Days 239-240: Atlanta! Praying for rain and finding a common ground…

Back in November, as Ben, Mark and I stood rolling tape and taking photos of shrinking Lake Walker and Lake Meade near sad Hoover Dam, Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue called for Georgians to come out and join him in a prayer for God to send rain. I guess I don’t see anything wrong with that except that this is the same governor whose water conservation advice to citizens was to Avoid stepping out of the shower to make a phone call…

So, back to the issue at hand, Georgia: Water. It must have been September when we first started hearing about the drought in the Southeast, and specifically the decline of Lake Lanier in Georgia. Usually, during the winter, the lake rises by about 9 feet but, according to Shanna Udvardy, of Georgia Conservancy, this winter the lake has only been replenished by about a foot. And yet, the government has reinstated yard watering. Is this the right message? Udvardy wonders, especially when coming housing developments are expected to use up to 60% more water than today’s average homes…Here is a nice example of a yard that went thirsty this year due to the drought, right next to one that didn’t…hmmm…

On Monday, Chattanooga mayor Ron Littlefield declared Feb 26th “Give our Friends in Georgia a Drink Day,” and sent an aide down to the City Hall in a coonskin cap with a truckload of Tennessee bottled water…Ben called our friend Richard, at the Chattanooga mayor’s office to ask how it went over. (They weren’t sure yet.) We made an exception to our rules and bought a bottle of water from a Tennessee bottling company to give to Rob Hunter, Water Commissioner for the city of Atlanta. He accepted our offer and asked us to relay a message: If the Mayor of Chattanooga wants to send over some FLEETS of trucks with bottled water, Atlanta would make sure that parking spaces were available. Seriously, though, Hunter feels that the most important understanding people of GA can have is that How we use and conserve water in our daily lives has to change…forever, from here on out.

Meanwhile, Clayton Co, GA has not been suffering the drought like other GA counties have. Mike Thomas, General Mgr for Clayton County Water Authority, said that their approach to water planning was born of necessity, back in the 70’s. 4000 acres of mostly-forested land was purchased and, in the 80’s, a reservoir and pump station built, with over 300 miles of pipeline and 20,000 sprinklers, to irrigate forests to catch water. After awhile, it was discovered that this practice was “not quite sustainable on Piedmont clay soil” so Clayton Co went back to the drawing board and came up with a new solution: wetlands. Thomas says the switch has worked wonders, and they have the added benefit of increasing bird population! Who says you can’t have your water and feed birds too???

Back to prayer, as it were.
Along with the obvious 16 month+ drought that has been pinching Georgia this year, the other issue we have been following with interest, and were happy to focus on in the peachtree state, is the happy combination of treehugging and religion!

The role that faith-based organizations have begun to play in environmental sustainability is encouraging, to say the least. Looking forward to finding out more about this fairly new and important development, we drove to Little Five Points in Atlanta to talk to Katy Hinman. To Katy, a “bat biologist in a former life,” the move from chiroptology to Seminary seemed, to her, a completely natural progression. Her position as Director of Georgia Interfaith Power and Light gives her the opportunity to help people make the natural connection between being good stewards and being faithful followers, a role which she relishes. “Creation care,” as she calls it, is very much a part of most great religious philosophies, and some reference can be found in every text, without having to dig too deeply. Even the mountains are said to praise God in the Scriptures, she says. How can that be when we are blowing them up for money, polluting the water, the land and the air? (Ben remembered a comment from our Vineyard friend in Idaho who said that when the Christ comes he wants to be caught with his hands dirty, tending the Garden, not sitting there doing nothing to care for His Creation.)

When we asked Katy what she could personally do to be more “green,” she said she could probably be a vegetarian but she thinks she needs her strength as she has taken up a new sport. Katy is now one of the Atlanta Rollergirls. Awesome. I can’t wait till she gets her clergy robes and we can see her perform as the Pastor of Disaster.

*Ben and Mark also talked to Dr. Michael Battle of ITC (Interdenominational Theological Center) about TheoEcology, which i sadly missed due to pregnancy sleep-in. They said the interview was wonderful. The website looks totally cool.

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