Calls for Climate Justice in Paris

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Starting Monday, November 30, government officials, corporate heads, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) will meet for the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) for climate negotiations, this time in Paris.  World leaders and other official summit attendees will be protected by greatly enhanced security because of the tragic terrorist attacks.  Civil society won’t enjoy such protection because demonstrations in Paris have been prohibited.  But around the world people will gather to pray for solace for the victims of Paris and other recent attacks, for the success of the climate talks, and for peace.  People around the world will also gather to demonstrate and call on world leaders to take strong action to limit the emissions of greenhouse gases that cause climate change.

I was part of the United Methodist delegation to Rio de Janeiro in 1992 during the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED).  It was clear even then that environmental concerns could not be effectively addressed without simultaneously addressing poverty and inequity.  The governments of the world agreed in principle that “sustainable development” and justice for the poor were inseparable aspects of global action on climate change.  There have been many summits, but greenhouse gas emissions are soaring, global temperatures are rising, while poverty and inequity continue unabated.  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.  These are the very regions where churches and other nonprofits reach out in compassion to provide relief to those who are in distress.  According to the National Council of Churches, USA:

“The impacts of global climate change threaten all creation and will make it more difficult for people of faith to care for those in need.  With expected increases in drought, storm intensity, disease, species extinction, and flooding, the impacts of global climate change will increase the lack of food, shelter, and water available, particularly to those living in or near poverty.”

Calls for “climate justice” are growing louder.  Negotiators from vulnerable, hard-hit nations are pleading with those in wealthier nations to take strong and binding action to limit greenhouse gas emissions now.  They are calling on world leaders in Paris to establish a just process for transfer of renewable technologies and payment of “climate debt.”  Young people whose futures are being foreclosed are demanding strong and binding action on climate change.  They are calling on negotiators to end fossil fuel subsidies and go beyond corporate-friendly systems of carbon credits and offsets, to keep fossil fuels in the ground, and to transform the systems that are 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.

We must give special attention to the voices of those who live and work on the front lines of climate change: climate activists from the global South, people living in “sacrifice zones” polluted by fossil fuel extraction, women farmers struggling to feed their families, young people speaking out for intergenerational justice, and indigenous peoples calling for policies that respect the rights of the earth. Together this rising chorus expresses the yearnings of people joining together in the growing movement for climate justice and “system change not climate change.”  Their pleas, demands, and warnings urge us to demonstrate God’s care and concern by praying and advocating for just policies on their behalf.

 

Locally Nevada County Climate Change Coalition is organizing a demonstration on Monday, November 30, related to the Paris talks and two prayer vigils on December 1.  To find out more about these actions or to keep up to date on local activities, go to the Nevada County Climate Coalition’s new website and/or “like our 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.  

 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. 

 

Grateful for the Giver

The woods near my home.

The woods near my home.

As we head into Thanksgiving, I am reminded of the cultural and historical context in which we observe the holidays.  So much is wrong with the world, so many people are suffering, enough for Pope Francis to call the celebration of Christmas a “charade.” As for Thanksgiving, I cannot celebrate the narrative of the Pilgrims and Indians at peace together, considering the story’s historical outcome (still awaiting repentance and reconciliation).  And while I am grateful for the abundance in my life, I feel pain and a sense of responsibility because I am aware of the widespread suffering of our time.

Still, I am grateful for my life, for creation and all its gifts, and especially for the Giver.  This became clear to me years ago:

“Part of my spiritual practice is to spend time in the wild. It is also my joy. Each day is an adventure. I often see deer, sometimes a fox or bobcat. Once I saw a Great Horned Owl and stood looking up at it in awe for over an hour.

“One morning in the spring of 1988 I went jogging down the dirt paths in the woods behind my home toward Deer Creek, as I did almost every morning. I was reflecting on what I had read earlier in the morning in Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline, specifically advice from John Wesley about fasting: “‘Let our fasting be done unto the Lord, with our eye singly fixed on Him. Let our intention herein be this, and this alone, to glorify our Father who is in heaven.’ That is the only way we will be saved from loving the blessings more than the Blesser.”   I had fasted and practiced other spiritual disciplines, but I had never thought about fasting in this way. Wesley’s words were a mystery to me.

“On my way back up the path, I stopped in my favorite sacred grove. The dogwood and manzanita were exultant, showing off their blooms. The pines, firs, and cedars seemed to raise their branches in praise, creating a beautiful canopy of varied greens sparkling with the rays of the morning sun. Birds of all kinds sang their own unique songs, joining together in an amazing chorus of joy. The soft mat of pine needles invited me to stop again and pray, to open my eyes, ears, and heart to the splendor and magnificence of God’s creation, of which I felt so gratefully now a part.

“As I rose and started toward home I reached a spot where the sun was breaking through the trees. It seemed at that moment like heaven itself was shining down, illuminating the earth. In the beaming, radiant light I felt a God of infinite love showering me with all the blessings of creation.

“Standing in this light I suddenly remembered Wesley’s words about loving the blessings more than the Blesser and it dawned on me: I had been like a child at Christmas opening present after present, saying “thank you” and then looking around to see what was next. I had been “grateful” and had prayed my thanks. But I had forgotten or had never really known what I only now remember: the Giver, the God of Creation, the Spirit of Love at the heart of the universe, loves each of us deeply, desires the best for us, wants life to flourish and blossom, and through the creation showers us with evidence of self-giving love.”

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, filled with gratitude and all the blessings of God.

This blog post includes an excerpt from Shaking the Gates of Hell:  Faith-Led Resistance to Corporate Globalization by Sharon Delgado (Fortress Press).  Order from local bookstores or find it online. 

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

Climate Talks–Rio to Paris

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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 350.org’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

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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.