Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Importance of Housing and Building Construction Choices on the Health of the Earth

Construction methods have an enormous impact on energy usage world-wide. Energy production is playing a huge part in the unintentional human modification of the global environment. Heating and cooling loads of housing in aggregate far exceed transportation in the global energy budget.

Such choices also have an enormous impact on the demand for raw materials that must be taken from the Earth in order to replace worn out buildings and homes.

Unfortunately, construction methods and the attendant demands the resulting buildings place on global energy and materials supplies are not nearly so much discussed in most quarters when considering how to reduce greenhouse gas and pollutant emissions as are other issues. The focus in most current discussion seems to be on energy production first, followed by transportation fuel types and efficiencies, then by appliance efficiencies, and the lastly making existing construction methods more energy efficient in relatively small increments.

I suppose that this lack of sufficient importance in current discussion on sustainability is a result of the common human condition of longing for times and people that have gone by and passed out of the world. Nostalgia, cultural tradition, and a wish to hold on to as much of the past as possible for as long as possible all seem to hold sway in the reluctance to truly address the type of home developers and home buyers choose to build. People grow up to see the homes their parents and grandparents own as symbols of status and wealth in their cultural hierarchy and choose what they feel will raise their status within the bounds of tradition. I even find myself confronting this "feeling" of "what makes a beautiful house a respectable home."

The problem is, such emotional decisions based on tradition often block innovation that could vastly reduce the demands that housing and building construction place on both the global environment AND on the home or building owners and residents' financial resources and monthly budget. Additionally, many traditional constrcution methods require greater maintenance and replacement of failed components than construction methods waiting in the wings would, if they were embraced in modern culture.

Earth bag construction, rammed earth construction, straw bale construction, and adobe construction are far more energy-efficient and durable than conventional stick or brick housing. These methods can be applied in almost all climate types, and are extremely sustainable.

Additionally, earthen construction methods and materials when properly executed are capable of withstanding hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, and even earthquakes up to magnitude 6.5 in some cases when properly executed. This type of construction would vastly reduce economic losses and insurance demands in the face of most natural disasters, and displace far fewer people in such circumstances. The recent experiences of the Gulf Coast of the United States, Indonesia, Bam, Iran, and the Asian victims of the tsunami come to mind. So do the victims of wildfires in the Western US.

An excellent resource on many of these types of construction is Mother Earth News magazine.

Additionally, many of these construction methods cost a fraction of "conventional" housing in terms of materials, and are more labor-intensive. Thus, choosing such construction methods will increse employment opportunities for construction workers while reducing the demands on global forests and energy supplies.

Many such homes are habitable for up to 500 years vs. the 100-200 years possible life cycle of wooden homes.

In addition, homes designed to work in harmony with nature, using such features as a prominent Southern exposure for most windows and rooftop gardens can further enhance their organic beauty and energy efficiency.

Many of these construction methods have been known, employed, and perfected for millennia. These are far less "new" methods than ones that originate in modern Western cultures.

Such construction methods should be sought out, modernized as necessary, and used extensively as rapidly as possible. A commitment to such a construction renaissance could have an incredibly vast impact on the future of the global climate and the economic resiliency of the global economy in both the short and the long term.

It is incumbent upon modern developers and consumers to lay the foundations for such change, in coordination with educational institutions and building inspection and regulating officials.

It is up to Earth Stewards to lead the way in this effort. Many of us will face the traditional nostalgic and cultural tradtions of spouses and parents in the attempt to move such change forward. Still, the effort must be made.

The Importance of a Daily Walk...

A walk every day is of great importance. There are several reasons why this is so.

The first reason is of course, physical fitness and health. To be effective, and Earth Steward must do their best to remain healthy and strong, enabling them to carry out their duties on a physical level. This is important, but not necessarily the most important reason for walking every day. To suit this purpose, a walk after having a meal is a good idea. This helps keep the metabolism up and helps aid in digestion.

Another very important reason for a daily walk is that it helps "reconnect" yourself with nature, with the biosphere were are charged with protecting. Take the time during your walk to notice the birds, plants, small animals, places where water gathers and where it remains dry. No other mode of transportation allows you to do this as effectively as walking. Even bicycling, which I love, you travel too fast to truly take in the full richness of detail you need to effectively monitor the environment cloase to your own home. If you don't know how the Earth is doing near your own home, who ever really will besides God?

Additionally, you will find that walking while paying close attention to nature has a restful and calming, renewing effect on the soul and emotional state. It just plain feels good to be close to nature, even if it's just the grass and birds in your own yard or the flowers and shrubbery along the sidewalk down your street.

If you are confined to a wheel chair of face some other disability, even then, rolling down the sidewalk for half an hour a day paying attention to nature and weather is still good for you provided there are no complications preventing you from going out.

If you are in a dense inner-urban area, bring life to the area around your home by growing plants outdoors in containers wherever allowed or permitted. You will be amazed at how it feels to care for life in this way. Additionally, plant life can help improve the tone and air quality of the urban environment. A roof garden, for instance, will lower cooling costs for the building while supplying oxygen and reducing the amount of energy that must be derived from buried carbon sources for cooling purposes.

Walking in an urban area, if you see someone taking the time to grow plants and greenery, take a moment to tell them how nice it is to see some life in the concrete jungle and how good their plants look. Help raise the emotional energy level in the place towards serenity.

Another reason for walking in your neighborhood is that it can help build a sense of community. It will allow you to get to know the neighbors, including people and wildlife.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Contributions of Music and Poetry to an Earth Steward's Mindset

Music and poetry are two important subjects, for several reasons.

Music has the ability to focus visualization and intent. It has a hypnotic quality to it and can create an alternative state of consciousness without the need for any foreign substances being introduced into the human body.

Music has a way of carrying the message of words efficiently into the subconscious. Our choices in music should always be very carefully made. In music, all styles should be welcomed and cherished. We live in the most musically abundant period in history. The access to music and the level to wich it surrounds are daily lives are un-precedented at any time in the prior history of the human race.

The key point to music is that one should always choose uplifting songs over songs that convey anger, fear, and despair. It is far better to come at life from a position of hope, joy, or bliss than any of the "negative" emotions.

Much of the same may be said of poetry, especially if it is well-delivered. Poetry should be prctised and savored. It also can be a highly effective form of prayer and healing.

Many might ask what this has to do with "healing the Earth." The answer is that the spiritual and emotional tone of the Earth's caretakers has much to do with how effective they are able to be in their duties. An Earth Steward can heal nothing if they can not first heal their own emotional state.

Additionally, the collective state of mind and spirit has a huge cumulative impact on the quality of life on Earth, and not just human life. It is important to understand this in order to advance on any level. Each individual chooses what energy level they resonate with and amplify. Add them up, and you have the overall state of human existence at any one moment.

Music and Poetry - carefully and intentionally chosen - can help an Earth Steward retain valuable knowledge, set and emotional and spiritual tone, renew the will to care for the Earth and all upon it, withstand hardship and setbacks in life, and add beauty to their own quality of life. Lyrical works can thus become both tool and art form, useful and healthy.

On the other hand, too much music and poetry with negative content can lead to an over-arching sense of despair, despondency, and even anger and depression. Such works in too large a quantity can lead to a poorer outlook on life and steal away motivation.

An Earth Steward is therefore wise to choose carefully the content they place into their subconscious. May this understanding help you to find a personal level of joy in life.

A Bit About Daniel...

I am an ordained minister of the Universal Life Church. I was ordained last year. I am also a poet, and an environmental advocate.

I am a telecommunications technician by proffession. This allows me to earn a living for now.

I have been married now for over five years. This is my first and only marriage.

I have one child predating my marriage. The same is true of my spouse.

I am a student of the tenor saxophone.

It is here, at The First Church of Healing The Earth, that I will lay out the belief system that life has led me to. I believe this is part of the Divine plan of my life. It is one of the ways in which I can give back to the world that allowed me to live.

The Poem That Recorded The Intial Concept Of This Church

The First Church Of Healing The Earth:

If I were preaching,
The message would be green,
I would raise monuments to clean air,
Craft fountains of the purest water,
Free for all to drink,
Be they two legged or four or none.

Breathe free my brother,
Drink your fill sister,
Walk lightly.

Build the chapel under the ground,
So as not to despoil the green open land above,
Make it a matter of Faith.

Breathe free my brother,
Drink your fill sister,
Walk lightly.

No matter what name you put to God(s),
It is holy and sanctified,
To work with nature in all you do,
Craft your technologies in green and pure blue,
Make man partner to what is.

Breathe free my brother,
Drink your fill sister,
Walk lightly.

This is mastery,
Now fill it with love and forgiveness,
And may your children find snow to throw,
From here to eternity -

Breathe free my brother,
Drink your fill sister,
Walk lightly.

Our collective ministry.


By: Daniel A. Stafford
(C) 10/29/2004

Required Reading For Earth Stewards...

There are two books that are absolutely necessary for the aspiring Earth Steward to read, and other publications that can help with the physical mission of Earth Stewardship after the necessary spiritual knowledge is obtained and utilized.

The first book that an Earth Steward needs to read is the Holy Bible. This is necessary to understand the source of our duty and how to live in relation to our Creator and to our fellow human beings.

The second book an Earth Steward needs to read, in order to achieve a deeper understanding of God's word and what it means to us and our mission is called The Wisdom of Florence Scovel Shinn.

Additional publications that should be read wherever possible are the Mother Earth News, and North American Windpower.

Web sites to visit are the American Wind Energy Association and the National Biodiesel Board.

Fundamental Beliefs And Church Mission...

It is the belief of this church that all life is sacred, having been created by God. No life can exist without the divine spark of the creator being a part of it.

Having said that, the Church does not take a position in the battle between those who believe in creationism, and those who believe in the path of evolution. The Bible states clearly that time as experienced by God is not the same as time experienced by mankind. Even were evolution to be true, it would simply be the method God chose to employ in His creation. Therefore the church sees such struggle as pointless, a waste of time, energy, effort, resources, and relationional conditions between human beings.

In the Bible, book of Genesis 1:1-26, God clearly laid down the duty of mankind. It is our sacred duty to care for the Earth. THE MOST SACRED GIFT OF THE CREATOR IS THE EARTH'S ABILITY TO SUPPORT LIFE. It is the first duty of mankind to cherish and support the Earth's ability to harbor life, which is derived directly from God's word. This was spoken in the Bible before the imperative to worship and have faith in God. That does NOT mean that our first duty supplants those directives from the Divine, far from it. It is incumbent upon mankind to perform these duties in the light cast by these directives.

It is important when reading the Bible to read several translations, at least five and preferrably seven, to get an understanding of how its translation to the English language has affected the meaning conveyed. This is particularly true of these passages. The words used in original Hebrew had two meanings. One translation implies that mankind should rule over the Earth and her creatures. Another translation implies mankind should care for the Earth and her creatures. This is because the original Hebrew word implied both concepts at the same time - that rulership should be synonomous with stewardship.

The Earth Stewards' Daily Affirmation:

I am connected to, protected by, and supplied by love.

I am connected to, a protector of, and supplied by the Earth.

I am connected to, protected by, and supplied by God and all the Universe.