Month: January 2019

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.

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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.

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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

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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