Category: Eco-Ministry

Ethical Call to Action on Climate Policy by Karenna Gore

Ethics is simply about right and wrong and as a field of thought, it is most powerful when a widely held, deep sense of right and wrong is out of step with both laws and social norms. That is the case with the climate crisis today and we need to point it out clearly. The stunning truth of our situation is that the main drivers of global ecological destruction are perfectly legal—and even socially encouraged. We know that half of the global warming emissions in the atmosphere now have been put up there in the past 20 years, the time we have known the most about this and had the most viable alternatives. Data and science and technology and common sense are not enough. The urgent work to be done is changing the laws and the way to do so is to appeal to our deepest shared values. We need an ethical call to legislative advocacy.

Most Americans sense and express that it is wrong to turn a blind eye to this trajectory that we are on, passing on the burdens of climate impacts to the poor and vulnerable and to all future generations, allowing the mass extinctions and extreme weather events to unfold, with the consequence of certain and massive suffering and death. To confront the truth of it naturally causes moral indignation. And this is a force we need to be very mindful of. We cannot count on it doing the work on its own. It causes such discomfort, particularly in a situation in which most of us feel implicated in the systems that are a part and parcel of all this, that it can be easily inverted into denial, despair, grief, inaction, and projection. We also live in a time that is so saturated with outrage that an effort to convey it is sometimes put into a funhouse mirror and turned back on itself. So this is all reason to take the discourse of ethics and morals very seriously in legislative advocacy— it is essential, and it is most powerful if used with intention and care.

Religion can and does play an important role, as it has in other major movements for change around the world throughout history. One is to call people to a sense of belonging that is deeper than political or partisan affiliations. Bishop Desmond Tutu said that the scriptural teaching that all human beings are made in the image of God was key to ending apartheid in South Africa. Spiritual teachings and practices can also galvanize, inspire, and bring people together to act with courage and conviction. Mahatma Gandhi’s notions of satyagraha (truth-force) and ahimsa (nonviolence) helped bring down British imperial rule in India. And finally, there is organizational reach and power in faith communities. In the United States, we saw all of this in the Civil Rights movement, whose most powerful leader was a Baptist preacher who invoked scripture and practiced nonviolence and packed churches throughout the South with people who were ready to march, vote, speak out and fight for legislation.

We have seen this some of this in the climate movement already and there is much more potential. In fact, I would argue that some of what is causing the current excitement and traction around climate legislation—the emphasis on justice—has been voiced by faith-based climate leaders for some time.

In August of 2013, Rev Gerald Durley, currently the chairman of Interfaith Power and Light, wrote a piece titled Climate Change is Civil Rights Issue in which he laid it out. And there are many other examples, one place to find them is in the many faith based statement on climate change that are online.

We just had the 5 year anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home and it is important to acknowledge that this great effort was one of the driving forces behind the agreement in Paris. I was in Paris as a representative of the Climate Task Force of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Pope Francis’ message was powerful in the international community and it was also part of the leading edge of thought that has gotten us to widespread realization that social and ecological issues are intertwined.  

In the wake of the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Paris treaty (not in effect officially until the day after the next election), the We are Still In movement has kept it alive. There are 100s of Faith signatories and there have been eloquent statements from faith leaders on this matter.

There has also been a tremendous push on divestment in faith communities, internationally and nationally, and I want to acknowledge the work of GreenFaith and 350 and others on this front. This can influence legislative advocacy because it pulls together political force and will and crystallizes values.

I have had the honor of witnessing and supporting some of the faith-based organizing work that has gone on in the US around climate, including by some people who are on this call, and I want to say that this is going on as we speak, with some the bills being presented today, and merits respect, support and expansion. In addition to the specific interfaith climate organizations I have already mentioned, there are faith-based groups from distinct religious traditions. (I won’t name them now due to time and my worry I will get in trouble for leaving some out). The work of Indigenous peoples and organizations and First Nations themselves is also important in this sphere—it has spiritual power and it is important for many deep reasons that coalitions of faith groups act in solidarity with Indigenous peoples in legislative advocacy.

There are also some Green groups that have staffers designated to work on faith outreach. And perhaps most interesting in terms of immediate potential for legislative advocacy, there is a lot of energy and expertise in faith-based organizations and groups that had been focused on other advocacy efforts but can laser focus their attention on climate in the sessions ahead, drawing the connections to the issues of race, poverty, refugees that they already know so well. Coalitions such as the Washington Interfaith Service Coalition, Church World Service, and others are doing this and also there is tremendous work being done in specific denominations. And of course, there is the power of activating the grassroots network of congregations and communities throughout the land.

This work is powerful not just to reach across the ideological spectrum but also to bring people off the sidelines and breathe life into our body politic. Now is the time to step up that ethical call to Legislative Advocacy, thank you to those who already are.

 

Watch the complete webinar – Karenna Gore’s remarks begin at 38:46.

Laudato Si at 5: Climate Justice and Ecological Citizenship in times of Covid-19

Video: Please enjoy the Laudato Si at 5 webinar program hosted by Fordham Law, June 18, 2020 |12:00-1:00 p.m.

Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home reaches its fifth anniversary, amid a pandemic which has the power to transform ways of working, commuting, and connecting. It also reveals the deep inequities in our society, including environmental injustice that harms human health. In this dialogue, we will explore the ecological crisis in times of COVID-19 from a moral, economic, and legal perspective.

Speakers:
Kit KennedyDirector, Energy & Transportation Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council 
Karenna GoreDirector, Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary
John MundellPresident/Senior Environmental Consultant at Mundell & Associates, Inc.
Simone BorgLaw Professor and Head of the Department of Environmental Law and Resources Law at the University of Malta School of Law.

Moderators:
Rabbi Burt Visotzky, Appleman Professor of Midrash and Interreligious Studies and Director, Milstein Center for Interreligious Dialogue, Jewish Theological Seminary
Endy Moraes, Director of Fordham’s Institute on Religion, Law & Lawyer’s Work.

Conveners:

Fordham’s Institute on Religion, Law & Lawyer’s Work

Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary

Milstein Center for Interreligious Dialogue, Jewish Theological Seminary

Fall 2019 – Regional Ministers Training: A Community Response to Climate Change 

A Community Response to Climate Change Program

December 4- December 5, 2019 

Claremont School of Theology at Willamette University Salem, OR 

Putnam University Center Willamette University 900 State St. Salem, OR 97301 

Shepard House Willamette University 820 Mill Street Salem Oregon 97301 

 

Wednesday December 4th 

10:00 AM Registration and Housing Check-In 11:45 AM Location: Putnam University Center, 3rd Flood 

11:45 AM Opening and Welcome – A Theology of Interconnectedness 12:30 PM Location: Alumni Lounge, Putnam Center, 3rd Floor 

Presenters: Andrew Schwartz, Jan Elfers, Jill Leaness, and Michael Ellick 

12:30 PM Lunch and Table Activity 1:30 PM Location: Alumni Lounge, Putnam Center, 3rd Floor 

Eat Lunch and get to know your tablemates while answering questions about who you are and what brought you here. 

1:30 PM Reflect and Share: Connecting the Dots 2:30 PM Location: Alumni Lounge, Putnam Center, 3rd Floor 

Climate change is often seen as a separate and solely environmental problem that should be left to the scientists and environmentalists to solve. In this workshop we will connect some of the wide-reaching impacts of the climate crisis with other sectors, and provide examples of different actions that are being taken to address the issues. 

Presenters: Jill Leaness and Rebeca Cipollitti 

2:30 PM Break

2:45 PM Reflect and Share: Identifying the Problems 4:00 PM Location: Alumni Lounge, Putnam Center, 3rd Floor 

What climate impacts is your community experiencing? What have you witnessed in your own backyard? We will take this time to explore how climate change is impacting those in the room and the communities they serve. 

Presenters: Jill Leaness and Rebeca Cipollitti 

4:00 PM Break 

4:15 PM Listen and Learn: Bridging the Divide 5:30 PM Location: Alumni Lounge, Putnam Center, 3rd Floor 

An opportunity to reflect on what happened with HB 2020 and develop next steps. In this block, we will have a series of presentations to layout what happened in 2019 and what can be expected in 2020. Following the presentations and Q&A, we will break into small groups for more focused conversations 

Presenters: Jan Elfers and Britt Conroy 

5:45 PM Dinner 

7:00 PM Location: Goudy Commons (reserved dining room) 

7:30 PM Optional Get Together 9:00 PM Location: Willamette University Tree Lighting Festival and/or Grand Hotel 

 

Thursday, December 5, 2019 

8:00 AM Breakfast 9:00 AM Location: Goudy Commons or Catered Shepard House 

9:00 AM Morning Meditation and Theological Reflection 9:30 AM Location: Alumni Lounge, Putnam Center, 3rd Floor 

9:30 AM Listen and Learn: Felt Impacts From Frontline Communities 10:45 AM Location: Putnam Center 

Throughout Oregon communities are feeling the impacts of Climate Change. This panel will feature voices from around the state to share stories of how climate change is reshaping their communities, and the actions they are taking to address the issues. 

Speakers 

Oriana Magenra Climate and Energy Policy Coordinator, Verde Pastor E.D Mondainé – President, Portland NAACP Jeremy Five Crows – Public Affairs Specialist, Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission Rev. Linda Jaramillo – Board Chair, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon 

10:45 AM Break 10:55 AM 

10:55 AM Connect and Communicate: Storytelling and Theology Workshops 12:00 PM Location: Alumni Lounge, Putnam Center, 3rd Floor and Other Room 

This sessions offers two breakout sessions designed to help us tell our own climate stories and the other to help us deepen our knowledge on eco-theology. 

Two sessions of 30 minutes each to allow participants to attend both sessions. 

Session One: 10:55 am – 11:25 am Session Two: 11:30 am – 12:00 pm 

Room Session Facilitator 

Alumni Room 

Storytelling Workshop Jill Leaness and Rebeca Cipollitti, 

Climate Reality Project 

Autzen Room 

Towards and Ecological Philip Civilization 

Clayton and Wm. Andrew Schwartz, Claremont School of Theology 

12:00 PM Lunch 1:00 PM Location: Catered Lunch Alumni Lounge, Putnam Center, 3rd Floor 

1:00 PM Plan and Act: Identifying Solutions 2:00 PM Location: Alumni Lounge, Putnam Center, 3rd Floor and Other Room 

In this session, we will break into discussion groups to explore a variety of paths to help promote meaningful change in our communities and across the state, based on the problems we identified Wednesday afternoon. 

Presenters: Jill Leaness and Andrew Schwartz 

2:00 PM Plan and Act: Pathways for Change – Report Backs and Next Steps 3:30 PM Location: Alumni Lounge, Putnam Center, 3rd Floor and Other Room 

For our final activity, we will break into regional groups to brainstorm actions that can work in our home communities, what won’t, and outlining what we’ll need to be effective. 

3:30 PM Closing Prayer and Depart 

‘We Hold the Earth’ Interfaith Climate Prayer Earth Day 2020 – Mindahi Bastida

“We greet All Our Relations and All Our Relations means based on the sacred elements of life.

We greet the fire, the air, the earth and the wind.  We human beings are the reflection of the sacred elements and we are circumstantial to the Mother Earth.

We pray for Mother Earth to stand up with us in these critical times of anthropocentrism.

We are facing bio-cultural crisis and we as human beings we need to remember who we are, why we are here on this planet that we call Mother Earth.

We need peace.

But also, we need also to make peace with Mother Earth.

We want to come together. We want to work together. And we need to come together in order to overcome this crisis, this civilizational crisis that is killing life.

We pray for Mother Earth and the sacred elements to help us and stand up with us.

We have come the problem but we can be the solution.

We ask all the spiritual leaders, the spiritual leaders around the world, that we have a lot of work to do in order to conserve life.

Because we came to this beautiful planet to take care, not to take over.

We call attention to all people even if they are not religious, that they come together in order to live in harmony, in balance, in peace and in dignity.

Kjamadi (Thank you)”

Parliament of the World’s Religions – Earth Day 2020 Interfaith Climate Prayer

       Center for Earth Ethics - Faded Logo

A Conversation with Kelly Brown Douglas and Karenna Gore: COVID-19 and the Environment

Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary hosted a Facebook Live conversation between Dean Kelly Brown Douglas and CEE Director, Karenna Gore on COVID 19 and the Environment.

Karenna Gore has appeared in conversation with Kelly Brown Douglas on topics related to both Climate and Faith.

In this series of talks, Dean Kelly Brown Douglas speaks with guests on how the COVID-19 pandemic is exposing underlying injustices, poverty and racism that our Church and society have grown too comfortable with.

Tune in Monday, May 18th, 3:15 -3:45 pm for the next talk on Navajo Nation During COVID-19.

Covid-19 and the Environment

Join EDS at Union on Tuesday, May 12th at 2:15 PM ET for a Facebook Live conversation between Dean Kelly Brown Douglas and Karenna Gore on COVID 19 and the Environment. Karenna Gore is the founder and director of the Center for Earth Ethics (CEE) at Union Theological Seminary. The Center for Earth Ethics bridges the worlds of religion, academia, policy and culture to discern and pursue the changes that are necessary to stop ecological destruction.

Posted by Episcopal Divinity School at Union on Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Health in the Balance: 2020 Webinars on Faith and Climate

Dear Friends,

We were honored to have Dr. Marium Husain present on Health, Covid-19, and Climate Change for our most recent webinar. With so much information out there on the coronavirus, we deeply appreciated Dr. Husain’s informative presentation on what we can be doing now to help our communities and those on the frontlines. If you have any resources to share or stories of what you’ve been doing in your community we’d love to hear them.

Please watch the video of the webinar Health in the Balance where you will also have access to the Center for Earth Ethics and Climate Speakers Network’s past webinars!

Dr. Husain is the Board Vice President of the Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA).  In related news, we would also like to thank and congratulate IMANA for their recent “decision to divest IMANA’s endowment fund from all fossil fuel companies.”

“Human activities, especially the burning of dirty fuel sources, are the primary cause of climate change. Individuals, organizations and businesses acting in concert to collectively divest from fossil fuel companies is an important step toward generating increased attention toward the urgency of the climate crisis and building a healthier future for all of creation. We need to flatten the climate curve.” – Dr. Nabile Safdar, President of IMANA

Let’s flatten the curve.


Check out more of our Webinars, past Minister’s Trainings and offered Curriculum 

Excerpt from the blessing, ‘For One Who is Exhausted,’ JOHN O’DONOHUE

You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come, to take you back.

Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.

Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.

Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.

Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.

Be excessively gentle with yourself.

JOHN O’DONOHUE

Excerpt from the blessing, ‘For One Who is Exhausted,’ from John’s books:
Benedictus (Europe) / To Bless the Space Between Us (US)

Ordering Info: https://johnodonohue.com/store

Connemara, Co. Galway / Ireland
Photo: © Ann Cahill

Night Prayer / Evening Liturgy

***

The Iona Abbey Community legacy began in 563 AD with the arrival of the Irish St. Columba (ColmCille) to the tiny island of the Western Hebrides in Scotland.  Here the historic illuminated Gospel manuscript, the Book of Kells, was written before being moved to the town of Kells, Ireland to protect the masterpiece from Viking invaders. The Abbey center continues to thrive as a place of renewal and inspiration for those seeking a closer relationship with nature with, and in service to the divine, and in service to social justice issues around the globe.

A Community Response to Climate Change – Regional Minister’s Training

A problem with climate change is that no one knows what’s going to come next. Yes there are climate models – some from nearly 40 years ago – that accurately predict the moment we are in: record floods, incredible droughts, dwindling snowpacks, and a full ⅓ of the year consumed by fire.  

What is lost in these reports, though, are the realities of the communities that now must respond to the crises they create. They don’t tell the stories of those forced to relocate to Portland because their home went up in flames two years ago in Paradise, CA. These unwilling transplants never dreamed of moving to Oregon but are here now trying to make sense of their new lives. There are thousands of such in-migrants finding their way to Oregon either due to force of circumstance or because they can see the writing on the wall. 

Oregon has always been a popular destination for transplants but the numbers are being amplified thanks to climate change.  Already stressed and aging infrastructure in cities across the state are being asked to do more than ever before. Bend is expecting a ~40% population increase in the next decade leading city managers to wonder where to put them and how to allocate an already stretched water supply. In Portland, the housing crisis is only getting worse, to say nothing of the increasing traffic and decreased air quality that will come with it. 

For all of these reasons we are required to think differently about how we live in the now so that we’re prepared for whatever then presents itself. It’s why nearly 40 faith leaders from around Oregon gathered together at Willamette University December 4-5 for a training titled ‘A Community Response to Climate Change’. The training – hosted by the Center for Earth Ethics, the Claremont School of Theology at Willamette University, the Climate Reality Project, and Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon – was convened to hear how communities around the state are already being impacted and how faith leaders can best respond. 

 

One of the principle goals of the conference was to create a stronger sense of community for faith leaders working on climate in Oregon. Advocacy on climate can be an isolating experience for many faith leaders who don’t find allies within their peer groups or in their own communities. Yet though climate change remains a politically charged topic, the felt realities of climate change refuse to be ignored. Many pastors in the room shared how their congregations are increasingly impacted and of the emotional and financial toll climate change brings. And while those in the rooms came from very different contexts around the state several common themes emerged among the group: struggles to address mental health issues related to climate change, a desire for better disaster preparedness, responses to wildfire, and an ever increasing need to care for immigrants and in-migrants moving to the state. 

While the problems facing communities are becoming startling clear the solutions to them remain clouded and somewhat distant. Working groups to address each of the issues were created to identify and imagine how the faith community could respond especially in regards to the most vulnerable in Oregon. There is no doubt that frontline and historically marginalized communities are feeling them the worst. It was important that these voices were present as conference attendees but also as speakers to highlight the struggles many of these communities face. We were grateful to hear from Oriana Magnera of Verde NW, Pastor E.D. Mondaine of the Portland NAACP, and Jeremy Five Crows of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. 

Ms. Magnera spoke to the need for better legislation to protect air quality, especially in low-income urban zones. It’s not by mistake that most bus depots and major thoroughfares are placed next to brown, black, and low-income neighborhoods leading to increased incidences of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. It is a problem that needs to be addressed immediately and once solved, will have cascading benefits for surrounding communities and their environments. This message was echoed by Pastor Mondaine as well, who through his work at the NAACP, has fought for community water and housing rights and meaningful climate legislation.  One such piece of legislation is the Portland Clean Energy Fund that “will lift up a community-led vision that builds resilience and wealth in the face of climate change and federal inaction.” 

Jeremy Five Crows challenged the audience to look at the religious and cultural impacts of climate change through the lens of the  First Foods tradition of the Umatilla Tribe which serves as a reminder to local tribes to care for the First Foods – water, fish, game, roots and berries – that care for them. As climate change worsens, each of these elements are threatened differently and must be cared for in their own ways. If left unaddressed, these foods may be lost to history taking with them a cultural and spiritual importance of generations. 

The problems set in front of us are limitless. Even in a room of pastors whose day job is to help others find hope and purpose, the reality of climate change weighs heavy. Climate change asks us to truly look into the void of not only our own mortality but of the morality of every aspect of the world which grounds us and gives us meaning. It means articulating a future not of hope and happiness but of loss and unknown change. It’s an existential weight that bears down on each generation differently. For the old it’s a question of what have they done? How could they leave behind such an awful legacy? For the young it’s wondering how to come to terms with a dramatic harrowing future. And for those somewhere in the middle its severing the promises we were told in our youths and doing our best to prepare the way for ourselves and those younger generations we’re now accountable to in ways we never imagined.

There’s always a way out of no way. There’s always reason to hope even if it’s not ready to be found. When we began the conference,  Rev. Michael Ellick of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon reminded the room that we don’t have all the answers – and that’s ok. What we have is each other and the connections we make now are critical for dealing with tomorrow’s problems. We must grieve what is being lost while keeping ourselves open to the new life that emerges along the way. There’s always hope for the new. 

 

Karenna Gore participates in interfaith climate event in Recife

Originally published in Portuguese

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

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

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

“Faith in the Climate” event will feature Rabbi Nilton Bonder; Father Fábio Santos, coordinator of the Commission for Ecumenism of the Catholic Church of Pernambuco; Pastor Paulo César Pereira, president of the Alliance of Baptist Churches; Mother Beth de Oxum, Ialorixá from the terreiro (meeting place) Ilê Axé Oxum Karê and Jaqueline Xukuru, from the Xukuru indigenous community (Serra do Ororubá, Pesqueira – PE).

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are the relationships between environmental crisis and spirituality?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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