Category: Education

Earth Day 2022: Life Force

Earth Day 2022: Life Force
Livestreamed from James Chapel, Union Theological Seminary
Friday, April 22, 2022 | 4 – 7 p.m.

Spend an afternoon tending to the best of the human spirit, which is part and parcel of the life force that animates our planet.

Earth Day 2022 is an opportunity for tapping into the creative energy that flows through each of us, a counterpoint to the overload of information and analysis that can leave us depleted and exhausted—and a boost to get us to the other side. Join us as we gather with artists, poets, thought leaders and climate scientists who are reimagining and recasting how we experience the greatest challenge of our time.

Scheduled speakers and performers at Earth Day 2022, which will be live-streamed from James Chapel at Union Theological Seminary in New York, include Bill McKibben, Gavin Schmidt,  Jacqui Patterson,  Jody Sperling, Karenna Gore, Kate Marvel, Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Lyla June, Mike Massimino, Miranda Massie, Mitchell Joachim, Pádraig Ó Tuama, Paul Miller aka DJ Spooky, Rev. Dr. Serene Jones, and the New York City Labor Chorus

Convened by the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary, in collaboration with Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky and The Climate Museum, Earth Day 2022 will bridge the gaps to foster ecological thought and action.

LEARN MORE & REGISTER

 

NB. This post has been updated to include a current list of speakers and performers.

For Faith Leaders: Navigating Energy and the Climate Crisis

On Energy and Faith: Ministry in the Time of Climate Crisis
Tuesday – Thursday, May 17 – 19, 2022
Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.

The world is changing. Today’s calamities, notably the disruptions to oil and gas supplies that are compounding the humanitarian crisis caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, prove once again that we all must move away from our reliance on fossil fuels. Nations, communities and individuals are beginning to transition to renewable energy sources—like solar and wind—but the vast majority of the world’s energy still comes from burning fossil fuels, the main driver of climate change. How can we hasten the transition toward renewable energy sources? And, as we make than transition, how can we ensure that it is just and equitable? Shifting to renewable energy holds tremendous promise as part of a solution to the climate crisis, but we must ensure that communities are properly supported, with access to those new energy sources and to good jobs that can enhance people’s quality of life.

Faith leaders have a unique role to play in navigating these thorny practical and ethical questions. More than 80 percent of the global population belongs to a faith community. Faith leaders can educate about the climate crisis, advocate for changing how we produce energy, and help ensure that the shift to renewable energy is just and equitable.

From Tuesday, May 17 to Thursday, May 19, the Center for Earth Ethics and The Climate Reality Project will host “On Energy and Faith: Ministry in the Time of Climate Crisis,” a special interfaith climate training for faith leaders. The theme of this year’s training is energy. During this two-and-a-half-day learning experience, we’ll take a deep dive—not just into energy as a practical necessity but also our own personal energy, addressing the burnout felt by faith leaders, activists and others in local communities.

Catholic University of America

The training, which will be held at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., will include seminars, rituals, workshops and skill-building sessions. We’re limiting attendance to 35 people to create an intimate environment that allows for candid, meaningful discussion.

So, if you’re a faith leader interested in growing your understanding of energy and the climate crisis, and you can make it to Washington, D.C., in May, we hope that you’ll apply. Applications are open to leaders of any faith who are serving their congregations or communities at least half-time.

The hosts will cover most meals for participants, as well as ground transportation between training venues within Washington, D.C. Participants will be responsible for covering their own travel costs to and from Washington, though a limited number of need-based scholarships (including travel grants and registration-fee waivers) are available. In addition, a handful of low-cost accommodations at Catholic University will be available for participants who live outside of commuting distance. Housing and scholarships will be allocated on a case-by-case basis.

LEARN MORE AND APPLY

Karenna Gore: “Faiths Respond to Stockholm+50”

I was grateful for the opportunity to speak at a dialogue, “Faiths Respond to Stockholm+50,” organized by Faith for Earth Initiative of the United Nations Environment Program on March 4, 2022. Below is an extended version of my remarks. 

* * * * * *

Thank you for the opportunity to speak. If I may, I would like to begin by describing my personal perspective on this topic. I was born close to the time of the 1972 Stockholm conference, into a family of Americans descended from Europeans, including Swedes on my mother’s side. I was told that some of my ancestors, particularly those from France and Great Britain, came to escape the heavy hand of religious authorities who would deny them their religious freedom. My country, the United States, has always spoken of this ideal of religious freedom. It was only in recent decades that I came to realize that that principle was not extended to the Native peoples of this land whose traditions were marked by reverence for the natural world. I speak to you now from ancestral lands of the Lenape people here in New York City, where the United Nations is based.

I also grew up in a family that had a particular regard for the United Nations because one person who was central to its founding in 1945, Secretary of State Cordell Hull, was from the same rural place in Tennessee that my father’s family is from. Most everything near the small town of Carthage, Tennessee, is named for Cordell Hull, who won the Nobel Peace Prize of 1945 as “father of the United Nations.” Hull, like my own grandparents on my father’s side, grew up without electricity and lived through the period of unprecedented change and economic growth that marked the post-World War II period in this part of the world. I recall my grandparents remembering the advent of the things that I took for granted—refrigerators, toasters, washer/driers, air conditioning, television, highways. I mention this because it seems notable how recent this way of life is, even in the most developed industrial nations. In Cordell Hull’s memoir he writes of his childhood: “with what we grew and what we hunted and trapped, we had no great need for money.” [1]

Of course, the development that I am pointing to is seen as progress for some good reasons, related to quality of life. But it also seems that development has become untethered from quality of life, and that social norms and values took a turn for the worse somewhere along the way. Ever-increasing production and consumption cycles fueling trade was mistaken for peace-building. High numbers of gross domestic product masqueraded as common good. Inequity was held as necessary for competition. Money confused with virtue. Hoarding material possessions associated with success. And of course, development has come at the expense of nature.

The way of thinking that discounts religion and spirituality has often been blind to how deep this shift in values has been, at least within the dominant culture. The American Transcendentalist writer Ralph Waldo Emerson expressed it this way: “A person will worship something, have no doubt about that . . . . That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives, and our character. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping, we are becoming.” If we worship money and the idea that humankind is special because we dominate nature, we become aliens on the Earth. Of course we must make every effort to eradicate poverty, but if in the process, a way of life that is intimately tied with nature is seen and described as poverty, to be eradicated, we are on our way to eradicating nature too. Once we have shifted values away from reverence for those biocultural ties, we lose our sense of belonging in the natural world.

The Haudenosaunee Confederacy (the matriarchal Indigenous society that is more commonly known as the Iroquois) pointed this out in the position papers they delivered to the NGOs of the United Nations in September of 1977 that included a document called “A Basic Call to Consciousness.” It argued against the imposition of the way of life of the rest of the world that had been imposed on them here in the United States. “The majority of the world does not find its roots in Western Culture or traditions. The majority of the world finds its roots in the Natural World and it is the Natural World and the traditions of the Natural World that must prevail if we are to develop truly free and egalitarian societies.” [2]

In my lifetime, the population of wild animals has decreased by about 60 percent, over half the rainforests have been chopped down, human population has doubled, the wealth gap has widened, many communities are inundated with toxic waste and pollution that harms their health through what has been called “slow violence”; in my country it is especially Black, Indigenous and communities of color that have already experienced racism in so many other ways. There are epidemics of obesity, addiction, anxiety and depression. In many places local cultures have been replaced by giant box stores and fast food places (including in Carthage, Tennessee), and we have loaded the atmosphere so full of climate-changing pollution that the weather has already begun to change, as the Haudenosaunee also warned in those papers I mentioned earlier. These changes—the stronger storms, droughts, wildfires, heat waves, rising sea levels and chaotic patterns—all hurt those people who live in poverty first and worst.

We are now in a climate emergency, on the brink of unspeakable loss. This loss is not only economic, it is cultural, spiritual and moral. The biggest loss is the mass suffering and death among the most vulnerable people around the world. In a report issued several years ago, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights Philip Alston stated: “Climate change threatens to undo the last 50 years of progress in development, global health and poverty reduction” and will drive many millions more into extreme poverty. Of course, many will also be driven from their homes (estimates vary from 25 million to one billion environmental migrants by 2050). [3]

We know the cause of climate change. It is the value system described that propels the two modern megatrends of pollution (particularly carbon pollution from the burning of fossil fuels) and depletion (particularly depletion of carbon sinks like forests and soil). If we are to confront this compound ecological crisis, we must look clearly at the level of cause, not just the level of effects. We must return to the best of the spirit of inquiry that existed in Stockholm in 1972.

When Swedish Prime Minister Olaf Palme spoke at that conference, he referenced that post War period in the dominant parts of the world, that unprecedented technical and economic progress. He referenced the way of thinking . He explained that any moral uneasiness about poverty in the rest of the world was tempered by the prospect that with rigorous development efforts, they would catch up. The wake-up call at Stockholm in 1972 centered around the realization that the Earth’s resources were finite and the central issue at the conference was the need to address the potential conflict between economic development and environmental protection. As Palme stated, “the decisive question is in which direction we will develop, by what means we will grow, which qualities we want to achieve, and what values we wish to guide our future.”

The Stockholm Conference was important for many reasons. It marked a more inclusive world in some ways. For example, the People’ Republic of China had just become a part of the United Nations, and sent a delegation. East and West Germany were not yet members, and the Soviet Union and the Warsaw pact countries did not attend in part because of the exclusion of East Germany. The Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, spoke, expressing some misgivings about an ecological agenda that would distract from the imperative for development and arguing “we have to prove to the disinherited majority of the world that ecology and conservation will not work against their interest but will bring improvement in their lives.” [4] We should note that it is climate justice activists from the Global South (like Vanessa Nakate of Uganda) that make that case loud and clear today. All in all, Stockholm 1972 also marked a wiser world, thinking about long-term problems beyond the daily distractions of the ordinary course of multilateral business.  Specifically, it revealed a United Nations that was taking responsibility for the global environmental questions that no one else would or could address. The UN has never abdicated this responsibility, as we saw this week with the release of the latest IPCC report and the agreement to launch negotiations to curtail the global scourge of plastics pollution.

I commend those who have worked so hard in recent decades to bring nature to the center of the work of the UN, including through the Sustainable Development Goals. But let us be honest: we have lost our way. It is not only that we are off target for the 17 goals and we have to push harder. Something is missing and something is wrong. What is missing? The most vital aspects of the human experience: the meaning and belonging that come from culture, including elements of culture that bond people to the ecosystems they live within. What is wrong? The forces behind those two modern megatrends of pollution and depletion have found their footing within these goals and within the extensive scaffolding and rhetoric of sustainable development. Profit-seeking industries have a lot of power in this world—let us not be naïve about this or dismiss it as too indelicate a thing to say aloud. These forces rely on a notion of progress that has gone unchallenged, a notion that includes the kind of top-down consumerism that sustains their markets and that still routinely sacrifices nature. We cannot slip into a critique that blames people for lacking moral fiber to stand up to this—the vast majority are living in systems in which the commons are being devoured, and they often do not have real choices. To correct course, we need to ask some different questions—not only “Is no one left behind?” but also “Are we sure we are going in the right direction?” and “Who and what is development actually for?”

The world’s faith and wisdom traditions have been asking these deeper questions for some time. Reading texts like “A Basic Call to Consciousness: The Haudenosaunee Address to the Western World,”  “Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home” and “Al-Mizan: A Covenant for the Earth” is like water for a thirsty person. It is within this scholarship from faith communities that the most vital work on the relationship between development and environments is being done because these scholars see the deeper issues. They are not naïve about the dimensions of belief and worship that Emerson described. They are not naïve about the nature of power either. They also carry intimate knowledge of the relationship between colonization, belief systems, and environmental devastation, even-—or perhaps sometimes especially–from within those religious traditions that were bound up in it. And finally, they are connected to ancient traditions that have stood the test of time and offer powerful teaching and practices on living life to the fullest, which of course means living in harmony with nature and with each other.

* * * * * *

You can watch the dialogue session in its entirely and hear from these speakers directly HERE. It includes a framing and response from Ambassador for Stockholm+50 from the Swedish government, Johanna Lissenger Peitz, some words from Haruko Okusu, principal coordination officer of Stockholm+50 at the United Nations Environment Program, and remarks from Stockholm+50 Youth Task Force member Shantanu Mandal.

I will name just a few of the points from the faith leaders that stood out to me. Islamic scholar Dr. Fazlun Khalid called attention the need for focus on educational systems and also to the harm done by assuming a drive for unlimited growth and called for us to take de-growth seriously in those places where we can. Father Joshua Kureethadam spoke from the Vatican, expressing the wisdom of some particular concepts from within faith traditions such as when jubilee and sabbath was grounded in allowing the land to rest. He called out the way that faith leaders can gather communities, especially that critical mass that is needed to make change, as we saw with leaders like Mandela and Gandhi. And he shared the Laudato Si Action platform as a resource for all. Bishop Mark MacDonald, National Indigenous Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Canada, spoke some words in Native language and lifted up Indigenous voices as prophetic in our time. He also pointed out that our societies have been fundamentally changed by economic and technological forces, with many getting their values from them rather than from religious and spiritual traditions, and that we must instead recognize that we are not fully human without nature. Bishop Andreas Holmberg of the Church of Sweden emphasized that faith communities must be recognized as key partners, especially in changing the short-sighted thinking that dominates today, instead opening a pathway to long-term decision making. He also proposed that adding ecocide as an international crime under the Rome Statute be taken up seriously at Stockholm+50. Gopal Patel of Bhumi Global spoke from the Hindu tradition, lifting the wisdom that change is the only thing that is constant and argued for consideration to be given to a version of common but differentiated responsibilities in how peoples restore and protect nature, with rights of nature appropriate in some cultures.

As we move towards the convening in Stockholm in June, in the context of an urgent and perilous ecological crisis, let us keep in mind the potential contributions of faith communities in helping humanity to correct course. Their power is not only practical—which pertains to owning land, controlling funds and reaching vast networks of people—it is also in the quality of the analysis and vision that comes from traditions that have stood the test of time and speak to humanity’s most deeply held values.

 

1. “The Memoirs of Cordell Hull” (1948), p. 13.

2. “A Basic Call to Consciousness,” edited by Akwesasne Notes (1978).

3. https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/06/1041261

4. “What Happened in Stockholm.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (Sept 1972).

Call to Faith Communities: Host a Climate and Justice Teach-In!

Teach-Ins on Climate and Justice to be Held Worldwide on March 30, 2022
Information Session for Faith-Based Communities to be held on February 16, 2022

As the negative impacts of the climate crisis accumulate, faith communities have a vital role to play in addressing climate change and creating just climate solutions. Churches, mosques, temples and synagogues must act now to make a difference. The Worldwide Teach-in on Climate and Justice aims to mobilize half a million educators, students and community members to participate in a historic global event on March 30, 2022.

“The climate crisis is about more than data and science. It is about perceptions, beliefs and values,” says Karenna Gore, executive director of the Center for Earth Ethics. “We are excited to help engage faith communities and institutions in the worldwide climate teach-in on March 30 because they have a vital role to play in facing up to the root causes of the climate crisis and creating positive change.”

The Center for Earth Ethics partnered with Bard College’s Graduate Programs in Sustainability to create a teach-in model for faith communities to assist churches, mosques, temples and synagogues around the world to participate in the global event on Wednesday, March 30.

“We are all experiencing the rising sense of climate despair,” says Dr. Eban Goodstein, director of Bard Graduate Programs in Sustainability and founder of the Worldwide Teach-in on Climate and Justice. “By mobilizing half a million faith leaders, seminarians, educators, students and people of faith around the world, we aim to replace that despair with a powerful sense of agency about the work we can do together—this year, next year and over the next decades—to change the future.”

Gore and Goodstein noted that the teach-in model for faith communities is designed to be adapted by each community and its members according to their unique circumstances.

To help describe the roles that faith communities and people of faith can take in the Worldwide Teach-In, Bard is hosting an information session on Wednesday, February 16, 2022, at 2 p.m. Eastern Time. Interested individuals can register here to learn ways to engage people from their faith community in serious dialogue about climate solutions and justice in the transition. Samuel King, research associate at the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology, will be the guest speaker.

On its Worldwide Teach-In website, anyone can access easy-to-organize models for teach-ins at colleges, universities, high schools and middle schools, and K-6 classes, as well as faith communities.

The Worldwide Teach-In is supported by the Open Society University Network.

Visit the Teach-In Model for Faith Communities
Visit the Worldwide Teach-In Website

Register for the Faith Communities Information Session

 

 

Karenna Gore to Speak at Keeping Faith in Science? Series

CEE Executive Director Karenna Gore will take part in the Keeping Faith in Science?, a series of webinars in February sponsored by the London-based United Society Partners in the Gospel. She will speak about faith and the climate crisis at 2:30 p.m. EST (7.30 p.m. U.K. time) on February 17 alongside Dr. George Zachariah from Trinity Methodist Theological College, New Zealand.

“We are privileged to be joined by Karenna Gore, an expert in the relationship between faith and climate activism, alongside many other experts in their respective fields across the world church,” said Revd Canon Richard Bartlett, USPG’s director of mission engagement. “It is going to be a thought-provoking and very topical series of webinars.”

Other speakers in the four-part series, which will be running at 7.30 p.m. every Thursday in February, include Professor Jolyon Mitchell, director of the Centre for Theology and Public Issues at the University of Edinburgh, and Dr. Mwai Makoka, programme executive at the World Council of Churches.

Founded in 1701, USPG is the Anglican mission agency that partners churches and communities worldwide in God’s mission to enliven faith, strengthen relationships, unlock potential and champion justice.

LEARN MORE AND REGISTER

Call to Faith Communities: Host a Climate and Justice Teach-In!

Teach-Ins on Climate and Justice to be Held Worldwide on March 30, 2022
Information Sessions Scheduled for January 13, 2022

As the negative impacts of the climate crisis accumulate, faith communities have a vital role to play in addressing climate change and creating just climate solutions. Churches, mosques, temples and synagogues must act now to make a difference.  The Worldwide Teach-in on Climate and Justice aims to mobilize half a million educators, students and community members to participate in a historic global event on March 30, 2022.

“The climate crisis is about more than data and science. It is about perceptions, beliefs and values,” says Karenna Gore, executive director of the Center for Earth Ethics. “We are excited to help engage faith communities and institutions in the worldwide climate teach-in on March 30 because they have a vital role to play in facing up to the root causes of the climate crisis and creating positive change.”

The Center for Earth Ethics partnered with Bard College’s Graduate Programs in Sustainability to create a teach-in model for faith communities to assist churches, mosques, temples and synagogues around the world to participate in the global event on Wednesday, March 30.

“We are all experiencing the rising sense of climate despair,” says Dr. Eban Goodstein, director of Bard Graduate Programs in Sustainability and founder of the Worldwide Teach-in on Climate and Justice. “By mobilizing half a million faith leaders, seminarians, educators, students and people of faith around the world, we aim to replace that despair with a powerful sense of agency about the work we can do together—this year, next year and over the next decades—to change the future.”

Gore and Goodstein noted that the teach-in model for faith communities is designed to be adapted by each community and its members according to their unique circumstances.

To help describe the roles that faith communities and people of faith can take in the Worldwide Teach-In, Bard and CEE are holding information sessions on January 13, 2022, at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Eastern Time. Interested individuals can register here to learn ways to engage people from their faith community in serious dialogue about climate solutions and justice in the transition. Gore will be a guest speaker at these sessions.

On its Worldwide Teach-In website, anyone can access easy-to-organize models for teach-ins at colleges, universities, high schools and middle schools, and K-6 classes, as well as faith communities.

The Worldwide Teach-In is supported by the Open Society University Network.

Visit the Teach-In Model for Faith Communities
Visit the Worldwide Teach-In Website

Register for a Faith Communities Information Session

 

 

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.

Successful ‘On Food and Faith’ conference concludes

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.

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

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