Will Teenagers Save the World?

Science in Action Winner for 2013: Elif Bilgin

While sitting in the dentist’s office yesterday I read this wonderful article about a young teen in Istanbul who has developed plastic from banana peels. As a result she won the Scientific American 2013 Science in Action Award

Bilgin spent two years developing a robust bioplastic from discarded banana peels, enduring 10 failed trials along the way. As she noted in her project description: “Even Thomas Edison said, ‘I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.’” Bilgin hopes that her material will someday supplant some petroleum-based plastics. Read the entire article.

The winning project in 2012 was the Unique Simplified Hydroponic Method, developed by 14-year-old Sakhiwe Shongwe and Bonkhe Malalela of Swaziland.

For more inspiration, check out last year’s amazing 13 finalists for the Science in Action award and this year’s fifteen finalists. I particularly loved:

Simultaneous Biopesticide Wastewater Treatment and Bioelectricity Generation in Microbial Fuel Cell (MFC) – by a 13 year old in India and  Electricity From Traffic by a 16 year old also in India. These ideas really could save the world.

The amazing creativity and out of the box thinking that has gone into these inventions really impressed me. While so much of the world is saying “We can’t live without petroleum products” or “we can’t feed the world without GMO crops” young people are going ahead and inventing new options. Maybe its because they expect to live in a petroleum free world, maybe it is because they are encouraged to be creative, maybe it is just God stirring new possibilities in minds that are open to change. I don’t know but I do praise God for it.

I would love to hear from others who have seen creative and inventive

Advertisements

Earth Day Is Coming – Why Should Christians Care?

I posted this last year from Earth Ministry and thought that it was definitely worth reminding ourselves again of why we as Christians should be concerned for God’s good creation. I had hoped to write another Earth Day reflection for today but the Inhabit conference consumed too much of my time this weekend.

You might also like to check out some of the Christian organizations that are concerned for creation and some of the prayers I have posted in the past for this day:

Good Seed Sunday – Celebrate with A Rocha

Evangelicals Do Care About Creation

Prayers for Creation

Renewal – Students Caring for Creation.

Earth Day To Do List from The Soulsby Farm

Garden Blessing for Earth Day

Earth Day Liturgy

And the two postcard style prayers I wrote earlier for this year:

Earth Day Meditation.

A Garden Blessing for Earth Day 2013

Godspace

Sunday April 22nd is Earth Day but why should Christians care? Over the next few days I plan to post statements from several different religious organizations that are concerned for creation.

The post below comes from earthministry.org. It very eloquently articulates my own reasons for being concerned for God’s good earth. Earth Ministry is a Seattle based creation care advocacy group. They have initiated the Washington Interfaith Power and Light project which organizes an interfaith response to climate change.

Spirituality

Creation itself inspires us and calls us to care.  Many people have had their most profound spiritual experience in nature. As we behold the power and love of God in a mountain range, a sunset, or in the timelessness of the ocean, we can’t help but be moved.  But creation also includes humans – our families, communities, and created landscapes.  God created all things of Heaven and Earth and…

View original post 395 more words

Reclaiming a Sacred Space – Cheasty Greenspace: A Place of Goodness and Grace by Mary De Jong

This morning’s post in the series Creating Sacred Space comes from Mary De Jong. Mary leads personal discernment pilgrimages/retreats to Iona, Scotland and locally in the Great Pacific Northwest. She is also, slowly, pursuing graduate studies with a focus in ecotheology.  She is a Green Seattle Partnership Forest Steward, and is co-founder and co-chair of Friends of Cheasty Greenspace at Mt. View. She lives in the Columbia City neighborhood of Seattle, WA (USA) with her husband and three children. It sacred space than what I talked about was first published on Waymakers the blog.

 

Ed beats out the rhythm

Ed beats out the rhythm

The detective called inquiring after whether or not we had found “anything” in the woods since the fatal shooting that occurred near Cheasty Greenspace/Mt.View on February 4, 2013.  While we have certainly unearthed some curious, and somewhat disturbing, artifacts during our forest restoration work parties (lined up pairs of shoes next to an axe, dismembered dolls, rosaries, and large singular bones to name a few), no, we had not found the weapon involved in this fatal incident.  He went on to inform us that a team of officers with metal detectors and a K-9 unit would be canvassing the area the following day.  Mind you, just a few months ago, there was the horrendous reality check that came along with 40 search and rescue volunteers and cadaver K-9 units looking for the remainsof a young women in Cheasty/North, so I was already edgy about the resurfacing street-cred of our Rainier Valley forest.  However, I don’t think I was prepared for the potential emotional unraveling the impact of this dynamic in our beloved forest would have on me.

You see, we have been faithfully involved in the reclamation and restoration of this urban forest for the past six years.  We have hosted over 80 community work parties dedicated to the vision of reimagining this landscape as a safe and welcoming resource for our neighborhood.  We have written for, and received, grants that have funded our hope to build trails within this 10 acre woods that would connect neighbors, encourage walking to public transit, and provide local access to nature.  And the beauty that has resulted from this grand grassroots effort is as real and glorious as the noon-day sun!

What used to be a landscape filled with invasive plants, such as English ivy and Himalayan Blackberry,  and illicit behaviors, such as prostitution rings and illegal drug trades, has been replaced with the balance that true restoration brings.  Our native Northwest understory is thriving due to the absence of ivy.  Children now play in the forest, and their laughter mixes with the chatter of songbirds and the cries of our resident Red Tail Hawks.  The trails are a resource to neighboring youth organizations who now can bring their students into their own backyards to study, learn and just be in nature.  Our neighbors, who have worked literally shoulder to shoulder for years to see the effects of this hope-filled vision, have become a networked community of friends and families.  These woods have become apart of the vibrant, social fabric of our neighborhood.

And so my heart was heavy when I saw dozens of marked and unmarked police vehicles lined up against our trees.  My spirit sunk when I witnessed uniformed men, shoulder to shoulder, working their way through freshly budded Indian Plum, Trillium and Sword Fern.  Their presence conjured up the spirit of negativity that brooded over this place for so many years, the very spirit that we have worked so hard to drive away from this place.  I felt my repose unravel and give way to the erosive work of despair and hopelessness.  ”You can never change these woods,” the line-up of police cars seemed to sneer. “These woods will always be the cover for dark deeds!  No vision for hope and help can changethat!”

I awoke the next day to clouds over my head and heart, hardly able to utter a morning prayer, but with the imperative to get out of bed and prepare for our monthly work party we host.  Begrudgingly, I set out shovels, buckets and First Aid kit.  Grumbling, I laid out our registration table materials and sign up sheets.  Demoralized, I wondered if this slow and steady, long term effort to affect change in our little corner of the world was even worth it anymore.  Yup.  My little pet dark cloud was beginning to rain on me.

However, contrary to Saturday’s Seattle forecast (and my attitude), sun began to beam on South East Seattle and neighbors began to convene at our home to gather up tools and gloves, and log their dedicated time towards making a tangible difference.  And then Ed approached, scuffed toe-shoes ambling down our sidewalk, threadbare coated-arms raised in greeting and dusty top hat ready to blow away with the wind.  I presumed he was on his way past our home to visit one of our neighbors, who are involved in some unsavory practices…but he stopped.  Right in front of me.  And smiled.  Turns out, he was here for our work party, but his car ran out of gas and stalled in the middle of the street, just up from our main trail head into the woods.  Can I help, he asked?  My heart softened towards Ed; of course, I can help, but give me a minute to kickstart the volunteers and get the work party going.

Lesson #1: It always amazes me what kind of help shows up in a minute. The momentary pause before immediately responding to a need that you know you can meet is almost an invitation to allow those around you to participate in an assistance that is easy to presume only you can do.  All that to say, when I was able to finally direct my attention back towards Ed, Neighbor Mike had already fixed him up with a five-gallon gas container and a Seattle Parks worker was ready in the wings to tow his truck to safety.  I felt a sun beam penetrate my hopeless haze.  This community that has been created through a hope for the common good, without question, took care of a stranger in our midst.  My heart tried to soar with the pride for my ‘hood, but quite honestly, I figured I would never see Ed again and that sense of being “had” was enough to tether my fragile mood.

image006

I followed the last volunteers up into the woods and was mentally making a game plan for the variety of ferns we would be planting (grown by spores from a forest friend), and how we would disperse the five cubic yards of mulch, when I was called out of my reverie by the beating of a drum.  The repeated rhythm was coming from the trail head where we would be working for the bulk of our work party.  I crested the trail into view of the forest’s entrance and there was Ed, top hat and all, sitting on a stone, surrounded by a medley of musical instruments and a growing number of children.  Ed smiled at me and proceeded to play music for the duration of our work party.  Trombones, clarinets, bongos, tamborines, all were enlisted to lift the spirits of the volunteers and provide a special joy for the children.  Oh, forgot to mention the unique detail that we were the host-site for a local preschool co-op parent group who wanted to participate in a local Earth Month volunteer opportunity.  We had dozens of preschoolers running around the woods on Saturday.  And it would be important to note, too, that the sun shone during our entire work party.  Sunshine.  Children.  Music.  Ed.  My heart was unfettered and finally flew.

Now, some who knew of these back to back unique and unplanned occurrences probably could just attribute it to the Wheel of Fortune, for that would explain such a social spectrum in Cheasty Greenspace.  However, I’m one who is always interested in the quiet cadences of God and what one would call a coincidence, I’m eager to see thesynchronicity.  Essentially, this means that when you really need something, and often when you really want something, it is there.  Furthermore, the ancient practice of pilgrimage maintains that help, and the divine answer, are most often found in the company of a stranger.  Pilgrimage is this radical practice that turns upside down the ways of the world; in each other and in the strays and strangers en route, pilgrims meet-not the paupers-but the princes.  In the gestures and greetings in gravely roadside places, prayers are answered, and what you are in need of is given.  In this nontraditional way of journey-living, the road taken to a better place is one where divisions are bridged: race, status, and gender are irrelevant.  I would further go on to say that this mode of being also exists in Nature.  For in the woods, all are recipients of the goodness and grace inherent in nature.  All are apart of the greater community of things.  And to a degree, all become Kings.

image003

Lesson #2: Rough, worn edges and the grime of a harder-than-mine-life under the fingernails are trumpets heralding the presence of a stranger who has the potential to deliver great gifts, should we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear.  Ed transformed my day and realigned my hope-filled vision for Cheasty Greenspace.  He was a vehicle of grace to me and his music was like incense, cleansing and purifying the bullet-weary woodland air.

Following the work party, volunteers (including Ed!) gathered under the large tent we had set up in our drive way.  As the expected rains began to pour down, we shared meager cookies and rich laughter together.  The rains were washing away the sundry steps of the officers and were watering our newly planted ferns.  And we, we were an intimate community of Kings, believing and working together, shoulder to shoulder, for a better place. 

Earth Day Meditation.

Earth day is coming. I find myself constantly thinking about the wonder of God’s creation as is reflected in this meditation prayer.

Earth prayer.001

A Garden Blessing for Earth Day 2013

I am currently in Washington D.C. where the cherry blossoms and magnolias are in full bloom. The beauty of God’s creation is awe inspiring and so I could not resist republishing this prayer from To Garden with God together with one of the photos I took at the National Arboretum yesterday. It is also Earth Day in a couple of weeks and this is a wonderful season to remind ourselves of our responsibility to God’s good creation. Enjoy!

Garden blessing 2013.001

Can Solar Cooking Stop Rape in Africa?

This video brought tears to my eyes when I came across it a couple of years ago. Practicing resurrection, redemption, renewal indeed. It is amazing to think that rape and violence against women could be reduced by solar cooking. Solar cooking can bring peace and dignity to women’s lives. What impact I wonder could our own creativity provide for people at the margins?

Resources for Lent 2013

carbon fast via anieszkabanks.blogspot.com

carbon fast via anieszkabanks.blogspot.com

Each year around this time I like to update my Lenten resources. Last year I posts two lists of resources

Resources for Lent 2012

And More Resources for Lent from the Episcopal Church

This year in keeping with our Lenten Theme – Return to Our Senses in Lent I decided to post practical suggestions for Lent that help us to integrate our prayer practices and our everyday life. I am excited at the suggestions people are sending me.

A United Methodist Pastor serving in north central Pennsylvania shared her newest spiritual discipline with me.

Several months ago I felt that I needed to give up internet, especially email and facebook on my Sabbath day. Then when doing a mini-series on Sabbath keeping at church after reading Gift of Rest by Sen. Lieberman, I realized that I needed to add phone calls to that. Sometimes it is difficult to avoid phone calls, emergencies and such but overall I recommend this type of fast. It is not easy. I can think of lots of reasons each week to go online but do my best to avoid it. I shared the commitment with my congregations, adding of course that if they were on the phone and said a spouse was having a heart attack or something like that I would surely pick up and make the visit. I have been amazed at my colleagues and parishioners who respect this fast, even my boss:)

And on the MSA blog my husband Tom has suggested embracing a new discipline of daily laughter.

Ann Voskamp also has a great idea for a family repentance box which she posted a couple of years ago.

If you are like me and looking for disciplines that help us to focus outwardly on the challenges our world faces you might like to consider these resources. I have focused on two challenges I am passionate about – climate change and poverty.

The Oil Lamp  has shared several helpful links to sites that suggest ways to incorporate a carbon fast into your Lenten practices. I particularly enjoyed this link recommended by Archbishop Thabo Magkoba, convenor of the Anglican Environmental Network in South Africa: A Carbon Fast for Lent. They also have some good basic suggestions for a carbon fast here.

Earth Ministry’s LeAnne Beres wrote this helpful article about taking a Carbon fast a couple of years ago which includes links to other great resources.

You might also like to check out these resources for praying for the vulnerable and hungry during Lent.

The ELCA has a great World Hunger Lenten Series available – lots of good information and suggestions. They go for a $3/day diet – probably more doable today then the $2/day we have always attempted.

Bread for the World always produces wonderful resources that challenge us to face the issues of hunger. This year they have worked in collaboration with Women of Faith for the 1,000 Days Movement to develop a series of Lenten activities around the theme of Maternal and Child Nutrition in the 1,000 day window between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday. Check out what is be available here

Episcopal Relief and Development has chosen the alleviation of hunger for the theme of their Lenten Meditations this year too. They are available in both English and Spanish and can be downloaded for free.

And please keep contributing your own suggestions for Lenten practices that help bring faith and life together.