Century Marks

Century Marks


The Churches Conserva­tion Trust of the Church of England looks after 347 churches that are no longer being used for worship. Several of them are being repurposed for camping. The buildings are still consecrated, but campers who rent the facilities have no restrictions on what can be done in the sanctuaries. St. Mary the Virgin in the town of Fordwich, Kent, dates from Norman times, with 14th-century stained glass windows, 17th-century paintings, and 18th-century wooden pews (Guardian, May 29).

Rich get richer

After Stephen Schwarzman, Yale alumnus and billionaire CEO of a private equity firm, gave $150 million to Yale for a performing arts center, Dylan Matthews questioned whether this was a good use of the donor’s wealth. Yale is not a charity, and more than half of its students come from very wealthy families. Its endowment is second only to Harvard’s. Schwarzman could have given that money for malaria nets in sub-Saharan Africa or to efforts to deworm children—acts that would save and enhance the lives of truly needy people (Vox, May 12).


Two American health- care workers who contracted Ebola in Liberia were treated with the experimental drug ZMapp. Both recovered. The serum ZMapp is the product of a new field of research called “pharming” that genetically engineers plants to produce specialized vaccines and other drugs. ZMapp was produced using tobacco plants. Charles Arntzen of Arizona State University is known as the godfather of this kind of research. He previously developed an antibody from tobacco plants for hepatitis B (Fast Company, June).

Housing first

The state of Utah has decreased the number of its chronically homeless by 91 percent since 2005 and could erase the figure by the end of this year. The state has a simple approach that is saving money: if a person is chronically homeless, give that person a home. Some argue that this overlooks the social, economic, and personal issues that contribute to homelessness. Utah says it is better able to address these issues once a person’s basic housing need is met. The housing-first approach works if there is enough affordable housing to meet the need (The Christian Science Monitor, May 4).

Sun shines

The Hawaii state legislature has sent a bill to the governor that calls for its renewable portfolio standard; to reach 100 percent by 2045. If signed into law, the RPS bill will require that in 30 years all of Hawaii’s energy must come from renewable sources like solar and wind energy. Previous action called for the RPS to rise to 40 percent by 2030. The cost of electricity is high in Hawaii; most of its energy comes from oil-powered plants, and all the oil is imported. About 10 percent of the state’s energy currently comes from solar energy (nationofchange.org, May 7).