Category: Eco-Ministry

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.

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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.

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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.

In case you missed it: CEE Update

“We don’t practice con-sci-ence, we practice consciousness, because the former is a state of mind that slices reality into pieces,” says Tiokasin Ghosthorse.

Dear Friends, Thanks to so many who joined us for this event.  Here, where we exist in a shared consciousness with the water, the fire, our ancestors and with each other.  We sit in presence.  We experience together.  “We don’t try to explain mystery, we live in the mystery.”

The Center for Earth Ethics is honored to continue our partnership with Author, Tiokasin Ghosthorse (Founder, Host and Executive Producer of First Voices Radio) exploring perspectives which reach deep into the heart of an emerging consciousness that is both ancient and new.  We are called home until we understand, “Mother Earth misses us.”

Aliou Cissé NiangNew Testament faculty at Union Theological Seminary, offered reflections beautifully weaving in indigenous perspective from his native Senegal, West Africa.

Watch the Panel Discussion Here

~ The Center for Earth Ethics Team ~



Original Caretakers & Sustainability and Global Affairs

Mindahi Bastida-Munoz spoke at the Indigenous Peoples Round Table at the WUF9.

Indigenous Peoples’ Voices at the World Urban Forum 9, UN-Habitat

Roberto Borrero and Catherine Coleman Flowers at Beyond GDP: Lessons from Indigenous Cultures and Faith Traditions.

Field Ed Reflections: CEE’s Beyond G.D.P.


Partners in Education, Community and Justice

Close to three months after Hurricane Maria made landfall, many Puerto Ricans are struggling for survival and fighting to remain, reclaim, and rebuild. Many of their struggles are related to a climate crisis fueled by a legacy of colonization and extraction. As the crisis continues unfolding,  #OurPowerPRnyc is a community-led initiative working to build a Puerto Rico recovery designed by Puerto Ricans. Learn More.


Contribute to the Work of the Center for Earth Ethics


Field Ed Reflections: CEE’s Beyond G.D.P.

Beyond GDP: Lessons from Indigenous Cultures and Faith Traditions, SU 190 – KA1
Presented by The Center for Earth Ethics & Karenna Gore
Friday, February 2, 1:00 – 6:00 pm; Saturday, February 3, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm

Course Description: This class will focus on the flaws of current economic measurements such as Gross Domestic Product and the ways in which Indigenous cultures — along with voices from faith communities— are contributing to alternative ways of measuring the success and well-being of a society. Topics to be covered include the UN Sustainable Development Agenda, the impact of colonization on the bio-cultural heritage of Indigenous peoples, the conflict at Standing Rock, the Pope’s encyclical Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home, and the role of religion in development policy.

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Reflection:

I don’t believe that there is a single person on this planet who isn’t aware of the climate system’s change. I fully include so called climate deniers in this as well because even they have to go outside and wonder why they can leave their homes, on many a winter day, in nothing more that a light jacket. Most are aware that something is just not right, that the coming days will bring forth even more uncertainty in weather patterns. For a majority of the world, however, this uncertainty is something they are already living with every day-this is the reality of the most vulnerable in our society: the poor For it is the capitalist project which has brought us to this crisis, and it is through its exploitative and violent nature human suffering has increased alongside Mother Earth’s ecological degradation.

The course went by the name, Beyond GDP: Lessons from Indigenous Cultures and Faith Traditions. Prior to attending the class, participants were sent a short reading list which included excerpts from “Laudato Si”, an article from the acclaimed scholar and activist Vandana Shiva, and a beautiful collection of articles and testimonials written from the perspective of Indigenous people advocating for their rights, as well as sharing the great Original Wisdom which still guides them today.

With around 30 participants, the class was a great mixture of students, religious leaders, professors, activists, farmers and herbalists, and lawyers. We were also blessed and honored by the presence of members from the Ramapough Lenape Nation- Chief Dwaine Perry and Owl Smith. Upon opening the class with a ritual presenting the four elements, C.E.E. Director, Karenna Gore, invited us all to introduce ourselves and ask that we share our names, a product which we depend on most, as well as, something within greater creation which we feel most connected to. It was incredibly powerful to witness the palpable feelings of joy and wonder we all associated with our non-human family.

Bipasha Chatterjee: Environmental Economist, Hunter College; Board of Directors, Energy Vision

Just as powerful, were the presentations. Karenna started the discussion by bringing forth the idea that capitalism and our globalized obsession with the gross national product index is greatly failing us all. The next presenter was economist and professor Bipasha Chatterjee who was able to pass on to us a great deal of information about how our global economic system works. For me, however, the most inspiring part of her presentation had to do with introducing us to the many alternatives uses of measuring value. My favorite definitely had to be the Gross Happiness Index used in Bhutan. Dr. Chatterjee explained that with this new system, Bhutan may be one of the poorer nations of the world monetarily, but it was also the happiest country in the world.

Ken Kitatani: Executive Director, Forum 21 Institute

Ken Kitatani gave the following presentation, in which he introduced the UN Sustainable Development Goals emphasizing how the global community is coming together to create a better future.  We were asked to take into consideration the people who might feel excluded by such an agenda-particularly indigenous communities who have no interest in developing within the capitalistic confines which very much inform the SDGs.

Dr. Geraldine Patrick Encina offered the final presentation of the day, bringing to the forefront Indigenous People of the Americas and the wisdom of original peoples, highlighting their cosmology, traditional way of life, and deeply rooted connection with all of creation. It was moving to hear her reflecting on the to groups of people she is connected to, the Mapuche of Chile, and the Otomi of Mexico. It was wonderful to hear about these tribes both maintaining their traditions, as well as, the challenge they have had in having to reclaim and relearn customs and practices which had been lost upon the “first contact”.

On day two, Roberto “Mukaro” Borrero was the first to present, and spoke about Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. Being a member of the Taino Tribal Nation, Dr. Borrero brought forth the perspective of Indigenous people who continue to resist settler colonialism, and its predatory ways. One highlight of this presentation, I believe, was the time taken to talk about the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and the struggles they endured against the Dakota Access Pipeline. That moment, Dr. Borrero argued, could serve as the perfect reason Indigenous people are so in need of their rights. What happened at Standing Rock was not only about a building a pipeline, it was about protecting the water and land which, to the Standing Rock Sioux, was sacred and worth protecting at all costs. To add, Standing Rock was a moment in which, twenty-first century Americans had to grapple with the reality of what it means to disregard and dehumanize Indigenous Peoples. Granting rights to indigenous people is not only a matter of symbolism, it is necessary in order to save lives.

Roberto Múkaro Borrero, Taíno artist, historian, musician, writer, and storyteller, sits with Catherine Coleman Flowers, CEE Director of Environmental Justice & Civic Engagement

Next, Catherine Flowers gave a presentation on what was happening in her community in Lowndes County, Alabama. She talked about the terrible sewage conditions so many residents are dealing with in addition to other ecological crises affecting the health of residents there. Into this conversation, Catherine also challenged the participants to think about what other factors, beyond capitalism, might have caused this reality for the people of Lowndes County. Racism was also an incredibly powerful force in this oppression which allowed politicians and public servants to ignore the demands for help by the people of Lowndes County, and other similar communities dealing with public health crises. The G.D.P. index does not help these people, and worse, it requires, and only benefits from, their continued suffering.

The last presentation was given by Adam and Shaily Gupta Barnes. Sharing reflections about their time in the Peace Corps, the two talked about the rural farming community they worked with in Niger, West Africa, and the sustainable farming being practiced despite such vicinity to the desert. Additionally, the two presented on the work they are engaged with in the Poor People’s Campaign. Led by Rev. Dr. William Barber II, the movement was highlighted as a moral revival for America. An opportunity to this nation to reflect upon ourselves, especially after the 2016 election, and commit ourselves to a way of being less focused on greed and power, and more focused on the Revolutionary Love Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was so passionate about.

It was a jam packed two days, with so much to take away and reflect upon. For myself, the biggest take away was the realization that we must divorce ourselves from capitalism as well as the greed and over consumption that comes with it. We must be willing to recognize the rights of Indigenous people, and more importantly, we must be willing to learn their earth centered practices we have forgotten as we have attempted to perfect civilization. With scientists constantly reminding us of how dire everything is, I am very appreciative of this class for making me be self reflective on the ways in which I am complacent within this system. The urgency is very real, and I am so very grateful for the space this class opened up for us to become aware of solutions which have already been working on a small scale, and must be adopted – for the fate of all of creation.

By Katilau Mbindyo, Field Ed for CEE

 

 

CEE Winter Update

Dear Friends!  The first perennials are breaking through their shells deep beneath the snow blanketed earth.  We, too, are emerging and taking up the work we will carry for seasons ahead.  There are rhythms and cycles to the natural world.  It is to this intelligence we must take heed, to find the sustainable solutions for our planet.
Enjoy these updates from our team and please join us for coming events
focusing on the issues that matter most.
~ The Center for Earth Ethics Team  ~

Original Caretakers Continues Weaving Indigenous Wisdom
In and Out of the Classroom

Eagle and Condor Consciousness:
An Evening with Three Thinkers in the Native Way

The Center for Earth Ethics invites you to join us for a discussion on understanding non-verbal thinking in the anthropocentric age. Our talk will be shaped by the voices of Tiokasin Ghosthorse (Cheyenne River Lakota), founder, host, and executive producer of “First Voices Radio”, Mindahi Bastida Muñoz (Otomi) Director of the Original Caretakers Program at the Center for Earth Ethics and Geraldine Patrick Encina (Mapuche descent), Scholar in Residence at the Center for Earth Ethics.


Catching Up with Original Caretakers Fellows…


 

Resident Herbalist, Poppy Jones, shares on the CEE Blog about his travels through Asia this winter visiting Thailand, China and Japan, ‘traversing throughout city and mountain terrain, observing climate conditions of rain and drought’.  Throughout, he opened dialogue with park rangers, farmers, students and Buddhist monks on the effects of Climate Change in their lives and work. First stop: Thailand.

 

 

 

An INTERVIEW with Lyla June Johnston on the power of music and poetry in a life of prayer.  
(CHICAGO ‘N BEYOND for NO DEPRESSION)
“Music is a powerful launchpad for bringing joy, inspiration, hope, education and unification to the oppressed …we are trying to generate a new genre of Indigenous music that inspires the youth.” (Photo by Priscilla Peña)  

 


… and Environmental Justice & Civic Engagement (EJCE)


 Catherine Coleman FlowersCEE’s Director of EJCE,
 to speak at two Duke University events, Feb  8th-9th.

Partners in Education, Community and Justice



 

Evaluating our Spiritual Relationship to the Land A free event with Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network at 6 pm, Feb 15th at Auburn Seminary.

CEE Holiday Update!

Greetings friends,

The Holidays have arrived!   Some of us will be sharing stories and singing songs, others will contemplate in stillness the vastness of silence.  However you choose to honor the season at home with family, in faith, and in community, we celebrate the light.  We at the CEE share this sacred moment with all of you.

The Center for Earth Ethics has enjoyed a busy fall into winter with our friends and partners.  Now is the time we begin to digest and integrate all we have learned throughout this season’s events. And as new insights reveal themselves we take great pleasure introducing these advances in our upcoming projects.

Please join us in the classroom Feb 2-3, 2018 as we take the conversation Beyond GDP and save the dates: May 31th – June 2nd for our Annual Ministers Training  where we will continue to collaborate on faith, climate and curriculum.

All the best to you and yours,
Your Friends at the Center for Earth Ethics

***


ECO-MINISTRY

Center for Earth Ethics hits Milestone, co-convenes academic conference with The Institute for Studies of Eastern Christianity (ISEC – formerly the Sophia Institute of Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Studies)

Creation, Redemption and Environmental Ethics from the Eastern Christian Perspective 
met at Union Theological Seminary on
December 8th, 2017.

Papers presented explored the Eastern Christian approach to the ‘original goodness of this world of ours, the redemptive quality of our effort to maintain its well-being, and the ethos of environmentally-sustainable action’.

***


ORIGINAL CARETAKERS INITIATIVE 

Here in NY, CEE continues to support local Indigenous lead Community Activism to ‘Keep It in the Ground’.  The latest fight comes as CPV begins construction in a protected wetlands area with a Bald Eagle’s nesting ground.

Local organizers are planning a Solstice Gathering of both Native wisdom leaders and their allies to defend the rights of the birds to nest peacefully.

#StandwithClara Sign On to Show your Support!

Read More on our Blog

Also, read… An Interview with Mindahi Bastida: In partnership to protect the sacred.  

***


ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE & CIVIC ENGAGEMENT

If you’ve been following the work of Program Area Director, Catherine Coleman Flowers, you know that The Guardian broke the story of Hookworm, in the US South following the release of a study conducted by Baylor University inspired by Catherine’s work.

Now, for the first time, a UN Poverty Investigator visited Lowndes County, AL to assess the situation on the ground.

Read More…

“Alabama has the Worst Poverty in the Developed World, U.N. Official Says”, NEWSWEEK, 12/10/17

“UN poverty official touring Alabama’s Black Belt: ‘I haven’t seen this’ in the First World”, www.AL.com, 12/8/17

***


COLLABORATIONS ACROSS BORDERS

CEE bridged the work of all Program Areas to co-create this special event with the Human Impacts Institute.

CEE Staff, Fellows and Advisers participated in a panel:
What are Really the Roots of Climate Change?

Collaborators included
Lyla June Johnston, CEE Original Caretakers Fellow
Karenna Gore, CEE Director
&
Jacqueline Patterson, Director of the NAACP Environmental & Climate Justice Program.

The panel was facilitated by Tara DePorte, Founder of the Human Impacts Institute.

Videos of the Panel and
Lyla’s Performance

***


Take Class with Us in 2018!

Beyond GDP: Lessons from Indigenous Cultures and Faith Traditions, SU 190 – KA1
Presented by The Center for Earth Ethics & Karenna Gore
Friday, February 2, 1:00 – 6:00 pm
Saturday, February 3, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm

Class Description and Registration Information Here!

***


CONTRIBUTE to CEE for your YEAR END GIVING!

Many Thanks!

In Case You Missed it… October 4th CEE Fall Update

Friends,

We send our greetings to you at this challenging time. It is a time that calls those who can be both advocates and healers. As we fight to change the system that continues to dump this pollution into the air, we also stand with those who are recovering and rebuilding from the impacts. As we join with those who resist corrupt policies and abuse of power, we also seek to understand the painful divisions and persistent illusions in our civic life.

This semester, The Center for Earth Ethics is initiating a new time of serious inquiry as individuals, as collaborators and as leaders in an ever-changing landscape, geographically and politically.  Our goal is to address the root cause of climate change—an economic development model based on short-term profit, no matter what the cost to people and planet. We envision a world in which value is measured according to the long-term well being of the whole. We believe that this value system can be achieved through a combination of the restoration of older traditional ways and the inclusive, equitable application of new technologies.

Thank you for being a part of our work. We invite you to learn more about each of our four program areas– Original Caretakers, Environmental Justice and Civic Engagement, Sustainability and Global Affairs and Eco-Ministry—and to be in touch with us about the work you are doing in your community. Please also follow us on social media and feel free to come to the gatherings at Union. There’s so much going on already this Fall, and we’ve only just begun!

 

Sincerely,
Karenna

(Originally Published October 4, 2017)


CEE Continues to Explore New Methods of Inquiry and Curriculum Development in 2017



Rev. Leo Woodbury speaks to Global South Summit participants outside the UN Church Center.

On September 15th, the Center for Earth Ethics teamed up with Rev. Leo Woodbury of Kingdom Living Temple to host the Global South Summit in New York City at the UN Church Center.  Participants came from North Carolina, South Carolina, New York, and New Jersey, as well as, Global South representatives of Mexico, El Salvador and Nigeria to join forces tackling the problems of Climate Change.

The Summit served to bring allies together, sharing our various insights and information, thereby strengthening our potential impact through partnership.  This shared space helps bring our local communities and constituents forward towards clean air and clean water by providing new educational platforms that serve those goals.

  

  
After a rich morning session which included talks by  (clockwise from top left) Green Faith Organizer Estrella Sainburg, Dogwood Alliance’s Danna Smith, International Adviser Marta Benavides and CEE’s Mindahi Bastida, participants reconvened at Union Theological Seminary for discussion.

Topics Included:

  1. How do we bring NGO’s together? Do we all have the same goals? (NGO’s, Communities, Faith groups, Environmentalists, Original Peoples?)  How can we determine if NGO’s share our common goal to reconnect people to the Earth?
  2. What principles can we apply from First Nations’ wisdom?
  3. How do we measure Sustainability?  What is Our Vision of the Future?
  4. How do we make a Just Transition?
  5. What are the current funding sources to assist communities transitioning to renewable energy sources?
  6. How can pastors apply this  information to their congregations?

Many thanks to Rev. Leo Woodbury and the entire team at Kingdom Living Temple for opening the door to meaningful partnerships.  We need to work together to move our society away from poverty and division, and into a vision of the future where people and planet come first.


Creating a Climate for Change, Florence, SC
October 26, 2017


IN THE NEWS: Environmental Justice in the South


CEE’s Director of Environmental Justice and Civic Engagement, Catherine Coleman Flowers, made groundbreaking news this month as a long awaited study from Baylor School of Medicine was released exposing the rise of hookworm and other tropical diseases in the US South.

Learn More…   The Guardian, September 5, 2017
BBC World Service Radio Interview, September 8, 2017
The U.S. Thought It Was Rid Of Hookworm. Wrong – NPR, September 12, 2017


The Fourth Annual UNITY Concert
September 8th – 10th, 2017, Piedmont, SD
For the Black Hills, the Earth & All Her People

Center for Earth Ethics Original Caretakers Program Director, Mindahi Bastida, sharing about Bio-Cultural Heritage and Sacred Sites in a workshop at the 2017 UNITY Concert in the sacred Black Hills.

The Center for Earth Ethics was proud to participate in the 4th Annual UNITY Concert held in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  CEE Fellow, Lyla June Johnston has served as both organizer for the UNITY Concert in 2015 and 2017, and performer since its inception.  This year, the Center for Earth Ethics was invited to participate with opportunities to address the main stage crowd, and by leading a workshop on the Center’s programming facilitated by Mindahi Bastida, CEE Original Caretakers, Program Director.  The session focused on the importance of protecting sacred sites, such as the Black Hills.  Mr. Bastida explains the value of protecting these sites, by understanding Bio-Cultural Heritage: a complex system of the relationship between Indigenous Peoples and their natural environment including long standing traditions, practices and knowledge of sustainable use of biodiversity.

During the weekend gathering, Mr. Bastida also participated in the creation of the Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance to protect Sacred Sites.  A Proclamation of Alliance and Solidarity regarding the UN Declaration of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights was produced by the group with 29 signatories including Lakota elders and other original peoples’ spiritual leaders from the US, South America, Mexico, Tibet and Australia.

The purpose of the UNITY concert has been to bring awareness to the federal government’s legislative abuses of Indigenous treaty rights, specifically, to the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868. Indian Country Today, explains that, “Today a majority of the Black Hills is owned by private and federal groups. Native peoples are often treated as trespassers in a homelands guaranteed to them by federal law.  (Read More…)

This year marks the completion of a four year cycle and the transmission of wisdom from elders to youth.  Lyla June Johnston, helped guide the vision of UNITY with a prayer of inclusiveness for people of all nations.

Lyla June Johnston: CEE Fellow, poet, musician and organizer of the UNITY Concert.


CEE in Dialogue


On September 27th, CEE Director, Karenna Gore engaged in a conversation at the Brooklyn Public Library with Muhammad Yunus about his new book A World of Three Zeros: The New Economics of Zero Poverty, Zero Unemployment and Zero Net Carbon Emissions. The conversation covered topics such as technology, social business, economic measurements, gender, and capitalism, as well as the impacts of climate change in Bangladesh and the plight of the Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar.