Category: News

Karenna Gore participates in interfaith climate event in Recife

Originally published in Portuguese

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are the relationships between environmental crisis and spirituality?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CEE’s Karenna Gore at Interfaith Ceremony for Climate at Kahal Zur Israel – Recife, Brazil

Karenna Gore, Director of Center for Earth Ethics, will join Catholic, Evangelical, Jewish, Afro-Brazilian and Indigenous Leaders to Host a Multi-Religious Event for Climate Protection at the Americas’ Oldest Synagogue, Kahal Zur Israel, in Recife, Brazil on Friday, November 8, at 2:30 pm, on Bom Jesus street, near Marco Zero, in the historic center of Recife.

The event will take place in the context of the Brazilian Climate Change Conference, to be held in Recife, November 6-8, preparatory for the COP 25 climate conference, which will now be held in Madrid, from 2nd  to the 13th of December.

“Faith in the Climate” will feature Rabbi Nilton Bonder, who graduated from NYC’s Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS); Father Fábio Santos, coordinator of the Commission for Ecumenism of the Catholic Church of Pernambuco; Pastor Paulo César Pereira, President of the Alliance of Baptist Churches; Mother Beth de Oxum, Afro-Brazilian; and a representative of the indigenous nation of the Xukuru. 

The interfaith ceremony will be followed by debate with its protagonists at the neighboring SinsPire cultural center on Arsenal Square at 4 pm.

For the event in the synagogue, due to limited seats, please RSVP with full name and institution to [email protected] and wait for confirmation. At SinsPire, the debate is open to the public.

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

For more information:  [email protected], [email protected]

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Simple Gifts for Mother Earth: A beautiful way to kick off Climate Week

On the eve of Climate Week we gathered in an historic meeting house church on the New Haven Green to center ourselves, align our intentions for the days ahead and to be reminded of why we gather at this time, and what’s at stake.

Invocation – Tiokasin Ghosthorse

What we are doing here is a good thing.  We must hold her in our arms… we drink her water which is the milk… we understand the Earth… we have understood for a long time… it has always been about the relationship with Her.  The rocks have a consciousness and intelligence, the fire has… the trees… the water… how do they live within us?  We are in this together .  This is who we are in a very practical and related way.  I want to invite Mother Earth here.  I’m here because She deserves to be first.

 

Inspired by the Universe’s Story

Mary Evelyn Tucker has been leading the call to education around climate conditions in the halls of our most hallowed institutions for decades. She directs the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale with her husband, John Grim.  She continues to call into focus the craftsmanship to articulate that which has never been before – across generational narratives and with a single aim – to appeal to our best selves and point them in the direction of healing and protecting our world.

Many cultures share a common theme in our origin stories that says we come from the stars.  Out of a super nova all the elements of our earth emerged and from that all life forms have actually been derived – the stars literally are our ancestors.  We reference Deep Time – the time of the cosmos – that has birthed life over billions of years.  It is ‘a story of magnificence’ but also a story that grounds us in a sense of our purpose because it raises the questions like all of the worlds religions do in their creation stories: Where have we come from ?  Why are we here? How do we belong?  And what is our work?

Mary Evelyn Tucker points us to Thomas Berry, and that he would say – ‘We have a Great Work.  We have work to be done at this particular moment in human history.’  A work to be done, a “Functional Cosmology”.  The story of magnificence of life that invokes in us a sense of awe and wonder, a trait of the monastic and contemplative life, and yet that we also have a responsibility for it.

And perhaps this is the same calling our youth are responding to – the youth of the sunrise movement at Yale and around the country.  A calling to protect that which we are in awe of from the Grand Canyon, to the flight of a honey bee, to complex opening of each and every flower.

The sense of awe and appreciation for nature is deeply rooted in our sense of faith in traditions around the world.  It is our job to appeal to our highest selves, to restore value to our sense of awe at the beauty in nature and the fundamental order of its construct as it is expressed through science and spirituality.

We are called to seize the moment to give our all… Simple Gifts for Mother Earth.  May our words and music tonight bring inspiration to the great work ahead.

***

Music as Meditation

The legendary Paul Winter offered us a few minutes, an interlude.  This window was an invitation to remember nature and the beauty in it, as well as the beauty it inspires in art and how art can inspire us to protect nature.  Mr. Winter performed the Song of the Wood Thrush.  It alternates the sound of flute, with the actual birdsong.  He explained each wood thrush has a four note song.  At the time he conceived the collaboration, the species was endangered.  He feared our children would never know the beauty of the song unless he made this recording.  His commitment led to the saving of some 515 acres of their woodland territory.

***

There is an order to things.  A sense of natural law that when one is abiding by it miracles seems to unfold.  We track this through patterns in nature.  We observe the Fibonacci sequence mathematically reoccurring throughout nature.  And there is an order to our societal needs as well.  We can measure this only by our joy, the alleviation of suffering and the relief of when agreed upon outer reality seems to match our inner reality.

What the Great Work teaches us through the lens of Earth Ethics, is that through a series of acknowledgements a certain kind of work gets done.  One that brings cohesion and aligns principles.  It can even lead us to consensus, at times without us even realizing it.

This series of acknowledgements includes acknowledgement of first nations presence, existence, and wisdom

acknowledgement of the miracle that is life in all its forms and its right to live without fear or threat

acknowledgement of the rights of future generations to public space, clean air and clean water

***

The Youth and the Community are Speaking

We heard from several members of the Yale and New Haven Communities of projects, meetings, advocacy groups and opportunities to be involved in the work of spreading awareness, raising funds, securing divestment and on it goes.

Adrian Huq is a high school senior at Metropolitan Business Academy in New Haven who is passionate about sustainability and climate activism. They have been working with Elm Energy Efficiency Project since last year to educate their school community on energy efficiency, and also serve on New Haven Climate Movement’s Youth Action Team.

Ms. Huq joyfully announced from the pulpit that the Board of Alders in New Haven unanimously declared a climate emergency the Tuesday night preceding our event.  They ordered the creation of a new Climate Emergency Mobilization Task Force charged with leading the push to end community-wide greenhouse gas emissions in a decade.

They unanimously recommended approval of an amended version of a climate emergency resolution that was drafted and proposed by Westville Alder Darryl Brackeen, Jr. and that has been supported for months by a youth-led coalition of environmental activists called the New Haven Climate Movement.

 

Doing the Work and Bringing it Home

CEE Director Karenna Gore spoke at length from the scholastic work of Earth Ethics on economics and the illusion of externalities, on data, the realities of environmental injustice, on the theology of “structural evil”, “the cultic commitment to greed”, and the simple clarifying point made by Oscar Wilde that ‘a cynic is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing’.  And with the evidence presented, we return to our purpose, to prepare to walk into the streets.

In closing … she offered…

“I want to invoke the words on the beautiful flyer for this event—“how can we mobilize action for the climate emergency?” As we have heard, on September 20th, there will be a climate strike led by Greta and other youth activists. I hope to see each of you out there in some way- and lets commit to getting a few more to join us – and let’s make sure that they are all registered to vote while we are at it. And let us also fund those communities who are fighting fossil fuel expansion projects in their own communities and stand with them however we can.

The challenge of climate justice is also a great gift. Mother Earth has given us the gift of the laws of nature and the ability to learn them from experience and align with them. It is our gift back to her to show we understand, to simply agree to behave as if we belong here.”

And out into the streets we go…

***

Full Transcript of “The Challenge of Climate Justice”, Karenna Gore

Simple Gifts for Mother Earth

It is an honor for me to be here with these powerful voices in this beautiful sanctuary- thank you Pastor Jocelyn for welcoming us here at the United Church on the Green. I want to say thank you to the other speakers—it was wonderful to hear from the New Haven community climate activists and just as Mary Evelyn spoke of “connecting the dots,” we at Center for Earth Ethics want to connect to what you are all doing. And also thanks especially to these phenomenal musicians what an honor and pleasure to be in the presence of such a great artist as you, to hear and absorb the meaning in your music. 

And to Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim, I cannot say enough thanks for your guidance and example. I entered this field through conversations with Mary Evelyn and John- and through working alongside them to understand that the bridge between scholarship and activism is important to build and maintain and also that there is a flowing river of– the cultures and stories and though forms that shape our behaviors, the very essence of our perception of this life we are in together. The Yale Forum on Relgion and Ecology is simply extraordinary, as a resource, a platform and an example.  I’m honored to be here with you all and grateful to you always.

The UN Climate Summit is upon us. Five years ago, we hosted a gathering called Religions for the Earth on the occasion of the 2014 Climate Summit called by then SG Ban ki Moon. On the day our conference opened, an essay was published in the journal Science, co-authored by an economist and a climate scientist, that expressed the need for religious leaders to come forward to help because all the decades of research and analysis and reports were not even making a dent. They wrote: “Over and above the institutional reforms and policy changes that are required, there is a need to reorient our attitude towards nature and thereby ourselves.” And so this work tonight- simple gifts to Mother Earth- is as practical as it is profound- and it is essential to facing this climate emergency.

Science and economics and data are important but they have not been enough. We know that one half of the global warming pollution in the atmosphere now has been put up there in the last 25 years, the time in which the harm has been most known. In that time we have also lost vast swaths of forests that serve as carbon sinks. Even with the increasing readiness and viability of clean renewable energy, about 80% of the world’s energy still now comes from fossil fuels. We see the impacts- the Bahamas is the latest field of devastation in the stronger storms, wildfires, droughts, floods that plague us.

We know the urgency to drastically reduce greenhouse gases. The IPCC gave us a window of twelve years that we entered over a year ago, to dramatically change our ways to cut global warming emissions in order to keep the warming of our planet to 1.5 degrees Celsius, which is 2.7 degrees F. These numbers might seem small but we know a degree can be the difference between ice an water- it can make all the difference to the web of life we live within. CO2 must fall nearly 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 and we must halt the release of methane (the primary component of what is known as “natural gas,”) which is up to 80 times more heat-trapping that CO2 over a 20 year period. 

And yet, the US is set to double down on carbon intensive energy. USA Today had an article Monday citing 277 fracked gas power plants planned for construction. This administration is rolling back regulations on methane emissions, and even the fuel efficiency standards of automobiles- against the wishes of major automakers. We know that the vast majority of known fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground, and yet there is a desire to explore and drill for more. Not just anywhere- in cherished public lands and even in deeply sacred places- including in the Arctic, the sacred land of the Gwich’in, the caribou calving grounds that they have revered and cherished and protected for millennia. An article in the Guardian on September 5 citing a recent study by Carbon Tracker reported that “Since the start of last year, fossil fuel companies have spent billions on high-cost plans to extract oil and gas from tar sands, deepwater fields and the Arctic despite the risks to the climate.” And we know they spend millions on lobbying and misinformation as part of that effort. 

What could possibly be held up as the justification for increasing our use of fossil fuels at this time? Economic growth. Economic Development. The most persuasive argument that is ever made on the other side is that we need more fossil fuel extraction and burning in order to alleviate global poverty. 

But we know that is not real. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Philip Alston, issued a detailed report last month warning of a coming era of “climate apartheid” and clearly stating, with facts to back it up: “Climate change threatens to undo the last 50 years of progress in development, global health, and poverty reduction . . . 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.” 

We must keep in mind something eco-theologian Cynthia Moe Lobeda has pointed out- building on the work of Larry Rasmussen and of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great theologian who was executed by the Nazis in his effort to resist them in his native Germany. The point is that there is a kind of sin or evil that is structural, and one of the key characteristics of “structural evil” is that it easily masquerades as good. This is all too true of the structural evil we are dealing with today- fossil fuel development masquerades as good. A central part of the challenge of climate justice to understand, to educate, to lift up the voices on the frontlines of fossil fuel projects who are speaking from their own life experience. To see through the mask- to take off the mask.

Some champions of the current system simply say there is money to be made. I read a profile in the Financial Times on Sept 2 of an oil trader who was lauded as the best connected and most successful in the business. It opened with an account of him on the phone hearing a firsthand witness tell of the crude oil spilling out during the Exxon Valdez disaster of 1989—11 million gallons onto the pristine Alaskan coast- and the story tells of him breaking out in a huge grin, calling his clients to tell them gleefully,  “the price is going up.” This was not even presented as a negative story, but rather as a portrait of a genius at work, a master of our current system, and it reflects the reality of a deeply cynical mindset that has taken hold.

Oscar Wilde wrote that a cynic is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. The current system is based on a widespread cynical misperception. It is premised on an insane alternate reality and is hell bent on devouring everything of real value . . our air, land, water, communities, life itself, all for the sake of numbers on a balance sheet. The current economic paradigm- including the measurements used to judge how the “economy” is doing (such as GDP or the stock market snapshots)- does not count depletion of resources, pollution or inequitable distribution of wealth, even the fostering of illnesses and disease. These are all considered, in the language of economics, “externalities.” Now as the pace and scale of production and consumption increases and demands more land and fuel, there are some clarion voices of reason who come from outside this system. Chief Raoni Metuktire of the Kayapó people of the Amazon had an op-ed in the Guardian on Sept. 2 in which he made the observation: What you are doing will change the whole world and will destroy our home- and it will destroy your home too.”

Our economic, energy and environmental policies not rational- they are fanatical. Only a kind of misguided religious fervor could drive this sort of thinking. Rev William Barber II has spoken of a “cultic commitment to greed.” Don’t ever think that those who study and talk about faith are naïve or soft- those are the people who are most likely to know what is is we are dealing with here. Even just the underlying assumption that human beings are separate and superior from the rest of all life, that we are meant to dominate and control all of nature . . . this thinking is neither rational nor it is actually secular, even though it is secularized. It is an extremist distortion and manipulation of a religious claim. 

And this brings us back to the challenge of climate justice. In thinking about issue, I like to remember a construct offered by Henrik Grape of the Church of Sweden- that any decision making room about energy or climate should designate three empty chairs for those who are both most impacts and least likely to be part of the consciousness of decision making: the poor and marginalized peoples of the world, future generations, and all nonhuman life.  But to respect the term climate justice as it is most used in the climate justice movement- and leaving aside a longer conversation about whether the term “justice” is rooted in Abrahamic religious traditions in a way that might influence us to conceive of this situation in a certain way— I want to focus on the first of those chairs.

The legal scholar Maxine Burkett wrote a major piece in the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review last year that argued that the climate crisis is “as much a socio-political phenomenon as a geophysical one.” She wrote: “In the United States, the field of climate justice has been concerned with the most vulnerable, as it explores the intersection of race, poverty, and climate change. Climate justice takes as a basic premise that the disadvantaged in the United States and the global South stand to suffer the risks of warming more severely than others” 

And of course, they are also the ones who have done the least to design, engage in or benefit from the system that is driving this destruction. We know that one face of climate justice is what we see in the Bahamas and before that in Puerto Rico and in Mozambique and countless other places. . .  we can see with our own eyes that the people who do not have monetary resources or ties to power are not able to flee or rebuild after this kind of devastation. A 2018 report by the World Bank estimated we will have 143 million migrants driven from their homes by climate impacts by the year 2050. One other rollback that this administration is proposing—as important to the notion of climate justice as the others- is to slash and even end the United States acceptance of refugees. The challenge of climate justice is in part to be sure that instead we welcome these migrants and also that we rebuild our own communities with resilience and equity at the forefront. 

But in addition to looking on the level of impact and effect, we must look on the level of cause. To understand our relationship with the sky, we must look at our relationship with the ground- and with each other.

This means to understand the history of white supremacy and colonization that led what led to what womanist theologian Kelly Brown Douglass calls a “theo-ideology” that runs through the Doctrine of Discovery, the concept of Manifest Destiny and into what Douglas terms “Stand-Your-Ground” culture today. It is a theo-ideology that excludes, exploits and objectifies based on an illusion of separation.

We must see that the same activity most responsible for the climate crisis—the burning of fossil fuels- gas, coal and oil—is also responsible for ambient pollution that is harmful to peoples health. Toxic sites are located in communities that have less political power and racism also plays a role- in this country, race is the number one indicator of the placement of a toxic facility. Af-Am children are 10X more likely to die of asthma than Euro-Am children. The World Health Organization estimates that roughly million people die every year globally as a result of air pollution. To challenge of climate justice is to stand with these communities and fight for right relationship on the ground. As Rev Leo Woodberry of Kingdom Living Temple Church in Florence SC recently pointed out, if we had respected all people’s right to live free of this kind of poison and “slow violence” assault, we would never have gotten where we are with this planetary emergency. 

The Center for Earth Ethics has partnered with the Poor Peoples Campaign: a national Call for Moral Revival, which was started out of Union Theological Seminary by Rev Dr Liz Theoharis and others at the Kairos Center to coincide with the 50th anniversary of MLK’s PPC—and they partnered with Rev William Barber II of North Carolina Moral Mondays movement. King spoke of three interlocking evils of racism, poverty and militarism. The have added ecological devastation as one of these interlocking evils and have a platform that includes a ban on fracking and a just transition to 100 % clean renewable energy. They are committed to leadership from the most impacted communities and so we have been part of forums with testimonials, music, prayer, and calls to action. 

And so my notion of climate justice is informed by having talked with communities in North Carolina and Alabama who have been dealing with diseases and death from the effects of living with coal ash, the toxic byproduct of coal-fired power plants, often just dumped in open pits and left to blow in the air and seep into the groundwater. I have also been to Union Hill Virginia where a historic African American community founded by people who had been enslaved on plantations right there, have been fighting a giant toxic fracked gas compressor station which would bring deafening noise and toxic emissions right to their peaceful rural home. And of course there was Standing Rock, where the Standing Rock Sioux made their prayer camp to oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline, which runs through their sacred ancestral land and threatens their aquifer. In that and so many of these cases, these projects were moved from more affluent, majority white communities after objections.

And when there are losses, when these projects get built anyway, as it happened with Standing Rock, as it seems to happen in so many heartbreaking developments lately, we must remember these other words of Dr. King: “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”

We are a part of something deep and powerful and we are rising together.

And actually, more and more . . . Activism works. Standing together and demanding change and demonstrating another way. We see it around the world- the power of the people in nonviolent movements. The Current Sec of OPEC recently said, at a meeting of oil producers in Vienna Austria— “There is a growing mass mobilization of world opinion… against oil” and this is “perhaps the greatest threat to our industry”. To which activists responded- including a tweet by Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg which linked to the account of his remarks and said:

“Thank you! Our biggest compliment yet!” https://www.afp.com/en/news/826/climate-campaigners-greatest-threat-oil-sector-opec-doc-1i79w11 …

In closing I want to invoke the words on the beautiful flyer for this event—“how can we mobilize action for the climate emergency?” As we have heard, on September 20th, there will be a climate strike led by Greta and other youth activists. I hope to see each of you out there in some way- and lets commit to getting a few more to join us – and let’s make sure that they are all registered to vote while we are at it. And let us also fund those communities who are fighting fossil fuel expansion projects in their own communities and stand with them however we can.

The challenge of climate justice is also a great gift. Mother Earth has given us the gift of the laws of nature and the ability to learn them from experience and align with them. It is our gift back to her to show we understand, to simply agree to behave as if we belong here. We have a deep universal spiritual truth to draw from—the essential one-ness of life, whether expressed by Thich Naht Han when he said “we are here to awaken to the illusion of our separateness or King when he wrote “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,  or in the beautiful Lakota saying “Mitakuye Oyason; All My Relations” or even in the more mystical moments of Images and Shadows of Divine Things written by Yale’s own Jonathan Edwards. We are not separate from each other. There is no such thing as an externality. Climate Justice is self care, it is awakening, it is a reorientation to nature and to the truth of who we are. Thank You 

Indigenous leaders mobilize in Paris to recognize the rights of “Mother Earth”

biodiversity

Invited by the Amazon Planet Association, Amazonian, Mexican, and Maasai spiritual leaders, people who have been protecting biodiversity for thousands of years, come together to convince world leaders and civil society to treat “Mother Earth” as a rights-bearing entity.

 

Our Earth has a fever, we are worried, we need to unify our energies to save life “.  In a wool vest, with beautiful deep thought and a dense voice, the leader Mindahi Bastida, Otomi Officer of the people of Mexico, powerfully explained, Wednesday, October 23 for mayor of the VI th district of Paris, the immense task which in the eyes indigenous peoples – 370 million people spread over more than 70 countries on five continents – must bring together the inhabitants of this planet ” with whom we travel in the cosmos “.

 

Which ones? Take all necessary measures to respect the sanctity of water, earth, fire and the life cycle. And break with anthropocentrism. ” If the territories of our peoples conceal 80% of the world’s biodiversity, added this doctor in rural development, it is because we have been working for thousands of years to preserve our sacred places.” At his side, the Amazon Ninawa Chief of the Huni Kui people (Brazil), wide headdress of long multicolored feathers, added: ” Can you live without breathing, without drinking? Without food? We are 100% dependent on Mother Nature to survive “. The energetic Maasai Magdalene Kaitei, in a green dress, completed: “In my country, Kenya, home to many wildlife and forests, the spirit of destruction deprives our pastoral farmers of the river water they need to survive . ”

 

These representatives of the “peoples-roots” were united in 2015 in Paris during the COP 21, in constitutive assembly – the alliance of the “Guardians of Mother Nature” – to weigh on the leaders of the world, the United Nations and the civil society, so that they treat “Mother Earth” as an entity with fundamental rights. And with this awareness, abandon the legal systems, inherited in their territories of the time of the colonies, who treat it only as a resource.

 

This Thursday afternoon, they will discuss their initiatives of reforestation, their battles to make their territories sanctuary. With the hope of provoking a sacred union around forests around the world. If their word moves so much their audiences, which many environmental activists of the ANV-COP 21, of Extinction Rebellion which recently occupied the place of the Châtelet and will proceed Friday to a new blocking to support them, it is because they emphasize how much the ecological crisis is also a spiritual crisis that forces us to reflect on the why of our presence on earth. ” Humans have come to take care of life, why have we forgotten the law of origin, how have we come to endanger life?“, calls Mindahi Bastida, for whom, if our institutions do not fulfill this mission, they must disappear.” Everything is transformed “.

 

>> The events take place at the 6th arrondissement of Paris, this Thursday, October 24 from 13:30 to 19 hours. And Sunday, October 27, at Espace Niemeyer, 2 place Colonel Fabien.

 

‘Peace With Not Just People, But Also Nature’

Originally Published by The New York Jewish Week

29 October 2019, 5:42 pm

“Most politicians see the Jordan River as a border,” Bromberg said “We see the river as a bridge.”

For environmentalist peacebuilders in the Middle East, solving the climate crisis & the conflict go hand in hand. An interfaith water ceremony here showcased their unique approach.

 

New York City — Experts have long argued that the only way to effectively address the climate crisis is via a concerted, intergovernmental approach. It’s the issue world leaders and policy makers were in New York City to discuss at the United Nations Climate Summit last month and during a series of breakout sessions spread out over the week.

Among the over 150 Climate Week (Sept. 23-29) events and panel discussions, one particular one stood out for its unique approach. Faith leaders and environmentalists from the Middle East and New York came together at the Union Theological Seminary in Harlem for an interfaith water ritual ceremony to honor the shared risks communities and ecosystems face due to climate disruption.

The event was a collaboration of Hudson Riverkeeper, an environmental group that advocates for the Hudson River and its tributaries, the Center For Earth Ethics at the seminary and EcoPeace Middle East, an environmentalist peacemaking NGO with Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian directors.

Under the towering stained glass windows of the James Memorial Chapel, Karenna Gore, director of the Center for Earth Ethics, spoke of the importance of inter-community work and honoring the spiritual aspects of our shared water sources, both the Hudson and Jordan rivers. “This is holy and sacred work, and this gathering is powerful,” she said before welcoming Chief Dwaine Perry of the Ramapough Lenape Nation to share his community’s connection to the Hudson and surrounding land, their ancestral territory.

“Through our lack of connection to the land and the water and our drive to take and build and exploit, we … have ripped so many literal and figurative holes in the world,” Jessica Roff, director of advocacy and engagement at Riverkeeper, said. “From drilling fracking wells across the country, to tunneling pipelines under rivers, to allowing poisons in people’s drinking water, to damming rivers, to blasting giant quarries and then storing toxic materials in them. We have a lot to repair.”

Jordanian Director of EcoPeace Middle East, Yana Abu Taleb, speaks at the interfaith event at the Union Theological Seminary in N.Y.C. during Climate Week. Miriam Groner/JW

Gidon Bromberg, who as the Israeli director of EcoPeace Middle East has made this work his mission over the last 30 years, said it’s no coincidence that the Jordan River is holy to all three Abrahamic faiths. “For Jews the river is a place of miracles, for Christianity it’s the place where Jesus was baptized and for Islam it’s the place where several of the companions of Mohammed are buried.”

Now both rivers are suffering from ecological collapse due to climate change and over-development.

Read the complete article at NY Jewish Week… 

Spiritual waters

Back uptown in the chapel, Bethany Yarrow (daughter of Peter Yarrow) shared a moving musical piece honoring the life-giving nature of water. Later, Rabbi Burton Visotzky, a professor at Jewish Theological Seminary, noted the importance of water in Jewish liturgy and read the prayer for rain Jews recite at the end of Sukkot: “May it be for blessing and not for a curse; may it be for life and not for death; may it be for abundance and not scarcity.”

The environmentalists and faith leaders huddled around a bowl in the center of the chapel and poured from chalices that held water from the Hudson and Jordan rivers.

“It’s a symbol of blessing and to remind ourselves that we are all one,” Gore said.

In typical New York fashion what had been a beautifully sunny day turned grey and windy as the group, a motley mix of environmental activists many who came seeking a spiritual addition to their packed itinerary of Climate Week events, proceeded out of the seminary, down Riverside Drive and west a few blocks to a pier extending onto the Hudson River.

Pouring the water into the Hudson below. Miriam Groner/JW

Steps away from our own wastewater treatment plant, with the New York City skyline on one side and the New Jersey skyline on the other — the Hudson River a border too — Bromberg and Chief Perry poured the water into the waters below. An act of transnational solidarity to honor the life in all our collective waterways.

“Most politicians see the Jordan River as a border,” Bromberg said “We see the river as a bridge.”

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 CBSNews.com.  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…

The Remarkable Life of the First Woman on the Harvard Faculty

Alice Hamilton, an expert on public health, foresaw the rise of fascism in Germany.

In late August 1919, 50-year-old Alice Hamilton was sitting onboard a steamship typing quickly on a borrowed Corona typewriter, oblivious to the approaching New York skyline as she finished her return trip from Europe. She wanted to record the searing images she had just seen during an extended tour behind former enemy lines with her friend Jane Addams. In town after town across Germany, she had encountered starvation and disease, in a country reeling from the peace as well as the war, thanks to a continued British blockade designed to force the Germans to accept the harsh terms of the Versailles Treaty. Germany had become, in her words, a “shipwreck of a nation.”

Hamilton knew that the report would not be welcome by most Americans, eager to put the war behind them. Her gender would make it that much easier to dismiss. But she was determined to call Americans to conscience.

Read on…

PBS News Hour Reports on UN Special Rapporteur for Extreme Poverty Visit

CEE’s Senior Fellow on Environmental Justice and Civic Engagement, Catherine Coleman Flowers, was among those interviewed by PBS for The Story of American Poverty.

More than 18 million Americans live in “extreme poverty,” according to a report from the United Nations, which ranked poverty in the U.S. alongside some of the poorest areas in the world. The UN Special Rapporteur for Extreme Poverty paid a visit to the U.S. last year, drawing worldwide attention to his findings. NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Simon Ostrovsky followed in his footsteps to report from Lowndes County, Alabama. This is part of an ongoing series of reports called “Chasing the Dream,” which reports on poverty and opportunity in America, and is supported in part by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Va NAACP, 28 Members of the General Assembly, CEE File Amicus Brief: Union Hill “deserves our protection and our respect”

See below for the amicus brief filed today with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. According to the brief:

“Amici curiae are 28 members of the Virginia General Assembly, the legislative body for the Commonwealth of Virginia and the longest continuous law-making body in the world; Virginia State Conference NAACP, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons; and the Center for Earth Ethics, a national civic organization working on environmental justice and civic engagement. Together the 28 members of the General Assembly represent over two million Virginians.”

General Assembly members signing on to the brief – all Democrats, not surprisingly – are: Delegate Dawn Adams (D-68th), Delegate Lashrecse Aird (D-63rd), Delegate Hala Alaya (D-51st), Delegate John Bell (D-87th), Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy (D-2nd), Delegate Lee Carter (D-50th), Delegate Kelly Convirs-Fowler (D-21st), Delegate Karrie Delaney (D-67th), Delegate Wendy Gooditis (D-10th), Delegate Elizabeth Guzman (D-31st), Delegate Patrick Hope (D-47th), Delegate Chris Hurst  (D-12th), Delegate Jay Jones (D-89th), Delegate Mark Keam (D-35th), Delegate Kaye Kory (D-38th), Delegate Paul Krizek (D-44th), Delegate Mark Levine  (D-45th), Delegate Alfonso Lopez (D-49th), Delegate Kenneth R. Plum (D-36th), Delegate Sam Rasoul (D-11th), Delegate Marcus Simon (D-53rd), Delegate Kathy Tran  (D-42nd), Delegate Cheryl Turpin (D-85th), Delegate Debra Rodman (D-73rd), Delegate Ibraheem Samirah (D-86th), Senator Jennifer Boysko (D-33rd), Senator Creigh Deeds (D-25th) and Senator Lionell Spruill (D-5th).

Here’s a key excerpt from the conclusion (bolding added by me for emphasis):

For the African-American community of Union Hill, the marker of belonging is both life and death: the place where the first generation of free people came to life, and where now their ancestors rest in the ground. Union Hill is a unique, living, breathing community where the American history of slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction resides both in the cemeteries of former slaves and the memory of their descendants. It deserves our protection and our respect. For the above reasons, amici respectfully ask the Court to vacate and remand the permit order for further consideration.

Full article and complete brief here…