Month: June 2020

Catherine Flowers recognized among Black Climate Scientists & Scholars “Changing the World”

Excerpts from “The Black Climate Scientists and Scholars Changing the World” by Read the Full Article on Green Matters.

That also means the environmental movement has so much to gain by listening to voices of color in the climate space. There are numerous brilliant Black scientists and scholars in the climate movement; we’ve highlighted just a few of them below, including quotes from each of them about the connections between climate justice and racial justice. This list is by no means exhaustive, but a starting point for learning about some of the Black scientists and scholars using climate science to make the world a better place.

Keep reading to learn about six Black scientists and scholars who have made indelible marks on the journey to climate justice…

Catherine Coleman Flowers is the founder of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice (CREEJ), founder of the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise Community Development Corporation (ACRE), a member of the Board of Directors for the Climate Reality Project, the Rural Development Manager for the Equal Justice Initiative, and a Senior Fellow for the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary, according to the Center for Earth Ethics.

Her work largely focuses on finding solutions to the water and sanitation crises in poor rural communities across the U.S. — a topic she detailed in her book Waste: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret, set to be released on Nov. 17, 2020.

If you are looking for ways to donate your time or money to Black Lives Matter and other antiracist organizations, we have created a list of resources to get you started.

Read more on Green Matters

Fall 2019 – Regional Ministers Training: A Community Response to Climate Change 

A Community Response to Climate Change Program

December 4- December 5, 2019 

Claremont School of Theology at Willamette University Salem, OR 

Putnam University Center Willamette University 900 State St. Salem, OR 97301 

Shepard House Willamette University 820 Mill Street Salem Oregon 97301 

 

Wednesday December 4th 

10:00 AM Registration and Housing Check-In 11:45 AM Location: Putnam University Center, 3rd Flood 

11:45 AM Opening and Welcome – A Theology of Interconnectedness 12:30 PM Location: Alumni Lounge, Putnam Center, 3rd Floor 

Presenters: Andrew Schwartz, Jan Elfers, Jill Leaness, and Michael Ellick 

12:30 PM Lunch and Table Activity 1:30 PM Location: Alumni Lounge, Putnam Center, 3rd Floor 

Eat Lunch and get to know your tablemates while answering questions about who you are and what brought you here. 

1:30 PM Reflect and Share: Connecting the Dots 2:30 PM Location: Alumni Lounge, Putnam Center, 3rd Floor 

Climate change is often seen as a separate and solely environmental problem that should be left to the scientists and environmentalists to solve. In this workshop we will connect some of the wide-reaching impacts of the climate crisis with other sectors, and provide examples of different actions that are being taken to address the issues. 

Presenters: Jill Leaness and Rebeca Cipollitti 

2:30 PM Break

2:45 PM Reflect and Share: Identifying the Problems 4:00 PM Location: Alumni Lounge, Putnam Center, 3rd Floor 

What climate impacts is your community experiencing? What have you witnessed in your own backyard? We will take this time to explore how climate change is impacting those in the room and the communities they serve. 

Presenters: Jill Leaness and Rebeca Cipollitti 

4:00 PM Break 

4:15 PM Listen and Learn: Bridging the Divide 5:30 PM Location: Alumni Lounge, Putnam Center, 3rd Floor 

An opportunity to reflect on what happened with HB 2020 and develop next steps. In this block, we will have a series of presentations to layout what happened in 2019 and what can be expected in 2020. Following the presentations and Q&A, we will break into small groups for more focused conversations 

Presenters: Jan Elfers and Britt Conroy 

5:45 PM Dinner 

7:00 PM Location: Goudy Commons (reserved dining room) 

7:30 PM Optional Get Together 9:00 PM Location: Willamette University Tree Lighting Festival and/or Grand Hotel 

 

Thursday, December 5, 2019 

8:00 AM Breakfast 9:00 AM Location: Goudy Commons or Catered Shepard House 

9:00 AM Morning Meditation and Theological Reflection 9:30 AM Location: Alumni Lounge, Putnam Center, 3rd Floor 

9:30 AM Listen and Learn: Felt Impacts From Frontline Communities 10:45 AM Location: Putnam Center 

Throughout Oregon communities are feeling the impacts of Climate Change. This panel will feature voices from around the state to share stories of how climate change is reshaping their communities, and the actions they are taking to address the issues. 

Speakers 

Oriana Magenra Climate and Energy Policy Coordinator, Verde Pastor E.D Mondainé – President, Portland NAACP Jeremy Five Crows – Public Affairs Specialist, Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission Rev. Linda Jaramillo – Board Chair, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon 

10:45 AM Break 10:55 AM 

10:55 AM Connect and Communicate: Storytelling and Theology Workshops 12:00 PM Location: Alumni Lounge, Putnam Center, 3rd Floor and Other Room 

This sessions offers two breakout sessions designed to help us tell our own climate stories and the other to help us deepen our knowledge on eco-theology. 

Two sessions of 30 minutes each to allow participants to attend both sessions. 

Session One: 10:55 am – 11:25 am Session Two: 11:30 am – 12:00 pm 

Room Session Facilitator 

Alumni Room 

Storytelling Workshop Jill Leaness and Rebeca Cipollitti, 

Climate Reality Project 

Autzen Room 

Towards and Ecological Philip Civilization 

Clayton and Wm. Andrew Schwartz, Claremont School of Theology 

12:00 PM Lunch 1:00 PM Location: Catered Lunch Alumni Lounge, Putnam Center, 3rd Floor 

1:00 PM Plan and Act: Identifying Solutions 2:00 PM Location: Alumni Lounge, Putnam Center, 3rd Floor and Other Room 

In this session, we will break into discussion groups to explore a variety of paths to help promote meaningful change in our communities and across the state, based on the problems we identified Wednesday afternoon. 

Presenters: Jill Leaness and Andrew Schwartz 

2:00 PM Plan and Act: Pathways for Change – Report Backs and Next Steps 3:30 PM Location: Alumni Lounge, Putnam Center, 3rd Floor and Other Room 

For our final activity, we will break into regional groups to brainstorm actions that can work in our home communities, what won’t, and outlining what we’ll need to be effective. 

3:30 PM Closing Prayer and Depart 

Mindahi Bastida and Tiokasin Ghosthorse join other indigenous voices contributing to National Geographic Corona Virus Coverage

Traditional indigenous beliefs are a powerful tool for understanding the pandemic

Native American spiritual leaders say this is a time to recalibrate for a better future.

Read the complete article at National Geographic online – May 12, 2020

***

‘Blood memory’

For indigenous people, history plays an unavoidable role in interpreting the pandemic. One elder from Michigan called Joseph to talk about how difficult it’s been for her to care for herself and her family. After some reflection, the woman realized why: She was weighed down by thoughts of the smallpox epidemic that had killed so many Native Americans. She felt she needed to forgive the U.S. government for intentionally giving her people the illness.

While documentary evidence that Europeans or Americans purposely spread smallpox is scarce, there’s little doubt that colonizers brought infectious diseases that killed an estimated 90 percent—some 20 million people or more—of the indigenous population in the Americas. “Even though we may not have been alive in the time of the smallpox epidemic, that’s in our blood memory,” says Joseph, “just as historical resiliency is also in our blood memory.”

Those deeply rooted experiences can lead to acceptance, especially among elders. “They have been through so much and experienced so much that there’s no need to fear or even panic,” says Tiokasin Ghosthorse, the Stoneridge, New York-based host of First Voices Radio and a member of the Cheyenne River Lakota Nation from South Dakota. “It’s almost like this [pandemic] is familiar.”

As such, indigenous communities aren’t dwelling on the pandemic’s backstory. “Indigenous peoples don’t always need to go and explain what happened, why it happened,” says the Reverend David Wilson, a Methodist minister in Oklahoma City and member of the Choctaw Nation. “We just know it’s there.”

“We’re taught not to think of nature as separate,” explains Ghosthorse, and that includes COVID-19. “The coronavirus is a being,” he says. “And we have to respect that being in an ‘awe state’ and a ‘wonder state’ because it has come to us as a medicine” to treat spiritual ills.

Lessons for the future

While this pandemic is presenting an opportunity to find meaningful ways to connect, it’s also a wake-up call with important lessons for the future. “If we don’t learn from now,” warns Mindahi Bastida Muñoz, general coordinator of the Otomi-Toltec Regional Council in Mexico, “then another thing, more powerful, is going to come.”

Bastida, who is also the director of the Original Caretakers program at the Center for Earth Ethics in New York City, says the world is out of balance and that anthropocentrism—our human-centric outlook—is the cause. “We think that we are the ones who can decide everything,” he says, “but we are killing ourselves.”

It doesn’t matter where the coronavirus came from, says Mindahi Bastida Muñoz, a member of the Otomi and Tolteca people in Mexico who is sheltering with friends in Granville

… Read More PHOTOGRAPH BY JOSUÉ RIVAS, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

“Mother Earth is saying, ‘please listen,’” adds Joyce Bryant, known as Grandmother Sasa, the Abenaki founder of a healing center in New Hampshire. “We have to care about others. You know, the grass, the trees, the plants, the air, the water—all are extensions of ourselves. And they teach us.”

“Living in harmony with Mother Earth is a lot of work,” says Bastida, but it can be done by reviving the indigenous idea that humans serve as caregivers of nature. He’s working with spiritual leaders across the world to return to the old ways—producing food by hand, finding medicine in plants, animals, and minerals, and performing rituals and ceremonies that send prayers to Mother Earth.

Perhaps the biggest lesson that indigenous spiritual leaders hope people will take from the pandemic is that it’s a time to be still, to reflect, and to listen to elders. Both Joseph and Wilson likened this period of stay-at-home orders to a long winter, when people would traditionally stay inside and listen to stories. According to Joseph, it’s like Earth is saying “not today, humans, you need some more reflection.”

The Spirit is Action: A Call for Justice

Mindahi Bastida, General Coordinator of the Otomi-Toltec Regional Council in Mexico, issued a statement in response to the murder of Maya Traditional Leader, Domingo Choc, in Guatemala. A video of Mindahi reading his response was recorded and can be viewed here. Read the statement below.

The Indigenous Peoples of the world are the ones who care for life and the Earth, our Mother, since time immemorial. It is time to recognize our work and that others recognize it fully. We are the main guardians of Diversity and Biocultural Heritage in the world. The greatest biocultural diversity is found in our territories, and this is thanks to our material and spiritual practices, which are based on the ancient wisdom of caring for life and relating with the sacred.

Our territories and the collective life of our peoples, both material and spiritual, are seriously threatened by the increasing deterioration of ecosystems and territories resulting from neoliberal economic development. It is urgent to halt ecocide and ethnocide not only to protect nature but to protect its guardians. If we want to protect the biological diversity of the world, it is necessary that national and international entities give absolute guarantees of protection to indigenous peoples, and especially to their spiritual and material leaders.

The historical and recent events of assassinations of indigenous leaders throughout the world have being taking place since the invasion of our territories. The Doctrine of Discovery has been in effect for at least 520 years and the colonial process of domination has been, and still is, devastating. Among other acts against life that we witness and suffer daily, we see with horror that those exercising ancestral spirituality in their own right are being victims of practices from the times of the Inquisition.

On June 6, Domingo Choc, Maya-Q’echi, a Spiritual Leader and Traditional Maya Healer, was burned alive in the Chimay Village, San Luis, Petén, Guatemala. A number of Pentecostal evangelicals set him on fire accusing him of being ‘a witch’. They killed him for practicing Mayan spirituality and, as inquisitors, they did it in proclamation of their Christian faith.

This aberrant and horrendous event is not an isolated case, for it happens often in many countries of the world. In Colombia, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and in other countries and continents such as Africa, indigenous spiritual and material leaders are assassinated or arrested for who they are and what they do—which is only in benefit of a good life for the community.

Taking into consideration the circumstances that led to this act, we demand Justice in the following terms:
1. Criminal and spiritual punishment to the material authors of the murder of Domingo Choc, basing the criminal punishment on articles 36 and 66 of the Political Constitution of Guatemala which refer to freedom of religion and that recognize the ethnic origin of the nation.
2. Granting of protection to the spiritual and material guardians and traditional authorities of Indigenous Peoples of Guatemala, Central and South America and the World.
3. Establishment of an inter-religious and spiritual dialogue to raise awareness and application of spiritual justice based on religious norms.
4. Investigation of cases related to bioprospection and access to traditional knowledge of medicinal plants in the territories of Indigenous Peoples.

It is time to promote the unification process with dignity, recognizing diversity. We all have rights, and we all have the responsibility, individually and collectively, to promote intercultural and inter-spiritual dialogue.

With respect and self-determination, on day 10 Reed, Zanbatha, Valley of the Moon, México. Mindahi Crescencio Bastida Muñoz
Otomi-Toltec
Member of the Alliance of Guardians of Mother Earth
With the support of the Center for Earth Ethics

World Environment Day 2020 – Karenna Gore

Today is World Environment Day. Our nation is going through a painful reckoning with systemic racism and worsening economic inequity, so the “environment” can seem to be a lesser concern. But as many Native American and Black voices have pointed out, ecological, racial and economic issues have always been intertwined.

Consider Donald Trump’s current favorite word: domination. The presence of “white” people in this land began with a theological claim, based on an interpretation of the concept of “dominion” in the book of Genesis. In the mid 15th century, the Vatican issued papal bulls (declarations) that stated that European explorers were on a mission for Christianity to “conquer,” “vanquish” and “subdue” the regions we now know as the Americas and Africa. These bulls explicitly stated that the people in those lands were part of the flora and fauna. This dehumanizing thought system later became enshrined in law as the “Doctrine of Discovery” which was used to justify the taking of land from Native American peoples. You can learn more about this in the book Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery by Steven Newcomb and through the Indigenous Values Initiative.

Donald Trump’s call for domination was paired with a photo op visit to a church to hold up a Bible. This is not just a superficial dog whistle to a racist white evangelical base. It is a desperate grasp at an entrenched and deranged theological tradition that was foundational to our nation.

The marriage of Christianity and empire began with the conversion of the Roman Emperor Constantine in the early 4th century. This was the driving force in stamping out indigenous Earth-based spirituality (“paganism”) in Europe. The famous essay by Lynn White, Jr.—The Historic Roots of our Ecologic Crisis, argued that this was the defining moment for the trajectory of ecological devastation that he identified as perilous even back in 1967. One thing White does not mention, but many other scholars have (particular in the fields of eco-feminism and eco-womanism), is that this also involved the persecution of the the women who kept the Earth-based spiritual traditions of Europe, and the characterization of the female body as profane and the female mind as inferior. Needless to say, there is plenty of that spirit in Trumpism too.

Our American civil religion, including the notion of “manifest destiny” and the concept of “American exceptionalism” is so secularized and commonplace that many do not see how deeply theological it is. As the Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas has brilliantly documented, whiteness is a theo-political construct that was honed over centuries to be an inherently oppositional force against black and brown bodies. You can learn more about this in her book Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God.

In this moment, we must make the connections to theology to understand the deep historic and psycho-social forces that Donald Trump is drawing on. As he blatantly invokes Christianity to dominate people he deems dangerous and unworthy, his administration has also ordered a suspension of enforcement of environmental regulations. What is the number one indicator of the placement of a toxic facility in this country? The race of the people who live nearby. Black children are ten times more likely to die of asthma in this country than white children. There are many current struggles around racial discrimination in the sitings of petrochemical factories, fracking wells, compressor stations, pipelines, incinerators and so on. The toxins from these sites cause respiratory, cardiac and other underlying health problems that also make people more vulnerable to coronavirus. You can learn more about the role of structural racism in health disparities on this Earth Institute blog and also from the work of the NAACP environmental and climate justice program.

The United Nations established World Environment Day in 1972, part of the same wave of consciousness that led to the first Earth Day in 1970, the establishment of the EPA, and the passing of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act, all of which are under assault by the Trump administration today.

That consciousness was quickly stymied by the Reagan Revolution. The Reagan Administration’s statement on World Environment Day in 1986* claimed that “Americans turned a nearly unpopulated continent into a prosperous, peaceful, and protective home for 240 million persons” and dismisses the concept of sustainability, not to mention the intrinsic value of nature. It is actually worth reading in its entirety, as a record of the deeply mistaken thinking that got us into the mess we are in. Here is one of many places you can learn more about the diverse and vibrant Native American cultures that were here before Europeans arrived: Nation Museum of the American Indian.

Now is the time to change on the level of cause rather than react on the level of effect. As we mark this World Environment Day, let us examine the thought systems that have been so prevalent they have become invisible. Let us honor those Black and Indigenous voices that have led the way in the environmental movement. And let us continue to sit with the profound meaning and implications of the words spoken by both Eric Garner and George Floyd: “I can’t breathe.” That is the charge of World Environment Day 2020.