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A Call For Grassroots Solutions

Posted in: Falmouth News, Front Page Stories
Aug 29, 2008 - 2:07:22 PM
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FALMOUTH- The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship will sponsor Sunflower Sunday this weekend, which they are calling a major event for environmentalists. In honor of Labor Day weekend, the event is scheduled for 9:30 AM Sunday at the church at 840 Sandwich Road in East Falmouth.
The service is an opportunity to offer grassroots solutions to community problems with special attention to energy and food issues.
People of all faiths, races, and cultures are invited.
With energy and food prices rising and the gap between rich and poor widening across the country, the Reverend Robert Murphy of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship said, Cape Cod has complex issues in how to protect natural resources and community life, as well as build a healthy and sustainable economy.
Among the questions the region needs to consider, Mr. Murphy said, are “Is it possible to enjoy environmental protection with economic prosperity?” and “How can environmentalists and developers work together to improve community life.”
“We want down-to-earth solutions that we can share with others. Winter can be difficult on the coast of Massachusetts. How can we help each other?” Mr. Murphy asked.
The fellowship has become involved in a number of “economic justice” issues in recent years. Among those is a national “ethical eating” movement among Unitarian Universalists.
Mr. Murphy said, “We went to the denomination’s national convention in June in Fort Lauderdale and introduced a proposal for a five-year national ‘study and action’ program called ‘Ethical Eating: Food and Environmental Justice’.”
The program raises the question, “What can congregations actually do to promote economic and environmental justice, relevant to food issues,” Mr. Murphy said. “We’re concerned about the local production and distribution of food. Our fellowship’s Cape Cod experience is being used as a national model.”
The Unitarians are also involved in a new “energy justice” coalition on Cape Cod. A major conference on the topic is scheduled to take place at Cape Cod Community College on Sunday, November 16, Mr. Murphy said.
Among the speakers at the conference will be a representative from the Sierra Club, who will talk about energy issues and low-income people, Mr. Murphy said.
Along the lines of environmental stewardship, the fellowship has recently installed solar panels on the church hall.
The 24 photovoltaic panels were installed on a south-facing portion of the roof on June 18. The installation was connected to the electric grid and the new system is expected to produce about 5,000 kilowatts of electricity annually, which is about one-third the amount used by the church.
The savings for the first year of operation are estimated to be about $1,400 per year.
“At this rate, the fellowship expects the system will pay for itself in about 15 years, probably less, since electric rates are expected to increase,” Mr. Murphy said.
“The dollar savings are important. However, we’re also concerned about the environment and we want to reduce fossil fuel pollution,” Mr. Murphy said.
The panels over 25 years of operation are expected to offset an estimated 157 tons of carbon dioxide, 900 pounds of sulphur dioxide, and 560 pounds of nitrous oxide, assuming that the present use of fossil fuel continues in power production.
The solar system at the fellowship had an upfront cost of about $33,000, but with a rebate from the Massachusetts Technical Collaborative, the cost to the congregation will be only about $15,000.
The fellowship also raises funds and sponsors food drives for the Falmouth Service Center. Those attending Sunflower Sunday are asked to bring canned goods and other donations that can be given to the service center.