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Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category



Normalizing The Extraordinary in Medellín, Part Two

Dec28

by: on December 28th, 2015 | Comments Off

Note: This is the second of two parts on Arlene Goldbard’s visit to cultural development projects in Medellín, Colombia, in early December; you’ll find the first here.

Ana Cecilia Restrepo, the director of La Red de Escuelas de Musica de Medellín – that Colombian city’s network of music schools that are much more than schools, as you can read in Part One – was driving me back to my hotel on the last night of my stay. Medellín is widely recognized as a city that has successfully launched its transformation from a place terrorized by drug lords and their gangs, in which going out at night was basically not an option, to one explicitly and assertively aligned with its own remaking. See Michael Kimmelman’s New York Times piece from 2012, for instance, or this account of Medellín being named Innovative City of the Year in 2013, particularly for its new transportation infrastructure.

As she drove, Ana told me one of the city’s famous rejuvenation stories. Below, I share it with you. But first I want to tell you about my visit to an amazing cultural center in Medellín.

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Peace for the World, Healing for the Climate

Dec16

by: on December 16th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

Red Line Action at Beale

Yesterday I was arrested at Beale Air Force Base, near Marysville, California, along with seven others. We were charged with trespassing. This video of me speaking was filmed after we crossed the line onto the base. In it I begin to explain the connections between US military policy and climate change. The letter that we attempted to deliver to the base commander gives a more detailed explanation of our concerns and our reasons for demonstrating.

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A Hindu Call to Action in Fighting Climate Change

Nov25

by: Murali Balaji on November 25th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

Editor’s Note: A version of this piece first appeared on the Huffington Post.

At the end of this month, leaders from around the globe will convene in Paris for the latest round of talks to combat climate change and global warming.

For the first time, Hindu teachings will take a prominent role in this effort, as a growing coalition of Hindu organizations, leaders, and interfaith allies are ramping up efforts to protect Matru Bhumi through the Bhumi Devi ki Jai! A Hindu Declaration on Climate Change.

The declaration, first signed six years ago, is now back on the frontlines as the majority of world leaders are finally acknowledging the reality of climate change and the urgency of fighting it.

The declaration, authored by the Oxford Center for Hindu Studies and the Bhumi Project, with support from the Hindu American Foundation, is a call to action for the world’s approximately 900 million Hindus to take the lead in combating global warming. As Hindu leaders note, the effort highlights the natural leadership of Hindu scriptures in calling for action.

The declaration, in part, reads:

“Today, with the 2015 Paris Climate Conference nearly upon us, members of the global Hindu community again urge strong, meaningful action be taken, at both the international and national level, to slow and prevent climate change. Such action must be scientifically credible and historically fair, based on deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions through a transition away from polluting technologies, especially away from fossil fuels. A transition towards using 100-percent clean energy is desperately needed, as rapidly as is possible in every nation. Doing so provides the only basis for sustainable, continued human development. It is the best hope for the billions of people without electricity or clean cooking facilities to live better lives and reduce poverty.”


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Islamic Environmentalism

Nov8

by: Stephen Wollaston on November 8th, 2015 | 6 Comments »

Editor’s Note: This piece was adapted from the author’s book, entitled “Pathways of Green Wisdom: Discovering Earth Centred Teachings in Spiritual and Religious Traditions,” published by Greenspirit: http://www.greenspirit.org.uk/

For all Muslims, the whole of Earth, which has been entrusted to humans by God to protect and preserve, is seen as a divine gift and blessing from God. Earth itself is looked upon as an expression of beauty. Beauty being an attribute of God, and ‘the beautiful’ being one of God’s ninety-nine divine names in Islam. In the book Sufi Light, Ahmad Javid points out that, “The universe reflects the stunning beauty of its supreme Creator and displays His qualities constantly in every moment … Not only [do] all things come from God but in a way they also manifest God”.

In an essay on Islam, humankind and Nature, Mohammad Aslam Parvaiz informs us that, “As we learn about nature, it becomes abundantly clear that the entirety of nature is an integrated whole”. The Qur’an itself mentions both environmental and cosmic harmony created by God, how the sun and moon, plants and trees all submit to God’s design and balance. (55:5-9). Because of such mystical insights it can be seen that the whole Earth offers profound and constant opportunities for Muslims to be aware of God’s presence. A famous passage in the Qur’an in fact tells us that God is closer than our jugular vein (50:16).

 

Environmentalism

 

The Qur’an calls for all Muslims to “walk humbly on the earth” and promote “peace” to “the foolish” (25:63). From an Islamic perspective, because God has created all things and species, all forms of life ultimately need to be cherished and preserved. The Qur’anic saying advocating “no compulsion in religion” (2:256) reminds Islam’s followers and others that the Muslim tradition, in its purest form, is about unity, harmony, peace-making actions and nonviolence, which applies not only to humans but to the world at large. The idea of unity (tawhid) in particular, which is traditionally seen to be about God’s oneness, Muslim environmentalists also consider to be about all-inclusiveness, Richard C Foltz informs us.

Verses from the Qur’an also invite Muslims to “remember God’s blessings” (7:74), to “not corrupt the earth after it has been set right” (7:55), and to “not seek to spread corruption in the land” (28:77). Although some may interpret these passages to be only concerned with blessings God has bestowed on humans and human justice and nonviolence, it is accepted amongst green conscious Muslims that they can be expanded to include wider issues of environmental awareness, care, corruption and damage. In his masterful collection of teachings Spiritual Gems of Islam, Imam Jamal Rahman beautifully expresses the fact that, “Once we have begun to see ourselves as manifestations of the Creator, the next step along the spiritual path is to view our fellow beings with the same compassionate eyes”.

Foltz also informs us how, “It is often argued by Muslim environmentalists today that the Islamic legal tradition (sharia), in both its Sunni and Shi’i variants, if applied to the letter, contain adequate restrictions to ensure a use of natural resources that is both sustainable and just”. In the excellent book Green Dean, Ibrahim Abdul-Matin mentions how mosques themselves, as centres of religious community, are perfect places for promoting and being examples of green awareness, such as considering how much energy is used to light and heat mosques, and using better alternatives to plastic and paper cups and plates for any mosque based activities. At the holy mosques of Medina and Makkah in Saudi Arabia, the water used for ritual bathing (wudu) is recycled. In India, some mosques have huge tanks/pools for large crowds to use for ritual ablutions for the purpose of saving and reusing water.

Living at a time when people would have naturally recycled, the Prophet Mohammed himself would have wasted little. According to his wife Aisha, he recycled things when they could be fixed and repaired his own shoes and mended his own clothes, even though he would have had people around him who could have done these things for him.

 

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TPP finally revealed–a disaster. Take action against it.

Nov6

by: on November 6th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

We at Tikkun’s Network of Spiritual Progressives are part of the Citizens Trade Campaign coalition of forces that have challenged the Clinton Administration and now the Obama Administration in their proclivity to  create trade policies that are destructive to the environment and to the well being of working people here and around the world. The latest such is the Trans-Pacific Partnership which, while having some positive aspects, would restrict countries from passing important environmental and health care related legislation that might interfere with corporate profits. This latest effort to give multinational corporations powers that supersede the powers of national governments is one more reason we need the ESRA–Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The ESRA would, among many other important measures,  overturn any such international agreement that has been approved by the U.S. government or will be approved in the future–please help us get it endorsed after you read it at www.tikkun.org/esra. 

Rabbi Michael Lerner issued the following response about the newly released full version of the TPP:

The TPP agreement violates a basic command of the Bible: that human beings must protect and act as stewards for the earth. Instead, it provides a path for corporations to overturn the most moderate environmental restraints on corporate avarice, much less the far more stringent actions that environmentalists tell us are needed to even begin to reverse climate change and preserve the earth for future generations. This is selfishness and materialism taken to a new height, and every religious communityu should stand up against it.

–Rabbi Michael Lerner  Editor, Tikkun Magazine (winner of the mainstream media Religion Newswriters Association “Best Magazine of the Year” Award in 2014 and again in 2015)

 

Here’s the message we received from the Citizens Trade Campaign which is coordinating this effort:

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Pope Francis and Climate Change: Some Critical Questions

Sep24

by: on September 24th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

For the many of us – clergy and laypeople, academics and plain citizens, in the U.S. and throughout the world – who for decades have been saying that the environmental crisis calls for a religious perspective and an activist religious response Pope Francis’ bold words are a wonderfully welcome addition.

At least three things give those words special weight: first, as the years pass the reality of both global warming in particular and the other dimensions of the crisis (including the vast scale of pollution, species loss, and environmental illness) have become increasingly clear. Second, Pope Francis has established himself as a humble, intelligent, and authentic spiritual leader. If political conservatives resent his critique of capitalism, and cultural conservatives wish he would condemn homosexuals, an awful lot of other people (Catholic or not) see him as a man trying to live up to the traditional Christian virtues of love, forgiveness, and humility.

Third, and perhaps most important: Francis is clearly and unambiguously (for the most part, at least, skirting population control) calling a spade a spade: he rejects consumerism and unfettered capitalism, anthropocentrism and turning the earth into “an immense pile of filth.” He does not take refuge in vague generalities or idealistic appeals to unthreatening platitudes.

As an essentially secular person, I am delighted. Every (serious) environmentalist needs every other (serious) environmentalist. If there was ever an “issue” on which religious and secular, scientists and critical theorists, people of all races and nations and cultures might agree, it is this one.

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A Lack of Precaution is the Biggest Problem in U.S. Chemical Regulation

Jul31

by: Heidi Hutner on July 31st, 2015 | 2 Comments »

A group of partially used lipstick tubes.

What's in your cosmetics? You may be surprised to learn that many health and beauty products manufactured and sold in the U.S. are filled with harmful chemicals. Find out more by checking out the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. CREDIT: POMO MAMA (flickr).

America is unlike many other countries in that the use of chemicals across a wide swath of applications – from medicinal to pesticide to consumer product uses – there is no “precautionary principle” in effect. This means that chemicals DO NOT have to be proven harmless before they are used and that, once in use, they are only removed from the marketplace if something bad happens. In effect, U.S. policy toward chemicals closely mirrors the country’s judicial system: chemicals are assumed innocent before proven guilty. The precautionary principle, by contrast, is based on the assumed-guilty-before-proven-innocent model, in which chemicals must be proven safe BEFORE they are used.

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Fracking Goes on Trial

Jul28

by: Tribunal on Fracking on July 28th, 2015 | Comments Off

A coalition of human rights lawyers and academics has been granted an opportunity to put fracking on trial at hearings to be held in the UK and the UnitedStates.1

The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) will hold a session on hydraulic fracturing and other unconventional fossil fuel extraction processes after a submission was made by three groups: the Global Network for the Study of Human Rights and the Environment (GNHRE), the Environment and Human Rights Advisory (EHRA) and the Human Rights Consortium (HRC).

Between five and seven jurists of high standing in international human rights law will hear testimony before deciding whether sufficient evidence exists to indict certain nation states on charges of “failing to adequately uphold universal human rights as a result of allowing unconventional oil and gas extraction in their jurisdictions.”
An internationally recognised public opinion tribunal, the Permanent People’s Tribunal, is a descendant of the 1967 Vietnam War Crimes Tribunal. The PPT hears cases in which prima facie evidence suggests a breach of the basic rights of ordinary citizens. It acts independently of state authorities and applies internationally recognised human rights law to the cases brought before it. A PPT that examined the Bhopal chemical disaster of 1992 led to the adoption of the Charter on Industrial Hazards and Human Rights.

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60th Anniversary Of Russell-Einstein Manifesto Now Reinforced By Climate Change and Teilhard’s Warning

Jul27

by: on July 27th, 2015 | Comments Off

"Notice to the World...renounce war or perish!...world peace or universal death". Sixty years after Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell issued their manifesto about the growing threat of world war, the globe continues to face the prospect of nuclear annihilation coupled with the looming threat of climate change as well as Teilhard’s ominous warning: Love one another or you will perish: Allen L Roland, PhD.

“We have reached a decisive point in human evolution, at which the only way forward is in the direction of a common passion- Either we must doubt the value of everything around us, or we must utterly believe in the possibility, and I would add, in the inevitable consequences of universal love.” Teilhard de Chardin, Human Energy.

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What Religion Tells Us About the Place of Wilderness in American Environmentalism

Jul23

by: Dr. Mark Stoll on July 23rd, 2015 | 2 Comments »

Muir woods.

Muir woods. Credit: CreativeCommons / Aftab Uzzaman.

Wilderness has long been regarded as a cause near the heart of American environmentalism. Typical histories trace rising appreciation for wild nature that runs through Henry David Thoreau and John Muir on up to present passionate defenders of wilderness. This is such solidly received wisdom that hardly anyone, from environmental activist to academic historian, really questions it.

I discovered a rather different story during research for my book, Inherit the Holy Mountain: Religion and the Rise of American Environmentalism. I investigated the religious backgrounds of major figures in the history of environmentalism. Intriguingly, for over a century they overwhelmingly were raised in just two denominations, even though adult beliefs varied considerably.

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