On March 27th, I was one of thirteen defendants who went to court in the West Roxbury district of Boston to answer charges related to our arrests for civil disobedience against a fossil fuel (fracked gas) pipeline in that neighborhood. The prosecution reduced our criminal charges to civil infractions, a disappointment in the sense that we wanted to present a full “necessity defense” at a jury trial. Then something extraordinary happened: the judge allowed each defendant to address her directly.
We spoke successively in a way that argued and reinforced all the usual elements of the necessity defense:
(1) we reasonably believed we were acting to prevent imminent harm
(2) the harm we sought to avert was greater than the harm done by illegal action
(3) we reasonably anticipated that our action would avert the harm and
(4) there were no remaining legal alternatives.
In the end, the judge found us all “not responsible” (the civil infraction version of “not guilty”) by reason of necessity. This felt like a moment of moral clarity about where we are in the climate movement and I was honored to be a part of it. Respect and gratitude go to The Climate Disobedience Center and to the residents of the West Roxbury neighborhood of Boston who led this fight.
Here is a great piece in Commonwealth magazine giving the background and context of this moment. The particular action that I was part evoked the connection between the ever-increasing use of fossil fuels and the deaths of those who die of climate impacts, specifically those who were buried in trench-like mass graves that had been dug in anticipation of the extreme heat wave in Pakistan that year. Rev Mariama White-Hammond, Rabbi Shoshana Friedman and Tim DeChristopher were among those that delivered eulogies and made prayers that day before a group of us laid down in that pipeline trench. I want to note that my participation grew out of conversations with both Mariama and Tim (as well as, with Rev. Margaret Bullitt- Jonas) at the Center for Earth Ethics ministers training in 2015, just a few weeks before the action. Finally, I want to note that local residents like Mary Boyle had worked very hard building the movement in opposition to this particular dangerous high-pressure fracked gas pipeline, which also brought the imminent danger of explosion into their dense neighborhood. They were acting to protect their neighbors, and they also made a powerful case for the protection of all life on Earth.
By Nexus Media, with Cardinal John Ribat and Karenna Gore
Under the leadership of Pope Francis, the Catholic Church has become a powerful voice for action on climate change, while Catholic leaders from vulnerable countries have emerged as some of the issue’s greatest evangelists. Recently, Cardinal John Ribat of Papua New Guinea, visited the United States to meet with members of Congress about the carbon crisis. During his stay, Cardinal Ribat spoke with Nexus Media about climate change and Christianity. He was joined by Karenna Gore, director of the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary and daughter of former vice president Al Gore. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
There are many Christians in the United States who believe that only God can change the weather, and for this reason, they reject the idea that humans can cause climate change. What do you say to people who hold that point of view?
Cardinal John Ribat: In the creation story, God gave the world to us — to till it and also to care for it — and if there are things that need to be corrected, then we do our best. We try our best to really be part of that.
Pope Francis came up with an encyclical to really make the world aware. And when he addressed this to people, he did not address this only to just Catholics. No. He addressed this to the whole of humanity, and this is because this world is created for all of us. We are living on this one planet. For that reason, we are responsible.
There has been some research looking at the pope’s encyclical that found that, in some ways, it backfired with conservative Catholics in the United States. It seems like partisanship and ideology are driving a lot of the discussion around climate change. How should faith leaders deal with that?
Karenna Gore: There are always problematic aspects of the marrying of religious and political agendas. In this case, I think that a lot of that is cultural. I think that it’s a matter of being open-minded and open-hearted on all of our parts to understand where people are coming from, but then to unmask where there has been misuse and perversion of the scripture.
To go a little bit deeper, I think we can talk about how stewardship has been interpreted. To be good stewards of the Earth, from the Book of Genesis, is often held up by conservationists within the Christian tradition as a central belief through which we can see that we are called to protect creation, to recognize our oneness with it, to recognize the sacred within the natural world.
It is also frequently cited by [EPA Administrator] Scott Pruitt, by Donald Trump. It’s been co-opted to mean a license to pillage. And that is not unrelated to what the colonial agenda was. So, I think it goes right back to when the Christian belief system was co-opted by the forces of empire and colonization.
There is a lot of that within the Christian community now. When you see the use of stewardship as a concept meaning that we should continue to dig and burn the fossil fuels within the Earth, it is nothing more than an illusion, and it is not real. There is a human instinct in many cultures to see a separation and a superiority of humanity, and that is a fallacy.
We really believe the solution to climate change lives in a deep exploration of its root causes, which include a theological error of the idea that humanity and nature are separate. We can see very clearly from science that we are connected — the air we breathe, the water we drink, the living beings that are part of our food chain are deeply connected.
You mentioned the historic relationship between colonization and the Church. Can you explain that?
Karenna Gore: When we talk about interfaith dialogue and religions, the traditional way of doing often includes only Abrahamic religions — Islam, Judaism and Christianity — and certainly that’s a very robust interfaith dialogue, but then when you add the non-Abrahamic traditions of Hinduism and the Indic traditions, and Buddhism and the East Asian traditions, you often have a very different conversation about whether nature itself is a subject.
Indigenous traditions often hadn’t been included in the category of religion or faith or interfaith dialogue, and the reasons for that are complex, and they’re deserving of a larger discussion. But it’s largely a result of colonization and the view that the papal bulls of the fifteenth century took that indigenous people were part of the flora and fauna of a land, and they were meant to be conquered and subdued in the name of the church.
It seems that many former European colonies, including Papua New Guinea, are especially vulnerable to climate change. Cardinal Ribat, why is climate change an urgent issue for your country?
Cardinal John Ribat: The United Nations has defined refugees as people leaving their homes because of danger. People are leaving [Papua New Guinea] not because of danger, but because the island is disappearing. Their home will no longer be there, and that is the difficulty.
We do not come from a continent, and that makes it difficult for us to live comfortably, because we know that, on the island, the sea around us is rising. People dig a well to get their water, but the well is no longer drinking water. It is already salty because of the constant rise of sea level.
Knowing that the United States is pulling out from the Paris Climate Agreement, to us, is really kind of a concern. It is really an issue for all of us, for all nations. It is not an issue only for some. It is for the whole world to come together and see how can we better address this issue of global warming.
This is a call to us now, when we are witnessing a lot of events happening around the world that should make us think, “What have we done?” or “What can we do here?” Of course, God’s help is there all the time for us, and He’s the one who gave us this Earth to live, to till and to care for.
For me, seeing the situation we are in, and just to keep quiet — for me, this is not the way I should live my life.
This collection of essays is an excellent and necessary contribution to religious thought at this extraordinary time. The impacts of man-made climate change have begun to arrive—the intensified heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and stronger storms, and related effects such as the rising of sea levels and migration and extinction of life forms. There is also a growing awareness of the need to radically change the course of the energy system that is fueling those impacts—the extraction and burning of fossil fuels.
Innovations in renewable energy technology make it possible to make the shift, and the reality that the most vulnerable (and least culpable) are suffering the most gives us even more of a moral mandate to do so. But there is a big force standing in the way. The United States is now the only nation in the world not officially committed to the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. The current administration (with help from their allies in the House and Senate) has even ordered the phrase “climate change” to be deleted from our government’s websites, as if the nature of this was a problem was such that humanity could press delete and make it go away.
One reason why this collection is so important is that religious assumptions are right beneath the surface of our current politics. Here are two examples from the Trump administration. One is a typical quote invoking a distorted notion of stewardship from the current Director of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, who is known for his efforts to roll back regulations preventing corporations and other actors from dumping chemicals and toxins into our ecosystems. In November 2017, he stated: “We have tremendous natural resources from coal to natural gas to oil to generate electricity in a very cost-effective way. We should celebrate that and be good stewards.” Another example is from the nominee to be the White House Senior Advisor on Environmental Quality, Kathleen Harnett White. She described concerns about climate change as “a kind of paganism for secular elites.”
The second reason why this collection is so important is that it deals with gender, which is of the essence of the current imbalance within our planet. One of the great developments in the last few years was Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home (2015). It is a beautiful and powerful document—full of insight—but it gets gender wrong. This is not only because of the lack of women’s voices in the text, but also because of the reinforcement of perversely gendered notions of the power to create. Language about a feminine Earth is juxtaposed with language about the Father who wholly created and owns this Earth. The concept of integral ecology (vital in many ways) gets stuck in the reiteration of the related teaching that babies are fully formed in the womb by this patriarchal God (75, 238). The underlying message (in addition the notion that we are in an interconnected web of life with intrinsic spiritual worth) is there can be no co-creation by a female force, whether divine or mundane.
In harmonious contrast, in “Ecowomanist Wisdom: Encountering Earth and Spirit,” Melanie Harris lifts up the creative force within both women and the Earth and gently names the precise blockage to acknowledgment of it. “Often deemed heretical, pagan, and sacrilegious, the powerful connections that can be observed between human life-givers (mothers/creators) and creation as Mother Earth are treated as primary resources for ecowomanist spiritualities” (245). Harris also writes about the web-of-life concept and interconnectedness in African indigenous cosmologies as a source of insight and modes of resistance. Her work gives us tools to recognize the logic of domination, not only through direct race-class-gender analysis but also through tracing the philosophical and political roots of western thought.
In “Trafficked Lands: Sexual Violence, Oil, and Structural Evil in the Dakotas,” Hilda Koster focuses on the conflict at Standing Rock last year. This essay communicates the violence done to the body of the Earth during fracking and its connection to the violence done to the women who are trafficked and sexually assaulted alongside these fracking and pipeline operations. Koster insists that “fracking and sex trafficking come from the same place, namely a fundamental disrespect for physical existence and a denial of out vulnerability as embodied beings” (156). She also explains “the way structural evil operates within the context of fracking, blocks our moral vision” (173). Structural evil is often invisible, we are intricately connected to it through dominant systems in our society, and these systems are largely inherited by us which makes them even harder to confront. With reference to Cynthia Moe-Lobeda’s take on Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s insights on how evil or “structural sin” disguises itself as good, Koster gives us an expansive and realistic sense of what we are up against. Indeed, we must examine the reigning paradigm of production, consumption and “economic growth” if we are going to be able to stop this mindless and self-destructive trajectory.
The costs of climate injustice—to the poor, to the Earth, to future generations, to all other forms of life, and to our own moral integrity—are not counted by our current political dialogue, but they are creatively resurrected in Planetary Solidarity. Heather Eaton’s essay points out the poverty of the language we use to describe our circumstance, including the concept of the Earth as our “home” and argues for a new kind of literacy: “Earth is our source, origin and basis for everything that keeps us alive” (24). Wanda Deifelt takes on the difficult concept of Imago Dei and the legacy of dualistic frameworks, enlightening us with her reading of the Babylonian creation myth that pre-dated Genesis and giving us a sense of what was at stake in the original association of the human with the divine. Jea Sophia Oh writes of the paradox of life from death and teaches that the social pathology of anti-life is different from the natural occurrence of death, as the Korean words jugim (killing) and salim (making things alive, restoring and enlivening) so beautifully illustrate. Barbara Rossing enlightens us about eschatology as a source of healing and hope, a way to find a bridge to a new way of life. Examining ancient (Romans 8:22) and modern (“Santa Claus is coming to town!”) eschatologies, with full understanding of the political manipulations of all these narratives, Rossing rightly sees the power now in our own hands: “We need to find ourselves again in God’s beauty” (346).
Finally, I want to close with an anecdote from my experience as an activist in this city. There are a number of Bostonians who are drawing from deep within their faith traditions to inform and guide them in their active opposition to the building of fossil fuel infrastructure. I joined some of them in June of 2016 in an action of nonviolent civil disobedience in West Roxbury. We laid down in a trench that had been dug for the fracked gas pipeline known as the West Roxbury Lateral portion of the Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) pipeline, owned by the Texas-based company Spectra, which was recently bought by Enbridge, a Canadian company that also owns a big stake in the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The vision of this action was to use that pipeline trench to invoke the image of– and connection to– the anticipatory mass graves that had been dug that year in Pakistan, in expectation of many hundreds of victims of the extreme heat waves that have begun to plague that region. I was honored to be a part of that vision of solidarity with people living across the world. When I was actually lying in there myself, I was also startled by another type of solidarity—with the Earth herself. The people who gathered around the top of the trench to peer down into it were all uniformed men. The quiet soil below us felt decidedly un-uniformed and powerfully female. For what it’s worth, I vividly recall that feeling today as I salute these extraordinary women theologians for doing the intellectual, imaginative and spiritual work of Planetary Solidarity.
Karenna Gore is the founding director of the Center for Earth Ethics (CEE) at Union Theological Seminary. Ms. Gore’s previous experience includes work as a lawyer at both Simpson Thacher & Bartlett and Sanctuary for Families, director of Community Affairs for the Association to Benefit Children (ABC), and director of Union Forum at Union Theological Seminary. She has also worked as a writer and is the author of Lighting the Way: Nine Women Who Changed Modern America. Ms. Gore is a graduate of Harvard College, Columbia Law School and Union Theological Seminary and currently serves on the boards of the Association to Benefit Children (ABC) and Riverkeeper. She lives in New York City with her three children.
The sky was black and beautiful. The stars shone above like glistening guardians of the night. Guided only by fire light, we scaled the Amazonian hillside. I yearned to take my shoes off and so I did. I wanted the soles of my feet to touch the silky, black soil that nourished the rainforest all around us. I wanted to plant myself to the land, like hundreds of different tree species do, so silently and wise. Constellations spoke stories to our skin and I felt alive with gratitude, joy and amazement.
The leaders of our pack—The Yánesha Indigenous Peoples of central Peru—guided us to a beautiful rock outcropping that they have prayed to for generations unknown. The medicine man of their community made offerings of tobacco, hoja de coca, smoke, and beautiful words. “Abuela. Abuelo. No queremos oro ni plata. Queremos la vida,” he pronounced to the night. “Grandmother, Grandfather Stone. We want neither gold nor silver. We want life.” I shuddered with joy and pride, that I could be a human among this human…a human among these humans. Then, one by one, he invited the souls who came to join him to stand before the sacred stone and share their heart’s dream. A collection of Peruvian students, professors, and local community members offered their sincere words to the rock, to the soil, to the sky, to the plants, and to the spirits that held us in a cradle of beauty.
Finally, the people of the North, the people of the Eagle, stepped forward to state their cause and plant a promise of support at the side of their Condor relatives. Dr. Greg Cajete, of Santa Clara Pueblo. Jacquelyn Cordova of the Diné nation. And myself, a mixed blood of Diné, Cheyenne and other bloodlines. We came forward to give our songs, the precious words of our language, our deepest prayers to our Yánesha relatives who took us in so graciously. The sacred pipe of the Plains People was laid on the ground before the stone and co processes that would be appropriate for the creation of our own lessons and units. We were determined to design language curricula that effectively taught the youth how to speak our dying languages.
There was a lot of emotion to this process. For 500 years, all of our nations had been told, over and over, that our cultures were inferior to the rest of the world. For many of us, we had come to believe this was true. And so even though we yearned to spend time in the communities, ceremonies, pedagogies and learning styles of our people, many of us felt as if it was not enough. We had come to believe that in order to have success we would have to play by the rules of the ruling class. For instance, many of us believed we would have to teach in secular, university settings to be real teachers and to teach real things.
Dr. Cajete and I sought to shatter this illusion. We spoke stories of our own experiments in community education. I told them about how I organized 100 Diné elders, children, parents and teenagers to create our own summer school. I talked about how we devised the curriculum ourselves in a liberated space. I showed pictures of all our classes which included lessons in weaving, traditional foods, land restoration, traditional architecture, philosophy, sacred songs, botany, yoga, moccasin making and other topics that were important to us. I showed them how we didn’t ask for any government permission to do this and did not adhere to any state education standards. I showed them how my community members, some of whom did not even graduate high school, created entire plans of learning that were implemented with incredible success.
I showed them how our education doesn’t have to be like Western education. It can be intergenerational, instead of age-stratified. I showed them it can be communal, instead of individualistic. I showed them it can occur outside, instead of in fluorescent lit rooms. I showed them we can share the work of teaching with all the students, instead of positioning ourselves as the only experts. I showed them we can learn through doing an activity instead of reading about it. I showed them we had more than enough knowledge and cultural metaphors to be effective educators in our own right.
After my presentation, I had the extreme honor and privilege of working with a group of Yánesha educators as they devised their curriculum. We followed the Zais model as explained to us by Dr. Cajete and outlined every facet of the teaching plan. They decided they would teach the Yánesha language to their people through “La Siembra,” or the traditional practice of planting seeds and growing forests. They decided that their tribal values and paradigms would guide the process and the vocabulary would arise from words needed and used while planting. About 8 of these professionals engaged in vivacious discussion about how it would all go down. I felt joyous to see that they were connected to each other and to their work. Our prayers planted just one night ago were already being answered. What a blessed time it was.
I am home now. Back in the deserts of my people in what is now known as the Southwestern United States, but what I know as Diné Bikeyah. I love the way the sun shines and the sand beams. I am a long way from the lush forests of Amazonian Peru, the land of Yánesha brothers and sisters. And yet, a piece of me still lives with them and I have carried the lessons they bestowed on me. I am deeply honored to have had this miraculous and magical opportunity to board a steel bird, fly across Turtle Island, and establish kinship and solidarity with the people of the Condor. And what a smile I get when I realize that this is just the beginning.
The Center for Earth Ethics is proud to be at home here at Union Theological Seminary in New York City which convenes amazing conversations about our world.
Watch this riveting dialogue with award-winning journalist and best-selling author Naomi Klein and Union visiting professor Michelle Alexander about the current crises of our time and why we must connect the dots between the intersecting issues of white supremacy, rape culture, climate chaos and wealth hoarding. How do we move from strategic alliances and coalition building to a true political synthesis that not only connects these oppressions and injustices but maps a positive and healing future for all people and the planet? The Spirit of Justice aims to amplify the voices of modern-day revolutionaries—artists, activists, scholars, healers, teachers and more—who are committed to moving forward in new ways with a keen understanding of the political history and moral dilemmas which brought us to this moment in time.
“We don’t practice con-sci-ence, we practice consciousness, because the former is a state of mind that slices reality into pieces,” says Tiokasin Ghosthorse.
Dear Friends, Thanks to so many who joined us for this event. Here, where we exist in a shared consciousness with the water, the fire, our ancestors and with each other. We sit in presence. We experience together. “We don’t try to explain mystery, we live in the mystery.”
The Center for Earth Ethics is honored to continue our partnership with Author, Tiokasin Ghosthorse (Founder, Host and Executive Producer of First Voices Radio) exploring perspectives which reach deep into the heart of an emerging consciousness that is both ancient and new. We are called home until we understand, “Mother Earth misses us.”
Aliou Cissé Niang, New Testament faculty at Union Theological Seminary, offered reflections beautifully weaving in indigenous perspective from his native Senegal, West Africa.
Close to three months after Hurricane Maria made landfall, many Puerto Ricans are struggling for survival and fighting to remain, reclaim, and rebuild. Many of their struggles are related to a climate crisis fueled by a legacy of colonization and extraction. As the crisis continues unfolding, #OurPowerPRnyc is a community-led initiative working to build a Puerto Rico recovery designed by Puerto Ricans. Learn More.
Beyond GDP: Lessons from Indigenous Cultures and Faith Traditions, SU 190 – KA1
Presented by The Center for Earth Ethics & Karenna Gore Friday, February 2, 1:00 – 6:00 pm; Saturday, February 3, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Course Description: This class will focus on the flaws of current economic measurements such as Gross Domestic Product and the ways in which Indigenous cultures — along with voices from faith communities— are contributing to alternative ways of measuring the success and well-being of a society. Topics to be covered include the UN Sustainable Development Agenda, the impact of colonization on the bio-cultural heritage of Indigenous peoples, the conflict at Standing Rock, the Pope’s encyclical Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home, and the role of religion in development policy.
I don’t believe that there is a single person on this planet who isn’t aware of the climate system’s change. I fully include so called climate deniers in this as well because even they have to go outside and wonder why they can leave their homes, on many a winter day, in nothing more that a light jacket. Most are aware that something is just not right, that the coming days will bring forth even more uncertainty in weather patterns. For a majority of the world, however, this uncertainty is something they are already living with every day-this is the reality of the most vulnerable in our society: the poor For it is the capitalist project which has brought us to this crisis, and it is through its exploitative and violent nature human suffering has increased alongside Mother Earth’s ecological degradation.
The course went by the name, Beyond GDP: Lessons from Indigenous Cultures and Faith Traditions. Prior to attending the class, participants were sent a short reading list which included excerpts from “Laudato Si”, an article from the acclaimed scholar and activist Vandana Shiva, and a beautiful collection of articles and testimonials written from the perspective of Indigenous people advocating for their rights, as well as sharing the great Original Wisdom which still guides them today.
With around 30 participants, the class was a great mixture of students, religious leaders, professors, activists, farmers and herbalists, and lawyers. We were also blessed and honored by the presence of members from the Ramapough Lenape Nation- Chief Dwaine Perry and Owl Smith. Upon opening the class with a ritual presenting the four elements, C.E.E. Director, Karenna Gore, invited us all to introduce ourselves and ask that we share our names, a product which we depend on most, as well as, something within greater creation which we feel most connected to. It was incredibly powerful to witness the palpable feelings of joy and wonder we all associated with our non-human family.
Just as powerful, were the presentations. Karenna started the discussion by bringing forth the idea that capitalism and our globalized obsession with the gross national product index is greatly failing us all. The next presenter was economist and professor Bipasha Chatterjee who was able to pass on to us a great deal of information about how our global economic system works. For me, however, the most inspiring part of her presentation had to do with introducing us to the many alternatives uses of measuring value. My favorite definitely had to be the Gross Happiness Index used in Bhutan. Dr. Chatterjee explained that with this new system, Bhutan may be one of the poorer nations of the world monetarily, but it was also the happiest country in the world.
Ken Kitatani gave the following presentation, in which he introduced the UN Sustainable Development Goals emphasizing how the global community is coming together to create a better future. We were asked to take into consideration the people who might feel excluded by such an agenda-particularly indigenous communities who have no interest in developing within the capitalistic confines which very much inform the SDGs.
Dr. Geraldine Patrick Encina offered the final presentation of the day, bringing to the forefront Indigenous People of the Americas and the wisdom of original peoples, highlighting their cosmology, traditional way of life, and deeply rooted connection with all of creation. It was moving to hear her reflecting on the to groups of people she is connected to, the Mapuche of Chile, and the Otomi of Mexico. It was wonderful to hear about these tribes both maintaining their traditions, as well as, the challenge they have had in having to reclaim and relearn customs and practices which had been lost upon the “first contact”.
On day two, Roberto “Mukaro” Borrero was the first to present, and spoke about Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. Being a member of the Taino Tribal Nation, Dr. Borrero brought forth the perspective of Indigenous people who continue to resist settler colonialism, and its predatory ways. One highlight of this presentation, I believe, was the time taken to talk about the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and the struggles they endured against the Dakota Access Pipeline. That moment, Dr. Borrero argued, could serve as the perfect reason Indigenous people are so in need of their rights. What happened at Standing Rock was not only about a building a pipeline, it was about protecting the water and land which, to the Standing Rock Sioux, was sacred and worth protecting at all costs. To add, Standing Rock was a moment in which, twenty-first century Americans had to grapple with the reality of what it means to disregard and dehumanize Indigenous Peoples. Granting rights to indigenous people is not only a matter of symbolism, it is necessary in order to save lives.
Next, Catherine Flowers gave a presentation on what was happening in her community in Lowndes County, Alabama. She talked about the terrible sewage conditions so many residents are dealing with in addition to other ecological crises affecting the health of residents there. Into this conversation, Catherine also challenged the participants to think about what other factors, beyond capitalism, might have caused this reality for the people of Lowndes County. Racism was also an incredibly powerful force in this oppression which allowed politicians and public servants to ignore the demands for help by the people of Lowndes County, and other similar communities dealing with public health crises. The G.D.P. index does not help these people, and worse, it requires, and only benefits from, their continued suffering.
The last presentation was given by Adam and Shaily Gupta Barnes. Sharing reflections about their time in the Peace Corps, the two talked about the rural farming community they worked with in Niger, West Africa, and the sustainable farming being practiced despite such vicinity to the desert. Additionally, the two presented on the work they are engaged with in the Poor People’s Campaign. Led by Rev. Dr. William Barber II, the movement was highlighted as a moral revival for America. An opportunity to this nation to reflect upon ourselves, especially after the 2016 election, and commit ourselves to a way of being less focused on greed and power, and more focused on the Revolutionary Love Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was so passionate about.
It was a jam packed two days, with so much to take away and reflect upon. For myself, the biggest take away was the realization that we must divorce ourselves from capitalism as well as the greed and over consumption that comes with it. We must be willing to recognize the rights of Indigenous people, and more importantly, we must be willing to learn their earth centered practices we have forgotten as we have attempted to perfect civilization. With scientists constantly reminding us of how dire everything is, I am very appreciative of this class for making me be self reflective on the ways in which I am complacent within this system. The urgency is very real, and I am so very grateful for the space this class opened up for us to become aware of solutions which have already been working on a small scale, and must be adopted – for the fate of all of creation.
Please enjoy the Program Description and Video below.
February 21, 2018
7:00 – 8:30 pm
Union Theological Seminary
New York City, NY 10027
The “Original Caretakers Program” of the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary; The Contemplative Alliance, an Initiative of the Global initiative of Women (GPIW); and the Lake Erie Institute invite you to this groundbreaking event.
Background This program grew out of a series of GPIW sponsored dialogues with Native Americans. It will be the first in a series of programs offered throughout the country intended to bridge the gap between Western anthropocentric consciousness and indigenous holomorphic (holistic) consciousness by offering non-natives an opportunity to listen in as Natives speak to each other in their own terms about how they experience the natural world. Pilot dialogues of this kind have demonstrated their power to break through anthropocentric (human centered) categories of thinking to seeing ancient perspectives that address the critical issues facing Mother Earth and humankind.
Eagle and Condor Consciousness: An Evening with Three Thinkers in the Native way.
The North Dakota Standing Rock prayer resistance in 2016 brought the world’s attention to an invaluable perspective, that Native Peoples have a bond not with the human race but the with living Earth. Over thousands of years, the dominant mode of human consciousness became the one we see today: technologically adept and increasingly self-absorbed—an anthropocentric or human centered consciousness that left behind a holistic mode of consciousness that was equally humanity’s endowment. The building of hierarchical and object-based “civilizations” with all of its glories and horrific conflicts came at the high cost of a steady loss of our holistic consciousness with its spiritual connection to nature.
The good news is that humanity’s holistic mode of consciousness is still active among Indigenous Peoples and may now be reemerging from its millennia-long obscurity. In the last year, for example, Indigenous groups have begun to form an alliance of Natives across the Earth in an effort to heal the devastation being wrought by anthropocentric “development.” For millennia, indigenous people throughout the world have lived in ways that maintained a balance between human life and the life of all other beings. Over time, as various cultures became more and more anthropocentrically (technologically, hierarchically, object-ively) oriented, they have disrupted that delicate balance. The environmental and ecological movements have emerged in reaction to the disastrous effects of that imbalance but have continued to apply an anthropocentric focus and anthropocentric solutions. They have largely ignored the holistic indigenous wisdom that maintained the balance between ourselves and the earth for tens of thousands of years.
This event will be a dialogue among three Indigenous thinkers whose lives are deeply rooted in traditional Native consciousness, but who are uniquely qualified to share that experience and express to the anthropocentric consciousness what a person experiences of the world as whole and interrelated. The audience will have a unique glimpse of this “holomorphic” consciousness. One of the three describes this dialogue as a process: “Wherever the spirit goes, that’s what it is,” and dialogue will happen after “we ask the Earth what she wants us to discuss.”
The holistic or holomorphic consciousness engaged through their traditional cultures is different in quite important ways from the holism found, for example in Buddhism, Hinduism, Sufism, Christian mysticism or many reported altered state experiences. The audience will discover their own parallels as they listen to Natives talk about THEIR holistic consciousness without immediately “translating” what they’re conveying into categories of what we know or think we know.
The dialogue will explore such subjects as ceremony; the “I” as “the we” way of thinking; awareness of balance and blessing; awareness of the consciousness of all beings including those beings that anthropocentric thinkers have defined as inanimate—such as water and stone—or have defined as lacking consciousness such as trees. In this time of environmental and psychological crisis for the “developed” world, Native voices and Native thinkers bring, in their presence and outlook, calm reflection and healing wisdom to an agitated and unbalanced world.
In the past few years, some non-Natives have begun to listen to what the Indigenous people have to say to us, their “younger brothers and sisters.” Their perspectives go to the heart of a potentially awakened and emerging consciousness that is both ancient and new. Three exceptionally qualified individuals representing different indigenous cultures join in sharing their experiences and traditional wisdom.
With Reflections by: Aliou Cissé Niang, New Testament faculty at Union Theological Seminary and native of Senegal West, Africa.
Tiokasin Ghosthorse (Lakota), Cheyenne River Lakota Nation of South Dakota. Tiokasin is a survivor of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs Boarding and Church Missionary School systems designed to “kill the Indian and save the man,” and the “Reign of Terror” from 1972 to 1976 on the Pine Ridge, Cheyenne River, and Rosebud Lakota Reservations. He has a long history of Indigenous activism and advocacy. He is a guest lecturer at many universities and international speaker and on Peace, Indigenous and Mother Earth perspectives, cosmology, ecology and forestry and perspectives on the relational/egalitarian vs. rational/hierarchal thinking processes of western society. Tiokasin is the founder, host, and executive producer of the 25 year-old “First Voices Radio”, a weekly one-hour live program syndicated to 70 radio stations in the US and Canada. (www.firstvoicesindigenousradio.org) Tiokasin was awarded Staten Island’s Peacemaker Award in 2013 and nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016 by The International Institute of Peace Studies and Global Philosophy. He serves on boards of several charitable organizations dedicated to bringing non-western education to Native and non-Native children. He is a master flute-player and teacher of magical, ancient and modern sounds. He has performed for audiences worldwide. A Sun dancer in the Lakota Nation tradition, he describes himself as a “perfectly flawed human being.”
Mindahi Crescencio Bastida Muñoz (Otomi) is currently the Director of the Original Caretakers Program in Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York and General Coordinator of the Otomi-Toltec Regional Council in Mexico, a caretaker of the philosophy and traditions of the Otomi-Toltec peoples. He has been an Otomi-Toltec Ritual Ceremony Officer since 1988. Born in Tultepec, Mexico, he holds a Doctorate of Rural Development from the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Mexico. He has written extensively on the relationship between the State and Indigenous Peoples, intercultural education, collective intellectual property rights and associated traditional knowledge, among other topics. He has been coordinator of Postgraduate Academic Studies for Peace, Interculturality and Democracy, Universidad Autónoma Indígena de México (2014). He was advisor of the Provost of Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Unidad Lerma (2010-2013). Director of Sustainable Development Division, Universidad Intercultural del Estado de Mexico (2004-2010). He also has been or is consultant of the UNDP, UNESCO, UNEP, IISD and other international agencies. Mindahi is also deeply involved with the Biocultural Sacred Sites for Humanity, an Original Peoples Proposal, to be presented to UNESCO. He is working in the Process of Unification for the Latin American and the Caribbean Region that was initiated in Sierra Santa Marta by the Kogi and the spiritual authorities who participated there in 2013.
Geraldine Patrick Encina (Mapuche descent) is a third-year Scholar in Residence at the Center for Earth Ethics, member of the Otomi-Hñahñu Regional Council in Mexico and an in-depth researcher of the ancestral ways of conceiving and measuring cycles in Mesoamerica. She understands why the Otomi and Maya chose 2012-2013 as the time for the closing and opening of big cycles. Geraldine Ann Patrick Encina is a member of the Otomi-Hñahñu Regional Council in Mexico, and a professor of ethnoecology. Born to Chilean parents of Celtic and Mapuche origins, Geraldine received her doctorate in ethnoecology and social sciences from El Colegio Mexiquense, A. C. in 2007; she also holds a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences. She has been a visiting professor in Honduras and Argentina, and held faculty positions at several Mexican universities. Her research focuses on archaeoastronomy and cultural astronomy, particularly on ancestral and current ways of measuring and conceiving time and natural cycles in Mesoamerica, especially among Maya, Nahua and Otomian cultures. Geraldine brings extensive knowledge about the astronomical underpinnings of religious celebrations among Mesoamerican cultures. She analyzes the implications of Catholicism in current spiritual practice in Mexico and Guatemala, explaining how and why syncretism has worked for them in the past five hundred years.
Moderator for the Dialogue John Briggs is a Connecticut State University Distinguished Professor of Aesthetics and Creative Process, author of Fire in the Crucible and Fractals, the patterns of chaos, Metaphor: The Logic of Poetry, and Seven Life Lessons of Chaos, among other books focusing on the subjects of creativity, Chaos Theory, and new scientific theories of wholeness. He holds a PhD in aesthetics and psychology from the Union Institute. John and Robert Toth of the Contemplative Alliance are currently at work on a book that explores the possibility and necessity of awakening the ancient holistic consciousness still active among many traditional peoples as a foundation for addressing the climate crisis and repairing our current cannibalistic relationship with the natural world.