Loretto Earth Network News Step Into Action Spring 2013
Vol. 21, No. 2
President Obama and the Environment By Maureen Fiedler SL
he environmental community was delighted that President Obama accented the important phrase, “climate change” in his Inaugural Address and in his 2013 State of the Union speech. In the Inaugural, he said: “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it.” In his State of the Union address, he went further, saying, “...we must do more to combat climate change. Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods — all are now more frequent and intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just freak coincidences. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science — and act before it’s too late.” Rhetoric is fine, but what will he DO about climate change? For starters, two key appointments are a good sign: Sally Jewell as Secretary of the Interior, and Gina McCarthy to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Both await Senate confirmation.
But, in the minds of many earth activists, the key decision — expected this summer — is whether or not to permit construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. That’s the pipeline which, if approved, would transport dirty “tar sands” oil from Canada to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. That decision is President Obama’s... following a recommendation from the State Department. The League of Conservation voters says this about Sally Jewell: as the “former CEO of the outdoor recreation retail company REI, she has a unique appreciation for public lands and even worked to reduce REI’s carbon footprint by using renewable electricity sources... She’s been nationally recognized for her efforts on conservation...” The Washington Post says that Gina McCarthy may be Obama’s “most significant” nominee because — with the Congress deadlocked on environmental issues — the EPA will have to do the work of stopping carbon pollution through regulation. McCarthy currently heads the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation and played a key role in crafting a variety of new pollution rules last term, including limits on soot and mercury emissions from power plants...” As Obama said in his State of the Union, “... if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take...” Translation: my new EPA chief will act. That’s a powerful post.
In early April, the citizens of Mayflower, Arkansas got a firsthand look at what it might mean were this pipeline constructed... and then burst. Dirty oil like that in Canada spilled out into the streets of this suburban community, and threatened the water supply. The cleanup of this particular crude oil is not easy. The proposed Keystone Pipeline would carry far more oil: 800,000 barrels a day over 1,700 miles. And it’s just as dirty as the oil that spilled in Arkansas. The environmental legislative wish list is long... and urgent. An item often mentioned is a carbon tax. Levying such a tax would “put a price on carbon” and allow the economic system to phase out carbon over time. But any such tax would require the approval of Congress... and it would not pass this Congress, especially the House of Representatives. What Obama does control is the decision on the Keystone XL Pipeline. And for many environmentalists, that will either make or break him as a champion of Planet Earth.
Editor’s Note Mary Ann Coyle SL
n this issue of Loretto Earth Network News we are focused on the twin phenomena: Climate Change/Global Warming. What can we learn from others? How do we respond? Does our hope need bolstering?
Maureen Fiedler SL starts us down the road. As the executive producer and host of WAMU’s public radio program Interfaith Voices and a frequent blogger for the National Catholic Reporter, Maureen is ever ready to keep us informed about local, national, and church politics and the impact their statements have on Earth issues. Notice in particular the second-to-last sentence in Maureen’s lead article: “What Obama does control is the decision on the Keystone XL Pipeline.” Generations to come will use this single decision to evaluate Obama’s stature as a Planet Earth hero. I know for certain that many students are in touch with the Keystone XL Pipeline and in March, Molly Butler, Wendy Mallette, and Caroline Riebeling, Loretto volunteers in D.C. took part in reminding the country that this pipeline presents imminent danger to the environment. Their article is on page 8. All sorts of groups ranging from the International Monetary Fund, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change etc., are trying to come up with strategies to allow all citizens of Earth to flourish. Bill McKibben has proposed a divestment strategy in his article “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math.” Bringing us his thoughts on this strategic plan is Jamie Henn, co-founder and communications director for 350.org. Undoubtedly there will be believers and non-believers as to the effectiveness of such a strategy. Still, all of us can dialogue and figure out the pluses and minuses of such actions relative to Earth. Have the Christian churches been observing these “twin phenomena?” Do they think it a hoax? What about other believers? Coming to the rescue to tell us their views are Megan Fincher, Maureen Fiedler, and Rabbi Arthur Waskow. Megan is a member of the New York Catholic Worker community and makes wonderful connections using papal actions and writings; Maureen speculates a bit about the “Franciscian Jesuit” from Argentina who recently got a new job! Rabbi Waskow is a voice for Moral Divestment/Reinvestment. Continuing the dialogue begun in our previous issue is Libby Comeaux CoL. You can tell as you read her article that she is passionate about Earth justice. Alice Kitchen CoL from Kansas City, Missouri recounts experiences encountered in a Global Exchange environmental justice tour to Ecuador. Alice helps us connect the dots! With all of the words, where do we find HOPE? Certainly in many persons, places, species, books we read, thoughts we like to ponder. We have culled some from our various notes and memories. May they help bring you hope and enable all of us to be HOPE to each other and to Planet Earth. We welcome your comments.
Loretto Earth Network Beth Blissman Karen Cassidy Libby Comeaux Mary Ann Coyle Maureen Fiedler Maureen McCormack Nancy Wittwer
Loretto Earth Network News
A publication of the Loretto Community
Editor: Mary Ann Coyle SL 3126 S Osceola Street Denver, CO 80236-2332
Layout: Nancy Wittwer SL
LENN Spring 2013
350.org’s Divestment Strategy By Jaime Henn
few hours after Bill McKibben’s article, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math,” was published on the Rolling Stone website, we received an email from the editors there. “Something strange is happening,” they wrote us. “Your article has more likes on Facebook than the cover story on Justin Bieber.” The piece was quickly “going viral,” eventually earning more than 126,000 likes on Facebook and more than 5,000 comments. Something had clearly struck a chord. Reading back over the piece, I think there are two things that really resonated with people. First, was the “terrifying math” that Bill laid out. In order to keep warming below 2°C, a target which even the most conservative governments have agreed to, we can only emit 565 gigatons more CO2 into the atmosphere. The fossil fuel industry, however, has 2,795 gigatons of CO2 in their reserves. Do the math: The industry is looking to burn five times more carbon than it’s safe to burn. Either they have a healthy bottom line or we have a livable planet; you can’t have both. Terrifying indeed. But the second thing that struck a chord, I think, is that we finally may have a strategy to take the fossil fuel companies head-on, a light-saber to use against the Empire of Carbon. As Bill writes, “Once, in recent corporate history, anger forced an industry to make basic changes. That was the campaign in the 1980s demanding divestment from companies doing business in South Africa.” Over the last month, our team here at 350.org has worked with a coalition of groups, including the Responsible Endowments Coalition, Energy Action Coalition, Sierra
like Exxon and that we would be better served calling for government action.
Student Coalition, and As You Sow, to spread the idea of divestment across the country. Fueled by a twenty-onecity “Do the Math” road show that sold out venues across the nation this November, student divestment campaigns have now popped up on more than 160 campuses. Two small schools, Unity and Hampshire, have already agreed to divest. A handful more are currently looking at proposals. Meanwhile, serious campaigns are under way, from big state schools like the University of Wisconsin to small liberal arts colleges like Amherst. At Harvard, a recent resolution calling for divestment passed with 72 percent of the vote. The campaign’s quick rise has garnered some significant media attention, most notably a big piece in The New York Times that ran on the front page of the Business section and became the most emailed article of the week. Naturally, it’s also received the obligatory dose of criticism. On the right, Fox News called the campaign “irresponsible and irrational” and suggested colleges should invest more in “clean coal” (is that like investing in unicorns?). On the left, the author Christian Parenti raised a number of questions about the efficacy of a divestment strategy, suggesting that it wouldn’t actually impact the bottom-line of companies
A lively debate about divestment is exactly what we’re hoping this campaign will spark, but Parenti’s critique misses the mark. Fossil fuel divestment isn’t primarily an economic strategy; it’s a moral one. We’re making the case that if it’s wrong to wreck the planet, then it’s also wrong to profit from that wreckage. Like the anti-tobacco campaigns of the 1990s, our aim is to strip away the industry’s social license and thereby weaken their political stranglehold on Washington so that the space for government action increases. Each school that divests helps move us towards that goal. (There’s an obvious corollary benefit of organizing a big student campaign on campuses, as well. Hint: Think University of Ohio and the 2014 election). The anti-apartheid movement understood divestment as a political strategy, as well. In the end, along with the 155 campuses that eventually divested, more than 80 cities, 25 states and 19 counties took some form of binding economic action against the regime. Together, these actions helped keep South Africa in the spotlight and ratchet up the outside pressure for change. We’re just getting started with this new divestment campaign, but there’s already a sense of momentum that’s invigorating. At 350.org, we feel like we’ve finally picked up a slingshot that can inflict some damage on the fossil fuel Goliath. Jamie Henn is the co-founder and communications director for 350.org, an international climate campaign. 350 parts per million is the safe upper limit of CO2 in the atmosphere, we’re currently at 394 ppm.
LENN Spring 2013
The Church and Climate Change By Megan Fincher
uring superstorm Sandy, our NYCW (New York Catholic Worker) community experienced life without electricity, heat, or hot water for 96 hours. The experience was sobering and a big part of our conversations. We thought this experience would make it difficult to deny global warming. And it was a surprise to learn that the Vatican has called upon all of us to begin mitigating climate change immediately. Actually climate change and global warming have been slow to enter into Catholic dialogue in spite of the work of the official Catholic Church. In April 2011, a working group of glaciologists, climate scientists, meteorologists, hydrologists, physicists, chemists, mountaineers, and lawyers was commissioned by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences to write a report dealing with “Fate of Mountain Glaciers in the Anthropocene.” This group called for fast action on the part of all people to mitigate the impact of climate change on ecosystems. In 1990, Blessed John Paul II warned, “Modern society will find no solution to the ecological problem unless it takes a serious look at its lifestyle.” In 2001, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote a statement on Global Climate Change. “We believe our response to global climate change should be a sign of our respect for God’s creation.” On World Day of Peace 2010, Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed, “Protecting the natural environment in order to build a world of peace is a duty incumbent upon each and all. It is an urgent challenge….May this be clear to world leaders and to those at every level who are concerned for the future of humanity: the protection of creation and peacemaking are profoundly linked!” In the face of disastrous climate change, it is clear that we must begin to recognize the profound sacredness of Earth, and we must learn how to be in the world “in and through love.” Certainly, these words of Blessed John Paul II persuade us all to take on the immediate role of faithful environmental activism: “Today the ecological crisis has assumed such proportions as to be the responsibility of everyone. Its various aspects demonstrate the need for concerted efforts aimed at establishing the duties and obligations that belong to individuals, peoples, States, and the international community. This not only goes hand in hand with efforts to build true peace, but also confirms and reinforces those efforts in a concrete way. When the ecological crisis is set within the broader context of the search for peace within society, we can understand better the importance of giving attention to what Earth and its atmosphere are telling us: namely, that there is an order in the universe which must be respected, and that the human person, endowed with the capability of choosing freely, has a grave responsibility to preserve this order for the well-being of future generations.” (Ed. Note: This article is excerpted from The Catholic Worker newspaper published in New York, NY. It appears in the JanuaryFebruary, 2013 issue. The article was written prior to the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and the election of Pope Francis I. Elsewhere in this issue you will note the comments of Pope Francis I related to Earth.)
WHERE IS HOPE? Hope is a dimension of the soul . . . an orientation of the heart. It transcends the world that is immediately experienced and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons. . . . It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out. Vaclav Havel Once our imaginations are stirred, our hopes rekindled, our souls inspired, we have the power to make a difference. Toni Morrison, author What we envision for ourselves affects what becomes of the universe. A people will not attempt what they believe is not possible. Two primary energies on this planet that propel change are love and frustration. Mark Gonzales, social innovator Hope is what propels us into action....Hope never enters a room without fear at its side...You can’t have one without the other. Margaret Wheatley Don’t prolong the past, don’t invite the future, don’t be deceived by appearances, just dwell in present awareness. Patrul Rinpoche, Tibetan master
LENN Spring 2013
WHERE IS HOPE? It isn’t outcomes that matter. It’s our relationships that give meaning to our struggles. If we free ourselves from hope and fear, from having to succeed, we discover that it becomes easier to love. Margaret Wheatley I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope for hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith but the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting. T.S. Eliot Concord, Massachusetts has become the first community in the U.S. to ban the sale of single-serving plastic water bottles beginning January 1, 2013. Masdar City, destined to be a carbon neutral city housing 50,000 people 10 years from now, will burn no gas or oil. Its contribution to greenhouse gases will be minimal. Cars will be banned from the city. A personal rapid transit system of solar-powered cars will run under the city. It will mark the debut of the United Arab Emirates into the renewable energy market. From The Catholic Radical.
LENN Spring 2013
Pope Francis I
“Franciscan Jesuit” from Argentina By Maureen Fiedler SL
rancis... people the world over cheered the new pope’s choice of a name. Francis of Assisi is one of the most popular saints of all time... the gentle monk pictured with birds and deer and other wildlife, a peacemaker, and a special friend of the poor. In 1979, Pope John Paul II declared him the patron saint of ecologists. The Catholic Climate Covenant features the “St. Francis Pledge” for those who want a formal commitment to care for Planet Earth. But what will Pope Francis actually do to move the environmental agenda for our planet? So far, he made Planet Earth a key part of his message at his March 18th inaugural Mass, “I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: Let us be protectors of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment.” The environmental message in his inaugural homily echoed the final document of the 5th General Conference of the Council of Latin American Bishops in Aparecida, Brazil, in 2007. Pope Francis, who was then Cardinal Bergoglio, chaired the committee that drew up the final recommendations. That document offers far more than platitudes. It criticizes extractive industries and agribusiness for failing to respect the economic, social and environmental rights of local communities, especially indigenous peoples. It praises the region’s rich flora and fauna, calling for the preservation of the Amazon rainforest as part of “the inheritance we received, for free, to protect.” Also promising is the testimony of Luis Scozzina, a priest who is the director of the Franciscan Centre of Studies and Regional Development at Argentina’s Catholic University. In an interview with Inter Press Services, he said, “Protecting creation” is one of the central focuses of Franciscans, and Bergoglio is “the most Franciscan Jesuit we have ever known.” Scozzina was referring to Bergoglio’s austere lifestyle with close ties to the poor. “Francis will put the ecological crisis high up on the agenda,” Scozzina continued. He also noted that the poor, people special to Pope Francis, are hurt most grievously by environmental degradation. Some environmental activists hope that he will join with Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, sometimes called the “Green Patriarch,” who has made climate change a centerpiece of his leadership of the Orthodox Church. It would redound to the benefit of the entire world if Pope Francis — who has already shown a positive desire to promote fruitful interfaith relations — partnered with Patriarch Bartholomew in an effort to save the planet.
Ecuador Leads the Way By Alice Kitchen CoL
he United Nations Climate Change Conference was held in Cancún, Mexico from November 29-December 10, 2010. Prior to this event many people experiencing the direct effects of global warming, answered the call of Bolivian President Evo Morales to attend the People’s World Conference on Climate Change and Mother Earth’s Rights which was held from April 20-22, 2010 in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Invited to this meeting were the peoples of the world, leaders of social movements, scientists, governmental officials, lawyers, and citizens concerned about climate change and planetary justice. Among this large group were Loretto Commuity members Mary Peter Bruce SL and Dr. Anita Maria Vargas CoL. At the People’s World Conference, the President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, announced that the National Assembly of his country had passed a statement described as the “Rights of Nature” statement. This was the first declaration of its kind in the world to be passed into law. Ecuador is clearly leading the world. In December of 2012, I joined an environmental justice tour sponsored by Global Exchange. We visited toxic oil drilling sites, the primary rain forests, and mining areas. We heard about and saw the problems experienced by the Ecuador’s fishing industry. Indigenous people have organized against the multinationals that are mining, drilling, deforesting and over fishing their precious natural resources. Ecuador is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. Private commercial interests of Texaco/ Chevron, British mining companies, and now Chinese gas/oil interests have long plagued it. A class action lawsuit was filed asking for $27 billion on behalf of 30,000 Ecuadorans.
This is the largest environmental lawsuit to date in the world. Texaco/Chevron has exploited Ecuador’s natural resources for decades but once President Correa became president there has been some restraint on these commercial exploits. All this started in the mid 1990’s when a group of indigenous people came together to preserve their environment. Their land had been polluted, their water contaminated, their livelihoods jeopardized, and their physical health impacted. Pregnant women delivered babies with serious medical conditions resulting in death for infants and sometimes mothers. Children who swam in the polluted rivers and lakes were affected with conditions no medical staff knew how to treat. Many of those survivors still have medical conditions that medical science has not understood how to treat. Initially the indigenous community raised money to support their work by selling handcrafts. This was to sustain programs to preserve their land and other natural resources. They received funds from the UN Development Fund. Next they invited people to visit them in their villages, see the damage done first hand. Many of the leaders did not even have high school language skills; nor did they speak Quechua, Amarya, or Spanish. They learned by doing; as Brazilian philosopher, Paulo Freire says “we make the path by walking it.” According to Natalia Green, Coordinator of the Pachamama Foundation, the group that shaped the document decided they did not want a “capitalist model or a socialist model—they wanted a well being model.” THE RIGHTS OF NATURE STATEMENT is just that.
Contrast this with the historic conquering of the west in North America. The pursuit of gold, the raping of the soil over the years causing the Dust Bowl, industrial dumping of toxic waste and other environmental disasters are all evidence that the U.S. is far behind in the recognition of the balance of nature and humans. As a Loretto Co-Member I am proud to be a part of an organization that is in solidarity with the indigenous peoples in Ecuador. Our tasks and actions are different but they are similar. They are small steps and need to be constant. They are all about respecting the land, the trees, the minerals, the fish, the rivers and the air. More information can be found at www.pachamama.org.ec
LENN Spring 2013
Of Livers and Humans By Libby Comeaux CoL
“The Loretto Community supports adoption of a Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth by the United Nations. The Loretto Community supports enactment of legislation recognizing the rights of nature at every level of law.” Loretto Assembly 2012
“Mother Earth is the source of life, nourishment and learning and provides everything we need to live well.” From the preamble to the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth.
http://www.rightsofmotherearth.com “In an interdependent living community it is not possible to recognize the rights of only human beings without causing an imbalance within Mother Earth.” From the preamble to the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth.
Its primary translator was South African environmental attorney Cormac Cullinan. Recognizing only human rights, he says, is like believing that, in your body, only your liver has the right to live. Mother Earth is like your body, and the human is like the liver. In order to protect human rights, we have to protect the Body, the Mother Earth. This understanding is catching on in the worldview-impaired West. On March 12, the City of Santa Monica, California, passed a Sustainability Rights Ordinance on first reading. It recognizes that “natural communities and ecosystems possess fundamental and inalienable rights to exist and flourish.” Corporate rights are limited by the ordinance, so they cannot trump the local ecosystem’s right to exist and flourish. Now, doesn’t that make sense? A civil rights movement for Earth is building momentum and growing every day. Rosa Parks broke the law when she took her seat on a bus. These ordinances do not break the law; they make new law, a saner law and one that addresses the core of the problem. We are not separate. If we poison the body, the liver is poisoned as well. Regulations do not stop the poison; they only slow it down and don’t consider the cumulative effects. But health is holistic, and we are claiming our shared right with nature to live out our natural lives in a healthy way. It’s time for something stronger than a regulation, and that is why we are claiming nature’s fundamental inalienable right to live and flourish.
Linda Sheehan is executive director of Earth Law Center. She says that a rights-of-nature ordinance allows us Thomas Berry wrote, “In the 20th century, the glory of the human has become to realign our behavior in a way that the desolation of the Earth. And now, the desolation of the Earth is becoming is harmonious with Earth. To hear her the destiny of the human.” What we had thought was our glory was our answer the question, “Why rights of human-centered domination of nature. But everywhere we look now, we must nature?” go to www.earthlawcenter. face the failure of that worldview. org and scroll down to the video. For an interesting take on The Rights Luckily there’s another worldview, tried and true — but not tired. Indigenous of Springs, watch www.earthjuris. peoples have always known that nature is in charge. And in Cochabamba org over the coming weeks. To learn in April 2010, over 35,000 of the world’s peoples gathered to adopt their about other laws respecting nature’s worldview. Translated into legal language accessible to modern nations, it is rights, visit www.celdf.org or attend known as the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth. a Democracy School and help make one in your town! LENN Spring 2013 Page 7 http://www.rightsofmotherearth.com
Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline: Organizing with 350.org By Loretto Volunteers: Molly Butler, Wendy Mallette, Caroline Riebeling
n February 17, 2013 we had the opportunity to be a part of a gathering of 35,000 environmental justice activists asking President Obama to stop the proposed Keystone project and truly address global climate change. The protest specifically identified the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline as an imminent threat to the environment. This proposed pipeline would stretch from Canada to Texas and would not only threaten the environment around which it stands, but also increase the United States’ dependency on oil products. The rally was organized by a coalition of environmental initiatives to raise awareness around the issue, create a visible presence in opposition to the pipeline, and to call for immediate policy change. As word spread about the opportunity to take part in this historic event, we instantly knew we wanted to join. The excitement built as our volunteer
house welcomed 10 graduate students from Antioch University’s environmental studies program to stay the night before the rally. After the long drive from New Hampshire, the group was thrilled to arrive in the nation’s capitol and excited to align their academic work with their activism. We enjoyed connecting with their community, learning from their experiences and standing together for a common cause: environmental justice. Although it was one of the more blustery winter days, it was worth it to be a part of the largest environmental protest in U.S. history. We marched from the Washington Monument to the White House, proud to be a Loretto presence putting the Loretto Community’s values into action. As urgency builds around the issue of climate change, we plan to address it in our local communities, as well as on a global scale. We are actively learning about the ways that the Keystone Pipeline and other environmental issues diversely impact communities outside our own. Although we hope that President Obama says no to the
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Step into Action
Molly, Wendy, and Caroline pending legislation, we know that the struggle does not end there. As the rally concluded near the Washington Monument, we danced our frozen feet off with other social justice activists and felt inspired by the energy of the crowds. While there are still many obstacles to overcome, there is hope among the thousands who have taken part—whether at this rally or in their own communities—in this dance for justice.