Category: Eco-Ministry

CEE November Update

Dear Friends,

Karenna Gore and CEE’s Herbalist in Residence, Poppy Jones, were joined by the Dogwood Alliance for a walk in the woods at NY City’s Van Cortlandt Park this fall.  Please enjoy Stories Happen in Forests‘ video, “Finding Faith in the Forest” giving you a window into their time together and a deep spiritual connection to the woods. The Dogwood Alliance is dedicated to reminding us how both magical & critical to our survival our Forests really are.

Join us and these heroic #ForestDefenders in building a powerful movement to protect our sacred forests. Learn more about their amazing work!

In Gratitude,
The Center for Earth Ethics Team

 

Join CEE this Month


Indigenous Timekeeping
and Sacred Sites Workshop

with Mindahi Bastida and Geraldine Patrick
Nov 17th, 2018, 11:30 am to 2:30 pm

Developing a Time-Space Consciousness
Activating Sacred Sites
Writing a Letter to our Beloved Home Landscape

THE RUBIN MUSEUM
150 West 17th St.
New York, NY 10011

Climate Change from the Perspective of Religious Traditions

“Indigenous American Religious Traditions and a ‘Wholistic’ Ecological Vision” with Karenna Gore, Mindahi Bastida and Geraldine Patrick

Sunday, November 18th
11:15 am – 12:15 pm

ALL SOULS CHURCH, NYC
1157 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10075

 

Sunday Scholars Panel: The Hudson as Life Force

How has the River been changed by us,
and how have we in turn, been changed by it?

Paul Gallay, President of Hudson Riverkeeper, moderates
with Karenna Gore, John Waldman, David Schuyler & Lee Bitsoi
Nov 18th, 2018, 2:00 – 3:00 pm, RSVP Required

Co-Hosted by Hudson Riverkeeper and
the Hudson River Museum

HUDSON RIVER MUSEUM
1511 Warburton Avenue
Yonkers, NY 10701

Mindahi Bastida joins International Gathering of Indigenous Leaders and Artists

Commemorating the First Anniversary of the
Return of Mungo Man

Climate Change Is a Civil Rights Issue: Here are 4 Ways to Respond

A thoughtful response to the state of our climate and ways to meaningfully respond. The Rev. Dr. Gerald L. Durley combines the disciplines of faith and science with the lessons learned as a civil/human rights advocate from the 1960s.
COMMENTARY by Gerald L. Durley 

America is at one of its most critical points in its illustrious history. Global warming and environmental injustice have evolved into a corrosive, divisive concern where lines of mistrust are deeply drawn in the minds of those who hold differing opinions. There appears to be entrenched emotional camps of dueling understanding as to whether climate change is a natural pattern of weather evolution or has been created by the human footprint.

As a civil rights activist from the civil rights movement of the ‘60s, I continue to believe that everyone has constitutional rights. Thousands of Americans are being denied their civil and human rights because insensitive or politically manipulated legislators are creating policies that are destroying the environment. When profit, rather than the well-being of human and environmental life, determine the survival of the planet, it is a civil rights issue.

Fifty-eight years later, it has become blatantly clear that we need to implement some of the organizational strategies of the civil rights movement to advance the climate change movement. It is my hope that this response will ensure that every person has access to toxin-free air and uncontaminated water.

Science confirms that humans are the primary perpetrators of climate change. Scientists from all over the world are now increasingly certain that the drastic weather changes, which we are currently experiencing, are the result of human involvement. It is now an accepted fact that the greenhouse effect is a result of excess carbon dioxide trapping solar radiation from the atmosphere, causing the earth’s temperature to rise and rapidly challenging the existence of all living things. Acidity in the oceans is increasing at an unprecedented rate and rising water temperatures are causing bleaching to once beautiful corals.

There are numerous reports, studies, and surveys that detail the negative impact global climate change poses, specifically to communities of color, low-income neighborhoods, and rural areas.

Fossil fuel, automobile emissions, and methane gas, which is the byproduct of fracking, have created a critical tipping point that will affect all life —human, animal, and plant.

Floods, hurricanes, droughts, wild fires, extreme heat waves, earthquakes, asthma, loss of life and property are the glaring aftermath of a changing climate.

I realize that businesses are structured in such a way that they must profit in order to remain viable. The moral questions that must be asked of them are: At whose expense? And at what cost to the sustainability of the planet and its inhabitants?

The earth is experiencing some of the hottest temperatures ever recorded. We are witnessing conflicts over water, not oil. The bee population is being decimated. Pollination of essential food crops has diminished, posing a threat to global food supply.

Climate change has become a runaway train.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “We must learn to live together as brothers and sisters or perish together as fools.” Climate change is a civil rights issue which business, political, educational, and faith leaders must join forces to stop.

I am more confident now than ever before that we must, can, and will be victorious in this moral civil rights struggle for the environment and for all life.

A few meaningful action steps and strategies that can reduce the impact of climate change:

Read on…

 

Prayer of Thanks for Creation

Leader :    Let us pray.

 

Thank you, God,

Thanks for beauty:

The twinkle in an older person’s eye,

A child’s shout of laughter;

Thanks for the greening trees and frozen waterfalls,

Stunning buildings and flowerbeds in summer.

All:    Thanks for beauty.

 

Thank you, God,

Thanks for creativity:

The skills of the tapestry weaver,

The imagination of a web designer;

Thanks for bakers and dancers and crossword compilers,

For spiders’ webs and city murals.

Thanks for creativity.

 

Thank you, God,

Thanks for abundance:

For seeds and raindrops,

For grains of sand and infinite galaxies;

Thanks for seagulls, plankton and shoals of mackerel,

For wriggling worms and golden dandelions.

Thanks for abundance.

 

Thanks for your world, God,

And for our part in it.

Thanks that you are a maker,

And that you made us makers, too.

 

Help us to love creation as you love it,

To take risks to value it as Jesus did,

And draw us into the wildness and wonder

Of your Holy Spirit

Today and every day.

Amen.

***

E-Liturgies and Prayers on Creation from the Iona Community

Celebrating the Season of Creation 

Image: Navajo (Dine) pictorial rug with Spiderwoman emerging from the center of the earth and emerging into the Middle World, as per the Navajo Creation tale, with stylized spiderwoman crosses represented throughout the textile. From Marcy Burns.

 

For the Season of Creation, Chinook Blessing Litany

We call upon the earth, our planet home, with its beautiful depths and soaring heights, its vitality and abundance of life, and together we ask that it

Teach us, and show us the Way.

We call upon the mountains, the Cascades and the Olympics, the high green valleys and meadows filled with wild flowers, the snows that never melt,the summits of intense silence, and we ask that they

Teach us, and show us the Way.

We call upon the waters that rim the earth, horizon to horizon, that flow in our rivers and streams, that fall upon our gardens and fields and we ask that they

Teach us, and show us the Way.

We call upon the land which grows our food, the nurturing soil, the fertile fields, the abundant gardens and orchards, and we ask that they

Teach us, and show us the Way.

We call upon the forests, the great trees reaching strongly to the sky with the earth in their roots and the heavens in their branches, the fir and the pine and the cedar, and we ask them to

Teach us, and show us the Way.

We call upon the creatures of the fields and forests and the seas, our brothers and sisters the wolves and deer, the eagle and dove, the great whales and dolphin, the beautiful Orca and salmon who share our Northwest home, and we ask them to

Teach us, and show us the Way.

We call upon all those who have lived on this earth, our ancestors and our friends, who dreamed the best for future generations, and upon whose lives our lives are built, and with thanksgiving, we call upon them to

Teach us, and show us the Way.

And lastly, we call upon all that we hold most sacred, the presence and power of the Great Spirit of love and truth which flows through all the Universe, to be with us to

Teach us, and show us the Way.

***

Chinook Blessing Litany ~ The Chinook is a tribal nation from Southwest Washington, whose ancestral lands sit at the mouth of the Columbia River.  They have been fighting for federal recognition since 1899.   Read more…

Many thanks to Diane L. Neu, Co-Founder & Co-Director of W.A.T.E.R (Women’s Alliance  for Theology, Ethics and Ritual) in Silver Spring, MD, for publishing this Chinook Blessing Litany in her book Return Blessings.

The Season of Creation is an annual, worldwide celebration of prayer and action organized by Christian faith leaders from around the world united in the cause to protect our common home and is open to all to participate.  The Season begins with the World Day of Prayer for Creation on September 1st and extends to the Feast Day of Saint Francis on October 4th. This year’s Season of Creation has the theme of “walking together”.  In walking together, we follow the role of Jesus, who walked with friends on the roads around Jerusalem.  As he traveled the byways of his community, Jesus invited us to encounter God through God’s presence in creation. Whether by considering “the lilies of the field” or the “grain of wheat that falls to the earth,” the spiritual journey of following Jesus is closely tied to the everyday wonders of nature that He experienced in His earthly journey.  Learn More / Participate…

***

On Water & Faith: Minister’s Training 2018

We began the conference with a water ceremony.  In a large circle, on a beautiful late spring day, 70 of us gathered around a copper pot to pay homage to Creator, life-giving water, and to one another. The water each of us poured into the pot carried stories of hope and sometimes pain, but when mixed together they represented resolve to bring healing to our world.

The three days spent during On Water And Faith: Ministry in the Time of Climate Change were transformative. We designed the conference so that Day 1 focused on faith, theology, and the people who are impacted by climate change. The day was capped off by a public lecture featuring former Vice President, Al Gore and CEE’s Catherine Flowers, as they discussed the felt impacts of climate crisis and the reasons why the climate is changing so much.

On Day 2, VP Gore spent the morning digging deeper into the science behind climate change and its global impacts. It provided a strong foundation not only on the science but also on the solutions to climate change, and why there is reason to hope. Yes, the climate is changing and yes, there will be major obstacles to overcome. What we do right now in these next fifteen years will dictate how big those obstacles are. It’s vital we come together now to implement the solutions we know will create positive changes. To that end, we spent the afternoon on our second day learning from experts on religion, science, community organizing, and advocacy.

The final day was spent brainstorming. Each of us came from a different context with challenges all our own. For some, their issues were related to health others, on pipelines and fracking. Even more are dealing with stronger storms and extreme weather events that test the resolve of their communities. No matter the problem, we came together as a group to share the wisdom we came with and the knowledge gained throughout the weekend to imagine solutions.

None of us are alone. It is important to remember that in each city and each town and in each community there are people standing in the breach doing good work for those that they love. If we look at all the issues surrounding water as a whole we are justified in sitting down and saying, “It’s just too much. This problem is too big to overcome.” It is an understandable response. But when we take a step back we realize that around the world good, passionate people are fighting hard for our collective future.

We’ll leave you with a poem from Wendell Berry that brings us comfort and hope:

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free. 


Andrew Schwartz, Director of Operations

 

Andrew Schwartz is the Deputy Director of the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

 

 

Religion and Climate Change: A Conversation with Karenna Gore

In conversation with Berkley Center Director Shaun Casey, Karenna discussed how religious communities strive to promote environmental consciousness with an aim to fulfill a responsibility for the common good.

Over the past three decades, climate change has become an increasingly prominent topic on the global agenda as advocates have marshaled scientific, policy, and moral support to protect the environment. In addition to state actors and the private sector—who engage in traditional coordinated advocacy efforts for environmental protection policies—faith-inspired actors can foster significant change in addressing environmental challenges as key participants in sacred spaces, community development, and advocacy practices. This faith-based engagement incorporates a spectrum of responses, ranging from official proclamations such as Pope Francis’ Laudato Si to indigenous efforts tied to spiritually significant locations, such as the water protectors at Standing Rock.

Originally published to www.berkleycenter.georgetown.edu.

Looking for more?  See more of Karenna Gore & the CEE Team by browsing our YouTube playlists.

***

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

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

Listen to the audio here

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

The Wisdom of the Earth

Thank you friends; thank you Reverend Walton.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

Karenna Gore responds to the West Roxbury Climate Trial Verdict

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

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

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

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

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

(4) there were no remaining legal alternatives.

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

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

Karenna Gore
Director, Center for Earth Ethics

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

By Nexus Media, with Cardinal John Ribat and Karenna Gore

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Karenna Gore

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

@theTable
March 25, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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