Category: Climate Change

Karenna Gore participates in interfaith climate event in Recife

Originally published in Portuguese

DIÁRIO DE PERNAMBUCO – 8NOV19
Interview with Karenna Gore
By: Sérgio Xavier

STILL INCONVENIENT TRUTHS
Karenna Gore participates in interfaith event about the climate in Recife and talks about the global challenges of sustainable development

Reversing environmental degradations on planetary scales, containing global
warming and eliminating immense inequalities are 21st century challenges that require the utmost of human wisdom in politics, economics, culture and spirituality. When imagination and high spirits are lacking in pragmatic processes, religiosity can be a source of inspiration to join forces and open new paths. This Friday (8), in the context of the Brazilian Climate Change Conference, a historic meeting will unite Catholic, Evangelical, Jewish, Afro-Brazilian and Indigenous leaders in a multi-religious event, in defense of the environment at the oldest Synagogue of the Americas – Kahal Zur Israel (2 pm) and at the SinsPire Hub (4 pm), in Recife Antigo.

“Faith in the Climate” event will feature Rabbi Nilton Bonder; 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, Ialorixá from the terreiro (meeting place) Ilê Axé Oxum Karê and Jaqueline Xukuru, from the Xukuru indigenous community (Serra do Ororubá, Pesqueira – PE).

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

The schedule, mediated by environmentalist Alfredo Sirkis, will be attended by Karenna Gore, director of Center for Earth Ethics (USA), graduated in history and literature by Harvard University, daughter of former vice president of the United States, Al Gore, who has intense international environmental activism. Karenna works with ecumenical mobilization in defense of climate balance and in this exclusive interview, synthesizes the importance of connecting material and immaterial dimensions in the search for consistent solutions to the great problems of humanity.

Sérgio Xavier – Special for the Diário de Pernambuco
Q: Does planet Earth have a natural ethic that can be perceived, learned and practiced by humanity in the construction of a righteous and sustainable civilization?

Karenna Gore – Yes. Ethics is a field of fundamental values. It becomes especially important when laws and social norms are out of sync with issues of moral conscience. For example, this happened in relation to the end of the horrible institution of slavery. More and more influential people began to think about it through an ethical or moral lens, rather than a purely utilitarian economic lens. In the case of planet Earth, the activities that are degrading and destroying the biosphere are legal and in line with social norms. However, more and more people realize that this system has come into conflict with ethical concerns about the most vulnerable people among us – and also in conflict with the laws of nature. We can perceive, learn, and practice natural ethics by observing and aligning ourselves with the laws of nature, whether we conceive them as science or as God’s sacred creation, or both. If we want to build a just and sustainable civilization, we must measure the impacts of big decisions on three voiceless groups in decision making: poor and marginalized peoples, future generations, and non-human life. If we pay attention to these categories, health will improve for all of us.

Q: The first challenge to avoid climate change is to convince people, companies and governments to change their perceptions and attitudes towards the environment. How does the Center for Earth Ethics work in this context?

The Center for Earth Ethics unites the worlds of academia, religion, politics and culture. We believe that scientific data is important, but we also know that this climate crisis is about value perception, moral obligations to others, and courage to change. If logic and reason were enough, we would not be in this terrible emergency. Many people have been educated to believe that humans are separate and superior to the rest of the natural world and, therefore, society can spew as much air pollution as we want, without any effect. But the truth is more beautiful and interesting than that – we are connected to the
whole network of life. Our bodies are created from the Earth – air, water, iron and much more. We have massively signed an insane accounting scheme that does not recognize the real costs of the fossil fuel extraction economy. The Center for Earth Ethics wants to help look at the deeper reality of long-term value, far beyond the current price landscape. Therefore, we work with education, offering workshops on topics such as: Religion and
Climate Change; Beyond GDP; How to measure a successful society; Indigenous voices on colonization, ecology and spirituality; Rights of nature…

What are the relationships between environmental crisis and spirituality?

A root cause of the environmental crisis is the illusion that humans are separated from nature and can treat all elements and other living beings as objects, resources or properties. A theologian I like, Thomas Berry, taught that we should see that “the universe is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects”. This sense of communion is spiritual.

Q: Nature (sky, water, forests, animals, land, humans) is the visible face of the Gods of various religions. Therefore, polluting and degrading ecosystems is disrespecting and attacking Gods. Why do most people worship and respect Gods, but do not care for and respect nature?

There is some history of defining monotheistic religions against animist – or “pagan” – traditions that see nature as having personality and divinity. I think that in some parts of the world, including the Americas, a historical fear and contempt for animist traditions are responsible for a part of the inability to translate religiosity into a truly respectful care for nature. This has also been exploited by those who wage cultural wars for political reasons. There is hope, however, especially because of how innate and natural it is for children to love nature in a genuine way.

Q: To reverse global warming and mitigate climate change, innovation is essential. How can traditional religions drive creative changes in politics, economics and technology?

Traditional religions and interfaith dialogue can help promote the creativity and innovation we need to make changes and solve the climate crisis. There is rich cultural knowledge and historical memory in religious communities. They were forged in a time prior to ingrained dependence on fossil fuels and can help us remember deeper values and more sustainable lifestyles. They can also serve as a force contrary to some prevailing messages of contemporary society, which confuse monetary wealth with virtue.

Q: The urgency to reverse global warming requires immediate and large-scale action on all continents. Is interfaith dialogue an effective strategy to accelerate the mobilization of humanity?

Diversity always encourages creativity and spiritual diversity in Brazil is a huge force. Interfaith dialogue can help discern essential common values and reveal how many different colorful ways can be expressed. Some of these common values are caring for the poor and vulnerable; the importance of community at the expense of competitive individualism; respect for ancestors and future generations; and a sense of the sacred that must be protected from sale and corruption. In fact, not all religious leaders or institutions fulfill these values, but interfaith dialogue can help discern a purer expression of them, as well as to celebrate the aspirations we have in common. Mobilization comes from inspiration and also from necessity. Some people still deny the urgency and severity of the climate crisis, but there is something that will touch them or move them environmentally. We need all the ancient wisdom we can get to meet this challenge.

Faced with fake news and the denial of climate science, how can interfaith dialogue bring us closer to the truth and inspire actions in defense of peace and life?

Interfaith dialogue can show that morality is not simply a matter of following a doctrine or spiritual leader but is a deeper conviction.

In the age of digital networks how can journalism make truths more attractive and more convenient?

In the digital age, journalists can raise voices of people who are suffering the impacts of pollution, deforestation and climate change. In addition, they can show solutions, especially those to live in balance with nature, demonstrating the way forward.

Q: The construction of a sustainable, peaceful, culturally diverse and poverty-free civilization depends on material and immaterial developments. Your father, Al Gore, was notable for articulating political, economic and technological solutions to reverse global warming. You are dedicated to interfaith dialogue and the development of spirituality. Is it possible to integrate the material and the immaterial by creating a new biocentric, collaborative and spiritualized economy?

The relationship between matter and spirit is a timeless and fascinating investigation. Even after so much time and so many approaches, it seems that we have not solved it yet! Of course, mystery is part of beauty. The legacy of dualistic thinking, which holds that matter and spirit are separated, is very present in the mentality of climate denial. In this regard, I believe there is some healing power in the syncretic traditions that have mixed the indigenous traditions in an artistic and graceful way and the dominant religions of the world, such as Christianity. There is also a new kind of denial, based on the idea that we don’t need to worry about that crisis, because technology will save us somehow. Of course, it is related to what Pope Francis called the technocratic paradigm in our society. I believe we need to question this paradigm and invest more time and energy to reconnect with nature. One benefit of this is that it is better for human health because, after all, we are nature and our species evolved in conditions that were more synchronized with natural rhythms and cycles. Anxiety and depression epidemics can be related to disconnection from nature at various levels. Certainly, the climatic disturbances of the planet are related to the fact that human societies are at war with the laws of nature. At the same time, we need innovative technologies. If we are connected to the deepest sense of ourselves and the ultimate meaning of life, changes can be lasting and have integrity. Material and immaterial are related and can support each other if we reconnect.

President Trump announced this week the formal departure of the Paris Agreement. 25 U.S. governors, from the US Climate Alliance, are making opposite movements, similar to the “Governors for the Climate” initiative in Brazil, which has the participation of Governor Paulo Câmara. With its innovative capacity, the United States would gain much more by leading the transition to the new low-carbon economy. How to convince President Trump to change his mind?

“We Are Still In” movement is very important in the US. There is action and momentum from many subnational actors and also from community movements. We cannot be distracted by the forces of absurdity, no matter how highly placed they are temporarily in our own government.

Leading ecological movements requires giving examples and showing that it is possible to change behavior and consumption. What material and immaterial examples from your daily life can be inspiring for other people who want to contribute to climate sustainability?

One tactic of those who want to prevent us from changing and avoid mass ecological destruction is to criticize the messengers. They focus on individual human beings, who are imperfect, and do not deal with the crisis. Change needs to occur at many levels at once – individual, community and large-scale change. The latter is the most important, but individuals can give examples. I appreciate how Greta Thunberg does this and, of course, the traditional indigenous leaders who have lived low-impact lifestyles for millennia. They are important leaders in ecological and climate justice. For my part, I have little to brag about – I rarely eat meat, try to fly less, I am conscious as a consumer, try not to waste energy – I use renewable sources in my home and at work – and so on. But I know that I am part of a high-consumption sector of human society, responsible for this crisis. So, I think the most important thing I can do is to raise the voices of people on the front lines and advocate for systemic change.

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]

***

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

***

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.”

###

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

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…

Center for Earth Ethics participates in the Annual Kofi Annan Faith Briefings

From the report by the Parliament of World Religions blog:

On Monday July 15th, 2019 the UN Task Force on Religion and Development and the Multi-Faith Advisory Council (CA) gathered for the Annual Kofi Annan Faith Briefings in New York.

In 2019, the program focused on the theme of Empowering People and Ensuring Inclusiveness and Equality: The Role of UN and Multi-Faith Collaboration and included keynotes from high-level experts and five panel discussions. The panel discussions focused on issues like multi-faith collaboration, intergenerational dialogue, the rights of children, and climate change. Explore the full list of programs here.

The Parliament participated in discussions moderated by Charles McNeill and Rev. Victor Kazanjian of URI and included eminent speakers including Jamil Ahmad from UN Environment,  Mary-Evelyn Tucker from the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology, Gopal Patel from GreenFaith, Rev. Ken Kitatani from Forum 21, Karenna Gore from the Center for Earth Ethics, and Audrey Kitagawa from the Parliament of Worlds’ Religions.

More photos and Complete pdf Report

Poor Peoples Campaign Moral Action Congress in DC 2019

See complete summary and videos originally published at RepairersoftheBreach.org and more coverage from the Observer online.

The Poor People’s Moral Action Congress was held at Trinity Washington University from June 17-19, 2019, by the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. Nearly one thousand poor people, moral leaders, activists, and advocates from over 40 states across the country convened in Washington, D.C., for three days to strategize, learn, and build power together.

During the Congress, the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival launched the Poor People’s Moral Budget that shows concretely how to enact the demands of the Campaign. We held a Forum with 2020 Presidential Candidates when poor people from across the country will ask questions about the issues that impact their lives and we will hold a hearing from those most impacted by systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, militarism, and the distorted moral narrative of Christian nationalism who are coming together to organize a movement.

On the second day of Congress, participants joined workshops or longer tracks to learn how and why we are building a moral fusion movement.

The last day featured a Congressional hearing before the house budget committee with voices from the campaign.

We closed with the exciting announcement of the Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington next summer: June 20, 2020. Save the date!

***

Want to read more? 

How the Poor People’s Campaign is Building a New Electorate: A conversation with Rev Liz Theoharris and Greg Kauffman for The Nation.

Going Beyond GDP

Letting It In

Grief. It’s not that we need to stay there. It’s that we need to first let it in, consume us, before we can let it go and make room for what comes next. It’s true after a loved one dies, or the end of a relationship, and it’s true when we are grieving for our planet.

Holly Truhlar’s must-read article on how The Environmental Movement has Failed points to an issue any somatic practitioner knows – all trauma is stored in the body – whether you are aware of it or not. And it is through the vessel of the body that we can access both the trauma and the resources needed to move through and ultimately to release it. This is one of the key principles that those not well versed in the nature of trauma will forget or miss altogether – with trauma there is no way out but through.  And through means feeling it.

It won’t be enough to bypass your emotions and stay afloat. At some point you will have to drown so you can be reborn. Now, saying this doesn’t not mean there is a predicated timeline. Grief takes as long as it takes. But the more we are willing to spend time in the quiet, to be with our thoughts, be with and listen carefully to the voice underlying our emotions, then we can get on with the wailing that needs to happen… in the silence of the forest that is dying, face planted in the soil, listening to our bodies and to the body of the Earth. Those who can surrender enough to the grief to let it move through them from the depths of their being can then become the hand that holds, the arms that cradle, the next one ready to surrender.

The only timeline is this… Mother Nature is waiting on us. The longer we hold out, the more species die. The longer we wait, the more our world becomes the dystopia of Total Recall with humans living in oxygenated domes or Avatar’s vision of humanity looking for a new home planet because we ‘already killed our Mother’. As long as we are insisting nothing is wrong – or maybe knowing something is so very wrong it feels impossible to face head on – we are not just delaying the inevitable, we are actually choosing to let the entire planet’s ecosystem collapse while we close our eyes, put our fingers in our ears and sing “Mary had a Little Lamb” at the top of our lungs. This is a choice.

It is not just ignorance anymore, it is willful ignorance.

And it’s not because the news media is talking about it more, it’s that you know the weather – and the climate – has changed.

You have already experienced or are presently experiencing storms, fires, floods, unseasonable weather at any rate. You are maybe hearing less bird songs or seeing fewer flowers and fewer bees. Your grandchildren are talking to you about it and even walking out of school to get your attention.  And if you are poor, well, you know it’s coming even if it hasn’t already arrived on your geographical doorstep. You know because you are vulnerable and that vulnerability means if anything should happen…

This is Climate Apartheid.

If you have money, you own your house, rooms for your family, maybe even a nice yard or land, you might be outwardly denying anything is going on.  However more than likely, just in case, you are preparing –  making sure your windows are energy efficient, replacing the roof, keeping a store room of bottled water and food stuffs. You know how to access your funds should you need them. It is likely that you have insurance and if you lose your home in a flood or fire you can afford to acquire new accommodation elsewhere while your insurance company pays to rebuild your old house where it stood. It might be uncomfortable, and certainly a bit of a hassle but you won’t actually be hurting. You won’t be in a shelter having lost all your belongings with no way to replace them, or be sleeping a family of four on a floor in your friend’s living room.

This is the difference in perspective when we talk about Environmental Justice, why we say the poor and disenfranchised are hardest hit.  This is why the poor, and therefore often minority groups, are labeled those on the front lines of climate change.

Those who are most vulnerable may not survive.  Whether we are talking about Pacific Islanders preparing for migration as the rising tides slowly engulf their home of generations, whether we are talking about Cancer Alley in the South and mortality rates among those living in and among raw sewage and hookworm, or those who have no clean water from Alabama to Michigan… India or South Africa.  This is what we understand when hearing the testimony of a 14 year old Sioux girl begging for our intervention so her tribe does not meet it’s final end by pipeline.  She’s consumed by the absolute terror that her entire tribal race will be wiped out by a pipeline spill destroying their water source.  And the horror that no one seems to care about it.

This is the grief we must face.

Facing the reality that in the United States, still calling itself the wealthiest country in the world, families & children have gone without clean water in Flint, MI since 2014 and that the federal government has not allocated the funds, created the jobs and hired the necessary people to fix it in five years.  This, too, is the reality of our paralysis.  Our inability to respond in the face of these crises.  Even when people need jobs.  Even when our neighbor’s lives are at stake.  Even when we have more money than any other country in the world.

The Uninhabitable Earth, by David Wallace-Wells has shaken some readers into action.  As Mark O’Connell writes in his review for The Guardian:  “Because as dire as the projections are, if you are surveying the topic from a privileged western vantage, it’s easy to overlook how bad things have already got, to accept the hurricanes and the heatstroke deaths as simply the unfortunate nature of things. In this way, Wallace-Wells raises the disquieting spectre of future normalisation – the prospect that we might raise, incrementally but inexorably, our baseline of acceptable human suffering. (This phenomenon is not without precedent. See, for example, the whole of human history.)”

And it seems this is not the future after all – we, in fact, are already there.  A society allowing children to die quickly in gunfire at school and slowly in detention centers or by poison in the water.

Holly Truhlar attempts to bring it home:

Essentially, the environmental movement failed because it’s not big enough. It lacks both width and depth. It’s based on an old paradigm, existing within a system which separates us from each other and the wild. Rather than being born from our hearts and soul, and connected to the anima mundi—the Soul of the world—the environmental movement was conceived through the colonized mind. This limited mindset breeds hierarchy, supremacy, and solutions of force. Within this space, we continue to oppress and abuse because it’s what happened, is happening, to us and we aren’t capable, resourced enough, to radically take it on and transform it.

So here we are.  Attempting to fall back in love with the earth so that we might protect it.  Here we are in a feedback loop of grief so deep we can barely perceive it.  Here we are with deep needs and with few therapists, counselors or spiritual leadership equipped to take on the transformation required in our personal journey out of the apocalypse.  If you made it this far in this post, then there’s a chance.

Let us begin letting it in.

Dancing the EarthDream: The Pedagogy of Nature Connection

Somatic Resiliency:  The Work that Reconnects & Turning Towards Grief

Moving on Center (MoC)

VICE: Women Prisoners Heal Trauma with Dance

Successful ‘On Food and Faith’ conference concludes

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

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

Karenna Gore and Tim Van Meter

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

See the full event schedule.

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

Al Gore

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

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

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

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

Participants toured MTSO’s Seminary Hill Farm

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

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

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

Jay Rundell leads the closing ceremony

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

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

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

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

Video and media coverage

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

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

View a Facebook photo album from the conference.

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

CONTACT:

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