The Unthinkable

Humans are transforming Earth’s natural landscapes so dramatically that as many as one million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction, posing a dire threat to ecosystems that people all over the world depend on for their survival, a sweeping new United Nations assessment has concluded.

The 1,500-page report, compiled by hundreds of international experts and based on thousands of scientific studies, is the most exhaustive look yet at the decline in biodiversity across the globe and the dangers that creates for human civilization. A summary of its findings, which was approved by representatives from the United States and 131 other countries, was released Monday in Paris. The full report is set to be published this year.

Contributing to the urgency, is Global Warming, and the resistance of the Trump Administration to accept its reality and causes.   As a result, policies in place to slow down and mitigate the impact of Global Warming, are being intentionally cut or ignored.https://youtu.be/B9K8jgUcZ00

The unthinkable has become our reality.   Short term economic advantage has trumped a responsibility for the well being of generations not yet born.

What are people of conscience to do?

First, it is important to support good science.  The overwhelming scientific community affirms that the  science is incontrovertible.   Global Warming is a reality and primarily caused by human actions.

Second, to collaborate with like minded organizations, local and global, that advocate for progressive governmental policies that limit carbon emissions and protect natural resources.  For example, on a local basis I’m a member of the Ipswich River Watershed Association, http://www.ipswichriver.org which protects the watershed I call home.  On a local and global level I support https://350.org founded by Bill McKibben to limit and ultimately begin to draw down the amount of carbon being emitted.

Third, vote for local and national politicians who will work to protect our environment.

Fourth, don’t give in to despair. Take the long view.  Advocating for the well being of our planet is a marathon, not a sprint.

Fifth, spend time in nature and with children.  Nature restores and inspires.  Spend time every week in the outdoors.  Savoring and soaking up the beauty and wonder of our natural world.  And, hang out with kids.  We are protecting the earth for the well being of children and generations of children to come.

Sixth, draw strength from a philosophical/spiritual foundation that fuels your passion.  John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club and a mystic at heart said:

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”
John Muir

Seven, hold on to a righteous anger.  We must on behalf of creation, challenge and confront the selfish impulses of political and economic forces.   We are to offer positive, sustainable alternatives to the selfish ambitions of the few who seek to gain the most, in the short term.

Eight, draw wisdom from your spiritual tradition.  As a person who draws from the well of the Judeo-Christian tradition,  I believe that the willful destruction of the natural world is a deep and profound expression of Sin. I believe these words to be true: ‘If you love the Creator, then take care of creation.’  To turn our back on this truth, is to turn our back on the Creator.

God saw all that was made, and it was very good.  And there was evening, and there was morning, the sixth day.  ~ Genesis 1: 31

What is your conscience calling you to do?  May we choose wisely. For the sake of generations to come.

 

Don’t Mess Your Nest

Today, President Trump signed a long promised executive order that rolls back progress made to lessen the release of carbon pollution into the environment.  Carbon emissions contribute to the heating up of our planet. Never one to let facts get in the way, Mr. Trump focuses on the dubious science of a few outliers who call climate change a hoax.

His executive order rolls back restrictions on coal powered power plants and seeks to relax limits on emissions by cars and trucks.  He has signaled that he will not follow through on promises made at the most recent Paris Climate Accord.   In effect he has ceded leadership by the United States (the second largest emitter of carbon, after China).  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/28/climate/trump-executive-order-climate-change.html

Trump follows in the footsteps of President George W. Bush’s administration, which consistently denied that climate change had a significant human cause.   In the face of overwhelming science, where did the willful ignorance come from?  As always, follow the money:  https://350.org/global-divestment-mobilization-peoples-climate-march/

In the face of this well-funded anti-climate mentality, what are people of faith to do?  How does our faith inform us?

I like the banner  that says:

‘If you love the Creator, take care of Creation’.

This saying is a reflection of the creation story in Genesis where God creates the land and oceans and all that live within.  Each day Genesis  concludes by saying: ‘And God saw that it was good’.

To be indifferent or contribute toward the destruction of  God’s creation is an affront to God.

Just because Mr. Trump and his minions use ‘alternative facts’ doesn’t make it so.   The signs of climate change and humanities contribution to our rapidly heating up planet are breathtaking:  https://350.org/a-glacier-guides-experience-with-climate-change-in-alaska/

What then can we do?  Resist.  Resist the ‘alternative facts’ of the Trump administration and fossil fuel industry.  Get informed. Check out the National Oceanic  and Atmospheric Administration http://www.noaa.gov .  This government site is under threat by the Trump administration but remains a reputable source for climate science.

Find allies in your faith tradition which helps you be a responsible steward of the earth.  For those within the Christian tradition check out: http://restoringeden.org/   http://earthministry.org .  In New England a good source is http://kairosearth.org/about-us/  There are excellent resources within other faith traditions too.

The Northwest Earth Institute offers small group studies on making proactive, practical changes in your personal life and in your local community  https://nwei.org   When my wife and I were raising our young children we took a class entitled: ‘Voluntary Simplicity’.  This class changed how we approached parenting and many of the material choices we make to this day.

Being an advocate for mother nature is a life long journey.  It is a call to take the long view.  A commitment to refute the short-term/quick profit mentality.  It requires a commitment to helping our economy find new and clean ways of moving forward. Helping workers retool for the opportunities that come with renewable energy.

All this is based on the old adage ‘don’t mess your nest’.  We need and deserve clean water and air.   Not only for our sake but for the sake of generations to come.  Our Creator would have us do no less.

Great Law of the Iroquois

Our planet is in crisis. After decades of denial financed by the fossil fuel industry and their political lackeys, there are no reputable sources left to argue that climate change is not real. The primary contributors are fossil fuels and destruction of the rain forest that absorbs carbon.

Scientists have set a goal of returning to 350 ppm (which is parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere). This is considered the maximum level that the atmosphere can absorb before triggering dramatic changes to our climate. Currently we are at a level of 400 ppm which is leading to the warming of our planet.

400 ppm of carbon dioxide has led to a dramatic melting of glaciers and the resulting rising of sea levels. As the planet heats up more areas breed mosquitos resulting in a world-wide increase in malaria and dengue fever. The poorest countries with the fewest resources to deal with the consequences are affected the most.

Currently world leaders have gathered in Paris to seek changes to decrease the level of carbon dioxide emissions. Most expect modest improvements. What is needed however is massive change for the sake of the planet.

Where then do we turn for wisdom and hope?

The Iroquois Nation live in the northeastern portion of Canada and the United States. The Iroquois rely upon what they call the Great Law of the Iroquois. The Great Law says: “In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation… even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine.”

Imagine. Before a decision is made one must first ask: ‘How will this decision affect my neighbor seven generations in the future?’ In a world that rewards corporations and political leaders to bring about immediate financial and political returns, the wisdom of the Iroquois is profoundly counter-cultural. Yet it is this focus on financial gain and political expediency that has led to the violation of our planet.

As a result our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will inherit a planet that has been dramatically degraded. The quality of life of unborn millions will be adversely affected by this current generation’s greed and lack of will. Those of us in the developed west will be able to mitigate the affects of climate change more than our poor neighbors (particularly in South American and Africa) but in time all will suffer.

Do we give in to despair? No! That is a luxury that none of us can afford. What can we do? Get involved. Work in solidarity with others who continue to be inspired by the Great Law of the Iroquois. Go to 350.org and get involved with your local chapter. Demand that your city, elected officials and community of faith take a stand.

Iroquois Elder

It took decades of greed to get to where we are. It will take decades of concerted effort to begin cooling our planet.

The seventh generation yet born is hoping that you and I will do the right thing. Hope for the future rests with persistent efforts by every day people like you and me. Theologian Jim Wallis puts it this way: “In the midst of overwhelming need, we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” Hope is found in people of good will not giving up but working together for the common good. Let the healing begin.

Hangin with the Dalai Lama

A few weeks back I gathered with 11,000 of my closest friends to see and hear the Dalai Lama.   His Holiness the Dalai Lama is not only the spiritual head of Tibetan Buddhism but also a spiritual leader for people of many faiths and no faith tradition in particular.  He projects a sense of centeredness that grows from a life of being intentionally rooted in that which is eternal….that which is good and true.

The Dalai Lama was the keynote speaker for a conference that focused on climate change. During a Q and A time a person asked:  “Given that humanity has recently reached a carbon output of 400 parts per million (ppm) and given that 350 ppm is considered the maximum level before escalating global warming is unleashed, how can we have hope for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren?  How can we not give in to despair?”

The crowd waited expectantly for his answer but the Dalai Lama was distracted.  It seems a girl to the side of the stage, perhaps 5 years old and sitting on her Dad’s shoulders was having a hard time.  Clearly something was bothering her.Dalai Lama and child

As 11,000 of us waited, the Dalai Lama walked over to the girl and whispered in her ear.  She then whispered back a response.  His Holiness then walked across the stage to a bag that lay by his chair.  He rummaged through the bag for sometime and then slowly walked back to the girl.  Once again he whispered in her ear and placed in her hand a small item he had taken from the bag.

She smiled and skipped off the stage.   Then and only then, did the Dalai Lama turn to the question from the audience.  For me the answer was already given.  Hope is found in the smallest act of compassion, in this case on behalf of a little girl.  It is through compassion that we bless others.  It starts with the need that is right in front of us. 

Translate such small acts of compassion to the needs of our home planet.  Consider what happens when compassion gives way to acts of advocacy on behalf of our natural world.  Is it not a compassionate act to work for minimizing and in the long run even rolling back the level of carbon being emitted into our environment?  Knowing climate change has the greatest impact on those least able to cope, is it not an act of compassion to work within our political and economic systems to bring about change?

Having tipped over the 400 ppm level where do we turn for hope?  The answer the Dalai Lama reminds us in the every day acts of compassion.  In closing His Holiness blessed us and sent us forth to bless others.  For the sake of this planet we call home, may it be so.