Power down. Green up. Shout out.
The three-part outline proposed by Jim Deming during the July 11 morning plenary at the United Church of Christ’s National Youth Event was as popular with the audience as it was simple.
"All of you here are responsible for your actions and for your inactions," said Deming, the UCC’s minister for environmental justice, amidst the vocal approval of nearly 2,500 youths and their leaders in the Elliott Music Hall at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. "And pester your adults to take action."
The Rev. Mari Castellanos, UCC policy advocate for domestic issues, reminded the audience of our relationship to the earth. "God gave us stewardship over the earth -- stewardship, not ownership," she said. "That means we are to act as caretakers for God's magnificent creation."
Deming introduced a 10-minute video focused on mountaintop removal for the purpose of coal-mining in Appalachian states, particularly in Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. "These are the folks who need your help in stopping this egregious crime against God’s creation," said Deming. "Once you destroy a mountain, it's irreplaceable."
More than 500 mountains and more than 2,000 miles of streams have been buried in the Appalachian region, said Deming. "All we can do now is try to stop this. Only 3 percent of the land that has been destroyed can be reclaimed in any way."
Deming said any means to support tree growth in those areas is virtually gone. "You'd almost have to paint the grass on it," he said. "It would take 50 years for this to come back in any shape or form. You have flooding because the natural systems are dislocated."
Though not expecting a firm result in the near future, Deming expressed hope that the Appalachian Restoration Act currently debated in the U.S. Senate and the Clean Water Restoration Act in the U.S. House of Representatives will provide a modicum of protection for the earth.
During a question-and-answer session after the video, one man asked, "Why wait till we go home to start saving energy? Why don't we start by turning down the air conditioning here?"
Judging from audience reaction, the idea was popular in principal –– but maybe not practical during one of the hottest Midwest summers on record.
Amy Engelsdorfer, an adult member of Decorah Congregational UCC in eastern Iowa, shared with the audience a comment she once made to a friend from eastern Kentucky.
"I told her that the mountains made it a little claustrophobic and that they block out the sun for quite a while during the day," said Engelsdorfer. "She said, 'We tend to think of driving through the mountains as being in your mother’s arms.' So, keep that mind."
Engelsdorfer's husband, Tim, asked NYE attendees whether their journey into West Lafayette took them past the hundreds of towering wind turbines throughout miles of cornfields on the periphery of West Lafayette. The ensuing shouts and applause indicated that many had.
"Since the last time I drove into Indiana from Quad Cities, there are two brand new wind fields that weren't there earlier this year," said Tim Engelsdorfer. "They keep sprouting up."
Deming's invitation to the youth to serve as good stewards of the earth was received as warmly as his suggestion to "Power down, green up and shout out."
"This is your future," he said. "You have been the ones we’ve been waiting for."
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