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CEE Fall Update

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Join us TONIGHT! October 26th from 6:00 – 8:00 pm ET, for a screening of The Ants and The Grasshopper. This new film, directed by Raj Patel, follows Anita Chitaya as she battles hunger, sexism and climate change in her home in Malawi, through the heartland of the US midwest, to communities of people of color in Detroit, to the White House. Despite a language barrier, she’s able to reach patriarchs, climate skeptics, and deniers of equality through her fluency with the Bible.

Before the film screening, there will be a welcome by the film’s co-director, Raj Patel. Immediately following the screening there will be a panel discussion moderated by the Very Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas, dean of the Episcopal Divinity School at Union. The panel will feature the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, director of the Kairos Center, Karenna Gore, executive director of the Center for Earth Ethics, and Francine Johnson of the Mississippi Poor People’s Campaign and Mileston Cooperative.

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More Upcoming Events…

On Friday, October 29, at 12:15 p.m. British Summer Time (7:15 a.m. in New York), Karenna Gore, executive director of the Center for Earth Ethics, will deliver the opening address at “Uniting the World to Tackle Climate Change: Perspectives from Religion and Politics,” an international conference hosted by the Centre for the Study of Religion and Politics at Scotland’s University of St. Andrews.  REGISTER


 

Postcolonial Poetics: Aliou Niang on the Human-Nature Relationship Friday, November 5, 2021 | 12 pm ET

Join Aliou Niang, associate professor of New Testament at Union Theological Seminary, for a talk on the human-nature relationship.

Columbia University Professor of French and of Philosophy Souleymane Diagne, who also directs the Institute of African Studies at Columbia, will offer a response to Niang’s presentation. Rev. Petra Thombs, executive director of the Ramapough Lenape Nation Community Center in Mahwah, N.J., will provide a reflection.

This event is co-sponsored by the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary and the Institute for African Studies at Columbia University.

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Gore to Deliver Opening Address at International Scholars Climate Conference on October 29

“Uniting the World to Tackle Climate Change: Perspectives from Religion and Politics”
Friday, October 29, 2021 – Online
7:15 a.m. New York | 12:15 p.m. Scotland | 1:15 p.m. Paris

On Friday, October 29, at 12:15 p.m. British Summer Time (7:15 a.m. in New York), Karenna Gore, executive director of the Center for Earth Ethics, will deliver the opening address at “Uniting the World to Tackle Climate Change: Perspectives from Religion and Politics,” an international conference hosted by the Centre for the Study of Religion and Politics at Scotland’s University of St. Andrews.

The three-day virtual conference will address the theme of the United Nations Climate Conference, or COP26, which begins on November 1, in relation to religion and politics. Scholars from Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas are scheduled to participate. The COP26 CSRP Scholars Conference is being hosted in conjunction with Scholars at the Peripheries (a group of scholars from the Global South) and Laudato Si’ International (a group that has been working to understand and deliver the message of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ on the care of the planet as the common home).

Aliou Niang to Discuss Postcolonial Biblical Criticism on November 5

Postcolonial Poetics: Aliou Niang on the Human-Nature Relationship
Friday, November 5, 2021 – Online
9 a.m. Los Angeles | 12 p.m. New York | 4 p.m. Dakar | 6 p.m. Paris

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How can we understand the Bible and other faith teachings in the context of today’s ecological crisis? How can we restore traditional practices that once directed a mutual relationship among God, humans and nature?

These are among the questions raised by Aliou Niang, associate professor of New Testament at Union Theological Seminary, in “A Poetics of Postcolonial Biblical Criticism: God, Human-Nature Relationship, and Negritude” (2019). Niang will discuss these and other issues raised in his book in a webinar on Friday, November 5, at noon Eastern Time.

Left to right: Aliou Niang, Souleymane Diagne, Petra Thombs

A native of Senegal and member of the region’s Diola people, Niang describes his book as “a humble reading of Scripture in conversation with Diola faith traditions.” He integrates the work of Léopold Sédar Senghor, the architect of the concept of Négritude, and other postcolonial theorists to “reposition the colonized” and learn from “people who have been negotiating life with nature since time immemorial and were aware of climate change since its onset.”

At the discussion, Columbia University Professor of French and of Philosophy Souleymane Diagne, who also directs the Institute of African Studies at Columbia, will offer a response to Niang’s presentation. Rev. Petra Thombs, executive director of the Ramapough Lenape Nation Community Center in Mahwah, N.J., will provide a reflection.

“Postcolonial Poetics: Aliou Niang on the Human-Nature Relationship” is co-sponsored by the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary and the Institute for African Studies at Columbia University.

This webinar is free, but registration is required.

REGISTER TODAY 

 

PARTICIPANT BIOGRAPHIES

Aliou Cisse Niang is associate professor of New Testament at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Before joining Union, he served as assistant and associate professor of New Testament at Memphis Theological Seminary in Tennessee, where he was named The Rev. Dr. James L. Netters Associate Professor of New Testament and received The Paul R. Brown Distinguished Teaching Award. His previous books include “Faith and Freedom in Galatia and Senegal” (2009) and “Text, Image and Christians in the Graeco-Roman World: A Festschrift in Honor of David Lee Balch” (2012), which he co-edited with Carolyn Osiek.

Souleymane Bachir Diagne is professor of French and of philosophy at Columbia University, where he also directs the Institute for African Studies. Before joining Columbia, he taught philosophy for many years at Cheikh Anta Diop University, Dakar (Senegal) and at Northwestern University. He is the author of “African Art as Philosophy: Senghor, Bergson, and the Idea of Negritude” (2011), “Bergson postcolonial. L’élan vital dans la pensée de Senghor et de Mohamed Iqbal” (2011), “The Ink of the Scholars: Reflections on Philosophy in Africa” (2016), and “Open to Reason: Muslim Philosophers in Conversation with Western Tradition” (2018).

Petra Thombs is the executive director of the Ramapough Lenape Community Center in Mahwah, N.J., operated by the Ramapough Mountain Indians. She is in preliminary fellowship with the Unitarian Universalist Association, and was ordained in 2021. A graduate from Union Theological Seminary with a Masters of Divinity and a major in church history, she focuses on the Doctrine of Discovery as it has fostered racism and extreme marginalization for Indigenous communities globally.

Interfaith Reflection Read at UN Food Systems Summit

Interfaith Reflection

United Nations Food Systems Summit
Thursday, September 23, 2021
New York

Our story of food is one of sacred joy. Values of interdependence, sharing, dignity and empathy are enshrined in all traditions’ understanding of food as a universal human right. 

Food serves as a sacred reminder of the holy and the righteous. It tells a story of fellowship and is an invitation into the presence of the Divine and the wider world.

Food should be a channel of peace, not a weapon of war used to cause hunger and poverty; We cannot sustain a global food system that exploits biodiversity and well-being in the name of short-term profit. 

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is a clarion call for the need to transform. 

We call upon Heads of States and Governments, civil society, faith communities, and businesses to:  

1. Invest in solutions informed by indigenous wisdom, smallholder farmers, women and youth, targeted at building food systems’ resilience including  agroecology without acquiescing to corporate capture of critical infrastructure.

2. Subsidize nutritious, diverse plant- centered growing practices and increase smallholder presence within global markets from farmers, pastoralists, and blue foods.

3. Guarantee food security through sustainability, nutrition, and equity — innovating with a moral compass 

4. Provide policy, innovation, educational, and business opportunities for the underrepresented food system actors and ensure their voices are involved at the highest levels of decision making.

5. Restore degraded lands and protect ecosystems.

6. Promote and support breastfeeding — the first food system

7. Regulate the marketing of food and beverages to children, preventing ultra-processed foods from being sold as healthy substitutes for real, nutritious food.

Ours is a challenge of ethical and spiritual conviction. The most recent IPCC report is alarmingly clear. If we do not reorient our worldviews, our future is bleak. 

As people of faith, we are committed to the equitable transformation of our food systems to prioritize people and planet over profit. Let us come together as a world community to face this challenge as one human family.

Thank you

– – – – – – – –

Editor’s Note: This statement was read during the “People’s Plenary” session of the United Nations Food Systems Summit on Thursday, September 23, 2021. Dr. Marium Husain and Steve Chiu, members of the Faith + Food Coalition Steering Committee, read the reflection, which was condensed from the Coalition’s Interfaith Statement, signed by 60 organizations and individuals at time of the Summit.

 

Sustainable, Equitable, Resilient: An Ethical Approach to Global Food Systems

More than 800 million people worldwide could go hungry by 2030. At the same time, agriculture accounts for a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions and agricultural practices damage global biodiversity. We cannot solve climate and biodiversity crises without solving the crisis in global food systems.

The United Nations Food Systems Summit, which will take place this Thursday, September 23, 2021, is an unprecedented opportunity to think critically and develop solutions for current food system dilemmas. As part of its contributions to the Summit, the Food + Faith Coalition has issued a report, “Sustainable, Equitable, Resilient: An Ethical Approach to Global Food Systems.”

“Sustainable, Equitable, Resilient” reframes conventional narratives about our relationship to food and ways to transform food systems. It affirms a universal right to healthy food, addresses the most immediate challenges facing current food systems—reducing meat consumption, halting agricultural deforestation, increasing access to and reducing the costs of nutritious food—and advocates for sustainable, equitable, and resilient agricultural practices.

“Food sovereignty and the right to food are not just slogans,” says Karenna Gore, executive director of the Center for Earth Ethics. “They are real principles upon which lives and whole cultures depend. This report wisely prioritizes values in global discussions about food.”

“Sustainable, Equitable, Resilient” recognizes the imperative for sustainable agriculture, respect for Indigenous knowledge and local traditions, and the value of reinvigorating local food systems. It advocates bold, decisive action to align global production and consumption within sustainable, regenerative limits, centered in equity and care for the most vulnerable. It emphasizes not only access to healthy and nutritious food but also empowering women and girls, confronting systemic racism and inequality, and supporting localization and smallholders.

“This report identifies the kinds of meaningful change that is needed from the local to the global,” says its principal author, Andrew Schwartz, CEE’s director of sustainability and global affairs. “It synthesizes the repercussions being felt around the world due to our over-consumptive, inequitable and unsustainable food system.”

The report deepens and expands the Interfaith Statement on food systems that the Coalition issued last week. Like the Interfaith Statement, the report builds upon five dialogues held in May and June that examined food systems through the lens of faith and ethics. These dialogues, part of the UN process to engage civil society in the Summit, brought together more than 40 faith leaders, activists, Indigenous advocates, farmers, workers, and policymakers to share insights and develop recommendations. Another 1,500 people took part in the dialogues online.

In addition to Schwartz, the other members of the Faith + Food Coalition Steering Committee—Chris Elisara (World Evangelical Alliance), Gopal Patel (Bhumi Global), Joshua Basofin (Parliament of the World’s Religions), Kelly Moltzen (Interfaith Public Health Network), Marium Husain (Islamic Medical Association of North America) and Steve Chiu (Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation)— contributed to report.

The Faith + Food Coalition is an alliance of seven organizations—Bhumi Global, Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, the Center for Earth Ethics, the Islamic Medical Association of North America, Interfaith Public Health Network, Parliament of the World’s Religions, and the World Evangelical Alliance—that formed to contribute to the UN Food Systems Summit.

Learn More & Register for the UN Food Systems Summit

Faith + Food Coalition Interfaith Statement for the United Nations Food Systems Summit

Editor’s Note: The Faith + Food Coalition, of which the Center for Earth Ethics is a member, issued the following Interfaith Statement in advance of the United Nations Food Systems Summit, which will be held on September 23 during the General Assembly in New York. 

Click here if you would like to add your name to the list of signatories.

_________________

Faith + Food Coalition Interfaith Statement on the Occasion of the United Nations Food Systems Summit

Friday, September 17, 2021

Our story of food is one of sacred joy. Interconnectivity. Dignity. Empathy. These values are enshrined in faith, non-faith, spiritual, and Indigenous traditions’ understanding of food. To eat food, especially healthy, nutritious food, is to experience our interdependence with nature, fully embracing the land we live on and those who have nurtured the food that is provided for us to eat.

Food is both a building block of life and a basic human right. Sharing food is an expression of our love, a way we care for each other, exchange culture and history, and remind ourselves that we are a part of the wider world.

Globalization of recent decades has decreased poverty, strengthened women’s rights, and increased food production for a growing global population. Over the same time, however, we have replaced the timeless wisdom of how to nourish the land with extractive industrial models that privilege profit and convenience at the cost of workers, the lands, and the waters. We have ceded this most basic aspect of the human experience to the sphere of private profit, resulting in food “products” that are detrimental to the health of consumers and ecosystems. The emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has erased many of the gains made from globalization—especially for women, children, and other vulnerable populations—is but one of the many outcomes of this exchange.

An unsustainable dependency on industrial agriculture pillages the very earth on which we live, emblematic of unregulated economic greed, and an unchecked desire for an endless more. We have become disconnected from our world and our bodies, entertaining illusions of progress while ignoring the suffering of billions. Progress is measured by market indices and GDP, rather than collective prosperity. The urgency of the climate crisis demands that we no longer let the pursuit of profits define what is best.

The once balanced relationship between humans, animals and plants has become corrupted into an exploitative, and abusive relationship. Nowhere is this more manifest than in the case of industrial animal agriculture. From the Confined Animal Feeding Operations fueling the vast majority of animal product production in the Global North, to the industrialized cattle and dairy industry deforesting mass swathes of rainforest in the Global South, scenarios of irresponsible animal agriculture bring untold environmental destruction and inflicts inexcusable suffering onto animals. Our faith values remind us that eating is sacred; it connects the land and our bodies. We must align our actions to these values so that we consider the impact the production of our food makes, commit to consume responsibly, and incorporate more plant-based and locally cultivated foods into our diets.

In this Decade of Action, maintaining the status quo is no longer sufficient to meet the needs of humanity. The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report has made it more clear than ever that in order for future generations to flourish, we must reorient our relationship to the Earth and its ecological boundaries.

As the United Nations prepares to convene the 2021 Food Systems Summit, we the undersigned call people of faith, spirituality, and goodwill to make a commitment to uphold the following principles as we work towards building forward a more equitable food system for all life:

  1. Interdependence. Human health is linked to the health of the Earth. We affirm the adoption of the One Health model to create nutritious and climate-resilient food systems.
  2. Truth. Science and faith are not at odds. They inform, enrich, complement, and challenge each other in the pursuit of truth.
  3. Reverence. Our traditions teach us that the Earth and the food it provides is sacred and serves to nourish our minds and bodies. We must reconnect our rituals with an ethical and ecologically sound food system with minimal food waste.
  4. Respect. We must respect and protect the wisdom of Indigenous traditions on sustainable ecosystems, healthy food systems, and safeguarding biodiversity.
  5. Compassion. We must ensure that marginalized communities and workers at risk of being left behind are centered and uplifted as part of a just recovery and sustainability initiatives
  6. Solidarity. We only have one common planetary home, and all life is dependent upon it. We should set aside our differences to work together as one human family for the common good
  7. Empowerment. Resilience lies within ourselves.

We call upon Heads of State and Governments at the Food Systems Summit to implement bold and decisive actions to align their countries’ production and consumption to sustainable, regenerative outcomes, centered in equity and care for the most vulnerable by:

  1. Committing to the equitable transformation of food systems that centers indigenous and smallholder farmers at the heart of our development
  2. Investing in innovative, evidence-based solutions from Indigenous and faith communities and the organizations that support them, targeted at building the food systems’ resilience without acquiescing to corporate capture of critical infrastructure.
  3. Providing policy, innovation, educational, and business opportunities for underrepresented food system actors, uplifting traditional agriculture in research methodology.
  4. Building critical alliances among farmers, businesses, NGOs, governments, Indigenous communities, and faith groups.
  5. Restoring degraded land and protecting ecosystems while connecting farmers to fair and equitable markets to produce better health, social, economic, and ecological outcomes.
  6. Incentivizing and subsidizing healthy, climate resilient, nutritious, local plant based foods growing practices to allow competitiveness with global markets at the local level.
  7. Re-aligning tax systems to drive immediate changes, such as taxing foods that lead to undesirable health outcomes, as well as taxing excessive plastic packaging, particularly the single use plastics that are embedded into industrial food delivery systems
  8. Regulating the marketing of food and beverages to children, preventing non-nutritious, chemically dominated foods from being sold as healthy substitutes to real food.
  9. Protecting, supporting and promoting breastfeeding, which is the first food system that provides the ideal first food to the most vulnerable human beings.
  10. Promoting and encouraging the local generation of knowledge to address food security, empowering farmers and youth, as the agents of change to play an active role in creating solutions that address the context and reality of local needs.
  11. Guaranteeing food security through sustainability, nutrition, and equity rather than chasing untested biotechnologies and GMOs to augment food systems, innovating with a moral compass.

We are committed to the United Nations’ vision of transformed, sustainable food systems and the UN’s aspirations to create a more equitable, livable future for all. You may look to us as continued partners of good faith as we all endeavor to build a brighter tomorrow.

Gratefully,

Drafting Team
Andrew Schwartz, Center for Earth Ethics
Chris Elisara, World Evangelical Alliance
Gopal Patel, Bhumi Global
Joshua Basofin, Parliament of the World’s Religions
Kelly Moltzen, Interfaith Public Health Network
Marium Husain, Islamic Medical Association of North America
Steve Chiu, Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation

Signatories
50by40
Abibinsroma Foundation
American Indian Law Alliance
Bhumi Global
Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation
Center for Earth Ethics, Union Theological Seminary
College of Islamic Studies, Hamad Bin Khalifa University
Creation Justice Ministries
Critica
Franciscan Action Network
Global One 2015
Golden Leaf Community Development Center, Inc.
Hazon
HolisticMom, MD
Interfaith Public Health Network
Islamic Medical Association of North America
Lyla June Johnston
NGO Committee on Spirituality, Values and Global Concerns – NY
Parliament of the World’s Religions
Sacred Lands Coalition
Sustainability Department, The Sisters of St. Joseph
Temple of Understanding
Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue, Iona College
Unitarian Universalist Association
University of Colombo
University of Jordan
Women Advancing Nutrition Dietetics and Agriculture (WANDA)
Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology (FORE)

 

The Drafting Team extends thanks to our readers and editors: Becky O’Brien, Daniel Perell, Grove Harris, Lina Mahy, Meera Baindur, and Nate DeGroot.

Faith + Food Coalition to Issue Interfaith Statement before UN Food Summit

“Food is both a building block of life and a basic human right.”

This fundamental truth underpins the “Interfaith Statement” for the United Nations Food Systems Summit, which will be presented at a virtual launch on Friday, September 17, at 11 a.m. EDT.

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The Statement is the culmination the Coalition’s engagement in the formal process leading up to the United Nations Food Systems Summit on September 23 during the UN General Assembly in New York. Over the summer, the Faith + Food Coalition held five dialogues, and three follow up events, to articulate values-based perspectives to the Summit. The Statement is product of those efforts.

“The Interfaith Statement correctly moves values to the forefront in our global conversation about food,” says Karenna Gore, executive director of the Center for Earth Ethics. “The UN should heed this call and use the Food Systems Summit to advance the equitable and agroecological practices that are healthy for both people and planet.”

The Statement will be delivered to the Heads of the Food Systems Summit as well as key Member States. The UN already has indicated that it will include the Interfaith Statement in the Summit’s official record.

The launch event will bring together members of the faith community and civil society to present key findings from the Coalition’s dialogues, review the Statement’s Calls for Action, and outline next steps for faith-based organizations following the Summit. Scheduled speakers include:

  • Martin Frick – Deputy to the Special Envoy for the UN Food Systems Summit 2021
  • Karenna Gore – Founder and Executive Director, Center for Earth Ethics
  • Bibi la Luz González – Founder, Eat Better Wa’ik
  • Meera Baindur – Associate Professor of Philosophy, Manipal University Jaipur
  • Felipe Carazo – Head of Public Sector Engagement at Tropical Forest Alliance, World Economic Forum
  • Nate DeGroot – Associate Director and Spiritual & Program Director, Hazon Detroit
  • Mona Polacca – Senior Fellow, Original Caretakers Program, Center for Earth Ethics

Andrew Schwartz, director of sustainability and global affairs at the Center for Earth Ethics, will moderate.

The launch event will be broadcast on Zoom, with simultaneous livestreams on Facebook and Twitter. Those wishing to participate via Zoom are encouraged to register in advance.

The Statement was months in the making. In preparing for the Summit, the UN encouraged civil society groups to hold dialogues to contribute outside perspectives. The Coalition, an alliance of seven organizations, formed to take part in that process. The Coalition aimed to bring voices from faith-based groups, Indigenous communities, small farmers and food producers, and underrepresented communities to the process.

In May and June, the Coalition hosted five dialogues corresponding to each of the five UN “Action Tracks” for the Food Systems Summit. The goal was to use the dialogues to examine global food systems critically, using the lens of faith and values.

Although billed by the UN as a “people’s summit,” the UN’s process raised concerns from the start. “The process surrounding the Summit has caused serious concern from observers and those of us who have participated in dialogues,” said Schwartz, who convened the Coalition. “While the Summit has welcomed unprecedented input from the civil society and key stakeholders, there is an obvious and concerning bias towards the corporation actors and methodologies that have led to the problems that the Summit is supposed to address.”

Over the summer, the Coalition’s efforts attracted the attention of Summit organizers and other multilateral organizations. The WHO invited the Coalition to present its findings at a webinar held on June 10. The UN invited the Coalition to present an online forum as an official “side event” to the Pre-Summit in Rome on July 27. And, in one of the last preliminary events before the Summit itself, on September 2 the Center for Earth Ethics and the UN co-hosted a “global dialogue” about faith-based perspectives on food systems.

The Statement was drafted by Schwartz along with Chris Elisara (World Evangelical Alliance), Gopal Patel (Bhumi Global), Joshua Basofin (Parliament of the World’s Religions), Kelly Moltzen (Interfaith Public Health Network), Marium Husain (Islamic Medical Association of North America) and Steve Chiu (Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation). Dialogue participants Becky O’Brien, Daniel Perell, Grove Harris, Lina Mahy,  Meera Baindur, and Nate DeGroot also contributed.

The Faith + Food Coalition (www.faithandfood.earth) is an alliance of seven organizations—Bhumi Global, Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, the Center for Earth Ethics, the Islamic Medical Association of North America, Interfaith Public Health Network, Parliament of the World’s Religions, and the World Evangelical Alliance—that bring voices from faith-based groups, Indigenous communities, small farmers and food producers, and underrepresented communities to the UN Food Systems Summit.

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NB. This story has been updated to include comments from Karenna Gore and Andrew Schwartz.

“Planting Seeds for Change”: Faith + Food Global Online Forum on July 27

What are the impacts of our global food systems on people and the planet? What can we learn from Indigenous communities and traditional food practices? How can a respect for faith and values make food systems more healthy, sustainable, and equitable?

To help answer these questions, the Faith + Food Coalition will host “Faith + Food: Planting Seeds for Change” on July 27, 2021 at 8 a.m. Central European Summer Time (2 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time in the US). This global online forum will present the Coalition’s findings and recommendations to improve food security and access in conjunction with the United Nations Food Systems Pre-Summit in Rome. The Pre-Summit—which will engage policymakers, advocates, NGOs, healthcare leaders, and others from around the world—is part of the lead up to the UN Food Systems Summit on September 24 in New York.

“Values and ethics must be included in the global policy-making conversation about food,” said Karenna Gore, executive director of the Center for Earth Ethics. “We are honored to convene this forum with people who bring real insight about this essential dimension of human life.”

From top left: Chris Elisara, Marium Husain, Lina Mahy, Gopal Patel, Andrew Schwartz

Speakers will be Dr. Chris Elisara, director of the World Evangelical Alliance’s Creation Care Task Force and a senior fellow at Duke Divinity School’s Ormond Center; Dr. Marium Husain, president of the Islamic Medical Association of North America and a hematology/oncology fellow at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center; Lina Mahy, technical officer in the World Health Organization’s Multisectoral Action in Food Systems Unit; and Gopal Patel, co-founder and director of Bhumi Global. Andrew Schwartz, the director of sustainability and global affairs at the Center for Earth Ethics, will moderate the discussion.

“Planting Seeds for Change” builds upon five interfaith dialogues that CEE convened in May and June as part of a formal UN process to engage diverse stakeholders in the Food Systems Summit. The Food + Faith dialogues explored how faith communities—including Indigenous communities—could support the transformation of global food systems toward something that was truly sustainable, accessible, equitable, and regenerative. They engaged grassroots organizers, farmers, food advocates, and policymakers to gather insights and develop holistic, inclusive recommendations.

“Engaging faith-based groups and Indigenous communities is essential to shifting worldviews toward food and the natural world,” says Schwartz. “We’re delighted to have been invited to organize this forum alongside the Pre-Summit.”

“Planting Seeds for Change” will review key findings from the five Food + Faith Dialogues, identify crucial topics for the Summit to address, and issue calls to action.

The Food + Faith Coalition comprises seven groups—the Center for Earth Ethics, Bhumi Global, Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, Interfaith Public Health Network, Islamic Medical Association of North America, Parliament of the World’s Religions, and the World Evangelical Alliance’s Creation Care Task Force –that came together to create a platform for faith groups and Indigenous communities around the world to contribute to the UN Food Systems Summit.

The forum is open to all without charge, but registration is required.

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Gore Speaks about Faith Communities, Values, and Development at G20 Interfaith Forum

On Wednesday, July 14, Karenna Gore, executive director of the Center for Earth Ethics, was a panelist at a webinar, “Interfaith Initiatives to Achieve the Agenda 2030 Environmental Goals,” sponsored by the G20 Interfaith Forum. The other panelists were Arthur Dahl, president of the International Environment Forum, and Astrid Shomaker, director for global sustainable development in the European Commission’s Directorate General for Environment. Pasquale Annicchino of the Bruno Kessler Foundation moderated the discussion.

Listen to the panel discussion.

“Everyone is experiencing climate change,” Gore said. “It is important to acknowledge inequities and those who are suffering and dying right now.”

She emphasized two global megatrends in play: depletion, including the deforestation of the Amazon, and pollution, most importantly the rise in greenhouse gas emissions. “This is about more than data and science,” she said. “It’s about belief systems and values.” Even the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, Gore noted, have sometimes been used “to justify the continuation and even expansion of fossil fuels.”

“Money is often confused with virtue,” Gore said. But she sees faith communities playing three main roles in reframing the conversation. They can be prophetic, in the sense of “telling the truth” about climate and sustainability during a worldwide “crisis of fact and knowledge.” They can be pastoral, being there in communities, caring for those who are suffering, and helping “shepherd people into new ways of being in ecological balance.” And they can be practical, mobilizing their organizational and physical resources.

In his remarks, Dahl noted the history of religious groups being engaged with environmental issues going back to the 1970s. He emphasized the challenges in translating global goals to local situations and in measuring development according to values, not GDP. “How do you measure progress on values?” he asked.

Shomaker offered a policy perspective, noting that her remarks came on the same day that the EU announced its ambitious “Fit at 55” legislative agenda to cut emission of greenhouse gases by 55% and make Europe “the first climate-neutral continent.” The EU is embracing “the people’s agenda,” she said, which means acting with “a sense of urgency” about pollution. It also means embracing equity, not only equity within society (including respecting women’s knowledge and roles) but also intergenerational equity, recognizing that this generation has a responsibility to generations to come.

“We’re all in this together,” Annicchino concluded. “Nobody is saved alone.”

Wednesday’s webinar was sponsored by the G20 Interfaith Forum, a network of religiously linked institutions and initiatives that engage on global agendas, especially the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. It was the fifth session of the group’s “Ahead of the 2021 Italy G20 Summit” series.

See also: Interfaith Initiatives to Achieve the Agenda 2030 Environmental Goals: Meeting Summary

UN Environment Programme Grants Accreditation to CEE and Union

The United Nations Environment Programme has accredited Union Theological Seminary through the Center for Earth Ethics. Accreditation grants Union observer status and other privileges at the United Nations Environment Assembly and its subsidiaries. The Center for Earth Ethics initiated the accreditation process and is Union’s official connection with this UN body.

The Rev. Dr. Serene Jones, Union’s president, was informed of the accreditation in a letter from Jorge Laguna-Celis, UNEP’s secretary of governing bodies, on July 7. The announcement, Jones said, is “a testament to the CEE’s unique ability to engage religious and spiritual communities in ecological discussions at all levels and to establish unprecedented connections between faith-based and secular concerns in order to advance the great work of protecting life on Earth.”

“We are grateful for this honor and opportunity,” said Karenna Gore, CEE’s executive director. “The Center for Earth Ethics at Union is energized and ready to join the great efforts underway at UNEP to correct course so that people can live in balance and harmony with Earth and each other.”

Accreditation is the main entry point for groups and stakeholders into the UN’s environmental policy dialogue. Schools and other non-governmental organizations must successfully meet the requirements of UNEP’s accreditation process before being granted observer status to the UN Environment Assembly, which governs UNEP, and the Committee of Permanent Representatives, composed of all accredited permanent representatives to UNEP.

The Assembly, which will meet next in February 2022, is the world’s highest-level decision-making body on the environment, with representatives from all 193 UN member states. It sets priorities for global environmental policies and develops international environmental law. In the months leading up to Assembly sessions, accredited organizations participate in Regional Consultation Meetings, contribute to Regional Civil Society Statements, comment on working documents, and participate in public meetings. During the Assembly itself, accredited organizations attend plenary sessions, where they interact with governments, circulate written statements, and make oral presentations.

CEE’s Director of Sustainability and Global Affairs Andrew Schwartz shepherded Union and CEE through the accreditation process; he will serve as Union’s point of contact with UNEP. 

“Observer status helps us advance faith-based and other underrepresented groups as full participants in the UN’s ongoing dialogues on the environment, climate, and other defining issues,” Schwartz said. “We’re looking forward to amplifying these voices at the next meeting of the Assembly.”