Month: January 2019

CEE New Year Update: Ancient Future Wisdom

At the Center for Earth Ethics, we seek to be attentive and educated advocates for clean air and clean water, sustainability initiatives that move us to a just transition & the protection of indigenous wisdom and sacred sites across the globe.

In the Fall of 2018, CEE Director Karenna Gore curated a series of events at The Rubin Museum of Art in New York City as the Future Fellow of the Karma Series. This creative and intuitive space provided a laboratory for exploring themes intimately connected to the work of the Center. Indigenous wisdom keepers such as Mona Polacca, Tiokasin Ghosthorse and Winona LaDuke dialogued with contemporary artists and cultural influencers from Naomi Klein to Laurie Anderson to Jeff Sachs while engaging with diverse audience members. Topics included Rights of Nature: Do Rivers Have Rights?, Original Instructions of Mother Earth and facing despair in the time of climate change. A major highlight was the newly articulated workshop on Indigenous Timekeeping and Sacred Sites taught by CEE’s Original Caretakers Program developers Mindahi Bastida and Geraldine Patrick.

2019 already promises to be a year of convening local and global networks of faithful and inspired people who will continue to bring our social and environmental arcs towards justice.  Join us!


ORIGINAL CARETAKERS

CEE’s Mindahi Bastida traveled to the Vatican this summer for the conference “Saving Our Common Home and the Future of Life on Earth”. While there, Mindahi was able to meet Pope Francis and deliver a message about preserving biocultural heritage and ancestral sacred sites.
Read Mindahi’s Full Letter

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE & CIVIC ENGAGEMENT

“The US pulled out of the Human Rights Council, but I am here standing for Human Rights.” – Catherine Coleman Flowers, Palais Des Nations, UN Headquarters in Geneva. In 2019, the work to expose extreme poverty and the cause and effects related to climate change goes on.


CULTURE & AGRICULTURE

Woven Skin Talks was a discussion inspired by the project WOVEN SKIN by Dutch artist Claudy Jongstra. Our lives are woven into the landscape, even in these modern times.  To know the source of our materials, fabrics, dyes and the care of the animals that provide these resources is part of our moral responsibility.  How does this relate to larger conversations about FOOD SYSTEMS?  And how does art help us to get IN TOUCH with the subject matter?

DOCTRINE OF DISCOVERY

In order to make a Just Transition, we need to make changes at a deeper level in our society. One of our great challenges is to unpack the legacy of the 15th century Papal Bulls that allowed the colonization and enslavement of native peoples throughout the Americas, in Africa and beyond.  Join us in conversation about how genocide, environmental justice, and care for our common home are interconnected. Learn more: Doctrine of Discovery

PLANT WISDOM

Herbalist in Residence, Poppy Jones took to the trees with CEE’s Director Karenna Gore to Stand4Forests. Our team continues to build curriculum exploring nature as both classroom and church. Thanks to our friends at the Dogwood Alliance for capturing
Finding Faith in Forests.
Learn More: Spring 2019 Course Plant Wisdom and Ecological Consciousness at UTS


MINISTRY in the TIME of CLIMATE CHANGE 2019

 

This year’s Minister’s Training will be held at Methodist Theological Seminary in Ohio in partnership with MTSO and the Climate Reality Project. We’re focusing on the impacts climate change has on agriculture and land use, and what faith communities can do to respond. The application for the training will open in February so keep an eye out for it!


 

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER and UPDATES

  GIVE to the CENTER FOR EARTH ETHICS

The Second Best Time to Plant a Tree

Guest Post by Rev. Ana Levy-Lyons

A hairy, naked male and a hairy, naked female crouch over the body of an antelope they’ve just killed. They’re looking up with fear and fight in their faces as a huge bird of prey swoops down to try to steal their kill. A jackal lurks in the background too, biding its time. It’s a frozen moment from a hundred thousand years ago, a flash in the life of a Neanderthal couple, reconstructed by scientists for a diorama at the Museum of Natural History. I saw this couple over Thanksgiving weekend when my family and I wandered into the Anne and Bernard Spitzer Hall of Human Origins. If you’ve ever been there, you know it’s strange and amazing.

This diorama especially grabbed me. I felt moved by it. My kids were fascinated. Something about it is so real and poignant. It must have been so much work to bring down that antelope. The couple is alone in the open landscape, vulnerable to all the fierceness of nature. I wondered if they ever got to just chill in their cave. Did they ever sing? Did they play? Did they love each other? Their Neanderthal bodies are wiry and strong, thin and scrappy from a lifetime of fighting for survival. They didn’t survive, of course, not that couple nor their entire species. The early hominids all went extinct, just like the dinosaurs before them. Unique expressions of the divine, like a single firework, exploding for a short time, showering light, and then gone.

How did they go extinct? Scientists say it was a mix of factors, possibly including violence from homo sapiens (that’s us) and definitely the pressures of climate change. Yes, they had climate change back then too – the deniers are right about that – the climate has always been changing. But it happened at a much slower pace – at least ten times slower than ours today. Even so, the pace of change was too fast – the landscapes and plants and animals morphed and the Neanderthals were unable to adapt.

Homo sapiens were able to adapt. Homo sapien means “wise man,” smart human, and our adaptability is a hallmark of our species. As long as we had a good thousand years before things were really different, we were able to make the changes that we needed to make in where we lived, what we ate, and what tools we used in time. We were able to figure it out. And the unique, unrepeatable spirit of life continued to flow through us.

This time around, we don’t have a thousand years to figure it out. We don’t even have a hundred years. According to the UN report that just came out about climate change, we have twelve years. That’s what they said. Twelve years. We have twelve years to radically transform our economy, especially the amount of energy that we use and how we generate it. From coal, oil, and gas to solar and wind. Energy from hell to energy from heaven. Twelve years. Now this is not adapting to climate change – that’s a whole other set of things we need to do. This is about preventing the climate from changing so dramatically and so quickly, that we are unable to adapt. My fellow homo sapiens, smart humans, we have twelve years.

And if we don’t? Best case scenario, the UN report warns of catastrophic flooding, droughts, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. Worst case, some scientists believe we are heading toward the sixth mass extinction. We can hear the drumbeat clearly now – the fires in California getting worse every year, the hurricanes growing more violent, droughts around the world, deserts expanding, thousands being forced from their farmlands and becoming refugees. It’s happening in real time.

Hearing about this more and more these days, the drumbeat getting louder, I’ll tell you where I’m at personally. I feel scared for my children. They’re just eight years old now, Miriam and Micah. I’m scared for them of what kind of shifting, collapsing world they are going to have to make their way in. Even with all of their advantages as white, well-educated, relatively wealthy Americans, are they going to have to struggle to survive? And they both want children of their own. I was telling them recently about a celibate monk I had met and Micah had a strong negative reaction, saying how sad it would be to not have ancestors (by which he meant, descendants). And I wish I could gush about how great it will be for them to have children and for me to have grandchildren. Except I’m not sure how great it will be for those grandchildren.

——

I’m sad that they will never get to experience the untouched beauty of wilderness. Because what we’ve done touches everything, everywhere. I’m heartbroken for all that we’ve already lost, for the wilderness itself and the polar bears and countless other animals whose stars will burn out before their time.

I also feel an immense sense of personal responsibility. I am in a position of leadership where I have this soapbox to stand on and if I am not doing absolutely everything in my power to inspire and nurture and activate all of you, my congregation, to confront the greatest threat humanity has ever faced, then what the hell am I doing here? What even gives me the right to stand up here before you all? These questions keep me up at night.

And then… I get distracted from the greatest threat that humanity has ever faced by the mundane necessities of life. My sense of responsibility to defend my kids’ future gets hijacked by my kids’ need for help with their math homework. My sense of responsibility to plant a seedbed of revolutionary change here gets hijacked by the need to let everyone know that Facebook is doing a matching grant fundraiser on Giving Tuesday and we all should contribute on that day in time to get the matching grant.

And every single person I know is just like me in this respect. We all get absorbed in the work of life, and the joys of life, and the struggles of life, mostly doing things which, when you take them one at a time, are each valid and important, even noble. Some of us have trouble enough just making it through the day. Some of us are just trying to survive in an economy with virtually no safety net. Or an illness takes all our time and energy to manage. Or a family conflict. Or someone hacked our email or our bank account and we’re spending hours on the phone trying to sort it out. Someone breaks our heart and we’re spending a year feeling like we want to die. Or we fall in love and we’re just too damn happy to worry about anything.

Our political life follows the same pattern. Political debate centers on the vivid human suffering of our time. Our government teargassing children at the border, to take just one of thousands of nauseating examples. Politicians rarely – really almost never – talk about the existential elephant in the room. Partly because this is not what we’re talking about, for all the reasons I just listed. Partly it’s because fossil fuel companies and chemical manufacturers and big ag are paying a lot of money to make sure that we don’t talk about it. And to make sure that deregulation continues, that the science gets muddied, and that green referendums fail; to make sure that at this week’s G20 summit in Argentina our delegation is over there promoting fossil fuels. And for good measure, they work to suppress the votes of poor people and people of color who are most affected by environmental collapse because they might actually vote to change things.

—–

So is this how it’s going to go down? Good people are too busy and bad people are too smart? Homo sapiens, smart humans, is this really how it’s going to go down? You can imagine the diorama at the Museum of Natural History a hundred thousand years from now. (Yes, I’m aware that there probably won’t be Museums of Natural History with dioramas a hundred thousand years from now, but just indulge me for a minute.) The diorama depicts a homo sapien family in an industrialized nation at meal time. A female is lifting a package of food out of a microwave. A male is staring into a cellphone. A baby is drooling onto the plastic tray of a high chair, clutching something that looks like a beanie baby in one hand and a juice box in the other. A toddler is watching something on a tablet of some kind, laughing.

Next to the diorama, the information panel reads as follows: “Homo sapiens roamed the earth for a brief 200,000-year span. Their extinction was precipitated primarily by rapid climate change. Unlike the climatic shifts of previous eras, this climate change was largely caused by these apex predators themselves, specifically by the burning of the fossilized remains of all the creatures that had gone extinct before them.” (That’s what fossil fuels are, by the way – you cannot make this stuff up.) “It is unclear whether this burning was a religious ritual or had some other purpose. Archeological evidence suggests that homo sapiens had discovered solar energy long before their extinction. But their primitive form of social organization and rudimentary ability to share resources may have prevented them from addressing the global threat in time.”

Our primitive form of social organization – basically the powerful practicing dominionism over the earth and over those less powerful. Some of us say it’s all too big and we’re too late – we should have fixed this thirty years ago. And yes, in an ideal world, thirty years ago we would have switched to renewable energy, drastically reduced our consumption and waste, adopted plant-based diets, shared our wealth to alleviate the desperation of poor nations, and planted about ten million trees. We’d be having a very different conversation right now. But the conversation we are going to have in thirty years – or in twelve years – will depend entirely on what we do today. And I mean today. This week, this holiday season. They say the best time to plant a tree is thirty years ago. The second best time is now.

Never before in the history of planet earth has a species been able to foresee its own extinction. Never before has a species been able to prevent it. But we can. How do I know? Because there is something in us that rebels, in every cell, with every breath. Because when I open the eyes of my spirit really wide and I think that when you open yours really wide, we can see that our star, our fireworks is not ready to burn out yet. God, the pulsing life force of the universe, is not done moving through us. In fact, if anything, it’s pulsing stronger than ever now.

You can feel it in the air. The forces of change are stirring. We are understanding that all of our struggles are one. Many of us and many people we know have become activists for the first time in our lives as we recognize that we have to take power into our own hands. There are at least one million organizations working toward sustainability and social justice. Several of the newly-elected members of congress are representing communities that had little voice before and they are pushing for The New Green Deal. With the markings of evil so clearly scrawled right in front of us on national television every day, with the assaults on this earth and its people now unmistakable for anything else, we are rising up.

We have twelve years left and we have a moment before us to be seized. Right now, we need political action. We need to boycott corporations whose greed is killing us. Every week, we can make a phone call, write a letter, speak out at a town hall – we can do something to fight back. A new climate organization has started in Great Britain called Extinction Rebellion and there’s a chapter forming here in New York City. It’s about taking bold, direct action in defense of our future. I plan to be part of it and I invite you to join me. Blocking pipelines, getting arrested, physically obstructing the desecration of our ecosystems because asking nicely is just not working.

We need the extinction rebellion. But we need something else, too. It’s not enough to just resist evil. It’s not enough to just scream, “stop!” We need a revolution. We need a vision of a re-sanctified earth. We need a dream of who we can be as a species. I don’t believe that the great Cosmic Wisdom meant for us to stay stuck as homo sapiens. Homo sapiens have been smart humans with great technology, but primitive forms of social organization that divide and rank people based on race and gender and hoard resources. We can be better than that. We are meant to evolve into something else. That something else is of the heart and of the spirit; of deep compassion and broad vision: Homo amandi. Loving person.

Homo amandi creates life sustaining societies committed to restoring balance to the earth. Let’s do it right now. Let’s make the heart decision to evolve into homo amandi. Let’s compress the next thousand years of evolution into the next twelve. It will be the evolution revolution. And the best thing about it, is that every single one of us can participate in this revolution every day. We participate through our choices, through what we say in casual conversation, what we buy, what we click on, what we discard, and through who we are. Each action may seem trivial on its own, but we have to think big, think collectively, and ask, “what is it a part of? What is happening through me? Is it the sixth mass extinction? Or is it the evolution of homo amandi?”

We need the extinction rebellion and the evolution revolution both. We need to be saying “no” with all our might to the powers that are doing violence to the earth. And we need to be saying “yes” to a new way of living together in peace. I want it for my children and I know you will want it for yours and for all those you love. I want to be a blessing to the earth, not a curse; and I know you do too. My fellow homo amandi, join me in seizing the day, this day – the second best time ever – to plant a tree and become something new.

How to Start a Green Team Webinar – with Rev. Kate McGregor Mosley

Once something is up and going it seems like it’s always been there but how do we start? Many churches have begun green teams to help green their churches and become more involved in their larger communities. It’s a way to give back and to practice the stewardship we preach.

In this webinar, the Center for Earth Ethics and Climate Reality Project have teamed up with Rev. Kate McGregor Mosley of Georgia Interfaith Power and Light to discuss best practices for starting up a green team in your own faith community.

 

Reducing Waste Webinar

In Matthew 7:5 Jesus warns his followers to remove the beam from their eyes before speaking to the speck of dust in someone else’s eye.

As we look at the causes of climate change it’s easy to point out who the big polluters are and how they need to change. There is no doubt that fossil fuels emissions need to draw down to zero and that our friends in agriculture, tech, and manufacturing need to clean up how they do business. That much is obvious. What can be less obvious, though, is how our own lives and the institutions we frequent contribute to the problem. Are we making the changes we need to see in order to prevent climate change? I for one can say that I’m trying but there’s a lot of work left to do.

In this webinar, the Climate Reality Project and Center for Earth Ethics teamed up with Rev. Kate Mosely from Zero Waste Church to talk about reducing waste in our faith communities and the things we can do as individuals to lessen our overall footprint. You can find good tips on how to start a similar project in your own faith house too!

What Would Dr. King Think of Our Progress?

Frigid. I cannot remember a King’s Day celebration that wasn’t. Born on January 15th, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was remembered today in many places throughout the country on what would have been his 90th birthday. Here today, Chief Dwayne Perry and I were in Newark, New Jersey, participating in the demonstration with the Peoples Organization for Progress. The march slowly began in front of the MLK monument.

As we drove around searching for the location, we reminisced about our younger years, trying to find work, direction and purpose. What would we have done at Dr. King’s young age? How did he manage?  It’s interesting to know that Chief and I traveled in the same parts of New York City at different times, Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn and the Bronx, areas that were dangerous; drugs were brought in to the old neighborhoods, the steady climb toward mass incarceration began. The dreams of the Civil Rights era shattered by Urban renewal, which at first seemed like a good thing only to find that it really meant urban removal of Black homes and businesses. The drive showed us the changes made in the city; large empty lots, huge sections of new builds. The communities are impacted with gentrification. Again, at first it seemed like a good thing, but then, it wasn’t.  Our communities are co-opted, our businesses cannot pay the high rents, our homes are being taken over by developers. It’s as if the clock had stopped. Dr. King had preached that we each needed to become leaders. In our own way, we and those we gathered with took that to heart, to continue the struggle.

What would Dr. King think of our progress? Our society does a kind of slow dance with its people of color, one step forward, two steps back. We had a Black president for eight years, and now the progress we made is being systematically rolled back. Dr. King would want to know that we are still positioning ourselves in justice work, that we are still mobilizing, we are still working for income equality. In his speech on economics and reparations, he outlined how our government subsidized the white peasants from Europe with land, with colleges to educate them on how to farm the land, and with tools and supplies to use to produce their farms and machinery to work the land. This same government had refused to provide any land for former enslaved people. Those same immigrants are now receiving millions in subsidies not to farm and with their privilege, telling Black people to pull themselves up by their boot straps. King’s tone and stance had changed over time, as he came to see that conditions for Blacks and poor folks remained the same. Martin was angry as he advocated for a radical redistribution of wealth.  He challenged us to march on Washington and demand to get paid. Today, we are only just approaching a living wage as laws are past for $15.00 an hour.

Our income disparity has grown with new tax breaks for the rich, while the lower classes are forced to pay for defense, infrastructure, and perhaps a new border wall. Corporations pay wages below the poverty line and those who are incarcerated are paid dollars a day to manufacture goods. Even more egregious, is using untrained inmates to fight fires and handle other natural disasters, their humanity seen as expendable, their lives as throw-a-ways. What can we do to help them, what can we do for the children held by the thousands in detention centers at the southern borders, or the families marred by gun violence, those in government working without a pay check, to say nothing of our endless wars?

What would Dr. King make of our current dilemma? Our march focused on the deaths of so very many of our youth at the hands of police. This is surreal in Newark, New Jersey, today. The litany of names read echoed into the cold. We know that those who protest these acts are demonized in the media, but we are in solidarity with them. Voices of intolerance have gotten louder and bolder, evoking concern and fear. And still, we pressed on. We sang songs of the movement, teaching a new generation to carry on the tradition.  The senior organizers were passing the baton to the younger college students.

Chief Perry reminded the crowd gathered to use their right to vote, and their advocacy to encourage others to do the same. We have to combat voter suppression nationwide. There are those who claim that voting is happening illegally, taking away from the fact of their suppression of this precious right, so many have died defending. He is heartened by so many women in Congress, he feels the tide is turning in a new and better direction. I am reminded that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice”. The calendar has turned, we are fifty years later than when Dr. King was with us, and the struggle continues. On his birthday and every day, it does not matter how cold it is, Dr. King continues to walk with us, as a revered ancestor, whose constant and abiding love holds us in faith. His voice echoes on, teaching and inspiring us, giving us hope as we continue to work for justice and our Beloved Community.

***

For more on the continuation of Dr. King’s work:

www.poorpeoplescampaign.org

www.leadtolife.org

thekingcenter.org

The ‘Epiphany’ of the Importance of Trees

As Twelfth Night passes, some celebrate King’s Day, others Nollaig na mBan (Women’s Christmas in Irish), and others – still singing carols and drinking cider – go a Wassailing.

“Love and joy come to you and to you, your Wassail, too.  And God Bless you and send you a Happy New Year.  And God Send you a Happy New Year.”

The Wassail was a tree festivity.  A night to play, possibly to drink the cider fermented from Samhain – the Celtic New Year – and to pour libations out upon the roots of trees to ask for blessings upon the orchards.

Trees were an important part of early European culture.  They fed humans and animals alike with their nuts, fruits and seeds.  Each kind of tree was seen as having its own character and wisdom.  The first Irish language, Ogham, is often described as “the tree alphabet” because the letters were based on their unique qualities.  Invaders to Celtic lands cut and burned down the forests to decrease defensive cover for the native people.  Perhaps this history also inspires a longing to protect the trees that remain for present and future generations.

In a time when we have destroyed as much as 50% of our tropical forests globally, when we are learning that deforestation practices are significantly contributing to the increase of greenhouse gasses annually, that the absence of forests increases the devastation humans experience in the wake of drought / flood cycles – perhaps it is time to have an Epiphany as to the importance of trees.

Humans have a relationship with trees unlike any other part of nature.  A simple refresher course on how humans breathe ought to remind us of this as human beings inhale oxygen which enters the blood and is circulated throughout the body by the heart which returns the blood to the lungs so we can exhale carbon dioxide bi-product.  The trees then absorb the carbon dioxide and transform it back into oxygen with the help of the sun.  The trees are our counterparts to maintain balance in our environment and to sustain life.

On the exchange of Gasses:  “The exchange takes place in the millions of alveoli in the lungs and the capillaries that envelop them… inhaled oxygen moves from the alveoli to the blood in the capillaries, and carbon dioxide moves from the blood in the capillaries to the air in the alveoli.” 

How do Trees Help Us Breathe?

This January, take time to bless the trees – in your yard, in your neighborhood park, in your forests, in orchards, at your church or temple – anywhere and everywhere you interact with trees in your life.  It is said the trees talk to one another through their complex roots systems underground and if you tend to an old tree, a Mother Tree, or Guardian Tree that old one will communicate to all the others.  So send blessings to the trees for their flourishing and restoration.  Let us apologize for forgetting just how important they are to our survival.  Let us learn their names and attributes one more.  And let us protect them from the real world threats which would clear them unnecessarily, and lead to our demise.  In the spirit of a healthy New Year, to you and your Wassail too, let us go outside and bless the trees.

***

A Druid Blessing for the Trees

A nine-fold blessing of the sacred grove
Now be upon all forests of Earth:
For willow of the streams, 
Hazel of the rocks,
Alder of the marshes,
Birch of the waterfalls,
Ash of the shade,
Yew of resilience,
Elm of the brae,
Oak of the sun,
And all trees that grow and live and breathe

On hill and brake and glen:
No axe, no saw, no fire shall harm you,
No mind of ownership shall seize you,
No hand of greed or profit claim you,
But grace of the stepping deer among you,
Strength of the running boar beneath you,
Power of the gliding hawk above you.

Deep peace of the running stream through your roots,
Deep peace of the flowering air through your boughs,
Deep peace of the shining stars on your leaves.

That the harp of the woods be heard once more
Throughout the green and living Earth.

– Mara Freeman, Honorary Chief Bard of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids – Copyright 2001, The Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids

***

To learn more about Forests, Deforestation and how to help, here are some resources:

Vandana Shiva:  Everything I Need to Know I Learned in the Forest

UN Environment Programme: Forests

Stand4Forests Climate Plan from the Dogwood Alliance