Month: March 2019

Rural Poverty in California: Is the American Dream Drying Up in California’s Central Valley?

Change is not an easy thing to do especially when only one person is doing it. In Central California, that person’s name was Nettie Morrison who by strength of will,  a good amount of political acumen, and a community ready for new life, was able to bring change and hope to a forgotten part of California’s Central Valley. In October 2018, CEE Senior Fellow Catherine Coleman Flowers and CEE Deputy Director Andrew Schwartz visited Allensworth to bear witness to the life and work of Morrison, and to see firsthand a city plagued by environmental mismanagement, systemic racism and classism, and now climate change. The trip to Allensworth is part of CEE’s mission to stand with frontline communities who are forced to fight against the dual burden of social and environmental injustice. 

You can read Andrew‘s reflection here


Capital & Main: Published on March 7, 2019 by

Love and energy aren’t always enough to provide what Allensworth, a historic African-American town, needs most: clean water, accessible to all.


Editor’s Note: This story marks the launch of an ongoing series about poverty in California’s heartland. From farming valleys to foothill communities, “the other California” makes ends meet in a time of adversity. Climate-changed weather patterns have contributed to catastrophic droughts and fires, while dwindling job opportunities are depopulating long-established towns. In the months ahead, we will profile the lives of rural Californians and examine the economic conditions that shape their futures. We will also weigh proposed solutions to the challenges they face, as well as programs that are helping to improve the present.

Co-published by The Guardian

One day in 1979, Nettie Morrison, then 44 and living near Bakersfield, California, announced she was moving — to a tiny rural town called Allensworth, 40 miles north. Hardly anyone had even heard of it, and those who had thought she was crazy. “People said, ‘Why would you want to move out there?’” recalls her daughter, Denise Kadara, who was already married by then. “‘There’s nothing for you up there.’ But she knew it was a historically black town and wanted to be a part of it.”


Removing arsenic costs money, and money is something a small, rural water system never has.


Colonel Allen Allensworth, a former slave who rose to become a Union officer during the Civil War, had founded the eponymous town in 1908, when he bought up 2,700 acres of alkali flats to establish a black utopia in a part of the San Joaquin Valley known as the Tulare Basin. By 1913, some 1,200 people from across the country had responded to Allensworth’s call — sent out via newspaper advertisements — to build the “Tuskegee of the West.” Back then, abundant clear water flowed from artesian wells, enough to drink and to irrigate crops of alfalfa, sugar beets and corn, along with feed for livestock.

But when Morrison arrived, all that remained of Allensworth’s vision was a nostalgic new state park, established in 1976 to commemorate the fallen town, and a tumbledown village of mostly Latino migrant workers and a few African-American families, grinding out a spare existence on the now-parched land. They cooked, when they could afford it, with expensive propane brought in by the tank. If they had toilets to flush, the sewage went into faulty septic systems; many of them used outhouses instead. Their wells were determined to be contaminated with arsenic, at levels too high for human consumption. A remedial treatment system never proved quite adequate: Residents still drove miles to fill tanks with clean water from other jurisdictions.

Morrison went to work and did what she could for Allensworth. Recruiting her five grown children as helpers — “we were there every weekend,” remembers Kadara — she founded a nonprofit, Friends of Allensworth, and saw that food and other necessities were distributed to the neediest residents. In 2007, Morrison mobilized opposition to two corporate dairy farms planned near the town, which would have compounded the threats to Allensworth’s air and water — her work insured that cattle had to be at least 2.5 miles outside of town. She also organized events at the state park, to teach people about the town’s — and by extension, the nation’s — history. “All the activities that take place there,” her daughter says, “Nettie Morrison established every single one of them.”

Read On…

 

Statement from the Gathering of Indigenous Spiritual Elders of South America & The Abya Yala

The process of unification of spiritual leaders around the world is taking place. CEE’s Original Caretakers Program Director, Mindahi Bastida recently participated in one such gathering of Indigenous Spiritual Elders of South America & The Abya Yala.  In order to take the next step among the Latin American peoples, native intellectuals and Spiritual Elders from Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica and Guatemala came together in this unique meeting to share insights about the state and future of Mother Earth, and to share knowledge, ideas and actions through the unification process.  Following is their statement in English with a Spanish language pdf below:

March 2019, Cauca, Colombia

In this way we commit ourselves to weave the knots that connect the local to the global, to revitalize the centers of ancestral thought and knowledge, the centers of the action and knowledge of women, to revitalize ancestral communication, music, songs, dances, rituals and sacred ceremonies of the peoples, the ceremonial lunar and solar celebrations, and the recovery and purification of the sacred sites. We commit to working with sources of energy to re-establish balance and restore natural order. This is a call from our hearts to the hearts of all those who feel this collective conscience of caring for and protecting our common home.

We call upon the following:

1. To the social and political organizations: so that they can listen to this message and realize that the wisdom of our ancient peoples is the solution to heal the illness that our Mother Earth is experiencing.

2. To governments: to recognize and value the wisdom, knowledge, science and ancestral spiritual authority that has maintained the integrity of indigenous territories.

3. To the United Nations: to support the endorsement of the rights of Mother Earth.

The new dawn ushers in unity, happiness, peace and harmony and the continuation of the spiral of life.  We call on all Indigenous Peoples to do translate this document in their native languages.

CHINCHAYSUYU CAJIBIO (ATLÁNTIDA ECOVILLAGE), CAUCA, COLOMBIA, MARCH 9TH 5527 (2019)

To communicate, spread and fulfill.  #HealingMotherEarth

This gathering has been carried out thanks to the support of the organizations:
International Center for Cultural Studies (ICCS US) | Center for Earth Ethics | The Fountain

Visit ICCS website here for more information on The Gathering and other participating guests.

 

Downloadable pdfs in English and Spanish:

Declaration – 2019 Gathering of Spiritual Elders – Cauca, Colombia

Declaración – 2019 Encuentro de Mayores – Cauca, Colombia

 

 

Love the Water… World Water Day is Every Day

Protecting clean water is one of the most important ways you can have a positive effect in your environment. In honor of World Water Day, we share Steps to Build Community and Congregation around Water.

 

Where is your water? Find your watershed.

Knowing where your Water comes from is the first step.  Your Watershed is an area of land where rainfall, snowmelt, and other precipitation falls on the land and flows downstream into a lake, river, or stream ultimately becoming the source of the water you drink.

Use these on-line resources to identify your water source(s):

Watershed Map

Topographical Map/ Watersheds

 

Learn your Water History

Has there been a history of positive life affirming activity in your water ways including crafts, creativity, trade and settlements?  Are your lakes man-made or natural?  Where are the Sites Sacred to the Indigenous Peoples’ of the land? 

Who’s Land Am I On?

 

Walk the Path of your Water

Walking Water – Pilgrimage of your own Water Resources. This can begin as simply as taking a trip to a local lake, pond, ocean beach, stream, spring or well. Bring offerings, prayers, water songs or just your heart-felt intentions to make a new relationship with the Water. This can grow into a full Pilgrimage of walking the water from source to tap. You may seek out guides or indigenous allies to assist you in getting the best understanding of your watershed. Allow this to be a time to foster commitment to protecting these water resources for your family, your community and for the generations to come.

WalkingWater.org

 

What’s in Your Water?

Testing your water. Including identifying areas along the Path of your Water that may be polluted or contaminated in some way. Is there a history of dumping industrial pollutants in that same water or nearby land? 

CEE’s Catherine Flowers recommends contacting the Environmental Science or Biology department at your local college or university.

Wild Virginia hosts one-day trainings for volunteers to learn how to properly conduct water quality monitoring on streams in Virginia.  WildVirginia.org

 

Water Liturgies

Introducing water as a topic in your faith based and community activities. Study the use of water in ritual, understanding the sacredness of water in your tradition and familiarizing yourself with the traditions of others. If appropriate, host a Laudato si’ study group. Create opportunities to share how We are all made out of Water. Water is Life. Understanding that protecting access to clean water is a sacred human right and an issue that concerns us all.

Center for Earth Ethics Water Liturgies

 

Being a Water Protector

Being a Water Protector can take many forms: ceremony, community clean up projects, organizing water walks, working with others to protect your water from legislation that allows polluters to poison the water.  It centers around sharing with others the importance of water, that all life is sacred, and that Water is Life.  This can include Water Atlases; Fountains; Community Clean Up projects; deepening research on Water Catchment Systems, and other water topics for use, conservation and protection, etc. Educators from across the country are developing Water centered curriculum for students of all ages.

If you are looking for other ways to take action, here are three: R.O.A.R.: Religious Organizations Along the River, Riverkeeper and Civil Disobedience Training – On the Frontlines of Water Protection – taking the next step.

 

Water and Art

Water themed events that bridge art, spirituality and activism can inspire changes in policy for local communities and beyond.  You can curate art exhibits, concerts, and other performances with the theme of water. Make public murals to bring more awareness to water issues, engage indigenous voices in the process.  Passionate Waters offers up a beautiful model for raising awareness and resources about Water through Art.  We can successfully bring people together across sectors with our common goal for a better quality of life made stronger through our shared connection to Spirit.  

Participate in Global Water Dance Day with groups in 120 countries around the world.  They are offering a free webinar on World Water Day, March 22nd 2019 and this year’s Global Water Dances event is on June 15th.

 

Making Water a thing of Beauty and Reference for All

Now that you know your watershed, treat your community to an artist rendered custom Watershed Map to display that will inspire others to join you in building community and congregation around Water.

Watershed Maps for your Community

 

Women and Water

Women around the world have protected, tended and loved the Waters of Mother Earth for generations.  It is a sacred responsibility and honor that many have forgotten.  From an indigenous perspective, it is a vital role that women play ensuring humanity can and does live in harmony with the natural world.  Women everywhere are invited to restore their innate connection with the Water.

Keep your own daily practices or walks with water. Lead the building of congregation or community around the sacredness of Water where you are.  From daily mindfulness rituals to thank the water when you drink it, to organizing events to connect your community to it’s water source.  No effort is too great or too small.  Remember you are Water and Water is Life.  Keep the Waters Clean, keep the Waters Pure, keep the Waters Available for All, and let the Waters run free.  Share this knowledge of and appreciation of water with others.

Participate in events and groups with others:

Grandmother Josephine Mandamin inspired all of us to treat the water with the love and kindness and respect it deserves.  Though she has moved on, her Women and Water Coming Together Symposium conference will go on.  To learn more about her life, her life’s work and the upcoming conference visit: Spirit of the Water.org

More than three decades ago, two courageous women saw a need and took a risk that has shaped the feminist religious movement. Mary E. Hunt and Diann L. Neu gathered thirteen women from various faith backgrounds and created a place where women’s religious needs could be met and women’s creativity nurtured. WATER was born. We promote empowerment, justice, peace, and systemic change. Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER)

Women of the Water is collecting stories from women who Love the Water.  Tell us why you Love the Water, what Water related issues are you most passionate about, and what are your visions for clean and healthy water going forward?  What events are you doing for World Water Day and beyond?

 

Other Ways to Celebrate Water and International Days for Collective Water Education

International Day of Rivers, March 14 

UN World Water Day, March 22

World Oceans Day, June 8

World Water Week, September

Catherine Flowers Gives Testimony to House Committee on Water Resources and Environment

The Clean Water State Revolving Fund: How Federal Infrastructure Investment Can Help Communities Modernize Water Infrastructure and Address Affordability Challenges

Excellent testimony before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment by at 31:30 mark on this link.

We must confront inequities in wastewater treatment+ invest in sustainable solutions for those most in need.

LiveStream from 10 am, Thursday, March 7th

Witnesses:

Mayor David A. Condon, City of Spokane, Washington, on behalf of the United States Conference of Mayors

Mr. John Mokszycki, Water and Sewer Superintendent, Town of Greenport, New York, on behalf of the National Rural Water Association

Ms. Catherine Flowers, Rural Development Manager, The Equal Justice Initiative, Montgomery, Alabama

Ms. Maureen Taylor, State Chairperson, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, Detroit, Michigan

Mr. Andrew Kricun, P.E., BCEE, Executive Director/Chief Engineer, Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority, Camden, New Jersey, on behalf of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies

Professor Jill Heaps, Assistant Professor of Law, Vermont Law School, Burlington, Vermont

What is the Doctrine of Discovery? Why is it relevant in our world today?

In a nut shell, the Doctrine of Discovery, which is based on the Papal Bulls of the fifteenth century, is the origin of the European colonization, providing the answer as to why and how the actual degradation of peoples and nations began globally.

For me, as a historian, knowing this information serves to understand the context for why enslavement, genocide and ongoing suffering exists. It explains the imbalance of power which is supported and maintained by countries who claim to be democratic and justice seeking.  As Indigenous peoples work to decolonize, knowing the origin history helps to understand what is operating in our society and what needs to change.

I have made this my work because history matters. This is the mechanization of systemic subjugation which has remained in place for over 500 years. Unveiling this is akin to revealing the wizard behind the curtain. We are taught about Manifest Destiny, in order to participate in promoting it. That allows us to be in lock step with Empire; removing Indigenous peoples and clearing the land of them.  Our country does not teach this history, but uses this system to maintain power. Teaching this history helps people to understand why efforts to create a just society fall short. Unless we confront this reality, we will be at a loss to understand the systems which impact every aspect of our lived experience.

Theologically, the Papal Bulls are antithetical to the teachings of Jesus, who did not endorse stealing, subjugation or enslavement. His message lifted up and liberated the lowly, the oppressed, and taught us to welcome the stranger and to treat others with dignity and love. The Christian world follows the dictates of empire in conquering peoples and taking all of their possessions and land. In following Jesus, one would be more closely following the practices of Indigenous peoples, who worship God, lived communally and respected the earth.  

Now that we are in a crisis with our earth, we are turning to Indigenous wisdom, the very wisdom that has been demonized for centuries by empire for pagan practices.  And as we are looking to access this wisdom, Indigenous communities are still under attack with threats to water sources and sacred sites. Our system of hierarchies run counter to practices of community. Our society needs reorientation and to stop the subjugation of vulnerable peoples and communities.  Will empire let go of its greed for resources and land in an effort to renew the practices of Indigenous peoples? Will they be willing to let go of their pre-conceived fears of The Other in order to save our world? These questions and many others need to be examined.

People can educate themselves by researching the Doctrine and its use in removing people’s possessions and land, connecting to the legislation which supports these practices and advocating for justice (Johnson V. McIntosh, breaking of treaties with Native nations, relegating Indigenous rights to ancestral lands to merely the right of occupancy). Many of the traditional writings of our flawed history need to be re-examined, unlearned, rewritten and taught in order to create a more equitable society. Our constitution needs to be rewritten in order to represent all people, not just land-owning men of European ancestry. The mainstream societies fragility around these issues and unwillingness to change, need to be addressed in order to make any progress. (Columbus was not a hero, the civil war was fought to end slavery, etc.).

Petra Thombs is an Intern with the Original Caretakers Initiative at the Center for Earth Ethics. Petra is a recent graduate from Union Theological Seminary earning a degree in a Masters of Divinity, where she majored in Church History. She is currently interning as the Center for Earth Ethics, as part of her path towards Unitarian Universalist ministry. 

CEE Update: Water, Women and Planting Seeds of Change

IN LOVING MEMORY

We ⁦at the Center for Earth Ethics and Union Theological Seminary were honored to know Grandmother Josephine and give thanks for her life and teaching.

Reciprocity, Responsibilities, Hope

“We’ve known for a long time that water is alive. Water can hear you. Water can sense what you are saying and what you are feeling… Give it respect and it can come alive. Like anything. Like a person who is sick… if you give them love, take care of them, they’ll come alive. They’ll feel better. It’s the same with our mother, the earth, and the water. 
Give it love.” 
Grandmother Josephine Mandamin Remembered
by Water Docs Films and the trailer for The Water Journey

ORIGINAL CARETAKERS

Marrying Indigenous Wisdom & Scientific Knowledge:
Reimagining the Human Place in Nature

A very special evening with Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer in conversation with Geraldine Ann Patrick Encina, Scholar in Residence for Union’s Center for Earth Ethics and Union Theological Seminary faculty member John Thatamanil.

 

Reflection by Geraldine Patrick Ensina and Complete Program Video

 


The Gathering of Indigenous Spiritual Elders of South America and the Abya Yala

CEE’s Original Caretakers Program Director, Mindahi Bastida, will travel to Colombia to participate in this sharing between indigenous thought leaders and tradition keepers of Central and South America.

The Gathering of Indigenous Spiritual Elders of South America and the Abya Yala, will be an expression of dialogue and reciprocity to heal Mother Earth for present and for future generations. It promises meaningful discussions, as well as the development of pragmatic action plans.

This event is co-sponsored by the Center for Earth Ethics, ICCS – International Center for Cultural Studies, and The Fountain.


ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE / CIVIC ENGAGEMENT

Catherine Flowers to Testify for Congressional Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment

“The Clean Water State Revolving Fund: How Federal Infrastructure Investment Can Help Communities Modernize Water Infrastructure and Address Affordability Challenges”

LiveStream March 7th, 10 am EST


A Moral Call to Action on the Climate Crisis – Atlanta, GA

Thursday, March 14th
7:00 PM, Doors Open at 6:15 PM

Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, GA
In the tradition of the mass meetings of the Civil Rights Movement, Former Vice President Al Gore, Bishop William J. Barber II, and CEE Director Karenna Gore will join Reverend Dr. Raphael G. Warnock and other local faith leaders to gather inspiration from religious texts, and bear witness to the injustice of the climate crisis. The mass meeting takes place alongside a three-day environmental justice and climate activist training with taking place March 14th-16th. CEE’s Catherine Coleman Flowers also to join!  Learn More

ECO-MINISTRY

Annual Ministers Training May 30 – June 1

Application deadline is March 29, 2019. Applicants will be notified of decisions by April 30, 2019. Click here to submit an application.


 

You can support Grandmother Josephine’s vision
Women & Water Coming Together Symposium 
August 4-8, 2019
www.spiritofthewater.org

 

A Very Special Evening with Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer: Reflection & Video

“Last night I had the joyful opportunity to interview Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of Braiding Sweetgrass, Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants. She is sweet as the sweetgrass, loving as a mother and attentive as a wise elder. She was delighted to hear that we, from the Center for Earth Ethics, are offering the course Plant Wisdom and Ecological Consciousness and wants to know all about it. Surely we will have opportunities to interact with her, as we actively engage in braiding together plant wisdom, science and traditional knowledge as a practice of being in the world. Certainly all of humanity needs to remember that communing with all sentient beings is the original purpose of living a human experience. The art of reminding about this purpose is something that Robin has become exquisitely passionate about. Last night, over two hundred people stood in ovation to express their deep gratitude for her overflow of wisdom, joy for life and caring for Mother Earth. Let us spread her word and make her dream –a shared dream– come true in her lifetime.”
~  Geraldine Ann Patrick Encina
***
Join us for a conversation with Robin Wall Kimmerer as she helps us rethink, reimagine and, renarrate our relationship to the sacred and the natural world. Can the objective, data-driven approach of science be enriched by non-anthropocentric spiritual worldviews? As a botanist and a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Dr. Kimmerer draws on both indigenous wisdom and scientific knowledge to enrich and animate our understanding of the natural world. This expansive way of seeing and relating to creation privileges regeneration and reciprocity, and offers novel solutions for ecological restoration and climate change resilience.

Dr. Kimmerer will be joined in conversation with Union faculty member John Thatamanil, and Geraldine Ann Patrick Encina, Scholar in Residence for Union’s Center for Earth Ethics.

 

About Robin Wall Kimmerer:
Dr. Kimmerer is a mother, plant ecologist, writer and SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York. She serves as the founding Director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment whose mission is to create programs which draw on the wisdom of both indigenous and scientific knowledge for our shared goals of sustainability. Her research interests include the role of traditional ecological knowledge in ecological restoration and the ecology of mosses. In collaboration with tribal partners, she and her students have an active research program in the ecology and restoration of plants of cultural significance to Native people. Read More.

About The Insight Project:
The Insight Project is a new multi-year program series that explores modern conceptions of theology and spirituality through a diverse array of thought-provoking lectures, screenings, performances, and on-stage conversations. Click HERE to learn more.