Iowa IPL’s Lenten Carbon Fast: Real Stories from Real Iowans, Saving Energy as an Act of Faith
The disasters in Japan are pervading our reflection about Lent this year. The suffering caused by the record-setting earthquake and tsunami has been heart-breaking. The fear associated with the nuclear reactor crises has been overwhelming. My wife and I marvel, however, at the resilience of the Japanese people and their capacity to endure such hardship with grace and fortitude.
As an environmentalist and as a Christian ethicist, I have significant concerns about nuclear power and fossil fuels. I am co-teaching a course right now at Luther College on “Ethics, Energy, and Climate Policy.” Out of a desire to “walk the talk,” my wife and I have been making investments over the past few years to make our home more energy efficient. In addition, we have been setting aside money to purchase and install a grid-tied solar photovoltaic (PV) system that would produce about 80 percent of the electricity our home uses in a particular year. The one thing that has been holding us back is that installing the system would require cutting down a large, mature walnut tree on the south side of our neighbor’s property.
Recently Luther College established a Sustainability House where students can live together and collaborate on various projects related to sustainability. As it turns out, this house has a fabulous solar window to the south. After some prayer and reflection, my wife and I have decided to donate to Luther the funds we have been saving to install a 4 kilowatt PV system on our own home so that the system can be installed this summer at the Luther College Sustainability House. With a more optimal southern orientation the same number of PV panels will produce more electricity and reduce more greenhouse gas emissions than they would have on our home which faces west. In addition, the panels will produce 100 percent of the house’s electricity and they will have a greater educational impact at Luther.
Could these funds do more good in Japan right now? We wrestle with this question but we made our gift about one week before the earthquake and tsunami struck northern Japan. We have made other gifts to relief and development organizations doing work there. All of our contributions, however, feel like a drop in the bucket given the enormity of the problems in Japan and the level of the world’s dependence on fossil fuels and nuclear power. But this is what we can do, and it is clear from those pulling together in Japan, that the collective efforts of individuals can make a world of difference.
IIPL Board Member