Environmental Epiphany Wrap-up

Environmental Epiphanies live on in Lent


The arrival of Ash Wednesday and Lent mean that our Environmental Epiphany film series has come to a close.  Different movies spoke to different people in ways that are difficult to predict.  We shared a lot of great conversations over supper after each movie, and in families and at church and around the neighborhood.  Sharon Krieger was “blown away” by Before the Flood, and wants to show all the movies at Breakfast Club.  The Fisher-Griffith family is reevaluating its relationship with plastic.  My husband Matthew, never motivated by the health benefits of organic food, sees the moral imperative of buying local and organic to protect and nourish the soil.


Some other epiphanies for us from watching the films:


The evidence in Chasing Ice of climate change causing glaciers to melt is incontrovertible – and the film is spectacularly beautiful.  This is probably the best film to watch with your climate-skeptic relatives.


Before the Flood alerted us to harm caused by a ubiquitous ingredient in processed foods and household products:  palm oil, the demand for which is driving deforestation in Indonesia.  A growing list of companies has committed to using only sustainably sourced palm oil.  We are glad to note that Ferrero, which makes the Nutella we serve at coffee hour, is one of them.  So read the ingredients before you buy, and then consult the list.  


Another epiphany from Before the Flood:  eating lower on the food chain, especially avoiding beef, is one of the best ways to reduce our carbon footprint.  Maybe that old Lenten custom of abstaining from meat can also help us save the planet.


A Plastic Ocean is devastating.  Plastic never breaks down; it only breaks up into a million pieces that foul our oceans and kill wildlife.  How about giving up single use plastic for Lent?  That’s a pretty huge challenge:  plastic bags, take-out dishes, plastic utensils, water bottles, plastic wrap, even straws at what we thought were classy restaurants.  So maybe we pick one item, or one week or one day.  Some alternatives:  bring your own carryout containers; carry a reusable water bottle or mug; use wax paper or wax paper bags from snack or cereal boxes; invest in etee reusable waxed cloth as an alternative to plastic wrap.


Styrofoam (more accurately expanded polystyrene foam) is particularly pernicious.  It’s a magnet for toxins, breaks up easily and quickly, and is ingested by wildlife, and the toxins bioaccumulate.  We have opportunities now to ban Styrofoam both in Baltimore City and in Maryland.  Call or write your legislators and City Council representative to support the ban. 


An Inconvenient Sequel gave us renewed hope that we can be like Al Gore, inconvenient prophetic voices picking ourselves up from defeat and bringing the message that we need to do everything we can to save this one planet that God created.  And we can be part of the renewable energy revolution:  by signing on for 100% windpower through Groundswell, (giving Memorial a modest referral fee); or by installing solar panels, as Pam and Guy have; or by investing in community solar.  And join Bishop Sutton in supporting Maryland legislation to increase the percentage of renewables in our electricity supply.


Dirt! The Movie has particular resonance for us on Ash Wednesday, when we are reminded that we are dust, and to dust we shall return.  Dust, dirt, soil, all full of living organisms , too often trapped under asphalt, choked with pesticides, overloaded with fertilizers that run off and choke the Chesapeake.  We need to liberate and replenish our soil by tearing up pavement, opening up more tree pits, composting, and growing and eating real food.  


Our suppers after the movies gave us a laboratory for trying out a mostly reusable approach to hospitality at Memorial.  We used real silverware, real ceramic bowls for soup, and mugs and glasses for tea and water.  A bussing station with a large tub of hot water for bowls and a small bin for silverware made cleanup relatively easy.  Yes, we did use paper plates and napkins, and a few paper cups where we didn’t have enough glasses, but we created a lot less waste than usual.  Now the question is: can Memorial give up plasticware for Lent?


Thank you to everyone who made this series possible:  Vaughn Vigil, our projectioner; Olivia Lewis and Martha Donovan for contributing delicious soups; Brinley Fisher and Nampoina Randrianavelo, our standby childcare providers; Pam Fleming and Guy Hollyday, who stayed to help clean up every week; my husband Matthew Stremba, who composted our food waste; and especially Dick Williams, my co-conspirator in planning, setting up and cleaning up.


If you missed out on seeing the films in the comfort of Upper Farnham Hall, no worries.  We own all five movies on DVD, so they can be borrowed from the Church Office.  And they are all available at the Enoch Pratt Library’s central branch (once it reopens next week!)  Borrow a DVD, and invite friends or neighbors over to watch a movie and start a conversation.  You might also want to consider some of the movies we didn’t choose to show, but can still recommend:


Chasing Coral, 2017, 93 min, vanishing coral and ocean ecosystems

From the Ashes, 2017, 81 min, coal industry

The Last Mountain, 2011, 1:35; found at Pratt, Mountaintop removal

Gasland, 2010, 1:45 (fracking)

Gasland Part II, 2013, 2:05 (more fracking)

Beautiful Swimmers Revisited, MPT, 2016, 57 min, Chesapeake

City of Trees, 2015, 76 min, tree planting in DC


Finally, a look ahead to next year.  We think we’ve found a good format (movie in UFH, followed by supper discussion) at the right time (Saturdays at 5 pm) in the right season for a film series.  Maybe next year we could have an Education Epiphany?  Or a Racial Epiphany?  Or more broadly a Justice Epiphany series?  It’s a great way to spark conversation and community and change.