Category: Culture

Karenna Gore: “Faiths Respond to Stockholm+50”

I was grateful for the opportunity to speak at a dialogue, “Faiths Respond to Stockholm+50,” organized by Faith for Earth Initiative of the United Nations Environment Program on March 4, 2022. Below is an extended version of my remarks. 

* * * * * *

Thank you for the opportunity to speak. If I may, I would like to begin by describing my personal perspective on this topic. I was born close to the time of the 1972 Stockholm conference, into a family of Americans descended from Europeans, including Swedes on my mother’s side. I was told that some of my ancestors, particularly those from France and Great Britain, came to escape the heavy hand of religious authorities who would deny them their religious freedom. My country, the United States, has always spoken of this ideal of religious freedom. It was only in recent decades that I came to realize that that principle was not extended to the Native peoples of this land whose traditions were marked by reverence for the natural world. I speak to you now from ancestral lands of the Lenape people here in New York City, where the United Nations is based.

I also grew up in a family that had a particular regard for the United Nations because one person who was central to its founding in 1945, Secretary of State Cordell Hull, was from the same rural place in Tennessee that my father’s family is from. Most everything near the small town of Carthage, Tennessee, is named for Cordell Hull, who won the Nobel Peace Prize of 1945 as “father of the United Nations.” Hull, like my own grandparents on my father’s side, grew up without electricity and lived through the period of unprecedented change and economic growth that marked the post-World War II period in this part of the world. I recall my grandparents remembering the advent of the things that I took for granted—refrigerators, toasters, washer/driers, air conditioning, television, highways. I mention this because it seems notable how recent this way of life is, even in the most developed industrial nations. In Cordell Hull’s memoir he writes of his childhood: “with what we grew and what we hunted and trapped, we had no great need for money.” [1]

Of course, the development that I am pointing to is seen as progress for some good reasons, related to quality of life. But it also seems that development has become untethered from quality of life, and that social norms and values took a turn for the worse somewhere along the way. Ever-increasing production and consumption cycles fueling trade was mistaken for peace-building. High numbers of gross domestic product masqueraded as common good. Inequity was held as necessary for competition. Money confused with virtue. Hoarding material possessions associated with success. And of course, development has come at the expense of nature.

The way of thinking that discounts religion and spirituality has often been blind to how deep this shift in values has been, at least within the dominant culture. The American Transcendentalist writer Ralph Waldo Emerson expressed it this way: “A person will worship something, have no doubt about that . . . . That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives, and our character. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping, we are becoming.” If we worship money and the idea that humankind is special because we dominate nature, we become aliens on the Earth. Of course we must make every effort to eradicate poverty, but if in the process, a way of life that is intimately tied with nature is seen and described as poverty, to be eradicated, we are on our way to eradicating nature too. Once we have shifted values away from reverence for those biocultural ties, we lose our sense of belonging in the natural world.

The Haudenosaunee Confederacy (the matriarchal Indigenous society that is more commonly known as the Iroquois) pointed this out in the position papers they delivered to the NGOs of the United Nations in September of 1977 that included a document called “A Basic Call to Consciousness.” It argued against the imposition of the way of life of the rest of the world that had been imposed on them here in the United States. “The majority of the world does not find its roots in Western Culture or traditions. The majority of the world finds its roots in the Natural World and it is the Natural World and the traditions of the Natural World that must prevail if we are to develop truly free and egalitarian societies.” [2]

In my lifetime, the population of wild animals has decreased by about 60 percent, over half the rainforests have been chopped down, human population has doubled, the wealth gap has widened, many communities are inundated with toxic waste and pollution that harms their health through what has been called “slow violence”; in my country it is especially Black, Indigenous and communities of color that have already experienced racism in so many other ways. There are epidemics of obesity, addiction, anxiety and depression. In many places local cultures have been replaced by giant box stores and fast food places (including in Carthage, Tennessee), and we have loaded the atmosphere so full of climate-changing pollution that the weather has already begun to change, as the Haudenosaunee also warned in those papers I mentioned earlier. These changes—the stronger storms, droughts, wildfires, heat waves, rising sea levels and chaotic patterns—all hurt those people who live in poverty first and worst.

We are now in a climate emergency, on the brink of unspeakable loss. This loss is not only economic, it is cultural, spiritual and moral. The biggest loss is the mass suffering and death among the most vulnerable people around the world. In a report issued several years ago, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights Philip Alston stated: “Climate change threatens to undo the last 50 years of progress in development, global health and poverty reduction” and will drive many millions more into extreme poverty. Of course, many will also be driven from their homes (estimates vary from 25 million to one billion environmental migrants by 2050). [3]

We know the cause of climate change. It is the value system described that propels the two modern megatrends of pollution (particularly carbon pollution from the burning of fossil fuels) and depletion (particularly depletion of carbon sinks like forests and soil). If we are to confront this compound ecological crisis, we must look clearly at the level of cause, not just the level of effects. We must return to the best of the spirit of inquiry that existed in Stockholm in 1972.

When Swedish Prime Minister Olaf Palme spoke at that conference, he referenced that post War period in the dominant parts of the world, that unprecedented technical and economic progress. He referenced the way of thinking . He explained that any moral uneasiness about poverty in the rest of the world was tempered by the prospect that with rigorous development efforts, they would catch up. The wake-up call at Stockholm in 1972 centered around the realization that the Earth’s resources were finite and the central issue at the conference was the need to address the potential conflict between economic development and environmental protection. As Palme stated, “the decisive question is in which direction we will develop, by what means we will grow, which qualities we want to achieve, and what values we wish to guide our future.”

The Stockholm Conference was important for many reasons. It marked a more inclusive world in some ways. For example, the People’ Republic of China had just become a part of the United Nations, and sent a delegation. East and West Germany were not yet members, and the Soviet Union and the Warsaw pact countries did not attend in part because of the exclusion of East Germany. The Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, spoke, expressing some misgivings about an ecological agenda that would distract from the imperative for development and arguing “we have to prove to the disinherited majority of the world that ecology and conservation will not work against their interest but will bring improvement in their lives.” [4] We should note that it is climate justice activists from the Global South (like Vanessa Nakate of Uganda) that make that case loud and clear today. All in all, Stockholm 1972 also marked a wiser world, thinking about long-term problems beyond the daily distractions of the ordinary course of multilateral business.  Specifically, it revealed a United Nations that was taking responsibility for the global environmental questions that no one else would or could address. The UN has never abdicated this responsibility, as we saw this week with the release of the latest IPCC report and the agreement to launch negotiations to curtail the global scourge of plastics pollution.

I commend those who have worked so hard in recent decades to bring nature to the center of the work of the UN, including through the Sustainable Development Goals. But let us be honest: we have lost our way. It is not only that we are off target for the 17 goals and we have to push harder. Something is missing and something is wrong. What is missing? The most vital aspects of the human experience: the meaning and belonging that come from culture, including elements of culture that bond people to the ecosystems they live within. What is wrong? The forces behind those two modern megatrends of pollution and depletion have found their footing within these goals and within the extensive scaffolding and rhetoric of sustainable development. Profit-seeking industries have a lot of power in this world—let us not be naïve about this or dismiss it as too indelicate a thing to say aloud. These forces rely on a notion of progress that has gone unchallenged, a notion that includes the kind of top-down consumerism that sustains their markets and that still routinely sacrifices nature. We cannot slip into a critique that blames people for lacking moral fiber to stand up to this—the vast majority are living in systems in which the commons are being devoured, and they often do not have real choices. To correct course, we need to ask some different questions—not only “Is no one left behind?” but also “Are we sure we are going in the right direction?” and “Who and what is development actually for?”

The world’s faith and wisdom traditions have been asking these deeper questions for some time. Reading texts like “A Basic Call to Consciousness: The Haudenosaunee Address to the Western World,”  “Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home” and “Al-Mizan: A Covenant for the Earth” is like water for a thirsty person. It is within this scholarship from faith communities that the most vital work on the relationship between development and environments is being done because these scholars see the deeper issues. They are not naïve about the dimensions of belief and worship that Emerson described. They are not naïve about the nature of power either. They also carry intimate knowledge of the relationship between colonization, belief systems, and environmental devastation, even-—or perhaps sometimes especially–from within those religious traditions that were bound up in it. And finally, they are connected to ancient traditions that have stood the test of time and offer powerful teaching and practices on living life to the fullest, which of course means living in harmony with nature and with each other.

* * * * * *

You can watch the dialogue session in its entirely and hear from these speakers directly HERE. It includes a framing and response from Ambassador for Stockholm+50 from the Swedish government, Johanna Lissenger Peitz, some words from Haruko Okusu, principal coordination officer of Stockholm+50 at the United Nations Environment Program, and remarks from Stockholm+50 Youth Task Force member Shantanu Mandal.

I will name just a few of the points from the faith leaders that stood out to me. Islamic scholar Dr. Fazlun Khalid called attention the need for focus on educational systems and also to the harm done by assuming a drive for unlimited growth and called for us to take de-growth seriously in those places where we can. Father Joshua Kureethadam spoke from the Vatican, expressing the wisdom of some particular concepts from within faith traditions such as when jubilee and sabbath was grounded in allowing the land to rest. He called out the way that faith leaders can gather communities, especially that critical mass that is needed to make change, as we saw with leaders like Mandela and Gandhi. And he shared the Laudato Si Action platform as a resource for all. Bishop Mark MacDonald, National Indigenous Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Canada, spoke some words in Native language and lifted up Indigenous voices as prophetic in our time. He also pointed out that our societies have been fundamentally changed by economic and technological forces, with many getting their values from them rather than from religious and spiritual traditions, and that we must instead recognize that we are not fully human without nature. Bishop Andreas Holmberg of the Church of Sweden emphasized that faith communities must be recognized as key partners, especially in changing the short-sighted thinking that dominates today, instead opening a pathway to long-term decision making. He also proposed that adding ecocide as an international crime under the Rome Statute be taken up seriously at Stockholm+50. Gopal Patel of Bhumi Global spoke from the Hindu tradition, lifting the wisdom that change is the only thing that is constant and argued for consideration to be given to a version of common but differentiated responsibilities in how peoples restore and protect nature, with rights of nature appropriate in some cultures.

As we move towards the convening in Stockholm in June, in the context of an urgent and perilous ecological crisis, let us keep in mind the potential contributions of faith communities in helping humanity to correct course. Their power is not only practical—which pertains to owning land, controlling funds and reaching vast networks of people—it is also in the quality of the analysis and vision that comes from traditions that have stood the test of time and speak to humanity’s most deeply held values.

 

1. “The Memoirs of Cordell Hull” (1948), p. 13.

2. “A Basic Call to Consciousness,” edited by Akwesasne Notes (1978).

3. https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/06/1041261

4. “What Happened in Stockholm.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (Sept 1972).

Indigenous Leaders to Discuss Water Ethics on October 7

Indigenous Water Ethics: A Traditional Dialogue
Thursday, October 7, 2021
9 a.m. Los Angeles | 12 p.m. New York | 6 p.m. Paris

REGISTER TODAY

Water is fundamental to all life on Earth. Protecting water is essential for ecosystem restoration, biodiversity, food justice and calming the climate crisis. As we seek to build frameworks for regenerative systems, Indigenous peoples—who already safeguard water and hold ancestral knowledge and cultural practices necessary to support that work—deserve a place at the center.

Join the Center for Earth Ethics on Thursday, October 7, at noon Eastern Time, for a webinar, “Indigenous Water Ethics: A Traditional Dialogue.” Mona Polacca, senior fellow for CEE’s Original Caretakers Program, has assembled representatives of different Indigenous cultures to present their diverse perspectives and lived experiences stabilizing, protecting and creating resiliency for their communities’ water sources.

Speakers scheduled to appear in the dialogue are:

Rāwiri Tinirau, co-director of Te Atawhai o Te Ao, a Māori research institute focused on health and environmental research. He is also deputy chair of Ngā Tāngata Tiaki o Whanganui, the post settlement governance entity for the Whanganui River settlement—the landmark 2017 case granting “personhood” to New Zealand’s Whanganui River.

Betty Lyons, president and executive director of the American Indian Law Alliance (AILA), an Indigenous and environmental activist, and citizen of the Onondaga Nation. She has worked for the Onondaga Nation for more than 20 years and is a fierce protector of Onondaga Lake and the Creek that connect the Nation to the body of water. Betty is co-chair of CEE’s Advisory Board.

Austin Nunez, chairman of the Wa:k—San Xavier District of the Tohono O’odham Nation located in the arid Sonoran Desert region of southwestern Arizona. He will present a case study about a 23-year legal challenge to regain his tribe’s inherent well and water rights.

CEE’s Original Caretakers Program promotes learning from Indigenous knowledge to address the ecological crisis. The program also supports wisdom keepers from Indigenous traditions, advocates for Indigenous rights and self-determination, and seeks the engagement of Indigenous peoples in economic development decisions.

Register Today

Some Thoughts on Inauguration Day 2021

Like so many others, I have deep and mixed emotions on this Inauguration Day. This awful chapter is coming to a close and there is a lot to celebrate about the incoming administration, but there is also wreckage upon wreckage to examine, and it goes all the way back to the foundations of our nation. In a moving ceremony at the Reflecting Pool last night, with 400 lights shining to represent the 400,000 lives lost to Covid-19, President-Elect Joe Biden said “to heal, we must remember.” This wisdom is itself a guiding light forward.

Rev Dr. William Barber II is among those who have explained that the kind of mob violence we saw at the Capitol on January 6 has a long history of terrorizing communities in this country. The symbols on display on January 6th reflected the white supremacist ideology behind the breathtaking sense of entitlement to desecrate whatever sanctuary it claims. While not all of us can ever fully grasp it, we must acknowledge the trauma that this touches and exploits.

There was also a religious element to the insurrection. As many have noted, there were prayers and signs and shouts that invoked God, the Bible and Jesus. This too must be examined. To say that White Christian nationalism has always been a force in this country is an understatement. As many have documented (and I touched on in a blog last spring), the presence of people of European heritage on this land was launched in large part by proclamations from the Vatican in the mid-15th century that invoked the Bible for authority to “conquer, vanquish and subdue.” The way that American history has been taught (the revanchist 1776 project is a reminder) tends to downplay the extent to which dehumanization (and even demonization) of Black and Indigenous peoples worked in tandem with the narrative that God ordained the presence and reign of people of European descent (who came to be known as “white”) in this land.  

Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas calls it “racial-religious synchronicity.” In Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God, she brings plenty of “receipts,” as they say, painful and important to read. For the field of earth ethics, it is important to note the construction of whiteness included language exalting ecological domination as part of the proof of racial superiority. For example, in 1775 in Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind, Peopling of Countries, Benjamin Franklin wrote approvingly of “scouring our planet, by clearing woods, and so making our side of the globe reflect a brighter light” in making his argument that America should not “darken its people.” 

Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton, speaking in 1846, at the height of the myth of Manifest Destiny: “It would seem that the White race alone received the divine command, to subdue and replenish the earth! For it is the only race that has obeyed it, the only one that hunts out new and distant lands, and even a New World, to subdue and replenish.” There are unmistakable echoes of this sentiment among the MAGA crowds today. At the Republican National Convention this past August, Rep. Matt Gaetz proclaimed: “The frontier, the horizon, even the stars belong to us.” On January 6th, a current Senator from Missouri,  Josh Hawley gave a salute to the stirring mob as he entered the Capitol to dispute the clear outcome of a free and fair election in which  the candidates who stood for an end to systemic racism (and the assault on our climate) prevailed.

On a personal note, I feel reverberations from family experience during every Presidential election cycle, but this one has been especially so. I did not take the time to consider it in depth until idle chatter at the beginning of a zoom meeting a last week prompted me. Someone said, “oh I remember when this whole thing was happening with your father,” and someone else said something like “when this was all happening in 2000 . . . ” It was not the time to articulate it, but the details came rushing back to mind. There was a stark contrast between that occasion and recent events. In 2000, the candidate who won the popular vote and only lost the electoral college by a razor thin margin in just one state made a gracious concession and gave a heartfelt blessing to his rival. And let’s not forget that the circumstances in Florida in 2000 left plenty of room to stoke ongoing controversy and fan flames of division, if he so chose. My father attended that Inauguration, of course, and though he was not onstage today, I feel moved to honor him for his role in upholding American democracy.

Now that Trump is leaving office in disgrace, we must have the courage to look at what he has revealed about us as a nation. We can remember that racism and ecological destruction were joined in a mistaken belief system that was present at the founding, but need not define us any longer. This administration is off to an excellent start with these executive orders that restore the U.S. to global leadership on climate, respect Indigenous people and address environmental justice. There are several other urgent actions they should take, including stopping Line 3, the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the mining of Oak Flat, a sacred site for the Apache. All economic development decisions must be made with an ethical lens that includes long term vision. There is also a need for a major revitalization of civics education, not only to enrich our collective knowledge of how a healthy democracy functions, but also to help us remember and heal the wounds that almost caused us to lose it.

As National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman spoke today in The Hill We Climb: 

And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it
Somehow we do it.
Somehow, we’ve weathered and witnessed
A nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.

p.s.
I also want to share Amanda Gorman’s “EarthRise” which she performed for Climate Reality Project’s 24 Hours of Reality in 2018.

Climate Underground – Interview with Sioux Chef, Sean Sherman hosted by CEE Director, Karenna Gore

About

Sean Sherman is one half of the founding duo that is The Sioux Chef behind Indigenous Food Lab in Minneapolis, MN.

Indigenous Food Lab is an education and training center that will serve as the heart of NATIFS’ work establishing a new Indigenous food system that reintegrates native foods and Indigenous-focused education into tribal communities across North America. We envision a future of developing and supporting Indigenous kitchens and food enterprises in tribal communities, bringing cultural, nutritional, and economic revitalization across North America! Learn More at www.natifs.org.

 

Karenna Gore is the founder and director at the Center for Earth Ethics.

The Center for Earth Ethics is a forum for education, public discourse and movement building that draws on faith and wisdom traditions to address our ecological crisis and its root causes at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Learn More at www.centerforearthethics.org.

 

With many thanks to Climate Underground 2020!

One Word: Sawalmem – Lifting up Indigenous Voices on Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Lifting up Indigenous Voices on Indigenous Peoples’ Day – Recommended by CEE Senior Fellow, Catherine Coleman Flowers

Check out this beautiful preview shining a light on the sacredness of life we all share and the importance of including indigenous voices in education and academia.

Learn more about this project and others at Micro-Documentaries.com.

Released in March 2020, One Word Sawalmem was a finalist in the short film program of the Tribeca Film Institute, and has been selected for and won awards at 20+ festivals in Argentina, Bolivia, Bhutan, Brazil, Canada, Chile, the Czech Republic, India, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, the UK and the US.

Directors Pom and Natasha have been invited to speak at a number of events including UNESCO’s International Congress on Indigenous Languages in Cusco Peru, NY Climate Week, UC Berkeley, Cornell University, California College of the Arts, the Sunray Native American Elders Gathering, middle school classrooms and youth leadership groups.

Our next public screening + sharing circle will be on October 15: you can register here.

If you would like to screen One Word Sawalmem at your school, university or organization please contact us here.

Tlazocamati: Fuego de amar / Fire of Loving

Tlazocamati: Fuego de amar

(al modo nahua)

Traer las cuatro banderas
(la roja, la amarilla, la negra, la blanca)
y las cinco cuentas (de piedra verde, de oro,
de pedernal, de obsidiana, de barro)
a esta altura no es fácil.
Se marchitan la flores,
se desgarran las plumas,
se gasta el oro, se astilla el jade.
Se ponen las banderas
al este, al sur, al oeste, al norte;
en el centro se arreglan las cinco cuentas.
Se celebra la ceremonia,
se hace la penitencia,
se abre, se valora el corazón.
Se alza la flor y el canto,
se dan gracias a la vida.
La Tierra escucha.

© Rafael Jesús González 2020

10 octubre 2020


 

 Tlazocamati: Fire of Loving

 (in the Nahua mode)

To bring the four flags
(the red, the yellow, the black, the white)
& the five beads (of green stone, of gold,
of quartz, of obsidian, of clay)
to this height is not easy.
The flowers wilt,
the feathers are tattered,
the gold is worn, the jade chipped.
The flags are placed
to the east, the south, the west, the north;
in the center are arranged the five beads.
The ceremony is celebrated,
penance is made,
the heart is opened, appraised.
Flower & song are raised,
thanks is given to life.
The Earth listens.

~ Rafael Jesús González

October 10, 2020

 

Rafael Jesús González

Born in the bicultural/bilingual setting of El Paso, Texas/Juárez, Chihuahua, attended the University of Texas El Paso, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, & the University of Oregon. Professor Emeritus of Creative Writing & Literature, taught at the University of Oregon, Western State College of Colorado, Central Washington State University, the University of Texas El Paso, and Laney College, Oakland where he founded the Mexican and Latin American Studies Dept.  The first Poet Laureate of Berkeley, CA.

Contributing poet for Earth Stanzas, Earth Day collaboration between the Center for Earth Ethics and Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University and election cycle project, “Where I am From.”

Visit Raphael’s Blog Spot

Pledge to be a Faith Climate Justice Voter!

This is a moment for fundamental change. When people of faith vote our values, elected officials take note. We can help make change by electing leaders who are committed to ending structures of oppression, ending environmental injustices, and tackling climate change.

Join us in helping communicate our values of caring for God’s Creation and loving our neighbors.

I pledge to vote with climate and Creation in mind.

I am pledging to be a Faith Climate Justice Voter to put love into action for every living creature and for every vulnerable community suffering the impacts of our changing climate, from sea rise, to extreme heat, to devastating droughts, to supercharged storms.

My pledge to vote for climate justice is rooted in environmental justice. I am in solidarity with all who are disproportionately burdened with climate impacts, including Black, Brown, Indigenous, and low-income communities.

I believe that our nation’s elected leaders and our public policies should reflect our shared values. By pledging to be a consistent voter and vote with climate justice in mind, I am communicating the values of caring for God’s Creation and our children’s future.

You pledge to vote. We remind you to keep your word. It’s so easy. And it works.

Earth Charter and Ecological Civilization Webinar Series

On September 10th, CEE Director Karenna Gore, joined speakers Mary Evelyn Tucker and Meijun Fan along with moderator, Andrew Schwartz to begin a conversation on Ecological Civilization inspired from China’s adoption of this directive into their constitution. Please enjoy this first webinar in a 4-part series beginning with Values & Worldviews: Ecological Civilization as Mutual Flourishing.

Webinar Series: Earth Charter and Ecological Civilization

A new kind of collaboration, toward a new kind of civilization, is needed if we are to shift humanity away from the current civilization that is indifferent to the needs of the most vulnerable and that predominantly has lifestyles and production patterns that destroys the life support systems that sustain life on Earth.

Two decades ago, after years of international collaboration and with input from visionaries around the world, a document known as the Earth Charter was drafted as a vision of hope and a call to action. The 16 principles of the Earth Charter provide a framework for the long-term well-being of people and the planet.

In 2012, China adopted Ecological Civilization in its National Constitution and mandated its incorporation into “all aspects of economic, political, cultural, and social progress.” This call for civilizational change raises awareness of the need for an alternative paradigm. But, what is “ecological civilization” and how can it be achieved?

Now, as we enter the third decade of the new millennium, there is urgency in generating an intercultural and intersectoral dialogue about the meaning, principles, metrics, vision, and values that ought to drive humanity towards ecological civilization.

Toward this end, a group of global partners are coming together to organize a series of webinars to exchange views, deepen discourse, and hopeful stimulate further collaboration. This series of four webinars, to take place between September and December, is being organized as a collaborative effort between the Earth Charter International, University for Peace, Pace Center for Green Sci-Teck and Development, the Institute of Ecological Civilization, China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation (CBCGDF), and the Center for Process Studies.

The following questions will be addressed:

  • What is an “Ecological Civilization?”
  • What values and worldviews are needed to ground a paradigm shift towards that direction?
  • Can the Earth Charter principles provide a framework for building an ecological civilization?
  • How to cultivate the consciousness needed, and how to turn this new consciousness into action?
  • What are the driving forces of the current civilization and what could be the drivers of “Ecological Civilization”?
  • What is the role of education, policies, and international collaboration to turn Ecological Civilization a reality?

Learn More, See More Dates and Speakers…

19th Amendment to the Constitution – Women’s Suffrage 100 Years Ago

19th Amendment to the US Constitution — Women Suffrage approved by Congress 6/4/1919, ratified 8/18/1920, one hundred years ago today.

Compiled and shared by Rafael Jesús González, Earth Stanzas contributing poet and first Poet Laureate of Berkeley, CA.


When women’s suffrage was gained in the U. S. in 1920, my mother Carmen González Prieto was newly come to the U.S., not yet thirteen. She did not become a citizen of the United States until 1957 while I was serving with the Marine Corps in Kaneohe Bay, the territory of Hawai’i. Shorty after she died at the age of 86, while I was visiting my brothers in El Paso, I accompanied them to vote; everyone at the voting place asked where Mrs. Carmen González was; they had never known her to miss voting since she became a U. S. citizen. (She always voted Democrat.)
—  Rafael Jesús González
19th Amendment to the US Constitution —  Women Suffrageby Deborah Tutnauer
(2010)

This is the story of our Mothers and Grandmothers
who lived only 90 years ago.

Remember, it was not until 1920 that women were granted the right to go to the polls and vote.

The women were innocent and defenseless, but they were jailed nonetheless for picketing the White House, carrying signs asking for the vote.

And by the end of the night, they were barely alive. Forty prison guards wielding clubs and their warden’s blessing went on a rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted of ‘obstructing sidewalk traffic.’

They beat Lucy Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air.

They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack. Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women.

Thus unfolded the ‘Night of Terror’ on Nov. 15, 1917, when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson’s White House for the right to vote. For weeks, the women’s only water came from an open pail. Their food–all all of it colorless slop–was infested with worms.

When one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.

So, refresh my memory.. Some women won’t vote this year because – why, exactly? We have carpool duties? We have to get to work? Our vote doesn’t matter? It’s raining?

Last week, I went to a sparsely attended screening of HBO’s new movie ‘Iron Jawed Angels.’ It is a graphic depiction of the battle these women waged so that I could pull the curtain at the polling booth and have my say. I am ashamed to say I needed the reminder.

All these years later, voter registration is still my passion. But the actual act of voting had become less personal for me, more rote. Frankly, voting often felt more like an obligation than a privilege. Sometimes it was inconvenient.

My friend Wendy, who is my age and studied women’s history, saw the HBO movie, too. When she stopped by my desk to talk about it, she looked angry. She was–with herself. ‘One thought kept coming back to me as I watched that movie,’ she said. ‘What would those women think of the way I use, or don’t use, my right to vote? All of us take it for granted now, not just younger women, but those of us who did seek to learn.’ The right to vote, she said, had become valuable to her ‘all over again.’

HBO released the movie on video and DVD . I wish all history, social studies and government teachers would include the movie in their curriculum I want it shown on Bunco night, too, and anywhere else women gather. I realize this isn’t our usual idea of socializing, but we are not voting in the numbers that we should be, and I think a little shock therapy is in order.

It is jarring to watch Woodrow Wilson and his cronies try to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane so that she could be permanently institutionalized. And it is inspiring to watch the doctor refuse. Alice Paul was strong, he said, and brave. That didn’t make her crazy.

The doctor admonished the men: ‘Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.’

Please, if you are so inclined, pass this on to all the women you know. We need to get out and vote and use this right that was fought so hard for by these very courageous women. Whether you vote democratic, republican or independent party – remember to vote.

(Helena Hill Weed, Norwalk , Conn. Serving 3 day sentence in D.C. prison for carrying banner,
‘Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.’) 

History is being made.

Deborah Tutnauer (2010)

The Declaration of Sentiments
Seneca Falls, New York, 1848
(Source: U.S. Dept. of State)

The Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions was drafted by Elizabeth Cady Stanton for the women’s rights convention at Seneca Falls, New York in 1848. Based on the American Declaration of Independence, the Sentiments demanded equality with men before the law, in education and employment. Here, too, was the first pronouncement demanding that women be given the right to vote.
Sentiments

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one portion of the family of man to assume among the people of the earth a position different from that which they have hitherto occupied, but one to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes that impel them to such a course.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of those who suffer from it to refuse allegiance to it, and to insist upon the institution of a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and, accordingly, all experience has shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they were accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their duty to throw off such government and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of the women under this government, and such is now the necessity which constrains them to demand the equal station to which they are entitled.

The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise.

He has compelled her to submit to law in the formation of which she had no voice.

He has withheld from her rights which are given to the most ignorant and degraded men, both natives and foreigners.

Having deprived her of this first right as a citizen, the elective franchise, thereby leaving her without representation in the halls of legislation, he has oppressed her on all sides.

He has made her, if married, in the eye of the law, civilly dead. He has taken from her all right in property, even to the wages she earns.

He has made her morally, an irresponsible being, as she can commit many crimes with impunity, provided they be done in the presence of her husband. In the covenant of marriage, she is compelled to promise obedience to her husband, he becoming, to all intents and purposes, her master-the law giving him power to deprive her of her liberty and to administer chastisement.

He has so framed the laws of divorce, as to what shall be the proper causes and, in case of separation, to whom the guardianship of the children shall be given, as to be wholly regardless of the happiness of the women-the law, in all cases, going upon a false supposition of the supremacy of man and giving all power into his hands.

After depriving her of all rights as a married woman, if single and the owner of property, he has taxed her to support a government which recognizes her only when her property can be made profitable to it.

He has monopolized nearly all the profitable employments, and from those she is permitted to follow, she receives but a scanty remuneration. He closes against her all the avenues to wealth and distinction which he considers most honorable to himself. As a teacher of theology, medicine, or law, she is not known.

He has denied her the facilities for obtaining a thorough education, all colleges being closed against her.

He allows her in church, as well as state, but a subordinate position, claiming apostolic authority for her exclusion from the ministry, and, with some exceptions, from any public participation in the affairs of the church.

He has created a false public sentiment by giving to the world a different code of morals for men and women, by which moral delinquencies which exclude women from society are not only tolerated but deemed of little account in man.

He has usurped the prerogative of Jehovah himself, claiming it as his right to assign for her a sphere of action, when that belongs to her conscience and to her God.

He has endeavored, in every way that he could, to destroy her confidence in her own powers, to lessen her self-respect, and to make her willing to lead a dependent and abject life.

Now, in view of this entire disfranchisement of one-half the people of this country, their social and religious degradation, in view of the unjust laws above mentioned, and because women do feel themselves aggrieved, oppressed, and fraudulently deprived of their most sacred rights, we insist that they have immediate admission to all the rights and privileges which belong to them as citizens of the United States.

In entering upon the great work before us, we anticipate no small amount of misconception, misrepresentation, and ridicule; but we shall use every instrumentality within our power to effect our object. We shall employ agents, circulate tracts, petition the state and national legislatures, and endeavor to enlist the pulpit and the press in our behalf. We hope this Convention will be followed by a series of conventions embracing every part of the country.

Resolutions

Whereas, the great precept of nature is conceded to be that “man shall pursue his own true and substantial happiness.” Blackstone in his Commentaries remarks that this law of nature, being coeval with mankind and dictated by God himself, is, of course, superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries and at all times; no human laws are of any validity if contrary to this, and such of them as are valid derive all their force, and all their validity, and all their authority, mediately and immediately, from this original; therefore,

Resolved, That such laws as conflict, in any way, with the true and substantial happiness of woman, are contrary to the great precept of nature and of no validity, for this is superior in obligation to any other.

Resolved, that all laws which prevent woman from occupying such a station in society as her conscience shall dictate, or which place her in a position inferior to that of man, are contrary to the great precept of nature and therefore of no force or authority.

Resolved, that woman is man’s equal, was intended to be so by the Creator, and the highest good of the race demands that she should be recognized as such.

Resolved, that the women of this country ought to be enlightened in regard to the laws under which they live, that they may no longer publish their degradation by declaring themselves satisfied with their present position, nor their ignorance, by asserting that they have all the rights they want.

Resolved, that inasmuch as man, while claiming for himself intellectual superiority, does accord to woman moral superiority, it is preeminently his duty to encourage her to speak and teach, as she has an opportunity, in all religious assemblies.

Resolved, that the same amount of virtue, delicacy, and refinement of behavior that is required of woman in the social state also be required of man, and the same transgressions should be visited with equal severity on both man and woman.

Resolved, that the objection of indelicacy and impropriety, which is so often brought against woman when she addresses a public audience, comes with a very ill grace from those who encourage, by their attendance, her appearance on the stage, in the concert, or in feats of the circus.

Resolved, that woman has too long rested satisfied in the circumscribed limits which corrupt customs and a perverted application of the Scriptures have marked out for her, and that it is time she should move in the enlarged sphere which her great Creator has assigned her.

Resolved, that it is the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise.

Resolved, that the equality of human rights results necessarily from the fact of the identity of the race in capabilities and responsibilities.

Resolved, that the speedy success of our cause depends upon the zealous and untiring efforts of both men and women for the overthrow of the monopoly of the pulpit, and for the securing to woman an equal participation with men in the various trades, professions, and commerce.

Resolved, therefore, that, being invested by the Creator with the same capabilities and same consciousness of responsibility for their exercise, it is demonstrably the right and duty of woman, equally with man, to promote every righteous cause by every righteous means; and especially in regard to the great subjects of morals and religion, it is self-evidently her right to participate with her brother in teaching them, both in private and in public, by writing and by speaking, by any instrumentalities proper to be used, and in any assemblies proper to be held; and this being a self-evident truth growing out of the divinely implanted principles of human nature, any custom or authority adverse to it, whether modern or wearing the hoary sanction of antiquity, is to be regarded as a self-evident falsehood, and at war with mankind.

            Elizabeth Cady Stanton 1848

Press Release: CEE Teams up with Kent State University’s Wick Poetry Center to launch “Earth Stanzas”

Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary and Kent State University’s Wick Poetry Center launch “Earth Stanzas,” an interactive online Earth Day Poetry Project

April 17, 2020

New York, NY / Kent, OH

The Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary and the Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University are launching Earth Stanzas, an interactive poetry project in honor of Earth Day. Earth Stanzas draws on the inspiration of eight poets who engage the beauty, depth, and interconnectedness of the Earth, and invites readers to interact with the poems and find their own poetic voice.

Each model poem and its prompt invites participants to reflect on their relationship to the Earth and to share their voice in an online gallery. Another feature of the project invites readers to use the Wick Poetry Center’s Emerge™web-based app to create their own digital “erasure” poem from a pool of primary texts, including excerpts from an International Panel on Climate Change report, historical documents such as the Haudenosaunee Address to the Western World and Encyclical Letter of Pope Francis, Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home. 

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day, celebrated in 1970 when 20 million Americans gathered across the country to raise awareness to the growing destruction of our planet. Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. 50 years later as these protections are threatened we again must sound the alarm for dynamic action to be taken. 

In this unprecedented time of planetary crisis, it is important to remember the beauty of the world, the wonder of nature, and the deep connection we have to it and each other. This is why on the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day, we are offering this platform for the creation of “Earth Stanzas” and asking your networks to help us spread the word. Please join us along with Poets for Science, The Academy of American Poets, The Climate Museum, Earth Day Network, and many others.

Full Link:  www.earthstanzas.com

The Center for Earth Ethics is a forum for education, public discourse and movement building that draws on faith and wisdom traditions to address our ecological crisis and its root causes at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. 

The Wick Poetry Center, in Kent State University’s College of Arts & Sciences, is home to the award-winning Traveling Stanzas project, and is one of the premier university poetry centers in the country. It is a national leader for the range, quality, and innovative outreach in the community.

For more information please contact:

David Hassler, Director, Wick Poetry Center: [email protected], 330.221.9913

Andrew Schwartz, Deputy Director CEE: [email protected], 541.760.2067