In gratitude for Religions for Peace on the occasion of the 9th World Assembly, Vienna, November 20-22, 2013
We’re moving quickly from a world where we push nature around to a world where nature pushes back—with far more power. But we’ve still got to live on that world, so we better start figuring out how. B IL L MC K IB B EN
Approximately 600,000 deaths occurred worldwide as a result of weather-related natural disasters in the 1990s, some 95 percent of which took place in developing countries. WO R L D H EA LTH OR GA N IZ ATION
Rising sea levels – an outcome of global warming – increase the risk of coastal flooding and could cause population displacement. More than half of the world’s population now lives within 60 kilometers of shorelines. UN I O N OF CON C E R N ED SC IE N TISTS
Greetings from Christina Lee Brown
to do the same. Now is the time to join wholeheartedly in the Religions for Peace Global Interreligious Sustainability Movement in partnership with the Sustainability Revolution that is defining a new age, replacing that brought on by the Industrial Revolution. This new age is defined by a new paradigm of consciousness, structured upon reverence for all life and replacing the materialistic mode of thought sustained in the developed countries throughout the past 200 years of industrialization. To promote the Sustainability Movement, I want to present to each of you as a gift this tool kit containing articles, poems, factual findings, and a bibliography of books and articles, websites, interfaith organizations, and movies, all of which have been selected for the purpose of helping you become an effective agent for change among your followers. Contributors to the tool kit represent our rich religious diversity and its vast potential to lead the way in making ours the Age of the Sustainability Revolution. As the producer of the tool kit, I want to acknowledge my appreciation to all of its contributors as well as to all the scientists who contributed to the IPCC and other reports, whose findings have awakened us to the need to reclaim reverence for our sacred air, water, and soil.
n Monday, September 30, 2013, just a few days before this tool kit was sent to the printer, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its 2013 report on climate change. This report represents a global effort, prepared by 209 Lead Authors and 50 Review Editors from 39 countries and more than 600 Contributing Authors from 32 countries. It has particular relevance to us, religious leaders who advocate for Peace, because Peace on Earth cannot co-exist with the global turbulence that accompanies climate change, affecting access to water, clean air, and food as well as to health and economic stability. To promote Peace on Earth we must understand the interdependence of all life, earth and human, and its intricate, mysterious interconnection with all the life that is, was, or will be in the future. HRH Charles the Prince of Wales described the challenge that we face when he said â€œif we fail the Earth, we fail humanity.â€? This task of stemming the tide of climate change is large, but it is not impossible. The IPCC report insists that climate change is caused by human behavior; where there is the will to do so, this behavior can change. As people of faith who value the gift of life, we can and must make the changes in our own behavior that threaten the well being of life on our planet, and then encourage our followers
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I am most pleased to present this tool kit to you, and I ask that you consider it a serious call to action in support of the Religions for Peace Global Interreligious Sustainability Movement. It is my fervent hope that each of you will find appropriate and efficacious ways for leading your followers in this Movement. Despite the critical global predicament that we face, I continue to hope. I have confidence that the religious leaders gathered in this Assembly can create Peace on Earth by leading an international movement of responsible stewardship, emanating from your commitment to your beliefs and values and from your admirable sense of wonder at the gift of life and its remarkable story through the millennia. Yours in Peace and Hope, Christina Lee Brown
The more we exploit nature, the more our options are reduced until we have only one: to fight for survival. MOR R IS U DA L L
The Earth is our origin, our nourishment, our educator, our healer, our fulfillment. TH OM A S B ER RY
When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. J OH N MU IR
CONTENTS Greetings from Christina Lee Brown............................................ i
Some Findings from the 2013 Report of the
The Sustainability Revolution........................................................ 1
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change........................... 38
Map of Religions for Peace â€“ Inter-religious Councils............... 3
Some Reported Findings from the University of
Born to Belonging: Praying the Primal Elements....................... 4
Hawaii at Manoa Study on Climate Change............................ 39
Ten Hindu Environmental Teachings........................................... 8
A Sermon for the Birthday of the World................................... 14
Sacred Air: Matter and Mystery................................................. 18
Related Websites......................................................................... 44
Seyyed Hossein Nasr: Prophet of Peace.................................... 21
Interfaith Organizations and Related Websites........................ 45
Soil to Sky: Of Agroecology vs. Industrial Agriculture........... 24
The Center for Interfaith Relations........................................... 46
Kansas and Al Qaeda.................................................................. 26
The Festival of Faiths.................................................................. 47
Walk on Water............................................................................. 28 Wildflowers in the Dining Room.............................................. 29
Sacred Fire: Light of Compassion.............................................. 32
Address of Christina Lee Brown to the
The Earth Charter....................................................................... 35
Religions for Peace Ninth World Assembly.............................. 49
World Scientistsâ€™ Warning to Humanity................................... 37
An Endorsement of the Sustainability Revolution.................... 53 iv
The Sustainability Revolution
oward the end of the 18th century, around 1780, the Industrial Revolution began in the Western world, introducing Modernism, an ideology which eventually shaped the lifestyles and values of the Westernized world. So thoroughly did the changes embodied in Modernism transform people’s assumptions and desires that it has been appropriately described as a Revolution. Concepts of speed, mobility, efficiency, and consumerism – all values deriving from the machine – molded the thought and ideals of the modern person. When the transformation was complete, Westerners had lost any perception of an intrinsic unity of all life within Nature and could scarcely envision a relationship between earth life and human life beyond a mechanical or consumerist one. Today, according to the late Thomas Berry, C.P., many people are incapable of experiencing the sacred in the cosmos, and because of this, the modern period is filled with angst and alienation from the earth, and a basic disenchantment with the world. The disconnection from Nature that occurred as Westerners pursued what they conceived to be a better life has brought us
instead to the brink of global annihilation. The Earth’s diverse bio-systems, upon which all life hinges, are shutting down, no longer able to perform their vital services. The result is ecochaos, witnessed in desertification, destroyed rain forests, acidified oceans, polar cap melting, soil erosion, wildfires, wind storms, flooding, water shortages, air pollution, elimination of species, and much more. It is clear that nature is losing its capacity to sustain life on Earth. The paradigm of Modernity is today being challenged by a new one, called the Sustainability Revolution. This Revolution anticipates the most profound transformation of the 21st century, directing not only social change but spiritual and religious change as well. One of the early spokespersons for the Sustainability Revolution is Wendell Berry, whose most recent and perhaps most eloquent statement on the subject is made in his essay, It All Turns on Affection, wherein he says, “land abuse cannot brighten the human prospect. There is in fact no distinction between the fate of the land and the fate of the people.” 0 Continued on next page
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of life and consciousness, which must be found, according to Berry, in a deep understanding of the story of the evolving universe, which takes us back over 13 billion years. In this context, revealing the unity and interdependence of all life, we can discover, Berry says, a guide for our own effective functioning as individuals and as a species. A monumental contribution to this re-discovery of the human species within the unity of Nature is the film, Journey of the Universe, the collaborative effort of evolutionary philosopher Brian Thomas Swimme and historian of religions Mary Evelyn Tucker. The Sustainability Revolution cannot be viewed as a matter of choice by serious-minded adults today. We come back to the words of Wendell Berry and Prince Charles: Failing the Earth means failing humanity, destroying our children’s future as well as our own. Current science does not permit us to persist in the delusion that we live on the Earth; we live, in fact, within the Earth with myriad other life forms and systems, all interconnected and interdependent. While the reality of life is beyond our grasp in its immensity, it is nonetheless awesome to ponder. The Sustainability Revolution is struggling to banish the Industrial Revolution and replace its empty promises of a good life with substantial insights into the sacred mystery of life. Adopting the assumptions and desires of this Revolution will make us participants in it. This is both the challenge and the privilege of our age.
This basic tenet of the unity of all life, human and earth, is foundational to the Sustainability Revolution, and is thoroughly explored in HRH Charles the Prince of Wales’ inspiring work, Harmony: A New Way of Looking at Our World. Prince Charles makes repeated reference to the Sustainability Revolution, which he sees as the only hope for the planet. In agreement with Wendell Berry, he starkly affirms that “if we fail the earth, we fail humanity.” At this point in history, Prince Charles reminds us, we cannot pretend “that we do not know about the problems we are creating.” Given the information that the scientists and others of our day have gathered, our only rational as well as moral choice is to take action to stem eco-destruction, becoming foot soldiers in the Sustainability Revolution. Perhaps no group of concerned persons around the globe has responded more effectively to the eco-crisis of today than have the theologians who have created the field of eco-theology, pioneered by Thomas Berry, C.P., and today enriched by scholars in all faith traditions. Certainly the work of scholars in this field is in part a reaction to the current ecological crisis, but even more importantly, it is an acknowledgement of the findings of current research in the sciences of biology, genetics, geology, astrology, psychology, anthropology and others. These findings demand a new understanding of the origins 2
Map of Religions for Peace â€” Inter-religious Councils
Born to Belonging: Praying the Primal Elements
By Larry L. Rasmussen
transition that some have called the greatest that humans have ever faced. This transition marks the emergence from the Holocene Age to the Anthropocene Age. The Holocene Age has hosted all the human civilizations ever known. Its salient characteristic? Relative climate stability. The Anthropocene Age, the age of the human, is distinguished by the high impact of human activities on the surface processes of the planet, whether on dry land, in and under the seas, oceans, and other bodies of water, or across the dome of heaven. The uniqueness of the Anthropocene Age is global geophysical change, change sufficient to effect what Bill McKibben has termed “a tough, new planet.” Ours is not the same planet our ancestors knew. Humans have not been on this “tough new planet” before, and we are ill prepared to adapt to it. Our world is hot, flat, diminished, and crowded. Our reach extends to places where few humans dwell – in the oceans, high into the atmosphere, into the polar regions. Our presence is large, but our resources and biodiversity, even species, are diminishing. Nature on this diminished planet seems to be more vulnerable than it once was, reaching what Marilynne Robinson has called “the end of its tolerance of our presumptions.”
We would all be well advised to listen to the counsel of Wendell Berry, who has been for the past 50 years America’s foremost teacher on the subject of the wholeness of creation. “To cherish the remains of the Earth and to foster its renewal,” he warns, “is our only legitimate hope for survival.” There is no more effective way to cherish the remains of the Earth than first, to recognize the primal elements of earth, air, water, and fire as sacred and therefore worthy of reverence. Then, as we perceive more deeply the wholeness of creation, we understand as well that we have been born to belonging to the sacred primal elements, of which we are composed and without which we could not live. From the moment we are born until our death, we need air. Likewise water. Our body mass is, like the planet’s, 70 percent water. As the descendents of Adam, whose name derives from the Hebrew word, adama, meaning soil, we are groundlings, earthlings, the good clods who became the cultivators. We are creatures of dust, a little water, and the breath of God. Our identity is in our belonging to the sacred elements, a heritage that unites us with a past stretching back millions of years; yet, this identity has current implications as well. We live in a period of transition from an industrial-technological civilization to an ecological civilization, a 4
The pathway to ecological civilization will not be easy, but we can take direction from Thomas Berry’s principle that “planetary health is primary and human well-being derivative.” We need to proceed from disenchantment with nature as a repository of resources to enchantment with nature’s mystery and spirit. We need to re-envision economics, with the principle of long-term ecological sustainability replacing that of short-term growth that benefits relatively few people, and we need to insist upon policy that integrates the impact of climate change, poverty, energy, food, and water with decision-making on all levels. Central and fundamental to making a healthy transition to ecological civilization is an effective religious and moral transition. In Ethics, this requires a shift from a focus on the self to one on the ecosphere as the relational matrix of our lives. Human creatures, embedded as nature in nature, are inseparable from the rest of nature, from which we have evolved, upon which we depend, and whose fate we share. The goal of ethics in the Anthropocene is to render what we might call “creation justice,” which acknowledges not only the moral claims made by human beings but those of soil, air, water, and fire (energy) as well as those of future generations of both human and otherkind. In the new order, it is a matter of 0 Continued on next page 5
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time of hope that promises a different Earth faith bearing moralspiritual energy unlike any that we have experienced, and a new Earth ethic appropriate to a deeply altered world, which can lead to a new system of creation justice. We were born to belonging to this new Earth, and its great challenges and possibilities are ours.
justice that the primal elements regenerate and renew on their own slow terms. We humans, along with all earth life, are bonded to the primal elements and they to us; we have all been born to belonging. The religious transition to the new age calls for honest, enlightened leadership, capable of teaching us to pray and worship as denizens of the tough new planet of the Anthropocene. Prayer and God-talk that do not encompass all 13 to 15 billion years of the universe’s pilgrimage to date and the immense wheeling of 50 to 100 billion galaxies, each swimming with billions of stars and who knows how many planets; prayer and God-talk that do not gather in all species come and gone, as well as those leaving as we speak; finally, prayer and God-talk that do not embrace the whole drama of life in all its misery and grandeur is simply quaint. Shorn of the universe, the worship of God is worship of a human species idol. It is God rendered in our own smudged and diminished image. Wendell Berry would say that our transition to the tough new planet that is now our home must “turn on affection,” on cherishing the remains of the Earth and nurturing its renewal. His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s word for this affection is compassion, which brings happiness to others and makes us happy as well. They know, as we know, that this is a time of crisis for our world and for us who belong to it. Yet, this is also a
Wendel l Berry
In our world, we need a clear awareness of the interdependent nature of nations, of humans and animals, and of humans, animals, and the world. Everything is of interdependent nature. I feel that many problems, especially man-made problems, are due to a lack of knowledge about this interdependent nature. H I S HOL IN E SS TH E DA L A I L A M A
The earth has been created for me as a mosque and as a means of purification. T HE P R OP H ET MU H A M M A D
Nothing is farther removed from traditional Islamic spirituality than the raping of the earth in the name of manâ€™s earthly welfare and without consideration of the welfare of the whole of creation. F R OM I S L A M I C S P I R I T UA L I T Y: FO U N DAT I O N S , E D ITED BY S EY Y ED H OSS EIN N A S R
Ten Hindu Environmental Teachings
By Pankaj Jain, Ph.D.
Hinduism recognizes that the human body is composed of and related to these five elements, and connects each of the elements to one of the five senses: the nose to the earth; tongue to water; eyes to fire; skin to air; and ears to space. This bond between our senses and the elements positions us within the natural world, inseparable from it.
induism is remarkably diverse in its theologies and cultural traditions; yet, the Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas, Sutras, and other sacred texts of Hinduism consistently refer to the worship of the divine in nature. Such has given rise to the Sanskrit mantras recited by millions of Hindus for centuries to revere their rivers, mountains, trees, animals, and the earth. Although Hinduism can be described as a universe of beliefs and practices, ten important teachings on the environment can be discerned which are generally embraced by all Hindus:
2. Ishavasyam — Divinity is omnipresent and takes infinite forms. Hindu texts, such as the Bhagavad Gita (7.19, 13.13) and the Bhagavad Purana (2.2.41, 2.2.45), contain many references to the omnipresence of the Supreme divinity, throughout and within nature. Hindus worship and accept the presence of God in nature. For example, many Hindus think of India’s mighty rivers — such as the Ganges — as goddesses. In the Mahabharata, it is noted that the universe and every object in it has been created as an abode of the Supreme God meant for the benefit of all, implying that individual species should enjoy their role within a larger system, in relationship with other species.
1. Pancha Mahabhutas (The five great elements) create a web of life that is shown forth in the structure and interconnectedness of the cosmos and the human body. Hinduism teaches that the five great elements (space, air, fire, water, and earth) are all derived from prakriti, the primal energy. Each of these elements has its own life and form; together the elements are interconnected and interdependent. The Upanishads explains the interdependence of these elements in relation to Brahman, the supreme reality, from which they arise: “From Brahman arises space, from space arises air, from air arises fire, from fire arises water, and from water arises earth.” 8
3. Protecting the environment is part of Dharma. Dharma, one of the most important Hindu concepts, has been translated into English as duty, virtue, cosmic order, and religion. Protecting the environment for the Hindu is an important expression of dharma. In a number of rural Hindu communities, safeguarding ecosystems such as forests and water is reverence for creation, or dharma, rather than an optional environmental activity. These traditional Indian groups do not see religion, ecology, and ethics as separate arenas of life but rather a part of their dharma to treat creation with respect.
5. The earth — Devi — is a goddess and our mother and deserves our devotion and protection. Many Hindus touch the floor before getting out of bed every morning and ask Devi to forgive them for trampling on her body. Millions of Hindus create kolams daily — artwork consisting of bits of rice or other food placed at their doorways in the morning. These kolams express the Hindus’ desire to offer sustenance to the earth, as the earth sustains them. The Chipko movement — made famous by Chipko women’s commitment to “hugging” trees in their community to protect them from clear-cutting by outside interests — represents a similar devotion to the earth.
4. Our environmental actions affect our karma. Karma, a central Hindu teaching, holds that each of our actions creates consequences — good and bad — that constitute our karma and determine our fate, including the place we will assume when we are reincarnated in our next life. Moral behavior creates good karma, and our behavior toward the environment has karmic consequences. Because we have free choice, even though we may have harmed the environment in the past, we can choose to protect the environment in the future, replacing environmentally destructive karmic patterns with good ones.
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6. Hinduism’s tantric and yogic traditions affirm the sacredness of material reality and contain teachings and practices to unite people with divine energy. Hinduism’s tantric tradition teaches that the entire universe is the manifestation of divine energy. Yoga, derived from the Sanskrit word meaning “to yoke” or “to unite,” refers to a series of mental and physical practices designed to connect the individual with this divine energy. Both these traditions affirm that all phenomena, objects, and individuals are expressions of the divine, and contemporary Hindu teachers have used them to denounce the exploitation of the environment, women, and indigenous peoples. 7. Belief in reincarnation supports a sense of the interconnectedness of all creation. Hindus believe in the cycle of rebirth, wherein every being travels through millions of cycles of birth and rebirth in different forms, depending on their karma from previous lives. So a person may be reincarnated as a person, animal, bird, or another part of the wider community of life. Because of this, and because all people are understood to pass through many lives on their pathway to ultimate liberation, reincarnation creates a sense of solidarity between people and all living things. 10
8. Non-violence — ahimsa — is the greatest dharma. Ahimsa to the earth improves one’s karma. For observant Hindus, hurting or harming another living being damages one’s karma and obstructs advancement toward moksha — liberation. To prevent the further accrual of bad karma, Hindus are instructed to avoid activities associated with violence and to follow a vegetarian diet.
(Acknowledgement: Adapted from the essays by Christopher K. Chapple, O. P. Dwivedi, K. L. Seshagiri Rao, Vinay Lal, and George A. James in Hinduism and Ecology: The Intersection of Earth, Sky, and Water; and Jainism and Ecology: Nonviolence in the Web of Life, both published by Harvard University Press. Thanks also to the essays by Harold Coward and Rita DasGupta Sherma in Purifying the Earthly Body of God: Religion and Ecology in Hindu India, published by SUNY Press).
9. Sanyasa (asceticism) represents a path to liberation and is good for the earth. Hinduism teaches that asceticism — restraint in consumption and simplicity in living — represents a pathway toward moksha (liberation), which treats the earth with respect. A well-known Hindu teaching — Tain tyakten bhunjitha — has been translated, “Take what you need for your sustenance without a sense of entitlement or ownership.”
Permission to reprint this article, with abridgement, was granted by the author, Pankaj Jain, Ph.D., and GreenFaith.
10. Simple living, another practice of environmentalism, is demonstrated in Gandhi, whose entire life can be seen as an ecological treatise, from his small meals of nuts and fruits to his embrace of the Hindu and Jain values of truth, nonviolence, celibacy, and fasting. His life was a prescription for environmentalism in every walk of life. 11
The common values that most of the world’s religions hold in relation to the natural world might be summarized as reverence, respect, restraint, redistribution, responsibility and renewal. M A RY E V ELY N TU C K E R
Why have we developed ethics for homicide and genocide, but not for geo-cide? L A R RY R A S MUSS E N
The earth is the LORD’S and all it holds, the world and those who live there. PSA L M S 24 : 1
The greatest challenge facing our society … is to shift from a culture based on consumption to a culture based on caretaking. SCOTT R USS E L L SA N D ERS
A Sermon for the Birthday of the World (abridged) Rosh Hashanah 2006
s a young man, living in the Northwoods, a place so beautiful that it is called “God’s country,” I learned to appreciate the beauty of the earth, in Jewish terms, as a reflection of God’s wonder. And now, I look back on this landscape as a universal song of a God who calls us all, God’s children, to guard and to serve all creation. All of us have a role in the protection of the planet we all share. And to be reminded once again of that connection, we need only turn to the very first pages of the Torah, to the story of how Adam came from Adamah (Genesis 2:7-10 & 15). When taken more directly from the Hebrew, these passages might read like this: “Then the LORD God formed Adam, [the first human being] out of the dust of Adamah [out of the earth herself ], and breathed into its nostrils the breath of life; and Adam became a living soul. And the LORD God planted a garden eastward, in Eden; and there God placed Adam, the work of God’s hands. And the LORD God planted, Adamah, the earth, with every tree that is pleasing to the sight, and good for food; the Tree of Life also in the midst of the garden, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. And a river flowed forth out of Eden to ever water the garden;
By Rabbi Joe Rooks Rapport
and from thence it was parted, and became four great streams… And the LORD God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden to guard and to serve her.” Environmentalism runs deep within our Biblical tradition. We learn this from “the beginning,” from the story of our creation and our connection to the Earth. In the beginning, God planted two trees in Eden. The tree of Eternal Life, a symbol of the abundance of nature, an Eternal source of sustenance for all of us who live in this garden we call the earth. But, God planted there also the tree of Knowledge of Good and of Evil, and therein lies the challenge. From knowledge we have learned to love. From knowledge we have also learned to bend the laws of nature to our will and to draw ever more valuable resources from our earth. Through knowledge we have created a world that can provide for us in an abundance which shames Eden for its fruitfulness. And yet it is a forgetful knowledge which we have learned — a knowledge unconnected to the source of these blessings that have been placed in our knowing hands; a forgetfulness of the God who creates and sustains this earth, day by day, despite our abundant calls upon its resources. 14
And we have forgotten, too, our link to the land, our tie to this earth, and our common cause in the preservation of this source of all the blessings in our lives. As it says in the Midrash, The Ancient Legends of our People, “God led Adam around all the trees of the Garden of Eden.” And God said to Adam: “See My works, how good and praiseworthy they are? And all that I have created, I made for you. [But] be mindful that you do not spoil and destroy My world—for if you spoil it, there will be no one left to repair it.” (Midrash Kohelet Rabbah 7:13) The tree of knowledge bears fruits, both of good and of evil. Sustainable development means nothing more than eating of the fruits of goodness without tasting from the fruits of evil which spawn a forgetfulness of the source of all that is good. The lessons we can learn from the sacred text of our people and all peoples who look out upon the stars, who feel the sands slip through their fingers, who recognize the wonder of our world in many ways, teach us of our kinship with all human life and our connection to the Creator who has brought us forth unto life. I want to show you a rock, which is a piece of Mount Sinai. I carried this rock myself from the mountain’s very peak, a souvenir from my first journey to the land of our beginnings, in the days when the Sinai was still a part of that Land. 0 Continued on next page 15
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that God is making with you this day...” And it is not with you alone that I am making this covenant (we are told). I am making it both with those who are standing here with us today before the Lord our God, and with those who are not [yet] here with us today. (Deuteronomy 29:9) We, all of us, stood at Sinai that awesome day. We, all of us, and the generations yet to come, stood there — along with every generation of our people — as we set our feet upon the path of Torah which has carried us forward even unto this day. We relive this moment each Passover when we recall that “each of us went forth out of Egypt,” and we renew that bond each Yom Kippur when again we stand together, as we did once long ago at Sinai, to begin again on the path of Torah, to begin again on the path to the building of a better world. Standing on the stones of Mount Sinai, we are all connected to that moment of revelation when God gave us the Torah and called upon us to walk in its ways. Our faith, our tradition, our civilization, and our culture, they all come down to us from that day. And from that day, too, comes our commitment to be guardians of this planet we call our home. Not just from the story of Adam and Adamah, but from the celebration of this holiday of Rosh Hashanah, which we call Birthday of the World, and all the holidays we will celebrate throughout the year.
And while we are, none of us, so very sure that the Mountain we call Sinai today is, in fact, the place where our people received God’s word, still in all, I have cherished this stone as a piece of my spiritual journey. Within each stone drawn from the Mountain’s peak there resides the imprint of these tiny Trees of Life, a geological anomaly called “magnesium flowers,” repeated again and again within the facets of each stone. These serve as a reminder of the Torah, our “Tree of Life.” So, when I say that you are looking now at a piece of Mount Sinai, I mean more than this ancient rock which I hold in my hand. I mean that I am a piece of Mount Sinai, and so are you; that all of us have a task in the protection of that Tree of Life we all share. We all stood at Sinai. We have learned that lesson each and every year on Yom Kippur. We read from the Torah, our Tree of Life, and the portion from which we read comes from this very moment at Mount Sinai when we, all of us, received God’s words. Atem nitzavim, it begins: “You stand here this day before the Lord your God: you, your leaders, your tribal chiefs, your elders, your magistrates, every man of Israel, your children, your women, and the converts in your camp — from your woodcutters to your drawers of water. All of you have entered into this covenant before the Lord your God and have accepted upon yourselves this oath 16
And every Sabbath we celebrate these two essential themes: our Exodus from Egypt. and the creation of the Earth; our first halting steps on the path to Mt. Sinai and our longing to return to the Garden from which we once came forth. The earth and Mt. Sinai, these are the foundation stones of our faith, and together they speak these words, â€œProtect the planet which is your homeâ€?. . . May this year be a year of Renewal. May this year be a year of Healing and Repair. May this year be a year when we, Adam, all of us children of the living God, renew our connection to Adamah, the earth from which Divine hands brought us forth.
To follow the Jewish calendar is to listen to the earth. Passover comes in the first month of spring, when the first buds appear on the branches of the trees. Repentance comes when the leaves begin to turn, reminding us that it is time to turn from our wanderings back to the path of faith. Hannukah, the feast of light, is celebrated during the Winter Solstice, when darkness envelops our world. The earth sets the time for all of the High Holidays. All we need to do is listen to the earth.
Sacred Air: Matter and Mystery
By Margaret Carreiro and Kathleen Lyons
on hoof and wing. William Logan, in his remarkable study entitled Air, points out that the trade winds transport dust from the Sahara Desert and the savannahs of Sahel across the Atlantic Ocean, supplying much of the iron and calcium and “more than half of the phosphorus that the ocean’s plankton need to live.” The dust that doesn’t fall in the ocean, about “a billion metric tons each year,” is deposited in Brazil, the Caribbean Islands, and the southeastern United States, stretching from the Carolinas to Florida (28). “Without this airborne dust,” observes Logan, “there would be no rain forests in Brazil” (29). Air is, in the words of the poet Shelley, “Destroyer and Preserver.” Every move that it makes is consequential, and it has a determining impact upon every place and person on the planet. As preserver, air is an essential of physical life and plays a vital role in cultural life as well, expressed as song and music. It is also the sun’s palette for coloring the earth in an otherwise dark universe.
eflection on sacred air and our atmosphere inevitably draws us into the realm of mystery. We cannot see the air; yet, we know that we cannot live without it. The energy for all life is sustained by a cyclic exchange of gases in the air. What we exhale is the breath of life for other forms that in turn supply breath to us. Our atmosphere, the thin protective membrane of invisible gases enveloping our world, separates Life from Chaos, keeping our living green and blue planet from becoming a barren gray moonscape of cratered and pulverized rock. Kept close to the earth’s surface by gravity, atmospheric gases shield life from the sun’s harmful rays and keep our planet warm. In constant patterns of motion that probably never repeat themselves, our atmosphere disperses in air currents the sun’s energy as heat and water vapor as rain or snow. These currents bring both the unpredictability of weather and the reliability of climate needed to sow and reap crops and to sustain earth’s vast migrations 18
of illnesses, including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung and other cancers, heart attacks, and other cardiovascular diseases such as stroke. Yet, to this day, about 45 percent of the energy used to generate electricity in the United States comes from burning coal. It is particularly frightening to consider that air pollutants can have effects worldwide, punishing areas a half-world away from the pollution site. William Logan reports that after World War II, pollution from the Northern Hemisphere changed the behavior of the thermal equator, so that tropical rains fell from the sky before reaching the Sahel savannahs, becoming a contributing factor to the drought in this region of Africa. Carbon and methane gases emitted into the atmosphere stay there a long time, and because emission rates are vastly higher than removal rates, these gases are accumulating in the atmosphere and will affect climate the world over for generations to come. When we see what we have done and continue to do to our sacred air and consequently to life and the quality of life on planet Earth, we cannot escape the conclusion that the resulting ecological problems are moral and theological rather than technological. We have created a lifestyle and an economy that are being sustained by compromising the integrity of the world created by God.
Air can, however, be a destroyer as well as preserver. It harbors, in some cases for long periods of time, the gases, particulate matter, hydrocarbons, mercury, and other metals that are belched forth from the fossil fuels that human beings burn worldwide. The sampling site established at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii by Charles David Keeling has reported since its founding in 1958 a steady rise in the concentration of carbon dioxide, charted on the iconic graph that is known as Keeling’s Curve. In 1958, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 316 parts per million(ppm); on May 9 of this year, this figure climbed to an astonishing 400.03ppm. The dramatic rise in carbon dioxide and other pollutants in the atmosphere has brought on what Alan H. Lockwood calls “sentinel events.” Lockwood is a physician, and his primary interest is in the health consequences of pollution caused by the burning of coal. He recalls an event in 1948 that sickened almost half of Donora, Pennsylvania’s population of 14,000 when toxic emissions from a nearby smelter were trapped, owing to atmospheric conditions. He cites as well the killer fog of 1952 in London, also attributable to emissions from the burning of coal, which accounted for the deaths of almost 12,000 people (3). Aside from causing these sentinel events, coal-derived pollutants claim each year the lives of tens of thousands of Americans alone, and cause hundreds of thousands
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accuse his people of wanting to destroy the land, but of forgetting the Lord and their covenant with Him. Here are Jeremiah’s words:
This world was meant to be fertile, supporting life and redeeming life in a wondrous network of interactivity and interdependence, within an earthly theater of grace. Ellen Davis writes that the subject of human responsibility for insuring the fertility of the sacred earth is thematic in the Hebrew Scriptures. “Beginning with the first chapter of Genesis,” she affirms, “there is no extensive exploration of the relationship between God and humanity that does not factor the land and its fertility into that relationship” (Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture, 8). She continues by noting that good stewardship, or faithfulness to the covenant, is consistently imaged in lush verdure, while breaking the covenant through deeds described as idolatrous is depicted in thorns and briars (8). As our world is increasingly described by the losses of the life and life-sources that it once had, it also becomes increasingly distanced from a sense of its sacredness. We speak of deforestation, desertification, of mighty rivers that are drying up — the Nile, Indus, Colorado, Yellow, the Yangtze river basin. The ensuing loss of life that affects all life in our interconnected and interdependent world is incalculable. The words of Jeremiah come to mind, as relevant to us today as they were to the Israelites of his day. Jeremiah does not
Hear the word of the LORD, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel. Thus says the LORD: What wrong did your ancestors find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthless things, and became worthless themselves?… I brought you into a plentiful land to eat its fruits and its good things. But when you entered you defiled my land, and made my heritage an abomination… Be appalled, O heavens, at this, be shocked, be utterly desolate, says the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water. — Jeremiah 2:4-13 20
Seyyed Hossein Nasr: Prophet of Peace
By Gray Henry Blakemore
eyyed Hossein Nasr was one of the earliest responders to an endangered planet, having sensed that something was amiss in the early 1950s, when he was a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. At this time, the beltway around Boston was being built, separating the city from the countryside. Nasr perceived in this the beginning of the end of an easy rapport between urban dwellers and the land that provided their sustenance and, at times, their place of peace. What Nasr saw in Boston was taking place throughout the Westernized world. Nature was being edged out of consciousness by “progress,” fueled by engineering and technology responsible only to science, Nature’s perceived Master. Nasr began speaking publicly about this rupture between human beings and Nature in the late 1950s to audiences in Iran and at the Divinity School of the University of Chicago. From the outset, he saw the capitulation to progress as evidence of a spiritual failure, specifically a violation of Islamic principles of balance between human and Earth life. These principles serve as a foundation for justice, acknowledging the rights and limits of human beings, but also respectful of the integrity of Nature’s
sacred life systems. Streams, air, and soil, for example, have a right to protection from defilement. These principles are expressed in the Qur’an and in multiple other Islamic sources, notably the philosophical texts of Sufism, scientific works dealing with the relationship of human beings and the natural environment, and art, designed to express the harmony between human and natural life. 0 Continued on next page
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3. Widespread poverty, accounting for migrations from farm to city, creates expedient problems that defer attention from all else, such as living according to ecological values.
Muslim society, by and large, remains quite conscious of Islamic spiritual and ethical principles, reiterated in religious, scientific, and artistic sources. Moreover, Muslim society remains prayerful, in regular attendance at its mosques. Nasr points out that Muslims are observant of their beliefs on other matters, but most do not put Islamic principles on the natural environment into practice in their daily lives. This does not result from a denial of these principles but rather from external obstacles considered to be insurmountable. Among these are the following:
4. Some Islamic governments resist the challenge to their power that might come from green activists, even when these activists demand a return to the Islamic principles which the government upholds. 5. As is the case with people of faith worldwide, Muslims, by and large, fail to perceive the urgency of the ecological crisis.
1. The desire to gain a foothold in the global economic order encourages Muslim society to follow the Western model of pursuing environmentally damaging science and technology, rather than creating an Islamic counterpart faithful to its principles.
While Nasr well understands the problems that Muslims are up against in adapting their current lives to the principles of their faith, he nonetheless proposes an urgent solution, mindful that amelioration of the ecological crisis cannot be postponed. The reversal has to begin with a restoration of a sense of the sacredness of Nature and promulgating this view, fundamental to Islam, throughout the Muslim world to all levels of society. Since the message already exists, and Muslims are predisposed to accept it, the challenge is dissemination, and this should require no more than a few years, thus responding to the urgency of the problem.
2. Western biotechnology, such as cloning and genetic engineering, present ethical as well as environmental issues that force a choice between fidelity to principles or being driven off the playing field of scientific research. The choice is often to stay in the game. 22
This piece is indebted to an article written by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, â€œIslam, the Contemporary Islamic World, and the Environmental Crisis,â€? in Islam and Ecology: A Bestowed Trust. Edited by Richard C. Foltz, Frederick M. Denny, and Azizan Baharuddin. #9 in the series Religions of the World and Ecology, edited by Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim (Cambridge: Harvard, 2003), pp. 85-105.
A second step toward the solution of the problem is the adoption of a curriculum in the schools that teaches the total impact of industrial and engineering changes on the air, water, and soil, as well as on the economic wellbeing of people far and wide. In countries wherein governments are intolerant of protest, teachers have an especially important role to play, even though they might be required to play their roles with finesse. Seyyed Hossein Nasr has been teaching valuable lessons on a planet in crisis through lecture and scholarship for almost 50 years. He has convinced many that the problem is urgent and that, for Muslims in particular, it results from spiritual amnesia. This positions them to devote careful attention to his proposed solution to the problem within Islam. The first step is for Muslims to recover the memory of the sacredness of the air, water, and soil which sustains them and then to learn to reposition themselves in balance with Nature, living their lives accordingly. Islam is the religion of over one billion people and is practiced in most of the countries of the world. A spiritual awakening among so many could stir believers in the entire interfaith world to join in proclaiming, in accord with their beliefs, the sacredness of water, soil, and air that sustains the awesome mystery of life on Earth. Salam. Shalom. Shanti. Pace. Peace. 23
Increases nutritional diversity crucial for women and children
Reduces rural poverty, strengthens local economy, and supports women, who make up 43% of the worldâ€™s agricultural labor force
ADAPTATION Improves farmers' ability to respond to climate change.
MITIGATION Creates diverse food systems which are more resilient in the face of climate change.
Captures and retains C02 in system
HUMAN COMMUNITIES & LIVELIHOODS
ATMOSPHERIC & CLIMATE IMPACTS
Ability to grow a complete meal on one parcel
Conserves soil and water through terracing, contour farming, intercropping, and agroforestry
Does not pollute waterways
Involves local community in the growing process from seed to mouth
REMEDIATION Reduces agriculture's impact on climate by working within natural systems.
C L I M AT E S T R AT E G I E S
Causes eutrophication of lakes and massive ocean dead zones
Biggest user and polluter of water in the world
SOURCES Petrochemical production and use
Leads to massive unemployment, rural-urban migration, depressed rural economies, and gross gender imbalances
Puts global food system at greater risk to extreme weather events
RISKS Reduces capacity of land to capture and sequester carbon
Causes malnutrition, heart-disease and obesity
Relies on mechanization and labor-saving policies, consolidates land and resources into fewer hands
Contributes one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions
CO 2 PO LLU TIO N
ONE-THIRD OF FOOD PRODUCED IS WASTED. THE PRODUCTIVITY OF NEARLY HALF OF ALL SOIL WORLDWIDE IS DECREASING.
In order to feed our world without destroying it, a holistic type of agriculture is needed, and we have a choice. Here we compare the current high-input industrial system with a renewed vision for agriculture: the agroecological system.
CURRENTLY, 1 BILLION PEOPLE IN THE WORLD ARE HUNGRY. ANOTHER BILLION OVER EAT UNHEALTHY FOODS.
1 BILLION ONE-THIRD
O F A G ROE COL OG Y V S I N D U S T RI A L A GR IC ULTUR E
change and poverty, and protect soil and water while maintaining healthy, livable communities and local economies.
Overproduction of subsidized cereal crops Destroys wetlands and wildlife habitats
Causes soil erosion and compaction resulting in decreased capacity to retain water
Nearly 50% of all soils worldwide are decreasing from industrial agriculture.
Dominates landscapes with genetic uniformity
Increases output of waste, pollution, animal feces
Relies on increasing amounts of external chemical inputs to boost unsustainable yields, killing soils worldwide
INDUSTRIAL AGRICULTURE contributes to climate change, malnutrition and ecosystem degradation around the planet. It has not delivered on its promise to feed the world.
Depletes water tables, causes salinization and pollution of aquifers and soils
There are no life forms in the soil, which is sterilized, requiring constant chemical input.
Increases risk of infestation, plagues, and pesticide-resistant pests
FARM OUTPUT & YIELDS
FIELD LEVEL BIODIVERSITY
A single square yard of living soil contains 500 to 200,000 individual arthropods, which aerate and give nutrients to the soil ecosystem.
Treats soil as the building block and
Diverse nutrients cycled back into the system
Can double and triple yields from hillside farms and rain-fed agriculture
Helps balance aquifer withdrawals and recharge
Organic soils retain more moisture and naturally improve cropsâ€™ drought resistance
Embraces complex methods of land stewardship
for integrated nutrient and pest management
Reintegrates livestock, crops,
Creates wildlife habitats and maintains predator-prey relationships
Kansas and Al Qaeda
By Thomas Friedman
societies in the Middle East. And why both are really unhealthy for their commons. My teacher here was Wes Jackson, the MacArthur award winner, based in Salina, where he founded The Land Institute. Jackson’s philosophy is that the prairie was a diverse wilderness, with a complex ecosystem that supported all kinds of wildlife, not to mention American Indians — until the Europeans arrived, plowed it up and covered it with single-species crop farms, mostly wheat, corn, or soybeans. Jackson’s goal is to restore the function of the diverse polyculture prairie ecosystem and rescue it from the single-species, annual monoculture farming, which is exhausting the soil, the source of all prairie life. “We have to stop treating soil like dirt,” he says. Jackson knows this has to be economically viable. That’s why his goal is to prove that species of wheat and other grains that scientists at The Land Institute are developing can be grown as perennials with deep roots — so you would not need to regularly till the soil or plant seeds. The way to do that, he believes, is by growing mixtures of those perennial grains, which will mimic the prairie and naturally provide the nutrients and pesticides. The need for fossil-fuel-powered tractors and fertilizers would be much reduced, with the sun’s energy making up the difference. That would be so much better for the soil and the climate, since most soil carbon would not be released.
I’ve spent the last few months filming a Showtime documentary about how climate and environmental stresses helped trigger the Arab awakening. It’s been a fascinating journey because it forced me to look at the Middle East through the lens of Arab environmentalists instead of politicians. When you do that, you see the problems and solutions very differently. Environmentalists always start by thinking about the health of the “commons” — the shared air, soil, forests and water — that are the basis of all life, which, if not preserved, will undermine the whole society. The notion that securing the interests of any single group — Shiite or Sunni, Christian or Muslim, secular or Islamist — over the health of the commons is nuts to them. It’s as laughable as pictures of guntoting fighters strutting on the rubble of broken buildings in Aleppo or Benghazi, claiming “victory,” only to discover that they’ve “won” a country with eroding soil, degrading forests, scarce water, shrinking jobs — a deteriorating commons. Our film crew came to look at the connection between the drought in Kansas and the rise in global food prices that helped to fuel the Arab uprisings. But I stumbled upon another powerful environmental insight here: the parallel between how fossil fuels are being used to power monoculture farms in the Middle West and how fossil fuels are being used to power wars to create monoculture 26
Annual monocultures are much more susceptible to disease and require much more fossil fuel energy — plows, fertilizer, pesticides — to maintain. Perennial polycultures, by contrast, notes Jackson, provide species diversity, which provides chemical diversity, which provides much more natural resistance and “can substitute for the fossil fuels and chemicals that we’ve not evolved with.” Jackson maintains some original prairie vegetation. As we walk through it, he explains: This is nature’s own “tree of life.” This prairie, like a forest, “features material recycling, runs on sunlight, and does not have an epidemic that wipes it all out. You know during the Dust Bowl years of the ’30s, the crops died, but the prairie survived.” Then he points to his experimental perennial grain crops: “That’s the tree of knowledge.” Our challenge, and it will take years, he notes, is to find a way to blend the tree of life with the tree of knowledge to develop domestic prairies that could have high-yielding fields planted once every several years, whose crops would only need harvesting and species diversity could “take care of insects, pathogens and fertility.” And that brings us back to the Middle East. Al Qaeda often says that if the Muslim world wants to restore its strength, it needs to go back to the “pure” days of Islam, when it was a monoculture unsullied by foreign influences. In fact, the “Golden Age” of the Arab/Muslim world was when it became a polyculture between the
8th and 13th centuries. Of that era, Wikipedia says, “During this period the Arab world became an intellectual center for science, philosophy, medicine and education. ...” It was “a collection of cultures, which put together, synthesized and significantly advanced the knowledge gained from the ancient Roman, Chinese, Indian, Persian, Egyptian, Greek, Byzantine and Phoenician civilizations.” What is going on in the Arab world today is a relentless push, also funded by fossil fuels, for more monocultures. It’s Al Qaeda trying to “purify” the Arabian Peninsula. It’s Shiites and Sunnis, funded by oil money, trying to purge each other in Iraq and Syria. It’s Alexandria, Egypt, once a great melting pot of Greeks, Italians, Jews, Christians, Arabs, and Muslims, now a city dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, with most non-Muslims gone. It makes these societies much less able to spark new ideas and much more susceptible to diseased conspiracy theories and extreme ideologies. To be blunt, this evolution of Arab/Muslim polycultures into monocultures is a disaster. Pluralism, diversity and tolerance were once native plants in the Middle East — the way the polyculture prairie was in the Middle West. Neither ecosystem will be healthy without restoring its diversity. © 2013, The New York Times Co., Reprinted by Permission 27
Walk on Water
By Hamza Yusuf-Hanson
Donâ€™t forget the Chosen One Who long ago walked on worldly waters in Arabia, A sea of sand, but water no less. How he glided to the other side
Walk softly on the water that is this world. Gently, with grace, glide to the shore of the unseen world Where precious shells await. Walk easily, with those who walked before. Follow prophetic footsteps, traces left even on water.
Not content to walk alone, safe While others drowned, Like Jesus, he taught For the last time How to walk on water.
Lighten your load, lest you sink. Leave the world behind, then you will walk on water. Leave chatter to the chatterers, then your feet will be held up by water.
Come, let us Walk on water!
Abandon yourself, Trust the Trustworthy, Seek and be sought. Then you can walk on water. Do not drown in the desert of this world. Softly walk on it, not of it, but in it. On water you must walk. 28
Wildflowers in the Dining Room
By Cecily Jones, S.L.
Only the hoarsest hiccups of a frog and the plunking of a turtle on its plunge into the lake may stun the silence of this hour. We’ll see spun filaments of silver making webs from weed to weed, nameless blooms that skirt the water’s edge, and the scarlet tinge of tangled grape and stunted oak. We’ll pause a while beneath the paper sycamore to listen to Earth’s secrets there beside the lake.
I know you’ll query me for names and I’ll identify the few I can: black-eyed Susans, coreopsis, Queen Anne’s lace, bee balm. Even with my Golden Nature Guide I cannot match these jewels for you. But this I know: I have imported beauty from beside our lake – flame-orange pennants and creamy filigrees, those bright blue cups, and, yes, a titled one, the wild wild rose.
No conveyance have I found to transport mystery, no delivery of wonder. So if you cannot go with me in awe at early light, I offer you these slight bouquets as tokens of the wildness and samples of the wealth.
The dearest treasure, though, I cannot share unless tomorrow, very early, we go together to the deep green water over which a tendrilled mist will swirl in clouded drift, unless our hearts will hear the stillness of a presence we can’t name, unless we walk the path where blackberry reeds may catch our clothes (please pick a few for breakfast!) and the tan of grasses will be burnished to a bronze in early morning sun.
I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority. E. B. W H ITE
Indigenous people from the Sentinelese to the Bushmen who roam the Kalahari Desert see the Earth as a living participant and ultimately a single living organism. “She,” not “it,” is the source of all nourishment, and as the Mother, her nourishment goes beyond providing food. They know that all that they dream, all that they say, comes from the Earth. H R H C H A R L E S TH E P R IN C E OF WA L ES
The ecological crisis is a moral and even theological crisis because it is occasioned in large part by our adulation and arrogant use of scientific technology, so that we make applications without rigorous critical regard for questions of compatibility with natural systems, of the integrity of the world that God has made. EL L EN F. DAV IS
All things share the same breath â€“ the beast, the tree, the man. The air shares its spirit with all the life it supports. â€” CH IE F SE AT T LE
Sacred Fire: Light of Compassion
By Elaine Prevallet, S.L.
The only hope, or else despair Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre – To be redeemed from fire by fire.
Evolution shows us that the human brain has developed to include capacities of our ancestors the reptiles and mammals, and, in the neo-cortex, a new capacity for rationality and language, creativity, and compassion. We are gifted with mirror neurons. Even to see a picture of someone in pain can trigger an automatic resonance of pain within us. We are wired for cooperative, compassionate behavior. Feeling the pain of others sparks within us the cue to do something, to heal, to assuage, to remedy. Stop for a moment and reflect on that development. Why are we gifted with this capacity? Why aren’t we falling off our chairs in amazement? Why are we not stunned, overcome with reverence and gratitude for this miracle that has been worked within us? Why do we not even notice it? Might it be that compassion is the human niche in the community of life? Compassion is a central motif of all religious traditions. According to the Dalai Lama, there is a Tibetan word which translated means “the inability to bear the sight of another’s suffering.” Observing another’s suffering, Jesus responded in accord with the Jewish milieu into which He had been born, the covenant-bound social ethic handed down via the prophets.
hese words of T.S. Eliot in Four Quartets come back to me sometimes when I reflect on the condition of our world. We humans stand on a cusp of choice. A nuclear fire, or any number of catastrophic events or failures can destroy life as we know it on planet Earth; or a fire of compassion in our hearts can spark a universal compassion that draws us together into a new creation to face the future. Whether or not we are aware, we are, right now, in process of choosing: fire or fire. Over these past decades, we humans have begun to understand and to speak of ourselves as members of one human family, related to all species that have preceded us on the planet – and beyond. But what is the role of the human species? What is our niche in the entire community of life? If we look closely at our own biological history, we can’t escape observing an intricate and interdependent connection with the whole of creation. Each of us is participating in an on-going, emergent creation, part of a process so enormous we cannot grasp it. We are inescapably participants in a Larger Life. 32
moment in time. The human species MUST undertake the responsibility to be healers, reconcilers, vehicles of peace and justice on the planet. It is our duty to let our hearts be broken open – for this we were created. And this responsibility extends beyond the tribe. It may well be that our present planetary crisis is not just inviting, but requiring that we open our hearts in compassion for all living creatures. The stakes are high: the choice between pyre and pyre.
This ethic taught that the alien, the outcast, the widow, the poor, orphans, children, prostitutes, tax collectors – the disenfranchised, those left out, those who wouldn’t make it … the ones that “natural selection” would have left behind … all of these, Jesus believed, are our human responsibility. “As often as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40) Compassion exists as a call to the responsible action of healing, of justice and peace-making on the part of the human. Perhaps the cutting edge of human evolutionary development lies at this
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While technology can connect us, it cannot unite us. Only love can do this. At this moment, we desperately need a global heart to match the global brain spawned by technology. We face an entirely new context, a kairos critical for the human species and planet Earth. No one has been here before. We are charting new territory. As the species that embodies the capacity for compassionate concern for the whole planet, we can act or not act; we decide when we will act on compassionate cues and when we will choose to selfishly serve our own egos. We choose between fire and fire.
Currently, technology – satellites, television, the Internet, Twitter, and the like – has given birth to a “global brain.” We cannot be unaware of climate change, of water shortage, escalating violence and social breakdown, gross economic disparity. But we know also that there is an emerging voice of non-violence, the “green” movement, a worldwide press for democratic reform. We have to internalize how deeply we depend upon each other, and develop a sense of common good. We are only beginning to live into this worldview; it lies before us as our only hope of a possible future. Technology has drawn collective humanity together in networks that span the globe.
The Earth Charter PREAMBLE We stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history, a time when humanity must choose its future. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, the future at once holds great peril and great promise. To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny. We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. Towards this end, it is imperative that we, the peoples of Earth, declare our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations.
Earth, Our Home
The Global Situation
Humanity is part of a vast evolving universe. Earth, our home, is alive with a unique community of life. The forces of nature make existence a demanding and uncertain adventure, but Earth has provided the conditions essential to life’s evolution. The resilience of the community of life and the well-being of humanity depend upon preserving a healthy biosphere with all its ecological systems, a rich variety of plants and animals, fertile soils, pure waters, and clean air. The global environment with its finite resources is a common concern of all peoples. The protection of Earth’s vitality, diversity, and beauty is a sacred trust.
The dominant patterns of production and consumption are causing environmental devastation, the depletion of resources, and a massive extinction of species. Communities are being undermined. The benefits of development are not shared equitably, and the gap between rich and poor is widening. Injustice, poverty, ignorance, and violent conflict are widespread and the cause of great suffering. An unprecedented rise in human population has overburdened ecological and social systems. The foundations of global security are threatened. These trends are perilous—but not inevitable.
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strengthened when we live with reverence for the mystery of being, gratitude for the gift of life, and humility regarding the human place in nature. We urgently need a shared vision of basic values to provide an ethical foundation for the emerging world community.
The Challenges Ahead The choice is ours: form a global partnership to care for Earth and one another or risk the destruction of ourselves and the diversity of life. Fundamental changes are needed in our values, institutions, and ways of living. We must realize that when basic needs have been met, human development is primarily about being more, not having more. We have the knowledge and technology to provide for all and to reduce our impacts on the environment. The emergence of a global civil society is creating new opportunities to build a democratic and humane world. Our environmental, economic, political, social, and spiritual challenges are interconnected, and together we can forge inclusive solutions.
* Complete text of the Earth Charter can be found at http://www.earthcharterinaction.org/content/pages/Read-the-Charter.html The Earth Charter was created by the independent Earth Charter Commission, which was convened as a follow-up to the 1992 Earth Summit in order to produce a global consensus statement of values and principles for a sustainable future. The document was developed over nearly a decade through an extensive process of international consultation,
to which over five thousand people contributed.
To realize these aspirations, we must decide to live with a sense of universal responsibility, identifying ourselves with the whole Earth community as well as our local communities. We are at once citizens of different nations and of one world in which the local and global are linked. Everyone shares responsibility for the present and future well-being of the human family and the larger living world. The spirit of human solidarity and kinship with all life is
The Charter has been formally endorsed by thousands of organizations, including UNESCO and the IUCN (World Conservation Union). For more information, please visit www.EarthCharter.org.
World Scientistsâ€™ Warning to Humanity Some 1,700 of the worldâ€™s leading scientists, including the majority of Nobel laureates in the sciences, issued this appeal in November 1992. The Warning was written and spearheaded by the Union of Concerned Scientistsâ€™ Chair, Henry Kendall. Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course. Human activities inflict harsh and often irreversible damage on the environment and on critical resources. If not checked, many of our current practices put at serious risk the future that we wish for human society and the plant and animal kingdoms, and may so alter the living world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know. Fundamental changes are urgent if we are to avoid the collision our present course will bring about. November 18, 1992
Some Findings from the 2013 Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 1 It can be said unequivocally that global climate warming results from human behavior and that heating levels in the past 50 years are greater than they have been for hundreds to thousands of previous years. 2 The last three 10-year periods were warmer than any since 1850, and in the northern hemisphere, warmer than any period over the previous 1,400 years. 3 Human-created atmospheric warming has caused ocean warming and glacier melting, which has produced a sea level rise over the last 150 years greater than any over the last 2,000 years. Over the next 100 years, this rise will likely submerge many south sea islands and such dense population areas as Bangladesh, Egypt, and Southeast Asia. In the United States, Florida and the regions around New Orleans are at high risk. 4 Greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide) in the air have reached levels not experienced in the previous 800,000 years. 5 Global warming will likely cause over 1,000,000 land-dwelling species to become extinct by 2050. These include polar bears and some species of seals in North America. Also, increased carbon dioxide and warmer air is producing warmer, more acidic oceans, which will drastically destroy coral reefs and cause innumerable ocean species extinctions. The full IPCC report can be accessed at http://www.ipcc.ch/. 38
Some Findings from the University of Hawaii at Manoa Study of Climate Change By Camilo Mora and Colleagues Published in Nature, 10 October 2013
as well as most of the world’s human population. Ironically, one of the researchers reports that the countries first impacted by unprecedented climates are the ones with the least capacity to respond. Furthermore, these are countries that are least responsible for causing climate change. Worldwide, climate change could affect “human welfare, through changes in the supply of food and water; human health, through wider spread of infectious diseases, through heat stress and through mental illness; the economy, through changes in goods and services; and national security as a result of population shifts, heightened competition for natural resources, violent conflict and geopolitical instability.” Lastly, climate change should not be perceived solely as a prediction for the future; it is taking place now. The rate at which it continues depends upon how effectively the people of the developed nations curtail the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. If emissions are reduced, the pace of climate change will be slowed. This can, according to Mora, “buy time for species, ecosystems, and ourselves to adapt to the coming changes.”
Sounding perhaps the most urgent warnings about climate change to date, Camilo Mora and colleagues at the University of Hawaii at Manoa report in a study published in Nature (10/10/13) that climate is changing so rapidly that within a generation, “whatever climate we were used to will be a thing of the past.” Within 35 years, even the lowest monthly dips in temperatures will be hotter than those experienced in the past 150 years. Radical differences in temperature could take place worldwide by 2047 if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at the current rate; such change could be deferred to 2069 if greenhouse gas emissions are stabilized. Of particular concern is climate change in the tropics, an area that normally experiences little temperature variation and is therefore intolerant of even slight modifications. The tropics could experience threatening temperature change within seven years, as much as 40 years earlier than some northern cities, such as Moscow or Anchorage, Alaska. Nonetheless, destructive change in the tropics will have global implications in as much as this area has the world’s greatest diversity of marine and terrestrial species, 39
Concentrations of Greenhouse Gases from 0 to 2005 250
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) 1,800
CH 4 (ppm)
CO 2 (ppm) 1 N 20 (ppb)
Nitrous Oxide (N 2O)
2000 SOURCE: IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, Chap 2
Bibliography ARTICLES AND BOOKS
Agyeman, Julian, Robert D. Bullard and Bob Evans, editors, Just Sustainabilities: Development in an Unequal World
Edwards, Andres R., The Sustainability Revolution: Portrait of a Paradigm Shift
Bahnson, Fred, Soil and Sacrament
Edwards, Denis, Ecology at the Heart of Faith
Berry, Thomas, The Sacred Universe: Earth, Spirituality and Religion in the 21st Century
Freese, Barbara, Coal: A Human History
Berry, Wendell, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry
Gottlieb, Roger S., A Greener Faith: Religious Environmentalism and Our Planet’s Future
– Farming: A Hand Book
– This Sacred Earth: Religion, Nature, and the Environment
– It All Turns on Affection
Hansen, James, Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity
Godish, Thad, Air Quality
Bingham, Rev. Sally G., Love God Heal Earth Cohen-Kiener and Sally G. Bingham, Claiming Earth as Common Ground: The Ecological Crisis through the Lens of Faith
Heinberg, Richard, Snake Oil HRH Charles, Prince of Wales, Harmony – A New Way of Looking at Our World
Costanza, Robert, An Introduction to Ecological Economics – Sustainability or Collapse? An Integrated History and Future of People on Earth, edited by Robert Costanza and others
Katz, Stephanie and Kenneth Kraft, editors, Dharma Rain: Sources of Buddhist Environmentalism
Davis, Ellen F., Scripture, Culture and Agriculture: An Agrarian Reading of the Bible
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Miller, Daphne, M.D., Farmacology
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Klawitter, Simone and Hadeel Quazzaz, “Water as a Human Right: Understanding of Water in the Arab Countries of the Middle East,” International Journal of Water Resources Development, 21 (2), 253-271.
Novak, Philip, The World’s Wisdom: Sacred Texts of the World’s Religions
Lockwood, Alan H. M.D., The Silent Epidemic: Coal and the Hidden Threat to Health
Rasmussen, Larry L., Earth Community, Earth Ethics
Pearce, Fred, When the Rivers Run Dry: Water – The Defining Crisis of the Twenty-First Century – Earth-honoring Faith: Religious Ethics in a New Key
Logan, William Bryant, Air
Rodale, Maria, Organic Manifesto – How Organic Farming Can Heal Our Planet, Feed the World and Keep Us Safe
– Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth Lynas, Mark, Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet
Ross, Benjamin and Steven Amter, The Polluters: The Making of Our Chemically Altered Environment
Maathai, Wangari, Replenishing the Earth: Spiritual Values for Healing Ourselves and the World
Shiva, Vandana, Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution and Profit
McDonald, Barry, editor, Seeing God Everywhere: Essays on Nature and the Sacred
Silver, Jerry, Global Warming and Climate Change Demystified Tucker, Mary Evelyn, Worldly Wonder: Religions Enter Their Ecological Phase
McDuff, Mallory, Natural Saints: How People of Faith are Working to Save God’s Earth McKibben, Bill, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet
Tucker, Mary Evelyn and John Grim, series editors, Religions of the World and Ecology
– Fight Global Warming Now
Winkler, Inga T., The Human Right to Water
– The Global Warming Reader, edited by Bill McKibben 42
Films The Age of Stupid
An Inconvenient Truth
FRESH (the movie)
Bad Seed: The Truth about Our Food
Burning the Future: Coal in America
Coal Country: Rising Up Against Mountaintop Removal Mining
Crude â€“ The Real Price of Oil
The Great Warming
Journey of the Universe
Dirt! The Movie
Killer at Large
Do the Math
The 11th Hour
Fast Food Nation
The Story of Stuff
A Fierce Green Fire: The Battle for a Living Planet
FLOW: For Love of Water
We Feed the World
Related Websites 350.org (Global movement to solve climate crisis led by Bill McKibben)
ipcc.ch (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) lcv.org (League of Conservation Voters)
ncrlc.com (National Catholic Rural Life Conference)
cesr.org (Center for Economic and Social Rights)
nrdc.org (Natural Resources Defense Council)
climate.nasa.gov (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)
ncdc.noaa.gov (National Climate Data Center)
pewclimate.org (Pew Center on Global Climate Change)
edf.org (Environmental Defense Fund)
religionsforpeace.org (Religions for Peace)
eeaa.europa.eu (European Environment Agency)
ucsusa.org (Union of Concerned Scientists)
epa.gov/climatechange (Environmental Protection Agency)
un.org (United Nations)
foe.org (Friends of the Earth)
waterforpeople.org (Water for People)
fons.vitae.com (publisher of interfaith scholarly works) globalwa.org (Global Warming Awareness)
wbcsd.org (World Business Council for Sustainable Development)
greenpeace.org (Greenpeace Inc.)
who.int/ (World Health Organization)
greenprophet.com (Green Prophet)
worldbank.org (World Bank Group)
insideclimatenews (Inside Climate News)
wri.org (World Resources Institute) 44
Interfaith Organizations and Related Websites Alliance of Religions & Conservation – arc.org
Interfaith Power & Light– interfaithpowerandlight.org
International Association for Religious Freedom – iarf.net
International Interfaith Centre – interfaith-centre.org
Catholic Rural Life – http://www.ncrlc.com/
Institute on Culture, Religion and World Affairs – bu.edu/Cura
Center for Global Ethics at Temple University – globalethics.org
Institute on Religion and Public Policy – religionandpolicy.org
Center for Humans and Nature – humansandnature.org
Religions for Peace – religionsforpeace.org
Center for Interfaith Relations – festivaloffaiths.org
Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding – tanenbaum.org
Committee of Religious Non-Governmental Organizations at the United Nations – rngo.org
Temple of Understanding – templeofunderstanding.org
Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions – parliamentofreligions.org
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization – unesco.org
Global Faith in Action – globalfaithinaction.org
United Religious Initiative – uri.org
The Interfaith Alliance – interfaithalliance.org
World Congress of Faiths – worldfaiths.org
The Center for Interfaith Relations 1852, the early Cathedral had continued this tradition, offering The Center for Interfaith Relations (CIR) is a nonsectarian a range of services that included economic relief for the poor, organization dedicated to promoting through interfaith activity educational programs, a library, public lectures, and concerts. greater understanding and cooperation among the culturally The goal of CHF was to make the Cathedral once and religiously diverse neighbors residing in Louisville, again a place that nurtured a more fully human Kentucky, and, indeed, in the world. Although it life for all, but especially for persons in need, did not adopt its current name until 2006, CIR regardless of faith tradition. traces its origin to 1985 when the Cathedral As CHF attended to the many details Heritage Foundation (CHF) was Many Faiths. of restoring the Cathedral building as a founded to restore, revitalize, and sustain place of worship, in a gesture of broad Louisvilleâ€™s Roman Catholic Cathedral One Heart. social and interfaith outreach, it embarked of the Assumption. This project was upon initiatives to bring art and music initiated under the late Archbishop ommon Action. C to the people of Louisville. Over 600 Thomas C. Kelly, O.P., and was conceived programs, attended by some 33,000 of as interfaith in intention. He therefore persons were made available, and the George convened a religiously diverse board to carry Garvin Brown Garden was created as an out the project. inviting place of repose in the heart of downtown The tradition of the medieval cathedrals, Louisville. These and other initiatives led up to the which served their communities as cultural and humane founding by Christy Brown in 1996 of the Festival of Faiths, the centers as well as places of worship, guided the plans for the first event of its kind in the United States. restoration of the Cathedral of the Assumption. Completed in
The Festival of Faiths through immigration patterns of the last century, making the United States the most religiously diverse nation on the planet. In bringing Hindus, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Bahaâ€™is, and others together, the Festival draws upon an array of resources and interests that cannot be exploited in a single lifetime. In this richly diverse setting, the Festival of Faiths convenes multiple programs including keynote speakers, panel discussions, interfaith services, art exhibits, films, youth programs, and other events. Each program is related to a Festival theme and is targeted to a specific audience and age group so that some aspect of the Festival of Faiths can appeal in a special way to the entire community. The community benefits in many ways from the Festival of Faiths. The Festival itself is broadly based, reaching out to all under its presumption of unity in diversity. Benefiting from its broad outreach, it is well positioned to address community needs and to foster harmony by creating relationships where differences exist. In our world today, it is doubtful that community building can take place unless strong bonds of interreligious trust are woven, based upon mutual respect and understanding.
The Festival of Faiths is a five-consecutive-day event that celebrates religious diversity, expresses gratitude for the unity composed of this diversity, and engages people of faith in common action for the good of the community. From the outset, the Festival of Faiths has been unique in its celebration of diversity, focusing upon the distinctive rituals, customs, and practices of the faith traditions represented in the local community and beyond. This respect for and fascination with diversity is an outgrowth of CIRâ€™s foundational belief that the Spirit is alive in all religious traditions. Within the Festival of Faiths, there is no religious mainstream, nor is any faith tradition relegated to minority status. To the contrary, the Festival upholds the belief that every act of worship by every single person is a blessing to one and all alike. The Festival of Faiths recognizes religious diversity as a community asset, as it embodies an endless supply of admirable and enriching resources. The celebration of religious pluralism is more relevant today than it was in the early days of the Festival, when religious diversity in the United States referred, by and large, to Judaism, Catholicism, and Protestantism. Now, most American cities have become far more religiously diversified
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Not only does the community at large benefit from the Festival of Faiths; individuals can grow spiritually within their own faith tradition through interreligious exchange. For example, Thomas Merton, a Catholic monk, reached out beyond Christianity to seek spiritual revitalization in the meditation traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, the search culminating in his meeting with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 1968. Each monk remained true to his own tradition, but each acknowledged that he benefited from the interreligious exchange between them. Convinced of the benefits, communal and individual, of a Festival of Faiths, CIR has just embarked upon an effort to export the Festival, and to that end, is making available a Template for the use of those desiring to present a Festival of Faiths in their respective cities. This Template can be obtained at a modest charge from the CIR office:
This tool kit acknowledges first of all the efforts of all who give vitality and substance to the Sustainability Revolution through their reverence for sacred air, water, and soil and all the life, human and earth, which they support. Their inspiration has enlightened every aspect of this booklet, and it is gratefully noted. More particularly, we acknowledge the following for their significant contributions to this publication: Christina Lee Brown Founder and Sponsor of the Festival of Faiths and Faith in Action Tool Kits
Kathleen Lyons, PhD
Executive Director, Festival of Faiths Editor and Contributor
Keith Runyon Assistant Editor
Gordon R. Tobin, M.D.
Professor of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery University of Louisville School of Medicine Research on Climate Change
415 W. Muhammad Ali Blvd. Louisville, KY 40202 USA
Judith Egerton Bibliography
Rob Gorstein Graphic Design
Finally, I accepted because of my extremely deep concern for the health of all of life, and my alarm at the terrifying rate at which we are currently destroying our world’s environment.
Speech Delivered at the 9th World Assembly of Religions for Peace November 20th – 22nd • Vienna, Austria
The breadth of your developing Religions for Peace family is truly exceptional, showing me and all of our globe’s faith-filled individuals the endless potential power of All FAITHS WORKING TOGETHER to effect serious, positive global change.
My Dear Religions for Peace Family, It is an exceptional honor to be here at your truly remarkable Religions for Peace 9th World Assembly. I am humbled to be before you because I sincerely believe that you represent the very best of the best of our world.
My Louisville colleague, Dr. Kathleen Lyons, and I have brought you two gifts from our Kentucky home: The first is a global tool kit, which is your invitation to please become recognized as the world’s voice for the preservation of our sacred air, water, and soil so as to create healthy communities that are essential for the survival of all of life – human and natural.
Each one of you, in carrying out your vitally important vocations, is a true beacon and model of peace and of hospitality because you daily lead by love, inspiring Faith, Hope, and Charity around our entire suffering world. I accepted your invitation out of my gratitude to you and to Religions for Peace, which I have been privileged to serve many years as an International Trustee. This has allowed me to witness firsthand your loving and powerful work of developing an ever expanding “Religions for Peace global movement.”
Our other gift is your personal KEY and bookmark, which is a symbol of our prayer that you will continuously unlock your minds and hearts in new kinds of ways to discover that you are the true spiritual and inter-religious guardians of health and the loving protectors of all of life. 0 Continued on next page 49
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Thich Nhat Hanh, a brilliant thinker in his own right and a friend to one of my personal heroes and fellow Kentuckians, Thomas Merton, has been telling us, “The bells of mindfulness are sounding. All over the Earth, we are experiencing floods, draughts, and massive wildfires. Sea ice is melting in the Arctic, hurricanes and heat waves are killing thousands. Mother Earth is being destroyed and Mother Earth is angry … and yet we continue to consume, ignoring the ringing bells.” So I ask you again – who is listening?
HRH Prince Charles laments that we have for years been encouraged to think of ourselves as disconnected from nature, perhaps even the “masters of nature.” As a result, we have lost touch with the holiness of nature, which has been left in our care in a very, very sacred trust. He believes, as many of us do, that to be restored to wholeness we must be reinstated consciously, spiritually, and emotionally with the vast, larger life of which we are a part. This larger life is sustained by the sacred air, water, and soil all of which are the gifts of life from the great author of life.
We hear comments equally startling on a daily basis from those who love the Earth, like His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew who tells us that “the way we respond to the natural environment directly reflects the way we treat human beings and that the survival of the natural environment is also the survival of ourselves and that a crime against nature is a crime against ourselves and sin against God.”
There is widespread evidence that we are scarcely conscious of our unity with all of life. The UN’s Millennium Ecosystem Assessment warns that “nearly two-thirds of the natural machinery that supports life on Earth is being degraded by human pressure;” yet, the reality is that this alarming news has scarcely drawn a response.
Pope Francis is asking us “to protect with love all that God has given us.” So with our hearts full of love, let’s begin now by heeding the voices that speak on behalf of Nature and encouraging our followers to do the same.
Gandhi has told us that “the Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.” Again, no response.
The challenge before us is twofold: We face an ecological crisis as well as an unheeding populace. While I do not underestimate the magnitude of this challenge, I believe that our faiths give each of us hope that an improved understanding of the urgency of climate change can and
My fellow Kentuckian and dear friend Wendell Berry has said, “…Industrial humanity has brought about phase two of original sin making us all now absolutely complicit in the murder of creation.” But I ask you, our religious leaders – who is listening? 50
will take place through you, our world’s religious leaders. We will see positive change when you begin to teach daily from your Mosques, your Cathedrals, your Temples, and your Synagogues that all of human life is precious. Health, Harmony, and Peace can only be achieved when we practice justice towards the world’s sacred elements, the source of all life and our connection with the divine.
leaders of our globe, who have “the allegiance of billions of believers,” hold the world’s keys and are the prophetic voices that our suffering earth has been waiting for. You are the voices of faith, of hope, and of charity which can create that one unified interreligious voice that will empower all religious leaders to find the much needed new ways to apply our universally shared moral principles to all life, natural and human, such as…
I am confident that our connection to this one planet is one of our greatest commonalities. You, the religious
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So I stand before you, a widow with a broken heart, asking that you in the name of all of the children and grandchildren of our globe please use this your 9th World Assembly to heed Prince Charles’s recommendation to create and lead a global sustainability movement that will restore our world and all of its people to moral and physical wellness.
THOU SHALT NOT KILL THOU SHALL LOVE THY NEIGHBOR AS THYSELF And THOU SHALL DO UNTO OTHERS AS WE WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO US
This sustainability movement will allow you, our religious leaders, to become globally recognized as “Mother Earth’s Moral Agents of Change” and the Moral Voices for All of Life as you teach each of us to use prayer, song, and love to celebrate the interconnectedness between our natural and human world. Together, we learn that each of us, bound in a single miraculous unity of life, is blessed to hold the whole world in our hands!
Fifty years ago at the young age of 16, I was among the 250,000 participants in the Civil Rights March on the Mall in Washington, DC. It was on that August day in 1963 that I witnessed for the first time in my life what I believe to be the absolutely remarkable power of successful interreligious leadership. It was there that those very diverse religious leaders, speaking from their hearts, insisted that the racial atrocities that our suffering United States of America were tolerating were absolutely immoral and therefore completely unacceptable. Because of their fervor, we, the 250,000 plus people of all ages, creeds, and colors learned that day that, yes, together, “We must overcome,” and that, yes, together, “We shall overcome.”
Most Affectionately, Christy Brown
Together let’s preserve our World’s Sacred Air, Water, and Soil, so as to create the healthy communities that are essential for the survival of all of life, human and natural.
Two years ago, in September, my extraordinary husband of 43 years, Owsley Brown II, a fellow Religions for Peace International Trustee, died very unexpectedly and tragically from an extremely rare form of MRSA. His shocking and completely surprising death, I will always believe, was absolutely connected to our destruction of life’s natural balance. 52
An Endorsement of the Sustainability Revolution Adapted from a statement written by members of three Orders of Roman Catholic religious women in Kentucky, whose lands lie in the path of a proposed pipeline which would carry chemicals and gases that have the potential to threaten entire ecosystems and all the life that they support. You are invited to share this statement with your followers and to sign it to witness your collective endorsement of the Sustainability Revolution.
WE BELIEVE, as supporters of the Sustainability Revolution, that Earth does not belong to us, but that we belong to Earth, our home planet that is alive with the creative energy of God. We believe that the divine intention is that all life be nurtured by creation’s abundance, and that human beings have been called to be co-creators by living and working in harmony with all life systems. Today, this requires that we acknowledge the potential catastrophe of global climate change and our role in causing it. We believe that we have a responsibility to change our behavior and our priorities in order to slow the pace of disastrous climate change. Our goal must be to provide within this decade the means of meeting global energy needs through the use of efficient and affordable renewable resources.
WE REJECT, as supporters of the Sustainability Revolution, the assumption that access to the resources needed by all Earth’s people can be limited to the ownership and profit-taking of a few. We reject all tactics that threaten the health of earth as well as human life, and we reject an economy that promotes wasteful consumption of energy and natural resources. We reject the plundering of Earth through mismanagement or by behaviors motivated by greed, such as extraction, deforestation, and polluting land, air, and water. We further reject the notion that the Sustainability Revolution promises a life of rigorous austerity.
WE COMMIT, as supporters of the Sustainability Revolution, to caring for sacred air, soil, and water and to exercising compassion for all of our global neighbors. We commit ourselves to advancing the cause of Peace on Earth by directing our efforts and ingenuity to reversing the course of destruction fueled by climate change, thereby participating in a movement that promises a healthy and productive existence for all life – human and earth. Please send an email message, indicating your endorsement of the Sustainability Revolution, to email@example.com. Please indicate on the Subject Line of your email “Sustainability Revolution.” A response no later than January 1, 2014, would be appreciated. 53
Religious communities are, without question, the largest and best organized civil institutions in the world today, claiming the allegiance of billions of believers and bridging the divides of race, class, and nationality. They are uniquely equipped to meet the challenges of our time: resolving conflicts, caring for the earth, the sick and needy, and promoting peaceful co-existence among all people.
Published on Feb 4, 2014
The Center for Interfaith Relations (CIR) published this global toolkit as a call to action in support of the Religions for Peace Global Int...