Category: Activism

The Second Best Time to Plant a Tree

Guest Post by Rev. Ana Levy-Lyons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

——

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

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

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

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

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

—–

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Start a Green Team Webinar – with Rev. Kate McGregor Mosley

Once something is up and going it seems like it’s always been there but how do we start? Many churches have begun green teams to help green their churches and become more involved in their larger communities. It’s a way to give back and to practice the stewardship we preach.

In this webinar, the Center for Earth Ethics and Climate Reality Project have teamed up with Rev. Kate McGregor Mosley of Georgia Interfaith Power and Light to discuss best practices for starting up a green team in your own faith community.

 

In Case You Missed It… CEE Update from August 30th: Are You Ready to RISE for Climate Justice?

Here’s Everything You Need to Know for the Upcoming Week of Action on Climate

(P.S.  There’s still time to help flyer at events around the city including joining today’s Caribbean-West Indian Day Parade climate contingent.)


Rise For Climate, Jobs, and Justice is less than two weeks away, and  Thursday, 8/30 at 8 PM EST is a national organizing call to get everyone fired up and ready to RISE!

On the call, you’ll hear from amazing organizers like Cherri Foytlin, an organizer with The L’eau Est La Vie (Water is Life) Camp in Louisiana, Lucas Zuker with Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable EconomyRoberto Jesus Clack with Warehouse Workers For Justice, and Ananya Singh with the Sierra Student Coalition about the actions they are hosting across the country.

Come be inspired by all the incredible work that people across the United States
are doing to fight climate change on the frontlines.

RSVP here to be a part of the call TONIGHT at 8 pm EST and join the movement!

 

CEE invites you to join us along with hundreds of other Participating Groups around the world to RISE for Climate, Jobs and Justice. FIND AN EVENT NEAR YOU!

We’ve included some helpful links below on the special #RiseNY Event on September 6th, and links to Faith and Indigenous Community Events in San Francisco leading up to the GCAS and beyond.


STARTING THE WAVE

NYC – BATTERY PARK – SEPTEMBER 6TH
GET CONNECTED!


Join us on September 6th at 5:30 pm at Battery Park to kick off a wave of climate action!  In the face of policy reversals on oil and gas drilling, coal, asbestos, pipelines, car emissions, and the Clean Air Act – now more than ever we need to:
  • Enact A Just Transition to 100% Renewable Energy Now!
  • Stop All Fossil Fuel Infrastructure
  • Make Corporate Polluters Pay
  1. Help flyer at events around the city or join the Caribbean-West Indian Day Parade climate contingent.
  2. Join a Subway Blitz.
  3. Dial a fellow NY’er to get them to the march.
  4. Come to a Community Art Build, Aug 30th or Sept 1st.
  5. To participate in a Direct Action on Sept 7th, contact us at [email protected].

Interfaith and Indigenous Bloc in CA 

Faith Communities in California 
RISE for Climate, Jobs and & Justice

Indigenous Bloc at RISE Days of Action
San Francisco, CA


 

Intertribal Prayer, Teach-In & Direct Action Training

37th Indigenous Women of the Americas Defending Mother Earth Treaty New Moon Ceremony

RISE Against Climate Capitalism

 

Have Questions? Ask at the Indigenous Bloc Facebook Page.  For more Actions check out ItTakesRoots.org and the Climate Justice Alliance.


If you are in New York City, join CEE’s Karenna Gore and Rev. Leo Woodbury of Kingdom Living Temple as we convene the 2018 Global South Summit at the United Nations Church Center on September 14th. The Summit is a solutions driven program serving to bring allies together, thereby strengthening our potential impact through partnership.  Read More…

Poor People’s Campaign Gives Testimony at Congressional Hearing

A movement is happening.  The Poor People’s Campaign has launched a united force for change bringing together people of diverse backgrounds who share a common calling to restore reason and dignity to the United States of America.  This stage of the campaign – 40 Days of Moral Action – began on Mother’s Day and will culminate in a Global Day of Solidarity and Mass Rally in Washington, D.C. on June 23rd.

Last week the Poor People’s Campaign – A National Call for Moral Revival moved forward into it’s 4th Week with the proclamation – “Everybody’s Got the Right To Live” including the rights to Education, Living Wages, Jobs, Income and Housing.  Non-Violent Civil Disobedience rallies were documented from Kentucky to California, Mississippi to New York, Minneapolis and Michigan.  

In response to the wave of non-violent direct actions, resulting in arrests across the country, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Representative Elijah Cummings (D- Maryland) called a hearing on Capital Hill to listen to testimony from Rev. William Barber and a panel of citizens among the most impacted by the various forms of violence and degradation being committed against our people and our planet.

Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis was detained with eight other faith leaders overnight after being arrested on the steps of the Supreme Court.  CEE’s Karenna Gore joined Rev. Barber and those offering testimony to read Rev. Theoharis’s statement on her behalf.  Please watch the hearing and follow the link below to join the Mass March in DC on June 23rd or an event in Global Solidarity in your local area.

U.S. Congressional Hearing in Response to the Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings convene a hearing on Capitol Hill on economic inequality, union rights, voter suppression and other issues raised by the new Poor People’s Campaign. U.S. Sen. Cory Booker is expected to be among a dozen lawmakers who will hear testimony from and question campaign Co-Chairs Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, along with victims of systemic poverty, systemic racism, ecological devastation and America’s war economy.

Posted by Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival on Tuesday, June 12, 2018

 

Please join us in supporting this moral movement in DC or in solidarity with your local community.

 

Youth Continue to Lead the Charge of Protecting Clean Water on World Ocean Day

From Rohit Gangwani in India to 11-year-old Flossie in Dublin to 16-year-old Genzo Gonzales and 12-year-old Kaya Rasa in Saipan, engaged youth took the lead to demonstrate care for our oceans and our earth hosting events for World Ocean Day, June 9th.  They joined other community leaders in over 40 locations, including a March in Washington D.C. on Saturday and Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium who organized a walk on the Coney Island Boardwalk.

National Wildlife Federation Eco-Schools collaborated with the NYC Department of Education Office of Sustainability, NYC public schools, Brooklyn Marine STEM Education Foundation, NY State Marine Education Association, A Plastic Ocean Foundation, One Less Straw, National Park Service and others to launch their campaign for the oceans May 8, 2018.  The partners hosted a workshop on plastic in the ocean with NYCDOE Office of Sustainability, and a local event in Coney Island: It’s My Estuary Day.

Water is a broad subject in conservation.  This year’s World Ocean Day had several themes including protecting marine bio-diversity, opposing proposed shoreline fisheries, addressing rising sea levels and keeping plastics out of the water.  In recent months an extraordinary amount of marine life, including a number of whales, have been found dead seemingly from ingesting large amounts of plastic.

A Plastic Ocean Foundation is providing a viewing code for a 22-minute version of their movie for NYC schools. Teachers and students were also invited to film their own groups taking the pledge to give up single use plastic through June 8th.

https://www.theoceancleanup.com/

https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/ocean-plastic-cleanup-rubbish-seas-take-out-23-year-old-boyan-slat-north-sea-pacific-microplastics-a7880321.html

On Turtle Island, an indigenous name for North America, Lakota youth runners inspired the historic gathering at Standing Rock. Our Children’s Trust is in the process of bringing a landmark climate case against the United States Government for not protecting the public trust – clean air, land and water to be passed down for future generations.  And of course, students from Parkland,  Sandy Hook, Columbine and countless other schools have formed the Never Again movement against lax gun laws.

In an interview, Kaya Rasa of Micronesia, said their march was meant to express support for the ocean.  “We would like to relay the message to everyone that we have to be aware of what is happening to our islands and our ocean, and keep them clean,” she added.

 

Get Involved:

Register a school to become an Eco-School

Support / Become an Earth Guardian / Start an Earth Guardian Crew

Learn more about the World Ocean’s Day Youth Advisory Council 

 

 

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

Climate Change, Colonialism and Christianity: An interview with Cardinal John Ribat and Karenna Gore

By Nexus Media, with Cardinal John Ribat and Karenna Gore

Under the leadership of Pope Francis, the Catholic Church has become a powerful voice for action on climate change, while Catholic leaders from vulnerable countries have emerged as some of the issue’s greatest evangelists. Recently, Cardinal John Ribat of Papua New Guinea, visited the United States to meet with members of Congress about the carbon crisis. During his stay, Cardinal Ribat spoke with Nexus Media about climate change and Christianity. He was joined by Karenna Gore, director of the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary and daughter of former vice president Al Gore. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


There are many Christians in the United States who believe that only God can change the weather, and for this reason, they reject the idea that humans can cause climate change. What do you say to people who hold that point of view?

Cardinal John Ribat: In the creation story, God gave the world to us — to till it and also to care for it — and if there are things that need to be corrected, then we do our best. We try our best to really be part of that.

Pope Francis came up with an encyclical to really make the world aware. And when he addressed this to people, he did not address this only to just Catholics. No. He addressed this to the whole of humanity, and this is because this world is created for all of us. We are living on this one planet. For that reason, we are responsible.

There has been some research looking at the pope’s encyclical that found that, in some ways, it backfired with conservative Catholics in the United States. It seems like partisanship and ideology are driving a lot of the discussion around climate change. How should faith leaders deal with that?

Karenna Gore: There are always problematic aspects of the marrying of religious and political agendas. In this case, I think that a lot of that is cultural. I think that it’s a matter of being open-minded and open-hearted on all of our parts to understand where people are coming from, but then to unmask where there has been misuse and perversion of the scripture.

To go a little bit deeper, I think we can talk about how stewardship has been interpreted. To be good stewards of the Earth, from the Book of Genesis, is often held up by conservationists within the Christian tradition as a central belief through which we can see that we are called to protect creation, to recognize our oneness with it, to recognize the sacred within the natural world.

It is also frequently cited by [EPA Administrator] Scott Pruitt, by Donald Trump. It’s been co-opted to mean a license to pillage. And that is not unrelated to what the colonial agenda was. So, I think it goes right back to when the Christian belief system was co-opted by the forces of empire and colonization.

There is a lot of that within the Christian community now. When you see the use of stewardship as a concept meaning that we should continue to dig and burn the fossil fuels within the Earth, it is nothing more than an illusion, and it is not real. There is a human instinct in many cultures to see a separation and a superiority of humanity, and that is a fallacy.

We really believe the solution to climate change lives in a deep exploration of its root causes, which include a theological error of the idea that humanity and nature are separate. We can see very clearly from science that we are connected — the air we breathe, the water we drink, the living beings that are part of our food chain are deeply connected.

You mentioned the historic relationship between colonization and the Church. Can you explain that?

Karenna Gore: When we talk about interfaith dialogue and religions, the traditional way of doing often includes only Abrahamic religions — Islam, Judaism and Christianity — and certainly that’s a very robust interfaith dialogue, but then when you add the non-Abrahamic traditions of Hinduism and the Indic traditions, and Buddhism and the East Asian traditions, you often have a very different conversation about whether nature itself is a subject.

Indigenous traditions often hadn’t been included in the category of religion or faith or interfaith dialogue, and the reasons for that are complex, and they’re deserving of a larger discussion. But it’s largely a result of colonization and the view that the papal bulls of the fifteenth century took that indigenous people were part of the flora and fauna of a land, and they were meant to be conquered and subdued in the name of the church.

It seems that many former European colonies, including Papua New Guinea, are especially vulnerable to climate change. Cardinal Ribat, why is climate change an urgent issue for your country?

Cardinal John Ribat: The United Nations has defined refugees as people leaving their homes because of danger. People are leaving [Papua New Guinea] not because of danger, but because the island is disappearing. Their home will no longer be there, and that is the difficulty.

We do not come from a continent, and that makes it difficult for us to live comfortably, because we know that, on the island, the sea around us is rising. People dig a well to get their water, but the well is no longer drinking water. It is already salty because of the constant rise of sea level.

Knowing that the United States is pulling out from the Paris Climate Agreement, to us, is really kind of a concern. It is really an issue for all of us, for all nations. It is not an issue only for some. It is for the whole world to come together and see how can we better address this issue of global warming.

This is a call to us now, when we are witnessing a lot of events happening around the world that should make us think, “What have we done?” or “What can we do here?” Of course, God’s help is there all the time for us, and He’s the one who gave us this Earth to live, to till and to care for.

For me, seeing the situation we are in, and just to keep quiet — for me, this is not the way I should live my life.

For More from Cardinal Ribat, Op-Ed: A Christian Obligation to Confront Climate Change in the Washington Examiner


This interview was conducted by Jeremy Deaton, who writes for Nexus Media, a syndicated newswire covering climate, energy, politics, art and culture.

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.

Millennium Tries to Silence Local Dad Over CPV Fracked Gas

For over a year, through the cold and heat, the citizens of Orange County have held weekly pickets outside the construction site of a massive fracked gas power plant being built in their community.

The CPV fracked gas power plant will emit 700 tons of known carcinogens, neurotoxins and endocrine disruptors each year and will increase demand for fracking in neighboring Pennsylvania.

Scott Martens, a father of two young children from Middletown, saw folks protesting outside the construction site, stopped by and has been involved in the fight to stop CPV ever since. He says he’s been out there almost every Saturday for a year letting people know about the threats CPV poses to his community and the planet.

Now Millennium, the company building the Valley Lateral Pipeline (VLP), a 7.8 mile pipeline that will transport fracked gas to the CPV plant from the larger Millennium transmission line, is trying to silence Scott.

They filed a SLAPP suit (A Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation that is intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition.) against him claiming he caused irreparable harm when he filmed crews begin to clear trees for the VLP in early December. Scott was there because the tree clearing threatened the habitat of endangered bald eagles.

In a Facebook post before heading to his first court date Scott said:

“On December 1st of this year I viewed and video recorded a majestic Bald Eagle sitting in its nest in a pine tree 80 feet from the proposed Valley Lateral pipeline alignment. This is the pipeline that will bring fracked gas to the unfinished CPV power plant for the next 40 years. Since that morning I have felt a profound sense of responsibility to protect these Eagles and their habitat. At that moment I knew that the these Eagles are there to protect us and we will be there to protect them….

Read the Complete Article by Lee Ziesche on Medium

Democracy is Alive in Alabama

CEE’s Director of Environmental Justice and Civic Engagement, Catherine Coleman Flowers, reflects on the vote in Alabama.

Democracy Lives

The recent election in Alabama reminded the world and the nation about the power of the vote. Being from Lowndes County, Alabama, I am ever reminded of the importance of exercising one’s franchise. When I was a child, I watched my parents fight for that right. My father also reminded us that the five years, four months and seventeen days he served in the United States Army fighting tyranny was to ensure that we never took it for granted. So, at the age of eighteen, I exercised my civic duty to register to vote. The first presidential election I voted in was 1976. I cast my vote for a peanut farmer from Georgia. Later I too joined the military because of my respect for democracy. I have participated in every election henceforth.

Like my parents before me, I have made voting a family tradition. Before she was old enough to vote, my daughter Taylor and I would go to the polls together. I wanted to instill in her the importance of that privilege that my parents instilled in me. On December 12, 2017, she and I drove to the polls along with my twenty-two-month-old grandson. We cast our vote with the moral conviction that we had to speak for women, the environment and seven generations to come. We were determined to show that Democracy was alive and well. My cousin Perman Rush Hardy (see article below), a former sharecropper was doing likewise in Lowndes County. Her hard work on election day getting out the vote exemplifies what my parents taught me many years ago. Thank you to Perman and so many others that cast their vote, encouraged others to vote and took their families to the polls to vote. Because of you, Democracy is alive and well.

About the Author: Catherine Coleman Flowers (on left, pictured here with her daughter and grandson), is an Environmental Justice leader for Alabamians without basic needs met.  She is a fierce advocate and part of a loving family.


It’s a Family Affair…

                                        How a former sharecropper in an SUV helped drive Doug Jones to victory in Alabama’s Black Belt

 

 

If you live in Lowndes County and are of voting age, it’s a safe bet that Perman Hardy has spoken with you about voting at some point in the past 25 years.

As one of the thousands of sharecroppers who worked white men’s land in Lowndes County over the years, 59-year-old Hardy recalls picking cotton after school growing up. She eventually finished her education, bought her own home, and had a successful career as a home health nurse.

But the past two-and-a-half decades, Hardy has dedicated much of her free time to another pursuit: trying to ensure that every single person in Lowndes County shows up to the polls for every election in Alabama. A native of the unincorporated community of Collirene, she has done about as much as one person possibly could to boost turnout in the impoverished, majority-black county with a population of just 10,458 people…

Full Article by Connor Sheets here at www.AL.com.