Tikkun Daily button

Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category



Theologies of Genocide and Earth Day Ethics

Apr20

by: Rev. Dr. Brooks Berndt on April 20th, 2018 | 2 Comments »

Children marching for climate justice in 2017

Children marching for climate justice in 2017. Image courtesy of Lorie Shaull.

While waiting to speak at an environmental event earlier this year, another speaker told me a fascinating story. As part of his work for a university program dedicated to energy research, he invited a prominent fossil fuel executive to a graduate-level seminar. For the class, these sharp and highly informed students prepared themselves with arguments to deftly rebut the climate denialism they fully expected to confront. The actual encounter, however, went different than they anticipated. The executive befuddled them with heart-felt declarations of how his corporation was doing the will of God. The students did not know how to respond.

Almost a week after hearing this story I found myself speaking to a group of church youth about climate change. One of the youth who appeared to be about 12-years of age arrived with a passionate zeal to do intellectual battle with me. Evidently, the description of the workshop had motivated him to attend so that he could disabuse me of my ideas about climate change. From the very beginning, he wanted me to know that God gave us fossil fuels, so that we – humanity – could use them. I patiently put forth the perspective that a loving God would not want humans to suffer on a large scale so that we could burn fossil fuels. I did not expect to win him over, but I did want to offer a theological framework for the other youth to interpret and assess such views.

In the case of this youth, the theology espoused is transparently a theology of genocide. It involves a view of God that justifies actions that cause and will cause human death and suffering to an enormous and horrifying extent. Yet, the theological statements espoused by corporate executives and present members of the presidential cabinet can sometimes sound more like theological candy than theological poison. The EPA’s Scott Pruitt would have us believe that the burning of fossil fuels provides an opportunity to bless humanity, not curse it.

Seminary professor Leah Schade provides a compelling biblically-based rebuttal to Pruitt that posits a different blessing – one that is revealed in the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It is “the ability to discern how to live within the natural boundaries God has set for us.”

Pope Francis had it right. Planet earth is our common home. We don’t want our home to become the planetary equivalent of the gas station bathroom from hell just because of some bizarre moral notion that God has blessed us to spew atmospheric excrement into the air.

In a sense, Earth Day should be both a house party and a house cleaning party. We should celebrate our magnificent home, and we should be inspired to serve as caretakers of it. This requires that we all do our part, and it requires that we have a leader at the EPA who clearly embodies the caretaking ethic required of us. Instead of serving the fossil fuel industry, we need someone who serves the public by tending to the beautiful world around us. Our present health and our future wellbeing depend upon it.

__

The Rev. Dr. Brooks Berndt is the Minister for Environmental Justice for the United Church of Christ. He can be found on Twitter as @The_Green_Rev.

Countdown to Zero

Feb7

by: Marisa Handler on February 7th, 2018 | 4 Comments »

I come from a city surrounded by water. Cape Town sits at the tip of Africa, where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet. In precolonial times, the indigenous Khoena people called the Cape Peninsula “the place where clouds gather.” The winters of my childhood were memorable affairs, with frequent storms bringing gale force winds and drenching rains. But two years of severe drought have changed things, and now a different kind of storm is gathering.

Two and a half weeks ago officials announced the countdown to “Day Zero,” when the city will run out of water. That’s the day provincial dams are estimated to sink to a mere 13.5% of capacity. In the words of Cape Town mayor Patricia De Lille: “We have reached a point of no return.” Initially announced as April 21st, after farm irrigation was curtailed, Day Zero was moved up to mid-May. Unless the heavens unhinge or residents immediately begin abiding by strict rationing, Cape Town will become the first major city in the world to exhaust its water supply. Faucets will run dry, and Capetonians will have to collect their daily water ration from supply points. “The challenge exceeds anything a major city has had to face anywhere in the world since the Second World War or 9/11,” said Helen Zille, the Western Cape province premier.

Officials have begun announcing the 200 collection points throughout the city, at which the population of almost 4 million will be required to line up for their daily 25 liters (6.6 gallons). That’s around 20,000 people per supply point. Pundits are calling it a national disaster in the making, potentially crippling the “Mother City” of South Africa. Most schools will need to close. Jobs will be lost, property prices fall. Tourism, which accounts for 9% of the country’s annual revenue – Cape Town alone draws 2 million visitors each year – will certainly drop. Only hospitals and clinics will retain normal water supply. Despite the mayor’s explanation that “prior to filling their vessels, each person will be given a dose of hand sanitizer,” the inevitable sanitation issues mean serious potential for disease spread. While many affluent residents will likely leave the city, the millions living in the townships have no such recourse. At best, circumstances portend a logistical nightmare; at worst, chaos of dystopian proportions.

How did the situation get so dire?

Read more...

A modest measure to prevent cruelty and improve food safety

Nov21

by: on November 21st, 2017 | Comments Off

It’s not easy to think about the animals behind the eggs and meat that end up on our plates. If you’re like me, you’ve probably heard something about the troubling ways animals are raised for food. Some of the most upsetting examples are how factory farms cruelly confine mother pigs, egg-laying hens, and veal calves in cages so small they can barely move. These systems are deny farm animals virtually every instinct most natural to them. Surely, inflicting such pain on animals is a violation of the Jewish values and laws that call upon us to prevent unnecessary suffering to animals, or tzaar baalei chayim.. In addition to the blatant cruelty, numerous studies show that animals raised in extreme confinement are more likely to carry disease, requiring the worrying overuse of important antibiotics.

Fortunately, there is an important measure on the November 2018 ballot that will end this type of cruelty and alleviate threats to human safety: The Prevention of Cruelty to Farm Animals Act. This simple measure would upgrade California law by requiring not just more space, but cage-free conditions for farm animals. It would also require that all eggs, veal, and pork sold in the state be sourced from farms that comply with these modest animal welfare and food safety rules.

This groundbreaking campaign has already been endorsed by prominent faith voices throughout the state, such as Reverend Richard Mouw, former President of Fuller Theological Seminary and myself, Rabbi Michael Lerner, of Beyt Tikkun Synagogue. Other endorsers include the Center for Food Safety, Evangelicals for Social Action, San Francisco SPCA, the Humane Society of the US, Jewish Initiative for Animals as well as dozens of family farmers, veterinarians, and public health professionals who believe in safeguarding animal welfare and improving food safety.

As a conscientious consumer, I urge you to join me in supporting this important measure by getting involved here: www.preventcrueltyca.com/volunteer.

Religiously Grounded Pipeline Resistance

Oct30

by: Ted Glick on October 30th, 2017 | 1 Comment »

Two days ago, on October 27th, Lancaster Against Pipelines in central Pa. organized their third action in the last two weeks at the site where the Williams Partners company is laying pipe for the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline. At the previous two actions a total of 29 people were arrested in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience.

The pipe-laying and the cd is happening on land taken by FERC-approved eminent domain that is owned by the Catholic nuns group, Adorers of the Blood of Christ, which has a lawsuit pending against Williams.

An NBC News story on September 17th summarized the Adorers’ legal case: “that FERC and Williams Partners violated their rights under the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act because they are being forced to allow the pipeline to pass through their property, which breaks from their land ethic and deeply held religious beliefs.”

The lawsuit says that this violation: “places a substantial burden on the Adorers’ and Sisters’ exercise of religion by taking land owned by the Adorers that the Sisters seek to protect and preserve as part of their faith and, instead, uses it in a manner and for a purpose that actually places the earth at serious risk,”

The action two days ago was both deeply spiritual, with active participation by Adorers members, and tactically effective. It shut down work on the site for over an hour. It also  directly and personally reached out to the Williams workers, 25-30 of them, who listened quietly to songs, prayers and statements for 10 or more minutes as we formed a circle of about 70 people inside the fenced-off and guarded site where pipeline construction has been happening for a couple of weeks.

The afternoon of effective action began with a rally of close to a hundred people at the outdoor chapel built several months ago on Adorers land in collaboration with Lancaster Against Pipelines. The chapel included a kind of altar in the front and benches where people can sit. The altar is literally a few feet away from the fenced off construction site, and the sounds of machinery moving and welding happening were heard throughout the rally.

Read more...

The Waters of Remembering and Gratitude

Sep29

by: on September 29th, 2017 | Comments Off

Our well line broke this week. We live far from city water—or gas, or waste collection. We compost scraps, haul our own recycling, burn paper instead of flushing it to some unknown but surely polluted location. The issue coincided with days of heavy rain, welcome in New Mexico but also saturating the ground and thus postponing repairs. We haven’t had running water since Tuesday, especially inconvenient as we planned to host beloved friends coming here to lead Yom Kippur services.

Every hour has brought a reminder of how dependent I am on the conveniences of modern life (even our boondocks version). My body turns on the tap over and over before my mind remembers that no water will be forthcoming. I think of the people in Puerto Rico suffering from the pernicious neglect of a government that purports to watch over them. Those with homes still standing, how often do their bodies flip a light switch before their minds turn to wondering how they will survive in cities and towns without electricity?


Read more...

Paris, Trump, and the Religious Right

Jun19

by: on June 19th, 2017 | Comments Off

“Resisting the Green Dragon: A Biblical Response to one of the Greatest Deceptions

of our Day,” that is, environmentalism.

Paris, Trump, and the Religious Right

Note: This article includes excerpts from my book, Love in a Time of Climate Change, to be released by Fortress Press in July.

Like many of you, I am appalled by many things that Donald Trump has said and done in the first months of his presidency, including his announcement that he’s pulling the United States out of the (largely symbolic) Paris Climate Agreement. But we must look beyond the daily spectacles of the Trump Administration to see what’s really going on. Now that Republicans dominate Congress, they are quietly working to enact regressive policies that have been in the works for decades, policies that target the poor, people who are sick, people of color, immigrants, women, our young and aged, and yes, the environment.

Donald Trump didn’t get elected in a vacuum. He has lots of backers, including the Religious Right. This primarily Christian constituency is aligned with conservative social, political, and economic interests and is a powerful and organized force in the Republican Party. The cruel policies supported by those who espouse right-wing Christian beliefs are the antithesis of Jesus’ teachings about loving God and loving our neighbors.

The Religious Right also exerts a strong influence on the debate about climate change in the United States. This conservative religious lobby’s talking points and policy proposals on energy and climate are largely indistinguishable from those of the fossil fuel industry. Recent initiatives have focused on Academic Freedom legislation, designed to “teach the controversy” about climate change in public schools. Legislation to this effect has been drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative secular organization that brings corporate leaders together with conservative lawmakers to draft model legislation on various issues to be presented in state legislatures. Teach the controversy legislation has also been supported by the Alliance for Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian advocacy group, and the Discovery Institute – a creationist think tank. This uninformed and deliberately confusing approach to climate change was reflected by then-candidate Donald Trump in a 2016 New York Times interview, when he said, “You know the hottest day ever was in 1890-something, 98. You know, you can make lots of cases for different views. I have a totally open mind…. It’s a very complex subject. I’m not sure anybody is ever going to really know.”

Right-wing Christian groups deny climate science and evolutionary science on the basis that they are unbiblical. The Cornwall Alliance’s website hosts a sign-on declaration, “An Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming,” stating that “there is no convincing scientific evidence that human contribution to greenhouse gases is causing dangerous global warming.” The Cornwall Alliance also offers a DVD called “Resisting the Green Dragon: A Biblical Response to one of the Greatest Deceptions of our Day,” which outlines the dangers of the new and false “religion” of environmentalism. Not surprisingly, the organization also works to prevent the teaching of evolution in public schools.

Although political and economic interests help fund and influence the Christian Right’s opposition to climate science, there are also theological factors at work. An analysis of anti-environmental sentiment within the Religious Right reveals that some are convinced that concern for the environment is based on the worship of nature. Others, who believe in apocalyptic prophesies about the coming end times, feel that it is pointless to worry about climate change. What they hold in common, however, is their insistence that the creation stories in the book of Genesis must be taken literally.

Creationism, the belief that the creation stories of Genesis are scientific fact, is widespread among conservative Christians, who seek to introduce this doctrine even in public schools. This sets the creation stories in scripture in opposition to the scientific story of the origins and natureof the universe. Was the universe created in fifteen billion years or in seven days? In pre-scientific times, most believers did take the creation stories in Genesis literally, but times have changed. Scientific discoveries have revealed aspects of the universe unknown in ancient times.

One form of denial at work in these and other conversations about climate change is people’s refusal to consider facts or evidence that contradicts their worldview. Science is continually revealing new information about the natural world, its origins and interconnectedness, and the causes and impacts of planetary warming. Reason enables us to weigh the evidence, reflect on its implications, form rational conclusions, and make informed decisions as we consider how to respond to the earth’s changing climate in a reasonable way. But in the words of Naomi Klein, “it is always easier to deny reality than to watch your worldview get shattered…”

The debate about climate change is political, not scientific, and confusion need not hold us back. Faith in the One who brought creation into being enables us to overcome denial, fear, and confusion as we seek truth about these issues. Jesus insisted that the most important measure of human life is loving God above all and our earthly neighbors as ourselves. In this time of climate change, love of God and neighbor requires honoring creation and working to establish justice for our human family, especially those who are most vulnerable, for our young and future generations, and for all creation.

 

Sharon’s new book, Love in a Time of Climate Change, describes some of the ways that the Religious Right has impacted US climate policy, and explores the topic of climate change in a way that takes climate science seriously and is grounded in Jesus’ teachings and example. Sharon’s blog can be found at sharondelgado.org.

For more information and an analysis on the Religious Right’s backing of Donald Trump’s policies on climate change, see “Politics, culture, or theology? Why evangelicals back Trump on global warming,” by David Gibson.

 

 

Humor From Tikkun

Mar10

by: David Tell, Tikkun Managing Editor and Chief Satirist on March 10th, 2017 | Comments Off

‘Changing the Channel’ on Trump

 

It’s been noted – and amply demonstrated – that Trump garners his awareness of the general national and world situation – its issues, problems, crises (and proposed solutions) and even of “fluff” – from his daily diet of cable “news.”

Reporting and observation have indicated that the president watches several hours of Fox and CNN virtually every morning, and his regular tweets (often expressing alarm, ire, contempt and so on regarding various pieces of information about events and people) frequently come within seconds of the broadcast about an item he is responding to.

It’s believed the recent Trump tweet (known now as “Treets”) accusing former President Obama of having wiretapped Trump Tower during the election campaign is one of many cases in point.


Read more...

Love and Prayer as Resistance: Interfaith Action at Standing Rock

Jan23

by: Paige Foreman on January 23rd, 2017 | 3 Comments »

Seminary students huddle around a table with bright red ministerial stoles in an intimate, round chapel at Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley, California. The students were supposed to leave at 3:00 PM, but about twenty people from the  Starr King community want to bless them before they leave. The room is packed with parents, professors, students, friends. Together they pray, singing hymns about water. Many cry, moved by what they know is happening at Standing Rock and the show of support around them. Even though they are not ordained, the group insists the students have the red stoles.

“In the Episcopal tradition, the color red is the color of witnessing,” said Rev. Deb Hansen, an interfaith minister and Starr King student.

Immediately after the service, the eight students piled into two cars and drove for 30 hours to respond to North Dakota Episcopal priest John Floberg’s clergy call for solidarity in early November. A ninth student from Virginia would meet the group in North Dakota. A week ago, 140 protesters were arrested there after a violent confrontation with the police.

They drove together through the snowy Donner Pass, stopped at a diner in Reno, watched the sun rise over brilliant red sandstone in Utah, and gazed at the deer that lined the roads in Wyoming. They drove past oil wells and wind farms. In Wyoming they saw an armory—a giant, two-story grey block surrounded by a chain-link fence topped with razor wire. And about two hours later, one of the cars — in which the passengers were two women, a gay man, and black man — was stopped for speeding by a state trooper.


Read more...

Social Action Education as Spiritual Practice – Lessons from Standing Rock

Dec30

by: Rabbi Rain Zohav on December 30th, 2016 | 3 Comments »

Every time we take action, we are also educating. If we are lobbying, we are educating our legislators. If we are protesting, we are educating the public and the “powers that be”. And we are educating ourselves in how to be effective and live our values.

In this moment, the Water Protectors at Standing Rock are a strong example of the intertwining of education, action, and spiritual practice. I was privileged to be able to answer the call of Chief Looking Horse for clergy to come to Standing Rock to pray and be in solidarity with the water protectors on Sunday, Dec. 4. This is perhaps the first lesson for allies to any cause: Listen and wait to be invited if you are supporting groups whose oppression you do not share. In the Jewish tradition, our central prayer, the Sh’ma, is all about listening. Listening to the Divine who is One: transcendent, immanent and reflected in the face of every human being.


Read more...

Drowning the World in Oil : Trump’s Carbon-Obsessed Energy Policy and the Planetary Nightmare to Come

Dec16

by: Michael T. Klare on December 16th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

Editor’s note: here is another important article from our media ally tomdispatch.com and the introduction is written by its editor Tom Engelhardt. Sadly, the Left can point out the problems, but has no serious strategy to change the consciousness of Americans so that they might not go further down the road toward a self-destructive society. We at Tikkun have that strategy–a plan that could split the Right, because not all of those who moved in that direction in 2016 are actually racists, sexists, homophobes, Islamophobes, anti-Semites, or otherwise deranged. Many, in fact, are not any of these things. But to reach them, we need a significant change in the culture and consciousness of the Left. We have the strategy for how to do that. What we don’t have is the financial backing to make it happen. The strategy is outlined in the Winter 2017 issue of Tikkun magazine. But we need your help right now to keep Tikkun alive as a visionary voice in times of growing despair. Please stretch beyond your normal giving to help us–make a tax-deductible contribution at www.tikkun.org/donate or send a check to Tikkun, 2342 Shattuck Ave, #1200, Berkeley, CA 94704 or call and give your credit card info and donation to Staci at 510-644 1200 (between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Pacific Standard Time (3 hours earlier than Eastern Standard Time). We can change this world–but only if we have strategies that go beyond “resisting” Trump–because although that is important, it won’t change the minds of people whose minds need to be changed if our world is to be saved from environmental destruction. –Rabbi Michael Lerner, Editor, Tikkun rabbilerner.tikkun@gmail.com

 ***

The Trump administration-in-formation is a stew of generalsbillionaires, and multimillionaires – and as in the case of retired Marine General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, the likely new secretary of defense, even the military men seem to have made more than a few bucks in these last years. In retirement, Mattis, for instance, joined the board of military-industrial giant General Dynamics as one of 13 “independent directors,” reportedly amassing at least $900,000 in company stock and another $600,000 in cold cash.

Oh yes, and there’s one other requirement for admission to the Trump administration: your basic civilian appointee must be ready to demolish the system he or she is to head. Betsy DeVos, the president-elect’s pick for education secretary, wants to take apart public education; Tom Price, the future secretary of health and human services, is eager to dismantle Obamacare and Medicare; Scott Pruitt, the proposed new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, seems to want to tear that agency limb from limb; and the announced new “labor” secretary (and you really do have to put that in scare quotes), fast food CEO Andy Puzder, is against raising the minimum wage and thinks the automation of the workplace is a total plus, since machines can’t take vacations or arrive late.

Let’s face it, the most extreme government of our lifetime is going to be a demolition derby. Think of it as the Reagan administration of the 1980s on steroids — and keep in mind that Donald Trump will be the president of a far more fragile country than the one Ronald Reagan and his cronies presided over. Things could begin to fall apart fast for ordinary Americans. For instance, the new Republican Congress is expected to swiftly pass a promised “repeal and delay” version of the obliteration of Obamacare, officially wiping that program off the books and yet postponing its departure and the arrival of whatever is to replace it until after the 2018 elections. In the interim, however, the result is likely to be a “zombie” health care marketplace from which insurance companies are expected to begin to jump ship, potentially leaving significant numbers of those 20 million Americans who got medical coverage for the first time via Obamacare with nothing. And after EPA chief Pruitt has helped let Donald Trump’s “energy revolution” of extreme fossil fuel exploitation loose to do its damnedest and, as TomDispatch regular Michael Klare makes clear today, America’s skies are once again veritable smog-fests, there will be plenty more health needs on whatever’s left of the horizon.

Donald Trump, as Politico points out, is already at war with labor, and prospectively with those “failing government schools,” and the American safety net, and the environment, not to mention the planet – and that’s before we even get to actual war, which will be overseen by a crew of Islamo- and Irano-phobes. If, as Klare points out today, Trump himself has a serious case of nostalgia for the America of his youth (and mine), with its untrammeled growth and its fossil-fueled wonders, don’t think that nostalgia doesn’t reign in military affairs, too. In that case, however, it wouldn’t be for the oily vistas of the mid-twentieth century, but perhaps for the age of the Crusades. Tom

 ***

Drowning the World in Oil 
Trump’s Carbon-Obsessed Energy Policy and the Planetary Nightmare to Come 
By Michael T. Klare

Fracking oilScroll through Donald Trump’s campaign promises or listen to his speeches and you could easily conclude that his energy policy consists of little more than a wish list drawn up by the major fossil fuel companies: lift environmental restrictions on oil and natural gas extraction, build the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, open more federal lands to drilling, withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, kill Obama’s Clean Power Plan, revive the coal mining industry, and so on and so forth ad infinitum. In fact, many of his proposals have simply been lifted straight from the talking points of top energy industry officials and their lavishly financed allies in Congress.


Read more...