New shoots of green freshen the earth after a scorching wildfire in Montana.
By Susan Kim*
December 18, 2012—As volunteer teams and disaster survivors rebuild homes, they're being more environmental than ever before. Sometimes it's as simple as deciding to place windows where they trap heat on cold days, and push heat out in the summer.
“You can build from an energy standpoint just by having a sense what area of the country you're in,” said UMCOR consultant Christy Smith, “and volunteers can make informed decisions when they're rebuilding homes.”
Energy-efficient rebuilding isn't always more expensive, Smith added. “For example, let's say you put in switches in each room that turn the lights off automatically if there's no motion in 20 minutes.” Those might cost a bit more upfront, but may pay themselves back in five years of energy cost savings.
“All these kinds of things are worth thinking about,” she said.
UMCOR is increasingly addressing green rebuilding in its training for volunteers and disaster response coordinators. Amelia Fletcher, disaster response coordinator for the Alabama-West Florida Conference, said she believes that, the more people who are aware of environmental concerns, the more post-disaster homes will have eco-friendly aspects built into them.
“We can find ways to make green rebuilding workable and cost-effective,” she said. “It's important that people at least see it as an option.”
From a disaster mitigation standpoint, it's also important to consider how humankind's historic lack of care for our creation has led to more massive disasters, pointed out the Rev. Pat Watkins, who leads Caretakers of God’s Creation, a denomination-wide ministry founded in the Virginia Conference and now stretching across many conferences.
“So many teams went to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina,” he said, “and yet most of them had very little conversation or training on the eco-system of that part of the world. The eco-system was designed by God. Humans built the levies.”
Thinking about big-picture tasks such as halting the seemingly inevitable climate change can be overwhelming, particularly if disaster recovery is on someone's back as well, Watkins acknowledged.
“But if indeed climate change is beginning to cause more storms and stronger storms that do more damage, well, then I believe the church should respond to that. If we don't do anything else, let's educate the teams that respond to disasters about the ecosystem of the areas they visit,” he said.
Think green. Your gift to US Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance #901670, will help volunteers across the nation build more eco-friendly houses after a disaster.
*Susan Kim is a journalist and a regular contributor to www.umcor.org.