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

Follow Sharon’s blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” Sharon’s Facebook Page.

Another Dam is Not a Solution to Climate Change

kzwaudjvmfyfvsj-800x450-nopad

An area of the Bear River that would be submerged by the Centennial Dam.

The excessive rainfall that we have experienced recently is something that we can expect with climate change.  As average global temperatures rise, weather patterns are thrown off balance. We can’t know whether a particular extreme weather event is caused by such warming, but we do know that it makes such events statistically more likely. In recent years, there have been thousands of record-breaking weather disruptions all over the world.  As air warms, more water evaporates, drying out the land and causing drought, as it has here in California.  Clouds carry this additional moisture, making storms more likely. This results in the excessive rainfall, super storms, typhoons, hurricanes, and floods that are creating disasters on every continent.

Recent storms have stressed the Oroville Dam to a point where 200,000 people had to be evacuated.  I grew up in Oroville while the dam was being built.  My family and I lived just a few blocks from the Feather River.  As kids we spent most of our summer days there. The dam flooded habitat of plant and animal species.  The fish ladder and hatchery were built to counteract its toll on salmon and steelhead.  The dam also flooded our upstream swimming sites and areas where local teenagers used to find arrowheads, that is, the ancient homelands of the Maidu people of the region.  My Maidu step-brother Lee, whose mother was born on at the Moorehouse Rancheria near Oroville, still lives there.  When the dam failed, his grown kids and grandkids evacuated and joined him at his house above the dam.

Nevada County responded to flood evacuees with great generosity.  Now that people are returning to their homes and the immediate danger has been alleviated, we can hope that the damage will be repaired and people will be safe.

Now our community is facing another dam-related challenge: the proposal to build the Centennial Dam near Colfax and create another reservoir on the Bear River. This project is being billed as a response to ongoing climate change. We can expect many more such proposed solutions as the planet continues to warm.

Recently my husband and I spent time with our daughter and several grandchildren at a nearby campground on the banks of the Bear River, in an area that will be submerged if the project goes forward. Concerned people opposing the dam displayed maps and charts showing the areas that would be taken by eminent domain, destroyed, and submerged: 125 existing homes, trees and native plants, downstream waterways, ecosystems and various species that thrive here. Members of the local Indigenous community told the children stories and demonstrated traditional uses of particular stones found on the river bank, then invited everyone into a circle for a ritual of protection for all the beings who inhabit this place, and for our descendants who will come after.

Whether or not to build this dam is a climate justice issue. From one perspective, another reservoir makes sense, since precipitation is less dependable and the snowpack no longer ensures a continuous supply of water. But there would be great social and environmental costs, including the loss of people’s homes, destruction of Native cultural sites, loss of habitat for many plant and animal species, damage downstream to fish and other wildlife, and the forfeiture of people’s ability to enjoy this unique part of the natural world. Furthermore, logging the trees, bulldozing the plants, scraping the soil, building the dam, and flooding the region would release stored carbon into the atmosphere and eliminate the carbon sequestration function that the living trees, plants, and soil provide. There are alternatives that would avoid these social and environmental costs, including recharging groundwater that has been depleted by over-pumping. This dam is an example of a so-called solution that exacerbates the problem of climate change.

This proposal to respond to climate change by building a dam, along with the controversy it is generating, is an example of difficult policy decisions that will face us for the foreseeable future. It is also an example of a regional struggle to prevent ecosystem destruction, block further carbon pollution, and link the rights of Indigenous people with the rights of the earth. For people who live nearby, go to the SYRCL website at yubariver.org/ to find out more and send your comments.  This struggle may yet become another example of people around the world doing what we can to preserve the integrity of the places we call home.

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.

 

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.  

 Find previous blog postings about Standing Rock.  

People of Faith in Support of Standing Rock

14940070_953475381423258_5373093476486501858_oHow can modern Christianity have so solemnly folded its hands while so much of the work of God was and is being destroyed?”                                       Wendell Berry

Christian interpretations of scripture that support domination of the earth solely for human profit and hierarchical views that place some human beings above others have caused immeasurable harm.  Not only has much of modern Christianity solemnly folded its hands while creation is degraded and destroyed, but also while our brothers and sisters are exploited and abused.

Fortunately, there are other strands of Christianity that are focused on justice, peace, and the healing of creation.  There are also a growing number of denominations that are taking actions of repentance for past harm, making amends, and taking seriously the call to act as responsible members of the interrelated and interconnected community of life.

I’m leaving this morning for Standing Rock.  I’ll post again soon.  First I want to catch up with what’s going on related to people of faith acting in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe of North Dakota.  The tribe is trying to block the Dakota Access Pipeline, which would cross under the Missouri River, threatening the water of millions of people.  Thousands of people have travelled to Standing Rock, including members of over 500 tribes. Many are camping there.  Hundreds of people have been arrested trying to stop the pipeline, and solidarity actions have been taking place around the world.

Last Wednesday, November 2, I was among several faith leaders who responded to an invitation to attend a demonstration in Auburn, California, in support of the water protectors in Standing Rock.  It included song, drums, spoken word, and a sending-off ceremony for people who were on their way to Standing Rock.  At the time, I knew I’d be going but I didn’t know when.  As the elder called down a blessing on me and on the people I would leave behind as I travelled, I felt clarity that it was time.  By that evening, I had announced I would go with my friends, who are leaving today.  I’m leaving with them.

Last Thursday, November 3, over 500 clergy travelled to Standing Rock, in response to an invitation from the tribe, to stand in solidarity with the people there.  I shed tears when I learned that one of their actions was to burn a copy of the Doctrine of Discovery, a doctrine through which the Roman Catholic Church gave Christian explorers the right to claim for their monarchs any lands that they “discovered.” Indigenous peoples inhabiting the lands might be spared if they converted to Christianity; otherwise they could be driven off the land, enslaved, or killed. Missionaries were complicit in this colonization project. In 1823, the Doctrine of Discovery was adopted into U.S. law. It was referenced in a Supreme Court ruling as recently as 2005.

Several denominations, including my own, have held services acknowledging and repenting for Christianity’s past complicity in colonization, forced conversions, assimilation, and genocide of Indigenous peoples.  If we who are Christian intend to make amends and be reconciled with our Indigenous brothers and sisters, a big step forward is to support them in their current struggles to protect their treaty rights and the rights of the earth, and to learn from them about the value and interconnectedness of all parts of creation. By doing so, we honor creation and work for justice in our time.

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.  

 More about Standing Rock: 

 Official website and place to donate to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.  

 Facebook page:  Standing Rock Sioux Facebook page.  

 Democracy Now is covering this action on a daily basis. 

 More about the Dakota Access Pipeline

 The United Nations statement.

 

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.