Climate Talks–Rio to Paris


Direct Action: Flood the System, Wall Street West San Francisco Financial District. I’m the one with the gray hair. This is where the young people are–where the action is.

I was part of the United Methodist delegation to the Global Forum in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 during the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, the first major gathering of world leaders, nongovernmental organizations, and corporate heads to focus on climate change and related issues.  Now the world is preparing for the 21st such Conference of the Parties (COP 21).  The governments of the world are still gathering, still negotiating, still talking, yet greenhouse gas emissions are accelerating, average global temperatures are rising, and extreme weather events are breaking records around the world.

The climate talks will take place from November 30 to December 11, amidst demonstrations in Paris and around the world (including here in Nevada County).  In previous climate talks, world leaders have agreed to limit emissions so that global warming will be held to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels in order to prevent the catastrophic consequences that scientists predict if temperatures keep rising.  Demonstrators are organizing major protests because emission limits being discussed before the Paris talks will not hold warming to that level of 2°C.  Average global temperatures have already risen .8°C (1.4°F), accompanied by record-setting extreme weather events on every continent.

Meanwhile, calls for “climate justice” are growing louder.  Everyone will be affected by climate change, but people in poor and vulnerable nations who are not responsible for historic greenhouse gas emissions are being hit first and worst by typhoons, floods, and killing droughts.  They are calling on world leaders in Paris to establish a just process for transfer of renewable technologies and payment of “climate debt.”  Youth whose futures are being foreclosed are rising up to organize direct actions and demand strong and binding action on climate change.  They are calling on negotiators to go beyond corporate-friendly systems of carbon credits and offsets (which consist of trading polluting greenhouse gases), to keep fossil fuels in the ground, and to transform the global system that is causing climate change.  People of faith and conscience on every continent are calling for those who gather in Paris to establish justice for the poor and vulnerable, intergenerational justice, and justice for all creation.

Stay tuned to this blog for more on this topic in the next couple of weeks. Keep demonstrators and negotiators in your prayers.  No matter what the outcome in Paris, this struggle will continue, and I am sure that the God who creates the beauty of the world and who is the love in our hearts is working with us for justice, peace, and the integrity of creation.

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.  

To find out more about demonstrations in your area and around the world, go to’s The Plan Through Paris.   

Check out the Facebook pages of Earth Justice Ministries  and Nevada County Climate Change Coalition.for information about what’s going on in Nevada County or Northern California.


Climate Change and Global Migration:  Signs of the Times


You can find this article online at Climate Change and Global Migration:  Signs of the Times, beginning on page 8 in the November issue of Response Magazine, the magazine for United Methodist Women.

You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.”    Matthew 16:3

We humans are pretty good at predicting the weather, but most of us are at a loss when trying to interpret the meaning and profound implications of climate change.  Yet climate change is one of the major signs of our times.  Global migration is another sign of our times, distinct but related to our changing climate.  Climate change will impact all our ministries, including our ministries of hospitality with immigrants and our missions that serve displaced people around the world, and climate change will cause ever-increasing rates of migration.

Climate change and immigrant rights cannot be addressed in a vacuum.  In order to find comprehensive solutions, we will have to consider how these issues are interwoven, look at root causes, and work for systemic transformation.   As disciples of Jesus Christ, we look to his life and teachings as a foundation for our response to these great challenges of our day.

Signs of Jesus’ Time

We sometimes think of Jesus as removed from time and space.  But Jesus’ ministry did not take place in a vacuum.  What were the signs of his time?  What was the context of his ministry?

In Jesus’ day, Israel was under military occupation by Rome.  The religious leaders in Jerusalem collaborated with the Romans, collecting taxes through the Temple and helping to maintain the precarious social, economic, and political order.

There was great unrest among the people.  They awaited the coming of a Messiah who would overthrow Rome and reestablish Jerusalem as a great kingdom, as it was in King David’s day.

Into this mix came Jesus, who challenged the established system while holding fast to principles of nonviolence, compassion, justice, and love. Many times throughout his ministry, Jesus warned that disaster would come upon the people if they stayed on the path they were on.  At the same time, he demonstrated fullness of life in the present, showing people what God was like and what human life could be when lived in the presence of God.

Jesus often had to deal with skeptics, who doubted his authority and challenged him at every turn.  Matthew 16:1-4 tells about one such encounter:

“And the Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven.  He answered them, `When it is evening, you say, `It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’  And in the morning, `It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’  “You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah.”  So he left them and departed.”

By referring to the “sign of Jonah,” who spent three days in the belly of a fish, Jesus foreshadowed his own death and resurrection.  Jesus directly challenged those who were responsible for leading the people in the wrong direction, demonstrated alternatives based on the values of the kin-dom of God, and lived and died in solidarity with those who suffered.  By so doing, he gave us an example to follow.

Even more, through faith in the Risen Christ, we can trust that God will guide and empower us in every situation and in each moment of our lives.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit we are given clarity to discern the signs of our times, including the interrelated challenges of climate change and global migration, and grace to respond appropriately.

Climate Change

The World Bank report, “Why a 4 degree warmer world must be avoided,” outlines the dangers of a rapid and dramatic rise in global temperatures.  So far, mean global temperatures have risen 0.8°C (1.4°F) since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, causing far more damage than predicted.   The warmer atmosphere has contributed to record-breaking weather events:  heat waves, extended droughts, major wildfires, extreme storms, floods, melting ice caps, rising seas, and more.  At the Copenhagen Climate Conference in 2009, the nations of the world agreed that we must hold warming to the limit of 2°C in order to prevent climate disaster.   But at the current rate of greenhouse gas emissions, we are on track for a rise of 4 to 6 degrees in this century.  Scientists warn that this would result in disaster.

As global temperatures rise, every region on earth will experience dramatic changes.  But the World Bank report also outlines the extreme impacts that a warming planet will have on poor and developing nations.  Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and South Asia will be particularly hard hit.  Drought and water shortages will affect agricultural production of basic crops like rice, maize, and wheat, raising food prices, affecting food security, and threatening famine.  Low-lying regions are especially vulnerable to disastrous flooding caused by typhoons, hurricanes, monsoons, or other serious storms.   Some islands and coastal areas will disappear; other places will become uninhabitable.  Such climate-related disasters will trigger hunger, homelessness, regional conflict, and mass migrations.

Global Migration

Migration rates are rising.  By 2013, there was a record number of 232 million international migrants,  with millions more displaced within their home countries.  Many have been motivated by war, persecution, unfair trade policies, economic hardship, natural disaster, or environmental degradation to leave home in search of a better life.

Europe is currently experiencing the greatest flood of immigrants since World War II.  The majority are fleeing war or persecution, and qualify as refugees under international law.  Some countries are receiving these desperate people humanely; others arm their borders trying to keep them out.

The greatest number of migrants are from war-torn Syria.  Some analysts suggest that climate change may be an underlying factor in this exodus.  Syria endured a severe drought that drove 1.5 million rural people off the land and into crowded cities, contributing to unrest.   As climate change advances and extended droughts become more frequent, such stories will become more common.

According to António Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, climate change will soon become the biggest factor driving population displacements, both inside and across national borders.  The effects of climate change on migration will vary.  Some regions will experience a mass exodus of people, while others will see a mass influx.[viii]  Ministries of hospitality and welcome for immigrants will be increasingly taxed by waves of environmental migrants who are fleeing from regions submerged by rising seas or made uninhabitable by extreme storms or drought.

Without international assistance, the governments of developing nations will lack the resources to meet these challenges, and may respond with expanded police and military power.  Even developed nations are unequipped at this time to deal constructively with the increasing number of weather-related disasters that are sure to come.  Unless there are proactive plans in place to assist victims of such disasters, even wealthy nations may respond through stricter immigration laws, harsher law enforcement policies, and military power.

Climate Justice

During the 2016-2020 quadrennium, United Methodist Women will add climate justice as one of its priorities, building on its work on climate change, immigration, and other ongoing issues of concern.  Climate justice addresses the disproportionate impacts of a warming planet on people in poor regions and nations who are least responsible for historic greenhouse gas emissions.  Climate justice includes a call for wealthy nations to transfer renewable technologies to poor nations and to assist poor nations in adapting to rising temperatures, rising sea levels, and extreme weather events.

Climate justice is an extension of United Methodist Women’s decades-long work on environmental justice, in solidarity with those who are disproportionately impacted by toxic pollution.  Poor communities, and especially communities of color, are more likely to be located near sites of extraction, production, transport, or disposal of toxic chemicals.  People in such communities, including workers, suffer negative health impacts and may lack access to medical care and other needed services.

A similar dynamic is at work in climate justice struggles. Fossil fuels pollute when they are extracted and processed, as well as when they are burned and released into the atmosphere.  In both developed and developing nations, low income people and people of color, including indigenous people, are more likely to live and work in “sacrifice zones,” where fossil fuels are extracted or refined.  In weather-related disasters, proximity to toxic sites multiplies exposure risks.

In 2016, United Methodist Women’s annual Mission u will feature a study on climate justice.  The climate justice study guide was written by various authors from different regions, which allows for a diversity of perspectives on the topic.  The goal of the study is to help equip participants to establish or join creation care ministry teams in their annual conferences.  Creation care ministry teams provide a context through which United Methodist Women can work together, in solidarity with others, to care for victims of climate change, work for climate justice, and transform systemic causes of climate change.

System Change

Economic globalization has created a Market-based global system, tied together by freely flowing capital, dominated by corporations, endorsed by governments, and enforced by police and military power.  The resulting problems are also global in scope.  There is great unrest, as the gap between rich and poor grows, poverty deepens, and the climate warms.

The twenty-first century movement for climate justice rigorously challenges the established order, as Jesus did in his day.  The current global system is not working for the majority of people or for the natural world.  It is inequitable, unjust, and unsustainable.  It is supported by institutions that promote white privilege, value profit over people, and exploit God’s good creation.  The momentum of this system is accelerating climate change, which in turn accelerates global migration.  Many are warning that disaster will befall us if we do not change course.

At the same time, people around the world are awakening to the current dangers and the need for systemic transformation. People in rich and poor nations alike are taking action for climate justice and are calling for “system change not climate change.”

Interpreting the Signs of Our Times

As United Methodist Women and as followers of Jesus, we are called not only to recognize the signs of our times, but to interpret and respond to them.  Behind facts and statistics we can see the faces of God’s children, our brothers and sisters around the world, and respond by acting in solidarity and welcoming them in Christ’s name when they come.  We can hear creation’s groans, and respond by working to preserve God’s wondrous creation and the interconnected web of life.

On the subjects of climate change and immigration, we must find clarity in the midst of controversy.  The United Methodist Church has accepted the scientific consensus on climate change for over 25 years, but skeptics present arguments that test us, sow doubt, and challenge our resolve.  It’s important for us to be well enough informed to know the basic facts about climate change and to understand that the fossil fuel industry funds climate skeptics and deliberately sows doubt about climate science.  Likewise, in the immigration debate, corporations oppose rights for immigrant workers that might cut into profits, while some politicians support or reject immigration reform depending on which way the political winds blow.

As we seek to interpret the signs of our times, we must give special attention to the voices of those who live and work on the front lines of climate change but are ignored by the media.  These include climate activists from the global South, people in sacrifice zones, women farmers struggling to feed their families, young people speaking out for intergenerational justice, and indigenous peoples calling on us to respect the rights of the earth.  Their pleas and warnings urge us to demonstrate God’s care and concern by advocating for just policies on their behalf.

We are called to welcome all people on behalf of Christ, protect those who are vulnerable, and preserve God’s creation for future generations.  We must continue ministries of hospitality with immigrants and work to prevent increasingly harsh and repressive policies.  At the same time we must work for climate justice and join in the chorus of voices calling for “system change, not climate change.”  By doing so we follow Jesus, demonstrate the values of the kin-dom, and entrust ourselves and the future to the care of God.

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 other 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. 

Writer’s Retreat

coffee shop

I’m here at my favorite Santa Cruz coffee shop, at the end of five days of work and play.  I’ve been traveling by Amtrak (bus, train, bus) to my varied destinations, writing as I go.

My first stop was Berkeley, where I spent most of the day in the Graduate Theological Union Library, perusing dozens of books related to my work.  I’ve kept my library card since seminary, so I checked out several books that most attracted my interest.  From Berkeley I headed by train to Merced, where I led a workshop for forty United Methodist Women on “Climate Justice and System Change.”  It gave me the opportunity to share some cutting edge ideas with concerned people of faith.  I had considered presenting a slide show, but decided an interactive workshop would be livelier.  It was!

After the workshop I traveled five hours from Merced to Santa Cruz.  I don’t mind the time it takes to travel by train and bus.  It cuts down on my carbon footprint and instead of driving I have time to read, write, rest, and pray.

Arriving in Santa Cruz on Saturday night was a kick—so much wild energy, so much going on.  And I have such a peaceful, beautiful place to stay—my friend’s guest room, just a 10-minute walk from downtown.  She and I got together for a walk and dinner Sunday evening, and she joined me for Salsa dancing on the beach, but most of the time when I’m in Santa Cruz I just come and go on my own, wandering and doing my own thing.  I visited places I used to enjoy when I lived here:  West Cliff Drive, favorite beaches, the Santa Cruz Public Library (yes, I still have my library card and yes, I checked out a book).  Oh, and Lulu Carpenters coffee shop, where I spent many hours writing among the UCSC students and their laptops.  Writing retreat headquarters.

It seems that I need plenty of free time in order for the creative process to kick in.  Here in Santa Cruz I take that time, watching the dolphins at play, watching the waves come and go, following my thoughts and watching them dissipate as the waves disperse on the shore.

Now I’m ready to go home.

I’m grateful that the God I know is not the kind to order me around, because I’m really not the obedient type.  I don’t like hierarchy and I don’t like following orders.  I like the “mother hen” metaphor for God that Jesus used when he said, “How often I have longed to gather you as a mother hen gathers her flock, but you were not willing.”  I’m often like a baby chick running around after whatever attracts my fancy.  Even so, God can work with me.   I experience God as inviting me, drawing me, attracting me, even wooing me (as process theologians say) through concrete situations in my wanderings through life.

Climate Change: A Call for Truth and Conscience

Industry sows doubt

I am a part of the Nevada County Climate Change Coalition (NC-CCC), which has been working to educate the community and to take action on climate change for about three years.  We recently teamed up with the South Yuba River Citizens’ League and the Nevada Theatre Film series to show the new film, Merchants of Doubt, a documentary about the corporate-funded climate change denial machine, which sows doubt about climate science.  When Representative Doug LaMalfa publicly denied the reality of climate change at a recent town hall meeting, several people rose to the occasion and wrote letters challenging his position. This website from Oil Change International shows that fossil fuel contributions to LaMalfa are part of the problem.

The following open letter was written by my spouse and love, Guari.  In it he identifies the problem:  corporate funding of climate change denial, which influences public policy.  This is a call for truth and conscience on the part of our elected officials, written from the heart.


An Open Letter to Mr. Doug Lamalfa

August 27, 2015

Dear Sir

You have made public denials of human caused climate change and sown doubt among the people about the consensus among climate scientists while receiving money from industries and corporations who profit from the exploitation of fossil fuels which cause climate change.

I admit I feel frustrated, sad and a bit hopeless with your continued denials because I value the wellbeing of Earth, her creatures and humanity.  It appears from your words and actions that you value money, position and power more than the wellbeing of this and future generations and that you choose personal gain over truth and wellbeing of others.

I request you reflect more deeply on what it means to be a representative of the people and open the doors of your mind and office and listen to what people are saying. Listen not just to friends and colleagues but those who come to you from outside your circle with greater concerns than just themselves.   Listen and act ethically and morally to implement the vision and hope of all the people in your district.


Guarionex Delgado


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Hiroshima Day


I can’t let this Hiroshima Day go by without memorializing the people killed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and acknowledging the shadow that atomic (and now hydrogen) bombs have cast and continue to cast over our nation and world.   I plan to stand with others down on the Broad Street Bridge in Nevada City this evening, holding my hand-made sign that says “Hiroshima, 70 years, Never Again.”

My children remember many Hiroshima Day candlelight walks from Pioneer Park and vigils on the Broad Street Bridge while they were growing up.  I first became motivated as an activist in the late 1970s, when I became aware of the very real threat that nuclear war posed to my children.   I wrote about an awakening that motivated me to action in Shaking the Gates of Hell, in the chapter on “The Iron Fist:  Enforcing Corporate Globalization:”

“I began my career as an activist in 1979 when I realized the extent of the danger of nuclear war and became involved with the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign.  One morning I was at home by myself, cleaning house while I listened to a tape of Helen Caldecott talking about the psychological effects of nuclear war on the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, known as hibakusha.  Listening to the stories about what these people had suffered over the years, I imagined my own family going through what they had gone through and I began to weep.

“Suddenly, I was struck with the thought: How must God feel about all this?  How must God feel about what we human beings have done to each other, and about what we intend to do, as we stockpile nuclear weapons?  I fell to my knees, praying for forgiveness, overcome with a sense of the depth of pain that God must bear because of the horrors we human beings create for each other.  To this day, I believe that God weeps for the harm we do to each other.”

My prayer today is this:

Thank you, God, for this day, for the beauty of the earth, for the “yes” of life in the midst of the systems of anti-life, which have taken your world captive and are in process of “undoing creation.”  May we never give up on the future.  May we never hide or run away from the pain of life, except in your presence and your peace.  Protect us from denial, that friend of avoidance and enemy of truth, which pretends to shield us from fear, communal guilt, and that tug of responsibility for the world.  May the strong heart of Jesus, who wept over Jerusalem, fill us with courage to feel and respond to the suffering of our time.  Fill us with your Spirit, that the winds of truth may blow and the flames of love may burn to bring about a great awakening of people of every faith and philosophical tradition, coming together as one, each doing our part to create the new world that is possible.  For you, O God of many names, are the Great Mystery, Ground of Being, Source of life and love, in whom we live and move and have our being.  Surely your will is abundant life, even in the face of death.  Your will is the reign of mercy and compassion in this world.

Good Friday, Nevada Test Site, early 1980s

Good Friday, Nevada Test Site, early 1980s

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