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Reflecting on the United Nations High-Level Political Forum


In July 2023, four leaders from across the United States joined ELCA World Hunger and the Lutheran Office for World Community in New York City as delegates of the Lutheran World Federation at the 2023 United Nations High-Level Political Forum. The forum was an opportunity for UN member states, agencies and organizations to share updates on progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals. As our delegation learned, progress against the goals has been slow and, in some cases, has reversed. The delegation, representing the 149 member churches of the Lutheran World Federation, including the ELCA, was able to hear from leaders around the world, meet other advocates, connect with staff from the ELCA’s advocacy office in Washington, DC, listen to stories of changes and challenges, and consider together how each of us can be part of the work toward the Sustainable Development Goals in our communities.

Below is a reflection from one of the participants, Pastor Brianna Lloyd. Rev. Lloyd currently serves as pastor of Ka Hana O Ke Akua church (UCC) on the leeward side of Oʻahu and an alum of Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary’s Center for Climate Justice and Faith, which is supported in part by ELCA World Hunger. Click here to read a reflection from Kitty Opplliger, who joined Rev. Lloyd as part of the delegation to the UN.

I didnʻt know it at the time, but as we began our week at the UN High Level Political Forum, a boat from Japan, advocating for the UN Sustainable Development Goals, had docked in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi.  The Peace Boat, a Japan-based NGO with a U.S. presence at the United Nations, ended its 114th voyage in Honolulu with a “Pledge to Our Keiki”—a commitment to the children of Hawaiʻi for a future of sustainable tourism.  The “Pledge to Our Keiki” signing ceremony was organized in partnership with the nonprofits Kanu Hawaii and Blue Planet Alliance, along with the Hawaii Tourism Authority, Oahu Visitors Bureau, Alaska Airlines and other groups. These groups were and are bringing some of the UN Sustainable Development Goals to life in the particular context and community that is Hawaiʻi.

Rev. Lloyd and Kitty Oppliger await the start of a session at the UN

As our group in New York listened to the many discussions in the conference rooms of the UN, we had to bridge the gap between discussions of pressing global issues, with broad, sweeping language, and our own contexts. The week was a practice of translation, and the practice continues in the days and weeks following the event.  For example, what does Goal 6: “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all” mean in my context of Hawaiʻi?

My own journey to the UN began with some advocacy work related to the Navy’s fuel spills on Oʻahu at Kapūkakī (Red Hill), affecting thousands of military and civilian families.  Over the course of this past year, as the Navy flushed the fuel from the groundwater, they or their contractors used nearly five billion gallons of water, while those of us living on Oʻahu were asked to limit our own use of water. The Oʻahu Water Protectors and community leaders, such as Wayne Tanaka of the Hawaiʻi Sierra Club and Native Hawaiian community leader Healani Sonoda-Pale, continue to fight to protect the sacred water reserves of Oʻahu and to hold the Navy accountable to its mission of service and protection. I believe their work addresses Goal 6. There are many other organizations, groups, and events around Hawaiʻi—like Sustainable Coastlines Hawaiʻi and the Pledge to Our Keiki—that are working at a similar goal.

Lutheran delegates learn about South Sudan from Presbyterian leaders

As we follow up from our week attending the HLPF, I understand anew that translation and communication from the ground here in Hawaiʻi and other local communities to larger bodies like ELCA World Hunger and the Lutheran World Federation, and vice-versa, are essential threads to galvanize the work. One of the most well-known quotes from Queen Liliʻuokalani, the last reigning monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi before the Kingdom was illegally overthrown by American businessman, goes, in part, like this:  “You must remember never to cease to act because you fear you may fail.”

There is much being done everywhere. Perhaps we might draw hope from one another.

2021 Hunger Education and Networking Grants


The application period for 2021 ELCA World Hunger Education and Networking Grants is now closed.

Hunger Education and Networking Grants are one of the ways ELCA World Hunger accompanies congregations, synods, organizations, partners and local teams throughout the US and the Caribbean. We know that learning about the root causes of hunger and effective responses is key to ending hunger locally and globally. That’s why we are excited to share that our application for ELCA World Hunger Education and Networking Grants is now open!

ELCA World Hunger Education and Networking Grants support work that

  • educates and engages ELCA congregations, groups, and/or synods;
  • provides leadership development for people passionate about ending hunger;
  • builds relationships locally, regionally and nationally; and
  • equips ELCA members and neighbors to work toward a just world where all are fed.

Previous grantees have included:

  • synod-wide bike rides to promote hunger awareness;
  • service learning events for youth and young adults;
  • online and in-person workshops;
  • community organizing training;
  • creation of new resources to help participants learn about hunger; and
  • local research projects to help others learn more about hunger, health and housing in their community.

The work of grantees in the past has focused on a wide variety of areas, including climate change and sustainability, housing security, racial justice, worker justice, reducing food waste and economic justice.

To be eligible for an ELCA World Hunger Education and Networking Grant, proposals must be:

  • received through the ELCA’s online Grantmaker portal;
  • submitted by a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization;
  • focused on education, engagement and networking toward a just world where all are fed; and
  • consistent with ELCA World Hunger’s values and priorities (

If you are interested in applying, you can pre-register on ELCA GrantMaker to access the grant application. Approval of registration may take up to ten business days, so register now at, and submit your application by December 1, 2021.

If you have any questions, please email Ryan Cumming, program director for hunger education, at

Hunger at the Crossroads: New Webinar Series


banner with title of webinar series


We know that hunger is about more than food. Understanding hunger – and working to end it – means seeing the many ways hunger and poverty intersect with so many other issues, including climate change, food production, access to housing, racial justice, gender justice and more. In “Hunger at the Crossroads,” a webinar series hosted by ELCA World Hunger, we will explore these intersections and the ways we can be part of God’s promise of a just world where all are fed.

New webinar sessions will be posted below. Participants do need to register beforehand, so check back and register to attend!


The webinars are open to anyone passionate about ending hunger and eager to learn more. In each session, we will dive deeply into the topic, with presentations from ELCA World Hunger staff and partners and time for questions and conversation.

Upcoming Webinars

“Conflict and Hunger” – November 3, 2022, at 1:00pm Central time

Violent conflict is one of the most significant drivers of hunger around the world. From wars between nations to ethnic and tribal violence, conflicts affect farms, markets, jobs, housing, trade and more. In this webinar, we will hear from ELCA staff from around the world, who will help us dive more deeply into the tragic and significant ways violent conflict impacts hunger.

“Health and Hunger” – December 1, 2022, at 6:00pm Central time

Hunger and health are related in complex ways. Hunger and under-nourishment can both contribute to long-term health problems, while health challenges can increase the risk of hunger through lost wages and expensive medical bills. In this webinar, we will be joined by experts from both the United States and overseas to learn more. We will also hear from leaders working to improve health in their communities and learn some effective steps that can be taken toward a just world where all are fed – and where all are healthy.


Registration for both “Conflict and Hunger” and “Health and Hunger” is now open through one form! Visit to register. You can register for one or both of the upcoming webinars through this form.  Follow ELCA World Hunger on Facebook and Twitter to get up-to-date information, including dates and links for registration for future webinars. Questions about “Hunger at the Crossroads” can be sent to


Previous Webinars

“Sexuality, Gender Identity and Hunger” with Rev. Heidi Neumark (Trinity Lutheran Church, New York, New York) and Rev. Joe Larson (Fargo, North Dakota) – August 12, 2021

“Climate Change and Hunger” with Ryan Cumming and Brooke De Jong (ELCA World Hunger) – October 27th, 2021

“Hunger and Poverty by the Numbers: Where Are We at Now?” with Ryan Cumming (ELCA World Hunger) – December 9, 2021

“Housing and Hunger” with Brooke De Jong (ELCA World Hunger) and featuring a NEW! resource on housing – June 29, 2022

Watch the recordings of previous “Hunger at the Crossroads” webinars here:


We hope to see you “at the Crossroads”!


New! “River of Life” VBS At-Home Guide


We are excited to share that the at-home guide for ELCA World Hunger’s “River of Life” Vacation Bible School program for 2021 is now available for download! This at-home guide is a supplemental resource for the full “River of Life VBS leader’s guide and includes modified activities, suggestions for online and at-home VBS, links to new videos and tips for parents, caregivers and other adults leading VBS with children at home!

Learn more in the video below:

To download “River of Life” VBS, including the full leader’s guide, the at-home guide and the toolkit with images and graphics to use on your website or social media, visit

To watch the story videos or the “Meet Our Neighbor” videos from ELCA World Hunger’s partners and companions, visit the ELCA World Hunger Vacation Bible School collection on the ELCA’s Vimeo page at

Share your story! If you use “River of Life” with your congregation or group, let us know! Email and share your feedback, stories or pictures!

Looking for more ideas? Join the community-run ELCA World Hunger VBS Facebook group and chat with other leaders from across the ELCA about VBS in 2021!

New! Certificate in Climate Justice and Faith


We know that ending hunger will take more than food. Addressing climate change is a critical step in this work. That’s why ELCA World Hunger is excited to share a new opportunity from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary’s Center for Climate Justice and Faith. The Center’s work focuses on helping leaders learn about sustainability, caring for creation and working for justice so that all can enjoy the abundance of God’s creation.

This Center’s new Certificate in Climate Justice and Faith offers a cohort-based, online trans-continental curriculum which empowers participants to cultivate moral, spiritual, and practical power for leadership in the work of climate justice in communities of faith and in collaboration with others.  Topics covered include theology, ethics, and spirituality; climate change knowledge; and social change practices that connect ecological well-being with racial, economic, and gender justice.

Lay and rostered leaders throughout the Lutheran World Federation communion and from other faith traditions are invited to complete an interest form if you are curious to know more about this inaugural, non-degree learning program scheduled for September 2021 – May 2022.  Long-term collaboration and networking are expected to endure well beyond certificate completion date.

Applications are now open and will be accepted until June 15, 2021. To apply or to learn more, visit




Get Ready for World Food Day – October 16, 2016




World Food Day is a day of action against hunger.

On October 16, people around the world come together to declare their commitment to eradicate hunger in our lifetime. Because when it comes to hunger, the only acceptable number in the world is zero.

Each year, people around the world mark World Food Day as a special occasion to take action, learn more and join together to fight hunger.  World Food Day 2016 falls on a Sunday, giving Christians concerned about hunger a special opportunity to worship, pray and serve together.  Below are some suggestions for actions your congregation can take.


ELCA World Hunger supports projects in nearly 60 countries, including the United States. These projects include job training programs, food pantries, agricultural training, health promotion and care, and much more. Together, our Church accompanies communities around the world toward a world of justice where all will be fed.  Prayerfully consider supporting ELCA World Hunger with your gifts.  Visit to make a gift.

World Food Day 2016 is on Sunday October 16.  Use the occasion to host a special offering for ELCA World Hunger in your congregation.  Order posters and envelopes at You can also use a blessing like the one below to dedicate your offerings to the work God is doing through the ELCA.

Blessing of Offering

Abundant God, all creation displays your goodness.  For the hungry, you provide food.  For the thirsty, you give water.  To the wandering, you promise a home.  You have blessed us with your gifts that we may be your hands and feet to share these gifts with our neighbors.  Bless these offerings, that they may be signs of your grace in our world.  As we share with others, keep us mindful of our own need – for food, water, shelter, and community.  May our gifts be an invitation to deeper relationship with each other and with you. In the name of Jesus Christ, your gift to the world, Amen.


Last year, ELCA Advocacy, Lutherans across the Church and ecumenical and interfaith partners across the US joined together to advocate for the Global Food Security Act. After long months of advocacy and policy negotiations, the Global Food Security Act is now a law. Together with partners, ELCA Advocacy worked tirelessly on this legislation for nearly two years, and we are grateful to see that all our prayerful efforts have led to this moment. The Global Food Security Act means the U.S. will be better equipped to combat food insecurity around the world. THANK YOU FOR YOUR ADVOCACY!

But our work is far from over. Sign up for e-advocacy alerts at to learn more about the important work of ELCA Advocacy and to be part of a voice for justice for all.


This year’s message for World Food Day is “Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must, too.”  Host an education event at your church to help others learn more about climate change’s effect on hunger.  You can download a communication toolkit, posters and other resources from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations here: .

To learn more about projects supported by ELCA World Hunger that are responding to a changing climate, read “Three Ways ‘The Poor’ and Communities of Faith Are Leading the Way on Climate Change” on Huffington

Also, check out these resources from ELCA World Hunger and our partners:

Rooted in God’s Word and Lands: A Celebration of the Earth That Nourishes Us

This resource from Creation Justice Ministries encourages Christians to treat land as the special gift that it is.  It has ideas for sermons, Sunday School activities, and adult study and contemplation exercises. Download it for free at

Sustainable Food in a Changing Climate

This 2015 resource from Creation Justice Ministries offers prayers and liturgies for worship, ideas for educational programs, and suggestions for personal food choices that raise awareness about and encourage action toward sustainable choices about the foods we eat.  Download it for free at

Just Climate: Study Guide for Adult Christian Education

Creation Justice Ministries’ popular 2008 resource is as relevant today as it was when it was first released.  This three-session study guide is perfect for audiences new to studying climate change.  It has discussion and reflection questions, a leader’s guide to the issues, and fact sheets on several countries to help your group see the concrete effects of climate change around the world and in the United States. Download it for free at

Care of Creation Lectionary Reflections

Lutherans Restoring Creation offers an online archive of commentaries on the Revised Common Lectionary that is perfect for developing a sermon, a children’s sermon, or an educational forum.  The archive can be found at

Hunger and Climate Change Connections Toolkit

ELCA World Hunger’s toolkits are easy-to-use, adaptable for a variety of settings and suitable for intergenerational audiences.  The activities can take as little as 15 minutes, or as much as one hour, depending on your needs.  Learn about climate-related disasters, the effects of climate change on vulnerable populations and actions your congregation can take.  Download this toolkit at

Hunger and Climate Change: Agriculture and Food Security in a Changing Climate

From biofuels to gender justice, from political stability to farming in the United States, this fact sheet from the ELCA highlights the wide-ranging effects of climate change.  With ideas for what your congregation can do to support farmers and others impacted by climate change, this fact sheet is perfect for Lutherans concerned about agriculture and hunger.  Download it at

Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice

The ELCA’s social statement on care for creation, adopted in 1993, remains an important reflection on our role as stewards in God’s world.  Read it here:


Host a Hunger potluck or banquet after worship services to highlight the challenge of hunger in our world. Read how congregations in Ohio used “Potlucks to End World Hunger” to  support ELCA World Hunger and projects around the world –

The Oxfam America Hunger Banquet is a memorable, interactive event that brings hunger and poverty issues to life. Hunger Banquets have been going strong for nearly 40 years and can be a meaningful way to learn more about the challenges we and our neighbors face in a world of hunger – and what we can all do to change it.  Learn more at


When Lutherans pray for “daily bread,” Martin Luther reminds us that we are asking God for all of the needs we have each and every day, from food to shelter, from healthy families to good government.  This Fall, help your family remember these good gifts of God with free table blessing magnets from ELCA World Hunger.  Order for your family or congregation by emailing


Three Ways “The Poor” and Communities of Faith Are Leading the Way on Climate Change

(A version of this post previously appeared on the Huffington Post Impact blog –

ILFE Small.jpg

New reports suggest climate change could push more than 100 million people into poverty in just the next 15 years.  “Climate change hits the poorest the hardest,” says World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, “and our challenge now is to protect tens of millions of people from falling into extreme poverty because of a changing climate.”

The impact is a “two-way street.” Climate change makes it harder for farmers to grow crops, on the one hand, and some farming practices, on the other hand, damage soil, pollute water supplies, and create harmful emissions. But change is happening in small farming communities around the world, especially in communities of faith.  Here are three ways poor communities around the globe are adapting to climate change with the support of ELCA World Hunger.

Cleaner Cooking

Ramoni Rani and her husband, Nor Uttam Hawlader, live in the village of Rajakhali in Bangladesh with their two sons. Like many Bangladeshi farmers, Ramoni and Nor use wood-burning stoves to cook food in their homes. The cost for fuel is steep, and the continued need for it threatens the country’s already-depleted forests. Ramoni, Nor and their children suffered from respiratory illnesses and eye problems because of the carbon emissions and smoke in their homes. In fact, a 2009 profile of Bangladesh from the World Health Organization found that indoor air pollution contributes to nearly 50,000 deaths every year.

“Bondhu chula,” a more efficient cookstove, was developed to combat some of these problems.  But many Bangladeshis have been reluctant to use them, mostly because they don’t know how.  Lutheran Health Care Bangladesh has stepped in by working with over 250 women to help them get familiar with the cookstoves and the positive impact they can have.  For Bangladeshis like Ramoni and Nor, efficient cooking in the home means better health and more money for themselves and a path away from deforestation for their rural community.

small biomass pellets.jpg

In this picture, a man holds biomass pellets similar to those that will be used in the project in Padhar.

Cleaner cooking also makes good economic sense for families in Padhar, India.  To address some of the problems older cookstoves create, Padhar Hospital is helping households get access to smokeless stoves that use biomass pellets. The program will not only train the people to use the stoves but will also help them turn their biomass into profit by providing it to a processing plant.  Since no such plant currently exists in Padhar, one will be built.  Thus the program will provide cleaner stoves, help residents earn income, and create jobs for people in Padhar, all while protecting the environment.

“Green-er” Coffee

Farmers in the Rachuonyo District of Homa Bay County in western Kenya know the daily realities of climate change.  They see it in the shortened periods of rainfall, prolonged dry seasons, and increased flooding that washes away valuable crops and seeds.

Most of the farmers in this region focus their attention and limited investment on subsistence farming, trying to grow enough food to feed their families but often not producing crops that they can use for income.  This leaves them with little savings to weather the kind of volatility that comes with climate change.  One bad season can mean a year of hunger for a smallholder farmer.

One group is working to change that.  Members of the smallholder famers’ collective group, APOKO, partnered with Lutheran World Relief (LWR) in 2014 to launch the Kinda Coffee project.  Farmers in the project learn how to maintain the nutrient levels in soil, prevent erosion and increase water retention at model demonstration plots.  This will not only help them increase their resilience to the droughts and flooding but will also help them protect the environment while earning a sustainable income.  Support for this project from ELCA World Hunger will continue into 2016 and will improve the quality of life for hundreds of households.

Smarter Farming

Thanks to the collective efforts of the last decade, over 90 percent of the world now has access to clean water.  Unfortunately, climate change threatens to undermine much of that progress. Longer, more intense droughts for farmers affect everything from what kinds of crops or animals they can raise to the yield they get from their fields.  When families are already teetering on the edge of poverty, these are serious risks.

But communities in Nicaragua and Bangladesh aren’t just waiting around for something to change.  They are adapting to the changes already sweeping their regions and doing what they can to steward their resources sustainably.

In Bangladesh, air pollution and deforestation aren’t the only problems.  The country faces huge disparities in access to safe water, and more work is needed to provide irrigation to the agriculture industry that employs nearly half of the labor force.  RDRS, a locally-run associate program of the Lutheran World Federation, is helping train farmers in Alternate Wetting and Drying (AWD), a technique that can reduce by up to 30% the amount of water needed to grow rice.  As a result, they are able to preserve groundwater and reduce risk of contaminating their crops with unsafe water.  And some studies indicate that AWD can actually increase the yields from rice fields, so the process is a win-win.

With an abundance of water on the ground and under the ground, Nicaragua seems like a place where there is enough to go around.  But a 2014 drought – the worst in the country in 40 years – reduced crop yields by more than 70%.  In the area of Somotillo, most of the wells ran dry, and the people worry about another drought down the road.  “In this place,” Pastor Gerzan Alvarez of the Lutheran Church of Faith and Hope (ILFE) in Nicaragua says, “we’re only able to survive.”

With support from LWF and ELCA World Hunger, ILFE is taking steps to manage the crisis.  Since the drought, the community has improved wells in the area, led trainings in proper water usage and management, set up irrigation systems, and planted yard gardens.  Pastor Emperatriz Velasques of ILFE says now, “Each day we’re learning about nature’s behavior, and we need to keep on working and teaching so we can grow our crops with the little water we have and keep home gardens with water from our wells.  This way, we can provide food for the households.”

Policy changes that reduce emissions and change the way we relate to the environment are necessary, long-range solutions to a changing climate, and the recent agreements about climate change and hunger give some hope.  But there is also a lot we can learn from those on the margins, in local communities throughout the world.  In Bangladesh, India, Kenya, and Nicaragua, families are doing what they can to protect their environment and make themselves less vulnerable to the changes that are still to come.

Ryan P. Cumming, Ph.D., is program director of Hunger Education with ELCA World Hunger.  He can be reached at

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The Music of the Future

In Wichita and many other communities across Kansas, more than a month of high temperatures and no rain has harmed crops and triggered water conservation efforts. The swimming pool in my Holiday Inn is closed. There’s no drain plug in the bath – a hint to take short showers only, perhaps?

Whether global climate change is behind this is controversial. Yes, says a scientist from the National Center for Atmospheric Research: “When climate change and natural variability happen in the same direction, that’s when records get broken.” Others disagree. On blogs about the weather and human behavior, a lot of name-calling is going around.

In the clamor, I’ve been encountering darker, more pessimistic views about what lies ahead of us. “I am not about despair, but I am leaving hope up to someone else,” one young man told me. A friend who consults with businesses on sustainability no longer believes that her work will have any impact on the near future. She says she is working for people in the far distant future—the small group of humans who will survive whatever comes next.  And responding to a climate question in a lecture on gardening, writer Jamaica Kincaid shrugged her shoulders and said: we are ephemeral. The world lasts. People don’t.

For an optimist who lives by the saying, “hope is the ability to hear the music of the future. Faith is dancing to its tune,” this was hard to take.  But my friends who hear a dirge have a point. Maybe our actions have little immediate impact. Maybe no one cares. Maybe temperatures will rise, rainfall decrease, ocean currents change direction, disasters overwhelm us, and our era on earth draw to a close. We don’t know. Instead of being optimistic or pessimistic, we can let go of the outcome, and strive to make choices now and live in ways today that care for the earth and its future residents.

Weeds are growing in the Little Arkansas River bed. Wells are dry.  The Kansans at this weekend’s Glocal Mission Gathering can only pray for rain. Act on their new-found solidarity with people contending with drought and famine in the Horn of Africa. Remember that God is good, and turn off the tap water.

Thank you for your hopeful music, Kansas. May it rain soon.

Anne Basye, Sustaining Simplicity

Smitten and trying to respond

“He smote the bank!” cackles Jean Stapleton, after John Travolta, as the archangel Michael, casually unleashes a bolt of lightning in the movie “Michael.”

Earthquakes, oil spills, floods, droughts—there’s a lot of smiting going on, and a lot of preparing for it, not with sackcloth and ashes but catastrophe scenarios and emergency response plans and drills.

I discovered this last week at a talk on the Great Storm of 1861-1862—the one that turned California’s Central Valley into a 300-mile long puddle; the one that forced the California state government to move to San Francisco; the one that damaged 7/8ths of all housing and destroyed one out of every eight homes and a third of all taxable property in California.

Sacramento in 1862

This fascinating, safely distant story of a smitten state was followed by an anxiety-generating winter storm scenario that the U.S. Geological Survey is creating. The hypothetical date of this “extreme precipitation event” is January 2011; May 2011 is when the agencies and emergency managers and responders will hold their practice drill. Based on the understanding that California has a “mega storm” every 300 years (and destructive as it was, 1861-62 wasn’t a mega storm), these experts are:

…examining the possibility, cost, and consequences of floods, landslides, coastal erosion and inundation; debris flows; biologic impacts; physical damage such as property loss from wind, flood, and landslide; and lifeline impacts such as bridge scour [when the sand and rocks around a bridge give way, leading to collapse], road closures, and levee failures. Consideration is given to the disruption of water supply and the impacts on ground-water pumping, seawater intrusion and water supply degradation. The scenario is depicting the economic consequences of these damages in terms of repair costs and business interruption, public-health implications, and emergency response.

The USGS guy painted the picture starkly and dramatically. When he finished, the room was silent. Finally the emcee stood to thank the speakers and said, a little shakily, “well, I guess it’s time we all move to the foothills.” We took home delightful reading: “The ShakeOut Earthquake Scenario,” which modeled the aftereffects of a hypothetical 7.8 earthquake on the southern San Andreas Fault as the morning rush hour was ending. That Southern California earthquake drill, involving 5000 emergency responders and 5 million citizens, has already taken place. (Watch this USGS video on the earthquake scenario and  the ARkStorm winter storm project, and check out the Old Testament imagery.)

Appalled and intrigued, I went to the Internet, and discovered I could learn how a New Madrid mega-earthquake would affect the Midwest, where almost no anti-seismic measures are in place. Briefly, five to eight states would be affected; local mutual aid would not work; bridges over the Mississippi could be uncrossable for several hundred miles, for years; transmission of natural gas, oil, and electricity to much of the east coast would be affected for many months, along with the supply of wheat and grains to other parts of the world; there would be significant out-migration. (Question for discussion in this FEMA exercise: what could or would emergency managers in one local jurisdiction like Memphis do when faced with such a catastrophe?)

Or I could choose a scenario for a slow-developing catastrophe like Lake Mead going dry, leaving 22 million people in three states without water. (Discussion question: How can emergency managers in Las Vegas prepare to respond?)

Or I could browse peak gas scenarios, 2012 Armageddon scenarios, global warming scenarios, armchair quarterback analyses of the Black Plague, the Irish Potato Famine, the 1917 Influenza Pandemic, Hurricane Katrina, or Limits to Growth, the 1972 scenario published by the Club of Rome that projected nine different outcomes based on the variables of world population, industrialization, pollution, food production and resource depletion. Only one of those nine is hopeful; the others are so dire, a catastrophe response plan would be pointless.  Recent studies confirm (says Wikipedia) that current “changes in industrial production, food production and pollution are all in line with the book’s predictions of economic and societal collapse in the 21st century.”

Things are not looking good.

It’s tempting to call my efforts to live a sustainable life foolish. To quit trying to support alternative systems and behavior. To chuck  my bicycle for a really big car. But I think I’ll stay the course.

Why? For starters, imagining catastrophe is the first step in trying to mitigate it. The literature of catastrophe helps us grasp the scope of what we face, and discern what part of it is in our control. The silver lining to spending a sunny  afternoon imagining my hometown underwater was learning just how many people are collaborating on the response.

Second, letting go of the idea that everything is in our control is just plain healthy. No amount of clean living and recycling can prevent an earthquake!

Third, there is power in individual and collective action. Martin Luther thought so, too. Asked what he would do if the world were to end tomorrow, he said, “Plant an apple tree today.”

Smiting happens. But faith kicks in where reason ends. I’m voting for faith, for the apple tree, for the bicycle helmet. And I’m  spending tomorrow curled up with “A Guide to Emergency Preparedness for Sacramento County.”

Anne Basye,  Sustaining Simplicity

Sustainability Part 1: Design

I was at a coffee shop with my brother, Krister, a few weeks ago sitting next to the window and drinking out of some more-or-less sustainable “for here” cups when we got talking about energy usage and good lighting. A designer by profession, he began to talk about lighting and how giving up the ambiance of warmer, more energy expensive lights isn’t the only answer to conserving energy through lighting. Apparently when it comes to lighting design, there are many ways to think about energy usage, and this got me thinking about sustainability practices in basic design in general.

As design is a huge industry, and we are seeing LEED certifications become the trend, it seemed to me that there was also something intrinsic to good design that was more sustainable than, well, not-so-good design. I started by asking the question – how does sustainability play a role in Plank Island Studio’s business practice? Well, it turns out that being a designer in a small town means necessary supplies aren’t always easy to find. So first off, when Krister buys something for his work, he only wants to buy it once. Though it may be more expensive, a quality tool or product lasts longer, works better and reduces both shipping and manufacturing costs and emissions in the long run. He also likes to reuse and repurpose. His desk is a good example. The glass top is actually the door of an old downtown candy shop which has been recently renovated into a vintage ice cream parlor. His studio has been created in the forgotten location of an old labor union office, slowly renovated over the past few years to bring back the history of the building. He adds that a friend once made the point to him that beautiful buildings are the greenest buildings because they never get torn down, thus a new building won’t be needed to replace it. (Though efficiency updates may be in order.)

So how can we tie elements of design sustainability into hunger? Let’s focus on lighting. Energy consumption affects natural resources and pollution levels. According to an ELCA Shareholder resolution filed in 2009, “U.S. power plants are responsible for nearly 40% of the country’s carbon dioxide emissions, and 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions.” Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. Greenhouse gases contribute to climate change which plays a role in shifting water levels and rain patterns globally. According to ELCA Advocacy, “as the earth’s climate gets warmer, droughts will grow more frequent and more severe in many parts of the globe, particularly in areas that are already water-stressed.” Droughts negatively affect crop production and access to clean, drinkable water. Yet in good design, lighting is everything. So what are we to do? Here are a couple of interesting examples of how good lighting design can help a normal home become more energy efficient, thus working toward sustainable emissions levels to keep our climate change impact low.

The subject of our coffee conversation that day was how to use lighting better. Track lights, dimmer switches and task lighting, Krister believes, make all the difference. You can dim incandescent bulbs always, and you can buy dimmable compact fluorescents (CFL). So whether you prefer the warmth of an incandescent or are just as happy with an energy saving CFL, dimmers help to keep energy consumption low no matter the type of bulb. Additionally, accent lights and track lights are commonly halogen, a form of more efficient incandescent light. You can also use CFLs for many types of accent lighting. Check out Krister’s offering of 5 Tips for Better Living through Better Lighting on The Table. (Note: incandescent bulbs require the use of the metal tungsten – while the majority of the tungsten used in the US comes from abroad, one-third of our supply comes from our own recycling of the metal1. Additionally, CFL bulbs contain small amounts of mercury which can be released if broken, however, they cause considerably less mercury to be released into the atmosphere through power production than incandescent bulbs.)

Next, as lighting technology continues to transform, LED is hitting the scene. LED lights are cool to the touch and require incredibly low levels of energy to function. They also outlast any competition. Plank Island Studio recently teamed up with a local furniture maker to design a commissioned bedroom side table that doubled as a night light. It utilized a low impact LED light to shine through Japanese shoji paper without heat concerns. It serves as an example of energy efficient task lighting. Plus, LED lights contain no mercury2 and because of their efficiency, expend little in power production as well.

To be truly sustainable we would probably all need to buy 100% renewable energy or install a windmill on our roof to produce the electricity which lights our homes. Kudos to those of you who do so, and to the rest, please consider good lighting design as a step in the right direction. Proper lighting for proper places means sustainable energy usage and sustainable, happy ambiance.

Lesson 1: When possible, buy tools and supplies that last.

Lesson 2: Design (and restore when possible) beautiful buildings that stand the test of time.

Lesson 3: Utilize good lighting design and you’ll be on your way to a more sustainable energy consumption level. This will be good for the environment and your pocket book.

Next book in cue: Strategies for the Green Economy, by Joel Makower

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