How do we continue on with this environmental justice work. When many politicians seem to deny even the existence of a problem due to climate. When even in our daily lives, most people today don’t feel the direct effects of the crisis. Particularly here in America. We often dismiss climate events as one off freak events. We can easily go day in and day out and distract ourselves from the looming crisis. But we know, WE KNOW, that there is a looming crisis that will affect the future of humanity.
Bill McKibbon an environmental activist founded an organization 350.org. The number 350 relates to the limit of carbon in the atmosphere to preserve a livable planet, as determined by NASA scientists. This year we passed 400, and we show no sign of slowing up. Why must we wait until there is an event of catastrophic proportions before we act as a species. Part of it is self interest. Its harder, its more expensive, its requires sacrifice. And God forbid we should sacrifice but our neighbor doesn’t. Perhaps though we can be a model for our neighbors.
For our values compel us to look at the world with new eyes, not eyes from 2000 years ago. To look at the world with new knowledge, not just ancient wisdom, To look at the world with an open heart, and not with cynical hopelessness. We must have hope. But that hope must be grounded in the here and now in the present moment not just in some wishful thinking for the future. The future is unwritten. We will write the future with our actions. It seems to me that part of humanity’s consciousness is to struggle. Almost to the point that it is the struggle that counts. That which is just given to us is never appreciated. We have this need to earn what is rightfully ours.
So I think, well I for one could do with a little less struggling. But although my struggles are real struggles they are relative to others. If we don’t struggle though, if we do not fight the good fight, if we do not light the flame to lead the way, if we do not live out our values based on what we hold sacred, who will. That is who we are as a people, as a religion. It is why we must always remember why we are doing what we are doing. As Cervantes wrote “hope is always born at the same time as love”
We must not do what we do merely for self serving survival. For it is easy to justify harshness and cruelty when we all we seek is the self. We can find ways to justify helping ourselves while others suffer when all we seek is the self. It is why I started with the calling of the four directions today. We must realize that the earth, and our lives on the earth are sacred. We must learn to love the earth, and each other, for it is only with active love that we can heal the earth and each other. It is only when we love another that we will go to any lengths to see another not only well but to support another to thrive. How can we not love the earth and want it to strive?
It sustains us with food and drink and shelter. It gives us beautiful vistas, sunrises and sunsets, Oceans and lakes and rivers to cool our feet in, fire to warm us on cold night and inspire us to greatness. Winds to blow our sails so we might travel to far horizons so beautiful that it creates a sense of wonder and adventure. We tend to take all these gifts for granted. How can we not love the earth. In some ways I think we resent the earth because it provides us with everything we need, with life itself. Our own self will, and self determination, seems to be at odds with something that provides for us with no questions asked. We struggle to just accept this gift.
ts as if we say, we can do it without you, like a little child trying to break away from the yoke of parental figures. I remember when I was a child, my mother tried to correct me at a family gathering about how I was cutting a bagel with a sharp knife. I of course must have felt at that time in my life I sufficiently knew how to cut a bagel and I let her know it. I thought, I’m 30 years old, no I was probably around 8. But I remember she looked me squarely in the eye, and said, well if you want to cut your finger off go ahead and cut it. And I looked her squarely back in the eye and I said then I guess I’ll cut my finger off.
We both smiled at each other and I never cut a bagel so carefully in my life as I did that day. But we are not being careful with the earth. We forget we are still in our infancy as a species compared to the existence of the earth. We should listen to the messages it is trying to teach us so we don’t cut our figurative fingers off (earthquakes where we are doing more fracking, flooding and landslides where we are overbuilding. Droughts and extreme weather events due to warming of the planet. Let us be very careful with the earth. Let us protect it just as I and my mother tried to protect my thumb. So the question is what can we do?
The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee has started a new program Commit to Respond to engage us in the work of loving the earth and with such loving saving it and ourselves. It asks of us to do three things. Shift, Advance, Grow. It asks us to shift away from our dependence on carbon based economy. I know many people make jokes about it, but I am proud that I see so many hybrid cars in our parking lot. We do this because it is an outward expression of our inward values. Not just because it saves money on the cost of gasoline, but because it sends a message to everyone who sees us that we care about this planet. And it is a model for others to follow.
We also can also shift from carbon based on the choices we make around food. Tomorrow night Iowa interfaith Power and Light, will be leading a workshop here at 7pm called food, faith and climate During this workshop
So please try to make it.
Lastly I ask you to try to shift your consciousness. Shift your consciousness away from despair and to hope, a shift of your consciousness away from distraction and towards intention, a shift of your consciousness away from complacency and towards action.
Secondly Commit2Respond asks us to advance. Advance the human rights of affected communities. The decisions we make which create environmental devastation affects the poor and the disenfranchised substantially more than the wealthy. Not just because they cant protect themselves due to lack of power, but their homes are built in less safe areas, so for example when Hurricane Katrina hit, the poorest areas were in the low lieing area and were hit the hardest. When there is undesirable industrial plants to be built, we say not in our backyard, and often they are built in poor communities. But it is not just in our own country. (Talk about worldwide environmental issues – Bangladesh/China/Los Angelos and elimination of smog)
In addition to what we did to the indigenous population of this country when we arrived, Our country for all its greatness is also a country of hubris and oppression. We invaded and still invade peoples lands under the name of democracy and capitalism and we upset ecosystems and discard cultures. The drum beat continues to sell, sell sell, buy buy buy, instead I ask for a different drumbeat. I ask for the drum beat of sustainability, the drumbeat of communality, The drumbeat of environmental and economic justice both of which I feel are connected.
Lastly Commit2Respond asks us to Grow. Specifically to grow the climate justice movement. From the Commit to Respond Website it states “Recognizing the interdependence of all life, we are called as people of faith and conscience to heal and sustain the planet we call home” We must envision change and act on that change, we must commit to act so we can live and love the beauty of who we and the earth both are. By doing this we as well grow as human beings. By acting authentically for the common good, we shall yet realize the best of humanity. I remember the movie Starman starring Jeff Bridges. He is a friendly alien visiting earth. His observation of humanity was “you are at your best when things are at their worst” It is time for our best. Please join me in committing to save our Blue Boat Home.