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Refugia Newsletter by Debra Rienstra - Issue #3

Debra Rienstra
Debra Rienstra
Welcome to the Refugia Newsletter! This is a biweekly newsletter for people of faith who care about climate and want to go deeper.

Refugia News
It’s Advent season now, and we’ve had some gentle, powdered-sugar snowfalls here in West Michigan. Wherever you are, I hope you can find spaces of beauty and quiet–refugia spaces–as we prepare to celebrate the Incarnation at Christmas.
Some of you have been asking whether I plan to do another season of The Refugia Podcast. The answer is yes! After two seasons, I took a break to, well, to write a book. And teach a full load at Calvin University. So yeah, not a lot of time to commit to the podcast.
However, I plan to record another season next summer! This season will focus even more specifically on churches and church-related groups creating refugia spaces in worship, trying new forms of “doing church,” and otherwise seeking church renewal. Watch for more news, and please feel free to send me suggestions for people to interview. I would love that!
You can always catch up on the last two seasons of the podcast by listening on your favorite platform and/or reading transcripts here:
Refugia Podcast - Debra Rienstra
This Week in Climate News
One of my favorite elements of the recently signed US infrastructure package is the $350 million now allocated for wildlife crossings. Wildlife crossings have bipartisan support for good reason: they protect both people and animals. Drivers are protected from collisions with deer, elk, moose, and other large, severe-accident-causing critters. Meanwhile, creatures of all shapes are sizes are able to cross highways safely. This is crucial to maintain migration routes, expand habitat to allow for genetic diversity, and avoid significant numbers of animal deaths.
For a wider treatment of habitat strategies, I recommend Tony Hiss’s book Rescuing the Planet: Protecting Half the Land to Heal the Earth (Knopf 2021), which contains explanations and some nifty drawings to show how “wildlife corridors”–which often require highway crossings–can help repair North American habitats.
Biden’s $350 million plan for animal crossings in the infrastructure bill - Vox
Deeper Dive
While I’m excited about the infrastructure and “Build Back Better” bills’ potential to advance clean energy, I do wonder–along with a lot of other people–how we are going to build all this infrastructure and pull off an energy transition while not contributing even MORE to fossil fuel emissions and perpetuating the same old extraction problems?? One particular concern for a transition to clean energy is the need for cobalt and other metals to produce batteries on a large scale.
Unfortunately, just as with any extraction industry, cobalt mining has potential for abuse and corruption. And as usual, abuse and corruption falls hardest on the poorer people in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has rich cobalt sources. This New York Times article examines the role of Albert Yuma Mulimbi, a DRC power broker whose claims to be reforming cobalt mining and eliminating abusive labor practices (including child labor) are under scrutiny. (I apologize if you can’t click through past the NYT’s paywall.)
Hunt for the ‘Blood Diamond of Batteries’ Impedes Green Energy Push - The New York Times
Refugia Sighting
As Ron and I worked on our Giving Tuesday contributions this year, I was glad to send a little bit to the good people at ECHO Farms in North Fort Myers, Florida. ECHO has been around for decades, and they’re a small refugium with large global impact. They combine biological and agricultural expertise with outside-the-box creativity in order to support small-scale farming world-wide. They work through NGO and missionary networks to train and equip people to feed themselves, despite whatever limitations they face–tiny land holdings, poor soil, lousy climate, and so on. On their farm in Florida, ECHO staff try out different kinds of seeds and growing techniques and share their knowledge freely, serving as a knowledge hub for receiving and offering innovative tips.
In their words: “We’ve impacted millions of lives by teaching small-scale, sustainable farming methods so families can provide for themselves and their communities. By tackling hunger at the source, we’re growing hope from the ground up.”
Hope Against Hunger
The Way Back Machine
I wrote this Advent piece in 2017 when I was pretty angry about American public life and didn’t know what to do with that anger. So I sank into the story of Zechariah from Luke 1 and wondered: what if Zechariah lived today? What if the silence spread to everyone?
Zechariah's Dream - Debra Rienstra
Thank you!
Thanks for reading! I keep these biweekly 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.
If you are so inclined, please follow me on Twitter or Facebook @debrakrienstra. You can always contact me on those platforms. Also check out my website at
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Debra Rienstra
Debra Rienstra @debrakrienstra

A fortnightly newsletter for people of faith who care about climate and want to know more and do more.

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