Climate Change-What Love Requires

Progressive Christian Social Action

Climate Change-What Love Requires

This post is an excerpt from Love in a Time of Climate Change, published at the Evangelicals for Social Action website.

It was love that brought me to this jail cell. – Sandra Steingraber

When my granddaughter Nikayla was ten years old, climate change became real to her. She learned that glaciers and ice sheets are melting, endangering the habitats of Polar bears and Emperor penguins. She loves animals, as most children do, so she created a poster with pictures of hearts, the earth, and animals. The poster said:

“Save our earth! We all know our earth is at stake! We need to do something about it. Try not killing animals or grow a garden. We need our earth to live on. We need you to help save our earth. There are many endangered species of animals. Please save our animals. There is a Polar bear for instance and all of a sudden the ice melts under his feet and he sinks in. There is no land for thousands of miles so there is nothing to do. He just dies. We need to save our animals, too. Save our earth. Save our animals.”

My granddaughter empathized with the penguins and Polar bears, felt grief when she thought about their suffering, and responded by making a poster. Her feelings motivated her to action. Her response brings to mind John Wesley’s counsel to reflect on the suffering of animals as a way to “soften and enlarge our hearts.” The resulting empathy involves an experiential change: a change of attitude and an increase of love.

Studies show that in order for people to be motivated to take action on climate change, their knowledge and concern must move from the head to the heart. Those of us whose lives are still intact may not realize the grave implications of a warming world. Even if we understand climate change intellectually and accept the conclusions of climate scientists, we may not internalize the dangers if we experience relative stability in our day-to-day lives. This disconnection between our head and our heart may prevent us from responding in a way that is proportional to the dangers we face.

We have seen that scripture, tradition, and reason uphold the call for justice, but how can we internalize this knowledge so that it is confirmed at the level of our own experience? What will lift us out of denial, self-centeredness, despair, and paralysis, and motivate us to respond to the suffering of others by joining in the work for climate justice?

The answer is love. According to Michael Lodahl, “For Wesley the love of God is to be experienced, in some sense felt, deep within our beings. Wesley was not content with a purely intellectual faith, nor even with a simply volitional faith, but with a faith of conscious and experienced relation to God and neighbor.”

Wesley spoke of salvation as “deliverance from a blind, unfeeling heart, quite insensible of God and the things of God.” Religious faith is not simply a rational assent to a belief or doctrine, but as Wesley said, it is “no other than love, the love of God and of all mankind; the loving God with all our heart, and soul, and strength, as having first loved us…, as the fountain of all the good we have received, and of all we ever hope to enjoy; and the loving every soul which God hath made, every man on earth as our own soul. This love is the great medicine of life; the never failing remedy for all the evils of a disordered world; for all the miseries and vices of men.”

This love is real in human experience. We have explored the experience of God as revealed through creation and the experience of assurance of God’s forgiveness and love. Now we focus on the experience of God’s love within us, moving us to compassion for others. Compassion motivates us to acts of mercy and justice that witness to God’s love, embody hope, and positively influence the world. Love is the only foundation strong enough to carry us through the difficulties posed by climate change with courage, compassion, persistence, and hope.

Love is the only foundation strong enough to carry us through the difficulties posed by climate change with courage, compassion, persistence, and hope.

Some people may fear being swallowed up by pain, guilt, or the inability to cope if they open their hearts to the magnitude of suffering caused by climate change. Denial and suppression of such feelings may seem to be the only way to carry on with current responsibilities as a functional human being. But as we grow spiritually and mature in faith, our capacity for both joy and sorrow expand. As we become more fully alive and connected with others, we come to recognize the presence of love in the full range of human emotion. We move out of denial through faith and are carried by love. The climate crisis presents us with opportunities to demonstrate that love in a variety of ways, in solidarity with people on the front lines of the struggle for climate justice. As Joan Baez said, “Action is the antidote to despair….”

As people of faith, the climate crisis demands that each of us decide where we stand and what love requires. In each moment we have a choice: to follow where love leads or to relinquish our responsibility to choose. Each prayer and each action has significance. With each decision we move the world closer to climate chaos or to climate justice. In each moment we stand on the front lines of climate change.

Love brought Sandra Steingraber to a jail cell for civil disobedience. Love brought Jesus to the cross. Where will love bring you?

Sharon Delgado creatively adapts John Wesley’s theological method by using scripture, tradition, reason, and experience to explore the themes of creation and justice in her book Love in a Time of Climate Change, from which this article is excerpted with permission from Fortress Press. The premise is that love of God and neighbor requires us to honor creation and establish justice for our human family, future generations, and all creation. From the Introduction: “As we entrust our lives to God, we are enabled to join with others in the movement for climate justice and to carry a unified message of healing, love, and solidarity as we live into God’s future, offering hope amidst the climate crisis that ‘another world is possible.’ God is ever present, always with us.  Love never ends.”

See the article at http://www.evangelicalsforsocialaction.org/creation-care/24462/

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Creation Crucified:  The Passion of the Earth

One of the last Golden toads of Costa Rica, now extinct.

During Lent, Christians remember and grieve Jesus’ death at the hands of a murderous system that included official representatives, religious collaborators, a public that could be manipulated, and friends who betrayed, denied, or abandoned him.  We remember and grieve the countless others who have been executed over the years by similar systems of worldly power.  Meanwhile, creation is being crucified as surely as Jesus was crucified on the cross.

This understanding has profound implications when we consider the harm being done to creation.  Even though many of us as individuals try to treat the earth with the respect it deserves, the institutions and systems in which we participate are plundering the earth and leaving it despoiled and desecrated.  This does not bode well for humans or the other life forms with whom we are interrelated and interconnected on this earth.  The institutions and operating systems that support industrial civilization are destroying the ecosystems upon which all life depends!  The insatiable appetite of the global system of wealth-driven corporate capitalism continues to devour the gifts of the earth, destroying the goodness of creation, destroying our non-human companions, destroying prospects for future generations, destroying our humanity.

Now the Trump Administration’s federal budget proposal includes cuts of 31% to the Environmental Protection Agency, which was formed in 1970 as the result of grassroots activism and widespread public concern.   The very agency charged with protecting the environment is being cut more deeply than any other program.

The destruction continues and accelerates.  Several climate change feedback loops have kicked in, making runaway climate change more likely each day.  The Sixth Great Extinction is well underway, as the atmosphere and oceans heat up, as toxins become ubiquitous, and as diverse ecosystems are paved over, “developed,” or converted into monoculture crops.  Humans suffer as air, land, and water are overused or contaminated, and as food prices rise.  Fukishima continues spewing radioactive waste into the oceans as more nuclear power plants are built.  Powerful nations wage resource wars and attempt to dominate the earth in an endless cycle of violence, employing drones and other high-tech weapons that kill civilians, obliterate communities, and create toxic wastelands.

No one on earth will be left untouched by the current system of death, for it is destroying life itself.  The web of life is being unraveled.  The air, water, land, and stable climate necessary for sustaining life are being destroyed by the institutional imperatives of today’s global corporate empire.  The earth is dying—signs of death are all around.  Creation itself is being crucified.

In this dying of Earth’s life systems, her children, both human and non-human, suffer.  Songs of praise become cries of pain and lament, “My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?”  “God help us!  Has God forsaken us?  Where is God?”

But it is not God who has forsaken us, it is we who have forsaken God.  God is right here in the midst of the persecuted and tortured earth, suffering in and with Earth’s creatures, including but not limited to humanity, experiencing forsakenness.  God weeps for the harm done, because God experiences it all from the inside—the terror of the Polar Bear who discovers she cannot swim the distance to the next ice floe, the confusion of the Monarch butterfly whose migratory home has been destroyed, the loneliness of the last Golden Toad who croaks unceasingly for a mate.  God experiences the alarm of people in island nations that are being subsumed by rising seas and the panic and grief of families whose crops fail and children die because of increasing drought.  God experiences the “great loneliness of spirit” of the child who realizes that species are dying, and who wants a future of abundant life.

Where is there hope for new life?  I see signs of resurrection in the rising up of people who are no longer willing to consent to the current global system of death and are rising up in nonviolent resistance and creative action.  Surely God is on the side of those who love life and are willing to give themselves fully to the struggle out of love, as Jesus did. The compassion and passion that motivated Jesus may save us yet, as his risen Spirit lives and loves through us.  If we are willing, God will breathe new life into us, inspire us, empower us, and work through us to bring about healing and new life for all creation.

Previous blog post:  The Suffering God:  Where Humanity is Crucified
Next Post:  Conventional Wisdom:  The Wisdom of this World

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More Clearcuts in Nevada County?

Clearcut

SPI Clearcut outside Nevada City, past Cascade Shores

Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI) is at it again, planning to clearcut forested areas in Nevada County.  The Wash Timber Harvest Plan (THP) outlines their plans to engage in industrial forestry on 160 forested acres five miles from Nevada City, on land right next to South Yuba State Park.  According to the local Forest Issues Group, the THP “contains significant errors, contradictory information, omissions, and misinformation,” which “should have made this document legally inadmissible to the timber harvest plan review process.”

First, for those who don’t know about SPI, it is the largest private landowner in California.  Its overall long-range plan is to clearcut 70% of its holdings on a rolling basis in order to create “even-aged forests,” that is, tree farms.  This involves clearcutting intact forest ecosystems, applying herbicides to prevent the re-growth of native species, and then planting stands of commercial timber that can be harvested like carrots.   Their plans are well underway.

Industrial tree farms do not provide the habitat needed by the diversity of species that inhabit regular forest ecosystems.  Chief Seattle said, “When the animals are gone, humans will die of a great loneliness of spirit.”  As our natural world is diminished, I recognize that loneliness of spirit in myself.

Today is the last day of public comments. (Send comments to reddingpubliccomment@fire.ca.gov)  Few members of the public have the technical expertise to read and understand the complexities of forestry law, with its details, classifications, and regulations.  I don’t know these specifics, so my comments will not be technical.  Many thanks to the Forest Issues Group, who sent a letter addressing SPI’s questionable motivations for purchase (just two years ago) and the details (including omissions and apparent illegalities) of the Timber Harvest Plan.

The above photo was taken outside of Nevada City, beyond Cascade Shores.  A couple of years ago, a group of us went out for a ceremony of Amends and Healing for Mother Earth.  We planted seeds, sang songs, and read the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth.   I hope that the community asserts its power to protect the 160 acres in the Wash Timber Harvest Plan.  Whether this blog post or my comments have any bearing on the decision, they demonstrate my refusal to simply stand by while the machine of ecological devastation rolls on.

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Preparing for Trial in North Dakota

58408707190cf_800x686-56195462478UPDATE:  My trial has been postponed until February or March, because there are so many court cases.  Shirley’s trial is now scheduled for Jan. 31, together with Janie and Christy’s.  Their trials could be postponed as well.

 

As the New Year approaches, four of us from Nevada County who were arrested in November during a nonviolent action near Standing Rock are preparing to return to North Dakota in January for trial.   The lawyers we have retained are in touch with the Water Protectors Legal Collective, the legal team that bailed us out of jail and keeps us updated about trials related to Standing Rock.

My trial is scheduled for January 13, so it’s coming up soon.  My lawyer is trying to have it rescheduled to January 31, so I can travel and go to court with Janie and Christy, whose trials are scheduled for that date.  Shirley’s trial has not yet been scheduled.  Evidently the courts are overwhelmed, so my lawyer says that some of our cases may be postponed or even dropped.

But trials are moving forward.  According to the Water Protectors Legal Collective, “Criminal prosecutions of the over 500 Water Protectors who have been arrested since August are moving forward rapidly, amidst an extremely hostile criminal legal system.  Hundreds of Water Protectors will be in court during the next few weeks.”

The first trials related to Standing Rock were held these last two weeks of December.  The first case was continued because the prosecutor had failed to provide the defense team with evidence that could exonerate the defendants.  Several other cases were continued due to the holidays and the difficulty of getting to court because of the recent blizzard.  On December 20, those who appeared had a jury trial, were found guilty, and were sentenced to 10 days in jail.  All 10 days were suspended for those willing to pay $500 to Morton County and $500 in court costs.  According to the Legal Collective, “Though disappointing, the sentence is much better than the plea bargain the prosecution had offered prior to trial.”

We will see how these cases proceed.  Each case is different, and the charges vary.  I am charged with “obstructing a government function” (I thought I was obstructing a corporate function).  It is a Class A misdemeanor, the most serious, carrying a penalty of up to one year in jail, though I doubt that the sentence will be that harsh.

I welcome the opportunity to “speak truth to power” through the court system in support of the water protectors at Standing Rock.  By standing up for what we believe and refusing to be intimidated, we discover the strength we have.  By acting for justice in solidarity with others, the way forward becomes clear.  Both personal and social transformation become possible and hope becomes a reality.

For those who are able to make a year-end donation:

Donate to the Crowdfunding Site for our Legal Fees.  This is tax-deductible because it is being administered through local nonprofit Earth Justice Ministries.  Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, we are close to our goal of raising enough money to pay the up-front fees for our lawyers.  Additional funds will go towards travel and lodging as we return to stand trial.  Funds that we don’t need for our trials will be donated to the Water Protectors Legal Collective.

Donate to the Water Protectors Legal Collective, which paid our bail, are working with our lawyers, and are keeping us updated about trials related to Standing Rock.  They are also raising money to assist people with travel and housing who need to return to stand trial.

Donate to the Oceti Sakowin Camp, the main camp at Standing Rock.  As of today, they are not accepting any physical donations except firewood and cash.

 

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 Find previous blog postings about Standing Rock.  

Standing for Standing Rock

image“The Earth does not belong to man; Man belongs to the Earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons of the Earth. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”        Chief Seattle

Anyone who is concerned about climate change or human rights ought to be paying close attention to the Standing Rock resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline taking place right now in North Dakota.  Working for climate justice does not simply mean lowering our carbon footprints or sending emails to elected officials.  It also means joining together in solidarity with people who are most vulnerable to a changing climate and those who live on lands that are threatened and polluted by extreme forms of fossil fuel extraction, transport, and refining.  Such “sacrifice zones” are often on historic Indigenous lands.

Although most people know that this country is built on a history of land theft and genocide of Native peoples, relatively few realize that the historic assault on Indigenous lands continues today.  In the United States and Canada, this often takes place through the violation of treaty rights and the exploitation of Native lands by extractive industries.  Large corporations have repeatedly violated treaty rights by extracting resources and polluting traditional lands that sustained Indigenous peoples for millennia.

Members of  more than 150 Native American tribes have joined the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their attempts to block the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline.  The 1,172-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline would transport 470, 000 gallons of crude oil each day from the Bakken Oil Fields. Tribe members are concerned because the pipeline would travel below the Missouri River near the Standing Rock Reservation, and a pipeline accident could contaminate their water supply. Over 2,000 Indigenous people and their supporters have gathered there, and nonviolent protesters blocking construction are being arrested each day.

The United Nations has issued a statement calling on the United States government to ensure the right of the Sioux to participate in decision-making about the pipeline, since its construction would negatively impact their rights, lives, and lands. The United Methodist General Board of Church and Society and other religious groups have made statements in support of this action.  Here’s an article with background from the United Methodist News Service:  United Methodists, Native Americans Oppose Pipeline.

People around the country are sending money, transporting supplies, and engaging in solidarity demonstrations.  This climate justice struggle is ongoing.  Donate through the Standing Rock Sioux official website. To stay updated, visit and follow the Standing Rock Sioux Facebook page.   Democracy Now is covering this action on a daily basis.

In This Changes Everything:  Capitalism vs. The Climate, Naomi Klein wrote about the importance of supporting Indigenous struggles, such as the resistance taking place at Standing Rock.  She said, “Their heroic battles are not just their people’s best chance of a healthy future… they could very well be the best chance for the rest of us to continue enjoying a climate that is hospitable to human life.”

By taking actions in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux, we take concrete steps toward repentance for historical wrongs against Indigenous peoples, including wrongs perpetuated under the banner of the cross by institutional Christianity.  By supporting their Camp of the Sacred Stone, we respond to calls to respect the rights of Indigenous nations and the rights of Mother Earth, while acknowledging the value of Indigenous teachings and Indigenous ways, regardless of our spiritual convictions or secular beliefs.

Perhaps Chief Seattle was right.  Perhaps all things really are connected.

 

You are invited to sign up to “follow” this  blog and to “like” the Earth Justice Ministries Facebook page.  Updates on this action will also be posted on the Climate  Justice Action website and the Climate Justice Action Facebook page.