Category: Eco-Ministry

Karenna Gore on the Intersection of Faith, Climate Change, and Social Justice

Originally Published by State of the Planet, Earth Institute at Columbia University

September 25, 2019

By Jeff Berardelli

For the past five years Karenna Gore, age 46, the eldest daughter of former Vice President Al Gore and Tipper Gore, has been working in the family business of climate change. While that may seem an obvious course, given her father’s prominence in the space, the path that led her there, and the methods she is employing to tackle the challenge of climate change, make up her own unique story.

After attending Harvard College, Columbia Law School and working for many years in child justice organizations, Karenna Gore went back to school in 2011, attending Union Theological Seminary.

Affiliated with Columbia University, Union is a historic-looking complex in Morningside Heights, Manhattan. Founded in 1836 by Presbyterian ministers, the vision was to respond to the growing urban social needs of the day with a mix of academics and faith. Today, Union is a training ground for progressive Christian academics, whose community embraces other faith traditions and works on inter-religious engagement and social justice.

Karenna Gore speaks at a rally protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline

Karenna Gore speaks at a rally protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. Gore is the director of the Center for Earth Ethics, which works to support the well-being of all people and the planet. Photo courtesy Karenna Gore

Gore received her M.A. in Social Ethics in 2013 and stayed, founding the Center for Earth Ethics that same year, on the Union Campus. That is where I met her, at her office space located on the top floor of a majestic Gothic tower.

Gore informally greeted me at the office door, dressed business casual with none of the pomp and circumstance one may envision from such a high-profile figure. She seemed enthusiastic to take me for a short tour of the center she built. It was promptly followed by our interview, wherein she explained why climate change is a moral issue, how her group is galvanizing faith-based activism, and more.

I’m curious, what it’s like getting into the family business? How did you find your own your own voice within that?

I didn’t intend to go into doing climate change work, in part because I just didn’t want to be tagging along with my dad or riding his coat tails.

However, when I got my degree here at Union I just was in a time and a place when I was literally called into this work by the fact that I was here. I felt like I was called to the work. I can say that I did not plan it.

I respect my father a lot and in many ways it’s wonderful to be able to work with him. I would have resisted doing that more if it weren’t for the fact that this is such a compelling issue and I felt like I was in the place and the time to do something about it. And I honestly think that if we are going to confront this in a way that makes a significant difference in the trajectory that we are on now, I think everyone has to give whatever they can.

What was your goal in starting the Center for Earth Ethics?

As we were exploring reframing climate change as a moral issue in galvanizing faith-based activism about it, we also explored deeply the root causes, as we saw them, of the crisis that we’re in and we discovered that it’s really two root causes. One is this illusion that we are separate and superior to the whole rest of nature. The other root cause is the development paradigm/ economic growth paradigm — the way that we measure successful societies.

“I honestly think that if we are going to confront this in a way that makes a significant difference … everyone has to give whatever they can.”

Right now we have a value system reflected in economics, reflected in political dialogue that is very short-term, that doesn’t pay attention to the externalities of pollution and destruction of nature, nor does it pay attention to inequality, and so what we have is a result of that.

The Center for Earth Ethics was founded to make the changes in policy and culture that are necessary to change to a value system based on long-term well-being of all life.

How do you go about accomplishing the mission of the center? What would a typical day or a typical event look like?

During the academic year, the center works with Union students (seminarians), so during a typical weekday, I might meet with one of our Field Education students about their ongoing projects, co-teach a class like: Indigenous Voices on Colonization; Ecology and Spirituality; Beyond GDP; Religion and Climate Change; and Plant Wisdom and Interreligious Dialogue or plan curriculum for an upcoming course offering.

Sometimes I speak in public venues such as local churches or schools. Recently I spoke at the United Nations and moderated a panel at the Council on Foreign Relations.

I also often participate in organizing work to plan events or actions, such as those involving resistance to fossil fuel infrastructure projects.

What do you view as the fundamental problem that’s causing Earth’s destruction?

I think it’s a problem of value systems. I think that we’re living with the illusion that the things like the stock market reflect reality when in fact they don’t reflect anything about the value of the natural world… and it takes absolutely no account of whether we have completely depleted our natural resources or whether we’ve pumped all this pollution into the air.

There’s been a philosophy that has really risen up known as neoliberalism, which is really about elevating public-private partnerships and making a business model the kind of ideal for the government…. It’s not actually working out that well because government is different than business, you know, it’s not all about efficiency. It’s about taking care of people who are vulnerable. So as long as we have people who want our government to be run more like a business … then we’re going to be even more in this situation.

I listened to an interview you did and I’m going to paraphrase here… You said, “This [climate change] is a moment we were chosen for or that chose us — nothing happens by accident. So, I’m curious what you believe about the way the universe works?

I do believe in a greater intelligence — that there are forces greater than ourselves and that there is an intelligence in the universe that, if you are open to it, will open some doors and guide and show you a way.

karenna gore with chief ninawa

(Gore with Chief Ninawa of the Huni Kui people of the Brazilian Amazon. Photo courtesy Karenna Gore)

It’s a matter of personal experience, it’s not even so much belief, but when you have a few of those personal experiences where you just think, “Ah what are the chances that this would happen?” And it usually happens in the cases of being more open-hearted, more open-minded and being deeply grounded in a purpose that is greater than yourself.

When I say nothing happens by accident and that we’re called to these times, I think that’s really a statement of faith — that we have what it takes, that people are called together, that we can feel an element of grace in it or opportunity. It doesn’t have to feel just tragic.

I think people may be interested in how you practice religion? If you arecomfortable can you elaborate? 

I do not really feel comfortable talking about my personal spiritual/religious life in detail but I definitely have one and it is very important to me. I was raised Baptist, going to church every Sunday. I am happy to have had that foundation and also happy to have experienced and studied other traditions that have opened my perception and renewed my faith.

What is your opinion of Evangelical pushback on climate change?

I think it is important to be careful how we use the term “Evangelical” because it has come to denote a group that is more defined by their political affiliation than their theology. There is a long tradition of interpreting scripture in order to validate domination over nature and non-white peoples and I think the group of white evangelicals that deny the climate crisis is within that tradition. It is entirely irrational as well as immoral but it has deep roots and can be disguised as a kind of mandate to mankind to master and control the Earth by digging and burning the carbon stored in the ground.

It would be great if they came around and there is powerful work being done to facilitate that.

Do you have hope that we’re going to solve this?

Um … That’s such a hard question … [Deep breath and extended contemplation] … I have hope that we are going to make it less horrific then it could be. And I have hope that we might become better as a people and a species in the process, in ways that are really uplifting and kind of what life is all about. Those are the two things I can say about my hope. I do think that hope is different than optimism in an important way, that even if there’s a tiny sliver of light, you know, it doesn’t mean you think things are going great or you’re sure it’ll work out. It means there’s a chance. And you’re going to cling to that — you’re going to hold on to it.

Jeff Berardelli is a long-time TV meteorologist and climate contributor for CBS News in New York City. His work on at CBS News ranges from on-air weather to contributing to broadcast climate stories to writing articles for CBSNews.com. He is currently finishing up an MA in Climate and Society at the Earth Institute, Columbia University. He is most interested in communicating climate change challenges to a broad audience with the hopes of educating the public and improving awareness.

CEE Announces new affiliation with the Earth Institute at Columbia University beginning October 2019

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Climate Strike! CEE joins September 20th march and Karenna Gore delivers evening service on climate at Temple Emanu-el

Strike for Climate!  The Center for Earth Ethics will be among the many participating in the September 20th Climate Strike in New York City.  This landmark action will happen three days before the UN Climate Summit. Young people and adults will strike together all across the US and the world to demand transformative action be taken to address the climate crisis.

In NYC, we will gather at Foley Square and take to the streets to march to Battery Park. The event will conclude with speakers and performers, including Fridays For Future movement starter Greta Thunberg and NY-based youth leaders.  RSVP Now on Action Network to #StrikewithUsGlobal Strike Website for Sept. 20-27

The Center for Earth Ethics team stands with the Union Theological Seminary community marching for climate justice.  We will meet at UTS in the morning before the march, in connection with students, faculty and staff along with members of the Ecological Caucus and travel together to Foley Square.

“We must do right by the Earth.

We cannot deprive the coming generations of the source of life.

I strike with the youth in solidarity with all our relations.”

-Davis Ogima Logan
Union Theological Seminary student,
CEE Field Ed 2019, member of the Ecological Caucus


Please join CEE Director Karenna Gore at Temple Emanu-El
for a special Friday evening service
on the occasion of climate week and for our Earth.

September 20th at 6 pm following the Climate Strike

The Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center
One East Sixty-Fifth Street, New York, NY

This event is free and open to all, reservations are requested.

Climate Week in NYC has served as a dedicated time of convergence for all those working for the benefit of our earth and all those relying on us to provide conditions for clean air and clean water for generations to come.

As a pre-cursor to Climate Week, Karenna will join the Temple Emanu-El community’s Shabbat services to discuss our moral and religions obligations of protecting the earth.

“One generation goes and another generation comes, but the Earth remains forever” – Ecclesiastes 1:4


MORE EVENTS in honor of CLIMATE WEEK…


Social Good Summit
92nd Street Y, NYC
Sep 22, 2019

Catherine Flowers joins engineers, scientists, artists, chefs, policy advisers, media figures and youth climate leadership to address issues of climate protection, conservation and change.

 


Choose Us – Youth Climate Strike Demands Solutions & Action Now!
Sep 23 at 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm.  Join us for an evening of conversation with youth climate leaders to learn how to move their demands forward with the urgency required by the global climate crisis. The New York Society for Ethical Culture 

 

CEE’s Karenna Gore speaks with Dean Kelly Brown Douglas of EDS at Union Theological Seminary

“When we bring together reason with our values a vision will evolve for the good of the whole.” – Karenna Gore

Dean Kelly Brown Douglas of Episcopal Divinity School speaks with Karenna Gore, Director of Union’s Center for Earth Ethics. They discuss the moral dimensions of our ecological crisis, how environmental issues are playing out in the presidential primary, and Karenna’s recent New York Times op-ed.  Full video and excerpted transcript below.

Climate Justice with Karenna Gore

Dean Kelly Brown Douglas speaks with Karenna Gore, Director of Union's Center for Earth Ethics. They discuss the moral dimensions of our ecological crisis, how environmental issues are playing out in the presidential primary, and Karenna's recent New York Times op-ed.The Center for Earth Ethics is an institute at Union Theological Seminary that envisions a world where value is measured according to the sustained well-being of all people and our planet. Learn more at their website www.centerforearthethics.org/

Posted by Episcopal Divinity School at Union on Thursday, September 12, 2019

 

Excerpts:

KBD: “What we have to appreciate is that this is not a crisis that just emerged overnight for no reason. The roots of this are deep. And when we talk about the oppressions of people, the subjugations of people, the subjugations of the earth this is all the fruit of the same poisonous tree, right?  Or the same poisonous root. That goes deeply back into our traditions, into our religious traditions and into Christianity.

We are living in a time and a culture where people refuse to recognize that there is a problem, and that there’s a crisis.  And I’ve heard you speak about that before as an addiction.”

On Addiction to Fossil Fuels

KG: “Many people have experienced addiction or are close to people who have experienced addiction and it is instructive about the limits of human nature or the ways in which – how – the idea that we would self-destruct as a species – because that is what is happening in slow motion – ”

KBD: “That’s right.”

KG: “- is not logical.  But nor is it logical that someone would be so hooked on something that is causing them so much damage but they can’t quite see it.  Until, or in many cases it comes to hitting rock bottom, in many cases people say it comes to turning to a higher power. Those are instructive stories I think in a way of understanding what we’re seeing now because a lot of people are looking and watching because the see climate impacts now.  The amazon is on fire, polar ice caps are melting, we’re losing species…”

KBD:  “60% of, I understand, the animal species has been degraded?”

KG: “Yes. So the question is, how much, is a similar question as an addict might face.  How much more damage do you want to do?

I think most of us have the feeling we will turn away from fossil fuels – or we’ll die.  And it’s not just a feeling, it’s what the body of scientists in the IPCC tell us.”

“We’re on track for about 7-9 degree Fahrenheit warming by the year 2100.  What that means, of course, are tipping points that we don’t totally understand. Many people criticize them (scientists) for being overly conservative it their estimates because they can’t exactly what happens when all the ice melts.  The Gulf Stream is changing.  We know that there are many things in place that would start to make large portions of this earth uninhabitable and the strife involved in that, the widespread suffering involved in that  – is unimaginable.  So if we’re on the road that kind of destruction, at what point can we decide – we’d like to stop now – let’s just try to stop now as opposed to doing more and more damage.  And I think the analogy to addiction is very important.”

On the role of Faith in the Climate Crisis: Prophetic and Pastoral

“There are three concepts to think about Place, Time, and Being in which, you know, we as individuals, we are asked to think about in our discourse, we as individuals we are asked to be consumers, we are asked to think about consumer choices.  We are asked to think about our belonging to different races, or genders, or denominations but to belong to a place and a time is also part of understanding what’s happening now. And that –

When you look at the scale and the pace of the ecological destruction we are living right now – it’s overwhelming.

And our own sense of what our agency is – it’s overwhelming.

And I believe it is going to come from leaders, faith leaders – and I say that in a broad way. If you are a counselor in a community center, if you’re an indigenous keeper of traditions, these are all forms of ministry.  But this is what is called for, those types of skills to help people through this time.”  – Karenna Gore

Values of Faith, Examining Social and Ecological Injustice

KBD: “Part of the work that you do at the Center for Earth Ethics is in fact to lift up faith values, religious values and how they inform, how we indeed should engage with the rest of creation and the kind of relationship we should have to the earth, and all that there is therein.  The Center for Earth Ethics in many ways focuses on this as a moral issue, as a faith issue. I’ve attended a couple of the programs with the Center for Earth Ethics and I’ve always walked away more informed.  And I’ve walked away inspired by the many faith traditions and the ways in which those traditions compel us into a caring relationship with our environment and with the earth. I also walk away wondering, and I want to ask you, what are the ways in which our faith traditions and religious traditions have been an impediment to our care for the earth?

KG: “Very important question.  I think we have to look clearly and honestly at that.  And I know in your work you have done that with regard to white supremacy, the ties of colonization, genocide and slavery to the form of Christianity that was really about Empire and expansion and extraction.  So I believe a lot of what is seen as secular including the economic growth construct as it is currently presented is actually highly charge, with almost and actually Rev Barber talks about the ‘culted commitment to greed’.

It’s only a kind of fanaticism that would’ve gotten us to this point.  It is not reason. It is not logic. And so I believe that we can look clearly at a couple of specific examples in this conversation.  One is the idea of separation of humanity and the rest of the natural world. So you have the concept of dominion from Genesis. You have the concept of imago dei, we are made in the image of God. These two things together are quite easily distorted to mean that we are God, and we get to dominate everything and in fact God says we should and given us all of this to dominate. So of course there’s a fair amount of work done on this and I won’t go into it too much except to say that there’s great theology there’s eco-feminism, there’s eco-womanism, there are many people who have worked on this.

When you have a concept like ‘stewardship’ used by people like Scott Pruitt the former head of the EPA who professes, evangelical Christian faith, and says stewardship means continuing to dig and burn fossil fuels – where does that come from? And it comes, it actually, I think we have to be quite honest there has been a tradition laid, and it is the same one that laid white supremacy.  So the separation of humanity and nature and of course, you’ve written so beautifully about this in your book Stand Your Ground, about how this unfolded doctrinally and of course, you know, there were the doctrine of discovery and this was the whole premise for Europeans to come to this land was a set of religious documents, that claimed authority from the Bible to conquer vanquish and subdue all non-Christian peoples.  And non-Christian people at the time in the Americas and Africa was any people of, indigenous peoples and so that has been played out and is very much alive and with us today.

So this is work of unraveling and detoxifying what has been done to lay that foundation is critically important in the leadership from within people of faith from within Episcopal Divinity School, from yourself, from the many people of faith who are actively claiming the best of those traditions, the scripture in its sacred meaning and explaining where it has been distorted and how we can move on I think is absolutely essential.

KBD:  “You’re precisely right and the insight and bringing together the way in which systems dominate and exploit people, it’s the same construct that allows for the domination and exploitation of our environment and the rest of creation.  And so, there is this intrinsic and inextricable link between white supremacist narratives and the narratives that have placed us in this position of destroying the environment and the earth.  As we’ve destroyed people, we destroy the earth. And these are all to be seen as sacred creations of God and to look at the ways in which faith traditions have been complicit in that.”

KG: “One other thing I want to add, because I think it is interesting to look back even before the colonization of the Americas and introduction of the slave trade at what happened in Europe with the Roman Empire. There is this thesis from 1967 from a medieval historian named Lynn White called ‘The Roots of our Ecological Crisis’, it’s controversial, but what he said is that the victory of Christianity over paganism in Europe in the middle ages is what led to the mindset of commodification and objectification of nature in how it played out. 

It’s worth noting because there were indigenous traditions in Europe, as well. There were sacred rivers, there were prayers to sacred places and many women were keepers of those ceremonies and so all of that had to be obliterated in order for there to be an empire put into place. And because of the marriage of the Roman Empire and Christianity which we know from the conversion of Constantine – I think there’s a lot to that. An extraordinary turn of events to have someone take these symbols and turn it into its opposite and it’s the kind of thing that’s being done to us today in our politics in a very sinister way, as well.

From the conversion of Constantine… This rings true to me when I read that Lynne White thesis ‘The Roots of our Ecological Crisis’ and when I also read and actually what he doesn’t talk about is the burning of witches in Europe, the specific targeting of women spiritual leadership in that way… so it’s also an important thing to include when we are talking about the doctrine of discovery and the papal bulls because I think it’s a part of the same story.”

The Center for Earth Ethics is an institute at Union Theological Seminary that envisions a world where value is measured according to the sustained well-being of all people and our planet. Learn more at their website www.centerforearthethics.org

Reorienting Humanity toward Nature: Eco-ministry is the great work of our time

Originally Published Tuesday, Feb 26, 2019 by Teachers College Newsroom

It seems fair to say that Karenna Gore knows as well as anyone that elective politics can be arduous, gridlocked and ultimately disappointing. Also that she’s got a bit of a family connection to the issue of climate change.

So Gore’s current job, directing a nonprofit called The Center for Earth Ethics, isn’t surprising. That the Center is based at Union Theological Seminary, however, bears more reflection.

“I actually never intended to work in climate change,” Gore, who toiled for her father’s campaign in the contested 2000 presidential election, told a rapt audience during a talk she gave at Teachers College’s Spirituality Mind Body Institute Winter Intensive in January. But the year she started work at Union – initially directing its Forum conference and lecture series – the United Nations held a summit on climate at which then Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, lamenting the inability of governments to act, called on civil society to mobilize on the issue. Gore, who had earned a master’s degree at Union in 2013, realized that interfaith dialogue could tap a powerful source of motivation – particularly if it reached beyond the typical focus on just Christianity, Judaism and Islam – and convened her own “Religions for the Earth” conference at Union.

Humanity has to reorient itself toward nature, and many indigenous ceremonies occur in a natural setting. Yet these faiths are often disrespected, which says a lot about why we’re at this pass with the environment.”

— Karenna Gore

“Humanity has to reorient itself toward nature, and many indigenous ceremonies occur in a natural setting,” she said. “Yet these faiths are often disrespected, which says a lot about why we’re at this pass with the environment.”

Gore quoted the late theologian and civil rights advocate Howard Thurman’s observation that “One of the deceptive aspects of mind in man is to give him the illusion of being distinct from and over against but not a part of nature,” and that this conceit enables him not only to exploit the natural environment but “plunder it, and rape it with impunity,” becoming “more and more… alien on the earth and fouler of his own nest.”

Citing a 1967 paper by the Princeton historian Lynn Townsend White, “The Roots of Our Ecological Crisis,” Gore said that the victory of Christianity over paganism was a critical turning point in humanity’s co-existence with nature.

UNEXPECTED PATH Gore didn't plan to work in climate change, but the UN's call to the civil sector changed her thinking.
UNEXPECTED PATH Gore didn’t plan to work in climate change, but the UN’s call to the civil sector changed her thinking.

“You value what you’re taught to notice and relate to,” she said. “People had been taught to greet the sunrise at a river. And then in the Middle Ages that’s banned and called satanic. The relationship to nature is broken, at the same time as the rise of mercantilism.”

The Vatican subsequently empowered Christian European explorers to vanquish and subdue native peoples, Gore said, reflecting the view that some human beings are subjects and everything else is an object. The slave trade reflected the same mentality, she said and so does America’s current obsession with constant economic growth and the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as the ultimate measure of our society’s success.

“Robert F. Kennedy once said that GDP measures everything in life except everything of real value,” Gore said, including the depletion of natural resources, the comfort and happiness of most people, and work in the home, which has not been monetized and is almost exclusively performed by women.

We need to seek other measures, like Bhutan’s happiness index, to change the conversation,. If we don’t, we’ll be up against the same thing with each discussion of pipelines and the opening up of the Amazon rain forest.”

— Karenna Gore

“We need to seek other measures, like Bhutan’s happiness index, to change the conversation,” Gore said. “If we don’t, we’ll be up against the same thing with each discussion of pipelines and the opening up of the Amazon rain forest.”

Gore concluded with the assertion that “eco-ministry is the great hope of our time.” That work includes civic actions such as the 2016 Dakota Access Pipeline Protests that arose against plans to run an oil pipeline through the Standing Rock reservation.

“There is racism in the placement of toxic facilities – they often go where ‘people don’t count,’” she said. Standing Rock was “a great coming together of protectors, not protesters – an example of how environmental justice and civic engagement are calling us to the front lines.”

Author: Joe Levine

The Winter Intensive is part of the SMBI master’s program, which includes 10 days in the summer and four in the winter. The intensive offers a blended learning format, with students of all ages flying to TC from around the world. Click here to learn more.

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

From the report by the Parliament of World Religions blog:

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

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

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

More photos and Complete pdf Report

Beyond Religion and the Pulitzer Center

BEYOND RELIGION took place June 8-9, 2019 at the National Press Club in downtown Washington, D.C.

The Pulitzer Center serves to highlight journalism focused on the most pressing issues of our time. Their reporting and outreach on religion is supported by the Henry Luce Foundation. Additional related reporting and outreach is supported by Humanity United (Peace and Conflict), the MacArthur Foundation, Omidyar Network (Property Rights), The Rockefeller Foundation, and individual donors dedicated to raising awareness of critical global issues.
CEE Original Caretaker’s Program Director, Mindahi C Bastida Munoz (center right in photo above) joined long standing colleagues to honor the important work of crisis reporting. (left to right) Co-Founder and Director of the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University, Jhon Grim; Panel Moderator and Co-Director, Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University, Mary Evelyn Tucker; filmmaker, lawyer and storyteller, Kalyanee Mam;  Mindahi and First Nations Radio founder, Tiokasin Ghosthorse

See Conference Highlights here

See also: Pulitzer Center supports PBS NEWS Hour Report on Poverty in America.

Successful ‘On Food and Faith’ conference concludes

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

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

Karenna Gore and Tim Van Meter

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

See the full event schedule.

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

Al Gore

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

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

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

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

Participants toured MTSO’s Seminary Hill Farm

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

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

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

Jay Rundell leads the closing ceremony

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

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

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

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

Video and media coverage

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

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

View a Facebook photo album from the conference.

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

CONTACT:

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

On Food & Faith: 2019 Ministry in the Time of Climate Change Highlights; Beyond Religion; and More…

Dear Friends,

What a weekend!  We had 150 faith leaders, activists, farmers, academics, and community leaders from around the Midwest (coasts too!) come together at Methodist Theological School in Ohio (MTSO) to learn how our food systems and land use impacts and is impacted by climate change. There are so many highlights to share and here are two. One was touring Seminary Hill Farms at MTSO and seeing veggies harvested for dinner the next day. Another were the presentations from Dr. Rattan Lal and Mr. Al Gore who spoke of the massive challenges in front of us but also the opportunities for hope and change. Yes it will be hard but we left the training feeling more prepared, with a renewed sense of community, and ready to act. A special thanks to all of the speakers and participants at the training.  And of course, thank you to our partners the Climate Reality Project, the Initiative for Food and AgriCultural Transformation at Ohio State University, and MTSO.

Please enjoy our photo album of the event including several highlights from our speakers.

Andrew Schwartz, CEE Deputy Director 


CEE Team Members at MTSO left to right:  Karenna Gore, Peggy Cusack,
Andrew Schwartz, Mindahi Bastida, and Genie Cooper.

Original Caretakers Upcoming Events

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CEE’s Original Caretakers Program Director, Mindahi Bastida Munoz, will participate in a panel discussion on Religion and the Environment with Tiokasin Ghosthorse, Kalyanee Mam and Marianne Comfort. The panel will be moderated by Mary Evelyn Tucker, Co-Director, Forum on Religion and Ecology, Yale University. For the full conference schedule , visit the Pulitzer Center website.  Beyond Religion will take place June 8-9 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.


Environmental Justice: The Accidental Environmentalist

CEE’s Catherine Coleman Flowers at the MOUNTAIN FILM FESTIVAL – Telluride, CO showing of THE ACCIDENTAL ENVIRONMENTALIST: Catherine Flowers.  
Watch this Documentary Short


Eco-Ministry & Sustainability and Global Affairs

CEE’s Director, Karenna Gore on today’s panel “Focus on Faith: Planting and Nurturing the Seed of Climate Responsibility” Civil Society Briefing at the UN in New York City.

CEE Spring / Summer Update

WORKING TOGETHER TO CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME:

Dear Friends,In Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home, Pope Francis wrote, “It is essential to show special care for Indigenous communities and their cultural traditions. They are not merely one minority among others, but should be the principal dialogue partners, especially when large projects affecting their land are proposed.”

Inspired, the Center for Earth Ethics partnered with the Indigenous Environmental Network and Forum 21 to host an intimate dialogue between Indigenous leaders and a representative from the Vatican. Read more…

The CEE Team


ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE & CIVIC ENGAGEMENT:

On May 17 and 18, Virginians from all across the state will unite in common cause to oppose unjust and unneeded fracked-gas pipelines anywhere in the Commonwealth, and to stand in solidarity for environmental justice and the climate.

On Friday, May 17, continuing the work of bringing people together for good, William Joseph Barber III, Co-chair of the N.C. Poor People’s Campaign Ecological Justice Committee, Karenna Gore (Center for Earth Ethics) and Pastor Paul Wilson (Union Grove Baptist Church) will join local leaders to march across the Robert E. Lee Bridge where 51 years ago, almost to the day, civil rights activists marched during Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic Poor People’s Campaign for economic justice. We’ll end at the Oregon Hill Overlook for a concert and rally.  May 18th events will happen in Leesburg.  More information…

Join us for this important event! #noMVP #noACP


ORIGINAL CARETAKERS EVENTS DURING EARTH WEEK:

Indigenous leaders from around the world gathered at the United Nations Headquarters and at events throughout New York City during Earth Week.


Delegates from the Mapuche Nation and Likanantay brought awareness to Human Rights Violations at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues


ECO-MINISTRY UPCOMING EVENTS:

Special Evening Event
Wednesday, May 22, 7 pm

An Evening with Karenna Gore
Director, Center for Earth Ethics, Union Theological Seminary

The intersection of religion and the environment reflects on faith and love for the earth.
A reception follows.  

Throughout the Easter season, St. Bart’s is excited to present a variety of programs focusing on stewardship of the earth.  Other Upcoming Events in the series include: May 19th, Keep it Local: Addressing Racial and Socioeconomic Disparities in Climate Justice with Elizabeth Yeampierre, Executive Director, Uprose; and June 2nd, In the Garden: St. Bart’s and The Rooftop of the Waldorf-Astoria with Leslie Day, naturalist and author of Honeybee Hotel.