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Reba Place Fellowship Growing Communal Responses

3/29/2024 By: Ron Frantz

Reba Place Fellowship Growing Communal Responses

Reba Place Fellowship (Evanston, IL), an intentional Christian Community in the Anabaptist tradition, has been sharing life and finances since 1957.  Expenses such as utilities, fuel, public transportation are paid from our "common purse."  These expenses are paid or reimbursed from a central bookkeeping office.  While sharing our expenses, members in recent years have been looking for responses to environmental changes.


Thus, a group of RPF members gather periodically for "Eco conversations."  A goal of this group is to identify projects or actions the RPF community can take in response to climate change.  Criteria for actions include identifying areas of focus (housing, energy use and production, soil conservation and food production, advocacy) as well as identifying actions implementable at different levels (individuals, small groups, the community as a whole, government policy).  We see potential for an effective and measurable strategy for corporate action by partnering to plant trees.


Hence, in the past year, RPF members developed a proposal to work with the JoinTrees initiative of Mennonite Men to offset our transportation emissions going forward.  RPF members already record their fuel expenses, both as individuals and businesses.  Research identified formulas for equating a) gallons of fuel purchased into b) gallons of fuel consumed to c) metric pounds of carbon emissions to d) carbon absorbed by mature trees to e) cost of planting new trees to f) estimated annual financial contributions to off set carbon emissions.  As we discussed the proposal with our members, we developed a number of ways of calculating gallons of fuel purchased in order to accommodate the various preferences of how individuals do their recordkeeping.  Even with agreement about corporate action, individual variety of habits need to be recognized and respected. 


This proposal focuses upon vehicle fuel consumption and airline travel.  Our research determined that train transportation is highly efficient in regards to emissions attributable to individuals.  Also, public local transportation seemed too difficult to systematically collect.  Airline transportation, however, is a high-emissions form of transportation.  Many airlines now publish CO2 emissions for individual trips at the time of ticket purchases.  Otherwise, formulas are readily available to calculate airline emissions for trips based upon departure and destination information. 


Reba Place Fellowship chose to work with Mennonite Men for a number of reasons.  One member researched a number of organizations engaged in tree planting.  Mennonite Men proved to be more responsive, accessible, informative than larger and older organizations.  Mennonite Men also engages in on-going sustainable forestry programs, recognizing the need for maintaining as well as planting trees, training foresters, and paying attention to the context in the selection of appropriate trees to plant.  Additionally, Mennonite Men works with many world-wide partners that members of Reba Place Fellowship also are invested in.  Hence, working with Mennonite Men leverages work in Latin America, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Hungry World Farm in Tiskilwa, Illinois, in which members of RPF are already invested.


While we recognize arbitrary judgments in our formulas of calculation, it is important that we develop tools which continually educate us about our individual and collective practices, and base our contributions to Mennonite Men on actual consumption.  We not only want to offset our carbon emissions; we also want to change our ongoing patterns of consumption.  We will continue to wrestle with what we contribute to ongoing "tree maintenance."  More significantly, we recognize that while human-caused carbon emissions have been increasing since the start of the industrial revolution, the most rapid escalation of rate and total quantity of emissions has occurred in our own lifetimes, and that of our community.  How, then, do we address previous carbon emissions we, ourselves, have contributed to the environment?  Natural gas consumption emissions may be a next step for us to track and seek to offset.


Hence, tools that track our actual consumption encourage changes of behavior, which, by God's grace, may also lead to changes of heart, mind, and spirit.  It is not in our capacity alone to stop global warming or heal the earth.  Rather, through tangible repentance, we draw closer to God's heart for shalom with the earth and our future generations.  Prayerful action unites us with God at work in our world.  This is our hope.  May it be so!


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