Category: Education

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

A Very Special Evening with Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer: Reflection & Video

“Last night I had the joyful opportunity to interview Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of Braiding Sweetgrass, Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants. She is sweet as the sweetgrass, loving as a mother and attentive as a wise elder. She was delighted to hear that we, from the Center for Earth Ethics, are offering the course Plant Wisdom and Ecological Consciousness and wants to know all about it. Surely we will have opportunities to interact with her, as we actively engage in braiding together plant wisdom, science and traditional knowledge as a practice of being in the world. Certainly all of humanity needs to remember that communing with all sentient beings is the original purpose of living a human experience. The art of reminding about this purpose is something that Robin has become exquisitely passionate about. Last night, over two hundred people stood in ovation to express their deep gratitude for her overflow of wisdom, joy for life and caring for Mother Earth. Let us spread her word and make her dream –a shared dream– come true in her lifetime.”
~  Geraldine Ann Patrick Encina
***
Join us for a conversation with Robin Wall Kimmerer as she helps us rethink, reimagine and, renarrate our relationship to the sacred and the natural world. Can the objective, data-driven approach of science be enriched by non-anthropocentric spiritual worldviews? As a botanist and a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Dr. Kimmerer draws on both indigenous wisdom and scientific knowledge to enrich and animate our understanding of the natural world. This expansive way of seeing and relating to creation privileges regeneration and reciprocity, and offers novel solutions for ecological restoration and climate change resilience.

Dr. Kimmerer will be joined in conversation with Union faculty member John Thatamanil, and Geraldine Ann Patrick Encina, Scholar in Residence for Union’s Center for Earth Ethics.

 

About Robin Wall Kimmerer:
Dr. Kimmerer is a mother, plant ecologist, writer and SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York. She serves as the founding Director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment whose mission is to create programs which draw on the wisdom of both indigenous and scientific knowledge for our shared goals of sustainability. Her research interests include the role of traditional ecological knowledge in ecological restoration and the ecology of mosses. In collaboration with tribal partners, she and her students have an active research program in the ecology and restoration of plants of cultural significance to Native people. Read More.

About The Insight Project:
The Insight Project is a new multi-year program series that explores modern conceptions of theology and spirituality through a diverse array of thought-provoking lectures, screenings, performances, and on-stage conversations. Click HERE to learn more.

Karenna Gore on Climate Ethics & Corporate Social Responsibility at LIM

Originally posted  by Janise Vargas

On Monday, February 4, our Sustainability and the Future of Fashion class at LIM College shared a conversation with Founder and Director of the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary, Karenna Gore. We spoke about climate change and its relation to ethics and social justice on a global scale.

Daughter of former Vice President Al Gore Jr., Ms. Gore had a political upbringing, but her professional expertise lies in ecological conservation, ministry, and social justice. Gore founded the Center for Earth Ethics in 2015, after the Religions for the Earth conference held at Union in 2014. At this conference, over 200 religious and spiritual leaders gathered to emphasize climate as a moral issue and apply faith-based activism to help fix it. Gore explained that the Center’s purpose is to generate dialogue around the immorality of climate change and train leaders to implement change across the world.

I found Gore’s focus on social justice and ministry to be intriguing because it is a niche perspective on our threatened ecosystem. When talking about climate change, most people think of the very tangible effects it has on the earth’s landscape and our weather system. However, listening to Gore refocused my lens toward the humanitarian crises—which include threats like floods, food shortages, and large-scale displacements of populations—that will result if change is not made now. Gore believes that the magnitude of hope and good-will that accompany followers of faith can be the catalyst society needs to spark progressive efforts toward conserving our planet and improving our society.

Being that we are taking this sustainability course at a business-focused fashion college, how can we change the fashion industry to better serve the environment? Gore had a number of solutions to this problem, one of which included measuring the success of a business beyond profit. She explained that examining a brand’s globalism and ecological footprint are very relevant measurements of a company’s effect on the people it serves internationally as well as how its business practices affect the environment. I believe if every fashion brand started to prioritize their ecological footprint, that alone would initiate visible change on our planet.

On a macro level, we talked about government and its role in climate change and conservatory efforts. Joining our lecture was Professor Gayathri Banavara, from LIM’s Marketing, Management & Finance department. Professor Banavara asked if government policy should play a role in conservatory efforts. She used, as an example, India, which has imposed a policy on incoming corporations to contribute 2% of their profits to maintaining India’s landscape and resources and improving their infrastructure. Gore implored the helpfulness of this practice and explained that government policy can play a major role in climate change. If political leaders used their power and influence to create conservatory policies and eco-friendly regulations, companies and people as a whole would be forced to take these issues seriously and implement change. She also explained that similar to business, governments measure a nation’s success with a bottom-line mentality, considering only GDP. The problem is, GDP does not measure aspects like pollution, depletion of resources or environmental harm. Nations are being held to a standard of profitability only, and it is that mentality that has led to our overuse of resources.

I found Gore’s presentation and dialogue inspiring, because it allowed my perception of climate change and the realities of it to come full circle. I came away feeling that it is important to know and share this information—we must emphasize the immorality of ignoring our changing environment and warn against the humanitarian crisis that will result should we continue this way. As future business leaders and advocates for change, we must use this knowledge to change how business is conducted. There is much more at stake than hotter summers.

Topics: Climate ChangesustainabilityLIM Undergraduate Studiesguest speakers,SustainableSustainable Fashionsocial responsibilityCorporate Social Responsibilty