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Archive for the ‘Politics & Society’ Category



Sea Change: The Paper Boats of the People’s Climate March and the Case for Love

Sep20

by: on September 20th, 2014 | No Comments »

copyright 2013 Eiren Caffall

There is a theory out there in nature education circles that preparing children for climate change means steering clear of scaring them until they are old enough to handle it. David Sobel, author of Children’s Special Places, is often credited with the mantra, “no disasters before fourth grade,” and he writes eloquently about the notion that you must first ask children to love nature before you ask them to save it.

There are lots of people who champion this view. Recently, Grist published a profile of Liam Hennegan, a professor of environmental science at DePaul University, who has strong opinions about what books should be on a children’s environmental curriculum. He lists classics like The Hobbit, Where the Wild Things Are, and Bridge to Terabithia, not one of them mentioning a word about rising carbon emissions. Instead, the books are gorgeous works that you and I might remember from our own childhoods, full of the pleasures of being in nature, the desire to know and change a special place, to build story and history and relationship with it.

I was obsessed with Bridge to Terabithia as a kid. And, I was lucky enough to have access to a stream in my back yard, one that was like the stream in the book. I had hours of time to explore it, with no adults supervising my play. This stream was in the back field that ran behind our house in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. We lived over a gas station during the gas crisis of the 1970′s. My mother was in training for her eventual career in hydrogeology, meaning that I grew up hearing about the oil crisis, and waste water runoff, and leach fields, and superfund clean-up sites.

I had access to plenty of information about disasters before fourth grade.

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Do We Have the Wisdom to Survive?

Sep20

by: on September 20th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Fires are burning week after week again this year here in rural Northern California. The smoky skies aggravate asthma, give people headaches, burn people’s eyes, and make people grouchy. We are warned to stay indoors due to unsafe levels of particulates. As climate change continues to accelerate, other people in other places are also experiencing record-setting fires, heat waves, droughts, floods, and other extreme weather events.

Do we have the wisdom to survive? Will humanity rise to the challenge presented by climate change? Will we change our ways of thinking and acting, will we transform our institutions and systems, in time to prevent climate chaos? This question is always with me, even as I gather my grandchildren close to me and play and laugh and learn with them. What will this overheating planet be like for them in twenty or forty or sixty years?

I do have hope. I am grateful to be part of a world-wide community of people who are aware of what is at stake with the earth’s changing climate and who are willing to take action. Tomorrow, the largest People’s Climate March in history will be held in New York, as world leaders gather in New York to discuss the climate crisis. There will be solidarity demonstrations around the world, including in Oakland, Davis, Sacramento, and here in Nevada City. I hope that everyone who can come out will come out. The time is now.

Regardless of what you think about climate change, I recommend the film “Wisdom to Survive.” Here is the blurb I wrote for Old Dog Documentariesto help get the word out about the film:

Wisdom to Survive: Climate Change, Capitalism, and Community is an exquisitely filmed documentary that presents an overview of the climate crisis, including its causes, effects, and directions of hope. Poignant scenes illustrate the sacred beauty of the natural world, the tragedy of its diminishment, and our human interconnectedness with the rest of creation.

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Why Noah’s Ark?

Sep17

by: on September 17th, 2014 | No Comments »

Originally published on National Catholic Reporter

Noah's ark climate march

The ark comes to mind as a good symbol for crowded, unpleasant conditions, ones we get when try to repair or resurrect the environment, along with Noah. Credit: Creative Commons/Taiwan boi

We are five days out from the People’s Climate March in New York. The ark, a float in the upcoming march, is built and on its flatbread truck on its way to Manhattan.

You are probably wondering why the ark became the symbol for Green Faith.  Obviously, we are looking for a miracle to happen on September 21. We want God to repent God’s anger and give us one more chance.  We want to see the bow in the sky.  And we are mightily interested in all the colors of all the animals on earth coming together to create a new beginning for humanity.  In fact, the biggest question being asked internally about the march is why people of color should participate in it.  The answers so far are less invitational than they might be.  But I’ll get to that.

We know the march will be big, if for no other reason than our phones are ringing off their hooks. We don’t yet know if it will be a miracle or not.  Miracles are something the divine pulls off, even if we assist mightily as partners in miracle making.  Plus, there is always the possibility it is too late for the climate and that repair, not restoration or new beginning, is all that we can hope for.


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Seth Rogen, Sarah Silverman Among 300 Hollywood Stars Likely Duped into Supporting Right-Wing Group

Sep16

by: on September 16th, 2014 | 3 Comments »

nytad On Sunday, The New York Times featured a full page advertisement on page A7 sponsored by the group Creative Community for Peace (CCFP). The advertisement, which at first glance appears to be a benign call for peace in Israel and a denouncement of terror, was signed by the likes of Seth Rogen, Sarah Silverman, Aaron Sorkin, and hundreds of other entertainment stars.

A closer look at the ad reveals its less-than-benign intentions, and a closer look at the group behind the ad, CCFP, reveals that it is actually a front organization for the extremist pro-settler, pro-occupation organization StandWithUs, which is dedicated to laundering Israel’s image and shielding it from critique while demonizing Palestinians.

(For the purposes of transparency, StandWithUs tried to have one of my book appearances cancelled this year.)

Those who signed the letter, to be examined shortly, were almost certainly unaware of CCFP’s affiliation with a pro-occupation organization, particularly since it’s careful to hide that affiliation. Indeed, CCFP has attempted to claim that it is a wholly independent group, though the Forward found the opposite to be the case:

Formed in 2011, CCFP partnered with StandWithUs, a group widely perceived as being on the far right of the pro-Israel spectrum, which accepts tax deductible donations on CCFP’s behalf. CCFP’s founding member, David Renzer, has stated that his group has “always operated independently” of StandWithUs. But the Forward found that, like its partner group, CCFP rejects the U.S. position that settlements are an obstacle to peace and disputes the use of the term “occupation” to describe Israel’s military rule over the West Bank’s more than 2.5 million Palestinians.


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Homophobia and Anti-Semitism in the Same Breath: The Politics of the Westboro Baptist Church

Sep16

by: on September 16th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Westboro Baptist Church

Students kiss in front of Westboro Baptist Church protestors at Oberlin College in Ohio. Credit: Creative Commons/Wikipedia

A few years ago toward the end of July when I was serving as Associate Professor in the School of Education at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, led by their “pastor,” Fred Phelps, mounted protest rallies in three sites in Iowa: Waukee’s Jewish Historical Society, the Iowa State University Campus in Ames, and at the Marshalltown Community Theater, which was performing the play “The Laramie Project” profiling the life and murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard.

Phelps (before his recent death) and his followers travel around the country protesting funerals of fallen soldiers (most of whom are apparently heterosexual). They claim that these deaths are God’s punishment against a country that tolerates homosexuality. Phelps is also notorious for his 1998 protest of the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a college student from the University of Wyoming in Laramie murdered in a brutal homophobic assault.

On their websites godhatesfags.com & jewskilledjesus.com, Phelps and company directed their Iowa protests against “…the Jews…[who] arrested, falsely accused, prosecuted and then sentenced [Jesus] to death…” and protested Iowa because “God hates Iowa” for being “the first to begin giving $ to little [homosexual] perverts for no other reason than they brag about being little perverts.”

I wrote an editorial critical of Phelps and his followers in our local newspaper. Apparently, Shirley Phelps-Roper, Phelps’s daughter, read my piece, and she wrote me an email message before arriving in our town:

 Hello Professor.

Glad to see we got your attention with our upcoming good fig hunt in Iowa. You approached the issue with a veil on your heart, blind eyes, a hard heart, stopped up ears, and full of guile – because that’s how you – and all the rest of the apostate, reprobate Jews – roll. God did that.  His righteous judgments are wonderful!

PS:  Shall we put you down as one of the naughty figs?  You are definitely not sounding or acting like a good fig. I’m just sayin’.

Shirley Phelps-Roper


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Affordable Housing Rally, San Jose

Sep15

by: on September 15th, 2014 | 3 Comments »

San Jose rally affordable housing

Sacred Heart Housing Action Committee led a rally in San Jose last week to raise funds and awareness for affordable housing. Credit: L. Kurth

Yes, it’s an oxymoron and a dream — affordable housing in San Jose, the city with the nation’s largest unsheltered homeless population. Four people died of exposure last winter, and so many more live crowded together in small apartments or vans.

So on September 11th a rally was held at city hall by Sacred Heart Housing Action Committee (SHHAC) along with a coalition of others to continue efforts to inform and persuade both the public and our elected and appointed officials to pass a fee to raise funds for affordable housing. It’s just one helpful idea, one drop in a bucket that was emptied when the Redevelopment Agencies (many for good reason) were disbanded.


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Joan Rivers Was No Gay Icon: An Open Letter to the Gay Community

Sep15

by: Nicholas Boeving on September 15th, 2014 | 11 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons/David Shankbone

Icon. We throw the word around, but do we really know what it means? It found its way into the English language from the original Greek word used for likeness or image (eikṓn). In other words, icons are reflections of what a given group of people hold to be sacred. Given the recent passage of Joan Rivers, and the bewailment of her death as the loss of a great gay icon, I think it’s time to have a frank discussion of just what it is we DO hold sacred in the gay community…and why. We do not ask ourselves this question often enough.

Some have expressed bewilderment as to why Joan Rivers even attained the status of “icon” in the gay community in the first place. To understand this, you must first understand, psychologically speaking, some of the purpose(s) humor serves. Both Plato and Aristotle (yes, they did agree on some things) say that we laugh at the wretched, the fat, the miserable and poor because it asserts our own superiority. Sound familiar? Thought so. Going further, psychiatrist George Eman Vaillant categorized humor as a specialized defense mechanism; in other words, some things are too painful to confront or too terrible to talk about so we just deflect against them.

But let us ask ourselves: just what is it that we’re defending against?


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The name of the Goddess

Sep15

by: Genevieve Vaughan on September 15th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Credit: Creative Commons/torbakhopper

The escalation towards war is continuing, the media is beating the drum and tension is increasing every day. In the Middle East the new enemy is ISIS. When I first heard the term I thought of the great Egyptian Mother Goddess of that name. Did this terminology mean that the US would soon be fighting against the Mother Goddess? In a way this is true. Wars are always patriarchal; men against men, and mothers always suffer. All their years of love and work are gone in the flash of a gun or a bomb. The Goddess is discredited and disempowered by war.


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Progressive Faith Communities Take Back the Discussion on Morals

Sep15

by: on September 15th, 2014 | No Comments »

For far too long, the political and theocratic Right have hijacked the social dialogue by taking as their own the “F” words – “Faith,” “Family,” “Freedom,” and the “Flag” – in addition to the term “Values.” This set of buzz words served as the litmus test by which the Right would have us decide who is truly worthy of our votes.

Within this discourse we find coded racist and classist dog whistles. For example, when politicians employ terms such as “poor,” “welfare,” “welfare state,” “European-style socialism,” “inner city,” “food stamps,” “entitlements,” and “bad neighborhoods,” they tap into many people’s anxieties and past racist teachings of people of color. In addition, the buzz phrase, “personal responsibility” now has become a catch phrase to justify cutting benefits from those who have fallen on hard times and need assistance.

Over the past couple of decades, I have examined what may actually be left of the Left, and how we can take back the discourse and reclaim these “F” words with progressive definitions. I have been particularly encouraged by a number of faith-based movements bringing people together to highlight issues of compassion and justice.


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9/11: Never Forget

Sep11

by: on September 11th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

 

Do you remember where you were, what you were doing that fateful morning on September 11, 2001? A Pew survey shows that 97 percent of Americans remember exactly where they were when 9/11 occurred, the highest percentage, followed by JFK’s assassination (95 percent) and Pearl Harbor (89 percent).

I certainly remember where I was when the terrorists attacked. I was eating breakfast, preparing to drive to my classes at the University at Central Florida when my husband called to tell me to turn on the television. I thought it was a cruel joke. Sadly, tragically, it was reality. Life changed for everyone that day, and the term 9/11 is indelibly inked into our collective consciousness. How we as a nation became more paranoid, more stressed, is the subject for another time and place. Countless studies show the effects of 9/11 on our health, short-term mental well-being, and so much more. But these reports often fail to address the positives.


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