Category: News

“Holy Land, Living Water” – Convening Celebrates UN WIHW 2020

Let the Parliament of the World’s Religions take you on a journey through story, videos and photos of an interfaith pilgrimage to remember the Sacredness of Water & the power of connecting with Sacred Sites of every faith.

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From February 1st through February 7th, on the official observance of the United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week, the Parliament joined international partners for Holy Land, Living Water. Presented by Unity Earth, the United Religions Initiative (URI), and EcoPeace Middle EastHoly Land, Living Water was a historic week-long pilgrimage across the Holiest Sites of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, along a path through the Jordan River Valley, where water has played a vital role in the sustenance of the region. Its scarcity has become amplified by climate change and population growth. In addition, some of the founding stories of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are set along the Jordan River banks and the valley contains sites sacred to half of humanity.

This event also commemorated the UN World Interfaith Harmony Week of 2020, with nearly 100 international delegates, among them Parliament Chair Audrey Kitagawa, from a wide array of cultural and faith backgrounds coming together to share spiritual practices, values and visions of a more just, peaceful, sustainable and harmonious world.

Parliament Chair, Audrey Kitagawa, participated in a panel and gave a speech as part of the U-Nite Concert. Enjoy recordings from the gathering below.


Want to learn more about the programming, explore short summaries and enjoy images from each day of the gathering below.

Day 1

Dinner near Dead Sea

The journey began with an inspiring night of sharing, homogenizing, and messages of interfaith cooperation, hope, peace, and unity from the Chair of the Parliament of the World’s Religions Ms. Audrey Kitagawa, Rev. Deborah Moldow, Chief Phil Lane Jr. and other prominent religious leaders. This welcome dinner, hosted by Executive Director of Unity Earth Ben Bowler, took place by the Dead Sea, famous for its religious significance and numerous mentions in the Bible. It is the lowest and most mineral-rich body of water in the world. The gathering set the stage for a week of visits to the sacred sites of the Holy Land.

Day 2

Mount Nebo

The Parliament Chair and Unity Earth participants visited the sacred site of Mount Nebo, an important place of pilgrimage where Moses saw the Promised Land before he died. The group paid their respects at the commemorated site, the Memorial Church of Moses and the Siyagha (monastery).  They gathered in front of the Brazen Serpent Monument, symbolic of the bronze serpent Moses created in the wilderness and the cross Jesus was crucified. Father Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam and Rev. Sylvia Sumter offered blessings, prayers, and messages of hope. Banners of peace, unity, and reverence toward water were displayed.

Water Ceremony on the Dead Sea

At sunset, Dr. Mindahi Bastida Muñoz led the group in the Four Directions Water Ceremony by the Dead Sea, a Native American blessing that calls on the Four Directions (East, North, West and South). The ceremony was conducted by First Nations elders who recognize the sacredness of water, the interconnectedness of all life and the importance of protecting our water from pollution.  The ceremony on the Dead Sea was significant because of the reduced water flow.

Dead Sea Convergence

An ecology conference was held by the Dead Sea concerning the Holy Land and the Jordan River. Faith leaders from around the world discussed the intersection of faith, ecology, and the importance of water for supporting human life as well as its spiritual significance. Ben Bowler emceed the event. Yana Abu Taleb, Nada Majdalani, Ambassador Mussie Hailu, Professor Kathryn Libal, and His Highness Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al Nuaimi gave presentations. Gidon Bromberg moderated a diverse five-person panel of prominent faith leaders to discuss the ecological and spiritual significance of water in general and the Jordan River in particular. The panelists were the Parliament Chair, Ms. Audrey Kitagawa, Father Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam, Rabbi Gabriel Hagai, Haji Syed Salman Chishty, and Ven. Dr. Phramaha Boonchuay Doojai.

May Peace Prevail on Earth Flag Ceremony

Various members of the group chanted for peace in a circle as they created a mosaic of flags representing all of the countries in the world.

Day 3

Al-Maghtas Baptism Site at Jordan River

The sacred Al-Maghtas Baptism Site on the Jordan River is considered the third holiest place in Christianity.  It is the official baptism site of Jesus, called Qasr al-Yahud, where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. The group gathered in the pavilion near the bank of the river for a prayer for the Jordan River. Religious leaders of different faiths gave their blessing to the River. Faith leaders from Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Indigenous traditions blessed members of the group with the holy waters on the bank of the Jordan River.

Columbia World Leaders Forum with Sanna Marin, moderated by Karenna Gore

This World Leaders Forum program featured an address, “The Climate Neutral Welfare Society: Is it the Model of the Future?”, by Ms. Sanna Marin, Prime Minister of the Republic of Finland followed by a question and answer session with the audience.

Introduction and Welcome by:
Alexander N. Halliday, Director, The Earth Institute

Moderated by:
Karenna Gore, Director, Center for Earth Ethics

Cosponsored by:
The Earth Institute, Columbia University and Sustainable Development Solutions Network

View the Complete Evening

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“On March 6, 2020, Prime Minister Sanna Marin of Finland will speak at the World Leaders Forum at Columbia University. Her talk, which will focus on climate change, gender equality and social welfare, will include a question and answer session with students in the audience. Marin will be introduced by by Alexander N. Halliday, director of The Earth Institute, and the discussion will be moderated by Karenna Gore, director of the Center for Earth Ethics.

Marin was sworn into office in December 2019 and is the youngest head of government in her country’s history. She leads a coalition and cabinet dominated by women. She is visiting New York to attend the United Nation’s observance of International Women’s Day.”

Columbia News reached out to Marin ahead of her visit with a series of questions. Here is what she had to say.  Columbia University’s Earth Institute Blog

Sanna Marinin luennolle jonotettiin sateessa New Yorkissa – ”Viimeksi Jay-Z oli näin suosittu”

Originally Published March 7, 2020  – Ilta~Sanomat, Finnish with English translation available

The audience praised the Finnish Prime Minister for her standing.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s (sd) lecture on Friday caused a public outcry at Columbia University in New York.

  • Watch the video for the full performance of Sanna Marin at Columbia University.

Despite the rain, students queued up to hear the world’s youngest female Prime Minister. According to the university, the 430-seat lecture hall was quickly exhausted, and the waiting list for potential vacancies was long.

One university employee recalled that American rapper Jay-Z was the last to gain similar popularity.

Marin lectures on welfare society, sustainable development and the fight against climate change. He repeatedly received spontaneous applause from the audience during his performance.

Marin emphasized that the actions of individual people alone are not enough to solve the problem, but that political decisions are needed to combat climate change.

“Individual acts are important, but the problem is not solved by replacing plastic bags with paper bags,” the Prime Minister said, referring to the ban on plastic bags that came into effect in New York at the beginning of the month, and made the audience laugh.

Yleisö seuraa Sanna Marinin luentoa.
The audience following Sanna Marin’s lecture. Photo: Heikki Saukkomaa / Journal

The lecture received praise from the audience

At the end of the lecture, the audience applauded Marin for standing up.

– The lecture was really good and he was very inspiring, I really liked it, said 23-year-old Sayali Nagwekar .

Her friend Rachel Adeney , 29, said the same thing.

– It was really inspiring to see such a young and identifying woman in such a position.

Rachel Adeney and Sayali Nagwekar

Photo: Heikki Saukkomaa / Journal, Rachel Adeney and Sayali Nagwekar,  

More…

Clergy From Around the Planet Gathered to Pray for the Environment at Megiddo National Park

Originally Published by the Jewish Press.
Photo Credit: Lucy Yosef / Israel Nature and Parks Authority
Clergy from around the planet pray at Megiddo National Park, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020 

A delegation of ninety-four senior clerics from around the world representing more than twenty different religions and groups toured the Megiddo National Park on Thursday, and held a unique, joint religious prayer service there.

Clergy from around the planet pray at Megiddo National Park, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020 / Lucy Yosef / Israel Nature and Parks Authority

The group included rabbis, imams, priests, Buddhist monks, and Native American and African clergy, among many others.

They arrived as part of their tour of the Holy Land to raise global awareness of interfaith cooperation, most importantly cross-border environmental cooperation.

This visit is organized by UNITY Earth and the EcoPeace Middle East Center.

The city of Megiddo was important in the ancient world. It guarded the western branch of a narrow pass on the most important trade route of the ancient Fertile Crescent, linking Egypt with Mesopotamia and Asia Minor and known today as Via Maris. Because of its strategic location, Megiddo was the site of several battles. It was inhabited from approximately 7000 BCE to 586 BCE, though the first significant remains date to the Chalcolithic period (4500–3500 BCE).

According to the Book of Revelation in the Christian Bible, Megiddo (Armageddon) is the prophesied location of a gathering of armies for a battle during the end times.


More information on Holy Land, Living Waters

More about EcoPeace Middle East and the Center for Earth Ethics

KARENNA GORE ON THE MORAL FIGHT AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE

Flashback to 2018… Karenna Gore interviewed by LINYEE YUAN.

LinYee Yuan is the founder and editor of MOLD. Through original reporting, MOLD explores how designers can address the coming food crisis by creating products and systems that will help feed 9 billion people by the year 2050.

“When we frame [climate change] as a moral and spiritual problem, it’s about caring for the most vulnerable, and it’s also about our own integrity. Are we able to look at the real costs? Just because costs aren’t measured does not mean they don’t exist.” – CEE Director, Karenna Gore

Read the full article here…

Successful Seminar “Indigenous Knowledge for Integral Water Management in Latin America and the Caribbean”

Report on “Indigenous Knowledge for Integral Water Management in Latin America and the Caribbean ” Manaus, Brazil August 8-9 from CODIA.  CEE’s Mindahi Bastida was pleased to participate (see photo below).

CODIA, September 6, 2019

Within the framework of the International Day of Indigenous Peoples, UNESCO convened leaders from Panama, Guatemala, Ecuador, Mexico and Colombia, as well as local communities in Manaus around the Seminar “Indigenous Knowledge for Integral Water Management in Latin America and the Caribbean ”(Manaus, Brazil August 8-9). The meeting focused on the discussion about the sociocultural, technical, legal, economic and political aspects that the native peoples of the region have taken in the area of ​​water management. Organized by the International Hydrological Program (PHI) of UNESCO together with the UNESCO Office in Brasilia and Quito, the Conference of Ibero-American Water Directors (CODIA), the Agência Nacional de Águas (ANA), with the collaboration of the Organization of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty (ACTO).

With the participation of Mr. Oscar Cordeiro Netto, Director of the ANA; Mr. César de las Casas, Executive Director of OTCA; Fabio Eon (UNESCO Brasilia); Ms. Karla Bitar, Superintendent of the Amazon National Historical and Artistic Patrimony Institute (IPHAN AM); and Mrs. Marcivana Rodrigues Paiva, Coordinator of the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of Amazônia Brasileira (COIAB), opened the seminar “Indigenous Knowledge for Integral Water Management in Latin America and the Caribbean” in Manaus, Brazil on the 8th of August at 9:00 a.m.

The Seminar was promoted within the framework of the International Day of Indigenous Peoples as an instance to exchange on the Sustainable Development Goals and their approach in relation to the knowledge of the native peoples about water management with the aim of generating recommendations for international agencies, UNESCO, indigenous peoples, around this theme.

The relationship between indigenous peoples and water resources inspires an approach to water as a human right and a common good, as well as providing the search for new technologies and forms of organization that guarantee water supply to the continent. The inclusion and knowledge of indigenous practices and techniques used in the resolution of water-related conflicts is often important as valuable knowledge for government organizations, businesses and civil society.

The event had a wide regional call through the honorable presence of the Secretary of Water (Ecuador), Mr. Humberto Cholango, and indigenous leaders linked to the management of water resources of Panama, Guatemala, Ecuador, Mexico and Colombia, professionals from the water sector of Peru and Chile as well as from local communities in Manaus. In addition, the UNESCO Chair in Water and Culture (UdelaR, Uruguay) and the UNESCO Chair in Sustainability of Water Resources (San Carlos de Guatemala) joined this initiative.


About CODIA

The Conference of Ibero-American Directors of Water emerges as a response to the mandate of the I Ibero-American Forum of Ministers of the Environment (Spain, 2001)  in order to create a forum in Latin America in which the those mainly responsible for water management in the region will participate.The main functions of CODIA are to act as a technical instrument to support the Forum and to examine and implement cooperative modalities in the area of ​​water resources. CODIA is made up of a total of 22 countries. 

Parenting in the Time of Climate Change Part I: Karenna Gore on Parenting Through Climate Anxiety

Cindy Wang Brandt interviewed CEE Director Karenna Gore on Parenting through Climate Anxiety as part of her series on Parenting Forward.   The author covers topics concerning raising spiritual children without trauma, re-examining faith with embodied values and concerns for a better future.

Show Description: “I talk with Karenna Gore, Director of the Center for Earth Ethics from Union Theological Seminary about climate justice, spirituality, and how to parent our children through climate anxiety. She talks beautifully about how the climate justice moment is clarifying our interconnectedness and how to find authentic community in the social movement for life. Lots of recommendations for more resources, see the links below. There’s really some deep wisdom in this episode all, don’t miss it!”  Listen…

Links (affiliates included):

Center for Earth Ethics – https://centerforearthethics.org

Karenna Gore on twitter – https://twitter.com/KarennaGore

The Blessing of a Skinned Knee – https://amzn.to/2QUUDnK

How to talk so kids will listen & listen so kids will talk – https://amzn.to/2XO5xgy

The Uninhabitable Earth – https://amzn.to/2DmAUpk

Global Weirding with Katharine Hayhoe – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCi6RkdaEqgRVKi3AzidF4ow

Parenting Forward Conference Recordings – https://www.parentingforwardconference.com

Join us at the Parenting Forward Patreon Team – https://www.patreon.com/cindywangbrandt

Parenting Forward, the Book – https://amzn.to/2GB6eDB

Catherine Flowers Op-Ed for Alabama Voices: Give Alabamians the freedom of solar choice

Catherine Coleman Flowers – Special to the Advertiser

Photo: Solar panels on Ireland Farms in Alpine, Ala., are seen on Wednesday September 25, 2019. Mickey Welsh / Advertiser

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Imagine if every time you picked a peach off of your backyard tree, the government slapped you with a $10 tax – artificially increasing the price of your own fruit and driving you to buy grocery store peaches instead.

Well, that’s exactly the situation we face with electricity in Alabama.

Every Alabamian could make their own electricity cheaper and cleaner by putting solar on their roof. But Alabama Power has other ideas and insists on dumping a fee on solar users. And not a small fee either. It is a fee that could amount to $9,000 over the life of the system.

Such a fee punishes those that want to generate their own electricity, maintaining the company’s monopoly and keeping Alabamians locked into its services. Not only is it wrong to stifle Alabamians’ energy choices and what we do with our own roofs, but it’s also choking job creation in the state and hurting working families.

The Alabama Public Service Commission has the opportunity to eliminate these excessive fees – and they need to know that it’s what Alabamians want.

Alabama is number one – or at least running neck and neck with South Carolina – for the highest residential and commercial electricity rates in the region. Every month we pay more for our electricity, but we don’t have the option of generating our own electricity. This is a monopoly and it is un-American. Working families and small businesses deserve a more affordable choice.

But this fight isn’t just about the costs we all pay for our energy – it’s also about the health of our families. About one fifth of our electricity comes from dirty coal plants that spew unhealthy amounts of particulate matter, ozone and other pollution into the air we breathe. This pollution not only causes lung disease, including asthma and lung cancer, but has also helped make Birmingham the 14th most polluted city for particulate matter in the nation.

Most of all, this fight is about justice, environmental justice. First of all, this toxic air pollution doesn’t impact everyone equally.  African American Alabamians endure roughly twice the particulate matter air pollution that white Alabamians do. Second, as temperatures rise and cities swelter thanks to climate change, it’s the poor and people of color who suffer the most.

By turning from coal to clean energy like solar, we can not only clean up the air we breathe, but also help solve the climate crisis making our summers even hotter and threatening our families. Eliminating onerous solar fees is an important first step.

Now some will say that solar is really only for the rich.  But that isn’t the case in states that don’t have anti-solar policies.  In most of the country, people can lease solar panels and save money on their utility bills on day one, all without having to put any money down up front.

In Alabama, solar fees eliminate that savings. Worse, Alabama Power even claims it is illegal to lease solar panels. It’s time working-class Alabamians had the same opportunity to have cleaner, cheaper electricity that most other Americans enjoy.

Alabama Power parent company, Southern Company, also operates in Mississippi and Georgia, where it also proposed ways to make home solar unaffordable. Georgia, however, rejected a solar fee in 2013 and in Mississippi home solar owners fought back a Southern Company effort to block their ability to sell electricity back to the grid. As a result, Mississippi has 25% more solar jobs than Alabama and Georgia has 6 times more solar jobs than we do here. We should take heart from these victories and know that solar can win in Alabama as well.

In Alabama, we love competition. We love doing things ourselves, our way. Now it’s time for the Alabama Public Service Commission to open the state up for real competition on energy by getting rid of these fees. It’s time for the commission to let working Alabamians take control of their energy and generate their own electricity.

If you agree, please call Commission President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh at (334) 242-5297 and tell her to get these fees off your roof.

Catherine Coleman Flowers

 

Catherine Coleman Flowers is Senior Fellow of Environmental Justice and Civic Engagement at the Center for Earth Ethics as well as the director of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice.

Learn More about Catherine’s work…

Alabama Voices: Two million Americans are in a water crisis; some of them are your neighbors

Catherine Flowers and George McGraw – Special to the Advertiser

Originally Published 9:00 AM EST Nov 22, 2019 to the Montgomery Advertiser

Scenes from Lowndes County, where only 20 percent of homes are connected to sewer systems.

In the Black Belt running through Alabama and Mississippi, the dark, clay soil that gives the area its name is notorious for causing water woes.

Rainwater pools on the ground, because it can’t penetrate the dense soil.  So does sewage.

In Bibb County, for instance, municipal wastewater is pumped into a lagoon where it should evaporate. When it rains, that wastewater overflows from the lagoon into people’s yards, spreading disease and smelling horribly.

In Lowndes County, only 20 percent of homes are connected to sewer systems.

But Bibb and Lowndes aren’t the only area in the Rural South – or the country – struggling to access reliable water and sanitation.

Recently two national non-profits, DIGDEEP and the US Water Alliance, released the first-ever report that pulls back the veil on America’s hidden water crisis. The report researchers visited Black Belt counties in Alabama and Mississippi, and five other regions across the US facing severe water access issues: the Four Corners area of the Southwest, the Central Valley of California, the Texas colonias, rural Appalachia, and Puerto Rico.

The report found something heartbreaking: there are at least two million Americans without hot and cold running water, a tap, shower, a working toilet, or basic wastewater service in their homes. That’s two million Americans who don’t have water to drink and cook with, or who have a toilet that simply empties through a PVC pipe into a puddle of sewage in their yard (if they have one at all).

This lack of basic water and sanitation access is causing a public health crisis. People repeatedly exposed to raw sewage are at greater risk for acute and long-term illness. Diseases once eradicated are resurfacing. A peer-reviewed study of residents in Lowndes County found 34.5 percent of participants tested positive for hookworm and other tropical parasites.

Perhaps the most disturbing thing uncovered by our research is that some parts of the country are actually going backwards. From 2000 to 2014 (the period with the last complete census data set) six states – Delaware, Idaho, Kansas, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Dakota – and Puerto Rico all saw increases in their populations without water and sanitation access.

This crisis affects Americans, who because of circumstances beyond their control, including geography, poverty, and discrimination, are unable to enjoy the same working taps and toilets most of us take for granted. The challenges vary by region and place. But across the country one thing holds true: this is a tremendous, invisible problem that our neighbors are often too ashamed to talk about. It is time to end the stigma and address it head-on.

First, America must begin measuring the water access gap. You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Previously, the Census Bureau asked whether homes had a working flush toilet, but recently removed the question. One of our simplest recommendations in the new report is for census to revamp the question on complete plumbing access to again include toilets, and add questions on wastewater services, water quality, and cost.

Second, federal, state and local government need to reimagine outdated water regulations that don’t account for the extreme circumstances some Americans are living in. They need to dramatically increase and restructure funding to help these families and their communities build systems that work for them – especially in remote locations where traditional, centralized infrastructure may be impossible.

Finally, we need to support local organizations doing the hard work of bringing clean water to their neighbors right now. The Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice and the Mississippi Worker’s Center for Human Rights are two of those organizations. Operating in Alabama, the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice documents poverty and environmental crises, and works with affected communities to develop local solutions. The Mississippi Worker’s Center for Human Rights creates safer and healthier workplace conditions, including water access and sanitation, through education and training. The Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice seeks to improve access to clean air, water, and soil in marginalized rural communities by influencing policy, inspiring innovation, catalyzing relevant research, and amplifying the voices of community leaders, all within the context of a changing climate.

Solving this crisis is the right thing to do. To turn a blind eye to the suffering of millions is to deny their dignity. Fortunately, we are a resilient and creative nation, and with the right focus, resources, and partnerships we can close this water access gap in our lifetimes.

To read the full report and support groups like The Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice and Mississippi Worker’s Center for Human Rights, visit www.closethewatergap.org.

 

Catherine Coleman Flowers

 

Catherine Coleman Flowers is Senior Fellow of Environmental Justice and Civic Engagement at the Center for Earth Ethics as well as the director of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice.

Learn More about Catherine’s work…

 

 

 

George McGraw is CEO of DIGDEEP. 

Learn More…

 

 

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.