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CEE November Newsletter

CEE News
November 2021

Dear Friends,

As many of us gather to give thanks in the coming days, we at Center for Earth Ethics want to convey our respect and gratitude to Indigenous peoples around the world who have kept traditional ways that honor and protect the whole community of life. We also want to share some updates from our work.



Program Updates

William J. Barber III Joins CEE

If you are in Virginia, please join Will and other dedicated climate justice advocates for ”Protect Our Air, Our Lives” this Saturday, November 27, 2021, 2 – 4 p.m. Eastern Time. Angler’s Park, 350 Northside Drive, Danville, Virginia. Learn More and Register Here.

Virginia Mercury Publishes Karenna Gore Column on Mountain Valley Pipeline

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

“The Time to Act is Now”: A Faith + Food Reflection

Indigenous Water Ethics: A Traditional Dialogue

On Thursday, October 7, CEE convened “Indigenous Water Ethics: A Traditional Dialogue.” Mona Polacca, senior fellow for the Original Caretakers Program, brought together diverse perspectives and lived experiences around Indigenous communities’ water sources: Betty Lyons, president and executive director of the American Indian Law Alliance, Austin Nunez, chairman of the Wa:k—San Xavier District of the Tohono O’odham Nation, and Rāwiri Tinirau, co-director of Te Atawhai o Te Ao, a Māori research institute. Watch Now

Upcoming Events

In Case You Missed It…

Advisory Board member Jacqueline Patterson, environmental justice advocate and founder of the Chisholm Legacy Project, received the 26th Heinz Award for the Environment. Read More

On November 2, Mona Polacca, senior fellow for the Original Caretakers Program, led a session, “In Conversation: Nature’s Community,” at Expo 2020 in Dubai. Learn More

On Tuesday, October 26, Union Theological Seminary hosted an online screening of “The Ants and the Grasshopper”—a new film that follows Anita Chitaya as she visits the US and battles hunger, sexism and climate change in her native Malawi. Co-director Raj Patel introduced the film. Afterwards, the Very Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas, dean of the Episcopal Divinity School, led a discussion with the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, director of the Kairos Center, Karenna Gore, executive director of the Center for Earth Ethics, and Francine Johnson from the Mississippi Poor People’s Campaign and Mileston Co-operative. Read More

“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.


In Memorial: Rev. Dr. James H. Cone

The Center for Earth Ethics honors the life of James Cone, beloved teacher and writer. Below we share some of his work, the impact of his pioneering spirit, and thoughts from those he touched.

James Cone, the cross, and the lynching memorial
Religion News Service published this compelling piece on April 30th by Jemar Tisby, founder of Witness: A Black Christian Collective.

On April 26 America received its first-ever memorial dedicated to the more than 4,000 victims of lynching in this country. Two days later, James Cone, the acclaimed author of “The Cross and the Lynching Tree,” died.
The opening of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Ala., and the passing of a theological legend coincide in ways that provoke thoughts about the spiritual implications of American racism. How do the cross and the lynching tree represent both injustice and redemption? How do we confront the dark truths of our past to create a future that is brighter for all people?
 Read the Full Article Here…

Video and transcripts of James Cone’s November 2007 Interview with Bill Moyers including the link to Dr. Cone’s lecture, “Strange Fruit: The Cross and the Lynching Tree,” at Harvard Divinity School.

Tribute to James Cone  Union Theological Seminary invited guests to post memories, thoughts, and meaningful experiences they’ve shared with him.  Responses came from throughout the Union community and from around the world.

Photo by Michelle Reiter, 2014, used with permission

We join in concert celebrating and honoring his remarkable life.  With thanks.


The Center for Earth Ethics Team

An Interview with Mindahi Bastida: In partnership to protect the sacred

CEE’s Original Caretakers Program Director, Mindahi Bastida is doing work with the kind of care few have patience for.  He has a slow pace to his words, and a firm stance.  Mindahi never tires of explaining to those he encounters about the preciousness of the water, the sacredness of the land, and the heritage imbued inside the mountains and the earth herself.
What is the initiative you are working on with CEE and UNESCO?
The initiative that CEE is working with UNESCO is the Protection of Biocultural Sacred Sites (BSS) of the world. This effort is being supported by indigenous organizations like Asociación Andes, Parque de la Papa, and other allied organizations such as Forum 21, The Fountain, Unity Earth and the Convergence, among others.  This initiative has also been named previously as the Spiritual Reserves of Humanity.
Why is it important at this time?
This initiative is highly important nowadays due to many sacred places in the indigenous territories are facing destruction or desecration.
The sacred places are key to protect life systems and biocultural heritage. The sacred places are special because they provide energetic balance to ancestral territories and also offer protection of one or more elements of life.
How does it augment USESCO’s current process of selecting World Heritage sites?
This initiative strengthens UNESCO work in protecting World Heritage Sites because it gives acknowledgement to Biocultural sacred sites that are being threatened and are meaningful for humans, all beings and life in the planet.
How is this work relevant to the mission of the Center for Earth Ethics?
This work is very relevant to the CEE mission to protect and defend life in the world. The Protection of Biocultural Sacred Sites initiative in the indigenous territories gives the chance to strengthen the  biocultural diversity and heritage. Also acknowledge the indigenous peoples spirituality.
Is there a specific goal or timeline you hope to achieve? 
By the year 2020 we should have ready the draft proposal to be presented to one or more nation States.
I see that there is a focus on Latin American countries.  How might this work impact a similar strategy within the United States?  Does this have any bearing on our protection of National Parks?
The focus is because this initiative was born in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia with spiritual leaders from indigenous peoples mostly from Latin America.  We are working in USA and other countries to write declarations towards the need of protecting sacred sites around the world. If there are Sacred Sites in the National Parks they should be acknowledged as Biocultural Sacred Sites.  
The public and other organizations can support this important initiative through the Center for Earth Ethics.


Fall Update from Karenna


We send our greetings to you at this challenging time. It is a time that calls those who can be both advocates and healers. As we fight to change the system that continues to dump this pollution into the air, we also stand with those who are recovering and rebuilding from the impacts. As we join with those who resist corrupt policies and abuse of power, we also seek to understand the painful divisions and persistent illusions in our civic life.

This semester, The Center for Earth Ethics is initiating a new time of serious inquiry as individuals, as collaborators and as leaders in an ever-changing landscape, geographically and politically.  Our goal is to address the root cause of climate change—an economic development model based on short-term profit, no matter what the cost to people and planet. We envision a world in which value is measured according to the long-term well being of the whole. We believe that this value system can be achieved through a combination of the restoration of older traditional ways and the inclusive, equitable application of new technologies.

Thank you for being a part of our work. We invite you to learn more about each of our four program areas– Original Caretakers, Environmental Justice and Civic Engagement, Sustainability and Global Affairs and Eco-Ministry—and to be in touch with us about the work you are doing in your community. Please also follow us on social media and feel free to come to the gatherings at Union. There’s so much going on already this Fall, and we’ve only just begun!


Having Faith in Justice

Originally published by the Human Impacts Institute Reflecting on the Center for Earth Ethics’ Annual Minister’s Training: Ministry in the Time of Climate Change

June 13, 2017|Mackenzie Beltz, Environmental Leadership Intern


It is not often that I see faith and environmental activism intersect, but last Tuesday, June 6th, 2017, I had the opportunity to attend a portion of The Center for Earth Ethics’ weekend-long conference, “Ministry in the Time of Climate Change”. Many of the conference-goers I spoke to, all of them faith leaders from a wide spectrum of faiths, admitted that while they were well-versed in religious texts and community engagement, they struggled to integrate climate awareness into their sermons, fearing backlash. Today, climate change is not purely accepted as fact, but is a political talking point (or not-talking point) that divides the country, and fear of deepening that division can lead to faith leaders’ reluctance to discuss it with their communities at all.

At the conference, speakers from many different religions and cultures shared ways to engage with their prospective congregations, groups, and tribes. During a panel entitled “Meeting Denial, Grief and Despair With Integrity, Grace and Hope,” Margaret Bullitt-Jonas of Reviving Creation shared a thought that I found moving, “If we turn to God as an extrinsic source of hope, saying, ‘If climate change is real, God will surely do something about it,’ our hope is very vulnerable. Intrinsic hope is the hope we feel in those moments where we truly know who we are. Our purpose is to love.” Climate change can inspire fear and uncertainty for the future, but the moderator Andrew Schwartz and the panelists, Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, Lynne Iser, Barbara Rossing and Aliou Niang shared strategies to channel that fear into hope and inspiration for the future.

Later in the evening, I had the privilege of attending a community discussion moderated by Karenna Gore and Derrick Harkins and featuring Vice President Al Gore, Pat Williams, Azza Karam and Burt Visotzky. I was particularly interested in Ms. Williams’s insights on the legal and economic implications of environmental degradation and climate discourse. And of course, the “headliner” Al Gore was an incredible speaker who left everyone in the room aware of the imminent danger of climate change, while also convincing us that we could enact positive change to save our planet together.

It was humbling to see ministers, Native American chiefs, rabbis, priests and imams coming together to admit that for all their knowledge, there were things that they did not know. “I came here to learn,” shared one man during a small discussion group, “and to take this information back to my people.”

Linked below is a beautiful song performed by Bethany Yarrow and Rufus Cappadocia that was shared immediately after the “Denial, Grief and Despair” panel and gave me a strong feeling of healing and peace following such a difficult discussion.

 Bethany and Rufus performing live


Link back to the original post and the work of the Human Impacts Institute