Hope, Creativity, and Art

by Rae Strozzo

In the midst of struggle, creativity is where hope finds vision.

We are in need of creativity and compassion in this moment.  This is a love letter to art and creativity that is so essential to all of us. Sometimes love is hard to see, and context is everything.  So first – the bad news.  

The current political moment seems so polarized and almost surreal.  We are at war now.  The U.S. is fighting itself as it has been since its creation but with a scary vigor. Fear seems to trump so much of what is good in the world if we spend our time on Facebook or watch more than 10 minutes of the news.  Shuffling through the lies to try and sort out what might be true feels like the new daily battle.  

The U.S. is fighting and exploiting other countries for the needs and greed of a few and the government and pop culture feeds it back to us as nationalism and what a “great nation” does for freedom.  All the while internally African American churches burn, Jewish community centers deal with bomb threats, and our Muslim brothers and sisters try to cope with threats, acts of violence and destroyed property.   Transpeople of color are murdered, gender expansive people commit and attempt suicide at astoundingly high rates, and lgbtq youth are homeless at much higher rates than their straight and cis gender peers.  

Walls are built to make and keep people illegal and separate, and families fear being broken up by immigration sweeps.  Our country incarcerates more people than any other country in the world, and that is also to make a buck at the expense of those people’s lives and the lives of their families – most of whom are people of color.  Many of our neighbors grow up trapped in poverty and in systems of oppression that get labeled welfare, child protective services, and the mental health care system and so on, but work against the people they are created to help and against the people who work in those systems who want to help.  

Many ignore these problems and systems, and we step past the oppression because it is as subtle as “professionalism” in a workplace that really just says look/be whiter.  Or we say we are moving to a better neighborhood or sending our kids to better schools without seeing that those are whiter neighborhoods and whiter schools.  We live in “Right to Work States” that really say it’s okay not hire people who aren’t white enough, straight enough, gender conforming enough, Christian enough because as long as we don’t say it, we haven’t done anything wrong.   

Now is a time when a college education is so expensive only the most privileged can have it without the reality of mountainous debt and where public education is stifled by our system of lack. We live in a time where art and music struggle to find access points to most people’s lives and where the funding for those things are viewed as unimportant and stripped away.   We are taught to blame the poor rather than help. We are taught to walk away from people who don’t see things the way that we do. We are taught that tough love is about shunning people from families, from churches, from communities, so that somehow they will want to come back to us, but in the way we want them and not in the way that the universe created them.  

We use our limited understanding of creativity to control other people. We use our limited understanding of creativity for greed.  Succumbing to those same limits causes us to destroy our planet.  Our creativity is limited by what we think we know and it is wasted on anger, fear, destruction, and an illusion of control. We stifle vulnerability because we mistaken it for weakness rather than a place where new ideas are born.  We are strapped down by prejudice and are unable in those moments to be our fully connected and creative selves.  Empire wants us to die for lack of imagination. White supremacy wants us to hold it up out of that same lack of imagination.

That is a lot, especially acknowledging that it isn’t even close to giving voice to all of what is up in the world right now.

But the good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way.  I firmly believe this.  All of these situations are things that were set in motion by people.  Logic suggests that if people created it, then people can also dismantle it. So there is hope. If we can be vulnerable enough to hope, then we have a place to start to vision something different, and that means creativity can come back to us and with its divine purpose intact.

Hope is where real creativity comes in.  Creativity, as it meets compassion, produces healing and love. This is where the arts are a healing force. Creativity as it is connected to love gives us the capacity for participation in beauty. It is the ability to turn the wound into a foundation for solidarity and into an olive branch for the “other side.”

As it is said, those with the capacity for great anger hold the capacity for great gentleness. So too those with great creative power towards greed hold that power for generosity. Those with great creative power toward destruction also hold great  power for creation. All of us hold creative power.  It is the link that bonds all of us to each other and to the universe. Creativity is what makes us human. It isn’t just a painter or a musician who holds creativity. Creativity is our mirror of the universe. It is our tether to the divine.  

Artists are a part of the priesthood of the creative and have a connection to the creative energy of the universe. When artists share their work, they open that connection to and establish that link for others.

The creative process and the artistic result aren’t just for the artist. Art is about completing a cycle and about helping other people and the culture it is a part of change, grow, and evolve. Art is a sacred reminder that we are ALL part of the creative flow of the universe. That is its purpose. Art reminds people that they have things to express and to express them. Creative expression is divine language no matter how it is spoken.

The teacher who makes a place for a struggling kid to learn because they take the time to rethink how they teach is a part of that energy.   The police officer who figures out how to stop violence without using it has that energy.  The activist who rallies support while seeing the other side as people and not just an opposing force is a part of this creative energy too.  

These are just examples. All of us have a link to what makes us our best selves. That is our link to the creative energy of the universe. We have been given this gift. But it isn’t about our minds and not even about our skill sets. It’s about our willingness to get vulnerable and listen to what our higher selves are telling us.  To listen to what our souls are telling us. To listen to what the universe is telling us.  

The path that is uniquely ours in life is lit by love and compassion as motive. Come to life with love and compassion and the steps to take become real.  The creativity to make things happen in our lives and in the lives of others becomes real.  Art is made in song, in paint, in photograph, and in every kind word, in every loving action. Listening to the creative energy of the universe and using that energy for kindness and compassion can heal a lifetime of wounds.  

True Perception: The Path of Dharma Art says, “Thinking goes as far as the mind understands. Then what? Art.”

Change for the good of all goes only as far as our ability to create compassion.  Then what? Art.

DIVEST and INVEST?

by Don Fausel

At my age (eighty something) I’m not able to get out to participate in rallies that I think are worth wild. I still have signs in my closets like Elders for a Sustainable Future or Mr. President Veto Keystone XL that I carried outside of Senator John McCain’s office in Phoenix, Arizona, or on the corner of downtown Tempe, Arizona with a group of folks who hoped they could change President Obama’s mind. But in the last month or so I’ve been getting more and more emails with petitions for me to sign and of course to send money, though it’s not required. So one of the ways I feel I’m being an environmental activist now is by responding to petitions. Some days I answer six or more petitions on my computer. So in today’s blog I’d like to focus on Divest and Invest. Not because I have a lot of money that I can divest, or that I think you can divest, but the founders of Divest—Invest would certainly like to have more and more interested activists in divestment, and hope our petitions can make a difference.

Here is a website, What is Fossil Fuel Divestment?, that I found to be fairly straightforward to understand. And here are a few of their dictums:

  • Divestment is simply the opposite of investment. It means getting rid of stocks, bonds, or investment funds that are unethical or morally ambiguous.
  • Fossil fuel investments are a risk for both investors and the planet, so we are we’re calling on institutions to divest from these companies.
  • Only a decade ago, tobacco companies were seen as respectable partners for public institutions. That is no longer the case. It is our belief that that fossil fuel companies should be seen in the same light.
  • The public is rapidly coming to recognize that sponsorship programmers are means by which attention can be distracted from their impacts on human rights, the environment, and our global climate.

Where There’s a Will There’s a Way

It was back in June 2011 when a group of students and environment activists met at Wallace Global Fund to talk about what eventually would be a new proposal. “Why not launch a coal divestment campaign on the nation’s campuses, modeled loosely on the Anti-Apartheid Movement of the 1980s?” Actually the Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM) was founded in 1960 to campaign for the abolition of apartheid. AAM grew out of the Boycott Movement which began in 1959. If you want to know more about AAM you can look at the movement above.

Within a year, divestment campaigns were in progress on fifty colleges and universities. Thanks to climate activist Bill McKibben, today, Divest-Invest have spread worldwide “…to become a full—fledged global movement, demanding divestment from fossil energy and investment in climate solutions.” It has brought hospitals, cities, pension funds, faith groups, foundations and individuals into climate activism. Before the United Nations Climate Summit in 2014, “…more than 800 institutions and individuals announced their commitments to divest from fossil fuels—for a total of over $52 billion in fossil—free  investments.”

Here is an outstanding TED TALK for 15 minutes titled: Divest-Invest & the Future of New Energy Solution by Jenna Nicolas on June 21, 2015. Judging from the applause from the audience, if you ignore Ms. Nicolas first line, she managed to get a lot of useful information across in short period of time.  I hope you agree!

In case you don’t like videos, here are several articles, all within the 2016-17. The first article is Assets Pledged to Fossil Divestment Surpass $5 Trillion Says New Report PR Newswire December 12, 2016. Notice the date! It starts off by saying: “The scope of global fossil fuel divestment has doubled over the last 15 months, with institutions and individuals controlling $5.197 trillion in assets pledging.” That’s correct; I said “trillion”!

Even before the UN Secretary—General Ban Ki-moon left his position he took time to say, “One year after the adoption of the historic Paris Climate Agreement, it’s clear that investors have a key role to play. I commend today’s announcement that a growing number of investors are backing as shift away from the most carbon intensive energy sources and into safe, sustainable energy. Investments in clean energy are the right thing to do—and the smart way to build prosperity for all, while protecting our planet and ensuring no one is left behind.”

Divest to Invest:The New Global Movement, by Marcia G. Yerman , 6/14/2016, The Huffington Post. The author of this article is concerned about herself and about us. Especially if we are also concerned about climate change, “…from college student to those planning for retirement is how to combine concern for the future of the planet with money issues, and economic safety.” She has the answer! She’s following the plan of Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM). He wants us to use the same procedures that the World War II Bonds . Unfortunately, Sen. Udall’s amendment to the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2016 did not pass. On last April 19 a “…vote tally of 50 yes and 47 no fell short of the requisite 62 votes needed for passage.”

But Ms.Yerman isn’t quitting. After giving us some people who are divesting like Prince Charles, the Rockefeller Fund, and Leonardo Di Caprio, the rest of her article shows us a “A good place to start learning about options is at Divest-Invest . They have an extremely robust website with information geared to different groups including individuals.” Check it out!

Just one more article! This one is by Lorraine Chow, and it’s dated January 12, 2017 Exxon Ordered to Fork Over 40 Years of Climate Change . All I’m going to say isExxonMobil was dealt a major blow when after a Massachusetts judge ordered the company to hand in more than 40 years of climate research.” Interesting, Rex Tillerson worked for 42 years at Exxon as an executive, and now the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Monday approved his nomination. We shall see what we shall see!

Shalom.

A Book That Changed Our Planet?

by Donald Fausel

I was living in Baltimore, Maryland in 1962, finishing a year of what the Sulpician Fathers called Solitude, which was the last step before being becoming a Sulpician priest, and teach in a seminary. Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring came out in September of 1962. A friend of mine sent me a copy of Carson’s book. At first I didn’t think it was an appropriate book to read, since the daytime in Solitude was filled with spiritual reading and I didn’t have time for a book about environmentalism. How wrong I was! But I didn’t know that at that time. It wasn’t until several years ago when I replaced my copy of Silent Spring.

It was only then that I could agree with the words of former vice president and almost president Al Gore, “Rachel Carson was one of the reasons why I became so conscious of the environment and so involved with environmental issues.” I also I agree with reviewer Walter Sullivan and many others who “… compare Silent Spring to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the most controversial American book of the nineteenth century. Silent Spring inspired immediate outrage and opposition. ”

First let me give you Rachel Carson’s Website. As you’ll see she was born on May 27, 1907 in Springdale, Pennsylvania. At an early age, she had a great ambition to be a writer, but at college she switched from her major in English to biology. She earned a master’s degree in zoology from John Hopkins University in 1932 but her doctoral studies were interrupted due to the Great Depression. “She took a job as a biologist with the US Bureau of Fisheries—and later the US Fish and Wildlife Service—and wrote and edited informational material for the public.”

Silent Spring was not the first book that Carson wrote; Under the Sea-Wind was published in 1941. Sea Around Us, her second book, published in 1952 and it was an unbelievable success. It became a bestseller and stayed on the list for a eighty-six weeks.

After her success with her previous books she turned her attention to a problem with which she had concerned for over a decade—the use of dangerous new chemicals in agriculture and pest control. From there she wrote Silent Spring.

Sadly, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and according to her website “…she hid her illness from the public while she defended her book on television, at congressional hearings, and before many audiences. Silent Spring was published on September 27, 1962 and she died at home in Silver Spring, Maryland, at the age of fifty-six.”

According to Margaret Atwood’s article in the Guardian, Silent Spring also “…met with furious resistance, chiefly from the big chemical companies and the scientists in their employ.” These were scientists concerned with DDT and other pesticides. To give you a few examples, here is video Rachel Carson: Impact of Silent Spring . It was published on April 18, 2013, and has  historical clips on DDT.

Another example is The Power of One Voice. This is a perspective of Rachel Carson’s life as a groundbreaking documentary, examining her life and the profound implications of her  environmental work. The 52-minute film features interviews with Rachel Carson’s adopted son, Roger Christie, her biographer, Linda Lear, and other notable writers, scientists, and advocates.

Today, Rachel Carson remains a role model and inspiration for people across the globe, even as the controversy created by her challenge to the chemical industry continues.  By highlighting the power of Carson’s voice, they hope to inspire others to add their voices to this essential conversation.

Despite the deniers when she published Silent Spring, “Rachel Carson is recognized around the world as the Mother of the Modern Environmental Movement, even as she has continued to be attacked in the 21st Century by those who misrepresent her message of Silent Spring.

This article by Margaret Atwood Rachel Carson’s Book, 50 Years on, fifty years after Silent Spring was published, wonders “…what would Carson have said about the spraying of dispersants during the Gulf Spill?” Or “What would she have said about the rapidly melting Arctic ice or about the plans to shove a pipeline through the Great Bear rainforest to the Pacific Shore?” The article goes on that “She would have seen many signs of hope…”

As Time magazine put it in 1999: “Before there was an environmental movement, there was one brave woman and her very brave book.”

“A Who’s Who of pesticides is therefore of concern to us all. If we are going to live so intimately with chemicals eating and drinking them, taking them into the very marrow of our bones—we had better know something about their nature and their power.” –Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

“How could intelligent beings seek to control a few species a method that contaminated the entire environment and brought the threat of disease and death even to their own kind? Yet this is precisely what we have done. We have done it, moreover, for reasons that collapse the moment we examine them.”    –Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

May we all see those same signs of hope and follow in the footprints of Rachel Carson!

Shalom.

Hope of Seeds

by Abigail Conley

My church is kicking off a stewardship campaign this week. We chose the theme, “From seeds to fruit.” Today, I finished up posters with images of those steps. Mostly, though, I’ve been thinking about seeds.

I grew up on a farm, with a father who worked at a farm supply store. I remember being in the back of the store with giant bins of seeds. I’m pretty sure most people, when they think of seeds, think of the kind you plant. They think of seeds that create corn, beans and pumpkins. They think of seeds that are distinct. They think of seeds that can often be eaten or planted.

When I think of seeds, though, I think of the tiny ones that are sown. Sowing seeds sounds so eloquent, biblical even. In reality, it’s far more chaotic. Seeds that are sown are tiny, and more or less strewn into rows, or maybe seedbeds, or small pots. They’re never carefully placed like seeds of larger varieties. The tiny seeds that would be sown were the ones that filled up the bins in the back of the farm store of my childhood. I never got my fill of running my hands through them. My dad knew what each one was, of course. Many of them were grass seeds. I remember the way they flowed through my hands, softer, silkier than any fabric could ever be.

Believing those tiny seeds could produce anything was an act of faith. The seeds were so tiny, no one was even worried about the ones that spilled onto the ground when they were bagged for a customer. Of course, I recall Jesus’ words, “…faith the size of a mustard seed…”

Those of us who live apart from the rhythm of sowing or planting, waiting, and harvesting, miss out a little. We miss out on the beauty of a small plant peeking out of the ground. We miss out on the worry of too much or too little water. We miss out on the goodness of going out and picking our food to eat that very night. We miss out on that rhythm that offers a deep hope in the order of the world. It is a rhythm nearly as old as humanity, after all.

So I think about seeds, seeds that point to that rhythm, and let my body grow calm and my mind cease its worry. The anxieties of life run deep for me, as they do for most of us. There are many things to be done in my own life—and after all, if not me, who? I wait for an election days away, wondering if the outcome drastically alters my life. As they should, my friends remind me of the things I shouldn’t let slip from my view because they are the things of God. They are voting early in suffragette white. They drive by the places where people of color were killed, forgotten by most only days later. They call me to vigils for those things and others, like domestic violence, one of those things that is supposed to draw our awareness this month.

I know they struggle to remember those things, too, among jobs, and marriages, children to take care of, and babies on the way.  

And I remember seeds.

I trust in the promise that they hold: our future is full of hope. Some days, that hope is evident, like a bit of green breaking the dirt for the first time. Some days, that hope is realized, like the bite of an apple when the first hint of cool is in the air.

And some days, that hope is buried beneath the earth, waiting. Just waiting. The rhythm of life long established will take over at any time, as holy as God’s ordering of the world in the first days of creation.

So today, I think about seeds.

Climate Change Deniers

by Don Fausel

Usually I don’t have any problem falling to sleep at night. But the one thing that keeps me awake is after I’ve spent time researching about climate change deniers. When I do get to sleep I usually have nightmares more scary than the 1984 movie Nightmare on Elm Street. When I wake up I’m a little more reasonable and realize that climate change can be solved. It’s a matter of “facts” and “claims”. Facts are unarguable and proven; “claims” are arguable but contain evidence as well, but are not proven.

As a matter of fact climate change it’s not just a “claim” as the deniers would have us believe. Rather, it’s an established scientific fact. Don’t take my words for it! What I want to do in this blog is to give some of the scientific facts, which most scientists agree with, as opposed to the “claims” that most deniers rely on.

SCIENTIFIC FACTS

Let’s begin with a piece from the New York Times titled, Liberal Biases, Too, May Block Progress on Climate Change, by Eduardo Porter on April 19, 2016. I chose this article because it demonstrates how the diverse positions between the left and right, can impair factual information about climate change. As the article suggests, the people on the right, are identified as individualistic and couscous of big government, and in their view, the scientific consensus takes an opposite position. According to the article, “The people on the right like private businesses, which they see as productive job creators. They mistrust government. It’s not surprising they will play down climate change…” The people on the left tend to mistrust big corporations, and see them as dishonest and harmful. “When science is aligned with big corporations the left immediately perceives the technology as not benefiting the greater good, but only the benefiting the corporations.”

Basically, the authors are suggesting “…those attitudes about climate change have little to do with education and people’s understandings of science.” We don’t need better science, but that somehow “…scientific facts from deeply rooted preferences about the world we want to live in, on both sides of ideology divide.”

It’s not new information that Exxon Mobil and the Koch brothers “…and their scientists are being investigated by the attorneys generals for whether they committed fraud for denying the role of fossil fuels in climate change, even though while its own scientists were aware of the connection.” If you want to know more about how the tobacco companies and the deniers of climate change, read the book by Naomi Oreskes and Eric Conway, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco to Global Warming. You might be surprised of how many of the same attorneys that represented the tobacco companies were the same attorneys who were hired by Exxon Mobil when they had to be defended for keeping information about the damage the coal and oil companies kept for 20 years. As Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) reminded us “In America, it is unlawful for companies to lie to their stakeholders.” Shame on them! And if you can get the book Scientific Proof that Exxon and Kochs Distorted the Public’s Understanding of Climate Change, you’ll get more recent information.

DOOMSDAY

Here’s an article from Live Science by Tia Ghose titled 9 Real Ways the Earth Could End. All though it was written in 2013 the content is up to date. Note this article is from scientists not from someone running around the street shouting “The end is nigh!”

The first ways that the scientists believe is a threat to planet earth is Global Warming. The other eight ways that could end the earth are available in the article above.

It’s interesting that Global Warming is at the top of the list that it is identified as “The mother of all apocalyptic fears, climate change is the biggest threat facing the planet, many scientists say.” As we know from positions of those who go by facts vs. claims above, not everyone agrees with the scientific fact. To back that up, here is information from NASA’s website titled: Scientific Consensus:Earth Climate is Warming Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97% or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities. In addition, most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.”  The article is followed by statements from 18 scientific associations, along with links to their published statement and a selection of related resource.

If you looking for the congressional deniers from your state who think climate change is a hoax, here is a brief video by Bill Moyers: When Congress Deny Climate Change and Evolution He takes on radical-right congress men and women for denying the science behind evolution and climate change. The video clip shows “Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) chairman of the investigation for Science, Space and Technology Committee of the US House of Representatives, who says “…evolution is a lie straight from the pit of hell and climate change is a hoax.”  

And if that isn’t enough, Here Are the 56 Percent of Congressional Republicans Who Deny Climate Change.  You can see where your congressperson stands on climate change.

BOOKS

Climate Change and Denial: Heads in the Sand, by Haydn Washington and John Cook. With a Foreword by Professor Naomi Oreskes, author of Merchants of Doubt. The good news from Washington and Cook’s book is that it gives you a sense that climate change can be solved, when we cease to deny that it exists. It also gives you a good perspective of the denial industry that is fighting and funding for the fossil fuel companies. We’re saying “keep the coal in the ground” and their saying “more coal for jobs”. It seems that they are not aware that the solar industry is reaching record growth.  See:  California Solar Industry Job Growth Reaches Record Level

Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know by Joseph Romm. The book cover reads: “This book offers the most up-to-date examination of climate change’s foundational science, implications for the future, and cleans energy solutions that can mitigate its effects. It offers authorative answers to the topic’s most vexing questions.” The author Dr. Joseph Romm is one of the country’s most influential communicators on climate science and solutions.  

Shalom.

Cherish

by Karen MacDonald

One of my spiritual practices (the one I manage to engage in regularly) is to take a moment five times a day, stop what I’m doing, and breathe a prayer aligned with the time of day, opening my attention to Spirit.  So in the morning when I get out of bed, I stop the indoor morning chores that I usually step right into (Tucker the cat’s insistent yammering for food, sometimes at 4:30 a.m., is hard to ignore), and step outside.  Whatever my wake-up mood (if it is indeed 4:30 a.m. by Tucker’s alarm clock, the mood is likely surly), being outside in the waking day lightens my heart.  The sky shows hints of dawn, a curve-billed thrasher whistles a loud good-morning, the air is fresh.

This morning during my patio prayer, I realized anew….I’m in love with Earth and All My Relations.  The sky, the sprawling mesquite tree in our front yard, the Santa Catalina Mountains in our north view, the hummingbirds that sip from our feeder by day and the bats that make a sugary mess of our feeder by night, the amazing ants that doggedly build their colonies, the coyotes that occasionally skirt my path during morning neighborhood runs—everything is beautiful, a living show of Life.  All of these are my relations in this web of life.  (Well, mosquitoes are perhaps my least favorite cousins in this Life family.)

Everything and Earth itself are living beings, and we’re all related by virtue of the Spirit of Life that permeates all.  (As well as by virtue of the elements formed in and shared by stars of which we’re formed—we are indeed made of stardust)  All of it is beautiful and vibrant, and I love it.  Creation fills my soul, moves my heart, inspires my mind, embraces my body.  The word that comes up most often in my morning prayer as I greet the morning outside is

Cherish. 

A way we can cherish creation is by “Standing with Saguaros.”   A creative collaboration between Borderlands Theater and Saguaro National Park in Tucson, its purpose is to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service this year.  Act 1 of the project invited people to find out: “If you stood with a saguaro cactus for an hour, what would you discover?”  Some discoveries of saguaro-standers: “It gives you a whole feeling.”  “I felt gratitude.”  “I kept thinking of [the cactus] as my friend.”

(The other two acts of Standing with Saguaros:

Act 2—“The Saguaro Minute” podcast on KXCI Community Radio @ 91.3 FM, kxci.org;

Act 3—Dance/theater performances in Saguaro National Park, November 2016)

If we paid rapt attention to all the beings around us—cacti, ants, sky, birds, mountains, coyotes, people—

What would we discover?

How would our spirits be touched?

Where might the Spirit of Life be revealed?

What would we do differently?

How might we be moved to respect, to protect,

to cherish?

Elders for a Sustainable Future

By Don Fausel

Before moving forward in my plan to focus on climate change, I want to share my experience with the Elders for a Sustainable Future. The Elders were founded on the Beatitudes Campus, which is a faith base community in Phoenix Arizona “…that offers a wide spectrum of services for older people. Our heritage of Christian hospitality calls us to welcome people of all faith traditions and commits us to a model of wellness and promoted soundness of mind, spirit and body.” This year the campus is celebrating its 50th Year since it was founded under The Rev. Dr. Culver Nelson who was then pastor of what is now Church of the Beatitudes, United Church of Christ.

The Beatitudes Campus has given its Elders an opportunity to follow the title of Dr. James Hansen’s book Storms of My Grandchildren: the Truth about the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity in a similar but smaller way.

The Elders meet twice a month on the second and fourth Saturdays to discuss articles on climate change and global warming. We also have over fifty members and friends on our e-mail list that receive monthly articles of interest. Although our title suggests that we focus on the sustainability of the future, we are also concerned with the here and now, since that has an effect on the future. If you are in Phoenix, you might see us marching in a rally in front of the State Legislature building with our Elders’ flags flowing in the wind, or one of our letters to the editors in the local newspaper, or our support for an article on solar energy that appeared in the paper that agreed with the 97% of the scientists who agreed with the article.

STEWARDSHIP for OUR PLANET

I believe that the Elders are some of many Stewards of our planet. I believe that each of us has a responsibility, up to our own ability, to learn everything we can about climate change and global warming so we can be part of the solution, not necessarily as a scientist but as followers of Jesus. I believe Jesus would be leading the way to save Mother Earth, if his earthly ministry was during the 21st century.  I believe that Elders are Change Makers—who can lead by example, creating positive change and inspiring others to do the same.

The more I read and researched the faith communities involvement as advocates for saving our planet, the more I was impressed and encouraged by how much impact their commitment has had locally, nationally and internationally. It became apparent to me that scientists cannot make changes in climate change all alone. The scientists supply the empirical data on which we base our judgments as to whether or not our earth is in peril, and if we are responsible for its condition. The faith-based leaders provide the theological underpinnings based on beliefs that we are stewards of creation.

Another surprise for me was that despite the diverse traditions and beliefs the major religious communities have, they are able to work together on the common concerns for our planet. Abortion, gay marriages, contraception, etc. all seem to pale in comparison to their mutual responsibility for the future of Mother Earth.

CLIMATE CHANGE, GLOBAL WARMING AND GREENHOUSE GASES?

Just so we’re all on the same page, here are some brief definitions of major terms that are often confusing. First, Climate Change and Global Warming are the terms that are often used interchangeably; however Climate Change and Global Warming are two different phenomena. One thing that they hold in common is that they both are causing drastic changes to our planet. Climate Change is the change of the world, which occurs over a long period of time. Global warming is the rise in the average temperature of the atmosphere surrounding the Earth. Most scientists agree that Global Warming and Climate Change are a threat for every living thing on earth.

Then there is the Greenhouse Effect, which is the earth’s climate caused by accumulation of solar heat in the earth’s surface and atmosphere. Human activity contributes by increasing amounts of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane, and chlorofluorocarbon, to the atmosphere back into space. The deniers believe that human activity doesn’t contribute to the atmosphere and is a “hoax”! You might want to acquire some scientific information from an article entitled The Connection Between Greenhouse Gases, Climate Change and Global Warming.

Or even better, an article I just discovered two days ago, Human-Induced Climate Change Began Earlier Than Previously Thought…  I intend to spend more time in a future blog on deniers, but for now let me quote one sentence from this article.  “The first signs of warming from the rise in greenhouse gases which came hand-in-hand with the Industrial Revolution appear as early as 1830 in the tropical oceans and the Arctic, meaning that climate change witnessed today began 180 years ago.” I hope that the current deniers, Donald J. Trump for one, are able to open their eyes and join the majority of scientists who recognize that greenhouse gases are from human activity and that it is being contributed in increasing amount.

Here are two TED Talks that might be helpful in digesting my brief explanation. The first Talk,  Explaining the Greenhouse Effect was created by Laura Horton. It’s only three minutes long, but at the end it has a little quiz to see if you passed her exam. Only you will know!

The second Talk is by Lord Nicholas Stern, titled The State of the Climate and What We Can Do About It. Lord Stern believes “The world as a whole is moving too slowly. We’re not cutting emissions in a way we should. We’re not managing those structural transformations as we can. The depth of understanding of the attractiveness we can do is not there yet. We need political pressure to build. We need leaders to step up.” AMEN to that! To get to this Talk you need to scroll down to the eighth presentation. You might even be interested on some of the other Talks.

One last thought. If you think becoming an Elder for a Sustainable Future is too difficult, consider St. Patrick’s Grammar School in Chatham, New Jersey and their Environment Club, whose president was a fifth-grader, William Brockman. To make a long story short, I just want to quote President Brockman’s wise words:

“There‘s so much we can do to save the planet. At St. Patrick’s we are learning as much as possible. We are environmentally aware. We need to conserve energy and our non-renewable resources. God has gifted us with the earth. We must do something to protect it.” Thank you President Brockman.

Shalom!

P.S. Leave a reply in the comments section below, “add me to the Elders’ email list”, to be added to the Elders’ email list.

Constant Change and the Unchanging Truth

by Amos Smith

One comes to understand…the changeable nature of visible created things: how they derive from the earth and return again to the earth, thus confirming the words of Ecclesiastes: ‘Vanity of vanities; all is vanity’ (Ecclesiastes 1:2).

–Peter of Damascus

These lines come from an early Christian writer named Peter of Damascus who wrote a work called “Treasury of Divine Knowledge.” More or less one thousand years ago Peter wrote about how the only thing that is everlasting is the Creator. And so the only way to participate in life everlasting is devotion to the Creator through praise, written and spoken acclamation, and prayer.

The biological creatures of this planet and the dense matter that swirls through the cosmos all have their source in the Creator. According to Peter of Damascus when we go into the depths of prayer we perceive that all creatures arise for a time, then return to their Source. It is the Source that is timeless, eternal.

Worship in the most profound sense is acknowledgement that in the midst of all the numerous changes, in the midst of the institutions of society that were here for a time then vanished. In the midst of the tumultuous events of our times including global terrorism, climate change, and a flood of refugees, there is a constant that forms the universe and binds it together. It is enveloped in mystery, yet came to us in the fullness of time in the person of Jesus.

When the constant changes of life reach a crescendo may we recall that our Source is from everlasting to everlasting (Psalm 90:2). This Source is our ultimate security from age to age – not distant, but personal in the ministry of Jesus.

End Poverty, Protect the Planet

by Donald Fausel

On September 25, 2015, world leaders at the United Nations agreed on 17 Sustainable Developmental Goals. Here are those 17 Goals.

Goal 1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere.

Goal 2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

Goal 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well being for all at all ages.

Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

Goal 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

Goal 7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

Goal 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

Goal 9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.

Goal 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries.

Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

Goal 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

Goal 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

Goal 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

Goal 15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

Goal 16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development.

From those 17 goals, today’s blog will focus on Goal 1, ending poverty, and on Goal 13, taking urgent action to combat climate change. It will also include moral issues from Yale Climate Connection. If you want to read the entire article on Sustainable Development 17 Goals, when you get there, click on Goals.  

The forward of the document begins with a statement that is no secret, that it is the poor countries and people who tend to be particularly vulnerable to the difficult effects of climate change and there “…are already evident, natural disasters are more frequent and more devastating and developing countries are more vulnerable…they are more vulnerable because of their high dependence on natural resources and their limited capacity to cope with climate variability and extremes.”

Can We End Poverty?

According to the Sustainable Development goals, more than “…700 million people live in extreme poverty and are struggling to fulfill the most basic needs like health, education, and access to water and sanitation.” That’s a lot of people, and sadly Children Suffer the Most… Even in developed countries there are 30 million children growing up poor in some of the world’s richest countries. Any discussion based on the thesis of “ending poverty” couldn’t evade the question: Can it be done? If you don’t ever listen to another TED Talk give yourself a big treat and listen to a 16 minute Alex Thier’s TED Talk on The End of Extreme Poverty . Thier explains how it can happen and how you can help solve humanity’s greatest challenge. He leads policy development, strategic planning, learning and evaluation at the United States Agency for International Development—the lead development agency for the US government and the world’s largest bi-lateral donor. Enough of his background, except to say this Talk is dynamite.

Science and Mortality

“The absence of certainty is not an excuse to do nothing.” This is a caution that Christine Todd Whitman, President George W. Bush’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), made. Whether we’re talking about poverty or climate change, we can apply her wisdom to almost any situation. However, recently there’s been a shift in the conversation from scientific and technical issues to mortality and ethics. According to the Vatican Radio, April 28, 2015, a meeting of world leaders issued a final statement declaring “…human-induced climate change is a scientific reality…and its decisive mitigation is a moral and religious imperative for humanity.” Basically, the statement says that humans have the technological and financial means, and the know-how, to combat human-induced climate change, while at the same time eliminating global poverty.

Fighting Poverty and Climage Change Must be Done Together is a twelve-minute interview with Isabella Lovin, the Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate, who explains why goals must not be dealt with separately.

Science and Values

Douglas Allchin opens his essay Values in Science: An Introduction, by writing, “A fundamental feature of science, as conceived by most scientists, is that it deals with facts, not values. Further, science is objective, while values are not.” Later he acknowledges that this value-free notion has been challenged by sociologists of science about the authority of science, and its methods are “overstated and misleading”. Many of us might say that science can only provide data to inform our decisions but cannot tell us what we should do, that we should leave our values up to religion. If you read Sam Harris’ latest book The Moral Landscapeyou might not agree.

But for the present time lets us see what some of our religious values are that will help us end poverty and combat climate change. Since this blog is mainly for the Southwest Conference of the United Church of Christ, it seems appropriate to start there. Here is an article from the Yale Climate Connection website by Christine Woodside on April 4, 2012, The United Church of Christ on Climate Change .

I like the first phase of the article; Humans carry responsibility—and should take action. I also was impressed by the Rev. Jim Antal, the head of the Massachusetts United Church of Christ conference, spending three days in jail last August for refusing to leave the park across from the White House. It’s also very motivating to see how the synods have moved forward from 2005 despite  “…all the resistance we met…”. And how about the “Not Waiting for Someone Else to Do It” activity. And how Pastor Susanna Griefen gave a sermon about the climate titled “Slouching Towards Crisis” a play on William Butler Yeats poem, “Slouching Towards Bethlehem”. And don’t miss Politics Aside… ‘Everyone Wants to Take Care of the Earth’ I believe we can all learn these.

Below are a list of other religious groups and what they are doing for the poor and climate change. All of these are worthwhile. I want to end this blog with paragraph from the ‘Preach-In’:

“All people of faith share a moral obligation to care for the poor and vulnerable. These are the people who are least able to adapt and who are most affected by the climate crisis. We must not turn our backs on the future generations.”

I’ll focus on other goals in future blogs!

Also see, as part of this continuing series on faith-based groups:
Nationwide Climate ‘Preach-In’ To Target Broad Faith-Group Congregations
The Catholic Church and Climate Change
Judaism and Climate Change
Episcopalians Confronting Climate Change
Baptists and Climate Change
‘Green Muslims,’ Eco-Islam and Evolving Climate Change Consciousness
Presbyterians and Climate Change
Preachable Moments: Evangelical Christians and Climate Change
Mormon Silence on Climate Change: Why, and What Might It Mean?

From Earth Day to Earth Week

by Donald Fausel

Last December I joined a group of residents at the Beatitudes Campus of Care in Phoenix, Arizona to plan for a celebration for Earth Day on April 22. Early on in our meetings we decided to make our celebration a week long event rather than just a day. For the next three and a half months we met regularly to plan activities for each day of our Earth Week. I’d like to share with you some of the events that we had during the week.

Since the Beatitudes is a faith-based campus, we started and ended with:

A PRAYER FOR MOTHER EARTH AND OURSELVES

God of the sun and moon
Of the mountains, deserts and plains,
God of the mighty oceans, rivers, lakes and streams
God of all creatures that live in the seas and fly in the air
Of every living thing that grows and moves on this sacred Earth
Help us to love and respect it,
To repair what we have damaged,
To care for what You have made good and holy.
Give us the wisdom and the passion to change our minds,
Our hearts and our ways.
Let us be mustard seeds in our world
Bringing about ecological conversion which grows and
Spreads to every corner of the Earth.
Four our sake now and for every generation which is to come
We offer this our prayer. Amen.

(Based on Catholic Earthcare, Australia 2003)

Our Earth Week began on Sunday evening when we started with Vesper services accompanied by our Campus choir.

On Monday Gerald Roseberry and I had our first of four TED TALKS. Before each TALK we would read a prayer or petition from an article titled Where’s an Earth Prayer When You Need One?  I found all these requests very inspiring.

Each of the TALKS was about 15 to 20 minutes. After each TALK we would encourage audience participation by our asking questions or their bringing up points they thought would be helpful.  For example, the first TALK was given by Al Gore titled The Case for Optimism for Climate Change. If you haven’t followed his career since he ran for president of the United States, he’s been quite busy. He was co-recipient of a Nobel Laureate Medal with the Intergovernmental Planet on Climate Change for their documentary An Inconvenient Truth in 2007, is chair of The Climate Reality Project, and has authored Earth in the Balance, The Assault on Reason, Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis, and most recently, The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change. In this TED TALK he asks three powerful questions about “…man-made forces threatening to destroy our planet—and the solutions we’re designing to combat them.” You’ll see, he’s still optimistic about our overpowering climate change.

Our second TED TALK was by Sylvia Earl. She is a legendary ocean researcher who is known by her colleagues as “Her Deepness” or by the Library of Congress as a “Living Legend” and by Time Magazine as the “Hero for the Planet”. She’s earned these titles because she’s “… led more than 50 expeditions and clocked more than 7,000 hours underwater. As captain of the first all-female team to live underwater, in 1970 she and her fellow scientists received a ticker-tape parade and White House reception upon their return to the surface. In 1979, she walked untethered on the sea floor at a lower depth than any other woman before or since.” The title of her TED TALK is My Wish to Protect Our Oceans .

Dr. Earl’s hope is, “I wish you would have all the means at your disposal—film! Expeditions! The web! More! To ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas, hope spots large enough to save and restore the ocean, the blue heart of the planet.” I hope you’ll find her TALK interesting and motivating.

Our third TED TALK was by Dr. James Hansen. One of his titles is The Father of Climate Change. As far back as 1988 at a US Senate hearing, Hansen declared that the “greenhouse effect has been detected and is changing our climate now”. Later in his career as director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, he “…described how government officials had…changed his testimony, filtered scientific findings and controlled what scientists could and couldn’t say to the media—all to underplay the impact of fossil fuel emissions on the climate.” He now is an American adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University. (One of my Alma Maters.)

I had the good fortune to attend a lecture he gave at Arizona State University before we had his TED TALK at our Earth Week last April. He sat right in front of me before his lecture. As usual, he was wearing his wide-brimmed hat and started his lecture  by saying, “What do I know that would cause me, a reticent mid-western scientist, to get arrested in front of the White House, protesting?”  I had a chance to talk with him briefly after he finished his lecture and I told him about the Elders for a Sustainable Future that we had at the Beatitudes Campus. He was very supportive of what we were doing as Elders and he flippantly asked me if he was old enough to join since he had turned 75 recently. So much for my claim to fame! Here’s Hansen’s TED TALK, titled, Why I Must Speak Out about Climate Change.

Our final TED TALK is by Alex Teffen and titled, The Route to a Sustainable Future. After working as a journalist on four continents, Steffen co-founded and ran the online magazine Worldchanging.com from 2003-2010. “In those seven years, he made Worldchanging one of the world’s leading sustainability-related publications with an archive of almost 12,000 articles and a large global audience. He also edited an internationally best-selling book surveying innovative solutions to the planet’s most pressing problems: Worldchanging: A User’s Guide for the 21st Century. “ His most recent work is Carbon Zero, a book describing cities that create prosperity not climate change, accelerating their economies while reducing their climate emissions to zero. As the New York Times said in a recent profile, “Alex Steffen lays out the blueprint for a successful century.”

THE WEEK THAT WAS

In addition to the TED TALKS there was some activity related to our planet every day between April 17 and 23. To mention a few, on Tuesday there was a campus stroll to learn about our campus vegetation and a planting of a tree. The Roadrunner Extra, that is published periodically “for the residents and by the residents” had nine articles/poems on issue that related to Earth Day. For instance, The Day that Mother Earth Jolted My Attention Irrevocably!!! by Leroy Calbom was about the 1980 explosion of Mt. St. Helen in Spokane, Washington. Or a beautiful poem by Una Thomas titled Mother Earth and Father Time. Then there was Earth Day on the Farm by Bob Hunter.

The library had a display of books related to climate change and residents were provided with pictures of Mother Earth to past on their apartment doors. Residents also had the choice to take an Earth Day Pledge.  The pledge has four practices:  To REDUCE, RECYLE, REUSE and to BECOME ENVIRONMENTALLY—MINDED.  Each section had at least a dozen pledges. For example, the first three practices for REDUCE were: Take quicker showers—Walk short distances instead of driving—Turn of the lights when I leave a room. If you chose to do anyone of these you put an X next to that practice  you agreed to do. There were 24 practices altogether. At the end of the sheet was the pledge: “I pledge to begin as many of these good practices in my day-to-day life as I can to be a good steward for the future of Mother Earth and for the benefit of humanity.”

THE GRAND FINALE

Friday evening we had a two-hour program with a diversity of participants. From readings from the Chinook Psalter, to a piano solo, and a PowerPoint on the Greening of our Campus, to singing It’s a Small World, to a number of Earth Notes that were read by residents; to a couple acting out their version of This Earth is Your Earth, we had a great time. But the presentation by a number of fourth grade singers from the Casa Academy brought down the house, as they say in show business.  

So as my father used to say, “If the good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise”, let’s look forward to Earth Week 2017.