Refugia Newsletter #9 by Debra Rienstra: ocean rise, electric vehicle ads at the Super Bowl, ecology-themed worship songs, and disciples confused by a glowy Jesus



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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: ocean rise, electric vehicle ads at the Super Bowl, ecology-themed worship songs, and disciples confused by a glowy Jesus.

Refugia News
Refugia Faith is officially launched! Now comes the fun (and scary) part: hearing from people all over who are reading it. I’ve already had some nice responses from people in Pennsylvania, Florida, and even New Zealand. Not sure how the book got to New Zealand already, but … yay! Now come the speaking engagements, too, which are nerve-wracking, but I always enjoy meeting people I would never have otherwise met and talking with them about stuff that really matters.
To help groups who want the read the book together, I’ve got a Discussion Guide in the works that should be up on my website this week.
Meanwhile, my friend Jeff Chu interviewed me for his newsletter. Jeff is a beautiful, authentic, funny and poignant writer, and I highly recommend his newsletter. He writes about spirituality, mostly, as well as his attempts to learn gardening and his mouth-watering cooking endeavors. You might know Jeff as the person Rachel Held Evans’s family chose to complete her last book after her death. Jeff is also an accomplished journalist and a total professional as an interviewer, and after our conversation, he came up with this extraordinarily perceptive and generous piece on Refugia Faith.
The Miraculous Ordinary - by Jeff Chu 朱天慧
This Week in Climate News
Well, obviously the situation in Ukraine is, quite rightly, the main news story right now. War is always terrible for everyone and everything, including the environment. It will take a while not only to understand what’s happening but also to consider the implications, including for an economic and political order long structured around the fossil fuel industry. I’ll watch for pertinent news stories in the next two weeks and report back.
Meanwhile, not to pile on the bad news, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has released a technical report that confirms the seriousness of current and future ocean rise.
Bottom line: We can expect 10-12 inches of ocean rise by 2050. That’s baked in: no changing that. We’ll also see between 3.5 and 7 feet by 2100, depending on the climate actions we take now (or don’t).
Here’s a link to the full report, but the article by Bob Berwyn from Inside Climate News linked below is a helpful summary of what ocean rise at these levels will mean around the world.
Berwyn quotes researcher Dr. Andrea Dutton: “'The coastline is going to move,‘ Dutton said, adding that some places simply won’t be able to persist.“
That’s the grim outcome here: some places just won’t be inhabitable anymore. Floods, higher tides, infrastructure and ecosystem damage, and what looks more and more like the necessity of "forced retreat”–these are the realities many will be facing.
For some compelling story-telling about ocean rise, you might listen to the recent podcast episode of This American Life called “Apocalypse Creep.”
New Federal Report Warns of Accelerating Impacts From Sea Level Rise - Inside Climate News
Deeper Dive
Now for something that basically amounts to good news, or at least amusing news. If you watched the Super Bowl this year (I got bored after the first quarter), you might have noticed all the ads for electric cars and trucks and wondered what’s up. Well, turns out that this year, ads for EVs were waaaaay up. The article linked below by Kyla Mandel in Time Magazine crunches the numbers and offers a pretty sweet bar chart to demonstrate that EV ads are now mainstream.
For the deeper dive part of this story, I would recommend this piece from earlier this month by Jack Ewing and Neal E. Boudette in the New York Times. This article accounts for the rapid growth of the EV industry in the US and abroad, as well as the ongoing challenges to transition.
In case the NYT’s paywall is an issue for you, here are a couple juicy quotes with some juicy links:
“While electric vehicles still account for a small slice of the market — nearly 9 percent of the new cars sold last year worldwide were electric, up from 2.5 percent in 2019, according to the International Energy Agency — their rapid growth could make 2022 the year when the march of battery-powered cars became unstoppable, erasing any doubt that the internal combustion engine is lurching toward obsolescence.”
“Of course, battery-powered cars also have an environmental cost. But even taking into account the energy and raw materials they require, electric vehicles are much better for the climate than conventional cars, according to a Yale School of the Environment study.”
We Watched Two Decades of Super Bowl Ads. Here’s What They Say About Climate Change.
Refugia Sighting
I’ve been thinking of how regular old Sunday worship is so often a refugia time for me. I rely on this weekly practice for reorientation, embodied community, the consolation of Word and sacrament. Good worship is crucial to good faith formation, which raises the question of what our worship practices are doing to shape the faithful’s understanding of the more-than-human world and humans’ God-given role in it.
Fortunately, some creative people are busy developing new worship resources–songs in particular–to help churches do more intentional faith-formation around God’s love for creation and our role in it. The good people at The Porter’s Gate are working on a whole album of songs with ecology themes, and they have just released the first single, “The Promise,” which you can listen to here.
Another example is the UK group Resound Worship, who already have a whole album called Doxecology, available at their website along with helpful accompanying resources.
For some background on this album, along with some recommendations for which songs to listen to first, you could check out my review here.
Doxecology - Resound Worship
The Wayback Machine
Lent begins this week, which means that this Sunday is Transfiguration Sunday, at least if you follow the lectionary cycle at your church. I’ve always loved the story of Jesus going all glowy on the mountain, but it’s a strange story full of unanswered questions. Here’s a piece I wrote about it back in 2013. A good piece for a week of dire news and uncertain futures.
Thin Places - 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
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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