Author: Shannon M.D. Smith

CEE’s Karenna Gore at Interfaith Ceremony for Climate at Kahal Zur Israel – Recife, Brazil

Karenna Gore, Director of Center for Earth Ethics, will join Catholic, Evangelical, Jewish, Afro-Brazilian and Indigenous Leaders to Host a Multi-Religious Event for Climate Protection at the Americas’ Oldest Synagogue, Kahal Zur Israel, in Recife, Brazil on Friday, November 8, at 2:30 pm, on Bom Jesus street, near Marco Zero, in the historic center of Recife.

The event will take place in the context of the Brazilian Climate Change Conference, to be held in Recife, November 6-8, preparatory for the COP 25 climate conference, which will now be held in Madrid, from 2nd  to the 13th of December.

“Faith in the Climate” will feature Rabbi Nilton Bonder, who graduated from NYC’s Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS); Father Fábio Santos, coordinator of the Commission for Ecumenism of the Catholic Church of Pernambuco; Pastor Paulo César Pereira, President of the Alliance of Baptist Churches; Mother Beth de Oxum, Afro-Brazilian; and a representative of the indigenous nation of the Xukuru. 

The interfaith ceremony will be followed by debate with its protagonists at the neighboring SinsPire cultural center on Arsenal Square at 4 pm.

For the event in the synagogue, due to limited seats, please RSVP with full name and institution to [email protected] and wait for confirmation. At SinsPire, the debate is open to the public.

The event is a co-hosting of Centro Brasil no Cima (CBC), the Institute for Religious Studies (ISER), the Faith in Climate movement and the Climate and Society Institute (ICS) with the support of the Israelite Federation of Pernambuco (FIPE), chaired by Sônia Sette.

For more information:  [email protected], [email protected]

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Simple Gifts for Mother Earth: A beautiful way to kick off Climate Week

On the eve of Climate Week we gathered in an historic meeting house church on the New Haven Green to center ourselves, align our intentions for the days ahead and to be reminded of why we gather at this time, and what’s at stake.

Invocation – Tiokasin Ghosthorse

What we are doing here is a good thing.  We must hold her in our arms… we drink her water which is the milk… we understand the Earth… we have understood for a long time… it has always been about the relationship with Her.  The rocks have a consciousness and intelligence, the fire has… the trees… the water… how do they live within us?  We are in this together .  This is who we are in a very practical and related way.  I want to invite Mother Earth here.  I’m here because She deserves to be first.

 

Inspired by the Universe’s Story

Mary Evelyn Tucker has been leading the call to education around climate conditions in the halls of our most hallowed institutions for decades. She directs the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale with her husband, John Grim.  She continues to call into focus the craftsmanship to articulate that which has never been before – across generational narratives and with a single aim – to appeal to our best selves and point them in the direction of healing and protecting our world.

Many cultures share a common theme in our origin stories that says we come from the stars.  Out of a super nova all the elements of our earth emerged and from that all life forms have actually been derived – the stars literally are our ancestors.  We reference Deep Time – the time of the cosmos – that has birthed life over billions of years.  It is ‘a story of magnificence’ but also a story that grounds us in a sense of our purpose because it raises the questions like all of the worlds religions do in their creation stories: Where have we come from ?  Why are we here? How do we belong?  And what is our work?

Mary Evelyn Tucker points us to Thomas Berry, and that he would say – ‘We have a Great Work.  We have work to be done at this particular moment in human history.’  A work to be done, a “Functional Cosmology”.  The story of magnificence of life that invokes in us a sense of awe and wonder, a trait of the monastic and contemplative life, and yet that we also have a responsibility for it.

And perhaps this is the same calling our youth are responding to – the youth of the sunrise movement at Yale and around the country.  A calling to protect that which we are in awe of from the Grand Canyon, to the flight of a honey bee, to complex opening of each and every flower.

The sense of awe and appreciation for nature is deeply rooted in our sense of faith in traditions around the world.  It is our job to appeal to our highest selves, to restore value to our sense of awe at the beauty in nature and the fundamental order of its construct as it is expressed through science and spirituality.

We are called to seize the moment to give our all… Simple Gifts for Mother Earth.  May our words and music tonight bring inspiration to the great work ahead.

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Music as Meditation

The legendary Paul Winter offered us a few minutes, an interlude.  This window was an invitation to remember nature and the beauty in it, as well as the beauty it inspires in art and how art can inspire us to protect nature.  Mr. Winter performed the Song of the Wood Thrush.  It alternates the sound of flute, with the actual birdsong.  He explained each wood thrush has a four note song.  At the time he conceived the collaboration, the species was endangered.  He feared our children would never know the beauty of the song unless he made this recording.  His commitment led to the saving of some 515 acres of their woodland territory.

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There is an order to things.  A sense of natural law that when one is abiding by it miracles seems to unfold.  We track this through patterns in nature.  We observe the Fibonacci sequence mathematically reoccurring throughout nature.  And there is an order to our societal needs as well.  We can measure this only by our joy, the alleviation of suffering and the relief of when agreed upon outer reality seems to match our inner reality.

What the Great Work teaches us through the lens of Earth Ethics, is that through a series of acknowledgements a certain kind of work gets done.  One that brings cohesion and aligns principles.  It can even lead us to consensus, at times without us even realizing it.

This series of acknowledgements includes acknowledgement of first nations presence, existence, and wisdom

acknowledgement of the miracle that is life in all its forms and its right to live without fear or threat

acknowledgement of the rights of future generations to public space, clean air and clean water

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The Youth and the Community are Speaking

We heard from several members of the Yale and New Haven Communities of projects, meetings, advocacy groups and opportunities to be involved in the work of spreading awareness, raising funds, securing divestment and on it goes.

Adrian Huq is a high school senior at Metropolitan Business Academy in New Haven who is passionate about sustainability and climate activism. They have been working with Elm Energy Efficiency Project since last year to educate their school community on energy efficiency, and also serve on New Haven Climate Movement’s Youth Action Team.

Ms. Huq joyfully announced from the pulpit that the Board of Alders in New Haven unanimously declared a climate emergency the Tuesday night preceding our event.  They ordered the creation of a new Climate Emergency Mobilization Task Force charged with leading the push to end community-wide greenhouse gas emissions in a decade.

They unanimously recommended approval of an amended version of a climate emergency resolution that was drafted and proposed by Westville Alder Darryl Brackeen, Jr. and that has been supported for months by a youth-led coalition of environmental activists called the New Haven Climate Movement.

 

Doing the Work and Bringing it Home

CEE Director Karenna Gore spoke at length from the scholastic work of Earth Ethics on economics and the illusion of externalities, on data, the realities of environmental injustice, on the theology of “structural evil”, “the cultic commitment to greed”, and the simple clarifying point made by Oscar Wilde that ‘a cynic is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing’.  And with the evidence presented, we return to our purpose, to prepare to walk into the streets.

In closing … she offered…

“I want to invoke the words on the beautiful flyer for this event—“how can we mobilize action for the climate emergency?” As we have heard, on September 20th, there will be a climate strike led by Greta and other youth activists. I hope to see each of you out there in some way- and lets commit to getting a few more to join us – and let’s make sure that they are all registered to vote while we are at it. And let us also fund those communities who are fighting fossil fuel expansion projects in their own communities and stand with them however we can.

The challenge of climate justice is also a great gift. Mother Earth has given us the gift of the laws of nature and the ability to learn them from experience and align with them. It is our gift back to her to show we understand, to simply agree to behave as if we belong here.”

And out into the streets we go…

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Full Transcript of “The Challenge of Climate Justice”, Karenna Gore

Simple Gifts for Mother Earth

It is an honor for me to be here with these powerful voices in this beautiful sanctuary- thank you Pastor Jocelyn for welcoming us here at the United Church on the Green. I want to say thank you to the other speakers—it was wonderful to hear from the New Haven community climate activists and just as Mary Evelyn spoke of “connecting the dots,” we at Center for Earth Ethics want to connect to what you are all doing. And also thanks especially to these phenomenal musicians what an honor and pleasure to be in the presence of such a great artist as you, to hear and absorb the meaning in your music. 

And to Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim, I cannot say enough thanks for your guidance and example. I entered this field through conversations with Mary Evelyn and John- and through working alongside them to understand that the bridge between scholarship and activism is important to build and maintain and also that there is a flowing river of– the cultures and stories and though forms that shape our behaviors, the very essence of our perception of this life we are in together. The Yale Forum on Relgion and Ecology is simply extraordinary, as a resource, a platform and an example.  I’m honored to be here with you all and grateful to you always.

The UN Climate Summit is upon us. Five years ago, we hosted a gathering called Religions for the Earth on the occasion of the 2014 Climate Summit called by then SG Ban ki Moon. On the day our conference opened, an essay was published in the journal Science, co-authored by an economist and a climate scientist, that expressed the need for religious leaders to come forward to help because all the decades of research and analysis and reports were not even making a dent. They wrote: “Over and above the institutional reforms and policy changes that are required, there is a need to reorient our attitude towards nature and thereby ourselves.” And so this work tonight- simple gifts to Mother Earth- is as practical as it is profound- and it is essential to facing this climate emergency.

Science and economics and data are important but they have not been enough. We know that one half of the global warming pollution in the atmosphere now has been put up there in the last 25 years, the time in which the harm has been most known. In that time we have also lost vast swaths of forests that serve as carbon sinks. Even with the increasing readiness and viability of clean renewable energy, about 80% of the world’s energy still now comes from fossil fuels. We see the impacts- the Bahamas is the latest field of devastation in the stronger storms, wildfires, droughts, floods that plague us.

We know the urgency to drastically reduce greenhouse gases. The IPCC gave us a window of twelve years that we entered over a year ago, to dramatically change our ways to cut global warming emissions in order to keep the warming of our planet to 1.5 degrees Celsius, which is 2.7 degrees F. These numbers might seem small but we know a degree can be the difference between ice an water- it can make all the difference to the web of life we live within. CO2 must fall nearly 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 and we must halt the release of methane (the primary component of what is known as “natural gas,”) which is up to 80 times more heat-trapping that CO2 over a 20 year period. 

And yet, the US is set to double down on carbon intensive energy. USA Today had an article Monday citing 277 fracked gas power plants planned for construction. This administration is rolling back regulations on methane emissions, and even the fuel efficiency standards of automobiles- against the wishes of major automakers. We know that the vast majority of known fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground, and yet there is a desire to explore and drill for more. Not just anywhere- in cherished public lands and even in deeply sacred places- including in the Arctic, the sacred land of the Gwich’in, the caribou calving grounds that they have revered and cherished and protected for millennia. An article in the Guardian on September 5 citing a recent study by Carbon Tracker reported that “Since the start of last year, fossil fuel companies have spent billions on high-cost plans to extract oil and gas from tar sands, deepwater fields and the Arctic despite the risks to the climate.” And we know they spend millions on lobbying and misinformation as part of that effort. 

What could possibly be held up as the justification for increasing our use of fossil fuels at this time? Economic growth. Economic Development. The most persuasive argument that is ever made on the other side is that we need more fossil fuel extraction and burning in order to alleviate global poverty. 

But we know that is not real. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Philip Alston, issued a detailed report last month warning of a coming era of “climate apartheid” and clearly stating, with facts to back it up: “Climate change threatens to undo the last 50 years of progress in development, global health, and poverty reduction . . . It could push more than 120 million more people into poverty by 2030 and will have the most severe impact in poor countries, regions, and the places poor people live and work.” 

We must keep in mind something eco-theologian Cynthia Moe Lobeda has pointed out- building on the work of Larry Rasmussen and of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great theologian who was executed by the Nazis in his effort to resist them in his native Germany. The point is that there is a kind of sin or evil that is structural, and one of the key characteristics of “structural evil” is that it easily masquerades as good. This is all too true of the structural evil we are dealing with today- fossil fuel development masquerades as good. A central part of the challenge of climate justice to understand, to educate, to lift up the voices on the frontlines of fossil fuel projects who are speaking from their own life experience. To see through the mask- to take off the mask.

Some champions of the current system simply say there is money to be made. I read a profile in the Financial Times on Sept 2 of an oil trader who was lauded as the best connected and most successful in the business. It opened with an account of him on the phone hearing a firsthand witness tell of the crude oil spilling out during the Exxon Valdez disaster of 1989—11 million gallons onto the pristine Alaskan coast- and the story tells of him breaking out in a huge grin, calling his clients to tell them gleefully,  “the price is going up.” This was not even presented as a negative story, but rather as a portrait of a genius at work, a master of our current system, and it reflects the reality of a deeply cynical mindset that has taken hold.

Oscar Wilde wrote that a cynic is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. The current system is based on a widespread cynical misperception. It is premised on an insane alternate reality and is hell bent on devouring everything of real value . . our air, land, water, communities, life itself, all for the sake of numbers on a balance sheet. The current economic paradigm- including the measurements used to judge how the “economy” is doing (such as GDP or the stock market snapshots)- does not count depletion of resources, pollution or inequitable distribution of wealth, even the fostering of illnesses and disease. These are all considered, in the language of economics, “externalities.” Now as the pace and scale of production and consumption increases and demands more land and fuel, there are some clarion voices of reason who come from outside this system. Chief Raoni Metuktire of the Kayapó people of the Amazon had an op-ed in the Guardian on Sept. 2 in which he made the observation: What you are doing will change the whole world and will destroy our home- and it will destroy your home too.”

Our economic, energy and environmental policies not rational- they are fanatical. Only a kind of misguided religious fervor could drive this sort of thinking. Rev William Barber II has spoken of a “cultic commitment to greed.” Don’t ever think that those who study and talk about faith are naïve or soft- those are the people who are most likely to know what is is we are dealing with here. Even just the underlying assumption that human beings are separate and superior from the rest of all life, that we are meant to dominate and control all of nature . . . this thinking is neither rational nor it is actually secular, even though it is secularized. It is an extremist distortion and manipulation of a religious claim. 

And this brings us back to the challenge of climate justice. In thinking about issue, I like to remember a construct offered by Henrik Grape of the Church of Sweden- that any decision making room about energy or climate should designate three empty chairs for those who are both most impacts and least likely to be part of the consciousness of decision making: the poor and marginalized peoples of the world, future generations, and all nonhuman life.  But to respect the term climate justice as it is most used in the climate justice movement- and leaving aside a longer conversation about whether the term “justice” is rooted in Abrahamic religious traditions in a way that might influence us to conceive of this situation in a certain way— I want to focus on the first of those chairs.

The legal scholar Maxine Burkett wrote a major piece in the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review last year that argued that the climate crisis is “as much a socio-political phenomenon as a geophysical one.” She wrote: “In the United States, the field of climate justice has been concerned with the most vulnerable, as it explores the intersection of race, poverty, and climate change. Climate justice takes as a basic premise that the disadvantaged in the United States and the global South stand to suffer the risks of warming more severely than others” 

And of course, they are also the ones who have done the least to design, engage in or benefit from the system that is driving this destruction. We know that one face of climate justice is what we see in the Bahamas and before that in Puerto Rico and in Mozambique and countless other places. . .  we can see with our own eyes that the people who do not have monetary resources or ties to power are not able to flee or rebuild after this kind of devastation. A 2018 report by the World Bank estimated we will have 143 million migrants driven from their homes by climate impacts by the year 2050. One other rollback that this administration is proposing—as important to the notion of climate justice as the others- is to slash and even end the United States acceptance of refugees. The challenge of climate justice is in part to be sure that instead we welcome these migrants and also that we rebuild our own communities with resilience and equity at the forefront. 

But in addition to looking on the level of impact and effect, we must look on the level of cause. To understand our relationship with the sky, we must look at our relationship with the ground- and with each other.

This means to understand the history of white supremacy and colonization that led what led to what womanist theologian Kelly Brown Douglass calls a “theo-ideology” that runs through the Doctrine of Discovery, the concept of Manifest Destiny and into what Douglas terms “Stand-Your-Ground” culture today. It is a theo-ideology that excludes, exploits and objectifies based on an illusion of separation.

We must see that the same activity most responsible for the climate crisis—the burning of fossil fuels- gas, coal and oil—is also responsible for ambient pollution that is harmful to peoples health. Toxic sites are located in communities that have less political power and racism also plays a role- in this country, race is the number one indicator of the placement of a toxic facility. Af-Am children are 10X more likely to die of asthma than Euro-Am children. The World Health Organization estimates that roughly million people die every year globally as a result of air pollution. To challenge of climate justice is to stand with these communities and fight for right relationship on the ground. As Rev Leo Woodberry of Kingdom Living Temple Church in Florence SC recently pointed out, if we had respected all people’s right to live free of this kind of poison and “slow violence” assault, we would never have gotten where we are with this planetary emergency. 

The Center for Earth Ethics has partnered with the Poor Peoples Campaign: a national Call for Moral Revival, which was started out of Union Theological Seminary by Rev Dr Liz Theoharis and others at the Kairos Center to coincide with the 50th anniversary of MLK’s PPC—and they partnered with Rev William Barber II of North Carolina Moral Mondays movement. King spoke of three interlocking evils of racism, poverty and militarism. The have added ecological devastation as one of these interlocking evils and have a platform that includes a ban on fracking and a just transition to 100 % clean renewable energy. They are committed to leadership from the most impacted communities and so we have been part of forums with testimonials, music, prayer, and calls to action. 

And so my notion of climate justice is informed by having talked with communities in North Carolina and Alabama who have been dealing with diseases and death from the effects of living with coal ash, the toxic byproduct of coal-fired power plants, often just dumped in open pits and left to blow in the air and seep into the groundwater. I have also been to Union Hill Virginia where a historic African American community founded by people who had been enslaved on plantations right there, have been fighting a giant toxic fracked gas compressor station which would bring deafening noise and toxic emissions right to their peaceful rural home. And of course there was Standing Rock, where the Standing Rock Sioux made their prayer camp to oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline, which runs through their sacred ancestral land and threatens their aquifer. In that and so many of these cases, these projects were moved from more affluent, majority white communities after objections.

And when there are losses, when these projects get built anyway, as it happened with Standing Rock, as it seems to happen in so many heartbreaking developments lately, we must remember these other words of Dr. King: “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”

We are a part of something deep and powerful and we are rising together.

And actually, more and more . . . Activism works. Standing together and demanding change and demonstrating another way. We see it around the world- the power of the people in nonviolent movements. The Current Sec of OPEC recently said, at a meeting of oil producers in Vienna Austria— “There is a growing mass mobilization of world opinion… against oil” and this is “perhaps the greatest threat to our industry”. To which activists responded- including a tweet by Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg which linked to the account of his remarks and said:

“Thank you! Our biggest compliment yet!” https://www.afp.com/en/news/826/climate-campaigners-greatest-threat-oil-sector-opec-doc-1i79w11 …

In closing I want to invoke the words on the beautiful flyer for this event—“how can we mobilize action for the climate emergency?” As we have heard, on September 20th, there will be a climate strike led by Greta and other youth activists. I hope to see each of you out there in some way- and lets commit to getting a few more to join us – and let’s make sure that they are all registered to vote while we are at it. And let us also fund those communities who are fighting fossil fuel expansion projects in their own communities and stand with them however we can.

The challenge of climate justice is also a great gift. Mother Earth has given us the gift of the laws of nature and the ability to learn them from experience and align with them. It is our gift back to her to show we understand, to simply agree to behave as if we belong here. We have a deep universal spiritual truth to draw from—the essential one-ness of life, whether expressed by Thich Naht Han when he said “we are here to awaken to the illusion of our separateness or King when he wrote “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,  or in the beautiful Lakota saying “Mitakuye Oyason; All My Relations” or even in the more mystical moments of Images and Shadows of Divine Things written by Yale’s own Jonathan Edwards. We are not separate from each other. There is no such thing as an externality. Climate Justice is self care, it is awakening, it is a reorientation to nature and to the truth of who we are. Thank You 

Indigenous leaders mobilize in Paris to recognize the rights of “Mother Earth”

biodiversity

Invited by the Amazon Planet Association, Amazonian, Mexican, and Maasai spiritual leaders, people who have been protecting biodiversity for thousands of years, come together to convince world leaders and civil society to treat “Mother Earth” as a rights-bearing entity.

 

Our Earth has a fever, we are worried, we need to unify our energies to save life “.  In a wool vest, with beautiful deep thought and a dense voice, the leader Mindahi Bastida, Otomi Officer of the people of Mexico, powerfully explained, Wednesday, October 23 for mayor of the VI th district of Paris, the immense task which in the eyes indigenous peoples – 370 million people spread over more than 70 countries on five continents – must bring together the inhabitants of this planet ” with whom we travel in the cosmos “.

 

Which ones? Take all necessary measures to respect the sanctity of water, earth, fire and the life cycle. And break with anthropocentrism. ” If the territories of our peoples conceal 80% of the world’s biodiversity, added this doctor in rural development, it is because we have been working for thousands of years to preserve our sacred places.” At his side, the Amazon Ninawa Chief of the Huni Kui people (Brazil), wide headdress of long multicolored feathers, added: ” Can you live without breathing, without drinking? Without food? We are 100% dependent on Mother Nature to survive “. The energetic Maasai Magdalene Kaitei, in a green dress, completed: “In my country, Kenya, home to many wildlife and forests, the spirit of destruction deprives our pastoral farmers of the river water they need to survive . ”

 

These representatives of the “peoples-roots” were united in 2015 in Paris during the COP 21, in constitutive assembly – the alliance of the “Guardians of Mother Nature” – to weigh on the leaders of the world, the United Nations and the civil society, so that they treat “Mother Earth” as an entity with fundamental rights. And with this awareness, abandon the legal systems, inherited in their territories of the time of the colonies, who treat it only as a resource.

 

This Thursday afternoon, they will discuss their initiatives of reforestation, their battles to make their territories sanctuary. With the hope of provoking a sacred union around forests around the world. If their word moves so much their audiences, which many environmental activists of the ANV-COP 21, of Extinction Rebellion which recently occupied the place of the Châtelet and will proceed Friday to a new blocking to support them, it is because they emphasize how much the ecological crisis is also a spiritual crisis that forces us to reflect on the why of our presence on earth. ” Humans have come to take care of life, why have we forgotten the law of origin, how have we come to endanger life?“, calls Mindahi Bastida, for whom, if our institutions do not fulfill this mission, they must disappear.” Everything is transformed “.

 

>> The events take place at the 6th arrondissement of Paris, this Thursday, October 24 from 13:30 to 19 hours. And Sunday, October 27, at Espace Niemeyer, 2 place Colonel Fabien.

 

Sanctuarizing Forests: report

Originally Published by Normandy Chair for Peace

Event organised by Emilie Gaillard, General Coordinator of the Normandy Chair for Peace (Normandy region, CNRS, University of Caen in Normandy), in collaboration with Nadia Tahir (ERLIS, University of Caen in Normandy) and Vassili Rivron (CERREV, University of Caen in Normandy).

Its objective was to address the following points:

  • the Amazon rainforest as subject of deforestation
  • the world view of indigenous peoples: what link with the forest?
  • what impact on the anthropological approach to the relationship with nature?
  • which legal perspectives are open?

Programme:

Workshop with indigenous leaders from the Alliance of Guardians of Mother Nature

  • Magdalene Setia Kaitei, from the Maasaï people (Kenya), Executive Director of Emayian Integrated Development Organization.
  • Mindahi Crescencio Bastida Muñoz, Director of the Original Caretakers Program held by the Center for Earth Ethics,  General Coordinator of Otomi-Hñahñu Regional Council (Mexico), guardian of the philosophy and traditions of the Otomi people.
  • Ivanice Pires Tanone, cacique of the indigenous Kariri-Xocó people, one of the rare indigenous women leaders in Brazil.

Screening of the movie « TERRA LIBRE » – Debate with indigenous leaders / Guardians of Mother Nature

« TERRA LIBRE » – A film by Gert-Peter Bruch (125 min. Atmosphere Festival Audience Award). The screening, organized in collaboration with the Lux cinema, was followed by a debate with Gert Peter Bruch and two of the three indigenous leaders: Magdalene Setia K. and Mindahi Bastida. A call to the awakening of consciences, with the guardians of the world living for guides.

In the presence of Gert-Peter Bruch, founder of Planet Amazon. The event was presented by Vassili Rivron (anthropologist, specialist from Brazil, CERREV, University of Caen in Normandy) and Nadia Tahir (Lecturer in Hispanic-American Studies, ERLIS, University of Caen in Normandy).

To initiate the workshop, Mindahi Bastida explained how nowadays sacred lands in central Mexico have been demystified. Lands and territories that indigenous peoples maintain in a collective way to preserve life, are now in danger. From the indigenous perspective, land, water, and air are considered sacred elements and not resources. Therefore, they advocate for the legal recognition of their work protecting the Earth, by asking democratic governments, such as the French Republic, to sign the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention nº169, as a way of international support. In addition, he opens the reflection about how in the middle of this climate crisis, indigenous peoples cannot do this work only by themselves, and how important it is to raise awareness about this global problems that affect us all. He quoted: “What world are we leaving to the future generations? And, what generations are we leaving to the world?”

Read on…

Don’t Wait Until Next Week – Choosing to Serve & Protect the Earth Now

BEREISHIT BY BURTON L. VISOTZKYNATHAN AND JANET APPLEMAN PROFESSOR OF MIDRASH AND INTERRELIGIOUS STUDIES

Originally Published to the Jewish Theological Seminary Website

POSTED ON OCTOBER 25, 2019 / 5780 | MAIN COMMENTARY | NATURAL WORLD

Authored together with Karenna Gore, Director, Center for Earth Ethics, Union Theological Seminary

The Earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world and all its inhabitants. God founded it upon the oceans and set it on the rivers. (Psalm 24:1-2)

As the Jewish community once more begins its annual reading of the Torah, and as we recount the grandeur of God’s creation, we focus on God’s charge to newly created humanity: “The Lord God took Adam and placed him in the Garden of Eden, to serve and protect it.” (Gen. 2:15, authors’ translations).

If we want God’s world to be a garden, a place of beauty and abundance, we must recall God’s warning that we must serve and protect the Earth we have been given. As the book of Ecclesiastes (which Jews just read over Sukkot) tells us, “One generation goes and another generation comes, but the Earth remains forever.” (Eccl. 1:4)

Last month, a new young generation rose up in the streets and demanded action on the global ecological emergency. They made their point that this moment is about saving the climate, in which life on Earth can survive.

The book of Ecclesiastes (9:12) also emphasizes that human lives, like those of every other creature, are not guaranteed: “A person cannot know when their time will come any more than a fish taken in an evil net or birds caught in a trap; so people are snared at an evil time, when it suddenly falls upon them.

Creation is not merely the material substance of the Earth, Creation is also the laws of nature—gravity, the carbon cycle, the physics and metaphysics of cause and effect. Our rational minds and bodily senses can align with them and we can change our actions so as to help us escape the “evil net” in which we have ensnared ourselves.

The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Philip Alston, issued a detailed report this summer stating that “Climate change threatens to undo the last 50 years of progress in development, global health, and poverty reduction . . . It could push more than 120 million more people into poverty by 2030 and will have the most severe impact in poor countries, regions, and the places poor people live and work.”

Think about what is changing in God’s creation before our very eyes. Did you eat apples and honey over the New Year? Our pesticides are wiping out the bees. We are already facing a crisis of less pollen, fewer apples, more expensive honey. And it’s not just the bees. The birds are affected, too. The New York Times reported that there are 2.9 billion fewer birds in North America than there were a half-century ago. Almost 3 billion birds—that’s a whole lot of canaries in the coal mine that is our fossil fuel-burning world.

But it goes even further than burning atmosphere-destroying coal, oil, and methane gas. In the Amazon forest they are burning trees, the very “lungs” of our world, in order to clear land for development. The same trees that exchange carbon and make the planet more breathable are literally going up in smoke.

We are all painfully aware of climate disorders: more frequent and stronger storms and hurricanes, palpably hotter summers, wildfires, droughts, melting ice-caps and glaciers, waters rising to slowly but surely inundate our coastal cities. And we all have been horrified at seeing the immense islands of plastics polluting our oceans: strangling birds and fish, and poisoning the water.

We live among a Great Extinction wave, with 1 million species threatened to disappear from the Earth due to the destruction of their habitat and the warming of the planet. We can and should make changes in our communities—to serve the Earth and protect it, by saying no to single-use plastics, switching to solar and wind sources, working for energy efficiency, conserving forests, and planting trees.

We have what we need to make this right; we need only make the choice to heed the Torah’s warnings. At this time of harvest, of cycles, of new beginnings, let us stand with our children and grandchildren, and make the choice for the sacred regeneration of life.

When God created the world, a cosmic clock began to tick. It ticks now toward disaster, much as it did during the first 10 generations that humanity lived upon the earth. Even as we read the Torah’s glorious account of the six days of creation, before this Shabbat’s Torah reading has come to an end we learn that “When God saw that humanity’s evil was great upon the earth . . . God regretted creating humanity on the earth, it pained God’s heart. So God said, “I will blot out the humans I created from the face of the earth” (Gen. 6:5-7).

We know how that story ended. Next week’s Torah reading tells the story of the great flood that destroyed almost all of humanity. Humanity is once more at the same inflection point. Start saving the Earth today, now, before it is truly too late. Don’t wait until next week!

The publication and distribution of the JTS Commentary are made possible by a generous grant from Rita Dee (z”l) and Harold Hassenfeld (z”l).

PLEASE ENJOY…

Indigenous Science of Time

In this video, Jennifer Wemigwans, professor at University of Toronto, and author of A Digital Bundle, Protecting and Promoting Indigenous Knowledge Online, explains Geraldine Ann Patrick’s approach to Maya conception of time and how, contrary to what Maya scholars have said for the past five hundred years, Mesoamerican calendars did have a way to account for the extra quarter day every year which in Western astronomy leads to the leap day. This video provides an excellent visual support to explain how the four extra quarter days are included in the sequence of four years.  Geraldine is a Center for Earth Ethics Original Caretakers Initiative Fellow and a Union Theological Seminary Scholar in Residence. Please watch and share!
 

David Beats Goliath: Update on Louisiana Pipelines & Cancer Alley

After a sweltering summertime march to draw attention to the high death rates of now infamously titled Cancer Alley, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade has put out the Press Release below.

A March Through Heat, Felony Threats, and Pollution Brings Louisiana’s Cancer Alley to Governor’s Attention – DeSmogBlog

The Guardian’s Series of Reports on Cancer Alley

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PRESS RELEASE | FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                               

September 6, 2019​

David Beats Goliath
Wanhua Chemical Withdraws Project in St. James Parish
Victory for grassroots groups standing up for health and property values

(Convent, Louisiana) — In capitulation to the power of local opposition, Wanhua Chemical has formally withdrawn its land use application to build a $1 billion dollar facility in St. James Parish. Opponents’ appeal and law suit slowed the project, making the Chinese owned company vulnerable to economic changes and additional scrutiny.  “This is a victory for all of us in St. James Parish,” said Sharon Lavigne, President of RISE St. James, a group that has long opposed construction on grounds that it would endanger parish residents and reduce property values. “We aren’t just going to sit back and accept that it’s open season for industry to build in St. James Parish. We are ready to fight, and next up is Formosa.”

Legal challenges to the Wanhua project – including an appeal of the land use decision and an open meetings law suit – were filed by the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic on behalf of clients Genevieve Butler, Pastor Harry Joseph and the organizations RISE St. James and the Louisiana Bucket Brigade.  “I’m glad that Wanhua is gone,” said Pastor Joseph. “They were coming with all kind of sneakiness and our parish might have been in trouble. I am glad that the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic gave the Parish Council an idea of some of the problems. We don’t have to worry about Wanhua and hopefully with Formosa, they will withdraw their plans.”

The project raised concerns about the proposed emissions in the parish. “I am happy with these results,” said Eve Butler, a resident of St. James. “We hope that before anything else is let in we can have an environmental impact statement in the parish.”

Wanhua had requested help with tariff exemptions from Senator Bill Cassidy, whose office had ongoing communication with Wanhua representatives. Wanhua’s announcement today came after months of doublespeak by company representatives. The company now plans to build its facility in a different part of the U.S., contradicting its public claim that tariffs were the reason for cancelling the project. Company reports also showed that Wanhua is owned by the Chinese government despite statements to the parish government denying that fact. The company’s promise of local jobs was belied by job ads requiring residence in Houston and Baton Rouge. “St. James Parish officials were told half-truths and evasions by a big foreign company that wanted to come here and use our state as its dumping ground,” said Anne Rolfes of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. “It was ordinary people who spotted the bad deal and stopped it. Today Wanhua, tomorrow Formosa.”

In June, the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic filed the appeal of the parish planning commission’s approval of Wanhua. The project crumbled during the delay, after the Parish Council voted unanimously on the appeal to remand the approval back to the Planning Commission. In the appeal, the petitioners opposed construction of Wanhua because of the hazardous air pollutants, the unfair concentration of polluting industry in the parish’s African American districts and the resulting destruction of property values. Wanhua planned to have the chemical phosgene on site, a toxic substance used for chemical warfare in World War I and for which there is no safe level of exposure. Tariff exemptions were critical to the project, as Wanhua planned to build most of the facility in China and import it and assemble it in St. James.

Today’s announcement came as welcome news to Wanhua’s nearest neighbors. “My great-great-great-great grandmother came out of slavery and bought my family’s land,” said Barbara Washington of RISE whose home is near the proposed site. “Our hard work has paid off. We will not stop til all those industries who want to come in here change their plans. We are tired of being sick. We refuse to be sick anymore. Don’t even try to come into St. James. We will not allow it.”

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RISE St. James is a faith based organization fighting for the removal of harmful petrochemicals in the land, air, water and bodies, of the people, of St. James Parish.

Louisiana Bucket Brigade uses grassroots action to support communities impacted by the petrochemical industry and hasten the transition from fossil fuels.


Get Involved! Contact: 

Anne Rolfes, Director, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, [email protected]

Eve Butler, St. James resident
Sharon Lavigne, President, RISE St. James
Barbara Washington, RISE St. James and Wanhua neighbor

Climate Strike! CEE joins September 20th march and Karenna Gore delivers evening service on climate at Temple Emanu-el

Strike for Climate!  The Center for Earth Ethics will be among the many participating in the September 20th Climate Strike in New York City.  This landmark action will happen three days before the UN Climate Summit. Young people and adults will strike together all across the US and the world to demand transformative action be taken to address the climate crisis.

In NYC, we will gather at Foley Square and take to the streets to march to Battery Park. The event will conclude with speakers and performers, including Fridays For Future movement starter Greta Thunberg and NY-based youth leaders.  RSVP Now on Action Network to #StrikewithUsGlobal Strike Website for Sept. 20-27

The Center for Earth Ethics team stands with the Union Theological Seminary community marching for climate justice.  We will meet at UTS in the morning before the march, in connection with students, faculty and staff along with members of the Ecological Caucus and travel together to Foley Square.

“We must do right by the Earth.

We cannot deprive the coming generations of the source of life.

I strike with the youth in solidarity with all our relations.”

-Davis Ogima Logan
Union Theological Seminary student,
CEE Field Ed 2019, member of the Ecological Caucus


Please join CEE Director Karenna Gore at Temple Emanu-El
for a special Friday evening service
on the occasion of climate week and for our Earth.

September 20th at 6 pm following the Climate Strike

The Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center
One East Sixty-Fifth Street, New York, NY

This event is free and open to all, reservations are requested.

Climate Week in NYC has served as a dedicated time of convergence for all those working for the benefit of our earth and all those relying on us to provide conditions for clean air and clean water for generations to come.

As a pre-cursor to Climate Week, Karenna will join the Temple Emanu-El community’s Shabbat services to discuss our moral and religions obligations of protecting the earth.

“One generation goes and another generation comes, but the Earth remains forever” – Ecclesiastes 1:4


MORE EVENTS in honor of CLIMATE WEEK…


Social Good Summit
92nd Street Y, NYC
Sep 22, 2019

Catherine Flowers joins engineers, scientists, artists, chefs, policy advisers, media figures and youth climate leadership to address issues of climate protection, conservation and change.

 


Choose Us – Youth Climate Strike Demands Solutions & Action Now!
Sep 23 at 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm.  Join us for an evening of conversation with youth climate leaders to learn how to move their demands forward with the urgency required by the global climate crisis. The New York Society for Ethical Culture 

 

CEE’s Karenna Gore speaks with Dean Kelly Brown Douglas of EDS at Union Theological Seminary

“When we bring together reason with our values a vision will evolve for the good of the whole.” – Karenna Gore

Dean Kelly Brown Douglas of Episcopal Divinity School speaks with Karenna Gore, Director of Union’s Center for Earth Ethics. They discuss the moral dimensions of our ecological crisis, how environmental issues are playing out in the presidential primary, and Karenna’s recent New York Times op-ed.  Full video and excerpted transcript below.

Climate Justice with Karenna Gore

Dean Kelly Brown Douglas speaks with Karenna Gore, Director of Union's Center for Earth Ethics. They discuss the moral dimensions of our ecological crisis, how environmental issues are playing out in the presidential primary, and Karenna's recent New York Times op-ed.The Center for Earth Ethics is an institute at Union Theological Seminary that envisions a world where value is measured according to the sustained well-being of all people and our planet. Learn more at their website www.centerforearthethics.org/

Posted by Episcopal Divinity School at Union on Thursday, September 12, 2019

 

Excerpts:

KBD: “What we have to appreciate is that this is not a crisis that just emerged overnight for no reason. The roots of this are deep. And when we talk about the oppressions of people, the subjugations of people, the subjugations of the earth this is all the fruit of the same poisonous tree, right?  Or the same poisonous root. That goes deeply back into our traditions, into our religious traditions and into Christianity.

We are living in a time and a culture where people refuse to recognize that there is a problem, and that there’s a crisis.  And I’ve heard you speak about that before as an addiction.”

On Addiction to Fossil Fuels

KG: “Many people have experienced addiction or are close to people who have experienced addiction and it is instructive about the limits of human nature or the ways in which – how – the idea that we would self-destruct as a species – because that is what is happening in slow motion – ”

KBD: “That’s right.”

KG: “- is not logical.  But nor is it logical that someone would be so hooked on something that is causing them so much damage but they can’t quite see it.  Until, or in many cases it comes to hitting rock bottom, in many cases people say it comes to turning to a higher power. Those are instructive stories I think in a way of understanding what we’re seeing now because a lot of people are looking and watching because the see climate impacts now.  The amazon is on fire, polar ice caps are melting, we’re losing species…”

KBD:  “60% of, I understand, the animal species has been degraded?”

KG: “Yes. So the question is, how much, is a similar question as an addict might face.  How much more damage do you want to do?

I think most of us have the feeling we will turn away from fossil fuels – or we’ll die.  And it’s not just a feeling, it’s what the body of scientists in the IPCC tell us.”

“We’re on track for about 7-9 degree Fahrenheit warming by the year 2100.  What that means, of course, are tipping points that we don’t totally understand. Many people criticize them (scientists) for being overly conservative it their estimates because they can’t exactly what happens when all the ice melts.  The Gulf Stream is changing.  We know that there are many things in place that would start to make large portions of this earth uninhabitable and the strife involved in that, the widespread suffering involved in that  – is unimaginable.  So if we’re on the road that kind of destruction, at what point can we decide – we’d like to stop now – let’s just try to stop now as opposed to doing more and more damage.  And I think the analogy to addiction is very important.”

On the role of Faith in the Climate Crisis: Prophetic and Pastoral

“There are three concepts to think about Place, Time, and Being in which, you know, we as individuals, we are asked to think about in our discourse, we as individuals we are asked to be consumers, we are asked to think about consumer choices.  We are asked to think about our belonging to different races, or genders, or denominations but to belong to a place and a time is also part of understanding what’s happening now. And that –

When you look at the scale and the pace of the ecological destruction we are living right now – it’s overwhelming.

And our own sense of what our agency is – it’s overwhelming.

And I believe it is going to come from leaders, faith leaders – and I say that in a broad way. If you are a counselor in a community center, if you’re an indigenous keeper of traditions, these are all forms of ministry.  But this is what is called for, those types of skills to help people through this time.”  – Karenna Gore

Values of Faith, Examining Social and Ecological Injustice

KBD: “Part of the work that you do at the Center for Earth Ethics is in fact to lift up faith values, religious values and how they inform, how we indeed should engage with the rest of creation and the kind of relationship we should have to the earth, and all that there is therein.  The Center for Earth Ethics in many ways focuses on this as a moral issue, as a faith issue. I’ve attended a couple of the programs with the Center for Earth Ethics and I’ve always walked away more informed.  And I’ve walked away inspired by the many faith traditions and the ways in which those traditions compel us into a caring relationship with our environment and with the earth. I also walk away wondering, and I want to ask you, what are the ways in which our faith traditions and religious traditions have been an impediment to our care for the earth?

KG: “Very important question.  I think we have to look clearly and honestly at that.  And I know in your work you have done that with regard to white supremacy, the ties of colonization, genocide and slavery to the form of Christianity that was really about Empire and expansion and extraction.  So I believe a lot of what is seen as secular including the economic growth construct as it is currently presented is actually highly charge, with almost and actually Rev Barber talks about the ‘culted commitment to greed’.

It’s only a kind of fanaticism that would’ve gotten us to this point.  It is not reason. It is not logic. And so I believe that we can look clearly at a couple of specific examples in this conversation.  One is the idea of separation of humanity and the rest of the natural world. So you have the concept of dominion from Genesis. You have the concept of imago dei, we are made in the image of God. These two things together are quite easily distorted to mean that we are God, and we get to dominate everything and in fact God says we should and given us all of this to dominate. So of course there’s a fair amount of work done on this and I won’t go into it too much except to say that there’s great theology there’s eco-feminism, there’s eco-womanism, there are many people who have worked on this.

When you have a concept like ‘stewardship’ used by people like Scott Pruitt the former head of the EPA who professes, evangelical Christian faith, and says stewardship means continuing to dig and burn fossil fuels – where does that come from? And it comes, it actually, I think we have to be quite honest there has been a tradition laid, and it is the same one that laid white supremacy.  So the separation of humanity and nature and of course, you’ve written so beautifully about this in your book Stand Your Ground, about how this unfolded doctrinally and of course, you know, there were the doctrine of discovery and this was the whole premise for Europeans to come to this land was a set of religious documents, that claimed authority from the Bible to conquer vanquish and subdue all non-Christian peoples.  And non-Christian people at the time in the Americas and Africa was any people of, indigenous peoples and so that has been played out and is very much alive and with us today.

So this is work of unraveling and detoxifying what has been done to lay that foundation is critically important in the leadership from within people of faith from within Episcopal Divinity School, from yourself, from the many people of faith who are actively claiming the best of those traditions, the scripture in its sacred meaning and explaining where it has been distorted and how we can move on I think is absolutely essential.

KBD:  “You’re precisely right and the insight and bringing together the way in which systems dominate and exploit people, it’s the same construct that allows for the domination and exploitation of our environment and the rest of creation.  And so, there is this intrinsic and inextricable link between white supremacist narratives and the narratives that have placed us in this position of destroying the environment and the earth.  As we’ve destroyed people, we destroy the earth. And these are all to be seen as sacred creations of God and to look at the ways in which faith traditions have been complicit in that.”

KG: “One other thing I want to add, because I think it is interesting to look back even before the colonization of the Americas and introduction of the slave trade at what happened in Europe with the Roman Empire. There is this thesis from 1967 from a medieval historian named Lynn White called ‘The Roots of our Ecological Crisis’, it’s controversial, but what he said is that the victory of Christianity over paganism in Europe in the middle ages is what led to the mindset of commodification and objectification of nature in how it played out. 

It’s worth noting because there were indigenous traditions in Europe, as well. There were sacred rivers, there were prayers to sacred places and many women were keepers of those ceremonies and so all of that had to be obliterated in order for there to be an empire put into place. And because of the marriage of the Roman Empire and Christianity which we know from the conversion of Constantine – I think there’s a lot to that. An extraordinary turn of events to have someone take these symbols and turn it into its opposite and it’s the kind of thing that’s being done to us today in our politics in a very sinister way, as well.

From the conversion of Constantine… This rings true to me when I read that Lynne White thesis ‘The Roots of our Ecological Crisis’ and when I also read and actually what he doesn’t talk about is the burning of witches in Europe, the specific targeting of women spiritual leadership in that way… so it’s also an important thing to include when we are talking about the doctrine of discovery and the papal bulls because I think it’s a part of the same story.”

The Center for Earth Ethics is an institute at Union Theological Seminary that envisions a world where value is measured according to the sustained well-being of all people and our planet. Learn more at their website www.centerforearthethics.org

CBS News covers climate change at UN General Assembly 2019 – Karenna Gore contributes

Climate Change Front and Center at UN General Assembly 2019

Originally published on CBSNews.com.  September 17, 2019

CBS News’ Pamela Falk covers the Climate Crisis ahead of the UN Climate Summit.  CBS has joined 250 news sources committed to a week of climate coverage – Climate Coverage Now.

“There is good reason why most world leaders consistently identify it as the preeminent and central challenge for humanity in our time,” Karenna Gore, director of the Center for Earth Ethics at the Colombia University-affiliated Union Theological Seminary, told CBS News.

recent CBS News Poll found that a majority of Americans say action needs to be taken right now to address climate change. Most consider it to be at least a “serious problem” — including more than a quarter who say it is a “crisis.”

The U.N.’s Climate Action Summit begins on September 23, and is expected to be a forum to hold countries accountable to the international commitments they made to cut global warming as part of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

That summit will be preceded by the Youth Climate Summit — a gathering of young global climate campaigners who have organized worldwide demonstrations this year. They’re calling for another “global climate strike” this Friday, with 800 events planned in the U.S. alone and corresponding rallies around the world.

The “climate strike” initiative was sparked by teen activist Greta Thunberg, who first made news last year with her solitary strike against climate change in her native Sweden. Since then she has been joined by millions of supporters rallying in more than 150 countries. She told “CBS This Morning” last week that she hopes world leaders will “step out of their comfort zones to prevent the worst consequences from happening.”

“Climate change threatens to undo the last 50 years of progress in development, global health, and poverty reduction,” U.N. Special Rapporteur Philip Alston told diplomats recently, warning that “it could push more than 120 million more people into poverty by 2030 and will have the most severe impact in poor countries, regions, and the places poor people live and work.”

Read more…