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Bad Times Draw Bigger Crowds to Churches

Paul Vitello, New York Times
… Like evangelical churches around the country, the three churches have enjoyed steady growth over the last decade. But since September, pastors nationwide say they have seen such a burst of new interest that they find themselves contending with powerful conflicting emotions — deep empathy and quiet excitement — as they re-encounter an old piece of religious lore:

Bad times are good for evangelical churches.

“It’s a wonderful time, a great evangelistic opportunity for us,” said the Rev. A. R. Bernard, founder and senior pastor of the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, New York’s largest evangelical congregation, where regulars are arriving earlier to get a seat. “When people are shaken to the core, it can open doors.”

Nationwide, congregations large and small are presenting programs of practical advice for people in fiscal straits — from a homegrown series on “Financial Peace” at a Midtown Manhattan church called the Journey, to the “Good Sense” program developed at the 20,000-member Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill., and now offered at churches all over the country.

Many ministers have for the moment jettisoned standard sermons on marriage and the Beatitudes to preach instead about the theological meaning of the downturn.
(13 December 2008)

Recession prompts some couples to delay having kids

Jessica Guynn, Los Angeles Times
Birthrates typically decline during economic downturns. Would-be parents struggle with the wisdom of waiting.

… As the financial crisis reverberates through Wall Street, Washington and beyond, it is taking a personal toll on couples who are making the painful decision to postpone starting — or growing — their families.

Once hopeful about their ability to provide for children, prospective parents are now filled with gnawing doubts as jobs vanish, retirement savings dwindle and housing prices fall — even as the cost of having and raising a child rises.

Many economists fear that the current recession will become one of the worst since the Great Depression. When that hit in the 1930s, the birthrate dropped precipitously, and the effects of having fewer people in the workforce rippled through the economy two decades later.

“If you can’t pay your mortgage, the last thing on your mind is to have another child,” said Dr. Khalil Tabsh, chief of obstetrics at UCLA, who expects to start seeing a drop in pregnancies.

Baby booms and busts are reliable, if lagging, economic indicators, intertwined with the rise and fall of the nation’s fortunes. For three-quarters of a century, economic downturns have triggered declines in the U.S. fertility rate, which, at about two children per woman, is the highest among rich nations. The fertility rate hit its post-World War II low of 1.7 in 1976, after the oil shortage and a severe recession.
(10 December 2008)

The Delta debate in California: Resurrecting the canal

Matt Weiser, Sacramento Bee
California as we know it today was built largely on this fantasy:

That arid cities in the south could indefinitely satisfy the thirst of a growing population by importing water from the north.

The fantasy endured for a while, buoyed by water diversions from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas, it drains 40 percent of California, transporting vital snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada across the state.

Recent events have revealed the truth: California is reaching the limit of its water supplies, and the economy and the environment are suffering for it.

The future offers even harsher realities: Global warming is drying up the snowpack and natural disasters could shatter the Delta.

Now, the state’s water planners are proposing the most sweeping landscape change in America, resurrecting an audacious notion for re-plumbing this state – a controversial idea that many thought died long ago.
(14 December 2008)
Water is a continuing controversy in Califonia. See the 1974 movie “Chinatown” for a dramatization of the California Water Wars in the early part of the 20th century. -BA

Drought parches much of the U.S., may get worse

John Blake, CNN
… Drought has returned to the United States, and some warn that more tough days are ahead.

The value of water is starting to become apparent in America. Over the past three years a drought has affected large swaths of the country, and conflicts over water usage may become commonplace in the future, climatologists say.

“Our focus is oil, but the critical need for water is going to make water the most significant natural resource that we’re going to have to worry about in the future,” says Larry Fillmer, executive director of the Natural Resources Management & Development Institute at Auburn University in Alabama.

At least 36 states expect to face water shortages within the next five years, according to a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
(11 December 2008)