Center for Earth Ethics Director Karenna Gore and Episcopal Divinity School at UTS Director Dean Kelly Brown Douglas are exploring dimensions of Interfaith and Intersectionality: where faith, social justice, racial justice and ecological justice meet. CEE and EDS share a spirit for theological inquiry as to unmask the root causes of injustice and where systems of oppression are linked. As we gain an understanding of the root, we are provided with insight for the solutions required for systemic and integral change.
SAVE the DATE!
The Center for Earth Ethics and Episcopal Divinity School are teaming up for an evening Interfaith Gathering on the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day.
Wednesday April 22nd, at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.
More about the work of the Center for Earth Ethics and EDS at Union to date…
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. Published September 12, 2019.
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/
EDS at Union’s Facebook Live discussion on “Care of Creation” is on now. Dean Kelly Brown Douglas is speaking with EDS alumna the Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas and Karenna Gore, Director of Union Theological Seminary’s Center for Earth Ethics. Published July 10, 2018.
EDS at Union's Facebook Live discussion on "Care of Creation" is on now. Dean Kelly Brown Douglas is speaking with EDS alumna the Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas and Karenna Gore, Director of Union Theological Seminary's Center for Earth Ethics. #GC79
“Thanks, no need for February 29”, says Maya calendar to Gregorian calendar.
Ever since the first friars were describing the clockwork of the Mesoamerican calendar system, there has been a hot dispute about whether a 365-day reckoning system could remain fixed to a single solar date. This is because, as we know, a trained observer of the Sun’s year cycle will notice that the Sun returns to its middle point on the horizon after a number of days that fluctuates between 365, 365, 365 and 366.
In the Yucatan Peninsula, Franciscan friar Juan Diego de Landa explained that the Maya calendar accounted for 365 k’in and six hours, the same is said in the contemporary Huichapan Codex for the Otomi calendar. However, the abstract thought required to explain how that actually worked seems to have been absent among Western scholars. Did the six hours (or quarter-day) build up for four consecutive years so to produce an extra day? Did the quarter-day play in the timekeeping immediately after the 365 k’in?
As centuries went by and traditional timekeepers were systematically deprived of maintaining their original timekeeping rituals, it became a convention to say that the Mesoamerican Calendar is imprecise or imperfect. Just as inquisitorial processes accused Maya priests and astronomers of working with evil, their calendar system, a most precious intellectual product, was sentenced to forever lag behind and be useless as an instrument to keep track of seasons and related year-cycle festivities.
After almost two decades of collective research with Otomi, Yucatec, K’iche and Kaqchikel scholars and traditional priests, we have advanced in understanding that the ‘mystery’ of the last quarter-day lies in the role played by the so-called four Year Bearers. They stand in each quadrant of a traditional community and have the key task of counting 365 k’in a quarter of a day later than their neighboring bearer within a four-year cycle. The Year Bearers are reported by friar Landa but are no longer present in Yucatan time keeping. They had specific names and orientations, and people were in charge of activating each Year Bearer from east to north to west to south. In Santiago Atitlan, a traditional Guatemalan community at the feet of two sacred volcanoes by the shore of a lake, it is Maximom who is the keeper of four community wards. His image appears on Figure 1. Every year, he is moved from ward to ward and a new tie is wrapped around his neck to symbolize the completion of a new cycle.
These practices show the importance of rituals in preserving key aspects of traditional knowledge. As reminiscence of the original ways of keeping the calendar in pace with the Sun cycle, they are key today in helping communities recover its harmonious way of relating with natural cycles.
Today we are closer to the day when Maya timekeepers will say, “Thanks, no need for February 29, our ancestors developed their own way of keeping in pace with the Sun!”
Geraldine Ann Patrick Encina is a Scholar in Residence for Union Theological Seminary and Original Caretakers Fellow at the Center for Earth Ethics. 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.
The Holy Land Living Water event, organized by Unity Earth in collaboration with EcoPeace Middle East and in partnership with the United Religions Initiative, has been a historic journey of spirit, music and ecology. The event took place on February 1-7, 2020, and we visited sacred places and shared rituals and ceremonies in Jordan, Israel and Palestine.
This journey and pilgrimage forms part of Unity Earth’s Road to 2020, “a series of worldwide events designed to capture new opportunities for weaving a spirit of unity and peaceful coexistence across the Earth”. The Jordan River Valley, which is of high importance for the Abrahamic Religions, was the main focus of the journey along with visits to related sacred places. In the Middle East, water is critical for survival of many species and people and it has been under dispute for decades.
The Jordan River is a sacred river. Over the past fifty years almost all of the waters have been diverted and the remaining waters have been polluted and commodified, especially in the Lower Jordan. This means the Jordan River Valley has been under desecration and is now facing ecological crisis. This injustice is threatening the people and the environment, and it is a situation that is being addressed in a joint effort to recover peace and dignity in the Holy Land. One of the purposes of this journey has been to bring attention to the importance of cooperation around water management and about the human relationship with water for a higher standard of living in the territory. This could enhance sustainable livelihoods and generate regional political stability.
This event brought ecologists and spiritual leaders from different faith traditions to share about the importance to uphold a common conviction, not just among monotheist Abrahamic faiths. We also spoke about the importance to practice responsible stewardship for the land and specifically for water, because the sacred element of water is at the core of raising awareness about our relationship with nature and ultimately with Mother Earth. There is an urgent need to achieve peace among peoples, but most important is to be at peace with Mother Earth – our common home.
It has also been the intention of this international event to bring public awareness to the work of EcoPeace about the socio-ecological rehabilitation and sustainability of the lower Jordan Valley, shared by Jordan, Palestine and Israel. The event has used a “faith-based approach showcased in EcoPeace’s Regional NGO Master Plan for the Sustainable Development of the Jordan River Valley, as the symbolism of the Jordan River can encourage Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faithful to actively support conservation efforts of this shared natural resource”. This was affirmed during our trip and addressed at the Dead Sea Convergence: Interfaith Ecology Conference held on February 2nd.
In the trip there were more than ninety international delegates and around forty delegates from the region. Among the delegates were representatives of Indigenous Peoples from Mexico (Otomi-Toltec), United States (Dine-Navajo, Lakota), Canada (Anishinaabe), Australia (Aboriginals) and Thailand (Karen).
There were also representatives of different faith traditions, spiritual leaders of Islam, Christians, Jewish, Buddhists among others. The presence of the Green Sheik of the Arab Emirates, the Prince of Ethiopia, an Ambassador to the African Union, reggae and traditional and mystic singers, academics and scientists gave relevance to the pilgrimage.
As a representative of the Original Caretakers Program at the Center for Earth Ethics and as a spiritual representative of the Otomi-Toltec Peoples, I joined this international delegation for a historic sacred pilgrimage across the Sacred Sites of Jordan, Israel and Palestine. The Holy Land Living Water journey was dedicated principally to share worldviews, ceremonies and prayers mainly to the Jordan River Holy waters.
This event also took place in the framework of celebrating the United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week. My participation at this event was to share and conduct the Four Directions Ceremony – Water Ceremony by the Dead Sea with all delegates, especially with the leadership of Indigenous spiritual leaders, to honor the Holy Land, the Dead Sea and the Jordan River.
We visited the most sacred places where we honored the sacred sites. During our journey we went to Al Maghtas Baptism Site, Abu-Obeida Mosque, Mount of Temptation, Church of Nativity Bethlehem, the old city of Jerusalem, Sea of Galilee, and carried out a special ceremony for Peace and Healing at Megiddo (Armageddon), led by Indigenous Spiritual Elders. At the end of the journey there was the U-NITE Harmony Week Concert and the visit to the Bahá’i Gardens in Haifa in order to close the trip and celebrate Unity.
I have been participating with Unity Earth in previous similar events in Australia, Ethiopia, the US and Canada. In all the events I have been representing my ancestral Indigenous spirituality. My work has been to share ancestral wisdom of Indigenous Peoples and to share values through indigenous ceremonies and also through speeches. This has also helped to support the work that we do at Center for Earth Ethics, called Healing and Balancing Mother Earth and Protecting Sacred Sites, which we carry out worldwide thanks to the support of Forum 21, The Fountain, and other private contributions.
In our view, the Jordan River is a biocultural sacred river that is meaningful to the region and the world, and healing and balance is needed. We want to continue to raise awareness about this situation and join efforts with the Regional NGO EcoPeace and other local initiatives.
A message from the Dead Sea
I arrived at Amman, Jordan, together with my friends, reggae singers Pato Banton and Antoinette Rootsdawtah. It was late when we got to the hotel by the shores of the Dead Sea, it was already around 2 am of February 2nd , and I went to sleep soon after, but it was just for less than an hour because a strong energy woke me up. When it was at 3 am when I began to hear a deep wailing. I didn’t get scared, but it was a hurtful cry. The crying lasted for at least ten minutes. I began to pray and concentrate so I could know where this crying was coming from. After some minutes I realized that everything was in complete silence, so I could distinguish the direction of the howling. It took me some time to understand that it was a feminine wailing and that it was coming from the heart of the Dead Sea. Then, I understood that it was the crying of Mother Earth, it was the crying of the Holy Waters that are suffering and are asking for help.
We want to take you now to NorthernIsrael to the historic site of Megiddo where a peaceproject called LIVING WATERS brought togetherspiritual and political leaders. Among them, the grandsonof Ethiopia’s Emperor. Our correspondent Emily Francestells us more.
CEE is proud to announce that we have formally partnered with the Big Shift Global campaign.The Big Shift Global (BSG) is a multi-stakeholder, global campaign coordinated by organizations from the Global North and South. Together, we aim to make the people’s views on energy finance known to Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs), their Executive Directors, as well as the Heads of State and Finance Ministers of the members countries.
CEE got involved because we cannot adequately address the climate crisis while the world keeps bankrolling and burning fossil fuels. It’s like trying to patch a hole in a bucket that doesn’t have a bottom. You’re solving for the wrong problem. We want to solve for the right problems which means getting money away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy projects that will bring clean, affordable energy the world round. There are a lot of banks and financial institutions that invest in fossil fuels and with this campaign we’re focusing on Multilateral Development Banks, which we get into below.
What’s a Multilateral Development Bank
Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) are institutions composed by a group of countries that provide financing and professional advising for the purpose of development. Development here is a broad category. It can be anything from fossil fuel projects to infrastructure, financial development, or agricultural development. Really anything needed to make society function. MDBs finance projects in the form of long-term loans at market rates, very-long-term loans (also known as credits) below market rates, and through grants.
For reference, the USA is a member of five MDBs: the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the African Development Bank.
How do MDBs Work
Great question. MDBs are made up by lending countries (rich countries) and borrowing countries (not rich countries). While it’s far more complicated than this, basically the rich countries pool their money together in the MDBs and then decide which projects they want to fund in which countries. There’s a lot that goes into this process including applications and indicators for returns on the investment (ROIs) and loan repayment plans but at the end of the day, the MDBs essentially have the say in what countries and what projects are worthy of their investment.
For decades, the sure fire money makers have been and continue to be fossil fuel development projects. With Paris and climate change on people’s minds, many MDBs have shifted towards renewable, sustainable projects but not all of them, and even the ones who do still keep a toe in the fossil fuel pool.
You’re Telling Me that My Tax Dollars Fund Fossil Fuel Projects Around the World
Yes. As stated above, the United States is a member in five separate MDBs. Representatives from the United States Treasury – under the leadership of Steve Mnuchin – sit on the boards of MDBs to vote which projects go forward and which ones don’t. The number of votes each representative on the board gets is typically determined by the amount of money said country has in the bank. Predictably the United States and other major economies like China and Europe tend to be big lenders and have significant sway over what does and doesn’t get funded.
MDBs, 1.5 C, and Paris
A 1.5C global temperature increase is bad. However, 1.5C is much better than 2C, which is infinitely better than a 3C increase. If we eclipse 3C then pack your things and find the high ground.
Yes. MDBs have huge potential for creating better lives and living for developing countries. MDBs can also serve as the invisible hand that picks development projects that may not necessarily be in the interest of the borrowing country but has huge upside for the lending country. There’s lots of room for corruption and for special interests to put their own interests over those of the country being lent to.
But with positivity in mind, MDBs can and have acted as positive forces for good. They are increasingly shaping their investment strategies to the shifting needs of climate and energy finance. This includes innovative projects around wind and solar, which bring energy to previously energy starved areas.
This piece is essential for BSG. It’s not only about getting money out of fossil fuels but using the shift to renewables to improve currently impoverished regions. Unlike fossil fuel driven energy sources, wind and solar can be adapted to most any region to provide on the spot energy. Neither wind nor solar require the drills and wells and bulky housing units that fossil fuels do. Renewables can mark a just transition towards energy for all creating new jobs, now opportunities, and new for folks around the world.
Show up and speak up. We’ve learned through the divestment campaign that our voices do matter. The Big Shift Campaign is more than simply moving money away from fossil fuels. Its moving money from fossil fuels to renewable sustainable energy options that will bring energy to currently energy starved populations. This a project for human and planetary well being that moves us away from death towards life.
We know what doesn’t work. We know what is causing the planet to fall a part. We know who is responsible for it. We all know what does work and what can be done. Keeping on this current path is like someone with lung cancer investing in a lifetime’s supply of cigarettes. It just doesn’t make sense. Let’s speak the truth and do what makes sense. Let’s tell MDBs and our governments that we want to invest in life.
Rev. William Barber, co-chair of the new Poor Peoples Campaign said, “I really feel that, in some sense, Apache elder and my brother Wendsler Nosie Sr. is America’s Gandhi in this moment. A lot of our struggles start with lone individuals acting in ways that affect the whole.”
The protection of sacred sites of the original peoples is a moral and ecological imperative. The United States of America is built upon the ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness including freedom of religion, and equal protections under the law. The Center for Earth Ethics stands in solidarity with Wendsler Nosie, Sr. and his commitment to protect and defend the Sacred Sites of the Apache Nation.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.
Oak Flat is under threat of destruction by Resolution Copper, a joint venture owned in part by Rio Tinto, one of the largest metal and mining companies in the world. Wendsler, with the blessings of the Apache Stronghold, has decided that he will not leave the sacred site until it is protected, and his tribe’s Constitutional and moral rights to religious freedom are respected, even if it means losing his life. National Co-Chair and President of Repairers of the Breach, Rev. Dr. Barber, along with Rev. John Mendez, Rev. Dr. Robin Tanner, and Ms. Yara Allen were present as he started this journey home.
In the Apache tradition, the waters at Oak Flat are the source of all life. Generations of Apache have come to pray for thousands of years at this most holy site. After years of unsuccessful negotiations and a corruption scandal that landed an Arizona Congressman in prison, Resolution Copper was given the rights to mine Oak Flat as part of a last-minute rider that then-Senator John McCain added to the 2014 Defense Spending Bill. To process the copper ore, the proposed extraction would use 6.5 billion gallons of water annually — as much water as a small city — which would then be polluted with sulfuric acid. These operations would replace the holy ground with a gaping crater, two miles wide and one thousand feet deep.
The only thing standing between Resolution Copper and the mining rights they have already been granted is an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The EIS must be certified by the federal government before private companies can begin mining public lands. During the required public comment period on the EIS, Wendsler argued that, while the environmental impact of this proposed project would be devastating, the bigger issue is in fact religious liberty.
In a joint statement with the current San Carlos Apache Chairman Terry Rambler, Wendsler wrote, “the Oak Flat Draft Environmental Impact Statement does not address the current religious significance and the value given to Oak Flat by the Apache people, Yavapai people, Aravaipa and many others…Native American Religion has been excluded from the areas of concern and value.” However, the U.S. Forest Service has refused to consider the Apache’s religious freedom claim in its EIS.
Two weeks ago, Wendsler and a delegation from the Apache Stronghold went to Washington D.C. to meet with the U.S. Forest Service and deliver the statement of his intent to return to Oak Flat. They were joined by Rev. Barber, Rev. Theoharis and a delegation of multi-faith clergy.
Rev. Dr. Barber was introduced to Wendsler seven years ago by Rev. Mendez, who has been engaged with the Apache Stronghold for over twenty years. Since then, they have built a relationship across faith, race, issues, and geography, to find common ground in this sacred and moral struggle.
Wendsler is a member of the National Steering Committee of the Poor People’s Campaign. Along with a delegation from the San Carlos Apache, he joined the December 4th, 2017, official launch of the Campaign in Washington D.C. And in June 2018, following a sacred journey connecting with indigenous people across the country, the San Carlos Apache joined the Campaign in Washington D.C. for the 40 Days of Action. There on Capitol Hill, Vanessa Nosie, Wendsler’s daughter, spoke to the conditions they had witnessed on their journey.
The Poor People’s Campaign now calls on all of the people in our movement to support the Apache Stronghold in their struggle for religious freedom and the right to their sacred lands at Oak Flat.
In Rev. Barber’s and Rev. Theoharis’ words, “As Christian ministers who are committed to the freedom of religion for all people, we call on all people of faith to stand with Wendsler Nosie and the Apache Stronghold before it is too late. To preach the resurrection of Jesus is to proclaim that no one and no one’s tradition must be crucified for the greater good. We can protect the waters, protect Oak Flat, and still have enough resources for every family in this land to flourish. The history of terrible violence this nation has committed against indigenous people from the Trail of Tears to Standing Rock is a reminder that the apocalypse Nosie goes home to face is a real possibility. But it is not a necessity. We pray Americans will act to show genuine gratitude for the original stewards of this land and their religious freedom. We join our brother, Wendsler Nosie, in the call to save Oak Flat.”
Photo Credit: Lucy Yosef / Israel Nature and Parks Authority
A delegation of ninety-four senior clerics from around the world representing more than twenty different religions and groups toured the Megiddo National Park on Thursday, and held a unique, joint religious prayer service there.
The group included rabbis, imams, priests, Buddhist monks, and Native American and African clergy, among many others.
They arrived as part of their tour of the Holy Land to raise global awareness of interfaith cooperation, most importantly cross-border environmental cooperation.
This visit is organized by UNITY Earth and the EcoPeace Middle East Center.
The city of Megiddo was important in the ancient world. It guarded the western branch of a narrow pass on the most important trade route of the ancient Fertile Crescent, linking Egypt with Mesopotamia and Asia Minor and known today as Via Maris. Because of its strategic location, Megiddo was the site of several battles. It was inhabited from approximately 7000 BCE to 586 BCE, though the first significant remains date to the Chalcolithic period (4500–3500 BCE).
According to the Book of Revelation in the Christian Bible, Megiddo (Armageddon) is the prophesied location of a gathering of armies for a battle during the end times.