This Changes Everything

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I have been engaged in several conversations lately about how best to reach people on the subject of climate change.  Is it best to focus on educating people about the basics of climate change and its implications?  Should we try to convince skeptics by appealing to science and logic?  Shall we encourage people to make simple changes to their lifestyles and reduce their carbon footprints, even as overall emissions continue to rise?  Shall we use “bridge language” that feels safe, non-confrontational, and socially acceptable?  Or shall we sound the alarm and go to the heart of the problem: the global system of unrestrained free market capitalism, which depends upon ever-increasing amounts of oil and ever-rising corporate profits.

Perhaps there is a place for each of these strategies.  But if we think we will be able to continue on indefinitely with life as we know it, ignoring Earth’s changing climate or just making minor lifestyle changes, we are mistaken.  As the overall climate warms, extreme weather events (including unusual snow storms) become more frequent.  The most vulnerable people are affected first and worst, but eventually everyone on earth will be affected.

In This Changes Everything:  Capitalism vs. the Climate, author and activist Naomi Klein claims that if we want to halt climate change, we will have to change everything, including this global system that is causing climate change.  Many other leaders in the struggle against climate change are saying the same thing.  As Bill McKibben said in a Rolling Stone article, “The gap between `We’re all sitting ducks’ and `We do not face a crisis’ is the gap between halfhearted action and the all-out effort that might make a difference. It’s the gap between changing light bulbs and changing the system that’s powering our destruction.”

I have been writing about this for years.  Next Saturday I will lead a workshop that addresses this topic at the Interfaith Climate Conference:  Moral Ground-Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril at the University Covenant Church in Davis.  My workshop will be a presention and discussion on “System Change through Divestment,” about the movement within the United Methodist Church to screen fossil fuels out of our investment portfolios.  Of course, divesting from fossil fuels is just a small part of what needs to be done to address climate change.  But as I posted in a previous blog, it does “undermine the system that causes climate change.”  See Global Divestment Day:  Undermining the System that Causes Climate Change to see how.  Changing the system that causes climate change (along with so many other ills) is also the topic of my book,  Shaking the Gates of Hell:  Faith-Led Resistance to Corporate Globalization.

Upcoming blog postings will be about these topics:  A Critique of Global Free Market Capitalism, Challenging the System of Free Market Capitalism, and Transforming the System.  It may seem impossible, but my hope is that we human beings will rise to the occasion, awaken to what is at stake, take action to change the corporate-dominated system that is wreaking havoc on people and the planet, and create new life-sustaining institutions and systems that support life and heal earth’s natural systems and human communities.  I believe that God is with us in this struggle.

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

Sharon is available to give presentations on this or other topics.  Contact her here

Order Sharon’s CD– Climate Change:  What Do We Know?  What Can We Do? or download a free MP3 version.  Other blog postings about climate change can be found here.   Find related actions at Earth Justice Ministries website or Earth Justice Ministries Facebook page

 

Videos of Ash Wednesday at Beale

Arrested at Beale on Ash Wednesday

Arrested at Beale on Ash Wednesday

On Wednesday, February 18, we held an Ash Wednesday service at the front gates of Beale Air Force Base.  Beale is home of the Global Hawk surveillance drone, which identifies targets for “killer drones” like the Predator and Reaper.

I led the service, together with The Rev. Elizabeth Griswold, pastor of Parkside Community Church (United Church of Christ) in Sacramento;  The Rev. Timothy Leighton, United Church of Christ pastor and Campus Minister at UC Davis, Rev. Dave Bunje, retired United Methodist pastor of Nevada City, California, Marcus Page-Collange from the Catholic Worker Farm in Calaveras County, and The Rev. Dr. Jerry Pedersen, a retired Lutheran pastor from Sacramento, a member of Veterans for Peace and former U.S. Marine.  The service included an acknowledgement of our dependence on God, our interrelatedness with people of all spiritual traditions, and our interdependence with the whole web of life.  It also included prayers of repentance, the use of ashes to represent mortality and repentance, and Holy Communion.

After the service, six participants crossed the line onto base property, carrying an open letter to the base commander and sprinkling ashes representing the ashes of children killed by US drones.  We were held for a short time, cited with trespassing charges, and released.

The short videos below can give you a sense of the service and the nonviolent action following the service, including the loud sounds of the U2 spy planes taking off.  Peace to all during this holy season of Lent.

Ash Wednesday at Beale-Marcus and Tim

Ash Wednesday at Beale-Sharon

Ash Wednesday at Beale-Dave

Ash Wednesday at Beale-Jerry

Ash Wednesday at Beale-Elizabeth

Ash Wednesday at Beale-Crossing the Line

 Read the story of these events on the Nuclear Resister website.

Follow Sharon’s blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” theS  haking the Gates of Hell Facebook page.  Other blog postings about actions and trials related to Beale demonstrations can be found here.   Stay up to date about ongoing Beale protests at the Occupy Beale AFB website or Occupy Beale Facebook Page.

 

Dust in the Wind

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This blog summarizes Sharon Delgado’s words at the Ash Wednesday service at the front gates of Beale Air Force Base, on February 18, 2015.  Go to Videos of Ash Wednesday at Beale to see several brief videos of the day’s events.

The focus of Ash Wednesday is mortality and repentance—two primary aspects of faith.  It is the first day of the season of Lent, which allows us to journey with Jesus and to identify with him as he faces death at the hands of the Ruling Powers of this world.  This day and this season is a reminder of these things.  “Remember, O mortal, that you are dust, and to dust you will return.”

We sang “Dust in the Wind” at the beginning of the Ash Wednesday service here at Beale today.  The song is a reminder that life is short, limited, finite, and that we are mortal interconnected with all other forms of life.  Life is precious, and this day reminds us to live and love as if this day is our last.

Sometimes we forget.  We humans may think that we have constructed a “world” on top of the world, that the institutions and systems that we have set up are permanent and all-powerful, but they aren’t.  As Chief Seattle said, “What befalls the earth befalls the children of the earth.”  Or as other have said, “Earth bats last.”

We U.S. Americans may think that our nation will dominate the world forever, but it will not.  Even with all its bombs and drones, today’s global Empire, like all Empires, will fall.  It already contains the seeds of its own destruction.  Everything is dust in the wind.

Repentance is another Ash Wednesday theme.  People in ancient times humbled themselves to repent in dust and ashes.   Today, we repent for harm that we have caused personally.  We also repent for harm caused by the society and nation in which we live, and we call our society and nation to repentance as well.  Today especially, here at Beale, we focus on drone warfare. Global Hawk Drones are operated here, identifying targets for armed Predator and Reaper drones.  Drones are killing people, including innocent civilians and children.  Their lives are precious, too.

Near his final days, when Jesus was heading toward Jerusalem, he stopped and wept over the city, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known the things that make for peace.  But now they are hid from you eyes.”  He then prophesied that disaster would come upon them and the children within them if they did not turn around.  Why?  “Because,” he said, “you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.”

From there he went down into Jerusalem and immediately entered the Temple, driving out the money changers, symbolically striking directly at the heart of the economic/political/social/religious system of his day.  No wonder that within days he was put to death.

But that is not the end of the story.  The good news is that that same Spirit is with us still, called by so many names.  The Spirit that caused Jesus to weep over Jerusalem, the Spirit that moved him to take action for justice, the Spirit that motivated him to give himself in love… that Spirit inspires and animates us even today.  We do recognize the time of our visitation from God.  God is right here with us.

Everything mortal, finite, constructed by human hands is dust in the wind.  Everything passes.  Love remains.

 

 Read the story of these events on the Nuclear Resister website.

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.  Other blog postings about actions and trials related to Beale demonstrations can be found here.   Stay up to date about ongoing Beale protests at the Occupy Beale AFB website or Occupy Beale Facebook Page.

 

Global Divestment Day: Undermining the System that Causes Climate Change

 calling on the United Methodist Church to Divest

Calling on the United Methodist Church to Divest

Check out the many divestment actions that are taking place around the world today–Global Divestment Day.

The movement to divest from fossil fuels undermines the system that is causing climate change.   The worldwide system of unrestrained free-market capitalism, dominated by global corporations and fueled by money, is based on the view that market forces will sort everything out.

Those of us who are working to get our churches, colleges, and other institutions to divest from fossil fuels are challenging this system by saying, “Money is not the highest value.”  There are good financial reasons to divest from fossil fuels, but even if there weren’t, “If it’s wrong to wreck the planet, then it’s wrong to profit from that wreckage.”  There are values in life that are more important than money.

It is true that the global economic system is working well for the largest corporate players, those who benefit from subsidies, tax breaks, and preferential treatment.  Coal, oil, and gas corporations are among the most privileged beneficiaries.  But the system certainly isn’t working for the majority of people or for the natural world.  It’s not supposed to.  This system is not designed to preserve the creation, protect communities, or create equity and harmony among human beings.  It’s designed to turn human life and labor and the gifts of the earth into commodities to be bought and sold, and to deliver this wealth upward, to those who design and control the system.   As I say in my book on this subject, Shaking the Gates of Hell:  Faith-Led Resistance to Corporate Globalization:  “If we follow the money, we will see that the system is designed for the results it is getting. The architects, rule makers, and enforcers of the global economy are reaping the benefits of what they have designed.”

But as the movement to abandon these fossil fuel producers grows, they lose moral standing.  They are revealed as being not as all-powerful as they would like us to believe.  It becomes clear that their stock prices are based on extracting and burning all the reserves in their portfolios which, as we now know, would destroy the planet.  Political leaders, corporate CEOs, and others at the top will not lead the way to keeping the majority of fossil fuels in the ground, as is required for us to mitigate the harm caused by climate change.  They are driven and constrained by institutional realities.

But (thank you, God) a global movement for climate justice has emerged, led by people in developing nations most vulnerable to climate chaos, by Indigenous people in “sacrifice zones” where extraction is destroying the land, by women who live and struggle to care for children on the front lines of climate change, and by youth who know they have everything to lose by keeping silent.  This is the most hopeful movement of our time.  In fact, if we want our children and future generations to enjoy an abundant life, it’s our only hope.

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 Sharon’s previous blog postings about climate change can be found here.  Order Sharon’s CD– Climate Change:  What Do We Know?  What Can We Do? or download a free MP3 version.

The United Methodist Board of Pensions Screens out Coal

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On January 22nd the United Methodist Board General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits announced that it is going to screen thermal coal out of its investment portfolio.  For those of us who have been organizing for months to get the United Methodist Church to screen out coal, oil, and gas, this is a great success.  It is just a first step, but it is a step the Board wouldn’t have taken without the coordinated efforts of many people across the United States, especially Jenny Phillips and others involved with Fossil Free UMC.

We need to keep moving forward.  We need to create a comprehensive investment screen in the United Methodist Church on all fossil fuel companies because of the accelerating rate of planetary warming, because of the unethical behavior of coal, oil, and gas companies, and because the core business plan of these companies is to extract and utilize all of their reserves.

Institutions around the country and world are divesting from fossil fuels.  The “Go Fossil Free” campaign was started by Bill McKibben, a United Methodist Sunday School teacher, climate activist, and author of many books including The End of Nature and Oil and Honey.   The Go Fossil Free website states:  “If it is wrong to wreck the climate, then it is wrong to profit from that wreckage. We believe that educational and religious institutions, city and state governments, and other institutions that serve the public good should divest from fossil fuels.”

I agree.  Because I am a retired United Methodist pastor, I receive a monthly pension from our denomination’s General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits (“Board of Pensions”).  To me it is a moral dilemma to be receiving money from United Methodist investments in coal, oil, and gas companies, including Exxon Mobile, Conoco Phillips, and Occidental Petroleum.  These global corporations contribute directly to global warming through the greenhouse gas emissions of their products and operations.  They degrade the earth, harm communities, and pollute the atmosphere through hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), mountaintop removal, offshore oil drilling, and the mining of tar sands and other forms of so-called “dirty fuels.”

At the same time, many companies that produce fossil fuels, including those in the Board of Pensions portfolio, engage in unethical and egregious behaviors.  They divert earnings from pension plan participants to fund skepticism and denial about the reality of climate change, lobby governments to defeat climate-friendly legislation, sue to recover damage claims resulting from spills, and refuse to convert their business plans to focus on sustainable energy sources.

The primary rationale for creating a fossil fuels investment screen is this: Scientists warn that any warming above a 2°C rise would be dangerous, and governments of the world have agreed to work together to limit warming to that level.[i]  Scientists estimate that humans can emit roughly 565 more gigatons of CO2 into the atmosphere and still have some reasonable hope of staying below 2°C.  But proven coal, oil, and gas reserves, mostly held by fossil fuel companies, total about five times that amount–2,795 gigatons of CO2.  If companies extract and burn all these reserves, there will be no way to limit warming to 2°C, and we will have runaway climate change.  [ii] [iii]

Fossil fuels companies also carry some financial risks.  There is a risk of sharp losses in the value of stocks held by fossil fuel companies based on an over-valuation of these reserves, which will be unburnable if international agreements to hold warming to 2°C are honored.  If the world transitions to less polluting and more sustainable forms of fuel, this “carbon bubble” could burst, leaving the unburnable carbon as a “stranded asset.”

Screening out coal, oil, and gas from the church’s investment portfolios will not cause the collapse of the fossil fuels industry.  But such actions by churches, universities, foundations, and other institutions can highlight the urgency of the climate crisis, reveal the moral bankruptcy of the fossil fuels industry, expose the financial vulnerability of investments based on fossil fuel reserves, and demonstrate a way of being that values life more than the financial bottom line.  It is a way to demonstrate concretely that money is not God.  

Sharon Delgado spoke to the General Board of Pensions last November, urging them to create an investment screen on fossil fuels:   A Call to Create an Investment Screen on Fossil Fuels.

See the United Methodist News Service announcement and the Wall Street Journal Story about the United Methodist General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits creating an investment screen on fossil fuels.

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

Order Sharon’s CD– Climate Change:  What Do We Know?  What Can We Do? or download a free MP3 version.  Sharon’s previous blog postings about climate change can be found here.   Find related actions at Earth Justice Ministries website or Earth Justice Ministries Facebook page 

[i] World Bank Warnings on Why a 4 Degree Rise in Global Temperatures Must be Avoided:  http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/2013/06/17862361/turn-down-heat-climate-extremes-regional-impacts-case-resilience-full-report

[ii] “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math,” Bill McKibben, Rolling Stones, July 19, 2012–These scientific concepts as written for a mainstream audience:  http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/global-warmings-terrifying-new-math-20120719?page=2.

[iii] See also the original scientific paper, “Greenhouse-gas emitting targets for limiting global warming to 2 degrees C,” Malte Meinshausen, et al, in Nature, April 30, 2009.