Archive for the ‘climate change’ tag
Getting Behind Pope Francis on Climate Change: Why People of Diverse Faiths Should Support the Eco-Encyclical
This summer, Pope Francis will issue a papal encyclical on the environment. In a year of unparalleled importance for climate change because of key UN meetings in Paris this December, his timing couldn’t be better.
The encyclical will not only represent a key step forward on climate and environmental issues within the Catholic community. It will be a document that people of all faiths can use to increase the attention paid to climate change and the environment in their own communities.
Timing Is Everything
Pope Francis himself recently announced that the encyclical will be released in early summer, prior to the Paris talks. For 20 years, world leaders have made these negotiations an exercise in futility, despite consistent leadership from the UN. Scientists widely agree that we need a strong agreement out of Paris to have a prayer of keeping global warming below devastating levels. Pope Francis is doing his best to help create a positive outcome.
What’s an Encyclical?
The two previous popes wrote extensively on environmental concerns. Pope Francis himself has referred to climate change in numerous speeches. But a papal encyclical, one of the highest forms of Catholic teaching, is different. By addressing these concerns in this format, undiluted by other concerns, the Pope makes the topic unavoidable for Catholics globally.
Once the encyclical is released, it will be shared throughout the Roman Catholic Church and incorporated into the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the foundational document for the moral formation of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. The Church will have a high-status statement that engages the entire Catholic community on climate change, putting the environment squarely on the church’s agenda for the foreseeable future.
Good for Non-Catholics Too
An essential document for Roman Catholics, the encyclical will also be influential for other Christians and people of all faiths and good will. When the encyclical makes headlines, diverse faith leaders globally will want to highlight their own traditions’ eco-teachings.
This is good, because over the past two decades, eco-theologians globally have articulated values deeply consistent with the themes that Pope Francis can be expected to share. With an eye to the Pope’s past speeches and writing, here are several likely themes of the encyclical, with points of connection to other faiths.
- The earth is a gift from God and reflects a divinely ordained beauty and order. This theme is integral to Christianity, Judaism and Islam, which share an understanding of God as a magnificently generous creator.
- Human beings must act as the stewards and protectors of this order. Human power over Creation must be carefully utilized in a constructive way. Judaism, Chrisetianity and Islam offer variations on this theme, rooted in Biblical creation accounts and from passages from the Qur’an. Hinduism and Buddhism, with their traditional teachings on ahimsa (non-violence), consistently emphasize that it is our dharma (duty) to treat the natural world with respect. The moral imperative to protect the earth is strong across all faiths.
- The poor and excluded suffer the worst effects of pollution and climate change. Consistent with the Catholic notion of “the preferential option for the poor,” Pope Francis has repeatedly emphasized the vulnerability of the poor to environmental crises. In line with the teachings of every major religion, he will urge leaders to protect from environment-related devastation those who have been “excluded” from the world economic system.
- Linking nature’s destruction with greed. Pope Francis has consistently criticized the current economic order as a greed-driven, “throw-away” system, in which the rich get richer and the poor poorer. The Pope will likely be clear that he is not anti-capitalist; he’s anti-greed.
- Pollution as Structural Sin. In 1997, Patriarch Bartholomew of the Eastern Orthodox Church became the first major religious leader to call pollution sinful. We expect that Pope Francis will take this a step further, describing nature’s degradation not only the sin of individuals but also the “structural sin” of the society, whose large-scale systems result in harm to both nature and people.
Pope Francis will likely place the environment in the context of traditional Catholic doctrines on the rights and dignity of the human being, including previous teachings on birth control, gay marriage, abortion, euthanasia and the death penalty. There will be a great deal of continuity between the encyclical, what previous popes have said on the environment and what he himself has already stated. What will be new is the depth of support the pope provides on this issue, demonstrating that unchanging spiritual teaching can adapt to address great turning points in human history.
Getting Behind Pope Francis
People around the world will want to celebrate the encyclical’s release. To help channel this enthusiasm, OurVoices, the international, multi-faith climate campaign, will be facilitating an inter-religious response, sharing the perspectives and reactions of people from a wide range of traditions and circumstances.
Growing numbers of people of faith are united behind a strong agreement at the Paris meetings. Pope Francis is adding his voice through the most powerful means at his disposal. Given the critical importance of 2015, all faith leaders should do the same, urging world leaders to commit to halting the destructive trend represented by climate change and creating an authentically prosperous future for all.
Republished with the author’s permission from Rabbi Lawrence Troster via Huffington Post
Jeffry Odell Korgen & Rabbi Lawrence Troster are engaging Catholic and Jewish communities in OurVoices.net, the international, multi-faith climate campaign.
Council on Foreign Relations to Hold Religious Environmentalism Conference Call with Mary Evelyn Tucker
CFR Religion and Foreign Policy Conference Call series on Monday, February 9, from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. (ET) will feature Mary Evelyn Tucker, co-director of Yale University’s Forum on Religion and Ecology. Tucker will lead an on-the-record conversation on the role of faith-based organizations in global efforts to address climate change. Read more…
Dr. Tucker is a senior lecturer and research scholar at Yale University where she teaches in a joint master’s program between the university’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and the Divinity School. She has organized a series of ten conferences on world religions and ecology at Harvard University’s Center for the Study of World Religions. Dr. Tucker is the author of Worldly Wonder: Religions Enter Their Ecological Phase and Ecology and Religion as well as co-editor of the volumes on Confucianism and Ecology, Buddhism and Ecology, and Hinduism and Ecology.
If you would like to join the discussion, you may contact Council on Foreign Relations at email@example.com or call Georgia Kinsley at 212.434.9837, and we will send you the toll free dial-in number and password. This invitation is transferable, but limited to religious leaders and scholars; we invite you to forward it to any colleagues who might be interested.
The latest report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Report on Climate Change provides evidence for climate change’s “widespread impacts” on the environment:
- Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are now higher than ever and are extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.
- Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.
- Adaptation and mitigation are complementary strategies for managing the risks.
And yet, too little has been done to mitigate these effects. Scientists have trouble highlighting the damaging repercussions of mankind’s role in climate change, and various groups have trouble adopting concrete policies to help ameliorate these effects. One of the major themes of the 2015 Parliament will address climate change and creation care, and how interfaith groups can lead the way in providing concrete changes to help solve these issues.
The editorial board of the Pittsburg Post-Gazette challenge the vintage of some in the science community after considering the the UN Intergovernmental report on climate:
The latest report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Report on Climate Change used language that was said to be the starkest ever. The panel warned with new urgency that continued emissions of greenhouse gases threaten severe consequences for the planet, affecting people and the ecosystems that sustain them.
“Without additional mitigation efforts beyond those in place today, and even with adaptation, warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread and irreversible impacts globally,” the report said.
Yet these dire predictions appear to have changed few minds. To climate change deniers, the doomsday-like warnings are an increasingly shrill expression of desperation by a science community that can’t make its case. Indeed, in the same week as the report, American voters rallied to the Republican Party, home to many who dismiss the large scientific consensus as a political creation.
In truth, the threat of climate change has too few believers, even if the world scientific community is in general agreement. And if ever there was proof that a prophet is not without honor except in his own town, it was the Sunday story by the Post-Gazette’s Chris Potter on the state of climate change exhibits in local science-education facilities.
The Carnegie Science Center makes no mention of it in its displays.
Continue reading on Pittsburg Post-Gazette….
Nearly half a million people marched to save the only planet we have on the 21st of September at the People’s Climate March in New York City. After exceeding goals to stage the biggest climate march in history, the day ended with an interfaith service packing thousands into the largest Cathedral in the World, St. John the Divine. Leaders spanning the faith traditions of the world vowed there to commit unprecedented action to curb climate change.
In this historic moment the Parliament, in conjunction with partners Green Faith and Interfaith Center of New York, took part in the 3-day Religions for the Earth conference presented by Union Theological Seminary. Organized by Union Forum’s Karenna Gore, daughter of Former U.S. Vice-President and global environmental champion Al Gore, the conference that brought together more than 200 leaders of world spiritual communities and interfaith organizations also leveraged partnerships with the World Council of Churches, Religions for Peace, the Jewish Theological Seminary, and the National Religious Partnership.
Months of planning and organizing- with Parliament Trustee Dr. Kusumita Pedersen at the core and Trustee John Pawlikowski advising- resulted in a great showing of support from the Parliament Board. Highlighting some of the ways that spirituality as a healing, connecting, and educational force can powerfully address the climate crisis were Rev. Andras Corban Arthen of the Earth Spirit community, who spoke on an Indigenous Peoples panel, Rev. Dr. Anne Benvenuti, author and educator, who discussed the spiritual connection of humans and other animals, and Phyllis Curott, attorney and Wiccan priestess, who led an opening session prayer. Parliament Trustee Emeritus Naresh Jain, who serves currently on the Parliament’s UN Task Force, was also in attendance. The Parliament’s Executive Director, Dr. Mary Nelson, connected with former Vice President Al Gore, as did Parliament Chair, Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, who spoke at the closing Multi-faith Service.
What amplifies the voices of faith communities today is hoped to carry over into massive action at the forthcoming 2015 Parliament. Speaking to the Multi-faith Service at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on the evening of September 21, Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid made a public commitment that the 2015 Parliament will take on climate issues and sustainable living as a prime focus.
The Parliament applauds the remarks offered by its partners, especially those shared by Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations Jan Eliasson at the Religions for the Earth Multifaith Service. Concerning what spiritual communities who work together harmoniously can achieve, Eliasson said, “Faith leaders like you here today have an essential role to play. You can set an example of dialogue and of mutual respect. You can use your pulpits to convey important messages as we have heard today. You can reach across lines of faiths and across the lines of identities that might otherwise divide people. I ask you, I plead with you to continue to remind us of the ethical and moral dimensions of climate change. Such efforts related to higher morality are needed not only on environment, but in general, at a time when we are seeing so much of sectarian turmoil and hatred around the world. I thank you all for mobilizing the positive power of religion…”
Parliament Chair Abdul Malik Mujahid, Former V.P. Al Gore, and National Spiritual Leaders to Conclude Religions for the Earth Conference at Multi-Faith Service in NYC
On Sunday, September 21, Parliament Chair Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid will be speaking at the Religions for the Earth Multifaith Service at New York City’s Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine.
Mujahid’s view that “faith leaders must all join hands to save the only planet we have” will come to life at the service featuring a prestigious group of leaders in the religious, spiritual, and Earth-spiritual communities presented in collaboration with Former-Vice President of the United States Al Gore, who is also slated to speak.
Speakers and attendees will be enveloped in celebratory acts of music, performance and ritual all building toward a massive pledge of spiritual communities honoring the sacred environment in real, practical actions.
As a co-sponsor of the Religions for the Earth conference, the Parliament will be connecting with a strategic assembly of 200 other leaders in interfaith, religious, faith and spiritual organizations. Union Theological Seminary is hosting the conference as part of events kicking off NY Climate Week in advance of the United Nations Climate Summit.
In Mujahid’s view, the growing commitments faith communities are making to advance environmental protections will see more promising results by applying the influence leaders can have in multiple ways.
Mujahid says, “As more than 40 percent of America listens to pulpits every week, we must not only preach the gospel of sharing more and consuming less. But also, we must do our best to influence the guiding institutions to become more serious in urgently developing the relevant public policies. Better public policies and better consumer behavior both are needed. And this will be a major theme in the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions.”
Religions for the Earth Conference attendees will also participate in the biggest climate march in history, The People’s Climate March, expected to unite over 100,000 environmental stewards organizing from across all social institutions on Sunday, September 21. Faith and interfaith representation at the march will climb into the multiple thousands.
Peace activism in general will reach a global high on September 21, which is the United Nations official observance of International Day of Peace, coinciding with satellite climate events taking place all over the world.
The evening Religions for the Earth Multi-Faith Service is open to the public, featuring speakers including:
- Uncle Angaangaq Angakkorsuaq, Founder – IceWisdom International, Eskimo, Kalaallit Elder
- Chief Arvol Looking Horse, Lakota Sioux 19th Generation Keeper of the White Buffalo Calf Pipe Bundle
- Rabbi Ellen Bernstein, Founder – Shomrei Adamah, Keepers of the Earth
- Ms. Dekila Chungyalpa, Environmental Advisor to His Holiness, the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje
- Father Edwin Gariguez, General Secretary – Caritas Philippines
- Former Vice-President Al Gore, Chairman – The Climate Reality Project
- Reverend Dr. Serene Jones, President, Union Theological Seminary
- Reverend Dr. James Kowalski, Director – Cathedral of Saint John the Divine
- Iriama Margaret Lokawua, Director – Indigenous Women Environmental Conservation Project
- Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, Chair – Parliament of the World’s Religions
- Dr. Vandana Shiva, Founder – Navdanya
- Rev. Jim Wallis, President and Founder – Sojourners
- Terry Tempest Williams, Writer and Teacher
When: Sunday, September 21, 2014 at 6 p.m. EST
Where: The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10025
Religions for the Earth MultiFaith Service is being presented by host Union Theological Seminary, and co-sponsored by the Parliament of the World’s Religions, GreenFaith, Interfaith Center of New York, the World Council of Churches, Religions for Peace, and the Cathedral Saint John the Divine.
The Parliament is announcing its partnership to the Union Theological Seminary’s upcoming conference on climate, “Religions for the Earth.”
In a recent Time Magazine article reporting on its plan to divest $108.4 million from fossil fuels, Union announced news of its hosting the climate conference bringing attention to its partnership with the Parliament as well as GreenFaith, the Interfaith Center of New York, The World Council of Churches, and Religions for Peace in coordinating the event.
Choosing to live out their values, Union becomes the first seminary institution to divest from fossil fuels. In this spirit several organizations are coming together in this event to spread dialogue about climate change.
More more information please visit the Religions for the Earth.
by Rabbi Edward Bernstein
from Huffington Post
Having recently moved from Cleveland, Ohio, to South Florida, I am adjusting to a very different climate. The timing of my move was such that I missed experiencing the infamous “Heat Dome” that plagued a large swath of the country this summer. Ironically, while temperatures in Florida were seasonably muggy and hot — in the 90s — temperatures in the Upper Midwest and Northeast soured over 100 for days.
For years, we have heard about climate change occurring as a result of human-produced pollution. Many scientists and commentators have moved away from the term “global warming,” in favor of “climate change,” to account for all kinds of increasingly odd weather patterns throughout the year, such as flooding, tornadoes, blizzards. I happen to like Thomas L. Friedman’s term “Global Weirding.”
Nevertheless, the intense heat of this summer raised concern. Even in Florida, which has been spared (as of this writing) the extreme conditions from up north, things seem different. Long-time Florida residents tell me that it used to rain every afternoon at a predictable time. This summer, rain has not been as predictable. Rain can come at any time or not at all on a given day. Again, it’s weird.
by John Stanley and David Loy
from Huffington Post
“The entire cosmos is a cooperative. The sun, the moon, and the stars live together as a cooperative. The same is true for humans and animals, trees, and the Earth. When we realize that the world is a mutual, interdependent, cooperative enterprise — then we can build a noble environment. If our lives are not based on this truth, then we shall perish.” –Buddhadasa Bhikkhu
“The term ‘engaged Buddhism’ was created to restore the true meaning of Buddhism. Engaged Buddhism is simply Buddhism applied in our daily lives. If it’s not engaged, it can’t be called Buddhism. Buddhist practice takes place not only in monasteries, meditation halls and Buddhist institutes, but in whatever situation we find ourselves. Engaged Buddhism means the activities of daily life combined with the practice of mindfulness. –Thich Nhat Hanh
In one of Buddhism’s iconic images, Gautama Buddha sits in meditation with his left palm upright on his lap, while his right hand touches the earth. Demonic forces have tried to unseat him, because their king, Mara, claims that place under the bodhi tree. As they proclaim their leader’s powers, Mara demands that Gautama produce a witness to confirm his spiritual awakening. The Buddha simply touches the earth with his right hand, and the Earth itself immediately responds: “I am your witness.” Mara and his minions vanish. The morning star appears in the sky. This moment of supreme enlightenment is the central experience from which the whole of the Buddhist tradition unfolds.
The great 20th-century Vedantin, Ramana Maharshi said that the Earth is in a constant state of dhyana. The Buddha’s earth-witness mudra (hand position) is a beautiful example of “embodied cognition.” His posture and gesture embody unshakeable self-realization. He does not ask heavenly beings for assistance. Instead, without using any words, the Buddha calls on the Earth to bear witness.
The Earth has observed much more than the Buddha’s awakening. For the last 3 billion years the Earth has borne witness to the evolution of its innumerable life-forms, from unicellular creatures to the extraordinary diversity and complexity of plant and animal life that flourishes today. We not only observe this multiplicity, we are part of it — even as our species continues to damage it. Many biologists predict that half the Earth’s plant and animal species could disappear by the end of this century, on the current growth trajectories of human population, economy and pollution. This sobering fact reminds us that global warming is the primary, but not the only, extraordinary ecological crisis confronting us today.
Twenty-eight religious leaders will converge on Canberra on 2 June to pressure the federal government to act on climate change. Representatives from many different faiths, acting under the banner of the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC), will meet with Julia Gillard, Greg Hunt, Andrew Wilkie and around twenty other Members of Parliament.
Bishop George Browning, a member of the delegation, said the time to act is now. “Our generation has been given humanity’s last chance to avert a climate emergency. Our grandchildren will just have to bear with the results of what we decide to do now,” Bishop Browning said. Formerly the bishop of the Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn, Bishop Browning, who is now the Chair of the Anglican Communion Environmental Network, said that climate change skeptics were preventing Australia moving in the right direction. “The naysayers are holding Australia back from taking responsible action with their fear-mongering and misinformation. Not only can we act, we must act.”
For more on the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change, please visit their website.
by Seth Wax
from State of Formation
Over the past week, the recovery and clean-up of the forest fire in the Carmel region of Northern Israel that charred acres, burned property, and killed 42 people has gotten underway. It’s been particularly interesting for me, having just visited Tel Aviv for the weekend, to witness the ways in which Israelis are organizing en masse to volunteer with helping out. In particular, I visited two synagogues, each of which talked about ways to support the Yemin Orde Youth Village, a center that’s home to more than 500 children, that suffered a loss of over 40% of their buildings during the fire.
Yet alongside the public response to rebuild the affected areas, there has also been a strong drive to find answers for the fire, and in particular, to understand who is responsible for allowing this tragedy to unfold in the way it did. While police believe they may have identified the person who started the fire, much of the vitriol is being leveled against the government, in particular the ministries of interior and finance, for underfunding and mismanaging the fire and rescue services and not equipping them with the supplies – like the tanker planes that governments across Europe and the US provided – that would have ended the forest fire before it became too big.
But while it may be appropriate to blame the government for negligence, I think that this narrow focus may be a bit short-sighted.
About a week ago, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the former Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel, attributed the forest fire to Jews’ failure to observe Shabbat properly. While his remarks have an eerie resonance with what Rev. John Hagee said about New Orleans’ permissive attitude toward gay pride causing Hurricane Katrina, reading Rabbi Yosef’s comments got me thinking about what it means to cast a broad net of responsibility when government readiness cannot meet the scale of a natural disaster (even if I think his specific argument is insane). For Ovadia Yosef, the reason why the fire burned in the North was because of Jews’ failure to follow religious commandments, meaning (in the most charitable way I can see it), that the scope of responsibility for the loss of property and life does not lie with just the individuals who set the fire, the government, or the politicians. Many more people share responsibility for this.