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RPC Eco-Letter 08: Inflation Reduction Act, Extreme Weather, and Refugia

Once again, there has been quite a gap since I’ve last written one of these. Our family has been busy with the school year starting. But, I do plan on continuing these newsletters! This time, I’ll cover the Inflation Reduction Act, some of the extreme weather that’s been in the news, and something called refugia.

Inflation Reduction Act

In August, President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law. It contains $370 billion for climate and clean energy, making it the largest single piece of climate legislation in United States history. Analysts predict the bill will cut emissions by about 40% by 2030, compared with 2005 levels. It does much of this by investing in clean energy. For individual households, this means rebates and tax refunds on energy efficiency costs. The bill also contains some harmful concessions to West Virginia Senator Manchin. Notably, it advances a number of fossil fuel projects, like the Mountain Valley Pipleline. To learn more about the IRA, I recommend this Twitter thread from Hank Green, or his twenty minute video. Or listen to David Roberts interview Leah Stokes and Jesse Jenkins. Rewiring America has a guide to the IRA and electrifying your home.

Extreme Weather and Tipping Points

Despite the good news of having some decent policies in place, climate change is affecting us now, and even in the best case scenarios, we will see many more heatwaves, wildfires, floods, and hurricanes in the upcoming decades. Hurricane Ian, which hit Florida late September, is one of the five worst hurricanes in America’s history. Ian came about two weeks after Fiona hit Puerto Rico. Hurricanes are increasing in strength largely because of warming oceans. If you haven’t seen CNN’s reporting of the floods in Pakistan, please do take a look. Heavy rains left one-third of the country under water. According to the Guardian, “more than 1,200 people have been killed and more than 33 million people affected.” The disaster is profoundly unjust since Pakistan is responsible for less than one percent of global warming. We can expect a lot more of these extreme weather events in our lifetime. It could get much worse if we fail to take action. A new, disturbing report on tipping points underscores the need for climate change mitigation. The report concludes that “even the Paris Agreement goal of limiting warming to well below 2°C and preferably 1.5°C is not safe as 1.5°C and above risks crossing multiple tipping points.” At that level, we may trigger the “collapse of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, die-off of low-latitude coral reefs, and widespread abrupt permafrost thaw.” To understand this better, read this article from Bloomberg.


How are we to respond to all of this as people of faith? One of the most helpful ideas I’ve come across recently is called refugia. Debra Reinstra, an English professor at Calvin University, explores this concept in her book, Refugia Faith: Seeking Hidden Shelters, Ordinary Wonders, and the Healing of the Earth. When Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, the landscape appeared utterly lifeless. People assumed it would take years, perhaps generations, for anything to recover. Yet, vegetation and wildlife returned in a surprisingly short period of time. This happened because life survived in little shelters—-creatures in underground tunnels, moss under a log, plants under a boulder. These pockets of life would later emerge and spread. Refugia is a scientific term to describe these places where life persists despite surrounding destruction. Reinstra explores how people of faith can become a people of refugia, by providing actual protection to wildlife, but also by creating flourishing, resilient communities. Reinstra observes that “God loves to work in small, humble, hidden places.” She wants us to resist the illusion that we can predictably control the future. Yet, she also wants us to avoid bunkering down, building up walls for the sake of safety or purity. Refugia describes life that takes shelter, but then reaches out and expands. She writes, “The refugia model calls us to look for the seed of life where we are, concentrate on protecting and nurturing a few good things, let what is good and beautiful grow and connect and spread.” I think it would be worth our time at Reba to consider how we are already a refugia. And ask if we are called to take on this role in new ways. In a time of climate change, what is good and beautiful that we should nurture and grow? In addition to her book, check out Reinstra’s newsletter and podcast. If you read one newsletter besides this RPC Eco-letter, or listen to one climate podcast, these would be great choices for Reba folks. (Thanks to Ric Hudgens for recommending Refugia Faith to me!)

A few more news stories

* Oil Executives Privately Contradicted Public Statements on Climate, Files Show Oil companies have misled the public on climate for decades and have little intention to transition to clean energy. * Is Evanston’s Climate Action Plan sustainable? Evanston has an excellent climate plan, but needs funding for implementation. * Evanston adopts new bird-friendly building design ordinance “Evanston skies will be safer for the approximately 280 species of resident and migratory birds that visit the city each year.” * Illinois is buzzing with bees. Here’s why experts say we shouldn’t take that for granted. Listen to this 15-minute episode of Curious City to learn how we can help bees.

by Jesse Miller535 Custer Ave EVANSTON, IL 60202 USA

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