OK, this last email pushed me to my limit. The subject line heading read: “Barack needs you, right now.” You’ve got to me kidding me. Barack needs ME? For what? Well Michelle (the email was sent from Michelle Obama), before I am willing to help Barack, I’d like to see Barack help the people of this country – the people who voted for him, who went doorbelling for him, who stood up for him because they believed in his message of “Yes We Can.” President Obama, your policies, practices and actions since taking office in 2009 are completely opposite of what you said you would do and I will not support you, so stop asking. In case you are wondering why, here is a list of a few of the things you have done that I do not condone and hence why I won’t give you any money or support.
Credit: Flickrcc/Storm Crypt
- Instead of helping the working class and poor people, you have aligned yourself with Wall Street and the corporate giants of the world.
- Instead of ensuring protection of our food supply, you have appointed Monsanto executives to your government.
- Instead of thanking whistle-blowers for uncovering the corruption and violence in our government and private agencies (as you said you would), you are hunting them down and prosecuting them.
- Instead of ensuring the protection of constitutional rights, you have signed into law the NDAA – allowing for unlimited detention without charges or a trial.
- Instead of upholding the law and following a path of peace and nonviolence, you have dropped drones and killed innocent children, women, men and community leaders.
- Instead of protecting the environment, you appoint people in your government who are hell bent on destroying our environment.
- Instead of confronting issues of race and racism, you talk platitudes while considering appointing the NY police commissioner, Kelly, the one in charge of the controversial stop and frisk policy in NYC that has led to the harassment of black and brown men at alarming rates, as the head of Homeland Security. All the while claiming that Trayvon Martin could have been you or your son.
A new wave of reaction to Agenda 21 threatens to confound the public and undermine efforts toward global cooperation on both environment and development. Meanwhile, those who raise the alarm about Agenda 21, a non-binding agreement, are silent about negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a binding agreement that would grant corporations new rights to interfere with our democracy.
I was part of the United Methodist delegation to Rio de Janeiro in 1992, during the historic United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, or “Earth Summit,” where Agenda 21 was signed. The agreement was negotiated openly in advance, with input from governments, corporations, and civil society. Its purpose was to suggest principles, policies, and guidelines that could help the nations of the world move cooperatively into the 21st century (hence the name) in ways that could both protect the earth and raise poor nations out of poverty.
Agenda 21 is not a treaty, so it was not ratified by the Senate. It does not have the force of law. It is non-binding, to be enacted voluntarily as governments see fit. Some jurisdictions in various countries, including the United States, have enacted policies based on Agenda 21′s suggested principles, such as protecting biodiversity, controlling pollution, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the progression of global warming, combating poverty, strengthening the role of marginalized groups, etc. Agenda 21 does not infringe upon national, state, or local sovereignty. Its goal is not to abolish private property or take away our freedoms or create an “eco-dictatorship,” regardless of what Glen Beck or Fox News have to say.
I woke this morning, happy to greet summer and looking forward to planting seeds.
Before, there was no time. No time. Never enough time.
This morning. I would make time.
I opened my door to greet the semi-quiet morning. Birds. Lots of birds. The humming of insects. The far away hum of cars.
First, I made coffee and planned to sit on my porch and read Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire.
by: Ngoc Nguyen on June 4th, 2013 | Comments Off
(Cross-posted from New America Media)
When Ian Kim imagines the world his 7-year-old daughter will be living in 20 years from now, he says, it keeps him up at night. Images of ever more frequent super storms like Sandy, along with rising seas, or drought and heat waves wreaking havoc with crops haunt his waking hours.
“It’s a huge worry for me,” said Kim, a self-described environmental and social justice activist. “On a scale of 1 to 10, it’s a 10.”
It’s a sentiment likely shared by parents the world over, though it’s especially pronounced among those working close to the issue. Kim described climate change as “a slow motion disaster that is already happening right now.”
Since Easter, we have worked with the great challenge of our times, the news that climate change will bring no more normal now – that everything will change, and we must change. Our species has no experience with demands so implacable. Our whole world view – religious, philosophical and political – along with all other world views, evolved on a hospitable planet and presumes such. But that simple presumption of earth’s hospitality has been shattered by our own actions, however unwittingly. Therefore, our religion faces a test unlike any previous: Is our faith able to help us adapt and adopt a world view and habits adequate to a world waiting to be born? Why, just yesterday, Columbia Univ. professor James Hanson, retired head of NASA’s Goddard Institute, was speaking to lawmakers in London. He told them that if the tar sands in Canada and other lands are exploited “to a significant extent,” then the problem of climate change will be “unsolvable.” Yet like an alcoholic, the nations belly up to the barrel and tell the baron of oil, “Break open another!” If in this crisis, our religion is not part of the solution, then what we do each Sunday is part of the addiction.
Certainly, religious life has been key in crises before. We could tell the stories for hours, but let Moses speak for them all. “I call hot heaven and a warming earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.” But before the faithful get to work on themselves and their situation, the people must first confront the basic predicament of society. We just don’t agree. Unlike the animals, we come to our crises with separate consciences and separate aims, which cannot be coerced; with separate fears and separate gifts for living with our fears.
One of our most powerful, affective emotions is our ability to feel or relate to the condition of another. While emotions such as grief and guilt often lead to paralysis, empathy leads us to action. We witness the suffering of someone in our community, read an emotive Facebook post of a friend in need of help, or hear the pained cries of our child and are moved to act. (We donate money to a personal cancer fund, offer advice, and comfort our child.) Why? Because we, in part, are able to personally feel the experience of that person standing outside ourselves. We are hit by an emotional wave that is personal, and that wave pushes us forward.
And this is a beautiful human characteristic – a trait that evolution has bestowed upon us, this instinctive, emotional pull to help others by feeling their pain and suffering. It’s an emotion cognitive neuroscientists are currently researching, trying to understand how it works. For if we learn how empathy truly functions, perhaps we can evoke with greater regularity this beautiful, moral emotion.
However, this beautiful human characteristic – beneficial when the world is small, say a family or a village – has become a liability and, in some cases, a destructive force in our world.
In some ways, empathy is killing us.
A film from 2010 by Danish director Lars von Trier received little notice then, but I hear of it more and more now. It is called Melancholia. A heavenly body – far bigger than an asteroid – has appeared in the night sky. It seems more beautiful than the moon – but is it moving? How? Will it fly by Earth? Will it . . . ? Can people deny the evidence of its approach? The film’s sole subject is a wealthy family living on an elegant country estate, reacting to this approaching orb, one in this way, another in that.
It would be too small to say the film is about global warming. Rather, the film evokes silence for a question of absolute urgency: How do we meet the news that there is no more normal now – that everything will change, that we must change; not just our person, but our civilization must change; and with it every connection, every living system? How to meet that news?
When the subject is climate change, some of us wonder, Why worry about a far-off threat that doesn’t affect us where we live? Has the preacher already forgotten about mass incarceration and stop+frisk? About immigration abuses and the need for education and health care delivery right here in this community? Others of us feel overwhelmed. Climate change is just too big – like that planet coming in the skies of Melancholia. It is news we can’t use in the pews! What can we do? These responses are normal.
by: Heidi Hutner on April 30th, 2013 | Comments Off
“Imagine what we mothers could do if we brought that spirit of loud, uncompromising, creative defiance to the necessary project of dismantling the fossil fuel industry and emancipating renewable energy, which is its hostage? Imagine hundreds and hundreds of mothers peacefully blockading the infrastructure projects of the fossil fuel industry, day after day. Imagine us, all unafraid, filling jails across the land. Imagine the press conferences we would give upon our release. Imagine us living up to our children’s belief in us as super heroes.”- -Sandra Steingraber
On April 24, 2013, Sandra Steingraber completed her fifteen-day prison sentence for “acting out” peacefully against the violation of our bodies and the earth by corporate polluters and environmental exploiters–in this case, the gas and hydro-fracking industry.
Sandra is my hero.
“The kinship that children feel for animals and their ongoing disappearance from us literally brought me to my knees that night, on a sidewalk in my own village. It was love that got me back up. It was love that brought me to this jail cell.” Sandra Steingraber
Today is Earth Day. Yesterday the film “How the Kids Saved the Parks” brought me to tears. It tells the story of how a group of children from Grass Valley Charter School worked to prevent the closure of the South Yuba River State Park, one of the parks that California had planned to close in 2011 due to budget cuts. In watching the movie, I was amazed at how articulate the children were in expressing their passionate feelings about this issue.
Those of us who live here really love the river. This “park” is a patchwork of accessible areas stretching 20 miles along the river. It includes miles of hiking trails, four historic bridges, and the nation’s only wheelchair-accessible wilderness trail, the Independence Trail.
Several of my grandchildren gathered signatures for this effort. Wonderful teachers helped them organize. Community support was high. Local nonprofit South Yuba River Citizens’ League (SYRCL) activated their network of volunteers. We were all thrilled when the “parks” were saved from closure.
by: Stephen Phelps on April 16th, 2013 | Comments Off
The poet who wrote the lyric for that hymn, Rev. Thomas Troeger, teaches at Yale Divinity School, my alma mater. When I attend a conference there, Tom Troeger is often addressing the assembly, so I have developed a feeling for his sharp mind and great heart. For that reason, when I see how long ago Troeger penned these words – almost thirty years – I can’t help but imagine that he would be the first to say that his verse has suffered a reverse at the hands of climate change. God did not mark a line and tell the sea anything, or else the sea wasn’t listening. Ask Sandy. Ask Irene. Ask Katrina. Surf’s up, people, in the worst way. Either God never had a word with the sea . . . or God’s order is out of order.
Today, we are going to think hard about what Christian faith has to do with caring for the earth. We are going to return to the question next week, and the week after, April 28th, when Bill McKibben, the world’s foremost earth care activist, will bring our morning sermon. Now, our preaching, including Mr. McKibben’s, will certainly be preaching. Proclaiming the good news of the gospel is the heart of our message. But we are not going to change the subject.