started toward our newsroom on foot and found myself waist-deep two blocks from my home.

On Monday I ventured a mile north to Buffalo Bayou, a bucolic urban park remade thanks to $25 million from a leading local philanthropist who once worked for Enron. The park was gone, its meandering bayou now a roiling, fast-moving river that had engulfed parkways on both sides, flooded a television station and badly damaged much of the city’s theater district.

On a stretch of Kirby Drive in River Oaks, Houston’s toniest neighborhood, the water was chest-deep, lapping up onto mansion lawns.

Sometimes, even in our political and governmental bureaucracies, people say exactly what they mean. Not known for hyperbole, the National Weather Service tweetedafter the first devastating day of rainfall, during which some parts of Houston got more than 25 inches: “All impacts are unknown & beyond anything experienced.”

“It’s catastrophic, unprecedented, epic,” said Patrick Blood, a National Weather Service meteorologist. “Whatever adjective you want to use.”

 Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, went even further: “This is a storm the United States has not seen yet.”

What they’re talking about, whether they know it or not, or care to acknowledge it or not, is global warming. The planet is getting warmer, ocean temperatures are rising, the polar ice caps are melting, and all of the incontrovertible science of climate change is that more extreme-weather events are an inevitable consequence.

Tom Friedman in his new book calls climate change a “black elephant” — a combination of the unforeseen “black swan” event with enormous consequences and the “elephant in the room” no one can see.

There’s really no other way to make sense of what’s happening in Houston. The black elephant is here in America, just as it’s in Africa and the Middle East and Antarctica, whether we want to see it or not.

Just acknowledging that will help Houston recover once the rain finally stops, making the political blame game even more futile than it has already become in American politics.

For now, Abbott and Turner are working tirelessly and cooperatively to help the thousands and thousands of people trapped by the worst floods in Houston’s history.

And whenever it’s over, Houston should use Harvey to jump-start its transition from the country’s epicenter for oil and gas to a world capital of alternative energies. If the city can turn this devastating tragedy into an existential moment of reinvention after the storm, then a decade from now we may argue that it was worth it.

As for the nation, Americans need to understand what leading scientists have concluded even if many of our political leaders pretend it’s not true — we’ve just about blown through the Holocene epoch, when Earth emerged from the last ice age and became more comfortable for human life. Some climatologists have started to call our current age the Anthropocene, in which conditions on the planet have been dramatically altered by man. We have to take responsibility for what we’ve done, and take charge of our future.

It’s clearly too late to stop the Category 4 hurricane that led to the millennial flooding in Houston. But it may not be too late to save the planet if we heed Harvey’s hard lesson here in Texas, a proud state that doesn’t like to be messed with. It could be the perfect place to start.


September 21 is the United Nations World Day of Peace

September 21, 2017 

World Day of Peace 

Thursday, 7 pm – 9 pm 

Franciscan Renewal Center, 5801 E Lincoln Drive, Scottsdale


7pm: Interfaith Prayer & Music 

8pm: Presentation of Nonviolence Leadership Certificates 

8:15pm: Presentation of the Casa Peace Award

8:30pm: Closing and Dances of Universal Peace Social Gathering & Refreshments


No Fee. Donations Accepted Gratefully. 

Please Register for seating:


All Are Welcome!


Notice how things slow down during the hot summer months in Arizona?  At the Franciscan Renewal Center many parishioners flee to cooler climates, and those who remain in Arizona sorely miss our collaborators who work with us on climate change issues.  There is one thing, however, that we can continue to do as individuals – no government, no state, no city help needed.  And that is recycling!  The Recycling Committee, which is part of the Care for Creation Committee at the Casa, has tirelessly researched this subject and has presented their findings in events throughout the year.  Recycling is one area that should never slow down, no matter what the weather.  All that is needed is a strong sense of personal responsibility and care for the earth.

Have you ever tossed a plastic bag in the recycling bin and wondered if you were doing the right thing?  There are so many types of plastics and sorting them properly seems so complicated!  If so, the following information will help.

You can recycle the following bags if they are clean and dry:

  • Bread bags, food storage bags, newspaper bags,
  • Air pillows – those air-filled bags used in shipping,
  • Case wrap – the plastic wrapped around packs of water bottles,
  • Napkins, paper towels, bathroom tissue, diaper wrap packaging,
  • Grocery and retail bags,
  • Furniture and electronic wrap,
  • Any bag that has the How2Recycle label. presents clear information about labeling.

What next now that everything is sorted?  That’s easy!  The following stores are partners in recycling plastic film – Safeway, Albertsons, Fry’s , Bashas’, Sprouts, Target.

Want to learn more about recycling plastics?  Check out




Rally in downtown Phoenix next week

We invite you to gather in downtown Phoenix next week to bear witness to the real, lived experience of those facing racism and injustice and to speak truth to power.  Recent events in Charlottesville and the subsequent national response have again brought to the forefront our country’s shameful history on these issues.  Let faith give us the strength to commit ourselves to protect a diverse humanity and all of creation.  As people of faith, our presence and our voices need to be heard.  Now is the time to find courage to put our love into action.

We believe a wide range of groups and individuals will be gathering this Tuesday, the 22nd, near the Phoenix Convention Center (in the vicinity of Monroe and Second Streets) from around 5 p.m. to 7 p. m. and perhaps beyond.  Stay tuned to monitor if the rally inside the Convention Center is, in fact, cancelled.  See you there!


Arizona Interfaith Power and Light actively works for climate justice.  To that end, we advocate on behalf of all God’s creatures to move towards a more sustainable, just and peaceful planet.

Virginia IPL Statement on the Events in Charlottesville

Virginia Interfaith Power & Light’s Board of Directors and members are heartbroken over the events we witnessed this past weekend in Charlottesville.  We are deeply troubled by the hatred and violence which led to the senseless death of Heather Heyer, who courageously went to Charlottesville to replace hatred with love and to call for the dismantling of white supremacy.  We offer our prayers and sympathy to her family, friends, and community, and we are grateful for her life and commitment to the work of justice.  We also grieve with all Virginians over the deaths of Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M. M. Bates and hold their families in prayer, asking for comfort at their loss in the line of duty.

We work every day to advocate for justice, focusing specifically on environmental policies and laws that will protect clean air and water for Virginians.  We also work to protect the wonderful gift of the creation, and we do so as an act of worship and gratefulness.  These efforts are tightly linked to intersecting justice issues, which impact all of our lives.  White supremacy has been called America’s original sin, an ideology that is built on a myth of created superiority of white Europeans and their descendants over all others.  We are aware of the many ways in which white supremacy’s tentacles hold our laws, policies, and public debate in a death grip, preventing common sense progress toward justice and equal quality of life for all on this planet.  We are painfully aware of the scourge of environmental racism in Virginia, which disproportionately subjects communities of color to polluted air, water and land.

The ideology that sources white supremacy is a dehumanizing vision that deems Jews, Arabs, Muslims, Native Americans, Africans and African Americans, Latinos and Latin Americans, Asians and Asian Americans, as well as LGBTQ people as subhuman.  This myth also makes the rest of creation subject to its caprice, as it supplants the Creator’s purpose for all life with the will of a few.  We repudiate this myth.

As people of faith, we commit our efforts toward good works to protect the beautiful gift of life given to us through creation and to the diverse humanity on this planet.  We commit ourselves anew on behalf of all Virginians to resist the exploitation and destruction of the environment, to encourage reduction of life-threatening carbon pollution, to insist on renewable energy sources, to extend sustainable practices to faith communities, and to ensure environmental and civil justice for all earth’s inhabitants through the law.  We move forward with the faith that this vision of justice and shared abundance will come to fruition when people of goodwill work together with courage and love.