Category: Media

The Metaphysics of COP26: A Brief Reflection

“Power must be challenged by power,” wrote Reinhold Niebuhr in “Moral Man and Immoral Society,” and so it felt during the COP26 gathering in Glasgow. There were the representatives of the world’s most powerful governments and the lobbyists who do so much to maintain business as usual (a data analysis identified 503 from the fossil fuel industry). On the other hand there were agents of transformative change lifting up science and ethics. One question at COP26 was whether the growing cohesion and resolve in the second group is becoming an adequate source of power to change the equation. It seems that the answer is not yet, but almost.

I was grateful to be in Glasgow as a representative of the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary and the Milstein Center for Interreligious Dialogue at Jewish Theological Seminary. I am also grateful to the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation for accreditation and support. There has been a lot written about the COP already, and I am still processing it, so this short reflection is merely to lift up a few highlights and express my gratitude for the opportunity to do this work. There is more to come from the Center for Earth Ethics.

The world’s religions are often cited for the “moral and social pedagogy” that Niebuhr warned was inadequate to effect real political change. They also have land, schools, finances, and are deeply intertwined in cultures around the world in ways that influence collective behavior. One of the most interesting aspects of this moment is to witness the work being done within faith traditions, and the connections being made across them.

Talanoa Dialogue, Garnethill Synagogue (Photo Credit: Brahma Kumaris)

A highlight for me was the Talanoa Dialogue in the historic Garnethill Synagogue, which, with a Jewish Heritage Center housed within, was itself a source of grounding gravitas for the moment. The chief rabbi of the UK and Commonwealth, Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, gave opening remarks, and speakers across a wide range of traditions followed.

One of them, Rev. James Bhagwan of the Pacific Council of Churches, spoke from the perspective of small island nations and invoked the meaning of the seashell cross he wore. “People with a deep spiritual relationship with land and sea were told that was backwards and ignorant,” he said. “That is what colonization did to us.” Clearly these faith communities are focused eradicating that effect of colonization and reclaiming that relationship. Rev. Bhagwon also expressed the fight for climate justice (including loss and damage) in terms of the Biblical story of Cain and Abel, not only asking “Am I my brother’s keeper?,” but connecting it to the question on the minds of many with a stake in this COP: “Who will pay?”

I was delighted to be on a panel hosted in the World Wildlife Fund Pavilion that was focused on the role of faith-based organizations in both climate and biodiversity work. My remarks focused on three concepts that were being manipulated at the COP in ways that the world’s faith and wisdom traditions have something to say about: time, place and being. Although my framework barely scratches the surface, the metaphysics of COP are worth reflecting on, especially when “offsets,” distant timelines and top-down development models play such a big role in national commitments. My co-panelists—Gopal Patel, Debra Boudreaux, Sister Jayant Kirpalani and Daniel Perrel—each offered moving insights, and I was honored to be included.


Executive Director Karenna Gore with Telma Taurepang of the Union of Indigenous Women of the Amazon

The most interesting encounters I had were with people who were most vocal on the outside of the COP, even if they also appeared within the “Blue Zone” as official observers. I was fortunate to have a chance to speak with Telma Taurepang of the Union of Indigenous Women of the Amazon, who expressed the importance of women claiming power in this time because they are especially called to speak for “Mother Earth” and restore the balance that has been disrupted by predatory and extractionist systems that hide behind the category of “development.” Taurepang also made public comments about one of COP26’s most heralded announcements: the pledge to halt and reverse deforestation by the end of the decade, which was backed by public and private financing of $19 billion. She was skeptical based on experience: “The resource, when it arrives, doesn’t reach Indigenous peoples” she said. Instead, it “goes to those who deforest,” and the deforestation continues.



An interfaith gathering at COP26 Glasgow, Scotland

This brings us back to moral philosophy. Theologian Cynthia Moe-Lobeda has written about the concept of “structural evil,” explaining that one of its key characteristics is that it easily masquerades as good. This is one way to explain the tidal wave of greenwashing that accompanies the business-as-usual group at the COP. But a worthy counterforce is building, drawing not only from the science, but also from the transformative work being done within communities who are ready to claim their power.

CBS News covers climate change at UN General Assembly 2019 – Karenna Gore contributes

Climate Change Front and Center at UN General Assembly 2019

Originally published on  September 17, 2019

CBS News’ Pamela Falk covers the Climate Crisis ahead of the UN Climate Summit.  CBS has joined 250 news sources committed to a week of climate coverage – Climate Coverage Now.

“There is good reason why most world leaders consistently identify it as the preeminent and central challenge for humanity in our time,” Karenna Gore, director of the Center for Earth Ethics at the Colombia University-affiliated Union Theological Seminary, told CBS News.

recent CBS News Poll found that a majority of Americans say action needs to be taken right now to address climate change. Most consider it to be at least a “serious problem” — including more than a quarter who say it is a “crisis.”

The U.N.’s Climate Action Summit begins on September 23, and is expected to be a forum to hold countries accountable to the international commitments they made to cut global warming as part of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

That summit will be preceded by the Youth Climate Summit — a gathering of young global climate campaigners who have organized worldwide demonstrations this year. They’re calling for another “global climate strike” this Friday, with 800 events planned in the U.S. alone and corresponding rallies around the world.

The “climate strike” initiative was sparked by teen activist Greta Thunberg, who first made news last year with her solitary strike against climate change in her native Sweden. Since then she has been joined by millions of supporters rallying in more than 150 countries. She told “CBS This Morning” last week that she hopes world leaders will “step out of their comfort zones to prevent the worst consequences from happening.”

“Climate change threatens to undo the last 50 years of progress in development, global health, and poverty reduction,” U.N. Special Rapporteur Philip Alston told diplomats recently, warning that “it could push more than 120 million more people into poverty by 2030 and will have the most severe impact in poor countries, regions, and the places poor people live and work.”

Read more…

Beyond Religion and the Pulitzer Center

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

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

See Conference Highlights here

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

Mindahi Bastida Muñoz: The Meaning of Life and Earth’s Sacred Elements

Excellence Reporter is conducting 1000+ interviews on the topic: What is the Meaning of Life?

In a time of so much turbulence and seemingly insurmountable challenges, this project is dedicated to inspiring awakening and insight.

Contributors to the site include author Rev. John Dear, activist Bill McKibben, yoga innovator Ana Forrest, Fr. Thomas Keating, Nyikina Traditional Custodian of Western Australia, Dr. Anne Poelina, and Arun Ghandi.

CEE’s Original Caretakers Program Director, Mindahi Bastida, also participated.

Read Mindahi Bastida’s full contribution here…

Excellence Reporter is also collaborating on the Charter for Compassion and with Compassionate Cities working towards meeting UN Sustainable Development Goals.



Spirit of Justice: Michelle Alexander and Naomi Klein

The Center for Earth Ethics is proud to be at home here at Union Theological Seminary in New York City which convenes amazing conversations about our world.

Watch this riveting dialogue with award-winning journalist and best-selling author Naomi Klein and Union visiting professor Michelle Alexander about the current crises of our time and why we must connect the dots between the intersecting issues of white supremacy, rape culture, climate chaos and wealth hoarding. How do we move from strategic alliances and coalition building to a true political synthesis that not only connects these oppressions and injustices but maps a positive and healing future for all people and the planet? The Spirit of Justice aims to amplify the voices of modern-day revolutionaries—artists, activists, scholars, healers, teachers and more—who are committed to moving forward in new ways with a keen understanding of the political history and moral dilemmas which brought us to this moment in time.

Learn More about programming at Union including the Spirit of Justice, Trailblazers, Got Sermon?, R.I.S.E., Women of Spirit and our upcoming partnership On Water and Faith:  Ministry in the Time of Climate Change, May 31 – June 2nd, 2018. 


Lenape Clan Mother Calls on Governor Cuomo to protect Bald Eagles’ Nesting Area, Stop CPV

Thursday, December 21, 2017 – Winter Solstice

Deer Clan Chief of the Ramapough Lenape Calls on Governor Cuomo to protect Bald Eagles’ Nesting Area and Stop Pipeline in Orange County, NY

Indigenous leaders present letter to Andrew Cuomo; Pipeline initially blocked by State regulators, OK’ed by Trump federal agency (FERC)


Media contacts: Rachel Marco-Havens of the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary: 805-931-6873/[email protected]; or contact the American Indian Law Alliance: 914-316-8833/[email protected]

Who: Ramapough Lenape Nation, American Indian Law Alliance, Center For Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary, Schaghticoke First Nations, Wittenberg Center For Alternative Resources

Why: While the proximity of pipeline construction violates state and federal law, the Eagle also holds deeply rooted, spiritual significance within Native culture. Destruction of the birds’ habitat directly threatens ecological, cultural and spiritual longevity.

Read Clara’s Letter Here and Sign On to show your Support!


Supporting Organizations

Schaghticoke First Nations
Ramapough Lenape Nation
Tribal Link Foundation
Friends of Turtle Island/ WESPAC Foundation
Elders Drum Project
Sukyo Mahikari UN NGO (special consultative status)
Gaiafield Project
Forum 21 Institute
Connie Hogarth Center for Social Action at Manhattanville College
The Watershed Center
Protect Orange County
Loretto Earth Network
Pax Christi Metro New York
Temple of Understanding
Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers
Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise
The Stuart Center of the Society of the Sacred Heart
National Ethical Service
Sane Energy Project
Keepers of the Water
Centre for Dialogue & Spirituality in the World Religions


Clara Soaring Hawk
Deer Clan Chief
Ramapough Lenape Nation
“I am calling those who hold deep reverence for the sacredness of the Eagle Spirit to pray with me.”

Sachem Hawk Storm
Schaghticoke First Nations
“The eagles are our sacred relatives who carry all of our prayers and thoughts and intentions up to Wanthut Manetu (great spirit). They must be protected. Oneoway nekeech Achwetchteed”

Carol Makuta
Delaware Nation
“Please stop this!”

Tracy Basile
Committee Chair
Friends of Turtle Island/ WESPAC Foundation
“We stand with Chief Clara Soaring Hawk and all Ramapough and their allies in solidarity to protect the water, the eagles, the earth and her people. Governor Cuomo we need you to stand up too on behalf of future generations and stop the Millennium Pipeline.”

Elizabeth Damon
Keepers of the Water
“Once again a land is being destroyed, the wild life, the cultural history, let’s stand against destruction.. there is no replacement”

Catherine Coleman Flowers
Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise

Diane Roche
Director of Office of Justice
The Stuart Center of the Society of the Sacred Heart
“Peace and the Integrity of Creation Keep fracking from destroying the clean air and water that all creatures need, including the Eagles and ourselves.”

Dr. M. Darrol
Professor Emeritus
Bryant Centre for Dialogue & Spirituality in the World Religions
“Please heed the Deer Clan Chief.”

Francis J. Breen
Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers
“New York does not need the Millennium Pipeline, as the State is now trying to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. The pipeline is a risky environmental endeavor.”

Rev. Ken Kitatani
Main Representative, CAO
Sukyo Mahikari UN NGO (special consultative status)

Laura Musikanski
Executive Director
Happiness Alliance
“Our lands are sacred. Our health, our happiness and our well-being depend upon our land.”

Beth Blissman
UN Rep
Loretto Earth Network
“Thanks for the opportunity to sign on and support this message, and blessings of winter solstice hope!”

Pamela Kraft
Executive Director
Tribal Link Foundation

Grove Harris
Main Representative to the United Nations
Temple of Understanding
“So much is at stake. Please hear and heed the words of Chief Clara Soaring Hawk.”

Rosemarie Pace
Pax Christi Metro New York
“PCMNY is a region of the Catholic Peace Movement that includes Orange County. One of our priorities is respect and care for creation, “Our Common Home,” as Pope Francis has named it. “Profit CANNOT be our priority.”

Kim Fraczek
Sane Energy Project
“We are deeply hurting that the decision-maker, Andrew Cuomo, continues to ignore justice, truth, clarity and strength to do what is universally right. It’s time for you to claim your leadership on your 2017 State of the State address about doubling down on investing against fossil fuels. Halting Millennium’s destruction is the first step. It’s time for you to Walk The Talk, Governor Cuomo.”

Scott Martens
Protect Orange County
“I stand beside my elders and for the sake of my children. Please stop this fracked gas powerplant”

David Nicol
Executive Director
Gaiafield Project
“Please protect the eagles!”

Kay Dundorf
National Ethical Service
“Divesting from fossil fuels is a first step. Now stop the destruction of the Millennium’s pipeline.