More About Elephants

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When my granddaughter Nikayla saw that I had taken a picture for my blog of her “Save the Elephants” poster, she said, “But it’s not finished!”  So here it is, a finished work of art.

My friend Bill Jacobson also commented on my blog posting, “Elephants Have Feelings, Too” and sent me a link to this video about Shirley and Jenny, two elephants reunited after more than 20 years.  The video shows the depth of the emotional life of elephants and the strength of their relational bonds.

I am grateful to be part of a community of people, both local and global, who are awakening to our kinship with other beings and the value of life in all its forms.  “An injury to one is an injury to all” takes on new meaning for those who seek justice for all creation.  Clearly, love is not limited to human beings.  Love is the Source of life, the Heart of the universe.

 

Elephants Have Feelings, Too

 IMG_0595                                                                                                          Several of my grandchildren have art work that will be entered in the Nevada County Fair, which is coming up in a couple of weeks.  One of the drawings has the words “Save the Elephants,” along with a picture of both an elephant and a child in tears as the elephant is “wacked.”

Our community is in an uproar because the fair board has contracted with a company called Have Trunk Will Travel, Inc. to provide elephant rides at the fair.  Videos are circulating that show company trainers abusing the elephants, including a baby elephant.  Community members have urged the fair board to cancel the contract, to no avail, and are now vowing to protest at the fair.    Meetings are being held, stickers and flyers are being created, T-shirts are being designed.  The goal?  To dissuade people from riding the elephants and prevent Have Trunk Will Travel from making a profit in this community.

This organizing effort is an example of people awakening to harm being done to another species, recognizing how we are complicit if we stay silent, and choosing to organize and take action with others to bring change–in this case to end the abuse and exploitation of elephants.  It’s also an example of a conflict of values–what do we value as a society?  Are other creatures to be used solely at the pleasure of human beings?  Is money really the bottom line?

I hear people in this community saying “No!”  It’s not okay to capture, subdue, and abuse elephants or other wild animals for the sake of entertainment and profit.  They have intrinsic value and are part of the interrelated web of life.  Elephants, especially, are known to have an emotional life and deep familial bonds.  Elephants have feelings, too.

By recognizing these realities, we glimpse Love, the Source of life, which connects us with each other, with elephants, and with all other parts of creation.  As Albert Einstein said, “Extend your compassion to all living things.”

“No” to Death Means “Yes” to Life

                                                                                                                                I have heard people say, “What you resist persists.”  While there may be some truth to this saying in certain contexts, it is by no means a universal truth.  In many cases, “What you ignore persists.”  Ignoring social evils, for instance, means accommodating to them and allowing them to spread.  I agree with theologian William Stringfellow, who said, “In resistance persons live most humanly.  `No’ to death means ‘yes’ to life.”

For a social movement to flourish, the ‘no’ of resistance cannot simply be reactive, but must be grounded in a ‘yes’ to life.  For people of faith, it is essential to recognize the true context and foundation of our lives in the midst of God’s good creation, and to develop an ongoing sense of the sacred in everyday life. The earth is our home and our primary source of revelation.  As we join forces with people of every persuasion and practice active democracy that furthers globalization from below, we must not forget who we are: children of Spirit, but also children of the earth, dependent on God for life and breath and all things and interdependent with the whole community of life. Thomas Berry reminds us of the extraordinary gifts offered to us through the creation, and of our responsibility to care for the earth, our home:

“The natural world tells us: I will feed you, I will clothe you, I will shelter you, I will heal you. Only do not so devour me or use me that you destroy my capacity to mediate the divine and the human. For I offer you a communion with the divine. I offer you gifts that you can exchange with each other. I offer you flowers whereby you may express your reverence for the divine and your love for each other. In the vastness of the sea, in the snow-covered mountains, in the rivers flowing through the valleys, in the serenity of the landscape, and in the foreboding of the great storms that sweep over the land, in all these experiences I offer you inspiration for your music, for your art, your dance.”

In addition to being grounded in the earth, we must also become aware of how we relate to the dominant institutions of which we are a part. We see how ruling institutions foster a sense of powerlessness, distort the truth, dampen the Spirit, nullify conscience, and impair moral agency. These inner effects of the Powers prevent people from rising up in clear and concerted resistance to these harmful systems and demanding change.

Recognizing these realities does not excuse us from personal responsibility, but adds another dimension to our understanding of the human condition. Just as we are dependent on God for life and breath and all things and interdependent with the rest of creation, we are also embedded in institutions and systems that affect us and that we affect, through our passive acceptance, active participation, or actions of resistance and transformation. Like Jesus, we must learn to live “in, but not of the world,” that is, the human-created systems of this world.  We are called to resist being taken over by the forces of a culture that would have us believe that comfort and pleasure and ease and looking good are the most important things in life. We are called to refuse to worship our culture’s dominant gods of money and worldly power, to resist the lure of materialistic values that keep so many enthralled, and instead to value human life and the natural world. By so doing, we plant seeds of hope and honor the Creator.

This blog posting includes excerpts from Shaking the Gates of Hell:  Faith-Led Resistance to Corporate Globalization by Sharon Delgado.  For another excerpt on a similar topic, see A Sacramental Universe.

 

Agenda 21 vs. the TPP

Stop TPP

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.   

Agenda 21

 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 21does not infringe upon national, state, or local sovereignty.  It’s 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.

 The TPP

Now let’s look at the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP.  It is being negotiated secretly, behind closed doors.  The public does not have access to the draft, yet corporations have not only seen it but are helping to write it.  Portions of the document have been leaked, so we know that this so-called “free-trade agreement” deals with far more than trade.   If enacted, its reach will extend into every aspect of our lives. 

 Unlike Agenda 21, the TPP would take precedence over U.S. law, and would bind us far more than any treaty.   The enforcement mechanism of treaties is internal to each country, but the enforcement of trade agreements is external.  If our government refuses to change a federal, state, or local law that is ruled “illegal” under the TPP, fines or tariffs would be leveled against us.  The position of the U.S. government is that we will change our laws to comply with the terms of  trade agreements.  This has resulted in many of our democratically-enacted laws being overturned through World Trade Organization (WTO) and North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) tribunals.

 The TPP incorporates the worst of the WTO and NAFTA, and expands corporate rule even further.  With the WTO, a corporation has to convince a government to file a dispute against (sue) another country.  With the TPP, as with NAFTA, a corporation can sue a country directly for lost profits, past, present, and future.  In other words, if people in a particular town rise up to prevent a corporation from building a power plant, the corporation can sue the federal government for profits they might have realized if the project had gone ahead.

The TPP not only threatens U.S. sovereignty, it places corporate profits above the democratic  process.  Why the silence on the TPP?  Why the alarmist rhetoric about Agenda 21?  I agree with Thom Hartmann’s analysis:  “It’s a sleight-of-hand technique to keep us focused on bogeymen, while the ranks of Texas oilmen, outsourcing CEOs, and Wall Street banksters carry out the true destruction of the United States of America: the pillaging of the Middle Class at home and the construction of a WTO-style one-world corporate government to promote unfettered capitalism and free trade everywhere on the planet.”

The major challenges facing humanity will require global cooperation, through open negotiation and the input of civil society.  It’s a big mistake to abandon our precious world to agreements like the TPP, a corporate bill of rights that would result in the consolidation of corporate rule.

 

The damage caused by free-trade agreements motivated me to write Shaking the Gates of Hell:  Faith-Led Resistance to Corporate Globalization, which includes an overview of the global economy, a description of its rule-making institutions (such as the WTO and NAFTA),  nonviolent resistance to global corporate empire, and globalization from below.

For more truth-telling about Agenda 21, see Thom Hartmann’s “Agenda 21: The Latest Sleight of Hand Trick by Corporate Elite” or the scholarly article on “Property Rights and Sustainability” by ethicist Donald Brown.

Find out more about the TPP and take action to Stop the TPP at Popular Resistance .  Find more resources at Public Citizen  or Flush the TPP

 

Living Deeply with Joy

Guari and grandkids watching the birds

A glimpse of joy: Guari and grandkids watching the birds

Living Deeply with Joy

An ongoing challenge for me is maintaining a full schedule while living deeply.  I don’t like feeling busy, or running from one thing to another.  I much prefer a sense of spaciousness in the midst of my varied activities.  Living deeply enables me to have glimpses of joy, even while facing the pain, sorrow, and struggles of life.

I know many activists who have burned themselves out.  I’ve experienced burnout myself in the past, and I don’t intend for it to happen again.  My solution?  Go deeper.  (That’s my solution to many of the challenges I face.)  Pray.  Meditate.  Practice discernment–say “yes” to some things and “no” to others.  Talk with someone else who is on a spiritual path and who knows what is at stake.  Take a walk.  Take a break.  Practice any of the traditional “means of grace.”  Laugh.  Dance.  Play with children.  Do yoga or Tai Chi.  And while you’re at it, practice staying in the NOW.  Practice the presence of God.

I’m convinced that the great challenges of our time require a rising up of people who are deeply grounded in the world’s various spiritual traditions, and in the earth itself.  We need to reclaim, reinterpret, and renew these traditions so they can adequately address the institutionalized system of domination, violence, and greed that has taken over our world.  In this transitional age, we need to go deep, for we need to reinvent the world’s systems and institutions in ways that are just and sustainable and, as Thomas Berry said,  “We need to reinvent the human at the species level.”

Whatever your circumstances, may you experience a sense of spaciousness today.  May you live deeply with joy.   It will take transformed people to transform the world.