Rose Marie Berger: ‘For God So Loved the World’ Christians & Climate Change

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Free digital edition (May)
http://digital.sojo.net/i/121090

Finally! The May issue of Sojo on Climate Change is available. I’ve been working on this for months! Thanks to everybody out there who are sitting in trees, and lobbying Congress, and saying prayers, and on and on. I guess what I do is write. So here’s an excerpt:

In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, the United States launched two ground wars and a worldwide “war on terror.” Within two months, Congress federalized the Transportation Security Administration to secure airports. More than 263 government organizations were either created or reorganized. Some 1,931 private companies were put to work on counterterrorism, homeland security, and intelligence. Rightly or wrongly, America moved heaven and earth to stop terrorism in its tracks. It was seen as both an ongoing threat and a moral affront that had to be dealt with.

What about Climate Change?

In February, a New York State Senate task force on Superstorm Sandy compared the hurricane that affected 24 states to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. “[On 9/11] there were more than 3,000 souls lost, but in terms of the geographic destruction, it was isolated to Lower Manhattan,” said Sen. Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island). “[After Sandy] we have miles and miles and miles of destruction. Hundreds of thousands of homes affected, 60 … New Yorkers killed, 250,000 to 260,000 businesses affected.”

Hurricane Sandy killed 253 people in seven countries. It was the second largest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded—and the most expensive. It smashed into the East Coast with barely three days’ warning. Like hurricanes Katrina and Rita before it, Sandy was a disaster of biblical proportions.

After 9/11, Americans knew in our gut that something was seriously wrong. Our moral intuition had been sucker punched.

Climate change—and its deadly implications—has been harder to grasp. There’s a lot of complicated science involved. Instead of a single incident, we’re inundated with seemingly disconnected events. And, despite the evidence, we often fail to see it as a “crime.”

But global warming is a clear and present danger—with perpetrators, victims, and, most important, solutions.

Read more.

Keystone XL Would Divide Jobs, Conquer Low-Income and Native American Communities

notarsandsThe only argument FOR the Keystone XL pipeline that held any moral weight was that pipeline construction would produce “jobs, jobs, jobs.” The need for jobs is a desperate one. And any construction project will produce sporadic work. But no self-respecting hard-hatter would work on a project that’s going to overheat the world.

Read an excerpt from yesterday’s Sojourners blog post on the Keystone XL and jobs:

When it comes to the Keystone XL pipeline, the oil and gas industry want you to believe that you have to choose between jobs and prairie grass. This tactic is called the “divide and conquer” or “divide and rule” strategy. It’s as old as the empires of ancient Greece and Rome. It still works because human nature hasn’t changed that much.

Two years ago I sat down across the table from Dr. Kerri-Ann Jones, the highest ranking State Department official (short of the Secretary of State) to weigh in on the Keystone XL pipeline permit process. A group of religious leaders were delivering thousands of petitions to Dr. Jones asking her to to stop the pipeline.

I said to her, “If this decision about the pipeline was made purely based on the climate science, we wouldn’t be here having this discussion.” She’s a scientist. She knows the score. She didn’t disagree. “But,” she said, “everywhere we go across the country we hear about the need for jobs – especially in the middle of the country.”

Divide and conquer.

Continue reading “Keystone XL Would Divide Jobs, Conquer Low-Income and Native American Communities”

Keystone Pipeline Will Be Stopped By A Miracle

200 Christians and other faiths gather at pre-rally prayer service.

People of Faith are in the ‘miracle business’

An estimated 200 people of faith gathered in Washington, D.C., on Sunday morning in preparation for the Forward on Climate Rally on the National Mall. The brief prayer service preceded the larger rally of an estimated 40,000 people urging President Barack Obama to take action against climate change and to reject the Keystone XL pipeline.

Mirele Goldsmith of Jews Against Hydrofracking reminded the gathering of faithful that in Jewish teaching “if something is right it is kosher and if it is wrong it is not kosher.” Climate change, she said, is “not kosher.” Opening the Alberta tar sands to exploitation is “not kosher.” She offered a traditional Jewish blessing to be said when one encounters natural wonders.

Alycia Ashburn, climate change organizer for the Christian social justice group Sojourners, offered a rousing roll call of the groups present for the prayer service in sub-freezing temperatures with a 20 mph wind, including co-sponsor Interfaith Power & Light (MD.DC.NoVA), Catholic Workers, Franciscan Action Network, The Shalom Center, Christians for the Mountains, Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, Green Faith, Interfaith Moral Action on Climate, Karuna Buddhist Vihara, Kids vs Global Warming, Maryknoll, and Green Hevra.

Sojourners’ Rose Berger fired up the group by saying, “Some people claim it will take a miracle to turn the oil companies around. Some people say it will take a miracle to reverse climate change. It’s a good thing we are people in the miracle business. We understand the mechanics of miracles and we are going to make it happen. As people of faith, we are the leaven, the yeast of this movement. We are the catalyst. Let’s move forward on climate in the wonder-working power of the Spirit.”

As the interreligious, multi-faith rally marched down the National Mall toward the Washington Monument, they joined forces with Unitarian Universalists and Jews for Peace as they all moved into the main body of the demonstration. On stage the Rev. Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus and Methodist environmentalist Bill McKibben stirred up the crowd by preaching “By God, we are going to stop this [Keystone XL] pipeline and get this country to take action on climate change.”

Correction: An earlier version of this post identified Mirele Goldsmith as with Greater Washington Interfaith Power & Light, which is now known as Interfaith Power & Light (MD.DC.NoVA).

See more coverage here:

http://www.usatoday.com/videos/news/nation/2013/02/17/1926493/
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/18/business/energy-environment/obamas-keystone-pipeline-decision-risks-new-problems-either-way.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-02-17/thousands-protest-keystone-pipeline-in-washington-march.html

No To Keystone XL: Playing Chicken With Climate Change, We All Lose

Michael Klare’s written another good summary of where we are with the Keystone XL pipeline and why it’s so important to stop it.

If you can’t join the thousands for Forward on Climate on the National Mall on Sunday, 17 February, please pray that President Obama, new Secretary of State John Kerry, Canadian foreign minister John Baird, and TransCanada CEO Russ Girling will find a way out of this predicament. It’s gone way past access to oil or American jobs.

Starting today, every decision we make has to move us toward a low-carbon future. Moving ahead with the Keystone XL takes us 180 degrees in the wrong direction. And pray for all those who are putting their bodies on the line to stop construction along the Keystone XL route–facing injury,jail, fines, and loss of homes and land–for our sake.

You can send a note to President Obama asking him not to approve the Keystone XL here.

Michael T. Klare writes:

Presidential decisions often turn out to be far less significant than imagined, but every now and then what a president decides actually determines how the world turns. Such is the case with the Keystone XL pipeline, which, if built, is slated to bring some of the “dirtiest,” carbon-rich oil on the planet from Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. In the near future, President Obama is expected to give its construction a definitive thumbs up or thumbs down, and the decision he makes could prove far more important than anyone imagines. It could determine the fate of the Canadian tar-sands industry and, with it, the future well-being of the planet. If that sounds overly dramatic, let me explain. …

Continue reading “No To Keystone XL: Playing Chicken With Climate Change, We All Lose”

Super Bowl Lights Out: Our Half-Lit Climate Future


“Last night’s power outage at the Super Bowl gave the world a glimpse of the daily challenges many New Orleans residents still face in the wake of rebuilding post-Katrina. Thanks to misplaced priorities that place war and partisan politics over our nation’s infrastructure needs, cities like New Orleans suffer. From New Jersey to New Orleans and beyond, we have watched recovery dollars spent in discriminatory ways. Suburban, more affluent areas and tourist zones get the lion’s share and communities — especially low resource communities and communities of color — wait for months and even years for relief. Studies published by the National Housing Institute and others have shown how these historic patterns of racism exacerbate present-day gaps but there has been no significant policy effort to address this inequity. The fact that New Orleans got the lights back on so quickly is a testament to its resilience and know-how. However, cities cannot put the lights back on or undertake the gargantuan task of rebuilding without their fair share of public dollars.”–Makani Themba, executive director of The Praxis Project

Guns and Greenhouse Gases: The Lord said ‘Tell the People to Get Going!’

“Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving!”–Exodus 14:15

Sometimes you spend years preparing for change, then when it arrives you are too tired to get moving.

I’m trying not to let this happen to me.

For inexplicable reasons, the horrific shootings at Newtown and Superstorm Sandy have shifted something in the American soul. After all these years of advocating for action, there is finally forward movement on climate change and sane gun regulations. Though I for one am weary and tired, I want to encourage you (and myself) to do what we can to meet this moment.

1. On greenhouse gases and climate change–If you’ve never spoken out about climate change, do it now. Write to your Congressional representatives and ecclesial leaders asking them for strong, clear leadership to reverse of global warming and mitigate its associated social disruptions. President Obama raised it in his inaugural address. There seems to be movement in Washington to address it–finally. While in most cases the best solutions to a problem are those closest to the ground, this is not the case with climate change and climate disruption. It will only be adequately addressed with federal leadership. So we’ve got to push. Tell Barack Obama that you support him to lead in the fight against climate change, beginning with the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

2. On sane gun laws–After the shootings at Sandy Hook, Americans rose up to demand two things: universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons. President Obama’s 23 planned executive actions on weaponry is moving us forward on universal background checks.

The second piece, a ban on assault weapons, has now been introduced to Congress by Sen. Dianne Feinstein. I’ve read the whole bill. It’s excellent legislation. It deals directly with many of the loopholes in the previous assault weapons ban that sundowned in 2004. Now it is our job to build support for it. Write to your Congressional representatives (here’s the link to the Brady Campaign support letter) and ecclesial leaders asking them for strong, clear, unequivocal support for Sen. Feinstein’s “Assault Weapons Ban of 2013.”

As we move toward Ash Wednesday and Lent, I hope that part of our commitment can be to take meaningful action in these two areas at least … remembering when the Lord said to Moses “Stop whining to me! Tell the people to get moving!”

Learn More:

Watch the video of the climate change portion of President Obama’s inaugural address.

Learn more about the movement to address global warming with the Forward on Climate campaign.

President Obama Signs 23 Planned Executive Actions on Guns

Summary of the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013

Congressional text of the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013

The Brady Campaign Support Letter for Sen. Feinstein’s Legislation

Bill McKibben: Climate Change Won’t Wait

I’ve been pondering climate change issues for awhile: praying, educating folks on what’s happening, shoring up my spiritual foundations by reading things like Hiebert’s The Yawhist’s Lanscape: Nature and Religion in Early Israel, strategizing, and just doing some serious thinking.

On the one hand, “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (Psalm 24:1). I trust completely in the abiding love of God here on earth and in the life to come. What happens is what happens when it comes to breaking God’s fundamental earth covenant and the cycles of human life.

On the other hand, the role of the prophets is to continually make plain to the people where they have broken covenant with God, what they need to do to turn around, and what is promised them when they do.

When it comes to addressing global climate change, both hands are in motion. I need to act with all risk and passion of the prophets and all the joyful confidence of one who strives to walk humbly with God.

On February 17, 2013, God’s people are called again to carry a message to President Obama: Take meaningful action to reverse climate change now.

Below is an excerpt from Bill McKibben’s most recent oped in the LA TImes: Climate Change Won’t Wait:

… With climate change, unless we act fairly soon in response to physics’ timetable, it will be too late.

It’s not at all clear that President Obama understands this.

That’s why his administration is sometimes peeved when they don’t get the credit they think they deserve for tackling the issue in his first term in office. The measure they point to most often is the increase in average mileage for automobiles, which will slowly go into effect over the next decade.

That’s precisely the kind of gradual transformation that people — and politicians — like. But physics isn’t impressed. If we’re to slow the pace of climate change we need to cut emissions globally at a sensational rate, by something like 5% a year.

It’s not Obama’s fault that that’s not happening. He can’t force it to happen, especially with Congress so deeply in debt to the fossil fuel industry. But he should at least be doing absolutely everything he can on his own authority. That might include new Environmental Protection Agency regulations, for example. And he could refuse to grant the permit for the building of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. …

…The president must be pressed to do all he can — and more. But there’s another possibility we need to consider: Perhaps he’s simply not up to this task, and we’re going to have to do it for him, as best we can.

Those of us in the growing grass-roots climate movement are moving as fast and hard as we know how (though not, I fear, as fast as physics demands). Thousands of us will descend on Washington on Presidents Day weekend for the largest environmental demonstration in years. And young people from 190 nations will gather in Istanbul, Turkey, in June in an effort to shame the United Nations into action.

We also need you. Maybe if we move fast enough, even this all-too-patient president will get caught up in the draft. But we’re not waiting for him. We can’t.

Rose Marie Berger: The Thing From the Oil Company Board Room

"Skin of Evil" Star Trek: The Next Generation

The Global North and West is addicted to fossilized fuel. Myself included. And we are trying to push our addictions onto the Global South.

Everywhere we look the fossil fuel pushers are in our face, luring us into our next fix.

Not a week after the elections, the American Petroleum Institute launched ads in Alaska, Louisiana, New Mexico, Colorado, Virginia, Arkansas, and North Carolina targeting U.S. senators who are raising the issue of climate change; specifically, the ones calling into question oil company subsidies.

The oil and gas companies try seduction (“fighting for jobs”). They try fear (“we are too big to fail”). They accuse us of being unfair to them (“Discriminatory treatment of the oil and gas industry is a bad idea”). They try bullying and slandering.

Even when our court system recently convicted one of them killing (BP convicted of “manslaughter” for the 11 murdered on Gulf Oil spill rigs), they are not stopped.

We can’t unhook ourselves by ourselves. We have to fight the pushers by banding together and taking action through public policy, business, and civil society action.

The board of directors of these six corporations–ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, Peabody, Arch, and BP–will do anything to make money. They are terrorizing our planet. Just ask the folks in Rockaway, NY, the Jersey Shore, and the Caribbean.

Are they “good men”? Upstanding men? Do they love their families? Of course. Do they go to church? Probably. Are they nice to animals? Most likely. Are they perpetrating a great evil of transnational proportions? Yes, they are.

They are like “The Thing From Another World” rising up from under the ice to kill the scientists by altering the temperature in the research station. The Thing requires human blood to survive and reproduce. Ugh.

What do we do about them? How do we help them do what is right and protect ourselves and our earth at the same time?

First, pray for the salvation of their souls. Second, direct our communal action at the corporations’ bottom lines.

Here are three steps:

1. Divest. Start with churches, universities, and towns. For managed portfolios, commit to zero direct investment in fossil fuels. For those who operate through the use of exchange-traded funds, direct your fund managers to bias against fossil fuels. (Here is the targeted list of carbon reserve companies to give your fund manager to set up an bias against investment.) Unity University in Maine is the first academic institution to divest. Vancity Credit Union has also divested.

2. Demand strong carbon “fee-and-dividend” laws on corporate carbon emitters at the local, state, and federal level. Push for an end to oil company subsidies. This fight will be part of the “fiscal cliff” deliberations.

3. Take personal responsibility. Right now there are 11 people in jail in Nacogdoches, Texas, arrested for resisting TransCanada’s takeover of land for the climate-killing Keystone XL pipeline. Some of them are being charged with felonies for their nonviolent direct action to stop the mining company that will exponentially increase global warming if allowed to complete its project. What can you do?

The World Bank has just released a blockbuster new report called Turn Down the Heat: Why A 4 Degree Centigrade Warmer World Must Be Avoided. The World Economic Forum, the European Union, and other world bodies will be discussing its content over the next few weeks and months. Read it. Ask your representatives and leaders if they have read it. Stir up some conversation.

“Hope” is part if the DNA of Christians. So is courage. So be bold, my friends, be courageous. Take hope in Christ. Be heartened in the struggle. Remember that because God so loves this world, God gave God’s begotten child. And we are of that lineage and race.–Rose Marie Berger

Brazil’s Bishop: ‘Reckless Development is Coming to a Dead End’

In 2010, Dom Erwin Kräutler, Catholic bishop of Xingu, Brazil, received the Right Livelihood Award for his work for the human and environmental rights of indigenous peoples and his efforts to save the Amazon forest. He has been a leading opponent of the controversial Belo Monte dam in his diocese — and warns of the connection between unchecked “development” and global warming. This excerpt is part of a series celebrating the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council in US Catholic magazine.

When Pope Paul VI in his 1967 encyclical Populorum Progressio surprised the world with his slogan “Development is the new name for peace,” he wasn’t thinking of the kind of economic growth at all cost that allows a few oligarchies and business people to get filthy rich while intentionally excluding most people and plunging many into poverty. Pope Paul called on all the people of the world to promote development that is based on justice and solidarity.

The definition of development is key. When the free market is seen as the engine of progress and the measure of all things, earth, water, air, and fire will be commodified and subordinated to the rules and powers of the market, multinational companies, and international trade.

But when life in human dignity is the goal and meaning of all development, then development will be geared toward the survival and well-being of all people, including the generations that are coming after us.

The unrelenting pursuit of increasing exports, trade surpluses, and economic growth that exploits the human family and its environment has become a dangerous dead end.

A change in the direction of our thinking and actions is urgent. What is needed is development that is oriented toward the protection and promotion of life and human capacities; toward education, health, security, housing in dignity; and toward environmentally responsible agriculture, stewardship of our water resources, and careful protection of biodiversity.

Averting climate change and saving our planet will require both a change in consciousness and concrete measures that hold all people and countries of the world accountable.–Dom Erwin Kräutler, Catholic bishop of Xingu, Brazil

Read Dom Erwin Kräutler’s whole article here.

Catholics, Elections, and the Specter of ‘Intrinsic Evil’

Often during election season, the phrase “intrinsically evil” gets bandied about to infer that Catholics who don’t vote a right-wing political agenda are somehow going against the teachings of the Church.

A recent NCR editorial takes on these alternative Catholics’ argument; arguments not in line with the teaching of the Church. Here’s an excerpt:

” “Intrinsically evil” — that perennial election year canard that is meant to tell us Catholics how to vote and whom to avoid — has gotten much play this cycle. But it is truly a deception. So-called Catholic voter’s guides that use intrinsic evil as the measuring stick to choose among a half-dozen issues as “nonnegotiables” are partisan distractions and should be ignored.

Catholics who bring with them a conservative political agenda — and who have garnered the support of not a few bishops and other Catholic opinion leaders — generally select these as nonnegotiable issues: abortion, embryonic stem cell research, cloning, gay marriage, and euthanasia. While this makes a tidy list, convenient for pamphlets stuck under car windshield wipers in church parking lots, we will dispute that they are “nonnegotiables,” because they are in fact cherry-picked from long lists of actions that are intrinsically evil by church teaching.

Let’s borrow a list from Pope John Paul II. Quoting Gaudium et Spes, he says that intrinsically evil acts are “any kind of homicide, genocide, abortion, euthanasia and voluntary suicide; whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit; whatever is offensive to human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution and trafficking in women and children; degrading conditions of work which treat laborers as mere instruments of profit, and not as free responsible persons: all these and the like are a disgrace … and they are a negation of the honor due to the Creator” (Veritatis Splendor, 80).

We might even add climate change to the list. After all, if the right to life is the most basic human right, then human-caused global warming threatening the entire life of the planet must be the ultimate evil.

“Wait, wait,” the perpetrators of the intrinsically-evil canard will protest. “These are evil, but they can’t be treated as all the same. For some of these we must exercise prudential judgment.” Therein lies the deception, because dealing with any evil — and especially determining the best solutions in a plural democracy — will always require prudential judgment. Further complicating matters is that we must make these judgments within the context of specific electoral and legislative processes. …”

Read the whole article.