The Common Good
September-October 2012

What Not to Burn

by Elaina Ramsey | September-October 2012

How not to set fire to everything under the sun.

Have you heard the old adage, “Just because you can say it, doesn’t mean you should”? Well, the same principle applies to the fossil fuels we scorch and torch each day for our own consumption: Just because you can burn it, doesn’t mean you should.

In his latest Sojourners commentary, “The Deadly Misnomer of ‘Fossil Fuels’” (September-October 2012), environmental scientist and ethicist Calvin DeWitt explains how we need to change the way we look at carbon substances. Petroleum, natural gas, and coal are not merely “fuel” sources. Rather, they are “fossil carbons” necessary to the sustenance of the earth. Read more here.

To illustrate what not to do, our staff shared some of their favorite things to—voluntarily or involuntarily—burn:

Office Printers and Fax Machines (Sandra Sims, Director of Sales and Advertising)
Tired of dealing with crappy computers, jammed printers, and finicky fax machines? Office Space offers their solution by pummeling faulty equipment. But Sandra would rather threaten the office machines with fire …

Peeps (Leslie Nelson-Abell, Director of Individual Giving)
Unlike most people who enjoy toasting marshmallows, Leslie has a penchant for burning Peeps. Fortunately, Peeps are not in season right now. But that didn’t stop Leslie from roasting other marshmallow-like candies. Yum, carcinogens!

      

Exercise Ball (Stacey Schwenker, Advertising Associate)
Stacey has a love/hate relationship with her exercise ball, which doubles as an office chair. The ball/chair helps Stacey build strong core muscles, but it keeps rolling away. At times, she has the urge to set it ablaze. But then where would she sit?

Regrets (James Colten, Campaigns Assistant)
For what has become a semi-annual tradition, James writes a list of regrets and then burns it to ashes. He discovered that his co-workers also have pyro tendencies, so for his 23rd birthday, he whipped up a couple of regrets he could torch. Perhaps you, too, regret not subscribing to Sojourners magazine. Don’t get burnt by past mistakes! Seize the day and subscribe today.

    

Human Hair (Alycia Ashburn, Director, Creation Care Campaign)
Our creation care director knows better than to add more carbon pollution to the environment. However, that doesn’t mean she’s a stranger to fire. Imagine lighting a gas grill, hearing a “poof” sound, and then realizing your eyebrows and hair are singed off. Ouch!

Webster’s Dictionary (Elizabeth Palmberg, Associate Editor)
Editor extraordinaire Elizabeth Palmberg enjoys “wordsmithing” with her Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary. She could set it on fire instead of lugging it around in her backpack. For now, though, she’ll hold onto it just in case texting ends the English language as we know it.


Elaina Ramsey is assistant editor of Sojourners.

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