Amends and Healing for Mother Earth

Child playing in the earth art sand tray.

Child playing in the earth art sand tray.

Many wonderful altars are featured at this year’s annual Altar Show at the Nevada County Fairgrounds, which runs from November 8-16.   This year Earth Justice Ministries created an altar dedicated to Mother Earth and the Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth.

Our altar includes photos of a Ritual of Amends and Healing for Mother Earth that we held on Sunday, November 2, at a commercially logged site just beyond Cascade Shores in Nevada County.  Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI) clearcut the area four years ago, treated it with herbicides to prevent undesired native species from growing back, and replanted it selectively with trees to create an “even-aged forest.”   The altar includes photographs of local clearcut forests and explains how Sierra Pacific Lumber Company turns diverse ecosystems into tree plantations for profit.

The altar displays photographs of the Ritual of Amends and Healing of Mother Earth, which included spoken word, prayer, music, dance, and the planting of seeds.  The purpose of the Ritual was to affirm the inherent rights of Mother Earth, to make amends for harm done, and to empower us to defend the rights of Mother Earth and all beings.

The Ritual and the Altar are both based on the Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, a document that was affirmed at the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in 2010, in Cochabamba, Bolivia.  Our primary focus was on the following words from the Declaration:

“We, the peoples of Earth are all part of Mother Earth, an indivisible, living community of interrelated and interdependent beings with a common destiny.  Each human being is responsible for respecting and living in harmony with Mother Earth.”

 

Clearcut

Our Prius in the clearcut in 2010.

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Same area. Ritual for Amends and Healing, planting seeds for a diverse ecosystem 4 years later.

See more photos from the Ritual and the Altar at Earth Justice Ministries Facebook page.   Follow Sharon’s blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell FaceBook page.

 

A Call for an Investment Screen on Fossil Fuels

Peoples Climate March in rural Nevada City, California, suffering from drought and  wildfires.  Photograph by Guarionex Delgado

Peoples Climate March in rural Nevada City, California, suffering from drought and wildfires. Photograph by Guarionex Delgado

A Call for an Investment Screen on Fossil Fuels

A Presentation to the United Methodist General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits by the Reverend Sharon Delgado, November 13, 2014

My name is Sharon Delgado.  I’m a retired clergy woman in the California Nevada Annual Conference.  I’m here today representing our conference Advocacy and Justice Committee.

I appreciate the work of this Board, which safeguards my pension and does the hard work of determining how our investments can be both ethical and profitable.  I appreciate being given this time to share with you about an Investment Screen on fossil fuels.

Thank you, Jenny Phillips, for your presentation on The Last Beneficiary, which gave an overview of this topic and of the Fossil Free UMC movement.

In June, the California Nevada Annual Conference passed a resolution calling for a consultative process with the General Board of Pensions and several Cal-Nevada boards and agencies.  The goal of this process is to work toward an investment screen based on the Natural World section of the Social Principles, and ultimately toward a General Conference resolution.

We hope with this “consultative process” to avoid conflicts with the General Board of Pensions that can result from unilateral calls for divestment.  Also, by calling for an investment screen we are hoping to avoid the legal pitfalls that can arise from divestment.

We know that the Board of Pensions is concerned about climate change.  We want to understand the perspective of Board leaders and hope to find a common strategy to address our shared concerns.  We want this legislation to be informed by various stakeholders, even if all stakeholders don’t agree on the content of the legislation that is developed.

So far, we have been in touch with Anita Green, the Board’s Manager for Sustainable Investment Strategies.  She has been frank and thorough in answering our questions.  We trust that that relationship will continue.

 Specific Requests

We do have two specific requests.  First, we would like a decision by the Board of Pensions about whether the Board is willing to engage in this consultative process.   Ms. Green said that she has gone about as far as she can with us and that we will need to bring in others for a more substantive conversation.   If the Board is willing to go forward with us in a cooperative two-way process, please delegate someone to work with us.

We also request at least three meetings, in person and/or conference calls that include representatives from Cal-Nevada and from the Board of Pensions–one in early or mid-December, one in mid-January, and one in February.  People from Cal Nevada can then ask questions directly, pose suggestions, and get feedback from the Board of Pensions representatives.

Shareholder Advocacy vs. an Investment Screen on Fossil Fuels

 So far the General Board has established investment screens related to human rights but not the natural world.  The Board dealt with environmental concerns through shareholder actions.  But this is not adequate in the case of climate change.  The threat of climate chaos and the unethical behavior of fossil fuel companies makes a screen for fossil fuels necessary.

Besides, it seems that shareholder actions with fossil fuels companies have had little or no effect in reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).  For instance, some fossil fuels companies in our pension portfolios have set internal GHG emission reduction goals, but they do not report their goals or results.  These companies have no goals related to lifetime emissions of their products (oil, gas, coal).  In fact, just the opposite:  their goal is to sell and have consumers burn as much of their products as possible.

Funding Climate Change Denial and Lobbying against Climate Legislation

Many fossil fuel companies fund think tanks that promote climate change denial.  This stalls action and increases the risk of runaway climate change.  Some of these think tanks, like the Heartland Institute, worked with the tobacco companies to promote denial about the harmful effects of tobacco.  They are using the same strategy to cast doubt about the science of climate change.  I was told that “this has not yet been part of the conversation” within the Board of Pensions.

Many fossil fuel companies lobby directly and fund organizations that lobby government to block climate change legislation and international treaties.  The Board puts this topic into the broader category of shareholder action related to “political spending,” which is done mostly through cooperative action with other groups.  But blocking climate legislation is too important and the resulting harm too great for this kind of lobbying to be folded into the general category of “political spending.”

If we invest in companies that fund climate change denial and block climate change legislation, it reflects badly on the church, contributes to environmental and social harm, and increases the risk of runaway climate change.

Climate Change as a Human Rights Issue

Climate Change is not just an environmental Issue, but also a human rights issue.  On an international level, the African continent, island nations, and other vulnerable countries are calling for climate justice.  In the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, the lead negotiator for Philippines fasted throughout the climate summit in Warsaw, while pleading for strong climate action.   The Typhoon killed 4,000 and displaced 4 million people.

In North America the treaty rights of Indigenous peoples are being violated, especially in Canada but also in the United States. This is what activated the Idle No More movement.  Indigenous leaders are calling for support in their struggles to prevent the pollution of the land, air, and water by dirty new extraction technologies.   All over North American, wherever there are fracking fields, tar sands, wetlands near offshore oil platforms, or mountains with their tops being blown off, there are poor communities and communities of color that serve as “sacrifice zones.”

Creating an investment screen on fossil fuels is one way we can take action on behalf of the poorest and most vulnerable people in our country and in the world.

Thank you for this opportunity to speak with you about these important issues.  We look forward to further conversations.  I hope we can find a way forward so that we United Methodists are practicing what we preach about climate change.

Stay informed and updated. Go to the Fossil Free UMC website or the Fossil Free UMC Facebook page.    For more general information about the movement to divest from fossil fuels, go to the Go Fossil Free website or the  Fossil Free Facebook page.   Follow Sharon’s blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell FaceBook page.

 

Arrested While Dancing at Beale

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On Tuesday morning I was arrested again at Beale Air Force Base while dancing at the main gate.  Eight others were arrested with me, while demonstrating peace through the Dances of Universal Peace. We were cited and released.

Two other demonstrators had been arrested the day before, on Monday:  John Auer, another ordained United Methodist minister, and my husband Guari.   Guari had pushed John’s wheelchair one mile onto the base to the guard booth at the Wheatland Gate, where John delivered a letter for the base commander related to a resolution passed by the California-Nevada Annual Conference supporting “A Call to Stop Drone Killings,” a statement signed by many religious leaders around the country.  The two were arrested, cited, and released.

Both of these actions were coordinated with Campaign Nonviolence, through which over 230 nonviolent actions took place around the country at the end of September.  The focus of the Campaign Nonviolence actions was to call for an end to war, poverty, and climate change.

Why did I risk being arrested again at Beale?  I answered that question in Why I Crossed the Line at Beale,  when I crossed the line at Beale the first time, almost two years ago.

This time, however, we have just begun another war, this time against ISIS, as if bombing and killing people could somehow lead us to security and peace.  We are told that we are targeting terrorists, but we are also killing innocent civilians, including children, in Iraq and Syria.  Have we learned nothing from our endless pursuit of endless war?  Have we forgotten the roots of the current crisis, and the U.S. role in it?  We are sowing ill will and creating future terrorists by terrorizing people through war.  Meanwhile we are spending billions on weapons of destruction, billions that could be used to meet human need and to heal the natural systems of the earth.

Insanity has been described as doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.  As a nation and as a culture, our priorities are wrong.  It is time to repent, to change direction, to turn around.  It is time to focus on peacemaking, on feeding the hungry and welcoming the stranger, on healing the earth.  This will take a major shift in values, in investments, and in systems of power.  It will take a great awakening of the earth’s people, sustained resistance, and ongoing demonstrations of peace.

This transformation is already taking place, and I am certain that God is with us in this struggle.  This is a struggle worth living and dying for.  We need you.  Wherever you are, there are kindred spirits nearby.  I invite you to join us.

 

I wrote more about the Monday (September 29) action with Rev. John Auer and Guari in my previous post, Campaign Nonviolence Arrests at Beale.

 I wrote about the three interrelated evils of war, poverty, and climate change in Campaign Nonviolence:  A Call to Transformation.

Stay informed and updated.  Follow Sharon’s blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell FaceBook page.  Go to the Occupy Beale Air Force Base Facebook page or Occupy Beale website for updates on this court case, background information, and announcements about upcoming Beale demonstrations and direct actions.

Campaign Nonviolence Arrests at Beale

John and Guari 1

On Monday afternoon, September 29, two anti-drone demonstrators were arrested for trespassing onto Beale Air Force Base.  My good friend, The Reverend John Auer, a retired United Methodist pastor from Fresno, offered a prayer for peace and for the earth.  Then he crossed the line onto base property, assisted by my beloved, Guarionex Delgado.  He pushed John’s wheelchair the length of the mile-long road to the Wheatland Gate.  Base personnel detained them when they reached the guard house.  I also walked with them, taking pictures, but turned back when they entered through the gate.

John stated that he was attempting to deliver a letter to Colonel Phillip A. Stewart, the Base Commander, informing him of a recent anti-drone resolution passed by United Methodists in the California-Nevada region.  (I had also signed on to the letter.)  The letter also included The World Council of Churches’ Statement on the Use of Drones and the Right to Life.  Beale is the home of the Global Hawk Drone, a surveillance drone that helps find targets for armed drones.

This action was one of over 250 nonviolent actions carried out in coordination with Campaign Nonviolence, calling for an end to war, poverty, and climate change. John and Guari stated concerns for the children, for humankind, and for the earth as reasons for walking onto base property.  John carried a sign with a picture of the earth that said, “No War, No Warming,” a reference to the relationship between war and climate change.  They both wore light blue scarves that represent solidarity with others around the world who are suffering the effects of war and who are working for peace.

John spoke of his reasons for taking this action:  “I believe in the recuperative powers of the earth and of the people.  We can’t stop trying.  We can’t stop making an offering of our lives and of our hope.

“I oppose drone warfare because the more we depersonalize war the easier it is for us to fight, and to act as if it is not costing us anything.  When we mechanize war it makes others expendable.  Everyone becomes collateral damage.”

“I am committed to a better world for our children and grandchildren, and I mean all our children and grandchildren.  They will ask us one day what we did in this time.  I want to be able to say that we offered some kind of resistance and some kind of hope.”

Guari said, “I am opposed to all forms of violence.  Climate change is violence against the earth.  Poverty is violence against the people.  War is violence against both people and the earth.”

“When I was younger and uninformed, I served the Empire.  Now that I’m older and clearer, I serve my brothers and sisters who are working for peace and healing.  In this case I had the strength to accompany a brother in the struggle.”

Stay informed and updated.  Follow Sharon’s blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell FaceBook page.  Go to the Occupy Beale Air Force Base Facebook page or Occupy Beale website for updates on this court case, background information, and announcements about upcoming Beale demonstrations and direct actions.

 

Resolution: A Call to Stop Drone Killings

 

IMG_6062This resolution was passed without debate on the consent calendar at the 2014 California-Nevada Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, held in Burlingame, California, in June 2014.

Be it resolved: That the California-Nevada Annual Conference affirms the 2012 General Conference Resolution 6128, Seeking Peace in Afghanistan, which includes a call for: “an immediate end to drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which have escalated exponentially since 2008…”

Be it further resolved:  That the California-Nevada Annual Conference endorses the document “A Call from the Faith-Based Community to Stop Drone Killings;’

“As representatives of faith-based communities, we are deeply concerned about the proliferation of lethal unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones. The United States is leading the way in this new form of warfare where pilots in US bases kill people, by remote control, thousands of miles away. Drones have become the preferred weapons to conduct war due to the lack of direct risk to the lives of U.S. soldiers, but these drone strikes have led to the death of hundreds of innocent civilians in countries where we are not at war, including Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

“Some aspects that we find particularly disturbing include:

  • The President and his aides draw up a Kill List in which they play the role of prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner. People on this secret Kill List have never been charged, tried or convicted in a court of law, and are given no opportunity to surrender;
  • The labeling of all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, thus justifying their murder, is an extreme and macabre form of profiling;
  • Drone strikes kill not only their intended targets, but innocent people, including children, violating the sanctity of human life;
  • Drone strikes violate other nations’ sovereignty (Pakistan’s elected leaders, for example, have repeatedly called for an end to the strikes);
  • Drones in the hands the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command keep the program veiled in secrecy. The lack of transparency and accountability violate the basic tenets of a democratic society;
  • Drones make killing more abstract, impersonal, antiseptic, convenient and “easy”;
  • The Administration insists that because drones do not risk American lives, Congress need not be consulted, leading to a dangerous abuse of executive power;
  • Drone strikes have replaced Guantanamo as the recruiting tool of choice for militants. They fuel anti-American sentiment, radicalize local populations and perpetuate an endless cycle of violence.
  • The example being set by the United States that a nation can go anywhere it wants and kill anyone it wants on the basis of secret information is leading to a world of chaos and lawlessness.

“The world’s great religions teach us to cherish human life. This impersonal, risk-free killing of people on the other side of the globe runs counter to religious belief and the teachings of our traditions.

“We urge our government to put an end to this secretive, remote-controlled killing and instead promote foreign policies that are consistent with the values of a democratic and humane society. We call on the United Nations to regulate the international use of lethal drones in a fashion that promotes a just and peaceful world community, based on the rule of law, with full dignity and freedom for every human being.”

Be it further resolved: That the Conference Secretary will send letters to President Barak Obama, and U.S. Senators and Representatives of California and Nevada, informing them of this action and urging them to work to end drone strikes and to develop peace-building alternatives;

Be it further resolved:  That members of California-Nevada Annual Conference will inform their congregations of this action and help raise awareness among church members about the immorality of drone killings and the need to work for peace.