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Refugia Newsletter #10 by Debra Rienstra: Russian invasion and energy transition, the IPCC report, prayers for Ukraine, and ashy Lenten reflections

Debra Rienstra
Debra Rienstra
Hello, friends. Welcome again to the Refugia Newsletter, a fortnightly newsletter for people of faith who care about the climate crisis and want to go deeper.
This week: implications of the Russian invasion of Ukraine for energy transition, the latest IPCC report, prayers for Ukraine, and some ashy Lenten reflections.

Refugia News
I was lucky enough to be the guest on an episode released this week for the Language of God podcast, produced by the good folks at Biologos. Host Jim Stump and I had a great conversation about lament, climate change and the church, whether “creation care” and “stewardship” are the best terms, and much more. Have a listen!
This is the first of several podcast appearances in connection with the release of Refugia Faith. I’ll be recording another one this week with The Bible for Normal People and we’ve got a couple more in the works. Knowing how much work it is to create a podcast, I’m very grateful for people who do this work well.
Meanwhile, the next two weeks bring a conference appearance, a couple church gigs, the start of a class I’m teaching at Calvin University for our lifelong learning group, and more. Whew! Next time, I’ll tell you about my visit to Aldo Leopold’s shack next weekend–I’m super excited about this!
Debra Rienstra | The Discipline of Hope - Podcast-episodes - BioLogos
This Week in Climate News
A lot to process in the last two weeks. We’ll get to the Russia/Ukraine situation in a minute, but meanwhile, we do have to grapple with the latest IPCC report, released February 28. The title is “Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability.” And that’s why you may have seen some freaking-out news headlines: this one is about human suffering.
The bottom line: 1. yes, climate impacts are already bad, and can get much, much worse. 2. yes, this is caused by burning fossil fuels. 3. yes, humans are suffering and will suffer much more. 4. yes, we can still mitigate the worst effects, but we have to act BIG and act NOW.
It’s important to understand that the report released on February 28 is part 2 of three working group reports developed as part of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment. These Assessment cycles are multi-year, multi-pronged projects involving, of course, international cadres of hundreds of authors representing thousands of scientists. This is as peer-reviewed, collaborative, and reliable as scientific knowledge gets.
The latest report doesn’t add new information about the science of climate change so much as account for the very real and specific current and future impacts on humans. It’s really an environmental justice document, because it confirms that the most vulnerable people will continue to suffer worst and first from the impacts of climate change. (Here’s a summary of the report in the New York Times.)
The report concludes with an emphatic sense of urgency:
“SPM.D.5.3 The cumulative scientific evidence is unequivocal: Climate change is a threat to human well-being and planetary health. Any further delay in concerted anticipatory global action on adaptation and mitigation will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all. (very high confidence)” 
The report is grim, but it does not conclude that we’re doomed and all is hopeless. Instead it pleads for immediate and ambitious “climate resilient development.” The next IPCC report, due out later this year, will focus on what this means in much more detail.
Deeper Dive
How will the Russian invasion of Ukraine affect energy transition? Well, that’s the question lots of people are trying to answer right now.
On the one hand, climate activists argue that to defeat Putin and other oil-funded autocrats like him, the best immediate as well as long-term strategy is to wean the world off fossil fuels altogether, quickly and aggressively. Now is the moment to accelerate energy transition as the emergency that it is. On the other hand, fossil fuel execs and apologists are claiming that this crisis demonstrates the importance of continued US fossil fuel production, urging more drilling, more exports of natural gas to Europe, and so on. Here’s an article in Climate Wire by Adam Aton that depicts the confusing back-and-forth.
The European Union is trying to choose option 1 (weaning), and has released a proposal, summarized in this article in the Washington Post by Emily Rauhala, Rick Noach, and Vanessa Guinan-Bank. The proposal calls for Europe to cut down on Russian imports by two-thirds by the end of this year. It won’t be easy, since the EU gets 40% of its gas from Russia.
How can it be done? Well, Somini Sengupta reported that “The 26-page E.U. draft proposal, seen by The New York Times, proposes to swiftly renovate old, leaky buildings to reduce energy demand, simplify regulations to attract investments in renewable energy, encourage more rooftop solar installations and produce more energy from biomass.”
Bill McKibben, meanwhile, has proposed how the US could assist in this process by building and exporting heat pumps under the Defense Production Act. This would be great for building US capacity, great for the US economy, and could make a difference pretty quickly for Europe. According to Third Act, “People are starting to rally to the idea—over 200 environmental justice groups have signed a joint letter urging President Biden to use the Defense Production Act to ramp up production.”
Here’s McKibben’s original article from Feb. 27.
Heat Pumps for Peace and Freedom - by Bill McKibben
Refugia Sighting
Maybe I shouldn’t offer worship resources two newsletters in a row, but if you are seeking ways to pray (or lead others in prayer) about the war in Ukraine, and you’re not sure how, the Iona Community can help. This week they put together a list of “Songs to Support Prayer for Ukraine” from the Church of Scotland hymnal. Don’t have one of those handy? No worries: all the resources are on this website.
The Iona Community is one of the very best embodiments refugia faith. They’re a “located and dispersed” Christian community with a kind of pilgrimage hub on the Isle of Iona, but members live all over the world. Founded in 1938, they’ve long been a source of renewal in the church around peace and justice issues, fresh worship resources, and spiritual formation.
If you’re intrigued, you could listen to my 2020 interview with the wonderful Ruth Harvey, currently serving as Iona’s Leader.
Welcome to the Iona Community - A Christian ecumenical community
The Wayback Machine
The season of Lent began on March 2, and when the worship director at my church asked if I would be willing to help do the imposition of ashes at our Ash Wednesday service, I said: “Yes, please!”
It’s a moving experience to look into a person’s face, make the sign of the cross with ash on their forehead, and say, “Remember that you are dust.” You feel this sense of dwelling in the real in that moment. You feel as if you are seeing people’s deep vulnerability and their true beauty.
Here’s a piece I wrote about this experience in 2014.
Communion of Dust - Debra Rienstra
Thank You!
Thanks for reading! I keep these newsletters quickly scannable, with opportunities for deeper reading as you are able. I also tend to emphasize the connections between faith communities and climate action.
You can send me a response to this newsletter simply by replying to the email that brought it to you. If you are so inclined, please follow me on Twitter or Facebook @debrakrienstra. You can always contact me on those platforms, too. Also check out my website at debrarienstra.com.
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Debra Rienstra
Debra Rienstra @debrakrienstra

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Prof. Debra Rienstra, Calvin University, 1795 Knollcrest Dr SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546