Hot Off the Press! Reinhabiting Bioregional Faith and Practice

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The book is out! Great work by the one of the most innovative Christian movements today. How do we bear forward the gospel at the end of the Anthropocene? Love the watershed you’re with (to paraphrase Crosby, Stills, and Nash).

Order lots of these books here.

My poem “Prophecies from the Watershed Conspiracy” is included in the foreword, along with an essay by  Denise Marie Nadeau, a French and Mi’kmaq Canadian and dance movement therapist, who has made the Nibi ceremony for the protection of water.

This collection introduces and explores “watershed discipleship” as a critical, contextual, and constructive approach to ecological theology and practice, and features emerging voices from a generation that has grown up under the shadow of climate catastrophe.

Watershed Discipleship is a “triple entendre” that recognizes we are in a watershed historical moment of crisis, focuses on our intrinsically bioregional locus as followers of Jesus, and urges us to become disciples of our watersheds.

Bibliographic framing essays by Myers trace his journey into a bioregionalist Christian faith and practice and offer refections on incarnational theology, hermeneutics, and ecclesiology. The essays feature more than a dozen activists, educators, and practitioners under the age of forty, whose work and witness attest to a growing movement of resistance and reimagination across North America.

Contributors reread both biblical texts and churchly practices (such as mission, baptism, and liturgy) through the lens of “re-place-ment.” It’s a comprehensive and engaged call for a “Transition church” that can help turn our history around toward environmental resiliency and social justice, by passionate advocates on the front lines of watershed discipleship.

Order lots of these books here.

Pope Francis: House Rules for Our Common Home

Check out the reader’s guide to Pope Francis’ letter on the environment. (Thank you, Tom Reese!) This is a great way to introduce Pope Francis’ groundbreaking treatise to youth groups, Wednesday night bible study and prayer groups, adult Sunday school classes, justice organizations, local book studies, etc.

If you are a human being living on planet earth, then I urge you to gain a working knowledge of this document. It will lead you to ask essential questions about human nature, character, the community of life, sharing, kindness, awe, daily moral reasoning, and love.

Pope Francis Drives Ford Focus

Pope FrancisWhen Pope Francis needs to get from one place to another in his domain of Vatican City, the smallest state in the world, he drives a “humble” Ford Focus. On Saturday, he encouraged new priests and nuns to adopt humility in their choice of transportation and gadgets–a word, I think, that applies to all Christians.

As part of his drive to make the Catholic Church more austere and focus on the poor, Francis told young and trainee priests and nuns from around the world that having the latest smart phone or fashion accessory was not the route to happiness.

“It hurts me when I see a priest or a nun with the latest model car, you can’t do this,” he said.

“A car is necessary to do a lot of work, but please, choose a more humble one. If you like the fancy one, just think about how many children are dying of hunger in the world,” he said. …

The ANSA news agency said the pope’s car of choice for moving around the walled Vatican City was a compact Ford Focus.–Read whole story here

There was no word yet on whether the Vatican’s Ford Focus fleet was electric or not.

Winona, Minn. — 35 Raise Fracas Over Fracking

Steve under arrest in Winona 2013Friend Steve Clemens joined with 35 other yesterday in Winona, Minn., to nonviolently block 18-wheeler semis delivering silica “frac sand” to barges on the Mississippi River. (The sand is mined in Minnesota and then shipped to natural gas fracking operations in Texas and other locations.)

They were arrested on trespass charges in what may have been the largest protest to date against “fracking” (hydraulic fracturing is a nontraditional extractive process to release methane pockets in shale).

Read Steve’s whole story at his blog Mennonista, but here’s an excerpt of a letter of support that the group received from farmer-philosopher Wendell Berry:

“You have offered me the privilege of joining by letter with you and your friends in Winona in opposition to “frac sand mining,” and I am happy to accept.

I will say, first, that there is never, for any reason, a justification for doing long-term or permanent damage to the ecosphere. We did not create the world, we do not own it, and we have no right to destroy any part of it.

Second, most of our politicians and their corporate employers are measuring their work by standards of profitability and mechanical efficiency. Those standards are wrong. There is one standard that is right: the health of living creatures and the living earth.

Third, we must give our needs to eat, drink, and breathe an absolute precedence over our need for mined fuels.

I wish you well.”–Wendell Berry, personal correspondence

Read Steve’s whole account.

Largest Protestant Denomination in Canada Rejects Tar Sands Pipeline

The United Church of Canada voted on Tuesday to “categorically reject” the tar sands pipeline project that would carry highly toxic, climate-killing unconventional tar sands petroleum through pristine First Nation’s land in Alberta to British Columbia where it would be shipped on supertankers to China for processing. The so-called Northern Gateway pipeline is the Canadian end of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline proposed in the U.S.

In the U.S., some have argued that we should accept the tar sands Keystone XL pipeline because if we don’t the toxic petroleum from Alberta will just get shipped to China through a East-West pipeline. But the First Nations people and Canadian Churches are continuing to fight to make sure that pipeline never gets built. There may also be a strategic church divestment strategy to make sure that the United Church of Canada does not have any stockholdings in companies related to TransCanada, Enbridge, or affiliates.

In the U.S., we must do the same. In fact, ranchers and others in Texas are training this summer to nonviolently block with their bodies the pipeline construction bulldozers scheduled to begin clearing land soon.

Again, if we are to have any hope of reversing global warming, we must do these three things:

1. Divest or get active regarding all stockholdings in these six corporations: ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, Peabody, Arch, and BP. These are the primary oil, natural gas, and coal companies operating in or through the United States that top the charts as carbon polluters. If Americans focus on U.S. companies, then we can be the tipping point for a transnational shift. If you — or the portfolio you influence — own stock, then get rid of it and tell the company why. If you don’t want to divest, then you need to decide now to become a shareholder activist. If you’re not a stockholder, then pressure your faith institutions, universities, and local governments to get out of “planet-killing” profits. This is the economic part of the plan.

2. Push for carbon “fee-and-dividend” laws on corporate carbon emitters at the local, state, and federal level. No more free rides for oil, gas, and coal companies. You pay taxes to have your garbage hauled away. Why shouldn’t they? The fee is charged at the point of origin or point of import on greenhouse gas emitting energy (oil, gas, and coal). The fee is progressive (increases gradually) over time. The fee is returned directly to the public in monthly dividends to individual taxpayers, with limited-to-no government involvement. Australia initiated this legislation in June. We can learn from them. This is the legislative part of the plan.

3. Take personal responsibility. Everyone can continue to limit energy consumption, use renewable energy sources, and build out a sustainable footprint for our homes and churches. But we also need people to step up and put their bodies on the line to stop the mining of tar sands in Alberta, Canada, and prevent the construction of the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines that are being built to transport Alberta’s unconventional “tar sands” oil. Scientists around the world say that opening the Alberta tar sands and pumping this non-traditional oil through these pipelines will put the planet on a one-way road to climate disaster. That’s why fighting the Keystone XL Pipeline in the U.S. and the Northern Gateway Pipeline in Canada is critical. This is the direct action and personal responsibility part of the plan.

Read the United Church of Canada’s statement on Enbridge Corporation’s tars sands pipeline. Here’s an excerpt:

The 41st General Council has instructed Nora Sanders, the United Church’s General Secretary, to make a public statement “categorically” rejecting construction of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, which has a proposed route stretching from northern Alberta to Kitimat, British Columbia.

Due to the timely nature of the pipeline review hearings, commissioners asked that this be accomplished soon. In addition, Sanders has been asked to communicate this decision to all courts of the church, the governments of Canada, Alberta, and British Columbia, Enbridge, and all Canadians through media outlets. …

Read whole article here.

Rose Marie Berger: Why Bill McKibben Is The New Noah

Noah and friends

Bill McKibben is a good guy.

He’s a Sunday school teacher. He’s funny and a little shy. But he’s got a big problem.

He just got a job from God — and it’s not an easy one. It seems to me that Bill’s been tapped to be the new Noah to our faithless generation.  It’s his job to warn us that we have “grieved the Lord in his heart” and that the flood waters will rise again if we don’t get back to working within our “original contract” and reverse climate change.

Remember the Bill Cosby skit about Noah and the Ark? Noah’s neighbors didn’t think much of him, and Noah himself didn’t know what he was doing half the time. But he had a job to do, and cubit by cubit, two by two, he did it.

Bill’s like that.

Last month, Rolling Stone magazine featured his latest plea for climate sanity on its cover. And despite every pundit’s whining proclamation that climate change is such a buzz-kill, Bill’s article got forwarded, commented, tweeted, and otherwise pushed around the Internet more than anything else RS has put out lately.

So somebody out there is paying attention to climate change — even if the elites can’t seem to grow a spine about it.

What I liked about Bill’s article was that he lays out a clear, 3-pronged strategy for really doing something about climate change while there’s still time.

If we do these three things, there’s a possibility that we can reverse climate change, restore health to our skies, earth, and oceans, and move forward into a future where our grandkids can not just survive, but thrive.

Here’s the plan:

1. Divest or get active regarding all stockholdings in these six corporations: ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, Peabody, Arch, and BP. These are the primary oil, natural gas, and coal companies operating in or through the United States that top the charts as carbon polluters. If Americans focus on U.S. companies, then we can be the tipping point for a transnational shift. If you — or the portfolio you influence — own stock, then get rid of it and tell the company why. If you don’t want to divest, then you need to decide now to become a shareholder activist. If you’re not a stockholder, then pressure your faith institutions, universities, and local governments to get out of “planet-killing” profits. This is the economic part of the plan.

2. Push for carbonfee-and-dividend” laws on corporate carbon emitters at the local, state, and federal level. No more free rides for oil, gas, and coal companies. You pay taxes to have your garbage hauled away. Why shouldn’t they? The fee is charged at the point of origin or point of import on greenhouse gas emitting energy (oil, gas, and coal). The fee is progressive (increases gradually) over time. The fee is returned directly to the public in monthly dividends to individual taxpayers, with limited-to-no government involvement. Australia initiated this legislation in June. We can learn from them. This is the legislative part of the plan.

3. Take personal responsibility. Everyone can continue to limit energy consumption, use renewable energy sources, and build out a sustainable footprint for our homes and churches. But we also need people to step up and put their bodies on the line to stop the mining of tar sands in Alberta, Canada, and prevent the construction of the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines that are being built to transport Alberta’s unconventional “tar sands” oil. Scientists around the world say that opening the Alberta tar sands and pumping this non-traditional oil through these pipelines will put the planet on a one-way road to climate disaster. That’s why fighting the Keystone XL Pipeline in the U.S. and the Northern Gateway Pipeline in Canada is critical. This is the direct action and personal responsibility part of the plan.

The threat of climate change is overwhelming. It’s been hard to sort out what to do. But Bill McKibben has given us a plan — one that everyone can join in, one where everyone can take part.

And even though he presents it in a folksy manner, this stuff has been vetted from the farmers on the ground to the economists in the think tanks to the scientists running the algorithms. When governments fail, people stand up.

This plan may not work to completely reverse climate change. But if anything is going to succeed, we’ve got to listen to Noah this time. Or rather, Bill.

Welcome to the fight of your lifetime.

Rose Marie Berger, author of Who Killed Donte Manning? is a Catholic peace activist and a Sojourners associate editor. She blogs at rosemarieberger.com.

Resources and Further Reading

Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math by Bill McKibben

1. ECONOMIC

2. LEGISLATIVE

3. PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY/DIRECT ACTION

Video: When Trees Talk Together

Dr. Suzanne Simard, University of British Columbia, has a 4-minute video on forest communication systems, her most recent ecosystem research.

As you watch the film, meditate on Isaiah 14:6-8:

The Lord has broken the rod of the wicked, the scepter of the rulers, which in anger struck down peoples with unceasing blows, and in fury subdued nations with relentless aggression. All the lands are at rest and at peace; they break into singing. Even the pine trees and the cedars of Lebanon exult over you and say, “Now that you have been laid low, no woodsman comes to cut us down.”

For you science wonks, Dr. Simard’s professional publication on this topic is published as “Mycorrhizal networks and seedling establishment in Douglas-fir forests Biocomplexity of Plant–Fungal Interactions” by S.W. Simard (Biocomplexity of Plant-Fungal Interactions, Chapter 4, edited by Darlene Southworth. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2012)

Video: Connecting the Climate Change Dots

Last week I joined with folks around the world in “connecting the dots” on global climate change. Here’s a video from the worldwide event and a photo of our little “connect the dots” group at Dorothy Day Catholic Worker in Washington, D.C. Check out Climate Dots.

Cornhuskers and the Keystone XL: Next Steps?

Cornhuskers and the Keystone XL: Next Steps? by Rose Marie Berger

Wednesday afternoon the Nebraska state legislature approved a bill (LB1161) that will allow Nebraska to proceed with a $2 million study to find a route for TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline through the state. Gov. Dave Heineman is expected to sign the measure into law. It’s a case of Big Red going for the black by jeopardizing the green. But what does this mean?

First, it means that the global “people power” movement against the Keystone XL pipeline beat back the energy and oil industry in January when President Obama and the State Department denied TransCanada’s pipeline permit. Our “united we stand” organizing strategy was effective. It forced TransCanada to switch tactics.

Now the oil industry is pushing a “divide and conquer” tactic. The plan is to break the pipeline up into state-sized parts and negotiate on each section.  But defensive wars are won more often than offensive ones. And Americans against the pipeline are fighting a defensive war to protect our land against a self-serving foreign oil company. Our forces are more agile in fighting state-based regional battles than TransCanada’s blunt money-shoving weapon. While proposed route changes away from the environmentally sensitive Sandhills are very laudable and should be supported, one doesn’t want to spend too much time praising the alignment of the Titanic’s deck chairs when the sirens are sounding.

Second, it means that Nebraska needs cash and the proud Cornhuskers in the lege will do what’s necessary to get it. Since the oil industry lobbyists have convinced the Obama administration to allow new routes to be proposed, Nebraska is leaping into the new maneuvering space – in part to keep filling the state’s depleted coffers with funds from the TransCanada cash cow. The bill approved today will re-start the pipeline “review” process on the state level. And, the bill requires TransCanada to reimburse the state for the route study. Ka-ching!

Nebraska’s Gov. Dave Heineman (Republican) has been walking a fine line between the pressure for “jobs” in his depressed Midwestern state and environmental concerns about running an oil pipeline through “America’s well,” the Oglala aquifer. Earlier this year Heineman was strongly against the pipeline because of the effects of an oil spill could have in the Sandhills, where water tables — including those of the massive Ogallala Aquifer – are high. A spill would be devastating for drinking water and for agricultural water needed to keep Nebraska steers watered for producing those fine Omaha steaks. In 2011, TransCanada had 12 oil spills in the U.S. Fears are well-founded.

Third, it means it’s time for Nebraskans  to turn up the heat on their governor and legislators. The re-ignited Keystone review will likely fast-track eminent domain powers by the state. Anyone along the new proposed route will be offered pretty money up front by TransCanada to sell their inheritance for pottage. If that doesn’t work, then the state will start exercising its right to take land and homes and pay bottom dollar for the property.

Finally, a reminder. It’s misleading for news reports to call the Keystone XL a “crude-oil pipeline.” It’s not—at least not in any common understanding of the phrase. It is a “synthetic oil and bitumen” or “tar sands oil” pipeline. This is a non-standard petroleum product that cannot be transported safely through traditional pipelines. It’s even more toxic than traditional crude oil.

The political shenanigans around the Keystone XL pipeline will continue through the election season. President Obama is fearful of alienating his Big Oil funders. States desperately need money and will look to private industry to get it – even if it means cutting off your nose to spite their face.

But let’s keep the big picture in mind. The Canadian tar sands are the second largest carbon reserve in the world. Mining these reserves already involves clear-cutting boreal forests, breaking indigenous treaties, irreversibly damaging water quality, and introducing toxic waste into the food chain affecting human health, especially the health of pregnant women and their developing babies. And it takes 8,800 pounds of earth and tar sands, plus an average of 155 gallons of fresh water, to produce one barrel of tar sands oil, which will fill half a tank of a Chevy Suburban. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency points out that Canadian tar sands carbon emissions are “82 percent greater than the average crude refined in the U.S., on a well-to-tank basis.”

This pipeline is a climate killer – no matter what route it takes.

Rose Marie Berger, a Sojourners associate editor, was an organizer for the Tar Sands religious witness.

Keystone XL Pipeline: Debunking Some Myths by Jack Palmer

Six Reasons Why The Keystone XL Was a Bad Idea All Along by Sally Kohn

Video: Dorothy Stang, Saint of the Amazon

Seven years ago on Feb. 13, 2005, Dorothy Stang, an American Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, was martyred in the Amazon as a result of her work with the landless poor there. When two hired gunmen met her on a muddy path they asked if she was carrying a weapon. In reply, she took out a Bible and began to recite the Beatitudes. “Blessed are the poor in spirit…blessed are the peacemakers.” Then she was shot six times and killed.

James Martin, over at America magazine, posted this wonderful video by students James Newton and Sam Clements that is one part of a series of four on Dorothy’s work in the Amazon.

In the summer of 2003 Newton and Clements headed to Brazil with a video camera, a map, and the idea to make a documentary. While filming in Southern Brazil, they heard about the extraordinary work of U.S. missionary Sister Dorothy Stang, a nun with a price on her head. For more than 20 years she had been fighting to preserve the Amazon rainforest, while helping peasant farmers live sustainably. Inspired by a mere five-minute call to Sister Dorothy, they set off on a 2500-mile journey to find her. Little did they know of the dangers ahead, or that Sister Dorothy would later be killed by hired gunmen.