Author: Karenna Gore

Faith in Climate

A few weeks ago I went to Recife at the invitation of Brazilian environmentalist, Alfredo Sirkis, on the occasion of the Brazilian Climate Change Conference. Named for the stone reefs in the Atlantic ocean off its shores, Recife is the largest city in the Northeastern state of Pernambuco. 

Brazil was set to host the upcoming COP 25 Climate meeting until newly elected President Jair Bolsonaro pulled out last year. 

Alfredo Sirkis, Mayor of Recife, Geraldo Júlio and Karenna Gore.

As in the United States, there is denialism at the top of the government, but real movement to address the climate crisis on a subnational level. The Mayor of Recife, Geraldo Júlio who serves as regional chairman of a consortium of local governments for sustainability (ICLEI) and was the first mayor in South America to declare a climate emergency and is working on a transition to 100 percent renewable energy. Sirkis has been working on emissions reductions commitment from Brazil’s governors. He recently spoke alongside some of them (as well as some governors from the Peruvian Amazon) at the Vatican, one day after the Amazonian Synod. This is all happening during a surge in deforestation (and the related phenomenon of forest fires) which Philip Fearnside, a scientist at Brazil’s National Institute of Amazonian Research in Manaus says “results both from the constant anti-environment rhetoric and from concrete actions in dismantling the country’s environmental agencies and effectively halting fines for illegal clearing.”

Sirkis is formerly chair of the Brazil Climate Change Forum (Bolsonaro fired him) and currently head of the Brazilian Climate Center. My role was to participate in an interfaith ceremony and panel discussion on November 8th that was held at the oldest synagogue in the Americas, Kahal Zur Israel. Sirkis also invited his friend, the extraordinary Rabbi Nilton Bonder of Rio, and he worked with other organizers to invite Catholic, Evangelical, Muslim, Candomblé and Indigenous faith leaders (in the end the Muslim representative was unable to attend unfortunately).  Thanks to a friendship with his daughter, Anna, who lives in New York City, I know something about the family history. Alfredo has recently made a documentary about his mother Liliana’s journey fleeing her native Poland in the 1930s in the context of the genocide of Jewish people to which his family was subjected. 

Photo: CEE Director Karenna Gore speaks at Kahal Zur Israel, the oldest synagogue in the Americas in Recife, Brazil.

Kahal Zur Israel synogogue, which now functions as an intimate museum with original artifacts, was established in around 1636 by Sephardic Jews who had fled from Spain and Portugal to the Netherlands during the Inquisition and then came over with the Dutch.  The Dutch ruled Northeast Brazil from 1630-1654 and the Dutch West India Company made its headquarters in Recife. When the Portuguese took over again and expelled Jews from Recife in 1654, the Kahal Zur community fled to, among other places, “New Amsterdam,” my hometown. Over the next centuries, some returned, along with Jewish immigrants and refugees from around the world.

The Interfaith ceremony became highly charged, provoking a stark awareness about the connection between religious persecution and climate disruption. But it began gently. Rabbi Bonder spoke of heeding signs and listening and sang beautifully. Later that evening he would return to Kahal-Zur Israel to lead a service. Pastor Paul César, a Baptist pastor, spoke from the heart about the need for stronger voices from the Protestant community, advised that we ask forgiveness from Creator and Creation, and told the story of bringing his wife and four daughters back to the remote area of Brazil where he was born on order to show them the river he used to cherish, only to find it degraded and depleted: “we are destroying our own home,” he said. He spoke of the misinterpretation of Genesis and the problematic reality that when the mission of the church is to save souls for the afterlife, we ignore our home here. He also invoked Dorothy Stang, a Catholic sister originally from Dayton Ohio whose advocacy for the rural poor and the rainforest caused her to receive death threats from land owners and loggers, and who was murdered in the Brazilian Amazon in 2005. “We need to develop new leaders,” he said in closing.

Mother Beth de Oxum, Rabbi Nilton Bonder, Jaqueline Xukuru, Pastor Paulo César Pereira and Father Fabio Santos

It was then that Mãe Beth de Oxum of the Candomblé community heightened the volume and shifted the energy. She said that it was the first time she had been invited to a synagogue and she took it as a good sign. She said that her ancestors came from Africa and brought oral traditions and that they always knew the sacred dimensions of nature. She spoke of the Orishas, especially Yemanja and Oxum. She said the Earth womb is the first uterus. She said they sing to the leaves and the ocean and more and raising her voice, she said “we don’t get respect for our sacred traditions.” She spoke passionately and at length about the demonization of her community and implored those present to stand in alliance with them. She received standing ovation. Father Fábio Santos, who spoke next, invoking Pope Francis’ Laudato Si, gave her a clear statement of support.

The Xukuru are an Indigenous first nation of Brazil who have been fighting for the right to their ancestral land in Pernambuco; Jacqueline Xukuru spoke with jarring clarity about the clash of belief systems that is still playing out from time of conquest: “We do not see the Earth as a subject of financial speculation,” she said, “it is our body, our spirit.” She referenced the incendiary and outrageously disrespectful things that the current Brazilian President has said about Indigenous peoples, as well as his moves to dismantle the official department for Indigenous affairs (FUNAI). 

“Progress for who? Development for who?” These questions seem to be at the heart of our global ecological crisis.

The most striking part about her talk was the omnipresent and imminent violence against Indigenous peoples. Just days before our gathering, there was another murder—Paulo Paulino Guajajara, a member of the Guararaja tribe and the organization Guardians of the Forest.We will keep up the resistance until the last Indigenous people are here,” Xukuru said, and referred to a global campaign: Indigenous Blood: Not One Drop More. She questioned all the actors who make moves on land and water without consulting Indigenous peoples: “Progress for who? Development for who?” These questions seem to be at the heart of our global ecological crisis. 

Guarani representative Mirin Juyan joins Youth & Climate side event at SinsPire wearing traditional feathers.

Listening to these speakers in this synagogue, it was poignant to recall that it was the same powers who ordered the Inquisition to purge the Jews and Moors from Spain and Portugal who worked with the Vatican to craft the papal bulls that divided the world for Spanish and Portuguese explorers. When the Portuguese established Recife in 1573, it soon became the first slave port in the Americas. These bulls proclaimed that the original peoples of Africa and the Americas were merely part of the flora and fauna to be “conquered vanquished and subdued.” Many see this same mentality present in both the climate denial and bigotry of today. At one of the conference side events I attended at the SinsPire Center, a young Guarani man named Mirin Juyan noted that some current Brazilian leaders have called Indigenous peoples “animals.” He explained that this is especially odd because in his traditional way, animals are our relatives rather than hallmarks of a lesser category of being, adding “I would rather be an animal than a destroyer of life.” 

“I would rather be an animal than a destroyer of life.”

The prophetic voice of Pope Francis (the first pontiff from Latin America) in the climate conversation also calls to mind some echoes of Recife’s past. Dom Hélder Câmara, the Archbishop of Olinda and Recife from 1964-1985, is now officially on the path to canonization. He endured increasing resistance to his work with and for the marginalized people of Brazil and famously said “when I give food to the poor, they call me a saint, when I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist.” He attended all four sessions of Vatican II and was instrumental in the drafting of Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Pope Paul VI, 1965), which is quite worth reading. One passage points out: Our era needs such wisdom more than bygone ages if the discoveries made by man are to be further humanized. For the future of the world stands in peril unless wiser men are forthcoming. It should also be pointed out that many nations, poorer in economic goods, are quite rich in wisdom and can offer noteworthy advantages to others. Câmara also founded a Theological Institute where he taught alongside feminist theologian Ivone Gebara for 17 years. 

Crane colony in the mangroves.

My trip also included the opportunity to encounter the mangroves, the fragile ecosystem that nurtures life and sequesters carbon, eat Brazilian food, enjoy music and truly warm and gracious hospitality across the board. Many Brazilians expressed concern over the recent oil spill of the Northeastern Coast not too far from Recife, still apparently mysterious in origin, but most everyone seemed to be continuing to enjoy the fruits of the sea. Finally, right before I left, I was able to visit an extraordinary collection at the Ricardo Brennand Institute featuring European art and artifacts, some of which the collector brought from Europe, others which were created by Europeans in Brazil. This includes illustrations of the land and people of Brazil done centuries ago, infused with all the “Old World” preconceptions and raw wonder one might imagine.

One gallery is focused on the period of Dutch occupation of the Northeast and includes the largest collection of the work of Frans Post, who is acknowledged as the first European landscape painter in the Americas. He was from Haarlam, in the Netherlands. Union Theological Seminary is in Harlem—or rather on the border of “Morningside Heights” and Harlem, where gentrification is a major issue— and I took this occasion to learn the roots of the word in Dutch. Apparently it is traceable to haarlo-heim, meaning a home in a forested elevated place. The Lenape people lived in Harlem – and all of “Manahatta” – when the Dutch West India Company arrived there in 1624. One benefit of our time is the incredible surge in awareness of the layers of history that we live in.

Painting: ‘Village of Olinda after the fire on November 25, 1631’, by Frans Post

One benefit of our time is the incredible surge in awareness of the layers of history that we live in.

We are far behind the goals of the Paris Agreement and, seen through that lens, we appear set on a trajectory to ecological collapse. For all of us, we must face the feeling of doom that visits the climate conversation at least as often as the feelings of rage, grief, disbelief and inspiration do. But we must also realize that there is more going on than meets the eye. The force of history can feel as indominable as the many tons of carbon pollution that scientists tell us is now stuck up in the atmosphere for centuries, no matter what we do now. But that cannot be the only way to look at it. There are physics at work, but there are also metaphysics, and one can feel them palpably in Brazil. As another native of Recife, Pedagogy of the Oppressed author and legendary movement-builder Paolo Friere wrote: “It is necessary that the weakness of the powerless is transformed into a force capable of announcing justice. For this to happen, a total denouncement of fatalism is necessary. We are transformative beings and not beings for accommodation.” I am grateful for my time in Brazil in which I felt that force gathering, inviting all of us into transformation together.

Sources:

https://www.survivalinternational.org/tribes/brazilian

https://www.climatehotmap.org/global-warming-locations/recife-brazil.html

http://agenciabrasil.ebc.com.br/en/direitos-humanos/noticia/2018-03/inter-american-court-condemns-brazil-violating-indigenous-rights

https://www.survivalinternational.org/articles/3540-Bolsonaro

https://www.nytimes.com/2003/12/07/books/chapters/over-the-edge-of-the-world.html

http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_cons_19651207_gaudium-et-spes_en.html

https://www.nytimes.com/1971/05/23/archives/the-little-priest-who-stands-up-to-brazils-generals-the-little.html

https://www.americamagazine.org/issue/call-him-saint

http://basilio.fundaj.gov.br/pesquisaescolar_en/index.php?option=com_content&id=1118:indios-em-pernambuco-indians-in-pernambuco

https://iclei.org/en/media/recife-takes-on-the-leadership-of-icleis-network-in-south-america

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/11/brazil-s-deforestation-exploding-and-2020-will-be-worse

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-brazil-environment/brazils-bolsonaro-fires-militant-head-of-climate-change-action-group-idUSKCN1SG2BT

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/aug/27/jair-bolsonaro-demands-emmanuel-macron-withdraw-insults-over-fires

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/08/23/brazils-bolsonaro-hits-back-at-frances-macron-over-amazon-fires.html

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-climate-change-brazil/no-longer-the-host-brazil-still-aims-for-key-role-at-u-n-climate-talks-idUSKBN1WU2YF

Ivone Gebara essay in Planetary Solidarity 

CEE Director Karenna Gore Delivers Earth Day Sermon at Harvard Memorial Church

CEE Director Karenna Gore celebrated Earth Day by offering a sermon at Harvard Memorial Church.  She was introduced by Harvard Professor Jonathon L. Walton.

Listen to the audio here

Full text of Karenna’s Earth Day sermon April 22, 2018:

The Wisdom of the Earth

Thank you friends; thank you Reverend Walton.

Thank you all for inviting me back to my alma mater this morning.  “Alma
Mater” means “nurturing mother” which is the way that many of the
world’s religious and spiritual traditions refer to the Earth.

On this Earth Day, I would like to offer a reflection on the Wisdom of the
Earth, starting with the words of Howard Thurman, the longtime dean of
Marsh Chapel at Boston University. He recalled the feeling he had as a
child on the Atlantic coast of Florida: “I had the sense that all things, the
sand, the sea, the stars, the night, and I were one lung through which all life
breathed. Not only was I aware of the vast rhythm enveloping all, but I was
a part of it and it was a part of me” . . . He goes on to say “the resulting
synthesis was to me religious rather than metaphysical.”

We are created of the Earth, of course. The water in our bodies, the iron in
our blood, the calcium in our bones, the air in our lungs, the soil and
sunshine in the food that sustains us. The thoughts in our minds and the
feelings in our hearts are also elemental—they are connected to what it is
we choose to perceive and ponder. In this time of information revolution–
and revolting information— how do we find wisdom?

In the book of Proverbs, “Wisdom” is not merely an abstraction. In
Chapter 3, verse 18, “She is a tree of life to all those who lay hold of her
and those who hold her fast are called happy.” In Proverbs 8, she speaks:
“When he established the heavens, I was there.” “And now, my children,
listen to me: happy are those who keep my ways.”

In the Book of Luke, there is a striking quotation from Jesus. He is speaking to a crowd of people. “You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time? And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?” (Luke 12:56-57)

Today we as a people look down to our handheld devices more than up at the sky at all. We may not even know how to read the weather itself anymore, much less the deeper truths of our time.

But the signs abound. Stronger storms and floods, heat waves, droughts,
wildfires. For the third year in a row, in the middle of winter, temperatures
at the North Pole climbed above freezing for significant time periods. The
ice in the Arctic, including the massive ice cap on top of Greenland, has
begun to melt faster and faster, even as many Antarctic glaciers are moving
towards the sea more quickly. So sea levels are rising fast, and climate
refugees have begun to stream from small island nations and low lying
coastal areas.

And it is not just humans that are migrating. Both animals and plants are
moving towards the poles at an average rate of 15 ft per day. Some are
climbing slopes in search of cooler air. Many species face extinction, not
only because of the changing climate but also because their habitats are
being devoured by human societies.

We could also interpret the proliferation of plastic waste as a sign, one that
is more visible than the gaseous heat-trapping waste we are constantly
spewing into the thin shell of atmosphere—the sky. And yet, political
leaders still call for more drilling, fracking and burning of fossil fuels, as if
there is nothing wrong. The signs are clear: something is very wrong
indeed. As Pope Francis famously said “if we destroy Creation, Creation
will destroy us.”

This reminds me of a joke: What’s the difference between an optimist and a pessimist? The pessimist says I just can’t imagine how things could get much worse and the optimist says “oh I think I can!”

Perhaps this moment in time is not best understood as a choice between optimism and pessimism, but rather as a call to wisdom.

In the book Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants, Robin Kimmerer writes, “Restoring land without restoring our relationship is an empty exercise. It is relationship that will endure and relationship that will sustain the restored land. Therefore connecting people and the landscape is as essential as reestablishing proper hydrology or cleaning up contaminants. It is medicine for the earth.” It is also medicine for humanity.

Like the crowd Jesus spoke to, we as a whole are paying attention to the
values of a system that we know to be untethered to the truth of who we
really are. The gospel of our time is economic growth and the way we
measure it encourages what is known as “the externalization of costs”—
pollution, exploitation, breakdown of communities, the depletion of
groundwater, forests, wetlands, and the web of biodiversity. The term
“externalities” comes from the language of economists. What it means is, it
is ok to ignore it. In our political sphere, this is held in place in the name of
prosperity and freedom. We forget that the source of all wealth and life is
the biosphere itself. As the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore wrote
“Emancipation from the bondage of the soil is no freedom for the tree.”

One reason we are stuck in this perverse trajectory, trapped in a society
that is designed to be at war with the natural cycles of life, is because of
bad theology. The papal bulls from the Vatican in the 15 th century invoked
the Book of Genesis when they asserted that that the Bible gave European
explorers the right to “conquer, vanquish and subdue” the peoples of
Africa and the Americas. They labeled them “part of the flora and fauna”
of the land to be claimed by Christendom. [This led to the Doctrine of
Discovery, still cited in American jurisprudence.]

And for millennia many leaders have claimed Biblical authority for male to
dominate female. Eco-womanist theologian Melanie Harris points out that
“the powerful connections that can be observed between human life-givers

(mothers/creators) and creation as Mother Earth” are still “often deemed
heretical, pagan, and sacrilegious.” (245). So when the politicians working
remove protections against pollution and to open our public lands and
oceans to fracking and drilling eagerly pronounce themselves “good
stewards of the Earth,” when the catch phrase of the day is “Energy
Dominance,” they are operating within a theological tradition we know all
too well.

Domination does not mean that the real power of the dominated
disappears. As Jesus said, in the beginning of Luke 12, “Nothing is covered
up that will not be uncovered and nothing is secret that will not become
known.” The humanity that was denied by the version of Christianity that
justified oppression of Native peoples and slavery is powerfully before us.
Black Lives Matter. And whether you believe in it as an expression of the
divine feminine or not, the Earth is speaking, with Wisdom, saying . . . Me
Too.

The people suffering most from extraction economy are those who are also
dealing with racism and marginalization. Who can forget one of the most
stunning signs of our times, just a few years ago in Standing Rock. The
Standing Rock Sioux opposed an oil pipeline through their sacred land that
threatened the underground aquifer of water they had drawn from for time
immemorial. They established a peaceful prayer camp with allies from all
over the world and they spoke their truth: “we are protectors not
protestors” and “water is life.” They spoke of Mother Earth with
reverence. They stood unarmed in the land of their ancestors- in front of a
wall of militarized police who were there protecting the rights of a private
corporation. This pipeline was built. More such pipelines are being built.
They are financed by investors and banks who seek monetary profits.
Why do we not judge for ourselves what is right?

This University is in a time of judging for itself about its financial
relationship to the fossil fuel industry and I join with those who are saying:
it is time to divest.

Proverbs 3:14 teaches that the “income [of Wisdom] is better than silver
and her revenue is better than gold.”

Jesus said, “You hypocrites!” Perhaps some of us are afraid to judge what
is right because we fear the specter of our own hypocrisy. We feel so
implicated in the systems that we know are causing ecological harm (as
consumers if nothing else) that we are afraid to judge for ourselves what is
right, lest the judgment of others rain down upon us. And so by default we
choose an even greater hypocrisy — silent complicity in the absurd
assumption that nothing is wrong.

Even among the hypocrisies and absurdities of our time, there is a
powerful common human desire for community and connection. In
Laudato Si, Pope Frances writes that “An authentic humanity, calling for a
new synthesis, seems to dwell in the midst of our technological culture,
almost unnoticed, like a mist seeping gently beneath a closed door” (§112).
Of course, there is also hope from the new capacity for generating and
storing energy from the sun and wind. A recent headline from the Onion
reads, “Scientists Politely Remind World That Clean Energy Technology
Ready To Go . . . Whenever.” But it is authentic humanity that will truly
heal and relationship that will sustain and endure.

The Earth, all of our alma mater, is ending the illusion of separation. There
are no externalities. We must respect this living planet and live within her
bounds. The non-canonical Gospel of Thomas says: “If you bring forth
what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring
forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”

The wisdom of the Earth is within us. In our present time, with all its signs
and wonders, let us bring it forth.

***

Karenna Gore responds to the West Roxbury Climate Trial Verdict

On March 27th, I was one of thirteen defendants who went to court in the West Roxbury district of Boston to answer charges related to our arrests for civil disobedience against a fossil fuel (fracked gas) pipeline in that neighborhood. The prosecution reduced our criminal charges to civil infractions, a disappointment in the sense that we wanted to present a full “necessity defense” at a jury trial. Then something extraordinary happened: the judge allowed each defendant to address her directly.

We spoke successively in a way that argued and reinforced all the usual elements of the necessity defense:

(1) we reasonably believed we were acting to prevent imminent harm

(2) the harm we sought to avert was greater than the harm done by illegal action

(3) we reasonably anticipated that our action would avert the harm and

(4) there were no remaining legal alternatives.

In the end, the judge found us all “not responsible” (the civil infraction version of “not guilty”) by reason of necessity. This felt like a moment of moral clarity about where we are in the climate movement and I was honored to be a part of it. Respect and gratitude go to The Climate Disobedience Center and to the residents of the West Roxbury neighborhood of Boston who led this fight.

Here is a great piece in Commonwealth magazine giving the background and context of this moment. The particular action that I was part evoked the connection between the ever-increasing use of fossil fuels and the deaths of those who die of climate impacts, specifically those who were buried in trench-like mass graves that had been dug in anticipation of the extreme heat wave in Pakistan that year. Rev Mariama White-Hammond, Rabbi Shoshana Friedman and Tim DeChristopher were among those that delivered eulogies and made prayers that day before a group of us laid down in that pipeline trench. I want to note that my participation grew out of  conversations with both Mariama and Tim (as well as, with Rev. Margaret Bullitt- Jonas) at the Center for Earth Ethics ministers training in 2015, just a few weeks before the action. Finally, I want to note that local residents like Mary Boyle had worked very hard building the movement in opposition to this particular dangerous high-pressure fracked gas pipeline, which also brought the imminent danger of explosion into their dense neighborhood. They were acting to protect their neighbors, and they also made a powerful case for the protection of all life on Earth.

Karenna Gore
Director, Center for Earth Ethics

Karenna Gore

Building a Movement of Resistance to the Fossil Fuel Infrastructure in the Trump Era: An Activist Response to Planetary Solidarity

@theTable
March 25, 2018

This collection of essays is an excellent and necessary contribution to religious thought at this extraordinary time. The impacts of man-made climate change have begun to arrive—the intensified heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and stronger storms, and related effects such as the rising of sea levels and migration and extinction of life forms. There is also a growing awareness of the need to radically change the course of the energy system that is fueling those impacts—the extraction and burning of fossil fuels.

Innovations in renewable energy technology make it possible to make the shift, and the reality that the most vulnerable (and least culpable) are suffering the most gives us even more of a moral mandate to do so. But there is a big force standing in the way. The United States is now the only nation in the world not officially committed to the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. The current administration (with help from their allies in the House and Senate) has even ordered the phrase “climate change” to be deleted from our government’s websites, as if the nature of this was a problem was such that humanity could press delete and make it go away.

One reason why this collection is so important is that religious assumptions are right beneath the surface of our current politics. Here are two examples from the Trump administration. One is a typical quote invoking a distorted notion of stewardship from the current Director of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, who is known for his efforts to roll back regulations preventing corporations and other actors from dumping chemicals and toxins into our ecosystems. In November 2017, he stated: “We have tremendous natural resources from coal to natural gas to oil to generate electricity in a very cost-effective way. We should celebrate that and be good stewards.” Another example is from the nominee to be the White House Senior Advisor on Environmental Quality, Kathleen Harnett White. She described concerns about climate change as “a kind of paganism for secular elites.”

The second reason why this collection is so important is that it deals with gender, which is of the essence of the current imbalance within our planet. One of the great developments in the last few years was Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home (2015). It is a beautiful and powerful document—full of insight—but it gets gender wrong. This is not only because of the lack of women’s voices in the text, but also because of the reinforcement of perversely gendered notions of the power to create. Language about a feminine Earth is juxtaposed with language about the Father who wholly created and owns this Earth. The concept of integral ecology (vital in many ways) gets stuck in the reiteration of the related teaching that babies are fully formed in the womb by this patriarchal God (75, 238). The underlying message (in addition the notion that we are in an interconnected web of life with intrinsic spiritual worth) is there can be no co-creation by a female force, whether divine or mundane.

In harmonious contrast, in “Ecowomanist Wisdom: Encountering Earth and Spirit,” Melanie Harris lifts up the creative force within both women and the Earth and gently names the precise blockage to acknowledgment of it. “Often deemed heretical, pagan, and sacrilegious, the powerful connections that can be observed between human life-givers (mothers/creators) and creation as Mother Earth are treated as primary resources for ecowomanist spiritualities” (245). Harris also writes about the web-of-life concept and interconnectedness in African indigenous cosmologies as a source of insight and modes of resistance. Her work gives us tools to recognize the logic of domination, not only through direct race-class-gender analysis but also through tracing the philosophical and political roots of western thought.

In “Trafficked Lands: Sexual Violence, Oil, and Structural Evil in the Dakotas,” Hilda Koster focuses on the conflict at Standing Rock last year. This essay communicates the violence done to the body of the Earth during fracking and its connection to the violence done to the women who are trafficked and sexually assaulted alongside these fracking and pipeline operations. Koster insists that “fracking and sex trafficking come from the same place, namely a fundamental disrespect for physical existence and a denial of out vulnerability as embodied beings” (156). She also explains “the way structural evil operates within the context of fracking, blocks our moral vision” (173). Structural evil is often invisible, we are intricately connected to it through dominant systems in our society, and these systems are largely inherited by us which makes them even harder to confront. With reference to Cynthia Moe-Lobeda’s take on Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s insights on how evil or “structural sin” disguises itself as good, Koster gives us an expansive and realistic sense of what we are up against. Indeed, we must examine the reigning paradigm of production, consumption and “economic growth” if we are going to be able to stop this mindless and self-destructive trajectory.

The costs of climate injustice—to the poor, to the Earth, to future generations, to all other forms of life, and to our own moral integrity—are not counted by our current political dialogue, but they are creatively resurrected in Planetary Solidarity. Heather Eaton’s essay points out the poverty of the language we use to describe our circumstance, including the concept of the Earth as our “home” and argues for a new kind of literacy: “Earth is our source, origin and basis for everything that keeps us alive” (24). Wanda Deifelt takes on the difficult concept of Imago Dei and the legacy of dualistic frameworks, enlightening us with her reading of the Babylonian creation myth that pre-dated Genesis and giving us a sense of what was at stake in the original association of the human with the divine. Jea Sophia Oh writes of the paradox of life from death and teaches that the social pathology of anti-life is different from the natural occurrence of death, as the Korean words jugim (killing) and salim (making things alive, restoring and enlivening) so beautifully illustrate. Barbara Rossing enlightens us about eschatology as a source of healing and hope, a way to find a bridge to a new way of life. Examining ancient (Romans 8:22) and modern (“Santa Claus is coming to town!”) eschatologies, with full understanding of the political manipulations of all these narratives, Rossing rightly sees the power now in our own hands: “We need to find ourselves again in God’s beauty” (346).

Finally, I want to close with an anecdote from my experience as an activist in this city. There are a number of Bostonians who are drawing from deep within their faith traditions to inform and guide them in their active opposition to the building of fossil fuel infrastructure. I joined some of them in June of 2016 in an action of nonviolent civil disobedience in West Roxbury. We laid down in a trench that had been dug for the fracked gas pipeline known as the West Roxbury Lateral portion of the Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) pipeline, owned by the Texas-based company Spectra, which was recently bought by Enbridge, a Canadian company that also owns a big stake in the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The vision of this action was to use that pipeline trench to invoke the image of– and connection to– the anticipatory mass graves that had been dug that year in Pakistan, in expectation of many hundreds of victims of the extreme heat waves that have begun to plague that region. I was honored to be a part of that vision of solidarity with people living across the world. When I was actually lying in there myself, I was also startled by another type of solidarity—with the Earth herself. The people who gathered around the top of the trench to peer down into it were all uniformed men. The quiet soil below us felt decidedly un-uniformed and powerfully female. For what it’s worth, I vividly recall that feeling today as I salute these extraordinary women theologians for doing the intellectual, imaginative and spiritual work of Planetary Solidarity.


Karenna Gore is the founding director of the Center for Earth Ethics (CEE) at Union Theological Seminary. Ms. Gore’s previous experience includes work as a lawyer at both Simpson Thacher & Bartlett and Sanctuary for Families, director of Community Affairs for the Association to Benefit Children (ABC), and director of Union Forum at Union Theological Seminary. She has also worked as a writer and is the author of Lighting the Way: Nine Women Who Changed Modern America. Ms. Gore is a graduate of Harvard College, Columbia Law School and Union Theological Seminary and currently serves on the boards of the Association to Benefit Children (ABC) and Riverkeeper. She lives in New York City with her three children.

Fall Update from Karenna

Friends,

We send our greetings to you at this challenging time. It is a time that calls those who can be both advocates and healers. As we fight to change the system that continues to dump this pollution into the air, we also stand with those who are recovering and rebuilding from the impacts. As we join with those who resist corrupt policies and abuse of power, we also seek to understand the painful divisions and persistent illusions in our civic life.

This semester, The Center for Earth Ethics is initiating a new time of serious inquiry as individuals, as collaborators and as leaders in an ever-changing landscape, geographically and politically.  Our goal is to address the root cause of climate change—an economic development model based on short-term profit, no matter what the cost to people and planet. We envision a world in which value is measured according to the long-term well being of the whole. We believe that this value system can be achieved through a combination of the restoration of older traditional ways and the inclusive, equitable application of new technologies.

Thank you for being a part of our work. We invite you to learn more about each of our four program areas– Original Caretakers, Environmental Justice and Civic Engagement, Sustainability and Global Affairs and Eco-Ministry—and to be in touch with us about the work you are doing in your community. Please also follow us on social media and feel free to come to the gatherings at Union. There’s so much going on already this Fall, and we’ve only just begun!

Sincerely,
Karenna

Stop a Pipeline for Fracked Gas: NY Times Op-Ed, Karenna Gore

OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR –

GENERATIONS of the Holleran family have harvested sap from trees on their land in New Milford, Pa. In early March, their small maple syrup business was nearly destroyed when armed federal marshals accompanied men with chain saws onto the family farm and used the power of eminent domain to cut down most of their maple trees.

The Hollerans are in the way of the Constitution Pipeline, the 124-mile structure that would carry fracked gas from the Marcellus Shale fields of Pennsylvania to a compressor station in Wright, N.Y. From there, it would connect with the Iroquois and Tennessee pipelines to take the gas to New England, and potentially to Canada. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission almost always approves such pipelines, despite growing evidence of the harm they are doing.

Now the Houston-based Constitution Pipeline Company is poised to begin construction in New York. They have been held back from cutting trees only by an objection in January from Eric T. Schneiderman, the attorney general of New York, who cited the fact that the state still has one way to stop the project.

Read on…