Author: CEE Staff

This is a Good Day – A Message for Summer Solstice

“This is a good day,” says Mona Polacca. “This is a good day to come together.”

In this blessing recorded to mark the summer solstice, Polacca, a senior fellow at the Center for Earth Ethics, reminds us of “the many blessings that the summer season brings to us.”

“We are seeking that good blessing to walk in balance and harmony,” she says. “We want to be in balance with all these things that we share life with on Mother Earth.”

Polacca leads the CEE’s Original Caretakers program, which engages Indigenous knowledge and traditions to address the spiritual and practical dimensions of environmental devastation. She is also president of the Turtle Island Project, a member of the Healing the Border Project of the Indigenous Alliance Without Borders, and a founding member of the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers.

Karenna Gore and Hildur Palsdottir on Reframing the Climate Crisis

 

Landmark and Transition Town Port Washington presentation with Karenna Gore, founder and director of The Center for Earth Ethics. Moderated by Hildur Palsdottir. This program is a part of a five-part Conversations from Main Street Climate Action Series with the goal of introducing community-centered climate solutions while also promoting individual action. Small changes to our daily routines can have lasting and impact on our environment and future.

March 18th tune in for CEE Advisor, Wes Gillingham of Catskill Mountain keeper!

Click the links below for more info and registration for these programs.

Thursday, March 18 Regeneration Revolution

Thursday, April 1 Break Free from Plastics!

Thursday, April 15 “Green” Legislation

Thursday, April 29 Envisioning 2030

The Climate Action Series is presented in partnership with Transition Town Port Washington.

More info: https://bit.ly/ClimateActionSeries

Faith groups have a key role to play in reducing climate-linked violence

Originally published December 18th by Brian Lowe for Earthbeat: a project of National Catholic Reporter at NCR Online.

***

By now it’s well understood that climate change leads to rising seas and rising temperatures. It is also increasingly linked to rising conflicts.

In 2014, the Pentagon issued a major report that referred to climate change as both posing “immediate risks to U.S. national security” and being “a ‘threat multiplier’ because it has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges we are dealing with today — from infectious disease to terrorism.”

Last year, Stanford University convened a group of top climate scientists, political scientists, economists and historians to examine the degree to which climate change has exacerbated conflicts in the past century. While it concluded that climate has had a limited effect on conflicts to date — less than factors like low socioeconomic development, weak governments and social inequalities — their study projected that warming of 2 degrees Celsius and beyond will substantially increase the risk of armed conflict.

“War is the negation of all rights and a dramatic assault on the environment,” Pope Francis tweeted on Nov. 6, the United Nations-designated International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict. He added that true integral human development must work to avoid all wars.

Tweet from Pope Francis, @Pontifex account, Nov. 20, 2020

Religious communities have a critical role to play in mitigating and resolving violent conflict stemming from rising global temperatures, says Karenna Gore, founder and director of the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary, in New York City.

In October, Gore received the 2020 Faith-in-Action Award from the International Center for Religion & Diplomacy (ICRD) for her work on how faith communities can both promote stewardship and preempt violent outbreaks.

EarthBeat recently spoke with Gore and James Patton, ICRD president and CEO, about the role of religion in mitigating and resolving violent conflicts fueled by climate change.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. (The full interview is available in the video at the top of the page or by clicking here.)

EarthBeat: The U.S. Pentagon calls climate change a “threat multiplier.” What does that mean with regard to violent conflicts?

Patton: It’s not really just about sea level rise and different temperatures in different places in the world. If the sea does rise a meter, it will put a billion people on the move, and those people go to places that are already economically stressed. And oftentimes, that causes clashes [over resources] between groups of migrants and the host communities that they land in.

Then you add to that changes in rainfall patterns, seasonal glacial melt and how that affects fresh water availability, crop viability, high heat, increased winds, drier conditions contributing to wildfires. All of these things have an incredible impact on water and food availability, on livelihoods, on infrastructure. And that pushes people — usually people who are already economically disadvantaged — to struggle with one another over scarce resources.

When they do that, it very easily manifests in the kind of identity conflict that ICRD works on. People start to scapegoat one another around things like their tribes, their ethnicity, their faith. You see this oftentimes with migrant groups, particularly if they’re moving across borders from the global south to the north, or underdeveloped to more developed countries that have better resources. … The host communities then react to these immigrant groups negatively. And we’ve seen spikes in xenophobia across the world, particularly in the west and in Europe, that are all connected to some of these issues.

The fighting in Syria is a great example of the impact of drought. Rainfall patterns changed, food availability was impacted, and then people started to contest the leadership, and that was not accepted of course by [Syrian President] Bashar Al Assad. And it led to rebellion that led to incredible violence that has led to death and displacement throughout the region that has had significant ancillary effects and impacts, all grounded in what might be one of the most important climate-driven conflicts of recent times.

Read on…

Why Climate Change is an Environmental Justice Issue

BY  |Originally published SEPTEMBER 22, 2020 for State of the Planet – The Earth Institute’s blog at Columbia University

 

September 21-27 is Climate Week in New York City. Join us for a series of online events and blog posts covering the climate crisis and pointing us towards action.

 

While COVID-19 has killed 200,000 Americans so far, communities of color have borne disproportionately greater impacts of the pandemic. Black, Indigenous and LatinX Americans are at least three times more likely to die of COVID than whites. In 23 states, there were 3.5 times more cases among American Indian and Alaskan Native communities than in white communities. Many of the reasons these communities of color are falling victim to the pandemic are the same reasons why they are hardest hit by the impacts of climate change.

How communities of color are affected by climate change

Climate change is a threat to everyone’s physical health, mental health, air, water, food and shelter, but some groups—socially and economically disadvantaged ones—face the greatest risks. This is because of where they live, their health, income, language barriers, and limited access to resources. In the U.S., these more vulnerable communities are largely the communities of color, immigrants, low-income communities and people for whom English is not their native language. As time goes on, they will suffer the worst impacts of climate change, unless we recognize that fighting climate change and environmental justice are inextricably linked.

Heat

The U.S. is facing warming temperatures and more intense and frequent heat waves as the climate changes. Higher temperatures lead to more deaths and illness, hospital and emergency room visits, and birth defects. Extreme heat can cause heat cramps, heat stroke, heat exhaustion, hyperthermia, and dehydration.

patient in hospital bed

A heat stroke patient in the ER (Photo: Janine Rivera)

Disadvantaged communities have higher rates of health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Heat stress can exacerbate heart disease and diabetes, and warming temperatures result in more pollen and smog, which can worsen asthma and COPD. Heat waves also affect birth outcomes. A study of the impact of California heat waves from 1999 to 2011 on infants found that mortality rates were highest for Black infants. Moreover, disadvantaged communities often lack access to good medical care and health insurance.

African Americans are three times more likely than whites to live in old, crowded or inferior housing; residents of homes with poor insulation and no air conditioning are particularly susceptible to the effects of increased heat. In addition, low-income areas in cities have been found to be five to 12 degrees hotter than higher income neighborhoods because they have fewer trees and parks, and more asphalt that retains heat.

Extreme weather events

While climate change cannot be definitively linked to any particular extreme weather event, incidents of heat waves, droughts, wildfires, heavy downpours, winter storms, floods and hurricanes have increased and climate change is expected to make them more frequent and intense.

Extreme weather events can cause injury, illness, and death. Changes in precipitation patterns and warming water temperatures enable bacteria, viruses, parasites and toxic algae to flourish; heavy rains and flooding can pollute drinking water and increase water contamination, potentially causing gastrointestinal illnesses like diarrhea and damaging livers and kidneys.

buildings destroyed by hurricane katrina

Hurricane Katrina caused extensive damage. Photo: FEMA/Mark Wolfe

Extreme weather events also disrupt electrical power, water systems and transportation, as well as the communication networks needed to access emergency services and health care. Disadvantaged communities are particularly at risk because subpar housing with old infrastructure may be more vulnerable to power outages, water issues and damage. Residents of these communities may lack adequate health care, medicines, health insurance, and access to public health warnings in a language they can understand. In addition, they may not have access to transportation to escape the impacts of extreme weather, or home insurance and other resources to relocate or rebuild after a disaster. Communities of color are also less likely to receive adequate protection against disasters or a prompt response in case of emergencies. In addition to physical hardships, the stress and anxiety of dealing with these impacts of extreme weather can end up exacerbating mental health problems such as depression, post-traumatic stress and suicide.

Poor air quality

While climate change does not cause poor air quality, burning fossil fuels does; and climate change can worsen air quality. Heat waves cause air masses to remain stagnant and prevent air pollution from moving away. Warmer temperatures lead to the creation of more smog, particularly during summer. And wildfires, fueled by heat waves and drought, produce smoke that contains toxic pollutants.

Living with polluted air can lead to heart and lung diseases, aggravate allergies and asthma and cause premature death. People who live in urban areas with air pollution, or who have medical conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, asthma or COPD, are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of air pollution.

child in hospital bed

Air pollution exacerbates asthma. Photo: Dani

Black people are three times more likely to die from air pollution than white people. This is in part because they are 70 percent more likely to live in counties that are in violation of federal air pollution standards. A University of Minnesota study found that, on average, people of color are exposed to 38 percent higher levels of nitrogen dioxide outdoor air pollution than white people. One reason for the high COVID-19 death rate among African Americans is that cumulative exposure to air pollution leads to a significant increase in the COVID death rate, according to a new peer-reviewed study.

Pollution

More people of color live in places that are polluted with toxic waste, which can lead to illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and asthma. These pre-existing conditions put people at higher risk for the more severe effects of COVID-19.

The fact that disadvantaged communities are in some of the most polluted environments in the U.S. is no coincidence. Communities of color are often chosen as sites for landfills, chemical plants, bus terminals and other dirty businesses because corporations know it’s harder for these residents to object. They usually lack the connections to lawmakers who could protect them and can’t afford to hire technical or legal help to put up a fight. They may not understand how they will be impacted, perhaps because the information is not in their native language. A 1987 reportshowed that race was the single most important factor in determining where to locate a toxic waste facility in the U.S. It found that “Communities with the greatest number of commercial hazardous waste facilities had the highest composition of racial and ethnic residents.”

For example, while Blacks make up only 13 percent of the U.S. population, 68 percent live within 30 miles of a coal plant. LatinX people are 17 percent of the population, but 39 percent of them live near coal plants. A new report found that about 2,000 official and potential highly contaminated Superfund sites are at risk of flooding due to sea level rise; the areas around these sites are mainly communities of color and low-income communities.

The link between climate change and environmental justice

Mary Annaïse Heglar, a climate justice essayist and former writer-in-residence at the Earth Institute, asserts that climate change is actually the product of racism. “It started with conquest, genocides, slavery, and colonialism,” she wrote. “That is the moment when White men’s relationship with living things became extractive and disharmonious. Everything was for the taking; everything was for sale. The fossil fuel industry was literally built on the backs and over the graves of Indigenous people around the globe, as they were forced off their land and either slaughtered or subjugated — from the Arab world to Africa, from Asia to the Americas. Again, it was no accident.”

The harmful impacts of climate change are linked to historical neglect and racism. When Black people migrated North from the South in the early 20th century, many did not have jobs or money; consequently they were forced to live in substandard housing. Jim Crow laws in the South reinforced racial segregation, prohibiting Blacks from moving into white neighborhoods. In the 1930s through the 1960s, the federal government’s “redlining” policy denied federally backed mortgages and credit to minority neighborhoods. As a result, African Americans had limited access to better homes and all the advantages that went with them—a healthy environment, better schools and healthcare, and more food options.

Prime examples of environmental injustice

Poor sanitation in the U.S.

Catherine Flowers, founder of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice and a senior fellow for the Center for Earth Ethics, which is affiliated with the Earth Institute, is from Lowndes County, Alabama. As a child growing up in a poor, mostly Black rural area with less than 10,000 residents, she used an outhouse before her family installed indoor plumbing. After leaving to get an education, Flowers returned to Alabama in 2002 and still saw extreme disparities in rural wastewater treatment. She visited many homes with sewage backing up into their homes or pooling in their yards, as many residents couldn’t afford onsite wastewater treatment. She is still advocating for proper sanitation in Lowndes. As a result of her work, Baylor College’s National School of Tropical Medicine conducted a peer-reviewed study which showed that over 30 percent of Lowndes County residents had hookworm and other tropical parasites due to poor sanitation.

”We’re also seeing that there is a relationship between [wastewater and] COVID infections,” added Flowers. “We don’t know exactly what it is yet—but you can actually measure wastewater to determine the level of infections in the community before people start showing up with the illness.” In Lowndes, one of every 18 residents has COVID-19; it is one of the highest infection rates in the U.S.

Today, Flowers works at the intersection between climate change and wastewater throughout the U.S. “The more we see sea level rise, the more we’re going to have wastewater problems,” she said. Her new book, Waste, One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret, due out in November, shows how proper sanitation is essential as climate change will likely bring sewage to more backyards everywhere, not just in poor communities.

Cancer Alley

An 85-mile stretch along the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Louisiana, hosts the densest concentration of petrochemical companies in the U.S. There have been so many cases of cancer and death in the area that it became known as “Cancer Alley.”

industries next to communities

Cancer Alley (Photo: Gines A. Sanchez)

Most of these petrochemical plants are situated near towns that are largely poor and Black. There are 30 large plants within 10 miles of mostly Black St. Gabriel, with 13 within three miles. St. James Parish, whose population is roughly half Black and half white, has over 30 petrochemical plants, but the majority are located in the district that is 80 percent Black.

These plants not only emit greenhouse gases that are exacerbating climate change, but the particulate matter they expel can contain hundreds of different chemicals. Chronic exposure to this air pollution can lead to heart and respiratory illnesses and diabetes. As such, it is no surprise that St. James Parish is among the 20 U.S. counties with the highest per-capita death rates from COVID-19.

Despite efforts of the residents to fight back, seven new petrochemical plants have been approved since 2015; five more are awaiting approval.

Hurricane Katrina

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina, a Category 3 storm, caused extensive destruction in New Orleans and its environs. More than half of the 1,200 people who died were Black and 80 percent of the homes that were destroyed belonged to Black residents. The mostly Black neighborhoods of New Orleans East and the Lower Ninth Ward were hit hardest by Katrina because while the levees in white areas had been shored up after earlier hurricanes, these poorer neighborhoods had received less government funding for flood protection. After the hurricane, when initial plans for rebuilding were in process, white neighborhoods again got priority, even if they had experienced less flooding. Eventually federal funds were directed toward the rebuilding of parts of the Lower Ninth Ward and New Orleans East and the strengthening of their levees.

Flint, MI

In 2014, the city of Flint, MI, whose population is 56.6 percent Black, decided to draw its drinking water from the polluted Flint River in order to save money until a new pipeline from Lake Huron could be built. Previously the city had brought in treated drinking water from Detroit. Because the river had been used by industry as an illegal waste dump for many years, the water was corrosive, but officials failed to treat it. As a result, the water leached lead from the city’s aging pipelines. Officials claimed the water was safe, but more than 40 percent of the homes had elevated lead levels. As almost 100,000 residents — including 9,000 children — drank lead-laced water, lead levels in the children’s blood doubled and tripled in some neighborhoods, putting them at high risk for neurological damage.

In October, 2015, the city began importing water from Detroit again. An ongoing project to replace lead service pipes is expected to be complete by the end of November. And just recently, Flint victims were awarded a settlement of $600 million, with 80 percent of it designated for the affected children.

Steps to achieve environmental justice

As the founder of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice, Catherine Flowers works to implement the best practices to reduce environmental injustice. Here are some key strategies she prescribes.

  • Acknowledge the damage and try to repair it.
  • Clean up sites where environmental damage has been done.
  • Create an equitable system for decision-making so there is not an undue burden placed on disadvantaged communities. “Lobbyists that represent these [polluting] companies shouldn’t have more influence than the people who live in the area that are impacted by it,” said Flowers. “We need to make sure that the people that live in the community are sitting at the table when decisions are being made about what’s located in their community.”
  • Call out the officials who are making decisions that are not in the best interest of the people they represent.
  • Vote to put in place representatives that listen to their constituents rather than the people and companies that donate to them.
  • Provide climate training to help people become more engaged. For example, the Climate Reality Project (Flowers sits on its board of directors) trains everyday people to fight for solutions and change in their communities.
  • Partner with universities to conduct peer-reviewed studies of health impacts to help validate and draw attention to the experiences of disadvantaged communities.
  • Build cleaner and greener. “We cannot discount the impact this could have on communities around the world,” said Flowers. “If we don’t pollute and we have a Green New Deal to build better, cleaner, and greener, then we won’t have these environmental justice issues.”

Marching Toward Change – Faith & Governance in the Movement for THE RIGHTS OF NATURE

Mari Margil on Rights of Nature – Read the complete text published by the Center for Humans and Nature.

Our insistence that each human being is an image of God should not make us overlook the fact that each creature has its own purpose. None is superfluous. The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us. Soil, water, mountains: everything is, as it were, a caress of God.

—Pope Francis, May 24, 2015, Laudato Si’[1]

Those fighting for rights and freedom know that change never just happens.

It may seem that the bending of the “arc of the moral universe . . . toward justice” about which Dr. Martin Luther King spoke—witnessed with the abolishment of slavery, the recognition of rights of indigenous peoples, of African-Americans, of women—is inevitable. It’s not. It never has been.

The long history of people’s movements shows us that fundamental shifts in society only occur when people join together to demand such change. This requires mass mobilization across countries, cultures, religions, and even time—taking decades, generations, and centuries to achieve—each requiring major shifts in consciousness to achieve major shifts in law and governance.

Today, as we face overlapping environmental crises, we need a fundamental shift in humankind’s relationship with the natural world—this means a major shift in how we govern ourselves toward nature. To achieve this requires advancing major societal and cultural shifts, as well—that is, changing how societies think about nature and humanity’s role as part of it, and the recognition that nature is worthy of respect, protection, and rights.

The Role of Faith in Cultural Shifts

One of the first places I ever spoke publicly about the rights of nature was at the First Unitarian Church in Portland, Oregon, in 2009. As part of the Econvergence Symposium, I presented on a panel that focused on how unfettered economic growth was driving us to environmental and economic crisis.[2]

It is axiomatic that religion plays a major role in shaping culture. What we believe and how we think about the world are often deeply influenced by our faith. For instance, a 2015 Pew Research Center report found that over 60 percent of white evangelical Protestants in the United States do not believe in human evolution.[3] Belief that God is the creator of the Earth is a central tenet of their faith.[4] By contrast, over 85 percent of those without a religious affiliation believe in human evolution.

Too often, religion has been wielded to legitimize the oppression of others, including nature. In 1493, Pope Alexander VI issued a papal bull which divided the world between Portugal and Spain, mandating that they colonize the new world and ensure that “barbarous nations be overthrown and brought to the faith itself.” Subjugation of both nature and people had the blessing of the Catholic Church.

Karenna Gore, director of the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary in New York, described the historic role of the church in defining our relationship with nature.[5] In her keynote address at the 2017 Rights of Nature Symposium held at Tulane Law School, she explained:

The way that Christianity has been interpreted from medieval Europe to the age of colonization to the efforts in the 1950s in America to wed it to capitalism through moves like putting “In God We Trust” on the money . . . to the contemporary expressions of the Prosperity Gospel, mainstream religion has contributed to the objectification and exploitation of nature.

But Gore also spoke of the shift in consciousness within faith to protect nature, including the rights of nature: “There has been a lot of recent effort to retrieve and revive the ecological sensibility within the Judeo-Christian tradition, including reinterpretations of the Bible based on ancient Aramaic and Hebrew and Greek.”

Just as we’re seeing people of faith today advocate protection of nature, during the colonial era we saw people of faith advocate for abolishing slavery. In 1688, the Quakers of Germantown, Pennsylvania, issued their protest against slavery, writing, “There is a saying, that we shall doe to all men like as we will be done ourselves; making no difference of what generation, descent or colour they are.”[6] In the United States and Britain, Quakers would become a leading voice of opposition against slavery and the slave trade.

Faith played an important role in shifting societal perspectives on slavery, making possible the abolishment of slavery. President Abraham Lincoln, whose Emancipation Proclamation attempted to free the slaves in the South, stated in 1860, just a year before the start of the Civil War:

I think that if anything can be proved by natural theology, it is that slavery is morally wrong. God gave man a mouth to receive bread, hands to feed it, and his hand has a right to carry bread to his mouth without controversy.[7]

Today—as species extinction occurs far faster than natural background rates, as coral reefs are bleaching and dying off in the world’s oceans, as climate change accelerates—we are once again seeing faith play an important role in driving necessary change.

Just as the Old Testament and religious teachings speak of man’s dominion over the Earth, helping drive the belief that humankind is separate from and superior to nature, today some leading voices in the faith community are showing a new way of understanding.

In 2015, Pope Francis received worldwide praise for his encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’, in which he called for the protection of “our common home.” He begins by quoting Saint Francis of Assisi, who said it is “Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us.”

Later that same year, Pope Francis spoke again on the need to protect nature, and specifically the rights of nature.

Read on…

Saying Goodbye – In Memoriam 2020

2020 has been a year of loss.  Even before the pandemic, we were grieving for our planet. We were grieving for loss of species, for children in cages, for the disparity in our world. But the last few months have been wrought with heartbreaks from Covid-19 to George Floyd to John Lewis. We are mourning as a nation and as a global community for our loved ones, our neighbors and our beloved leaders. CEE remembers a few of our friends and loved ones lost during this time of crisis. We invite you to reflect with us on lives lived in the spirit of justice and care for our Earth. These courageous lives, leave us with the incredible task of carrying the work forward for more equality, for reparation, for the right to vote and have our voices heard –  and for the ability to do the work that we must to protect one another and our planet. We honor you. With deepest thanks.

 

Pamela Sue Rush

From Remembering Pamela Sue Rush – Rev. William Barber and CEE Fellow, Catherine Coleman Flowers

“She opened her life and showed the world what inequality looks like. Some of the wealthiest U.S. citizens walked through Pamela’s dilapidated home and sewage-polluted yard. Many left in disbelief. Yet she was quietly, patiently waiting for someone to help her escape this prison imposed upon her and her two children. In the meantime, she would testify before Congress and become an active member and one of the faces of the New Poor People’s Campaign led by Rev. Dr. William Barber and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis. She even hosted them in her home. A presidential candidate visited as well. Sen. Bernie Sanders promised to raise up her story as he fought for a more equitable society.”

Watch: PBS News Hour

 

Alfredo Sirkis  – In the Fall of 2019, CEE Director Karenna Gore traveled to Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil at the invitation of Alfredo Sirkis to participate in Faith and Climate (Fé No Clima), for the Brazilian Climate Change Conference. True to the work of Earth Ethics faith and climate leaders were convened from not only the major religious institutions of the Catholic Church and Jewish communities but also with representation of indigenous faith and wisdom groups rooted in the forest and African traditions which make up the richly diverse cultural landscape of the country.  Read Karenna’s overview of the experience: Faith in Climate, and watch Climate Reality’s tribute to Alfredo Sirkis below with his daughter, Anna Sirkis, and former US Vice President, Al Gore.

 

Father John Raush 

Father John S. Rausch was a Catholic priest with the Glenmary Home Missioners served for over 40 years ministering in small towns throughout Appalachia and the South. He passed on February 9, 2020 while getting ready to say Mass.

From Father John: For the People, For the Land

“Father John regularly conducts tours of Appalachia introducing people to the ministries and social issues of the region.  During these tours he combines social analysis with theological reflection encouraging a conversion of heart in participants.  A strong environmentalist, he speaks against the devastation of mountaintop removal and encourages sustainable economic development.”

Enjoy reading ‘Four Lessons from the Life of Father John Rausch’ by Margaret Gabriel here.

Watch: Saving the Earth through our Spirituality

Lighting the Sacred Fire – May Fire Festivals and Prayers in Solidarity

Today we light our sacred fires across the country and indeed across many sacred lands, to stand with the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe for peace and right action. During this time of the Coronavirus the Mashpee have received notice of dissolution of their lands from the US Department of the Interior and have filed a court injunction. Arguments will be heard by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by phone Thursday, May 7, 2020.

“The Mashpee Wampanoag tribal people have called this land home for over 12,000 years. Their history predates the United States and they were the tribe who welcomed the Pilgrims in the 17th Century. The Tribe fought the U.S. government for recognition for nearly 40 years before finally becoming a federally recognized tribe in 2007. However, they have remained landless.” – From Massachusetts Congressman, Joe Kennedy’s statement of support.

Tonight, May 3rd, we light our candles and sacred fires sending our prayers and support as they prepare for a court hearing on Thursday, May 7th.

This call to action coincides with other significant events rooted in the traditions associated with lighting fires.

It’s no surprise International Workers’ Day, also known as Labour Day in some countries and often referred to as May Day (May 1st), was chosen for a celebration of labourers and workers. The beginning of May is a traditional time for the lighting of sacred fires across the world and truly a time of festivities for the people.

In the Celtic Wheel of the year, May 1 is the common observance day of Beltane, one of the High Holy Days of the Celtic calendar. Notably celebrated in the British Isles, Beltane is marked by a many days long festival culminating in the dance around the Maypole weaving brightly colored ribbons. The weaving is in honor of the marriage of the May King and Queen, or the God and Goddess of the Land and the fertility that expresses itself at the on-set of summer in flowers and trees, in birdsong and the dance of the sacred masculine and feminine. In present day Ireland, the festival is celebrated with the lighting of a sacred fire at the center of the Emerald Isle in the place where the ancient kings would have gone to be ‘married’ to the Goddess of the Land, Eiru. The early peoples of these lands believed the king could not rule well unless he was in service to the land and to the life-giving Mother Goddess. Fires are lit at each of the 8 major seasonal holidays of the calendar – the four Solar Festivals of Solstices and Equinoxes and the Cross-Quarter days that fall directly between them, also known as Lunar Sabbats. Beltane heralds the entrance to the Light Half of the Year, completing the first or Dark Half that began with the Feast of the Ancestors or Samhain, celebrated on October 31st, and is considered one of the most sacred festivals of the year.

May 3rd, is also a sacred day in Mesoamerican Cosmovision that can be celebrated with the lighting of a fire.  CEE’s Scholar in Residence Geraldine Ann Patrick Encina explains:

May 3, 2013 (and not December 21, 2012, as miscalculated) was conceived by ancient Olmecs some three thousand years ago as the ideal date for the culmination of the great cycle of 13 Baktuns. This cycle—5,128 years and 280 days long—would be ruled by evening Venus heralding the waters over the western horizon of the Yucatan Peninsula on that May 3, 2013, or 4 Ajaw 3 Kank’in in the calendar system inherited by the Maya. Such event would provide most favorable omens for the Corn People to thrive in the 13 Baktun cycle unfolding. Evening Venus, the great wind deity, marks its agency as a bringer of rain clouds by appearing at its northernmost position around May 3. This appearance is so important that multiple temples and pyramids, built over thousands of years, were carefully aligned to May 3, including the Feathered Serpent Pyramid at the Citadel of Teotihuacan.

The great cycle of 13 Baktuns offered omens of abundance and fertility to the Corn People, that is, to both the Corn-Corn Deity and the Corn keepers who care for the seeds, observe the arrival of the rains and fulfill calendar-based ceremonies in harmony with entities of the natural world.

At the completion of the great cycle of 13 Baktuns one of the five Bacabs—deities as giant as the sacred Ceiba and upholders of the Sky and the Earth— lets go of its burden. For thirteen years, every May 3, the Corn People have the responsibility to present to Grandfather Fire what they no longer need for the new cycle. They will thus be prepared to accompany the Bacab in its standing ceremony on May 3, 2026, entering together a new cycle of abundance and harmony with Mother Earth, Grandmother Moon, Father Sun and Venus.

At noon of May 3, the Primordial Couple in the Pleiades fuse their beam of light with the Sun’s rays directly activating the baby corn stalks that have been helped by its caregivers to stand upright a few days earlier. This is a happy encounter between the heart of the sky, the heart of Earth and the heart of the Corn People. When sunset falls later that May 3, the favorite son of the Primordial Couple, born on day 9 Wind, brings the rains with his breath of life, ensuring abundant corn offspring six months later, on November 3.


Contributing authors:

Geraldine Ann Patrick Encina, Scholar in Residence

Shannon M.D. Smith, Communications Manager

CEE Stands with Wendsler Nosie / Poor Peoples Campaign

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”.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

We share with you the story of Wendsler Nosie’s return to Oak Flat, from the Poor Peoples Campaign published by the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice.


Wendsler Nosie Sr. Returns to Oak Flat to Protect Sacred Land from Extraction

On Thanksgiving Day (and National Day of Mourning), former chair of the San Carlos Apache, Wendsler Nosie Sr., left their reservation and began his return to the Apache holy site of Oak Flat (Chi’chil Bildagoteel) in Arizona.

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.

Sign the petition today to protect this sacred land.

Oak Flat
Wendsler Nosie Sr. returns to the sacred site of Oak Flat.

STEVE PAVEY

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.

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Wendsler Nosie Sr. with Rev. Dr. Barber in Washington, D.C. before setting off on his journey.

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.

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Rev. Dr. Barber, Wendsler Nosie Sr. and Rev. Mendez on the day of Wendsler’s departure.

STEVE PAVEY

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.

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The San Carlos Apache joined the Poor People’s Campaign in Washington D.C. for the 40 Days of Action last year.

STEVE PAVEY

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.”

 

Support this critical struggle by signing the petition and please consider making a donation to the Apache Stronghold at this pivotal moment.

Clergy From Around the Planet Gathered to Pray for the Environment at Megiddo National Park

Originally Published by the Jewish Press.
Photo Credit: Lucy Yosef / Israel Nature and Parks Authority
Clergy from around the planet pray at Megiddo National Park, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020 

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.

Clergy from around the planet pray at Megiddo National Park, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020 / Lucy Yosef / Israel Nature and Parks Authority

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.


More information on Holy Land, Living Waters

More about EcoPeace Middle East and the Center for Earth Ethics

‘Peace With Not Just People, But Also Nature’

Originally Published by The New York Jewish Week

29 October 2019, 5:42 pm

“Most politicians see the Jordan River as a border,” Bromberg said “We see the river as a bridge.”

For environmentalist peacebuilders in the Middle East, solving the climate crisis & the conflict go hand in hand. An interfaith water ceremony here showcased their unique approach.

 

New York City — Experts have long argued that the only way to effectively address the climate crisis is via a concerted, intergovernmental approach. It’s the issue world leaders and policy makers were in New York City to discuss at the United Nations Climate Summit last month and during a series of breakout sessions spread out over the week.

Among the over 150 Climate Week (Sept. 23-29) events and panel discussions, one particular one stood out for its unique approach. Faith leaders and environmentalists from the Middle East and New York came together at the Union Theological Seminary in Harlem for an interfaith water ritual ceremony to honor the shared risks communities and ecosystems face due to climate disruption.

The event was a collaboration of Hudson Riverkeeper, an environmental group that advocates for the Hudson River and its tributaries, the Center For Earth Ethics at the seminary and EcoPeace Middle East, an environmentalist peacemaking NGO with Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian directors.

Under the towering stained glass windows of the James Memorial Chapel, Karenna Gore, director of the Center for Earth Ethics, spoke of the importance of inter-community work and honoring the spiritual aspects of our shared water sources, both the Hudson and Jordan rivers. “This is holy and sacred work, and this gathering is powerful,” she said before welcoming Chief Dwaine Perry of the Ramapough Lenape Nation to share his community’s connection to the Hudson and surrounding land, their ancestral territory.

“Through our lack of connection to the land and the water and our drive to take and build and exploit, we … have ripped so many literal and figurative holes in the world,” Jessica Roff, director of advocacy and engagement at Riverkeeper, said. “From drilling fracking wells across the country, to tunneling pipelines under rivers, to allowing poisons in people’s drinking water, to damming rivers, to blasting giant quarries and then storing toxic materials in them. We have a lot to repair.”

Jordanian Director of EcoPeace Middle East, Yana Abu Taleb, speaks at the interfaith event at the Union Theological Seminary in N.Y.C. during Climate Week. Miriam Groner/JW

Gidon Bromberg, who as the Israeli director of EcoPeace Middle East has made this work his mission over the last 30 years, said it’s no coincidence that the Jordan River is holy to all three Abrahamic faiths. “For Jews the river is a place of miracles, for Christianity it’s the place where Jesus was baptized and for Islam it’s the place where several of the companions of Mohammed are buried.”

Now both rivers are suffering from ecological collapse due to climate change and over-development.

Read the complete article at NY Jewish Week… 

Spiritual waters

Back uptown in the chapel, Bethany Yarrow (daughter of Peter Yarrow) shared a moving musical piece honoring the life-giving nature of water. Later, Rabbi Burton Visotzky, a professor at Jewish Theological Seminary, noted the importance of water in Jewish liturgy and read the prayer for rain Jews recite at the end of Sukkot: “May it be for blessing and not for a curse; may it be for life and not for death; may it be for abundance and not scarcity.”

The environmentalists and faith leaders huddled around a bowl in the center of the chapel and poured from chalices that held water from the Hudson and Jordan rivers.

“It’s a symbol of blessing and to remind ourselves that we are all one,” Gore said.

In typical New York fashion what had been a beautifully sunny day turned grey and windy as the group, a motley mix of environmental activists many who came seeking a spiritual addition to their packed itinerary of Climate Week events, proceeded out of the seminary, down Riverside Drive and west a few blocks to a pier extending onto the Hudson River.

Pouring the water into the Hudson below. Miriam Groner/JW

Steps away from our own wastewater treatment plant, with the New York City skyline on one side and the New Jersey skyline on the other — the Hudson River a border too — Bromberg and Chief Perry poured the water into the waters below. An act of transnational solidarity to honor the life in all our collective waterways.

“Most politicians see the Jordan River as a border,” Bromberg said “We see the river as a bridge.”