Category: Musings

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.

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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).

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.

Karenna Gore Denounces “Terrible Burden” of Mountain Valley Pipeline

On the 49th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, Executive Director Karenna Gore penned a guest column, “The common wealth of water,” in the Virginia Mercury. Gore urged Virginia’s state government not to certify the planned Mountain Valley Pipeline, which would bring fracked gas from West Virginia to southern Virginia.

“Virginians who live along this pipeline route are experiencing a terrible burden. It is financial, but it also goes far beyond that,” she writes. “They are forced to watch as the government hands over their landscape to private interests who damage it, all for the sake of a project that does not benefit them and should not even exist.”

READ THE ENTIRE COLUMN HERE 

The Time for Action Is Now: A Reflection for World Food Day

Tomorrow is World Food Day.

World Food Day began in 1979 to raise global awareness on poverty and hunger. This year, it is being observed just a few weeks after the end of the United Nations Food Systems Summit, the culmination of 18 months spent gathering information from stakeholders around the world. The Summit aimed to raise awareness about our food systems and contextualize our current moment.

Our moment is troubling to say the least. Today, nearly 800 million people around the world wake up and go to bed hungry. That number is expected to dip somewhat as the world recovers slowly from Covid-19. But any number above zero is too high. As one portion of the world’s population is consumed by hunger, another is consumed by excess. The proliferation and marketing of ultra-processed foods has caused a spike of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. As human health declines, so does planetary health. Much is being done to address both.

Five Dialogues

In the lead up to the Summit, the Faith + Food Coalition hosted five dialogues with voices from faith-based groups, Indigenous communities, small farmers and food producers, and underrepresented communities. The dialogues demonstrated that our current situation doesn’t need to be this way. Solutions for our food systems problems are within reach; in fact, they’re already being implemented around the world. Agroecology practices and recovered traditional and Indigenous wisdom have helped transform local food systems, delivering nutritious and diverse foods.

The Coalition’s efforts attracted attention. After the dialogues, we were invited to present our findings to the WHO in June, during the UN’s Pre-Summit in July, and at a UN-sponsored “global dialogue” in September.

These two short videos from our dialogues highlight the struggle and the hope in front of us.

Interfaith Statement & Report

We recognized that not everyone would be able to watch all our dialogues, so the Coalition Steering Committee distilled the most salient insights and recommendations into two documents: the Faith + Food Interfaith Statement and a report.

First, our Interfaith Statement affirmed the universal right to healthy food, the importance of small producers, the irreplaceable role of women, Indigenous communities, and workers, and the interdependence of people and planet, among other conclusions. We are thrilled that nearly 100 organizations and individuals signed onto the statement in advance of the Summit. (You can read the full Interfaith Statement and view all the signatories here.)

The Coalition not only presented the statement to the Summit Secretariat and organizers but two Coalition members, Marium Husain and Steve Chiu, delivered a shortened version at the conclusion of the Summit’s morning session.

Faith + Food Coalition members Marium Husain, Joshua Basofin, Steve Chiu and Andrew Schwartz share their reflections on the UN Food Systems Summit.

Second, we produced a comprehensive report, Sustainable, Equitable, Resilient: An Ethical Approach to Global Food Systems, which provided a much deeper dive into the rich content of the five dialogues. We hope the recommendations and solutions captured in the report help in the great work of bringing about food systems transformation.

What’s Next

Our work didn’t stop with the Summit. On Monday, Oct. 18, I will moderate a breakout session, “Faith and Food: Cultivating Change Through Our Traditions” at the Parliament of the World Religion’s 2021 Meeting. Our Faith + Food Coalition partners will present the Interfaith Statement at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, which begins in Glasgow on November 1. We want to keep pressure on Member States to achieve true food systems transformation.

What can you do? You can view the dialogues and read our report to learn more about the remarkable strides that individuals, Indigenous groups, grassroots organizations and faith communities are taking to improve food quality, access and security. You can sign on to the Interfaith Statement for yourself or your organization. And you can sign up for our Faith + Food Engagement List so that we can keep each other informed and share opportunities to contribute.

The time for action is now.

 

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated to reflect the session at the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

19th Amendment to the Constitution – Women’s Suffrage 100 Years Ago

19th Amendment to the US Constitution — Women Suffrage approved by Congress 6/4/1919, ratified 8/18/1920, one hundred years ago today.

Compiled and shared by Rafael Jesús González, Earth Stanzas contributing poet and first Poet Laureate of Berkeley, CA.


When women’s suffrage was gained in the U. S. in 1920, my mother Carmen González Prieto was newly come to the U.S., not yet thirteen. She did not become a citizen of the United States until 1957 while I was serving with the Marine Corps in Kaneohe Bay, the territory of Hawai’i. Shorty after she died at the age of 86, while I was visiting my brothers in El Paso, I accompanied them to vote; everyone at the voting place asked where Mrs. Carmen González was; they had never known her to miss voting since she became a U. S. citizen. (She always voted Democrat.)
—  Rafael Jesús González
19th Amendment to the US Constitution —  Women Suffrageby Deborah Tutnauer
(2010)

This is the story of our Mothers and Grandmothers
who lived only 90 years ago.

Remember, it was not until 1920 that women were granted the right to go to the polls and vote.

The women were innocent and defenseless, but they were jailed nonetheless for picketing the White House, carrying signs asking for the vote.

And by the end of the night, they were barely alive. Forty prison guards wielding clubs and their warden’s blessing went on a rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted of ‘obstructing sidewalk traffic.’

They beat Lucy Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air.

They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack. Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women.

Thus unfolded the ‘Night of Terror’ on Nov. 15, 1917, when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson’s White House for the right to vote. For weeks, the women’s only water came from an open pail. Their food–all all of it colorless slop–was infested with worms.

When one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.

So, refresh my memory.. Some women won’t vote this year because – why, exactly? We have carpool duties? We have to get to work? Our vote doesn’t matter? It’s raining?

Last week, I went to a sparsely attended screening of HBO’s new movie ‘Iron Jawed Angels.’ It is a graphic depiction of the battle these women waged so that I could pull the curtain at the polling booth and have my say. I am ashamed to say I needed the reminder.

All these years later, voter registration is still my passion. But the actual act of voting had become less personal for me, more rote. Frankly, voting often felt more like an obligation than a privilege. Sometimes it was inconvenient.

My friend Wendy, who is my age and studied women’s history, saw the HBO movie, too. When she stopped by my desk to talk about it, she looked angry. She was–with herself. ‘One thought kept coming back to me as I watched that movie,’ she said. ‘What would those women think of the way I use, or don’t use, my right to vote? All of us take it for granted now, not just younger women, but those of us who did seek to learn.’ The right to vote, she said, had become valuable to her ‘all over again.’

HBO released the movie on video and DVD . I wish all history, social studies and government teachers would include the movie in their curriculum I want it shown on Bunco night, too, and anywhere else women gather. I realize this isn’t our usual idea of socializing, but we are not voting in the numbers that we should be, and I think a little shock therapy is in order.

It is jarring to watch Woodrow Wilson and his cronies try to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane so that she could be permanently institutionalized. And it is inspiring to watch the doctor refuse. Alice Paul was strong, he said, and brave. That didn’t make her crazy.

The doctor admonished the men: ‘Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.’

Please, if you are so inclined, pass this on to all the women you know. We need to get out and vote and use this right that was fought so hard for by these very courageous women. Whether you vote democratic, republican or independent party – remember to vote.

(Helena Hill Weed, Norwalk , Conn. Serving 3 day sentence in D.C. prison for carrying banner,
‘Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.’) 

History is being made.

Deborah Tutnauer (2010)

The Declaration of Sentiments
Seneca Falls, New York, 1848
(Source: U.S. Dept. of State)

The Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions was drafted by Elizabeth Cady Stanton for the women’s rights convention at Seneca Falls, New York in 1848. Based on the American Declaration of Independence, the Sentiments demanded equality with men before the law, in education and employment. Here, too, was the first pronouncement demanding that women be given the right to vote.
Sentiments

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one portion of the family of man to assume among the people of the earth a position different from that which they have hitherto occupied, but one to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes that impel them to such a course.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of those who suffer from it to refuse allegiance to it, and to insist upon the institution of a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and, accordingly, all experience has shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they were accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their duty to throw off such government and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of the women under this government, and such is now the necessity which constrains them to demand the equal station to which they are entitled.

The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise.

He has compelled her to submit to law in the formation of which she had no voice.

He has withheld from her rights which are given to the most ignorant and degraded men, both natives and foreigners.

Having deprived her of this first right as a citizen, the elective franchise, thereby leaving her without representation in the halls of legislation, he has oppressed her on all sides.

He has made her, if married, in the eye of the law, civilly dead. He has taken from her all right in property, even to the wages she earns.

He has made her morally, an irresponsible being, as she can commit many crimes with impunity, provided they be done in the presence of her husband. In the covenant of marriage, she is compelled to promise obedience to her husband, he becoming, to all intents and purposes, her master-the law giving him power to deprive her of her liberty and to administer chastisement.

He has so framed the laws of divorce, as to what shall be the proper causes and, in case of separation, to whom the guardianship of the children shall be given, as to be wholly regardless of the happiness of the women-the law, in all cases, going upon a false supposition of the supremacy of man and giving all power into his hands.

After depriving her of all rights as a married woman, if single and the owner of property, he has taxed her to support a government which recognizes her only when her property can be made profitable to it.

He has monopolized nearly all the profitable employments, and from those she is permitted to follow, she receives but a scanty remuneration. He closes against her all the avenues to wealth and distinction which he considers most honorable to himself. As a teacher of theology, medicine, or law, she is not known.

He has denied her the facilities for obtaining a thorough education, all colleges being closed against her.

He allows her in church, as well as state, but a subordinate position, claiming apostolic authority for her exclusion from the ministry, and, with some exceptions, from any public participation in the affairs of the church.

He has created a false public sentiment by giving to the world a different code of morals for men and women, by which moral delinquencies which exclude women from society are not only tolerated but deemed of little account in man.

He has usurped the prerogative of Jehovah himself, claiming it as his right to assign for her a sphere of action, when that belongs to her conscience and to her God.

He has endeavored, in every way that he could, to destroy her confidence in her own powers, to lessen her self-respect, and to make her willing to lead a dependent and abject life.

Now, in view of this entire disfranchisement of one-half the people of this country, their social and religious degradation, in view of the unjust laws above mentioned, and because women do feel themselves aggrieved, oppressed, and fraudulently deprived of their most sacred rights, we insist that they have immediate admission to all the rights and privileges which belong to them as citizens of the United States.

In entering upon the great work before us, we anticipate no small amount of misconception, misrepresentation, and ridicule; but we shall use every instrumentality within our power to effect our object. We shall employ agents, circulate tracts, petition the state and national legislatures, and endeavor to enlist the pulpit and the press in our behalf. We hope this Convention will be followed by a series of conventions embracing every part of the country.

Resolutions

Whereas, the great precept of nature is conceded to be that “man shall pursue his own true and substantial happiness.” Blackstone in his Commentaries remarks that this law of nature, being coeval with mankind and dictated by God himself, is, of course, superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries and at all times; no human laws are of any validity if contrary to this, and such of them as are valid derive all their force, and all their validity, and all their authority, mediately and immediately, from this original; therefore,

Resolved, That such laws as conflict, in any way, with the true and substantial happiness of woman, are contrary to the great precept of nature and of no validity, for this is superior in obligation to any other.

Resolved, that all laws which prevent woman from occupying such a station in society as her conscience shall dictate, or which place her in a position inferior to that of man, are contrary to the great precept of nature and therefore of no force or authority.

Resolved, that woman is man’s equal, was intended to be so by the Creator, and the highest good of the race demands that she should be recognized as such.

Resolved, that the women of this country ought to be enlightened in regard to the laws under which they live, that they may no longer publish their degradation by declaring themselves satisfied with their present position, nor their ignorance, by asserting that they have all the rights they want.

Resolved, that inasmuch as man, while claiming for himself intellectual superiority, does accord to woman moral superiority, it is preeminently his duty to encourage her to speak and teach, as she has an opportunity, in all religious assemblies.

Resolved, that the same amount of virtue, delicacy, and refinement of behavior that is required of woman in the social state also be required of man, and the same transgressions should be visited with equal severity on both man and woman.

Resolved, that the objection of indelicacy and impropriety, which is so often brought against woman when she addresses a public audience, comes with a very ill grace from those who encourage, by their attendance, her appearance on the stage, in the concert, or in feats of the circus.

Resolved, that woman has too long rested satisfied in the circumscribed limits which corrupt customs and a perverted application of the Scriptures have marked out for her, and that it is time she should move in the enlarged sphere which her great Creator has assigned her.

Resolved, that it is the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise.

Resolved, that the equality of human rights results necessarily from the fact of the identity of the race in capabilities and responsibilities.

Resolved, that the speedy success of our cause depends upon the zealous and untiring efforts of both men and women for the overthrow of the monopoly of the pulpit, and for the securing to woman an equal participation with men in the various trades, professions, and commerce.

Resolved, therefore, that, being invested by the Creator with the same capabilities and same consciousness of responsibility for their exercise, it is demonstrably the right and duty of woman, equally with man, to promote every righteous cause by every righteous means; and especially in regard to the great subjects of morals and religion, it is self-evidently her right to participate with her brother in teaching them, both in private and in public, by writing and by speaking, by any instrumentalities proper to be used, and in any assemblies proper to be held; and this being a self-evident truth growing out of the divinely implanted principles of human nature, any custom or authority adverse to it, whether modern or wearing the hoary sanction of antiquity, is to be regarded as a self-evident falsehood, and at war with mankind.

            Elizabeth Cady Stanton 1848

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

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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.

Parenting in the Time of Climate Change Part II: Geraldine Patrick at the BPL

Concerned About Parenting? Try Humbling Yourself And Paying Attention

Last month, about fifty parents gathered at Brooklyn Public Library thanks to a series that they put together with 350 Brooklyn called Climate Wednesdays

At the talk our moderator Tom Roderick asked people to share their feelings. Anger, anxiety, fear, incertitude, overwhelming thoughts, self-blame or guilt, unrest, despair… all were expressed, in words or in body language –even in weeping faces. We, the speakers who had been featured on the events page as ‘experts’ presented ourselves as non-experts, but as proactive parents trying to figure out how to stand in a world so fragile. 

What I had jotted down a few days before the talk had been this: children are essentially Wisdom bringers, Truth tellers, Keepers of the word and Messengers of original principles of life. Such is the impression I have of children, and I referred to those aspects indirectly, using some brief anecdotes. What might catch the eye is that I consider they are ‘keepers of the word’. Yes: when they are very small they quickly acquire a concept of what keeping the word means; and they hold high hopes when a sacred pact is set with their adult party for the first time. I’m talking of an agreement such as, if I do my chores on time, you’ll take me to play in the park, or, you’ll get me a teddy bear if I give my best at school. But when the adult breaks the pact –even if out of mere distraction or obliviousness— we may have lost the precious opportunity to raise a child that trusts the word –and world– of adults. If parents/tutors carry on disregarding or disrespecting what keeping the word means, socializing stages and emotional intelligence may be severely affected. It may then become very difficult for the child to advance some initiative within the family, the school or broader community spheres. Whatever we as adults do to repair that condition of mistrust, we must openly show that we believe in the words and intentions of our child, leaving room for them to come up with creative ideas and supporting them all the way. Urgency is such that we can only humble ourselves, recognize our mistake and offer to keep the word of commitment so to co-participate in creating harmonious and sustainable livelihoods. 

In this humbling process, we adults need to pay attention to many of our own actions, for, aren’t we trying to model a way of life that makes sense to our children and motivates them to stand up? So here go some introspective questions that I didn’t get to share with the parents that day, but that might help us to pay attention on a daily basis:

Are we living each day in gratefulness for who brought us to the world, starting with the first of mothers, Mother Earth?

Are we honoring each of the four elements of life on every occasion?

Are we giving life back to the plants and animals whose lives we take?

Are we showing what a responsible consumer cares for in all scales of time and space? 

Are we considering all externalities involved in what we produce or consume?

Are we growing at least some of our own food, however small or large it may be in proportion to our needs? Are we respecting seasonal cycles and preferring local produce so to reduce footprints?

Are we showing that we care for human communities of all sociocultural conditions that live within and are related to ecological communities under some current or future level of threat, and in so doing, are we listening to those we offer to support and work with? 

As we wake up every morning, let us go over these and similar questions, and also schedule time to continue sharing what it means to be parenting in these very sensitive times, when building endurance and resilience with wisdom and love is crucial. Thank you Amy Adelman and Tom Roderick for the opportunity to share with all parents and especially with Liat and Nikki.

 

Geraldine Ann Patrick Encina is an Original Caretakers Fellow for the Center for Earth Ethics and a Scholar in Residence at Union Theological Seminary.

Going Beyond GDP

Letting It In

Grief. It’s not that we need to stay there. It’s that we need to first let it in, consume us, before we can let it go and make room for what comes next. It’s true after a loved one dies, or the end of a relationship, and it’s true when we are grieving for our planet.

Holly Truhlar’s must-read article on how The Environmental Movement has Failed points to an issue any somatic practitioner knows – all trauma is stored in the body – whether you are aware of it or not. And it is through the vessel of the body that we can access both the trauma and the resources needed to move through and ultimately to release it. This is one of the key principles those not well versed in the nature of trauma will miss – with trauma there is no way out but through.  And through means feeling it.

It won’t be enough to bypass your emotions and stay afloat. At some point you will have to drown so you can be reborn. Now, saying this doesn’t not mean there is a predicated timeline. Grief takes as long as it takes. But the more we are willing to spend time in the quiet, to be with our thoughts, be with and listen carefully to the voice underlying our emotions, then we can get on with the wailing that needs to happen… in the silence of the forest that is dying, face planted in the soil, listening to our bodies and to the body of the Earth. Those who can surrender enough to the grief to let it move through them from the depths of their being can then become the hand that holds, the arms that cradle, the next one ready to surrender.

The only timeline is this… Mother Nature is waiting on us. The longer we hold out, the more species die. The longer we wait, the more our world becomes the dystopia of Total Recall with humans living in oxygenated domes or Avatar’s vision of humanity looking for a new home planet because we ‘already killed our Mother’. As long as we are insisting nothing is wrong – or maybe knowing something is so very wrong it feels impossible to face head on – we are not just delaying the inevitable, we are actually choosing to let the entire planet’s ecosystem collapse while we close our eyes, put our fingers in our ears and sing “Mary had a Little Lamb” at the top of our lungs. This is a choice.

It is not just ignorance anymore, it is willful ignorance.

And it’s not because the news media is talking about it more, it’s that you know the weather – and the climate – has changed.

You have already experienced or are presently experiencing storms, fires, floods, unseasonable weather at any rate. You are maybe hearing less bird songs or seeing fewer flowers and fewer bees. Your grandchildren are talking to you about it and even walking out of school to get your attention.  And if you are poor, well, you know it’s coming even if it hasn’t already arrived on your geographical doorstep. You know because you are vulnerable and that vulnerability means if anything should happen…

This is Climate Apartheid.

If you have money, you own your house, rooms for your family, maybe even a nice yard or land, you might be outwardly denying anything is going on.  However more than likely, just in case, you are preparing –  making sure your windows are energy efficient, replacing the roof, keeping a store room of bottled water and food stuffs. You know how to access your funds should you need them. It is likely that you have insurance and if you lose your home in a flood or fire you can afford to acquire new accommodation elsewhere while your insurance company pays to rebuild your old house where it stood. It might be uncomfortable, and certainly a bit of a hassle but you won’t actually be hurting. You won’t be in a shelter having lost all your belongings with no way to replace them, or be sleeping a family of four on a floor in your friend’s living room.

This is the difference in perspective when we talk about Environmental Justice, why we say the poor and disenfranchised are hardest hit.  This is why the poor, and therefore often bodies of culture, are labeled those on the front lines of climate change.

Those who are most vulnerable may not survive.  Whether we are talking about Pacific Islanders preparing for migration as the rising tides slowly engulf their home of generations, whether we are talking about Cancer Alley in the South and mortality rates among those living in and among raw sewage and hookworm, or those who have no clean water from Alabama to Michigan… India or South Africa.  This is what we understand when hearing the testimony of a 14 year old Sioux girl begging for our intervention so her tribe does not meet it’s final end by pipeline.  She’s consumed by the absolute terror that her entire nation will be wiped out by a pipeline spill destroying their water source.  And the horror that no one seems to care about it.

This is the grief we must face.

Facing the reality that in the United States, still calling itself the wealthiest country in the world, families & children have gone without clean water in Flint, MI since 2014 and that the federal government has not allocated the funds, created the jobs and hired the necessary people to fix it in five years.  This, too, is the reality of our paralysis.  Our inability to respond in the face of these crises.  Even when people need jobs.  Even when our neighbor’s lives are at stake.  Even when we have more money than any other country in the world.

The Uninhabitable Earth, by David Wallace-Wells has shaken some readers into action.  As Mark O’Connell writes in his review for The Guardian:  “Because as dire as the projections are, if you are surveying the topic from a privileged western vantage, it’s easy to overlook how bad things have already got, to accept the hurricanes and the heatstroke deaths as simply the unfortunate nature of things. In this way, Wallace-Wells raises the disquieting spectre of future normalisation – the prospect that we might raise, incrementally but inexorably, our baseline of acceptable human suffering. (This phenomenon is not without precedent. See, for example, the whole of human history.)”

And it seems this is not the future after all – we, in fact, are already there.  A society allowing children to die quickly in gunfire at school and slowly in detention centers or by poison in the water.

Holly Truhlar attempts to bring it home:

Essentially, the environmental movement failed because it’s not big enough. It lacks both width and depth. It’s based on an old paradigm, existing within a system which separates us from each other and the wild. Rather than being born from our hearts and soul, and connected to the anima mundi—the Soul of the world—the environmental movement was conceived through the colonized mind. This limited mindset breeds hierarchy, supremacy, and solutions of force. Within this space, we continue to oppress and abuse because it’s what happened, is happening, to us and we aren’t capable, resourced enough, to radically take it on and transform it.

So here we are.  Attempting to fall back in love with the earth so that we might protect it.  Here we are in a feedback loop of grief so deep we can barely perceive it.  Here we are with deep needs and with few therapists, counselors or spiritual leadership equipped to take on the transformation required in our personal journey out of the apocalypse.  If you made it this far in this post, then there’s a chance.

Let us begin letting it in.

Dancing the EarthDream: The Pedagogy of Nature Connection

Somatic Resiliency:  The Work that Reconnects & Turning Towards Grief

Moving on Center (MoC)

VICE: Women Prisoners Heal Trauma with Dance

What Would Dr. King Think of Our Progress?

Frigid. I cannot remember a King’s Day celebration that wasn’t. Born on January 15th, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was remembered today in many places throughout the country on what would have been his 90th birthday. Here today, Chief Dwayne Perry and I were in Newark, New Jersey, participating in the demonstration with the Peoples Organization for Progress. The march slowly began in front of the MLK monument.

As we drove around searching for the location, we reminisced about our younger years, trying to find work, direction and purpose. What would we have done at Dr. King’s young age? How did he manage?  It’s interesting to know that Chief and I traveled in the same parts of New York City at different times, Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn and the Bronx, areas that were dangerous; drugs were brought in to the old neighborhoods, the steady climb toward mass incarceration began. The dreams of the Civil Rights era shattered by Urban renewal, which at first seemed like a good thing only to find that it really meant urban removal of Black homes and businesses. The drive showed us the changes made in the city; large empty lots, huge sections of new builds. The communities are impacted with gentrification. Again, at first it seemed like a good thing, but then, it wasn’t.  Our communities are co-opted, our businesses cannot pay the high rents, our homes are being taken over by developers. It’s as if the clock had stopped. Dr. King had preached that we each needed to become leaders. In our own way, we and those we gathered with took that to heart, to continue the struggle.

What would Dr. King think of our progress? Our society does a kind of slow dance with its people of color, one step forward, two steps back. We had a Black president for eight years, and now the progress we made is being systematically rolled back. Dr. King would want to know that we are still positioning ourselves in justice work, that we are still mobilizing, we are still working for income equality. In his speech on economics and reparations, he outlined how our government subsidized the white peasants from Europe with land, with colleges to educate them on how to farm the land, and with tools and supplies to use to produce their farms and machinery to work the land. This same government had refused to provide any land for former enslaved people. Those same immigrants are now receiving millions in subsidies not to farm and with their privilege, telling Black people to pull themselves up by their boot straps. King’s tone and stance had changed over time, as he came to see that conditions for Blacks and poor folks remained the same. Martin was angry as he advocated for a radical redistribution of wealth.  He challenged us to march on Washington and demand to get paid. Today, we are only just approaching a living wage as laws are past for $15.00 an hour.

Our income disparity has grown with new tax breaks for the rich, while the lower classes are forced to pay for defense, infrastructure, and perhaps a new border wall. Corporations pay wages below the poverty line and those who are incarcerated are paid dollars a day to manufacture goods. Even more egregious, is using untrained inmates to fight fires and handle other natural disasters, their humanity seen as expendable, their lives as throw-a-ways. What can we do to help them, what can we do for the children held by the thousands in detention centers at the southern borders, or the families marred by gun violence, those in government working without a pay check, to say nothing of our endless wars?

What would Dr. King make of our current dilemma? Our march focused on the deaths of so very many of our youth at the hands of police. This is surreal in Newark, New Jersey, today. The litany of names read echoed into the cold. We know that those who protest these acts are demonized in the media, but we are in solidarity with them. Voices of intolerance have gotten louder and bolder, evoking concern and fear. And still, we pressed on. We sang songs of the movement, teaching a new generation to carry on the tradition.  The senior organizers were passing the baton to the younger college students.

Chief Perry reminded the crowd gathered to use their right to vote, and their advocacy to encourage others to do the same. We have to combat voter suppression nationwide. There are those who claim that voting is happening illegally, taking away from the fact of their suppression of this precious right, so many have died defending. He is heartened by so many women in Congress, he feels the tide is turning in a new and better direction. I am reminded that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice”. The calendar has turned, we are fifty years later than when Dr. King was with us, and the struggle continues. On his birthday and every day, it does not matter how cold it is, Dr. King continues to walk with us, as a revered ancestor, whose constant and abiding love holds us in faith. His voice echoes on, teaching and inspiring us, giving us hope as we continue to work for justice and our Beloved Community.

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For more on the continuation of Dr. King’s work:

www.poorpeoplescampaign.org

www.leadtolife.org

thekingcenter.org