Sunday, March 13, 2011

Parsing a Lenten Fast

My Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace have suggested a Lenten Carbon Fast for 2011 and sent out a calendar (created by the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center - you can find it here) with 40 carbon-fast options - one, you'll notice, for each day of Lent. I could happily incorporate most of the suggested actions or changes, but reading the calendar in the context of Suchitoto, El Salvador, Central America I saw that some changes had to be made.

So here are my Central American alternatives to some Carbon Fast ideas:

Turn down your thermostat. We don't have a thermostat or a heating system. Alternative: be sure to turn off the fan when leaving the room.

Check for drafts and seal leaks. Houses in El Salvador are built full of openings so the hot air can escape. Alternative: take a morning walk in the cool of the day.

Beware of hot water use today. Like most Salvadorans, we don't have a water heater. Water comes out of the tap at room temperature - which is sometimes quite toasty! Alternative: water plants by hand, not by hose, and use a jacal (tub) to do dishes.

Try travel without flying. Not a possibility for my trip back to Seattle in a couple of days - I can't even get from here to Seattle non-stop. Alternative: donate to a carbon bank organization to offset the heat I'll be adding to the planet.

Hang clothes to dry on a rack or clothesline. This one's no problem: that's the only way we have of drying clothes here (and they generally dry in 2 hours). Alternative: mark it done, and move on.

Turn down your hot water heater. See above: no hot water heater. Alternative: pay more attention to turning off the lights when I leave a room.

As you can see, there's only a few of the 40 that needed to be rephrased for Central America. Most of the Carbon Fast ideas will work anywhere - check tire pressure, pick up litter, unplug appliances, recycle, learn about climate change. My greatest challenge is to cut back on driving - especially now that gas has reached $4/gallon here. There's a certain amount of necessary driving that goes with my mission, but my goal this Lenten season and hereafter is to combine trips and get in that car much less often.

And climate change has certainly reached us here in Central America. The weather patterns over the two years I've been here have been more violent and less predictable than the norm. This year, we've had several big rainstorms already, though the seasonal rains aren't supposed to start until May. I can't do enough to hold back the changes, but I will do what I can.

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