Author: CEE Staff

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

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.

DC
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.

signal-2019-11-28-092531
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.

AS-in-DC-June-2018
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.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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To see more photos and learn more about Riverkeeper…

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

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

September 25, 2019

By Jeff Berardelli

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

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

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

Karenna Gore speaks at a rally protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline

Karenna Gore speaks at a rally protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. Gore is the director of the Center for Earth Ethics, which works to support the well-being of all people and the planet. Photo courtesy Karenna Gore

Gore received her M.A. in Social Ethics in 2013 and stayed, founding the Center for Earth Ethics that same year, on the Union Campus. That is where I met her, at her office space located on the top floor of a majestic Gothic tower.

Gore informally greeted me at the office door, dressed business casual with none of the pomp and circumstance one may envision from such a high-profile figure. She seemed enthusiastic to take me for a short tour of the center she built. It was promptly followed by our interview, wherein she explained why climate change is a moral issue, how her group is galvanizing faith-based activism, and more.

I’m curious, what it’s like getting into the family business? How did you find your own your own voice within that?

I didn’t intend to go into doing climate change work, in part because I just didn’t want to be tagging along with my dad or riding his coat tails.

However, when I got my degree here at Union I just was in a time and a place when I was literally called into this work by the fact that I was here. I felt like I was called to the work. I can say that I did not plan it.

I respect my father a lot and in many ways it’s wonderful to be able to work with him. I would have resisted doing that more if it weren’t for the fact that this is such a compelling issue and I felt like I was in the place and the time to do something about it. And I honestly think that if we are going to confront this in a way that makes a significant difference in the trajectory that we are on now, I think everyone has to give whatever they can.

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

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

“I honestly think that if we are going to confront this in a way that makes a significant difference … everyone has to give whatever they can.”

Right now we have a value system reflected in economics, reflected in political dialogue that is very short-term, that doesn’t pay attention to the externalities of pollution and destruction of nature, nor does it pay attention to inequality, and so what we have is a result of that.

The Center for Earth Ethics was founded to make the changes in policy and culture that are necessary to change to a value system based on long-term well-being of all life.

How do you go about accomplishing the mission of the center? What would a typical day or a typical event look like?

During the academic year, the center works with Union students (seminarians), so during a typical weekday, I might meet with one of our Field Education students about their ongoing projects, co-teach a class like: Indigenous Voices on Colonization; Ecology and Spirituality; Beyond GDP; Religion and Climate Change; and Plant Wisdom and Interreligious Dialogue or plan curriculum for an upcoming course offering.

Sometimes I speak in public venues such as local churches or schools. Recently I spoke at the United Nations and moderated a panel at the Council on Foreign Relations.

I also often participate in organizing work to plan events or actions, such as those involving resistance to fossil fuel infrastructure projects.

What do you view as the fundamental problem that’s causing Earth’s destruction?

I think it’s a problem of value systems. I think that we’re living with the illusion that the things like the stock market reflect reality when in fact they don’t reflect anything about the value of the natural world… and it takes absolutely no account of whether we have completely depleted our natural resources or whether we’ve pumped all this pollution into the air.

There’s been a philosophy that has really risen up known as neoliberalism, which is really about elevating public-private partnerships and making a business model the kind of ideal for the government…. It’s not actually working out that well because government is different than business, you know, it’s not all about efficiency. It’s about taking care of people who are vulnerable. So as long as we have people who want our government to be run more like a business … then we’re going to be even more in this situation.

I listened to an interview you did and I’m going to paraphrase here… You said, “This [climate change] is a moment we were chosen for or that chose us — nothing happens by accident. So, I’m curious what you believe about the way the universe works?

I do believe in a greater intelligence — that there are forces greater than ourselves and that there is an intelligence in the universe that, if you are open to it, will open some doors and guide and show you a way.

karenna gore with chief ninawa

(Gore with Chief Ninawa of the Huni Kui people of the Brazilian Amazon. Photo courtesy Karenna Gore)

It’s a matter of personal experience, it’s not even so much belief, but when you have a few of those personal experiences where you just think, “Ah what are the chances that this would happen?” And it usually happens in the cases of being more open-hearted, more open-minded and being deeply grounded in a purpose that is greater than yourself.

When I say nothing happens by accident and that we’re called to these times, I think that’s really a statement of faith — that we have what it takes, that people are called together, that we can feel an element of grace in it or opportunity. It doesn’t have to feel just tragic.

I think people may be interested in how you practice religion? If you arecomfortable can you elaborate? 

I do not really feel comfortable talking about my personal spiritual/religious life in detail but I definitely have one and it is very important to me. I was raised Baptist, going to church every Sunday. I am happy to have had that foundation and also happy to have experienced and studied other traditions that have opened my perception and renewed my faith.

What is your opinion of Evangelical pushback on climate change?

I think it is important to be careful how we use the term “Evangelical” because it has come to denote a group that is more defined by their political affiliation than their theology. There is a long tradition of interpreting scripture in order to validate domination over nature and non-white peoples and I think the group of white evangelicals that deny the climate crisis is within that tradition. It is entirely irrational as well as immoral but it has deep roots and can be disguised as a kind of mandate to mankind to master and control the Earth by digging and burning the carbon stored in the ground.

It would be great if they came around and there is powerful work being done to facilitate that.

Do you have hope that we’re going to solve this?

Um … That’s such a hard question … [Deep breath and extended contemplation] … I have hope that we are going to make it less horrific then it could be. And I have hope that we might become better as a people and a species in the process, in ways that are really uplifting and kind of what life is all about. Those are the two things I can say about my hope. I do think that hope is different than optimism in an important way, that even if there’s a tiny sliver of light, you know, it doesn’t mean you think things are going great or you’re sure it’ll work out. It means there’s a chance. And you’re going to cling to that — you’re going to hold on to it.

Jeff Berardelli is a long-time TV meteorologist and climate contributor for CBS News in New York City. His work on at CBS News ranges from on-air weather to contributing to broadcast climate stories to writing articles for CBSNews.com. He is currently finishing up an MA in Climate and Society at the Earth Institute, Columbia University. He is most interested in communicating climate change challenges to a broad audience with the hopes of educating the public and improving awareness.

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

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Facing Devastation in the Amazon

by Guest Contributor, Alfredo Sirkis, Executive Director of the Brazil Climate Center / Climate Reality Project

 

The confrontation with donors like Germany and Norway, the increase of more than 273% of deforestation in the Amazon in July of this year, compared to the same month last year, the increase of invasions of indigenous land with the pollution of its rivers with Mercury; the sticking at IMPE (Brazil’s satellite image monitoring institute)  to “break the thermometer”, the foolish eager to hide the fever, are crazy episodes.

With an additional 5% of further destruction of the Amazon rainforest,  we can engender irreversible changes affecting the rain regime in the rest of the country. Floods, desertification, risks to agriculture, extreme winds, invasion of coastal areas by the sea, heatwaves make up the foretold drama of climate change. On the other hand,  global decarbonization action offers Brazil economic opportunities, if we can use and negotiate with intelligence the immense environmental services we offer, our advantages in low carbon agriculture and clean energy and the great availability for the reforestation and afforestation producing negative emissions.

Bolsonaro’s invectives and gross misinformation silence those in his government who understand the equation. Climate change is unquestionable, its recent extreme manifestations: the terrible cyclones in Mozambique, affecting three million people or the 46-degree heatwave in Nantes, France, are warnings of what is coming. 2019 will be the warmest year ever experienced by mankind.

The latest IPCC report, dealing with not exceeding 1.5 degrees by the end of the century, mentions the need to reforest an area the size of US territory. Brazil has at least 60 million hectares of degraded pasture for reforestation and afforestation, both native and economic. It has abundant sun and wind for clean energy, biofuels and is pioneering low carbon farming techniques. So why all this destruction?

It is not mainly modern agribusiness who illegally deforests, promotes land grabbing and spreads indigent livestock, purely for speculative purposes or poison rivers with mercury. These are criminal activities incited by president Bolsonaro and favored by his dismantling of federal environmental low enforcement institutions.  Agribusiness has much to lose from the international repercussions of the new outbreak of devastation, with worldwide repercussions.

Between 2004 and 2012, Brazil managed to reduce its deforestation in the Amazon from 27,000 km2 to less than 5,000 km2, reducing its CO2 emissions by 80%, more than any other country. Now the deforestation rises again, in full swing. How far will it go?

Bolsonaro hates environmental concerns. He believes they are “leftist stuff” but who were their pioneers in Brazil? Marshal Cândido Rondon, a life in defense of the Indigenous peoples, Major Manuel Archer, promoted greater urban reforestation to date, made in the Tijuca massif in the late 19th century, Admiral Ibsen Gusmão, all military.  Paulo Nogueira Batista, Marcelo de Ipanema, conservatives,  who can hardly be considered the “left-paws” of his idiosyncratic bullshit.

No, worrying about climate and biodiversity is not a “communist scheme”. It is our responsibility to the generation of our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, threatened by the catastrophic consequences that can still be contained but in a closing window of opportunity. Quickly.

Successful ‘On Food and Faith’ conference concludes

Originally published by Danny Russell, communications director at MTSO on June 5th, 2019

More than 100 religious leaders, scholars, scientists, farmers and activists gathered on the MTSO campus May 30-June 1 for “On Food and Faith: Ministry in the Time of Climate Change.” The conference was presented by MTSO, the Center for Earth EthicsThe Climate Reality Project and the Ohio State University Initiative for Food and AgriCultural Transformation (InFACT).

Karenna Gore and Tim Van Meter

“This is the first time that we have done this outside of Union Seminary,” said Center for Earth Ethics Director Karenna Gore at the opening plenary session. “We felt an incredible opportunity to come here and be at a place that is actually growing and harvesting food as part of the seminary.”

See the full event schedule.

Former Vice President Al Gore, founder and chairman of The Climate Reality Project, participated in all three days of the conference, delivering a multimedia climate presentation during the Day 2 plenary session.

Al Gore

In introducing Al Gore, MTSO President Jay Rundell highlighted his achievements and honors, including the Nobel Peace Prize, an Oscar and a Grammy Award. “What we sense here with you in our midst,” he told Gore, “is a certain synergy between the kinds of things you’ve committed yourself to and the kinds of things we’re about on an everyday basis.”

Early in his 90-minute talk, Gore spoke dramatically of the consequences of climate change, declaring, “We are in the process of visiting destruction upon God’s creation.” Still, he said, there is much good news, including dramatic strides in renewable energy: “It’s now cheaper in most parts of the world to get energy from solar and wind than to burn fossil fuels.”

“If anyone doubts for one moment that we as human beings have the will to change, just remember that the will to change itself is a renewable resource,” Gore concluded.

Also speaking on Day 2 was Ohio State Distinguished University Professor of Soil Science Rattan Lal, recipient of the 2019 Japan Prize, one of the most prestigious honors in science and technology.

Participants toured MTSO’s Seminary Hill Farm

“A part of the biomass produced by soil must be returned to it,” Lal told conference participants. “Taking away everything without returning any biomass is a robbery of the soil and a banditry.”

The conference also included 18 breakout sessions – ranging from “Islam, Ramadan and Hunger” to “Standing with Farm Workers.”

The session “Grief, Climate Change and Prophetic Hope” was moderated by Tim Van Meter, associate professor in MTSO’s Alford Chair of Christian Education and Youth Ministry. Van Meter, who also serves as MTSO’s coordinator of ecological initiatives, has worked with Karenna Gore on a number of projects, and their working relationship paved the way for MTSO to host “On Food and Faith.”

Jay Rundell leads the closing ceremony

Before conference participants toured MTSO’s Seminary Hill Farm on Day 1, Van Meter said, “I hope as you wander around with us, you’ll understand we have an incredible farm staff. And we have an incredible food staff. These are people we’re deeply, deeply grateful for.”

In brief remarks reflecting on the founding of the five-year-old farm, Rundell said, “Over time in our curriculum, we had a number of things happening that planted the seed, so to speak, for this work. Almost all religious traditions have some understanding of food in the center of who they are. We’re fairly deeply rooted in a number of Christian traditions here. We have sacramentalized food. We recognized that and found this was not so much doing something new but revitalizing our traditions.”

During Day 3’s final plenary session, a number of leaders and participants shared their reflections with the group. “If we can get people of faith to believe that the language we use is not geopolitical – it is spiritual language – then we can get this work done,” said MTSO Dean Valerie Bridgeman.

And 15-year-old Hadessa Henry of Indiana, who attended with her grandmother, Aster Bekele, founder of Felege Hiwot Center, inspired sustained applause with a plea: “Maybe next time we have this, we could invite more kids. We’re going to be here for a long time.”

Video and media coverage

See Karenna Gore explain why MTSO is the perfect place to talk about food and ministry and watch Al Gore discuss the opportunity to hold the conference on the MTSO campus on the MTSO website.

The Columbus Dispatch covered the conference with a newspaper story and this video:

View a Facebook photo album from the conference.

Methodist Theological School in Ohio provides theological education and leadership in pursuit of a just, sustainable and generative world. In addition to the Master of Divinity degree, the school offers master’s degrees in counseling, social justice, theological studies and practical theology, along with a Doctor of Ministry degree.

CONTACT:

Danny Russell, communications director
[email protected], 740-362-3322

CEE Travels to Virginia to Say No to Pipelines

Most content originally published by ARTivism Virginia and Virginians for Justice!

On May, 17, 2019 Virginians and allies from the region walked with Union Hill to demand environmental justice and a stop to the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley fracked gas pipelines. They were joined by William Barber III and Karenna Gore of the Center for Earth Ethics. Returning to the route across the Robert E. Lee Bridge into Richmond traveled by civil rights advocates 51 years ago during Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic Poor People’s Campaign march to Washington D.C., hundreds called for an end to environmental racism and new fossil fuel infrastructure that threatens our ability to protect our homes, our water, and our children’s future.

“We’re not here by accident. Every single one of us is here for a reason. We are all gathered together for a reason. We hold these truths to be self-evident. We will treat each other with equal dignity and justice. We will make democratic self-government work. And we will live responsibly on this planet – it’s a sacred place.” – CEE Director Karenna Gore.

 

“This struggle is going to have global significance…

1968, Dr. King, in true prophetic form declared that we have in our lifetime an opportunity to avoid a natural disaster of grand design and to create a new spirit of economic and social harmony.  An opportunity to write a luminous moral chapter in American history – if we only choose.” – William Barber III

 

 

Jessica Sims of Sierra Club Virginia Chapter led the collaboration of dozens of Virginia environmental and grassroots organizations, including the Virginia Poor People’s Campaign. Musical support was provided by the SUN SiNG Collective of ARTivism Virginia.

Hand in hand, ART and ACTIVISM stoke our imaginations and remind us of our creative, beautiful, renewing, and resilient capacity for change. 

 

Featured here is singer, BJ Brown and speakers Queen Shabazz, Genesis Chapman, Karenna Gore, William Barber II, and Marie Gillespie. Other speakers for this event included: Beth Roach, Pastor Paul Wilson, Evelyn Dent, Lakshmi Fjord, Richard Walker, Andrew Tyler, Swami Dayananda, John Laury, Andrea Miller, Travis Williams and Chad Oba. Other ARTivists included All the Saints Theater, Lilly Bechtel, Tom Burkett, Tom Elliott, Kay Ferguson, Gabe Gavin, DeRon Lark, Jameson Price, Mara Eve Robbins, Graham Smith-White, Laney Sullivan, Siva Stephen Fiske and Joshua Vana.

Many Thanks to ARTivism Virginia – for capturing Walk with Me:

Also:  Video From May 17th March from Chesapeake Climate Action Network

In the News: Faith Leaders March in Protest of the ACP, ABC News 8

Yes Virginia, We Can Stop Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines.  Here’s how.

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“To the River” No Pipeline Anthem written by Joshua Vana, arranged, performed by the SUN SiNG collective . “To the River” was recorded and filmed along the MVP & ACP fracked gas pipeline routes in areas of devastation using the Sun Bus and videographer, Sarah Hazlegrove.

***

Herring, Stand with Appalachia: No Mountain Valley Pipeline

May 18th, activists and Artivists also gathered in Leesburg, VA, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring’s hometown, to ask Herring to stay on the side of the people and clean water.

“We request that Mark Herring
1) halt work on Mountain Valley Pipeline,
2) pursue his lawsuit against MVP to its fullest and refuse to settle the case for petty fines,
3) and affirm the state’s authority to revoke the 401 water quality certification that it granted.”

Speakers included Del. Sam Rasoul, Del. Chris Hurst, Del. Elizabeth Guzman and Professor Emily Hammond, George Washington Law.
The event included music by Rachel Eddy and the SUN SiNG Collective, including  Joshua Vana, Bj Brown, and Graham Smith-White.  And also featured CEE’s Karenna Gore, and Rev. Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus.

Video From May 18th, 2019 – Herring, Stand with Appalachia: No Mountain Valley Pipeline

In the News: Pipeline Protest Comes to Herring’s Hometown

#NoMorePipelines #NoMVP #NoACP#WeAreAllUnionHill

The Second Best Time to Plant a Tree

Guest Post by Rev. Ana Levy-Lyons

A hairy, naked male and a hairy, naked female crouch over the body of an antelope they’ve just killed. They’re looking up with fear and fight in their faces as a huge bird of prey swoops down to try to steal their kill. A jackal lurks in the background too, biding its time. It’s a frozen moment from a hundred thousand years ago, a flash in the life of a Neanderthal couple, reconstructed by scientists for a diorama at the Museum of Natural History. I saw this couple over Thanksgiving weekend when my family and I wandered into the Anne and Bernard Spitzer Hall of Human Origins. If you’ve ever been there, you know it’s strange and amazing.

This diorama especially grabbed me. I felt moved by it. My kids were fascinated. Something about it is so real and poignant. It must have been so much work to bring down that antelope. The couple is alone in the open landscape, vulnerable to all the fierceness of nature. I wondered if they ever got to just chill in their cave. Did they ever sing? Did they play? Did they love each other? Their Neanderthal bodies are wiry and strong, thin and scrappy from a lifetime of fighting for survival. They didn’t survive, of course, not that couple nor their entire species. The early hominids all went extinct, just like the dinosaurs before them. Unique expressions of the divine, like a single firework, exploding for a short time, showering light, and then gone.

How did they go extinct? Scientists say it was a mix of factors, possibly including violence from homo sapiens (that’s us) and definitely the pressures of climate change. Yes, they had climate change back then too – the deniers are right about that – the climate has always been changing. But it happened at a much slower pace – at least ten times slower than ours today. Even so, the pace of change was too fast – the landscapes and plants and animals morphed and the Neanderthals were unable to adapt.

Homo sapiens were able to adapt. Homo sapien means “wise man,” smart human, and our adaptability is a hallmark of our species. As long as we had a good thousand years before things were really different, we were able to make the changes that we needed to make in where we lived, what we ate, and what tools we used in time. We were able to figure it out. And the unique, unrepeatable spirit of life continued to flow through us.

This time around, we don’t have a thousand years to figure it out. We don’t even have a hundred years. According to the UN report that just came out about climate change, we have twelve years. That’s what they said. Twelve years. We have twelve years to radically transform our economy, especially the amount of energy that we use and how we generate it. From coal, oil, and gas to solar and wind. Energy from hell to energy from heaven. Twelve years. Now this is not adapting to climate change – that’s a whole other set of things we need to do. This is about preventing the climate from changing so dramatically and so quickly, that we are unable to adapt. My fellow homo sapiens, smart humans, we have twelve years.

And if we don’t? Best case scenario, the UN report warns of catastrophic flooding, droughts, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. Worst case, some scientists believe we are heading toward the sixth mass extinction. We can hear the drumbeat clearly now – the fires in California getting worse every year, the hurricanes growing more violent, droughts around the world, deserts expanding, thousands being forced from their farmlands and becoming refugees. It’s happening in real time.

Hearing about this more and more these days, the drumbeat getting louder, I’ll tell you where I’m at personally. I feel scared for my children. They’re just eight years old now, Miriam and Micah. I’m scared for them of what kind of shifting, collapsing world they are going to have to make their way in. Even with all of their advantages as white, well-educated, relatively wealthy Americans, are they going to have to struggle to survive? And they both want children of their own. I was telling them recently about a celibate monk I had met and Micah had a strong negative reaction, saying how sad it would be to not have ancestors (by which he meant, descendants). And I wish I could gush about how great it will be for them to have children and for me to have grandchildren. Except I’m not sure how great it will be for those grandchildren.

——

I’m sad that they will never get to experience the untouched beauty of wilderness. Because what we’ve done touches everything, everywhere. I’m heartbroken for all that we’ve already lost, for the wilderness itself and the polar bears and countless other animals whose stars will burn out before their time.

I also feel an immense sense of personal responsibility. I am in a position of leadership where I have this soapbox to stand on and if I am not doing absolutely everything in my power to inspire and nurture and activate all of you, my congregation, to confront the greatest threat humanity has ever faced, then what the hell am I doing here? What even gives me the right to stand up here before you all? These questions keep me up at night.

And then… I get distracted from the greatest threat that humanity has ever faced by the mundane necessities of life. My sense of responsibility to defend my kids’ future gets hijacked by my kids’ need for help with their math homework. My sense of responsibility to plant a seedbed of revolutionary change here gets hijacked by the need to let everyone know that Facebook is doing a matching grant fundraiser on Giving Tuesday and we all should contribute on that day in time to get the matching grant.

And every single person I know is just like me in this respect. We all get absorbed in the work of life, and the joys of life, and the struggles of life, mostly doing things which, when you take them one at a time, are each valid and important, even noble. Some of us have trouble enough just making it through the day. Some of us are just trying to survive in an economy with virtually no safety net. Or an illness takes all our time and energy to manage. Or a family conflict. Or someone hacked our email or our bank account and we’re spending hours on the phone trying to sort it out. Someone breaks our heart and we’re spending a year feeling like we want to die. Or we fall in love and we’re just too damn happy to worry about anything.

Our political life follows the same pattern. Political debate centers on the vivid human suffering of our time. Our government teargassing children at the border, to take just one of thousands of nauseating examples. Politicians rarely – really almost never – talk about the existential elephant in the room. Partly because this is not what we’re talking about, for all the reasons I just listed. Partly it’s because fossil fuel companies and chemical manufacturers and big ag are paying a lot of money to make sure that we don’t talk about it. And to make sure that deregulation continues, that the science gets muddied, and that green referendums fail; to make sure that at this week’s G20 summit in Argentina our delegation is over there promoting fossil fuels. And for good measure, they work to suppress the votes of poor people and people of color who are most affected by environmental collapse because they might actually vote to change things.

—–

So is this how it’s going to go down? Good people are too busy and bad people are too smart? Homo sapiens, smart humans, is this really how it’s going to go down? You can imagine the diorama at the Museum of Natural History a hundred thousand years from now. (Yes, I’m aware that there probably won’t be Museums of Natural History with dioramas a hundred thousand years from now, but just indulge me for a minute.) The diorama depicts a homo sapien family in an industrialized nation at meal time. A female is lifting a package of food out of a microwave. A male is staring into a cellphone. A baby is drooling onto the plastic tray of a high chair, clutching something that looks like a beanie baby in one hand and a juice box in the other. A toddler is watching something on a tablet of some kind, laughing.

Next to the diorama, the information panel reads as follows: “Homo sapiens roamed the earth for a brief 200,000-year span. Their extinction was precipitated primarily by rapid climate change. Unlike the climatic shifts of previous eras, this climate change was largely caused by these apex predators themselves, specifically by the burning of the fossilized remains of all the creatures that had gone extinct before them.” (That’s what fossil fuels are, by the way – you cannot make this stuff up.) “It is unclear whether this burning was a religious ritual or had some other purpose. Archeological evidence suggests that homo sapiens had discovered solar energy long before their extinction. But their primitive form of social organization and rudimentary ability to share resources may have prevented them from addressing the global threat in time.”

Our primitive form of social organization – basically the powerful practicing dominionism over the earth and over those less powerful. Some of us say it’s all too big and we’re too late – we should have fixed this thirty years ago. And yes, in an ideal world, thirty years ago we would have switched to renewable energy, drastically reduced our consumption and waste, adopted plant-based diets, shared our wealth to alleviate the desperation of poor nations, and planted about ten million trees. We’d be having a very different conversation right now. But the conversation we are going to have in thirty years – or in twelve years – will depend entirely on what we do today. And I mean today. This week, this holiday season. They say the best time to plant a tree is thirty years ago. The second best time is now.

Never before in the history of planet earth has a species been able to foresee its own extinction. Never before has a species been able to prevent it. But we can. How do I know? Because there is something in us that rebels, in every cell, with every breath. Because when I open the eyes of my spirit really wide and I think that when you open yours really wide, we can see that our star, our fireworks is not ready to burn out yet. God, the pulsing life force of the universe, is not done moving through us. In fact, if anything, it’s pulsing stronger than ever now.

You can feel it in the air. The forces of change are stirring. We are understanding that all of our struggles are one. Many of us and many people we know have become activists for the first time in our lives as we recognize that we have to take power into our own hands. There are at least one million organizations working toward sustainability and social justice. Several of the newly-elected members of congress are representing communities that had little voice before and they are pushing for The New Green Deal. With the markings of evil so clearly scrawled right in front of us on national television every day, with the assaults on this earth and its people now unmistakable for anything else, we are rising up.

We have twelve years left and we have a moment before us to be seized. Right now, we need political action. We need to boycott corporations whose greed is killing us. Every week, we can make a phone call, write a letter, speak out at a town hall – we can do something to fight back. A new climate organization has started in Great Britain called Extinction Rebellion and there’s a chapter forming here in New York City. It’s about taking bold, direct action in defense of our future. I plan to be part of it and I invite you to join me. Blocking pipelines, getting arrested, physically obstructing the desecration of our ecosystems because asking nicely is just not working.

We need the extinction rebellion. But we need something else, too. It’s not enough to just resist evil. It’s not enough to just scream, “stop!” We need a revolution. We need a vision of a re-sanctified earth. We need a dream of who we can be as a species. I don’t believe that the great Cosmic Wisdom meant for us to stay stuck as homo sapiens. Homo sapiens have been smart humans with great technology, but primitive forms of social organization that divide and rank people based on race and gender and hoard resources. We can be better than that. We are meant to evolve into something else. That something else is of the heart and of the spirit; of deep compassion and broad vision: Homo amandi. Loving person.

Homo amandi creates life sustaining societies committed to restoring balance to the earth. Let’s do it right now. Let’s make the heart decision to evolve into homo amandi. Let’s compress the next thousand years of evolution into the next twelve. It will be the evolution revolution. And the best thing about it, is that every single one of us can participate in this revolution every day. We participate through our choices, through what we say in casual conversation, what we buy, what we click on, what we discard, and through who we are. Each action may seem trivial on its own, but we have to think big, think collectively, and ask, “what is it a part of? What is happening through me? Is it the sixth mass extinction? Or is it the evolution of homo amandi?”

We need the extinction rebellion and the evolution revolution both. We need to be saying “no” with all our might to the powers that are doing violence to the earth. And we need to be saying “yes” to a new way of living together in peace. I want it for my children and I know you will want it for yours and for all those you love. I want to be a blessing to the earth, not a curse; and I know you do too. My fellow homo amandi, join me in seizing the day, this day – the second best time ever – to plant a tree and become something new.