Take Time To Renew Your Spirit

We call on all people and nations to recognize the serious and potentially irreversible impacts of global warming caused by the anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants, and by changes in forests, wetlands, grasslands, and other land uses. We appeal to all nations to develop and implement, without delay, effective and fair policies to reduce  the causes and impacts of climate change on communities and ecosystems, including mountain glaciers and their watersheds, aware that we all live in the same home. By acting now, in the spirit of common but differentiated responsibility, we accept our duty to one another and to the stewardship of a planet blessed with the gift of life. We are committed to ensuring that all inhabitants of this planet receive their daily bread, fresh air to breathe and clean water to drink as we are aware that, if we want justice and peace, we must protect the habitat that sustains us. The believers among us ask God to grant us this wish.

~ The Vatican, Pontifical Academy of Sciences, April 2011

Photograph by: China Daily, Reuters

Nature’s Might On Display in Japan: Humans Ignore It At Our Peril

Much of the world’s attention, and thoughts and prayers, are focused on the people of Japan, who are suffering from the deadly effects of last Friday’s earthquake and tsunami, and are now facing a nuclear emergency. The devastation to one of the world’s most industrialized countries is unbelievable, yet it is undeniable. It is clear that the death toll will be much higher than the current official one of 2,800.  The survivors are struggling to deal with lack of food and clean water, and the loss of their shelter.

Many of us living in the industrialized world of the 21st century feel that we are we are separate from our environment. Many of us believe that “environmental” issues like water pollution, ocean acidification, and climate change are issues that we can choose to ignore without any consequence to ourselves or our families. We don’t realize that what we do to our surroundings, we also do to ourselves. We, in our hubris, have also come to feel that we are in control of nature, not the other way around. That is the only explanation for our unabated abuse of the gift of fossil fuels, and our ongoing pollution of our water and air.  If we are going to have a future without ever-increasing pictures on our t.v. screens like what we saw from Japan this weekend, and Australia in January, and Bangladesh last August, we need to all agree that what we do to our environment, we do to ourselves, and to our children and their children. Because, of course, it will eventually be us and our communities who are featured in the news headlines.

Derrick Jensen offers a different way of approaching environmental accountability, in a recent article in Orion magazine entitled “Age of Ooops”, where he proposes that environmental risks should be considered through the lens of the precautionary principle:

The solution I dreamed up to this lack of accountability is a robustly enforced legislative version of the precautionary principle. The precautionary principle suggests that if an action, or policy, has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, the burden of proof that this action is not harmful falls on those proposing to take the action. They can’t act if they can’t prove no harm will come. So, for example, instead of presuming that deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico is safe, and only suspending drilling when there is proof of harm, we should presume that this action is harmful until it has been proven otherwise. The same logic should apply to the emission of greenhouse gases. In fact, there are thousands of examples of harmful actions that would be stopped by any reasonable application of the precautionary principle.

Click here to read the full article. (thanks to Curtis for sending it my way).

More links:

Japanese Disaster Teams Search For Bodies

Nuclear Plants Threatened by Earthquake

Japan Nuclear Plant Rocked By Second Blast

Japan’s Chernobyl: Fukishama Marks the End of the Nuclear Era

Fire and Ice: Melting Glaciers Trigger Earthquakes, Tsunamis and Volcanoes

A Monument To Our Love Of Petrochemicals – The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

If you’re not convinced yet that it’s time to stop using so-called “disposable” plastic bags or buying water in plastic bottles, you need to watch this brilliant mockumentary, The Majestic Plastic Bag. It’s hard to believe that we humans have created a garbage patch twice the size of Texas in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, yet we have. Sort of like it’s hard to believe that all that carbon dioxide we’ve burned up in the pursuit of our industrialized way of life this last century is poised to destroy the world as we know it. Yet it is.


Thanks to Perry and Suzanne for bringing this video to my attention.

More links:

Heal The Bay

Roz Savage, Ocean Rower

The BP Catastrophe is Not Just A Spill, But a Spoiling of God’s Creation

Language fails us. This is not a “spill,” but a spoiling of God’s creation — of wetlands and beaches; of God’s myriad creatures; of lives and livelihoods. And we heard many testimonies of this devastation over these last few days. The words that kept coming to my mind were “reflection, restoration, and renewal.”

~ Excerpted from “Praying on the Gulf Coast“,

by Jim Wallis on God’s Politics Blog, Sojourners

photo by Georgianne Nienaber

photo by Lois Nickel

More links:

Praying on the Gulf Coast

Facing The Future As A Media Felon On the Gulf Coast – Georgianne Nienaber

World Religious Leaders: Bold Action Needed On Climate Change

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Since Monday, dozens of religious leaders from diverse faiths have been gathering at the University of Winnipeg at the G8 Religious Leaders Summit. Besides Christian, Jewish, and Islamic leaders, there are also representatives from Buddhist, Sikh, Hindu, Baha’i, and Shinto traditions as well as Indigenous Spirituality. It is the first time Canada has hosted the Summit which, for the past five years, has been organized to complement the meeting of G8 political leaders. G8 leaders are meeting in Huntsville, Ontario, later this week.

A significant part of each Interfaith Leaders Summit is the writing of a statement, which underscores the nature of the G8 commitments to the Millenium Development Goals and other processes that move toward equality and justic for all children, women and men. The working statement, which is undergoing discussion and will be different at the end of the summit, can be read by clicking on: “A Time For Inspired Leadership and Action“.

I attended the summit yesterday as an observer, and was impressed and encouraged by the sense of importance and urgency that underscored the 1 1/2 hour discussion on climate change. The statement reads, in part:

Climate change has become an urgent and felt manifestation of our collective abuse of the very environment that gives us life. We see the consequences in melting icecaps and rising sea levels, lost habitats for animal and plant species, and erratic weather episodes that threaten the lives of millions of people.

As scientists discover new accelerators of climate change and note the compression of time available to avoid irreparable damage, it is clear that bold action is needed now. We need to move beyond short-term political interests and arguments over who pays. In our indivisible planet we all pay – and future generations will pay dearly – if we continue to delay decisive action now.

Around the table there were calls for courageous and concrete action. Katherine Whitecloud, an aboriginal leader from the Dakota First Nation and a descendant of Chief Sitting Bull, spoke powerful words to the gathered religious leaders. She reminded the room that the rivers are the veins of Mother Earth, and they are now poisoned.

My grandmother said, someday we will eat our children. That time has come. We are foolishly and arrogantly raping Mother Earth so She has nothing left to offer…Mother Earth is crying, attempting to rid herself of all the toxins we have poured into her [author’s note: it has been extremely wet here on the prairies recently]. You cannot wait for your president, or another elected official, to do something about this. You have to decide what YOU are going to do for your children, for your grandchildren.”

Katherine then went on to ask the assembled group about the meaning of sacrifice, because that is what is going to be needed at this point in human history.

“Sacrifice is going without so someone else will live…Now is the time for courageous and concrete action. In your heart, you know what that means.”

Katherine demonstrated the kind of bold and courageous leadership that we needed to steer through this crisis, and make the dramatic changes necessary so that our children aren’t consumed. What is each of us prepared to do?

“We Can Change. We Have The Will, The Power and The Spirit”

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Right now at The Forks, a place where people have been gathering since time before memory, things are happening that hold out hope for the rest of the world. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) chose this spot, where the Red and the Assiniboine Rivers meet in the prairie city of Winnipeg, to hold its first of seven National Events over the next five years. For four days this week, First Nations, Metis, and Inuit survivors of Indian Residential Schools and their families, as well as former school employees, are gathering to share their experiences with the TRC. Other Canadians are welcome as well, as the mandate of the Commission includes telling Canadians about the history of the Indian Residential Schools and the impacts it has had on Aboriginal children who were sent to the schools by the Canadian government.  Commissioner Mary Wilson says:

We can all learn from the lessons of the past, and walk toward respectful relations for the future… for the child taken, and the parent left behind.”

Wednesday night my partner and I were in the crowd of 18,000 as Buffy Sainte Marie and Blue Rodeo played an outdoor concert. The highlight for me was when Aboriginal leader and former MLA Elijah Harper addressed the crowd after a performance of “Fools Like You”, a song Blue Rodeo wrote about Mr. Harper and the Meech Lake Accord, when he stood up for his people and single-handedly blocked a vote in the Manitoba Legislature that would have bypassed public consultation on a major constitutional change  (click here for more info on this chapter of Canadian political history). Mr. Harper, a survivor of residential school himself, spoke of reconciliation, saying “We’re on a journey of hope and healing…Forgiveness is the most important thing.”

I spent more time at the Forks on Thursday morning, and was privileged to watch the Pipe Ceremony and Four Direction Drum calling.  I then spent time in the “Learning Tent” where Chief Robert Joseph, a hereditary chief of the Gwa wa enuk First Nation in British Columbia, led a healing circle. He shared his story of healing after spending 10 years at St. Michael’s Indian Residential School at Alert Bay on the central coast of British Colombia as a boy. Chief Joseph emphasized the spiritual nature of the healing that is needed, and invited everyone to become ambassadors of this reconciliation process:

It begins and ends with you, with individuals. We can change. We have the will, the power, and the spirit. We can leave here with new hope and a new vision of wellness for all people. We dare to look at a different future, a different kind of relationship. We can make every place sacred on this Turtle Island.

I have come away from this time at the TRC events humbled by the graciousness of the Aboriginal people and their leaders, and filled with hope that this continent’s First Peoples will lead the way to healing our relationships with each other and with the earth. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is traveling the country for the next five years with its message of healing and forgiveness. Five years is about the time we have to dramatically change our relationship to the earth, before we have irreparably damaged our Mother.  We are doomed if we can’t change our Western/European mindset, that of the colonizer and dominator, which has got us into this sorry state of affairs. It’s this kind of thinking that says making money is more important than being good stewards of the earth. If we can adopt a more indigenous way of looking at the world which recognizes that we are part of the interconnected web of life, and all life is sacred, then there is hope. This view of the world is what I saw in action this week at the Forks. In spite of their lands and way of life being taken, in spite of their children being stolen and abused, the Original Peoples of this country are still willing to extend a hand to their colonizers and abusers and walk together towards a different future. I am humbled and awed. Meegwich, from the bottom of my heart.

Former St. Micheals Residential School Alert Bay. Photo - Iwona Kellie

More links:

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada

“Fools Like You” lyrics by Blue Rodeo

Photos of Buffy Sainte Marie/Blue Rodeo Concert at the Forks on ChrisD.ca

Residential Schools: The Red Lake Story

Residential Memories Unleash Tears of Anger and Forgiveness. ChristianWeek.org