Lucky Lurky Margaret Atwood Retweets On Catholic Sisters

I happen to be reading Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood right now. It’s a delightfully conniving retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, set in a maximum security prison.

Then today I was alerted that Margaret Atwood herself retweeted Developers Are Trying to Build a Pipeline Through a Watershed. These Nuns Built a Chapel in Its Path by Heidi Thompson and myself on land defenders in Lancaster County, Penn., that was posted on the Sojourners website. Wow! (Thank you, @MargaretAtwood!)

(Apparently, some people are dedicated to using their twitter powers for good, not for sowing strife!)

The update on the Catholic sisters of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ in Lancaster County, Penn., is the judge approved the fossil-fuel company’s right to take a portion of the nuns’ land by eminent domain, but then the nuns filed a religious freedom injunction!

This is a unique approach and I’d say this is an important case to follow. (See July 16, 2017 Washington Post article Catholic nuns in Pa. build a chapel to block the path of a gas pipeline planned for their property by Julie Zauzmer. Thank you, @JulieZauzmer!)

Now, circling back to Margaret Atwood: Hag-Seed is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series published by Hogarth Press (founded in 1917 by none other than Virginia Woolf and her husband). It includes Jeanette Winterson’s The Gap of Time (on The Winter’s Tale), Anne Tyler’s The Vinegar Girl (on The Taming of the Shrew), and Howard Jacobson’s Shylock is My Name (on The Merchant of Venice). And due out soon is Tracy Chevalier on Othello!

It’s all mixed up to quote Margaret Atwood and the land defending Catholic nuns in the same blog post. But it comes together for me in this line from Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, when Cleopatra realizes that, with the death of her love, the earth shall pass away and–I would add–the icecaps will melt shedding tears across the world:

“O see, my women, The crown o’ th’ earth doth melt. My lord!”–Cleopatra in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra (Act 4, Scene 15)
–Rose Marie Berger

Wade Through Deep Water: An Introduction to D.C.’s Watershed

Tevyn East as Miriam and Jay Beck as John the Baptist in “Wade Through Deep Water”

By Rose Marie Berger
Introduction to “Wade Through Deep Water” presentation held at the Festival Center in Washington D.C.

In the Roaring Twenties, the WWI war profiteers were enjoying unprecedented prosperity, while rural landholders were losing their farms to debt and moving into the cities looking for work. The war had displaced millions of refugees who also were pouring into the cities.

Along with immigrants came the Chinese exclusion act of 1923 and National Origins act in 1924. With the rise in urban population came the “modernization” of the city, the rise of tenements, streets for automobiles, and rudimentary cisterns and sewers. The Roaring Twenties are also sometimes called the Jazz Age. And Jazz captured the frenetic, complex energy of a city in the way that Mississippi delta blues never could.

In March 1923, Robert Frost published a poem in The New Republic titled “A Brook in the City.” In it creates a snapshot of the once solitary farmhouse nestled into fields swallowed by new urban sprawl. Frost meditates on the stream that used to identify the watershed in that place.

A BROOK IN THE CITY by Robert Frost

The farm house lingers, though averse to square
With the new city street it has to wear
A number in. But what about the brook
That held the house as in an elbow-crook?
I ask as one who knew the brook, its strength
And impulse, having dipped a finger length
And made it leap my knuckle, having tossed
A flower to try its currents where they crossed.
The meadow grass could be cemented down
From growing under pavements of a town;
The apple trees be sent to hearth-stone flame.
Is water wood to serve a brook the same?
How else dispose of an immortal force
No longer needed? Staunch it at its source
With cinder loads dumped down? The brook was thrown
Deep in a sewer dungeon under stone
In fetid darkness still to live and run
And all for nothing it had ever done
Except forget to go in fear perhaps.
No one would know except for ancient maps
That such a brook ran water. But I wonder
If from its being kept forever under
The thoughts may not have risen that so keep
This new-built city from both work and sleep.

Tonight we gather with members of Holy Fool Arts as they present “Wade Through Deep Water,” a Ceremonial Theater event “tracing the soggy footprints of a people through the wombs of the Red Sea and Jordan River to birth an Exodus thirsting for collective liberation. Come near to hear the voice of water’s lament as told by Miriam, Moses’ sister, and John the Baptist—two of God’s prophets whose water-logged lives kept them swimming in transformation.”

But before this ancient narrative can well up in our own, we have to learn about where we are. Here at the Festival Center on Columbia Road in Washington, D.C. we are guests in the watershed of our country’s largest estuary, the Chesapeake Bay. The bay was formed 35 million years ago when a speck of stardust was flung from the hand of God into Delmarva peninsula, punching a hole that slowly filled with water. For 10 million years, the estuary spread. It sprouted rivers—the Anacostia, the Susquehanna—in the fissures opened in rock by melting ice. Twenty thousand years ago the Anacostia settled into her riverbed, creating this watershed, this basin of biotic relationships (see Brock Dolman).

For more than 10,000 years, Native peoples have created thriving societies along the Anacostia and her tributaries: the Powhatan, the Piscataway, and the Nanticoke.

The Piscataway had about 8,500 members in 1604 when the English arrived. Within 100 years only 300 remained. And they remain still. We give honor here to the Tayac family to Chief Billy, Gabrielle, Sebi, and the community. The Piscataway Nation continues to offer prayers for the Cheseapeake bay, for Anacostia river, for the streams and tributaries. They serve as sacred water protectors here.

These rivers, like this city, were weaponized during wars—the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and World War II—with bases and armories built on their silty backs. Until 125 years ago, this city was known for its artesian springs—like Rome today There were more than 50 public wells and hundreds of private springs that provided fresh water.

Here on Columbia Road we sit on Lanier Heights, the very western edge of the Lower Anacostia watershed. This neighborhood is held in the arms of two abandoned and buried tributaries—Reedy Branch and Moore Spring.

All the wells and springs were backfilled in the 1920s. A system was devised to divert water from the Potomac for public use.

Only in the past 10 years–with the pressures of climate change–are we reversing the way this city uses water and looking at how to revive and protect our underground streams. The most stunning example of this is the project to return the Broad Branch tributary that has been piped in and concreted over back to the surface in a process called “daylighting.”

As Robert Frost wrote, “No one would know except for ancient maps / that such a brook ran water. But I wonder / If from its being kept forever under / The thoughts may not have risen that so keep /This new-built city from both work and sleep.”

This is where we are. Now we ask: What does it mean? I hope these underground streams will delight and disturb your dreams.

—Rose Marie Berger (9 June 2017, Festival Center, “Wade Through Deep Water” ceremonial theater). Find out more in Watershed Discipleship: Reinhabiting Bioregional Faith and Practice, edited by Ched Myers (Cascade, 2016).

Cowboys, Indians, and Christians Against the Keystone XL

Members of the Reject & Protect witness set up a tipi on the National Mall. Photo courtesy Rose Berger.
Members of the Reject & Protect witness set up a tipi on the National Mall. Photo courtesy Rose Berger.

As we celebrate the final defeat of the Keystone XL pipeline, I’ll repost some of the spiritual power that led to this day.

[Originally posted April 22, 2014]

Thanks to Liz Schmitt over at Sojourners for the shout out on my involvement at the Reject and Protect event:

“This week, we finally had some good news in the fight against climate change: President Barack Obama announced a further delay in the review process for the Keystone XL pipeline. The right thing to do is to reject the pipeline once and for all, but we all know politics is never that simple. The president says no decision will be made until the end of the year, which means the deadline comes after this year’s election. But the president isn’t up for re-election again, and protecting the environment should not be a partisan issue. All of us have a stake here.

We need more time, President Obama says, more reviews, more answers. But for Sojourners’ Rose Berger, who has been a leader in the faith community’s witness against Keystone XL, the answer has been clear for a long time.

“The Keystone XL pipeline has been morally problematic since its inception. People of faith raised the warning early that this pipeline was an affront to God’s creation and would endanger the poor. It really is the gateway to climate hell.

As Easter people, we know we are on God’s side. We stand with the New Creation — and it does not include the Keystone XL pipeline.

President Obama needs to deny the pipeline permit now. This is no time for playing politics. We need him to step up his leadership in combating climate change. He needs to be much bolder than he has been so far. As Christians, we have the long view and we know President Obama wants to have that view also.” Read the rest here.

Key Quotes: Climate Change and the Common Good

heartfootprintsThe “ecology encyclical” will be released on Thursday this week. As part of my preparation I’ve been reviewing the material from a number of conferences convened by the Vatican over the last year related to climate change. These conferences have gathered the world’s top scientists, policy makers, and religious leaders to create consensus on the needed next steps in addressing climate change and to create enough social pressure to push obstinate political and business leaders toward conversion of heart and low-carbon sustainable practices and policies.

Here are a few quotes from “Climate Change and the Common Good” presented at the Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity gathering in April organized by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, Sustainable Development Solutions Network, and Religions for Peace.

A sustainable future based on the continued extraction of coal, oil and gas and their use in the “business-as-usual mode” will not be possible, because it raises the specter of a world that could be significantly warmer than 2°C by the end of this century.–Climate Change and the Common Good (April 2015, The Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences)

There is still time, however, to mitigate unmanageable climate changes and thus to protect humanity and nature. Adequate technological solutions and policy options have been clearly prescribed in numerous reports and need no extended repetition here. Suffice it to note that the most important steps involve the shift from fossil fuels to zero-carbon and low carbon sources and technologies, coupled with a reversal of deforestation, land degradation, and air pollution. In contemplating these needed “deep de-carbonization” transformations, however, we must not ignore the underlying socio-economic factors that are responsible for our current predicament.–Climate Change and the Common Good (April 2015, The Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences)

The Catholic Church, working with the leadership of other religions, could take a decisive role in helping to solve this problem. The Church could accomplish this by mobilizing public opinion and public funds to meet the energy needs of the poorest 3 billion in a way that does not contribute to global warming but would allow them to prepare better for the challenges of unavoidable climate change. The case for prioritizing climate-change mitigation depends crucially on accepting the fact that we have a responsibility not only towards those who are living in poverty today, but also to generations yet unborn. We have to reduce the potentially catastrophic threat that hangs over so many people.–Climate Change and the Common Good (April 2015, The Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences)

Over and above institutional reforms, policy changes and technological innovations for affordable access to zero-carbon energy sources, there is a fundamental need to reorient our attitude toward nature and, thereby, toward ourselves. Finding ways to develop a sustainable relationship with our planet requires not only the engagement of scientists, political leaders and civil societies, but ultimately also a moral revolution. Religious institutions can and should take the lead on bringing about such a new attitude towards Creation.–Climate Change and the Common Good (April 2015, The Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences)

World Faiths Meet in Rome: Climate Change is a ‘Moral and Religious Imperative for Humanity’

Maple-leaves-in-the-sunlight
World leaders met at the Vatican for a conference on climate change last week. They released a final statement, declaring that “human-induced climate change is a scientific reality” and “its decisive mitigation is a moral and religious imperative for humanity,” according to Vatican Radio.

All this is part of the run-up to the much anticipated encyclical by Pope Francis on climate change.

Below is an excerpt from the 28 April 2015 statement:

… We join together from many faiths and walks of life, reflecting humanity’s shared yearning for peace, happiness, prosperity, justice, and environmental sustainability. We have considered the overwhelming scientific evidence regarding human-induced climate change, the loss of biodiversity, and the vulnerabilities of the poor to economic, social, and environmental shocks.

In the face of the emergencies of human-induced climate change, social exclusion, and extreme poverty, we join together to declare that:

Human-induced climate change is a scientific reality, and its decisive mitigation is a moral and religious imperative for humanity; In this core moral space, the world’s religions play a very vital role. These traditions all affirm the inherent dignity of every individual linked to the common good of all humanity. They affirm the beauty, wonder, and inherent goodness of the natural world, and appreciate that it is a precious gift entrusted to our common care, making it our moral duty to respect rather than ravage the garden that is our home; The poor and excluded face dire threats from climate disruptions, including the increased frequency of droughts, extreme storms, heat waves, and rising sea levels;

The world has within its technological grasp, financial means, and know-how the means to mitigate climate change while also ending extreme poverty, through the application of sustainable development solutions including the adoption of low-carbon energy systems supported by information and communications technologies; The financing of sustainable development, including climate mitigation, should be bolstered through new incentives for the transition towards low-carbon energy, and through the relentless pursuit of peace, which also will enable the shift of public financing from military spending to urgent investments for sustainable development; … [read the rest here]

Read more on the forthcoming encyclical”

With Pope Francis’ Encyclical on Climate Change Done, Now a Vatican Sales Push – and Pushback by Andrew C. Revkin

Integral ecology and the horizon of hope: concern for the poor and for creation in the ministry of Pope Francis by Cardinal Peter Turkson

Pope Francis’s Ecology Encyclical – What Can We Expect? by Henry Longbottom, SJ

Republican Evangelical Says Climate Change is a Pro-Life Issue

Pope Francis speaks out on creation care and Mitch Hescox, head of the Environmental Evangelical Network, challenges Florida Gov. Rick Scott to take climate change seriously, since “Florida is ground zero.”

Fossil Fuel Divestment As Part of ‘Spiritual Worship’

Wes-Divest-meme-bannerRecently Bill McKibben (350.org) wrote a short note to readers of Tikkun magazine that serves as a good update on the fossil fuel divestment movement as a tool for combating climate change and shifting us toward a renewable energy economy.

Over the past year I’ve met with a number of groups discussing “the divestment strategy,” comparing it to the anti-apartheid divestment movement (see Loosing the Bonds by Robert Massie). In those conversations I’ve seen very good people come out for and against the use of this tool.

I’m avowedly “pro.”

Those who are “con” usually get there because 1) taking on financial industries is outside their area of expertise so it seems impossible or 2) it will divert too much “people energy” away changing federal policies.

Continue reading “Fossil Fuel Divestment As Part of ‘Spiritual Worship’”

The Bill Show: Moyers & McKibben on the Politics of Keystone

Photo by Jay Mallin. Used with permission.
Photo by Jay Mallin. Used with permission.

My next Keystone resistance court date is on Valentine’s Day!

The “ERM 54,” as we are called, were arrested last July (photo at left) in the lobby of corporate headquarters of Environmental Resources Management, the company hired by the State Department to conduct the environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Keystone XL pipeline. In addition to providing a very flawed report, the company failed to include key conflict of interest information in its State Department application.

Below is Bill Moyers interviewing Bill McKibben on the most recent State Department report on the Keystone XL pipeline. It’s a good summary of where the Keystone fight, called “the Woolworth’s lunch counter of the climate change movement,” is now and is headed.

From Moyers and Company:

After the State Department issued a long-awaited environmental impact statement on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline last week, environmentalists and those opposed to the 1,179-mile pipeline have intensified their push for the Obama administration to reject the project.

This week, Bill Moyers talks with Bill McKibben, an activist who has dedicated his life to saving the planet from environmental collapse, about his hopes that Americans will collectively pressure Obama to stand up to big oil.

“Most people understand that we’re in a serious fix,” McKibben tells Moyers, “There’s nothing you can do as individuals that will really slow down this juggernaut … You can say the same thing about the challenges faced by people in the civil rights or the abolition movement, or the gay rights movement or the women’s movement. In each case, a movement arose; if we can build a movement, then we have a chance.”

Watch the interview.

Bill McKibben to Obama: Say No to Big Oil from BillMoyers.com on Vimeo.