From the Worldwide Faith News archives

United Methodist women adopt environmental principles

From NewsDesk <NewsDesk@UMCOM.UMC.ORG>
Date 20 Oct 1998 12:57:35

Oct. 20, 1998	Contact: Linda Bloom·(212) 870-3803·New York    {599}

NOTE: This story is accompanied by a sidebar, UMNS #600.

STAMFORD, Conn. (UMNS) - Strengthening its commitment to be
environmentally responsible, the Women's Division of the United
Methodist Board of Global Ministries has gone "green."

Division directors adopted eight principles during their Oct. 16-19
annual meeting to help achieve that goal. The principles call upon
United Methodist Women (UMW) to:

* practice garbage prevention;
* recycle waste and buy recycled products;
* maintain zero tolerance for toxic chemicals;
* avoid plastics;
* conserve energy;
* produce and consume locally grown food;
* use natural, safe materials; and
* promote the total well-being of people.

The principles are based upon resolutions already passed by the United
Methodist General Conference, the denomination's top legislative body.
They are intended to be used as a road map in setting goals and
measuring progress as UMW strives to become a more environmentally
responsible organization.

The Women's Division's Office of Economic Justice, based in Washington,
D.C., is producing a book on the subject, Green Guidance: How to Plan
Environmentally Responsible Events. More information is available by
contacting that office at (202) 488-5660.

A year ago, the division responded to the need to contain dioxin
contamination by pledging to use chlorine-free paper and products when
possible. Dioxins are toxic chemical contaminants.

As a result, Response, the UMW magazine, negotiated a new contract with
its printer and began using processed chlorine-free paper with the
September 1998 issue. Other resources, such as the United Methodist
Women's Assembly book and Green Guidance, also are utilizing
chlorine-free paper.

Alma Mathews House, the division's conference center in New York, has
begun to use non-chlorine cleaning products, and the Washington office
uses only chlorine-free paper for printing, copying and faxing.

In her address, Joyce Sohl, the division's top executive, noted that
John Wesley himself was an environmentalist. In his sermon on "The Use
of Money," the founder of Methodism said: "We ought not to gain money at
the expense of life nor (which is the same thing) at the expense of our
health. ... 

"Some employments are absolutely and totally unhealthy," he wrote. He
cited jobs that involve "dealing much with arsenic or other equally
hurtful minerals, or the breathing of an air tainted with steams of
melting lead, which must at length destroy the firmest constitution."

Before the directors voted, they participated in a worship and
information session focusing on the effects of environment on cancer.
More than a million new cases of cancer are diagnosed each year. The
number of U.S. women suffering from breast cancer alone has increased
from 1 in 20 in 1964 to 1 in 8 today.

This increase is not just due to inherited risk or better detection,
according to Christine Keels, a director from Baltimore. She noted that
the World Health Organization believes up to 80 percent of all cancer
cases are due to environmental factors.

Highly industrialized countries have disproportionately more cancer
cases. "Breast cancer rates mirror the industrialization pattern,"
explained Shan Yohan, a director from Atlanta. "They are highest in
North America and Northern Europe."

But pollution knows no national boundaries, and the United States has
managed to spread its toxic chemicals elsewhere, she said. "Even if a
chemical is banned in the United States because of environmental
concerns, it can legally be exported."

Medical waste, found by the Environmental Protection Agency to be a
source of dioxin, is being exported for incineration outside the
country. "Sometimes, nations deeply in foreign debt agree to store
hazardous waste as a way to earn much-needed currency," Yohan added.

War has contributed to the chemical explosion. After World War II, "the
production of synthetic chemicals increased 100 times in two human
generations," noted Joan Chapin, a director from Caro, Mich. Many were
developed "in the secretive atmosphere of war time" and were not
adequately tested for safety, she said.

Besides the Green Guidance book, UMW is considering joining various
campaigns and coalitions working on the causes of cancer.

Division President Sara Shingler of Spartanburg, S.C., was among those
present who had been touched by breast cancer. "I want you to know I'm a
20-year cancer survivor because of early detection," she said. 

United Methodist News Service
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