Month: September 2019

‘Sacred Rivers’ ceremony highlights faith in the face of climate change

Originally published 9/30/2019 by Riverkeeper’s Cliff Weathers

In a moving interfaith ceremony on September 26, those who protect the Hudson and Jordan Rivers joined with religious and indigenous leaders in an interfaith ceremony focused on tackling shared risks communities and ecosystems across the globe face from climate disruption.

The Sacred Rivers ceremony at the Union Theological Seminary’s James Memorial Chapel began with a welcome from Chief Dwaine Perry of the Ramapough Lenape Nation, who are original inhabitants of the region. The Lenape named the Hudson the Muh-he-kun-ne-tuk, the “river that flows two ways.” The ceremony highlighted how traditional, sacred, and secular concerns compel action and how communities of faith and environmental organizations can collaborate to reduce climate risk and build bridges of resilience at the local level.

Speakers at the event addressed the plights of both rivers as they face ongoing threats from climate change and development. EcoPeace Middle East — which has offices in Jordan, Israel, and Palestine with parallel staff in each office — gave a compelling presentation on the destruction of the Jordan River and their coordinated efforts to clean, revitalize, and bring sustainable development to the Jordan River and valley.

This was followed by a ceremony that combined the waters of the two rivers to signify connecting water from around the world and solidarity in fighting to protect it. Participants carried the ceremonial waters in a procession to the 125th Street Pier where they blessed and released them into the Hudson.

“It was a beautiful day that joined people from across the world, united in our fight to protect the water that sustains all of us; Mni Wiconi — water is life. EcoPeace Middle East is a testament to how working together we can perform Tikkun Olam (repairing the world). We really appreciate connecting with them around Climate Week and both our unified and diverse struggles.” said Jessica Roff, Riverkeeper’s Director of Advocacy and Engagement.

Several honored guests and ceremony participants were joined by Roff and Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay. They included Karenna Gore, Director of The Center for Earth Ethics;  the three directors from EcoPeace Middle East, Gidon Bromberg (Israel), Yana Abu Talib (Jordan) and Nada Majdalani (Palestine); and Rabbi Burt Visotzky of the Jewish Theological Seminary. Musical performer Bethany Yarrow led the audience in a spirited rendition of “River of Jordan,” a song written by her father, Peter Yarrow (Peter Paul and Mary):

There is only one river. There is only one sea.
And it flows through you, and it flows through me.
There is only one people. We are one and the same.
We are all one spirit. We are all one name.
We are the father, mother, daughter and son.
From the dawn of creation, we are one.
We are one.

***

To see more photos and learn more about Riverkeeper…

Karenna Gore on the Intersection of Faith, Climate Change, and Social Justice

Originally Published by State of the Planet, Earth Institute at Columbia University

September 25, 2019

By Jeff Berardelli

For the past five years Karenna Gore, age 46, the eldest daughter of former Vice President Al Gore and Tipper Gore, has been working in the family business of climate change. While that may seem an obvious course, given her father’s prominence in the space, the path that led her there, and the methods she is employing to tackle the challenge of climate change, make up her own unique story.

After attending Harvard College, Columbia Law School and working for many years in child justice organizations, Karenna Gore went back to school in 2011, attending Union Theological Seminary.

Affiliated with Columbia University, Union is a historic-looking complex in Morningside Heights, Manhattan. Founded in 1836 by Presbyterian ministers, the vision was to respond to the growing urban social needs of the day with a mix of academics and faith. Today, Union is a training ground for progressive Christian academics, whose community embraces other faith traditions and works on inter-religious engagement and social justice.

Read on for more…

What was your goal in starting the Center for Earth Ethics?

As we were exploring reframing climate change as a moral issue in galvanizing faith-based activism about it, we also explored deeply the root causes, as we saw them, of the crisis that we’re in and we discovered that it’s really two root causes. One is this illusion that we are separate and superior to the whole rest of nature. The other root cause is the development paradigm/ economic growth paradigm — the way that we measure successful societies.

Also…

CEE Announces new affiliation with the Earth Institute at Columbia University beginning October 2019

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Climate Strike! CEE joins September 20th march and Karenna Gore delivers evening service on climate at Temple Emanu-el

Strike for Climate!  The Center for Earth Ethics will be among the many participating in the September 20th Climate Strike in New York City.  This landmark action will happen three days before the UN Climate Summit. Young people and adults will strike together all across the US and the world to demand transformative action be taken to address the climate crisis.

In NYC, we will gather at Foley Square and take to the streets to march to Battery Park. The event will conclude with speakers and performers, including Fridays For Future movement starter Greta Thunberg and NY-based youth leaders.  RSVP Now on Action Network to #StrikewithUsGlobal Strike Website for Sept. 20-27

The Center for Earth Ethics team stands with the Union Theological Seminary community marching for climate justice.  We will meet at UTS in the morning before the march, in connection with students, faculty and staff along with members of the Ecological Caucus and travel together to Foley Square.

“We must do right by the Earth.

We cannot deprive the coming generations of the source of life.

I strike with the youth in solidarity with all our relations.”

-Davis Ogima Logan
Union Theological Seminary student,
CEE Field Ed 2019, member of the Ecological Caucus


Please join CEE Director Karenna Gore at Temple Emanu-El
for a special Friday evening service
on the occasion of climate week and for our Earth.

September 20th at 6 pm following the Climate Strike

The Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center
One East Sixty-Fifth Street, New York, NY

This event is free and open to all, reservations are requested.

Climate Week in NYC has served as a dedicated time of convergence for all those working for the benefit of our earth and all those relying on us to provide conditions for clean air and clean water for generations to come.

As a pre-cursor to Climate Week, Karenna will join the Temple Emanu-El community’s Shabbat services to discuss our moral and religions obligations of protecting the earth.

“One generation goes and another generation comes, but the Earth remains forever” – Ecclesiastes 1:4


MORE EVENTS in honor of CLIMATE WEEK…


Social Good Summit
92nd Street Y, NYC
Sep 22, 2019

Catherine Flowers joins engineers, scientists, artists, chefs, policy advisers, media figures and youth climate leadership to address issues of climate protection, conservation and change.

 


Choose Us – Youth Climate Strike Demands Solutions & Action Now!
Sep 23 at 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm.  Join us for an evening of conversation with youth climate leaders to learn how to move their demands forward with the urgency required by the global climate crisis. The New York Society for Ethical Culture 

 

CEE’s Karenna Gore speaks with Dean Kelly Brown Douglas of EDS at Union Theological Seminary

“When we bring together reason with our values a vision will evolve for the good of the whole.” – Karenna Gore

Dean Kelly Brown Douglas of Episcopal Divinity School speaks with Karenna Gore, Director of Union’s Center for Earth Ethics. They discuss the moral dimensions of our ecological crisis, how environmental issues are playing out in the presidential primary, and Karenna’s recent New York Times op-ed.  Full video and excerpted transcript below.

Climate Justice with Karenna Gore

Dean Kelly Brown Douglas speaks with Karenna Gore, Director of Union's Center for Earth Ethics. They discuss the moral dimensions of our ecological crisis, how environmental issues are playing out in the presidential primary, and Karenna's recent New York Times op-ed.The Center for Earth Ethics is an institute at Union Theological Seminary that envisions a world where value is measured according to the sustained well-being of all people and our planet. Learn more at their website www.centerforearthethics.org/

Posted by Episcopal Divinity School at Union on Thursday, September 12, 2019

 

Excerpts:

KBD: “What we have to appreciate is that this is not a crisis that just emerged overnight for no reason. The roots of this are deep. And when we talk about the oppressions of people, the subjugations of people, the subjugations of the earth this is all the fruit of the same poisonous tree, right?  Or the same poisonous root. That goes deeply back into our traditions, into our religious traditions and into Christianity.

We are living in a time and a culture where people refuse to recognize that there is a problem, and that there’s a crisis.  And I’ve heard you speak about that before as an addiction.”

On Addiction to Fossil Fuels

KG: “Many people have experienced addiction or are close to people who have experienced addiction and it is instructive about the limits of human nature or the ways in which – how – the idea that we would self-destruct as a species – because that is what is happening in slow motion – ”

KBD: “That’s right.”

KG: “- is not logical.  But nor is it logical that someone would be so hooked on something that is causing them so much damage but they can’t quite see it.  Until, or in many cases it comes to hitting rock bottom, in many cases people say it comes to turning to a higher power. Those are instructive stories I think in a way of understanding what we’re seeing now because a lot of people are looking and watching because the see climate impacts now.  The amazon is on fire, polar ice caps are melting, we’re losing species…”

KBD:  “60% of, I understand, the animal species has been degraded?”

KG: “Yes. So the question is, how much, is a similar question as an addict might face.  How much more damage do you want to do?

I think most of us have the feeling we will turn away from fossil fuels – or we’ll die.  And it’s not just a feeling, it’s what the body of scientists in the IPCC tell us.”

“We’re on track for about 7-9 degree Fahrenheit warming by the year 2100.  What that means, of course, are tipping points that we don’t totally understand. Many people criticize them (scientists) for being overly conservative it their estimates because they can’t exactly what happens when all the ice melts.  The Gulf Stream is changing.  We know that there are many things in place that would start to make large portions of this earth uninhabitable and the strife involved in that, the widespread suffering involved in that  – is unimaginable.  So if we’re on the road that kind of destruction, at what point can we decide – we’d like to stop now – let’s just try to stop now as opposed to doing more and more damage.  And I think the analogy to addiction is very important.”

On the role of Faith in the Climate Crisis: Prophetic and Pastoral

“There are three concepts to think about Place, Time, and Being in which, you know, we as individuals, we are asked to think about in our discourse, we as individuals we are asked to be consumers, we are asked to think about consumer choices.  We are asked to think about our belonging to different races, or genders, or denominations but to belong to a place and a time is also part of understanding what’s happening now. And that –

When you look at the scale and the pace of the ecological destruction we are living right now – it’s overwhelming.

And our own sense of what our agency is – it’s overwhelming.

And I believe it is going to come from leaders, faith leaders – and I say that in a broad way. If you are a counselor in a community center, if you’re an indigenous keeper of traditions, these are all forms of ministry.  But this is what is called for, those types of skills to help people through this time.”  – Karenna Gore

Values of Faith, Examining Social and Ecological Injustice

KBD: “Part of the work that you do at the Center for Earth Ethics is in fact to lift up faith values, religious values and how they inform, how we indeed should engage with the rest of creation and the kind of relationship we should have to the earth, and all that there is therein.  The Center for Earth Ethics in many ways focuses on this as a moral issue, as a faith issue. I’ve attended a couple of the programs with the Center for Earth Ethics and I’ve always walked away more informed.  And I’ve walked away inspired by the many faith traditions and the ways in which those traditions compel us into a caring relationship with our environment and with the earth. I also walk away wondering, and I want to ask you, what are the ways in which our faith traditions and religious traditions have been an impediment to our care for the earth?

KG: “Very important question.  I think we have to look clearly and honestly at that.  And I know in your work you have done that with regard to white supremacy, the ties of colonization, genocide and slavery to the form of Christianity that was really about Empire and expansion and extraction.  So I believe a lot of what is seen as secular including the economic growth construct as it is currently presented is actually highly charge, with almost and actually Rev Barber talks about the ‘culted commitment to greed’.

It’s only a kind of fanaticism that would’ve gotten us to this point.  It is not reason. It is not logic. And so I believe that we can look clearly at a couple of specific examples in this conversation.  One is the idea of separation of humanity and the rest of the natural world. So you have the concept of dominion from Genesis. You have the concept of imago dei, we are made in the image of God. These two things together are quite easily distorted to mean that we are God, and we get to dominate everything and in fact God says we should and given us all of this to dominate. So of course there’s a fair amount of work done on this and I won’t go into it too much except to say that there’s great theology there’s eco-feminism, there’s eco-womanism, there are many people who have worked on this.

When you have a concept like ‘stewardship’ used by people like Scott Pruitt the former head of the EPA who professes, evangelical Christian faith, and says stewardship means continuing to dig and burn fossil fuels – where does that come from? And it comes, it actually, I think we have to be quite honest there has been a tradition laid, and it is the same one that laid white supremacy.  So the separation of humanity and nature and of course, you’ve written so beautifully about this in your book Stand Your Ground, about how this unfolded doctrinally and of course, you know, there were the doctrine of discovery and this was the whole premise for Europeans to come to this land was a set of religious documents, that claimed authority from the Bible to conquer vanquish and subdue all non-Christian peoples.  And non-Christian people at the time in the Americas and Africa was any people of, indigenous peoples and so that has been played out and is very much alive and with us today.

So this is work of unraveling and detoxifying what has been done to lay that foundation is critically important in the leadership from within people of faith from within Episcopal Divinity School, from yourself, from the many people of faith who are actively claiming the best of those traditions, the scripture in its sacred meaning and explaining where it has been distorted and how we can move on I think is absolutely essential.

KBD:  “You’re precisely right and the insight and bringing together the way in which systems dominate and exploit people, it’s the same construct that allows for the domination and exploitation of our environment and the rest of creation.  And so, there is this intrinsic and inextricable link between white supremacist narratives and the narratives that have placed us in this position of destroying the environment and the earth.  As we’ve destroyed people, we destroy the earth. And these are all to be seen as sacred creations of God and to look at the ways in which faith traditions have been complicit in that.”

KG: “One other thing I want to add, because I think it is interesting to look back even before the colonization of the Americas and introduction of the slave trade at what happened in Europe with the Roman Empire. There is this thesis from 1967 from a medieval historian named Lynn White called ‘The Roots of our Ecological Crisis’, it’s controversial, but what he said is that the victory of Christianity over paganism in Europe in the middle ages is what led to the mindset of commodification and objectification of nature in how it played out. 

It’s worth noting because there were indigenous traditions in Europe, as well. There were sacred rivers, there were prayers to sacred places and many women were keepers of those ceremonies and so all of that had to be obliterated in order for there to be an empire put into place. And because of the marriage of the Roman Empire and Christianity which we know from the conversion of Constantine – I think there’s a lot to that. An extraordinary turn of events to have someone take these symbols and turn it into its opposite and it’s the kind of thing that’s being done to us today in our politics in a very sinister way, as well.

From the conversion of Constantine… This rings true to me when I read that Lynne White thesis ‘The Roots of our Ecological Crisis’ and when I also read and actually what he doesn’t talk about is the burning of witches in Europe, the specific targeting of women spiritual leadership in that way… so it’s also an important thing to include when we are talking about the doctrine of discovery and the papal bulls because I think it’s a part of the same story.”

The Center for Earth Ethics is an institute at Union Theological Seminary that envisions a world where value is measured according to the sustained well-being of all people and our planet. Learn more at their website www.centerforearthethics.org

CBS News covers climate change at UN General Assembly 2019 – Karenna Gore contributes

Climate Change Front and Center at UN General Assembly 2019

Originally published on CBSNews.com.  September 17, 2019

CBS News’ Pamela Falk covers the Climate Crisis ahead of the UN Climate Summit.  CBS has joined 250 news sources committed to a week of climate coverage – Climate Coverage Now.

“There is good reason why most world leaders consistently identify it as the preeminent and central challenge for humanity in our time,” Karenna Gore, director of the Center for Earth Ethics at the Colombia University-affiliated Union Theological Seminary, told CBS News.

recent CBS News Poll found that a majority of Americans say action needs to be taken right now to address climate change. Most consider it to be at least a “serious problem” — including more than a quarter who say it is a “crisis.”

The U.N.’s Climate Action Summit begins on September 23, and is expected to be a forum to hold countries accountable to the international commitments they made to cut global warming as part of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

That summit will be preceded by the Youth Climate Summit — a gathering of young global climate campaigners who have organized worldwide demonstrations this year. They’re calling for another “global climate strike” this Friday, with 800 events planned in the U.S. alone and corresponding rallies around the world.

The “climate strike” initiative was sparked by teen activist Greta Thunberg, who first made news last year with her solitary strike against climate change in her native Sweden. Since then she has been joined by millions of supporters rallying in more than 150 countries. She told “CBS This Morning” last week that she hopes world leaders will “step out of their comfort zones to prevent the worst consequences from happening.”

“Climate change threatens to undo the last 50 years of progress in development, global health, and poverty reduction,” U.N. Special Rapporteur Philip Alston told diplomats recently, warning that “it could push more than 120 million more people into poverty by 2030 and will have the most severe impact in poor countries, regions, and the places poor people live and work.”

Read more…

Center for Earth Ethics Affiliates with Columbia Earth Institute

Beginning October 2019, the Center for Earth Ethics will affiliate with the Earth Institute at Columbia University. Karenna Gore, as director of CEE, will become an ex-officio member of the EI Faculty.

The Earth Institute (EI) is comprised of nearly 2,000 professionals – including researchers, students, and academics – from across Columbia University. It is a unique gathering place for transdisciplinary conversations to advance Global Sustainability Solutions. EI understands that there is no single solution to sustainability in the time of climate change, and that only collaboration will we be able to adequately address the most pressing issues of our times

As a new partner, CEE will have the opportunity to contribute our earth ethical lens to these conversations. Our experience working with frontline, indigenous, and faith communities coupled with our comprehensive scholarship and research will be an important value add to the EI community.

It is an exciting opportunity to work with new partners to research and implement much needed solutions to the climate crisis. Look forward to future news about joint projects with EI and updates on ways to become more involved.

 

CEE Gains Consultative Status with United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)

The Center for Earth Ethics is pleased to announce that the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations adopted the recommendation of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to grant Special Consultative status to CEE (via Union Theological Seminary).

Consultative status will enable the Center to actively engage with ECOSOC and its subsidiary bodies, as well as with the United Nations Secretariat, programs, funds and agencies in a number of ways. CEE will now be able to participate in the work of the Council, including opportunities to consult with Member States and the United Nations system at large.

Working directly with the United Nations will advance CEEs programmatic goals of advancing conversations between frontline and Indigenous communities with policymakers, providing policy recommendations, and establishing key relationships to encourage meaningful action on the climate crisis. It is an opportunity to work with high-level actors on the world’s most pressing issues at global summits and meetings. With consultative status, the Center will be informed of the Economic and Social Council provisional agenda and have the ability to request through the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations that the Secretary General add items of special interest.

We will use this new platform to continue our mission of building a world where value is measured according to the sustained well-being of all people and our planet.

Reorienting Humanity toward Nature: Eco-ministry is the great work of our time

Originally Published Tuesday, Feb 26, 2019 by Teachers College Newsroom

It seems fair to say that Karenna Gore knows as well as anyone that elective politics can be arduous, gridlocked and ultimately disappointing. Also that she’s got a bit of a family connection to the issue of climate change.

So Gore’s current job, directing a nonprofit called The Center for Earth Ethics, isn’t surprising. That the Center is based at Union Theological Seminary, however, bears more reflection.

“I actually never intended to work in climate change,” Gore, who toiled for her father’s campaign in the contested 2000 presidential election, told a rapt audience during a talk she gave at Teachers College’s Spirituality Mind Body Institute Winter Intensive in January. But the year she started work at Union – initially directing its Forum conference and lecture series – the United Nations held a summit on climate at which then Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, lamenting the inability of governments to act, called on civil society to mobilize on the issue. Gore, who had earned a master’s degree at Union in 2013, realized that interfaith dialogue could tap a powerful source of motivation – particularly if it reached beyond the typical focus on just Christianity, Judaism and Islam – and convened her own “Religions for the Earth” conference at Union.

Humanity has to reorient itself toward nature, and many indigenous ceremonies occur in a natural setting. Yet these faiths are often disrespected, which says a lot about why we’re at this pass with the environment.”

— Karenna Gore

“Humanity has to reorient itself toward nature, and many indigenous ceremonies occur in a natural setting,” she said. “Yet these faiths are often disrespected, which says a lot about why we’re at this pass with the environment.”

Gore quoted the late theologian and civil rights advocate Howard Thurman’s observation that “One of the deceptive aspects of mind in man is to give him the illusion of being distinct from and over against but not a part of nature,” and that this conceit enables him not only to exploit the natural environment but “plunder it, and rape it with impunity,” becoming “more and more… alien on the earth and fouler of his own nest.”

Citing a 1967 paper by the Princeton historian Lynn Townsend White, “The Roots of Our Ecological Crisis,” Gore said that the victory of Christianity over paganism was a critical turning point in humanity’s co-existence with nature.

UNEXPECTED PATH Gore didn't plan to work in climate change, but the UN's call to the civil sector changed her thinking.
UNEXPECTED PATH Gore didn’t plan to work in climate change, but the UN’s call to the civil sector changed her thinking.

“You value what you’re taught to notice and relate to,” she said. “People had been taught to greet the sunrise at a river. And then in the Middle Ages that’s banned and called satanic. The relationship to nature is broken, at the same time as the rise of mercantilism.”

The Vatican subsequently empowered Christian European explorers to vanquish and subdue native peoples, Gore said, reflecting the view that some human beings are subjects and everything else is an object. The slave trade reflected the same mentality, she said and so does America’s current obsession with constant economic growth and the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as the ultimate measure of our society’s success.

“Robert F. Kennedy once said that GDP measures everything in life except everything of real value,” Gore said, including the depletion of natural resources, the comfort and happiness of most people, and work in the home, which has not been monetized and is almost exclusively performed by women.

We need to seek other measures, like Bhutan’s happiness index, to change the conversation,. If we don’t, we’ll be up against the same thing with each discussion of pipelines and the opening up of the Amazon rain forest.”

— Karenna Gore

“We need to seek other measures, like Bhutan’s happiness index, to change the conversation,” Gore said. “If we don’t, we’ll be up against the same thing with each discussion of pipelines and the opening up of the Amazon rain forest.”

Gore concluded with the assertion that “eco-ministry is the great hope of our time.” That work includes civic actions such as the 2016 Dakota Access Pipeline Protests that arose against plans to run an oil pipeline through the Standing Rock reservation.

“There is racism in the placement of toxic facilities – they often go where ‘people don’t count,’” she said. Standing Rock was “a great coming together of protectors, not protesters – an example of how environmental justice and civic engagement are calling us to the front lines.”

Author: Joe Levine

The Winter Intensive is part of the SMBI master’s program, which includes 10 days in the summer and four in the winter. The intensive offers a blended learning format, with students of all ages flying to TC from around the world. Click here to learn more.

Interview with CEE Scholar in Residence Geraldine Patrick on Recovering the Mayan Calendar

Dario Gutierrez Rueda interviews CEE Scholar in Residence Geraldine Patrick about recovering the Mayan Calendar. She 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, Patrick Encina 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.