#RiseUpELCA: Taking Action on Water and Blight in PA

How do you follow up on the #RiseUpELCA National Youth Gathering in Detroit? Bring your #Proclaim Justice Day activities home! Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania has developed resources for Pennsylvania youth leaders to bring home the Detroit service and advocacy themes.

1. Teens #BoardUpBlight PA

In Detroit, 3,200 vacant lots were cleared and 319 abandoned homes were boarded up by youth gathering participants on their “Proclaim Justice” day. Deteriorating vacant properties cause blight, a condition that propels the decline of houses, followed by the streets or entire neighborhoods and those who live there.

Blight is a problem in Pennsylvania, too. There are over 300,000 vacant building across the Commonwealth. These blighted properties have emerged as a crisis for cities, suburbs and rural areas alike. Abandoned homes cost local governments for upkeep while losing tax revenue for them. Blight erodes the value of neighboring homes while creating health and safety risks for those who live there. It impacts quality of life and discourages revitalization efforts. Derelict housing and empty, overgrown lots dims the outlook of those who live there, diminishing community pride and community investment.

What can your youth group do about blight where you live? Here are some suggestions for study and reflection, and an important advocacy action to take.

Theological Rooting: Home, to the Glory of God, the keynote by Dr. Kristin Johnston Largen at 2015 Lutheran Day at the Capitol, contains grist for learning how people of faith create a better home for themselves and their neighbors.

Education: Learn about blight in your area. Look around – where are the abandoned properties? Why are these properties in such bad shape? Who owns them? Who is taking care of them? From Blight to Bright: A Comprehensive Tool Kit for Pennsylvania gives in depth information on the causes and cures for blight. Housing Fact Sheets are available for each county in the state. How does yours measure up? Land banks are a new tool for counties to address blight. Is your county participating? If not, contact LAMPa to find out how to be an advocate.

Service: Investigate and participate with local community organizations boarding up vacant properties. Connect with community gardening groups who reclaim abandoned lots.

Advocacy: The most important action you can take today is to express your support for funding the State Housing Trust Fund. Use our E-Advocacy system to send an email today. Stay in touch with LAMPa for opportunities this fall to #FundtheFund.

2. Teens #RiseUp for Clean Water in PA

At the ELCA Youth Gathering, teens learned that the global water crisis claims more lives each year than war. They mobilized to support Walk for Water, ELCA World Hunger’s initiative to raise $500,000 for ELCA World Hunger-supported water projects around the world. Build on this experience by planning youth learning and faith-development activities about water issues closer to home, including involvement of your youth group and congregation in addressing and improving water quality in your community.

Water in PA: Our Commonwealth claims abundant water resources, including 83,161 miles of streams (second only to Alaska!) and more than 3,900 lakes, reservoirs, and ponds. These water resources support forests, fish, wildlife, industry and us, providing more than four billion gallons of ground and surface water per day for human use.

These abundant resources require active stewardship. Pollution from industry, energy production, dumping and leaks threaten our waterways. The single largest cause of water pollution is runoff, that can carry chemicals, metals, bacteria, viruses, organic compounds, and other pollutants directly into creeks, lakes, rivers, and streams. Population growth and development have radically altered the natural systems that filter and manage rainfall and runoff into surface waters, with consequences ranging from poor water quality to flooding, severe erosion, and droughts.

What Can You Do? What are the water resources, and the water concerns, in your congregational area? Plan some time with your youth this fall to reflect on the spiritual and theological significance of water, then learn, explore, experience and create an action plan for water stewardship. Check out some of these resources, or contact LAMPa for more.

Theological grounding: Dr. Gil Waldkoenig, Professor of Church and Society at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg led this recent theological reflection on water:
Part 1, 17 min. Biblical foundations
Part 2, 13 min. Lutheran theological commitments regarding fresh water

Biblical Foundations for Earth Care. An outline by David Rhoads

Education: Your local county extension office has a wealth of information and education opportunities on water issues in your area. Here are some of their online resources:

County Extension and 4H Youth Water Education Page
Contains a wealth of teaching and learning tools on wetlands, drinking water, streams
water conservation, water science, water quality, riparian buffers, and more. Helper’s Guides and introductory video presentations as well as monthly webinars are also available.

Riparian Buffers: Pennsylvania’s Best Solution for Protecting Its Waters. This brochure explains the benefits of using riparian buffers–vegetated areas next to streams, wetlands, ponds, rivers, and lakes–to protect the health of waterways, livestock, adjacent crops or property, and all who drink and use water downstream.

Water Conservation for Communities. This publication discusses water conservation strategies, identifies water conservation resources, and relates practical advice on beginning a conservation program based on research and experiences from across the country.

Household Water Conservation Handout details water water use in the state and conservation methods that require little effort while producing significant results.

Also see:

PA Department for Environmental Protection (DEP) Water Programs page.

U.S. EPA Surf Your Watershed

USGS Water Resources of Pennsylvania

ELCA World Hunger – Check out their water resources page with follow-up activities and resources.

Service: Pennsylvania Association for Rivers and Watersheds contains directory of and links to local and regional watershed associations, and great list of links related to PA water quality. Connect with them for service activities in your area.

Advocacy: Connect with ELCA Advocacy to take action of the Waters of the U.S. Rule.

Social Media: After completing #WalkforWater last week at the ELCA Youth Gathering, PA teens are ready to take local action on water. #riseupELCA

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