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Mitzvah Moments - July 2015


Mitzvah Moments - July 2015

by Tish Levee

The Pope speaks out on climate change in Laudato Si’. It’s not possible to be a writer about sustainability issues and climate change and NOT mention Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si’. Coverage is all over the web and social media sites; if you want to read the entire encyclical, go to the Vatican site at For highlights and a quick read, check out this site The encyclical is a real game changer; the Pope is the spiritual leader of over 1.25 billion Roman Catholics, and he is addressing not only Catholics, but also all people of good will. 

One take-away from Laudato Si’: “We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels…needs to be progressively replaced without delay.” Thirty-six years ago on June 20th President Carter installed solar panels on the White House, saying, “ Solar energy will not pollute our water or our air. We will not run short of it…” In 1979 CO2 in the atmosphere, measured at Mauna Loa, HI, was less than 340 ppm. This June 7th, it was more than 403 ppm. Although President Obama reinstalled panels on the Executive Mansion in 2013, what if we had already made the serious move away from fossil fuels that we’re making now? We know that solar and wind power work—they’re working here in California. We’ve more than 10,000 MW of installed solar capacity—enough to power 2.6 million homes, and last year California generated nearly 13 Gigawatts (a Gigawatt is 1,000 MWatts) of wind energy. In the last two years the US installed more solar power than in the previous 38 years! 

Clean energy—solar, wind, geothermal, and small-scale hydropower—is here. Kodiak Island in Alaska just went 99.7% renewable. Iceland gets 100% of its electricity from geothermal and hydropower. Using hydroelectric, geothermal and wind, Norway is around 98% renewable. Paraguay uses hydropower from the Itaipu Dam to provide 90% of its electricity and 19% of Brazil’s, annually displacing 67.5 million tonnes of CO2. Germany already uses 98% renewable energy. The cost of renewable energy is dropping steadily, and, in many places it’s actually cheaper than fossils fuels. 

Want 100% renewable energy in Sonoma County? Opt for Sonoma Clean Power’s EverGreen program and get geo-thermal power from the Geysers for a cost of 3.5 cent/kWh extra—or about $18 a month for the average family.

Vacation at home—take Route 29 to the coast this summer. 

Once again Sonoma County Transit will run a small bus to the coast on weekends from July 11 to September 13th. Printed schedules will be available on county buses after June 22nd. Save on gas, emissions, fighting traffic, and looking for parking. Go to for more information.

We’re in a drought; should we boycott Nestle and other bottled water companies? Probably not, as the water that companies such as Nestlé and Arrowhead, Crystal Geyser, and Wal-Mart take from sources in California to bottle is a very small part of our water use; only .02% of California’s water ends up being sold as bottled water. Nestlé’s five bottling plants use 705 million gallons annually, “roughly equal to the annual average watering needs of two California golf courses”, says Nestlé’s North American CEO. But that doesn’t mean we should buy their water, either. 

• Bottled water is not drawn evenly from across the state, and in some locations withdrawing it can cause excess groundwater pumping. 

• Forty percent of bottled water is tap water, and the EPA has extremely low testing requirements for all bottled water. Thus it isn’t better than filtered water from your tap, and may even be worse. 

• It costs up to 1900 times more than your own water. 

• Even without BPA, the bottles may not be safe for your health.

• It takes 1.39 gallons of water to produce one gallon of bottled water.

• The amount of oil used to make the bottles could fuel a million cars a year. 

• Less than 30% of plastic water bottles are recycled, with the rest ending up in landfills, incinerators, or in the ocean, where they slowly disintegrate into tiny particles that enter the food chain and also help create the great plastic garbage patches.

© Tish Levee, 2015