"Solar Panels Rare Amid the Steeples"

"AUSTIN, TEXAS — More than three decades ago, after an energy crisis that gripped the world, a Catholic priest in the Texas city of Lubbock took a stand for the environment. His congregation needed a new church. So the priest, the Rev. Joe James, anchored the building deep in the earth to optimize insulation. He also ordered five wind turbines for the church grounds. The largest was called Big Bird, because it stood 80 feet tall."

"'I don’t feel as though we are free to waste,' Father James told a videographer at the time. Staring earnestly into the camera, he argued that saving money was not the only reason for energy conservation.

Father James, who still lives near Lubbock, was an outlier. In the intervening years, few churches have made energy saving a priority. Experts say that churches, like other houses of worship, face particular challenges in going green because of unusual architecture and an often slow decision-making culture. Even Father James’s wind turbines got dismantled in the 1990s, after he had moved on.

Still, as the likely effects of climate change on people and nature become clearer, some religious leaders are increasing their engagement. Pope Benedict XVI, who stepped down last week, has been hailed as the 'green pope.' He put solar panels on the roof of a Vatican auditorium, though they are out of sight of the general public. Last year, he also acquired an electric car to get around the grounds of his summer residence. Environmentalists will be eager to see whether the next pope makes green issues a priority."

Kate Galbraith reports for the New York Times March 6, 2013.

Source: NY Times, 03/07/2013