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Environmental and Social Justice Blog

(Image by Ellen Rockett, from UUA website)

Election Day – November 3, 2020

The 5th Principle of Unitarian Universalism is the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.

The election this year will decide the presidential contest between President Donald J. Trump and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden. Virginia voters also will choose between U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner and challenger Daniel M. Gade. Seats in the House of Representatives are being contested, among them District 5, which includes Rappahannock and Madison Counties, and District 6, which includes Page County.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, registered voters in Virginia have several voting options this year. Information on voter registration (including registering online), locations of polling places and absentee balloting can be found at: www.elections.virginia.gov or by contacting your county registrar’s office. No reason is needed to vote an absentee ballot by mail or in person in 2020.

Two proposed amendments to the Virginia Constitution are also on the ballot. Details can be found here: www.elections.virginia.gov/proposed-constitutional-amendment-2020

1. Redistricting Commission: Allows creation of a 16-member commission tasked with redrawing election district boundaries and details the selection process for commission members.

2. Motor Vehicle Property Tax Exemption for Disabled Veterans: Permits one automobile or pickup truck to be free from state and local taxation, provided that is owned and used primarily by or for a veteran of the U.S. armed forces or the Virginia National Guard who meets specific disability criteria,

Important Dates

October 13: Deadline to register in Virginia or to update voter registration information.

September 18 through October 30: In-person, absentee voting is already underway at county registrar’s offices. Those votes will be included in the total count on Election Day.

Absentee voting by mail:

October 23: Deadline to request absentee ballot to be mailed to you.

October 31: Deadline for in-person absentee voting at registrar’s office.

Mail-in ballots: Must be postmarked by November 3 and received by noon on November 6 at the local registrar’s office

November 3: In-person voting at assigned polling locations. The polls will be open from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Absentee ballots may be dropped off at polling place until 7:00 p.m.

Sue Daniels

Jay Allen

SimpliRural: How Simplicity Supports Healthy Parenting

By Jay Allen

Starting from the belief that each of us uniquely possesses a special gift to use in living our life, the decision to be or not to be a parent can be corrupted by societal pressure to procreate. For most of us, it is much easier to become a parent than it is to be an intentional, knowledgeable one.

Constructs of Simplicity help us to value experience over materialism. The opportunity to “raise a child” provides an impetus for personal growth so our evolving maturity will inform us to be the “good enough” parent that our child needs us to be. As a new parent realizes that ordinary stuff that now involves a child becomes time-consuming in ways they could never could have imagined, the notion of multi-tasking is relegated to the irrational. Seeing and experiencing a toddler’s delight in using food as a gravity experiment rather than a source of nourishment leaves a parent in awe!

New parents quickly learn how intensely their child interacts with the environment that we find ho-hum. Day after day of this onslaught leaves parents fatigued. So we find ourselves needing to take better care of our physical needs.

Please refer to the book Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne, M.Ed., with Lisa M. Ross for more insights.

Informingly Yours,

What about Nukes

What About Nukes?

Last month, we touched on systemic approaches to tackling the warming of our planet—carbon taxing or pricing, removing carbon from the atmosphere, and reflecting sunlight back into space (also known as geoengineering). These approaches reflect the truth that we have not yet reduced annual carbon emissions worldwide, and business as usual will not enable us to meet the warming limit of the Paris Agreement (2.7 degrees F).

A nuclear plant emits no carbon while in operation—could it be another answer to carbon pollution? While not a popular option with the public or most environmentalists, some in the environmental community have grudgingly admitted that it will be very difficult to limit the damage of global warming without nuclear’s large contribution—20 percent of all power generated in the U.S. comes from 96 reactors in 58 plants.

Although only two of those reactors have come on-line since 1996, two more are under construction. The age of most reactors means that many are nearing decommission. Without new replacements, the power generated by the plants will have to come from natural gas, a relatively dirty fuel, or renewable sources that have yet to be built out.

States are struggling over whether to get maximum life from nuclear plants, or to let them be shut down. In 2018, New Jersey passed legislation authorizing a 300-million-dollar per year subsidy for three aging nuclear plants, reasoning that the power was necessary as a ramp to clean energy, which, if successful, may take a couple of decades.

Nuclear power provides nearly one-third of the energy used in Virginia. The Virginia Clean Economy Act mandates 100 percent renewable electric energy by 2050, but according to Carbon Zero Virginia, that goal is unrealistic. It will not be met unless an exception is made for clean, but not renewable, nuclear power.

Some energy experts—and a few environmentalists—see nuclear power retaining its current share into the foreseeable future, and even expanding that share. They say that the new generation of reactors alleviate the safety concerns of the type of reactor involved in the Fukushima, Japan, disaster. The waste problem remains, but they consider it less dire than the global effects of warming.

However, a challenge to nuclear power advocates emerges from studies that cast doubt on the central benefit claimed for nuclear power—that it is a carbon-free energy source. While that claim is true while the plant is in operation, the carbon footprint of any energy technology has to include the entire life cycle of a facility. Carbon emissions mount when construction, uranium mining and refining, decommissioning, and other operations are considered, making nuclear power unattractive compared to solar, wind, and hydroelectric, according to some of these complex studies.

In the shorter term, electricity from nuclear power will be with us. It will continue to be reflected in individual states’ reports of the percentage of energy coming from clean sources. Whether, in the longer term, nuclear power maintains or even grows its slice in the energy pie-chart, is unknown at this point.

[Note: UUA has passed resolutions and statements expressing concerns over the dangers of nuclear energy—including potential radiation exposure, disposal of nuclear waste, and terrorism. The UUA website also has links to UUA-International blog posts such as “We Can Save Earth” expressing other viewpoints.]

Will Daniels

To our readers: we invite you to use the comments section below not only to give your thoughts on what you read here, but to recommend things to read, watch, or listen to related to environment and social justice. Also of interest are your own activities or accomplishments in the environment/social justice realm.