Friday, September 16, 2016

A Picture Essay on the Shore

The Shore
by Eric Beene

 
Rev. Eric Beene is Pastor of White Bluff Presbyterian Church in Savannah, Georgia.  He is also a hobby photographer. Photos (c) 2016 by Eric Beene. All photos taken at Blackbeard Island National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia. To see more of his work, including photo prints and note cards available for purchase, see his blog at ericbeene.wordpress.com/photos.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Piece on Climate Change and Drought

The Cyclical Nature of Weather
by Katie Preston


Katie Preston is a member of the EARTH team 
and lives in Boston, MA.

What a year it has been. As we’ve seen for the past 16 years, record after record is falling for the “hottest month” each and every month. When I moved to New England last December, I was hoping for a mild winter to help ease me into the change from Southern life. And I received my wish – compared to the previous winter, things were pretty mild here in Boston. But now that summer is here in full force, it’s apparent that mild winter means brutal summer.

When we were in middle school learning about weather, I remember coming back from a snow day, and our teacher said it was time to stop learning about weather because the week before it had be 80 and she didn’t want to experience any more weather phenomenon we were studying! What we learned back then was that weather patterns are cyclical.  But weather is reliant on the climate – yes, they are different! Weather is “the state of the atmosphere, to the degree that it is hot or cold, wet or dry, calm or stormy, clear or cloudy.” Climate, on the other hand, is the study of weather over time. Local weather is a result of the climate patterns over time. As the earth’s temperature rises over time, what we refer to as climate change, local weather patterns change in comparison to historical averages and seasons. We are seeing temperatures rise in higher latitudes, a longer season for hurricanes and monsoons, and detrimental drought as well.

As people of faith who believe in the call to care for creation, we can no longer ignore the impacts of climate change, or wait to take action. Climate change and the weather impacts are upon us in full force. The drought in California and the current wildfires remind us how fragile life is. All the while Baton Rouge is flooded and thousands of people are displaced because of a freak amount of rain in a short period of time. And these are the effects we are feeling here in the US – but people all over the globe have been experiencing these impacts for years, and do not have the resources to mitigate or respond to climate change the way we do. We are called to care for the least of these, and to help our brothers and sisters in need.

The Presbyterian Hunger Program released a great resource to consider climate change and water that highlights some important things to know, and things you can do to help. While the climate will not change overnight, we can do our part to be better prepared to respond to the drastic weather phenomenon occurring across the globe, and reaching out to help our neighbors in crisis.

A sermon about water by J. Mark Davidson

The Spirituality and The Ethics of Water

by J. Mark Davidson


J. Mark Davidson: Pastor, The Church of Reconciliation, Chapel Hill, North 
Carolina; This is his sermon for the annual Earth Sabbath at New Hope Camp 
and Conference Center, May 8, 2016.

Augustine’s 4th c. classic The City of God drew a contrast between the human city and the city of God. The human city was human civilization, what we human beings have made of the earth, how we have arranged our life, our glories and our failures. The city of God, on the other hand, was God’s original design for human life, a blueprint for sustainable human flourishing, so often not followed. The whole message of Christianity is the ongoing redemption of the broken human city until it comes under the sway of the city of God... much as Jesus prayed... “thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” Two phrases from this morning’s scriptures – from Psalms and from John – help us understand: “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God;” that river is Jesus Christ and the streams are the true followers of Jesus spreading out into the world like thousands of tributaries of life and hope... as John put it: “Out of their hearts shall flow streams of living water.”

Just as Augustine went back and forth in his mind between the broken human city and the city of God, between the way things are and the way things ought to be, we too go back and forth between the damaged earth and our call from God to “tend the garden” of creation; between toxic waterways and the amazing gift of water, between the tragic Flint water crisis and the baptismal waters of healing and abundant life. You could say we go back and forth between “there is a river whose streams make sad the city of Flint” and “there is a river whose streams make glad the city of God.”

The basics of the Flint water crisis are well-known. Over 8,000 children under the age of 6 have been exposed for a prolonged period to unsafe levels of lead in the drinking water. A few parts per billion of lead is all it takes for a child to suffer permanent neurological damage, irretrievably lost IQ points, behavioral problems, learning disabilities, developmental delays, nervous system damage. The full cost of this exposure will not be known for years. We know this tragedy happened because state-appointed emergency managers switched from the Detroit water system to the unsafe Flint River in order to save money. It was a bewildering decision, since the Flint River had been badly polluted for nearly a century. It was considered one of the country’s most polluted rivers. Millions of gallons of raw sewage, industrial waste from paper mills and General Motors plants, pesticide runoff from agriculture, road salt runoff had been dumped into the Flint River. So polluted, in fact, it could not be chemically treated to make it safe enough to drink. It had been abandoned as a drinking water source decades before.

But, really, the root cause of this tragedy goes back to the decision of General Motors to abandon Flint. In other words, harmful economic policies poisoned Flint before lead did. The filmmaker Michael Moore took out a second mortgage on his home to tell this story. In his first documentary, Roger and Me, in 1989, Michael Moore showed the economic impact of GM CEO Roger Smith’s decision to shut down auto manufacturing plants in Flint. In 1978, GM employed 80,000 people in Flint with good- paying jobs with benefits; by 2015, it was down to 5,000. I remember visiting Flint on a family vacation in the 70’s. It was an “American success story,” one of the most prosperous small cities in the country; a thriving middle class, civic pride, good schools, bright horizons. But with the loss of so many jobs, home values plummeted, the tax base collapsed, the population shrank, and was followed before long by urban blight, high crime, rising alcoholism and drug addition, poverty, failing schools, and deep municipal debt. It became what Chris Hedges has called, “a capitalist sacrifice zone.” He documents how large corporations cut loose from long-term social contracts with their communities in search of cheaper labor overseas, where they often have a freer hand environmentally, fewer restraints, and higher profits. The cycles of poverty, powerlessness, and despair they leave in their wake are a direct result of capitalist greed. Personal enrichment at the expense of destroying environments, families, and communities. Taking a hard, painful look at “sacrifice zones” like Flint shows us what unregulated capitalism does and the inherent violence in this system. The same forces responsible for creating these “sacrifice zones” are responsible for destroying ecosystems. Obsessions with growth and profit at all costs have put our planet in serious jeopardy. Hedges says prophetically, “either you obstruct through nonviolent civil disobedience, or you passively enable monstrous evil.”page1image25408

Now that I’ve thoroughly depressed you, let us keep in mind this back-and-forth between the human city and the city of God. What we’ve just now been doing is reflecting on the human city, sinking down into the brokenness of the human city. But let us rise up to remember the vision of the city of God – God’s design for sustainable flourishing for all of creation – we need to spend some time by the river whose streams make glad the city of God.

I have a friend in Texas who is a spiritual director. As part of her work, she asks her directees to visualize their special healing place and go there often in their interior life and prayer... when they are in distress or have lost hope, when they need to experience the presence of God. She and I were remarking on how fascinating it was that many of the special healing places, these inner refuges, involve water – one spoke of a summer lake house, another of waterfalls, another of the ocean, one woman remembered a stream behind her grandmother’s house where she spent hours playing in the water. In her work with this particular woman, she invited her to imagine Christ speaking to her: “Go to your special healing place, your refuge, sit by the stream, put your feet in the water; I will be there with you... Be still, and know that I am God!” How interesting that at soul-level, in our deepest selves, we gravitate toward water to find our safety and be spiritually restored.page2image25696

Thomas Merton, mentioned by Pope Francis as an exemplary American Christian, in the mid-20th c., left the rush and the hustle of the human city and retreated to the slow and the quiet of the Kentucky woods. There he reconnected with the God and the natural world he found it hard to know in the blur of modern life. In a deep, lyrical moment, he writes about the simple, profound experience of watching and listening to the rain:
“Let me say this before rain becomes a utility that they can plan and distribute for money. By ‘they’ I mean the people who cannot understand that rain is a festival, who do not appreciate its gratuity, who think that what has no price has no value, that what cannot be sold is not real, so that the only way to make something real is to place it on the market. The time will come when they will sell you even your rain. At the moment it is still free, and I am in it. Nobody started it, nobody is going to stop it. It will talk as long as it wants, this rain. As long as it talks, I am going to listen... it is the voice of the present moment, the present festival... think of it: all that speech pouring down, selling nothing, judging nobody, drenching the thick mulch of dead leaves, soaking in the trees, filling the gullies and crannies of the wood with water... this wonderful, perfectly innocent speech, ... the most comforting speech in the world.”

There is enough concern and dread about climate change and all the costs it is bringing... and enough weariness with the brokenness of the human city – that it might seem to be enough to simply minister spiritually to our souls – remind one another of the city of God – God’s original blessing, God our refuge, even as the nations rage and kingdoms totter and the mountain shake in the midst of the sea. It might seem to be enough simply to help each other go to our special healing places, those water refuges, in real time and space while they still exist, and within our souls, where they will exist as long as we exist.

But my digging into the tragedy of Flint – and there is much more that could be said about it – taught me that if we are to be tributaries of hope, if the streams of living water flowing from our hearts are to make a real difference, in the human city then we have to demand an end to business as usual. We simply have no choice but to work and keep working to stop the damage. We have to work to change harmful economic policies which put profits ahead of people, efficiency ahead of children, greed ahead of sustainable futures. I know it’s easy enough to say, and so much more difficult to do.

But the tragedies of Flint, and the many other sacrifice zones throughout the world, require us to keep stretching beyond our comfort zones, resisting harm, and promoting in our own lives and in public spaces ideas and best practices that contribute to the long-term common good and sustainable futures. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God. May God give strength, wisdom, and courage to those streams, those tributaries of life and hope, and may they make glad the human city... while there is still time.

Poetry and Art about Water

Roundness
by Nancy Corson Carter


Nancy Corson Carter is a member of PEC's EARTH team, 
and she lives in Chapel Hill, NC.

I found this rock
on the shore,
its pleasing roundness
created by
how many tides?

Like all humans, I’ve
come from roundness
formed in waters
of an inland sea:
my mother’s womb.

Around and around
the Earth spins
all things together:
our earth/air/fire/water
sacred sphere
blessed by God’s
surrounding love.

detail of blue with grace (crayon) by abby mohaupt.

Breathing Water
by Nancy Corson Carter

Breathing in
I inhale the O2
of phytoplankton’s
watery exhalation;

Breathing out
I exhale the CO2
of their inhalation.

Life is so beautifully
interwoven!
Wherever I am,
I can stop a moment
and rejoice in
our shared breath.
                                                
Note: Phytoplankton are photosynthesizing microscopic organisms that inhabit the upper sunlit layer of almost all oceans and bodies of fresh water. They are agents for "primary production," the creation of organic compounds from carbon dioxide dissolved in the water, a process that sustains the aquatic food web.

It is estimated that between 50% and 85% of the world's oxygen is produced via phytoplankton photosynthesis.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Preview of PEC's 2017 Conference in Portland, Oregon

Putting a Face on Climate Change

by Holly Halllman, Advocacy Committee Chair

Last January, in an article about Abby Brockway, John Fife was quoted as saying that Presbyterians are good at reform (in fact we are legendary for it), good at charity (we are a shirt-off-our backs denomination), good at advocacy (we are bright, articulate, politically savvy people) and it isn’t enough.  He says we have to take the next step and resist.  Rick Ufford-Chase is leading the way with his new book entitled Faithful Resistance.  Both moderators of PC(USA) are urging us to a new level of engaging the problems that thwart our earth.  Furthermore, at our last PEC conference, Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson challenged us to get out into the streets.

As the Advocacy arm of Presbyterians for Earth Care looks toward the next conference in Portland, Oregon, it wants to seriously consider the admonitions of these church leaders.  It is no longer good enough to come together and speak/listen to the issues.  We already know the issues, don’t we?  Let us then explore the next step—let’s learn resistance. The people who taught John Fife and Rick Ufford-Chase flowed over the southern border of our country.  The teachers we can listen to and act with in Oregon are waiting for us to come and experience their challenges. 

For the last two years we have focused on water and how it has been changed by the use of fossil fuels.  Now we want to take that lens and turn it just slightly.  Those who can teach about resistance live by the rising waters, the growing deserts that lack water, the places where the water from their tap smells of gas, places where dams have stopped the fish from returning, places where ice no longer forms in the winter to buffer their communities from the battering of fierce storms.  It is their stories that we must hear and their directions we must take.   We have skin that is not the same color as theirs.  We have privileges that distance us from the realities of their lives.  They have much to teach us, we have much to learn.  Resisting together, respecting, finding the common ground of our shared humanity—that is the next step.

PEC, through our Advocacy Committee and our Sept 26-29, 2017 Portland conference planning team, is beginning to gather stories -- names, and places of persons affected by climate change and erratic weather patterns.  Nan Fayer, our SE Regional Representative, shares her recent weather/water experience.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Flood of July 30, 2016 in Ellicott City, MD

Raging Water at the Door
       
by Nancy Fayer
                                                                                                                                     
It began as an easy, hazy, sultry but relaxing evening in late July 2016. My husband and I were enjoying a tasty dinner with good friends at a quaint, stone- walled restaurant in historic Ellicott City, Maryland. A block away the Tiber and Hudson creeks converged and joined to form the Patapsco River, where three Quakers, the Ellicott brothers, established a community by 1775, and harnessed the energy of the river to provide energy for their flour and lumber mills, halfway between Baltimore and Washington, DC. 

Then, within an hour that night, everything in Ellicott City changed. The rain came in torrents. For the next two hours the sky poured 6 ½ inches of rain, a once in a 1,000 years storm. The once-peaceful scene on Main Street became the channel of a raging flood 15 feet deep, which undermined the street and sidewalks, destroyed ten buildings and took two lives.


The storm, in its wake, left cars, homes, businesses and livelihoods in broken bits.  My husband and I were among the lucky ones. We did not have to be evacuated because we left the restaurant a half an hour before the flood trapped people there.  However our car was totaled, along with more than 200 others parked on Main Street, which were trapped among the debris, or floated into the river.

As Ellicott City residents and volunteers tackle the long work of clearing out the debris, cleaning up and rebuilding infrastructure, the long term impacts of the flood become more evident.

The U.S. National Climate Assessment, 2014 warned that “Heat waves, coastal flooding and river flooding will pose a growing challenge to the NE region’s environmental, social, and economic systems. This will increase vulnerability of the region’s residents, especially its most disadvantaged populations.”

I wonder what will happen to vulnerable people in the flooded areas of Ellicott City who aren’t being helped and whose stories aren’t being told. Among them, the minimum-wage earners who worked in the many locally owned little shops and restaurants. Even before the flood, they struggled to make ends meet. What will happen to the servers who led diners safely to the second, and then the third floor of the restaurants as the water rose, only to realize that they themselves had lost their livelihood, their car, and for some, a place to live?

This flood is not just a local or short-term concern for the three mile radius of Ellicott City. Its impacts are present in other areas of the County as the precious and finite amount of potable water is released or redirected according to climatic conditions. When Ellicott City or other river and coastal towns are inundated with intense rainfall, other parts of the country are receiving less rain and are becoming parched and tinder dry.  When natural disasters occur, disadvantaged populations are especially imperiled.

In floods or in drought, may we serve as people of faith, integrity, foresight, and courage.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

September 1 is World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation

Prayer, Praise and the Power in Music

by Diane Waddell

PEC is grateful for our colleagues in creation care, Revs. Bruce & Carolyn Gillette, co-pastors of Limestone Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, Delaware.  They are consistently generous in sharing the fruits of their creative ministry both through liturgical resourcing, contributing and supporting overtures - including On Amending “The Ministry of Members,” by adding “Caring for God’s Creation - and through hymnody in eco-justice.

Bruce reminds us that the PC(USA) joined Pope Francis’ call for all Christians to support an ecumenical day of prayer for the Care of Creation on September 1 annually at the 222nd General Assembly. This day was first proposed by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. The September 1st World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation is to be included in the PC(USA) Program Calendars and resources are to be made available online on the PC(USA) website. Thanks also to the Presbytery of Sante Fe who submitted the overture On Communicating Gratitude for and Study of the Encyclical “Laudato Si.”

Bruce and Carolyn have compiled the resources below hat include a reflection from Dr. Bill Brown and a beautiful litany they have written that blends the Lord’s Prayer with concern for God's creation.

The Lord’s Prayer and Creation Care: A Litany of Confession
by Bruce and Carolyn Gillette

Leader:  Loving God, we remember that Jesus taught us to pray saying, “Our Father…”
People:  You created us, you made this world, and you called your creation very good. Yet often we forget that you are our loving Parent who continues to bless your world.

Leader:   Jesus told us that you are “…in heaven…”
People:  Yet we fail to live in awe of you. We take you for granted, and we don’t see the awesome beauty of the world you have made.

Leader:   We pray, “Hallowed be your name…”
People:  We confess that our reverence for you does not always lead us to care reverently for your earth, sky and sea.

Leader:   We pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…”
People:  We confess that we often put our own interests first—exploiting your creation, and living for our own convenience and self-interest.

Leader:   We pray, “Give us today our daily bread.”
People:  We confess that we consume more than our share of the world’s resources, while billions go hungry every day and your whole creation suffers.

Leader:   We pray, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”
People:  We confess that we see these words only in spiritual terms, while the Bible is filled with teachings about economic justice and creation care.

Leader:  We pray, “Save us from the time of trial.”
People:  Help us to resist the temptations of spending more, using more, acquiring more, and wasting more.

Leader:  We pray, “Deliver us from evil…”
People:  Free us from greed and self-centeredness that separate us from you and others.

Leader:  We pray, “For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and forever.”
People:  Help us to know that in caring for your wonderful world, we are working for your kingdom, being good stewards of your creative power, and giving you glory.

Leader:  We pray, “Amen.”
People:  We end our prayers with “Amen,” a word that means “let it be so.”  We know we can be faithful disciples by your grace.  Amen!

            The Earth is the Lord’s
ST. DENIO 11.11.11.11 (“Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise”)

“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.”
Creation reminds us, O God, of your love.
By grace we are learning, as year leads to year,
We’re called to be stewards, your caretakers here.

Your rainforests nurture the world that we share.
Your wetlands give animals shelter and care.
Your coral reefs cradle the life of the sea.
You’ve shown us, in love, what your good world can be.

Too often, O God, we abuse your good earth.
We fail to remember its beauty and worth.
We take from creation much more than we need,
We threaten your world through indifference and greed.

May we be good stewards of all that you give,
Protecting creation wherever we live.
May we be a church that renews and restores
And lovingly cares for this earth that is yours.

Biblical References:  Genesis 1- 2, Psalms 8 and 24.
Tune: Welsh Folk Hymn, Adapted in Caniadau y Cyssegr, 1839 
Text: Copyright © 2001 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette.  All rights reserved.  Used by permission. Permission is given for free use of this hymn for the Annual World Day of Prayer for Caring for God’s Creation
Email:  bcgillette@comcast.net Website: www.carolynshymns.com
The hymn is available online with the music as a free download.

September 1st – World Day of Prayer for the Care for God’s Creation

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) 222nd (2016) General Assembly voted to join “Pope Francis’ call for all Christians to support an ecumenical day of prayer for the Care of Creation on September 1 annually.” 

Pope Francis recently proclaimed September 1st as the “World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation,” joining Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I of Constantinople, who earlier extended an invitation for Christians to offer together ”every year on this date prayers and supplications to the Maker of all, both as thanksgiving for the great gift of creation and as petitions for its protection and salvation.” 
Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, the World Council of Churches General Secretary, wrote: “Pope Francis’s ecumenical initiative reinforces the growing emphasis on prayer for the care of creation among all the churches. We welcome the opportunity to join our efforts with those of the Ecumenical Patriarch and now the Catholic Church, and through prayer to sharpen our awareness and commitment to God’s creation, ‘our common home,’ as Pope Francis has called it.”

All-powerful God,
You are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures. You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love, that we may protect life and beauty. Fill us with peace, that we may live as brothers and sisters, harming no one. O God of the poor,
Help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth, so precious in your eyes. Bring healing to our lives, that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts of those who look only for gain at the expense of the poor and the earth. Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united with every creature as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle for justice, love and peace. Amen.

“Laudato Si’ (“Praise Be to You”): On Care for Our Common Home,” 2015 Encyclical Letter of Pope Francis.

The Bible and Caring for God’s Creation

The fundamental mandate for creation care comes from Genesis 2:15, where God places Adam in the garden to "till it and keep it" (NRSV).  A better translation from the Hebrew is "to serve it and to preserve it."  In Genesis 1:26-28, God blesses humankind with dominion over the earth.  This acknowledgement that humanity is the most powerful species on earth does not, however, give license to dominate and exploit the planet.  Indeed, the following verses affirm the right of animals to share in the bounty of the earth's produce (Gen 1:29-30).  Human "dominion" as intended in Genesis is best practiced in care for creation, in stewardship, which according to Genesis Noah fulfills best by implementing God's first endangered species act.  More-over, the great creation psalm of the Psalter views humanity as one species among many animal species, all meant to flourish together (Psalm 104:14-23).  The psalmist exclaims, “O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures” (v. 24). 

Scripture affirms that God created the world in wisdom and out of love, and it is also out of love for the world that God gave Christ to redeem it (John 3:16).  In Christ “all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17), and “every creature under heaven” is to receive God’s good news (v. 23).  According to Revelation, God’s work in the world is “make all things new” (21:5), to bring about a new creation that does not destroy the old but transforms it, renews it.  If the church is the sign of the new creation, then the church must lead the way in caring for creation. 

---Dr. William P. Brown, William Marcellus McPheeters Professor of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary, (Copied from the Biblical Background for the  approved 2016 GA Overture to add “Caring for God’s Creation” to G-1.0304 The Ministry of Members)

Caring for Creation and Life (Book of Order, W-7.5003)

God calls the Church in the power of the Holy Spirit to participate in God’s work of creation and preservation. God has given humankind awesome power and perilous responsibility to rule and tame the earth, to sustain and reshape it, to replenish and renew it.

In worship Christians rejoice and give thanks to God, who gives and sustains the created universe, the earth, all life, and all goods. They acknowledge God’s command to be stewards. They confess their own failures in caring for creation and life. They rejoice in the promise of the redemption and renewal of the creation in Jesus Christ, proclaimed in the Word and sealed in the Sacraments. They commit themselves to live as God’s stewards until the day when God will make all things new. (W-1.0000)

As stewards of God’s creation who hold the earth in trust, the people of God are called to

a. use the earth’s resources responsibly without plundering, polluting, or destroying,

b. develop technological methods and processes that work together with the earth’s environment to preserve and enhance life,

c. produce and consume in ways that make available to all people what is sufficient for life,

d. work for responsible attitudes and practices in procreation and reproduction,

e. use and shape earth’s goods to create beauty, order, health, and peace in ways that reflect God’s love for all creatures.

In gratitude for the gifts of creation, the faithful bring material goods to God in worship as a means of expressing praise, as a symbol of their self-offering, and as a token of their commitment to share earth’s goods. (W-2.5000; W-3.3507; W-5.5005; W-5.6000).



Emerging Leader: Kathleen Murphy


March on the Mansion

by Kathleen Murphy
 


Kathleen Murphy is one of the newest Eco-Stewards having participated this summer in the Seattle trip. When she returned home, she kept the momentum going by rallying against a corporate pipeline (Mountain Valley Pipeline) to be constructed in her home state of Virginia.

It’s easy to get bogged down by the enormity of it all. The doomsday predictions, the destruction of our natural resources, conflicting interests furthering stereotypes of supporters on each side, and most of all - the feeling of being so small that you, one individual, cannot make a difference and your voice will be drowned out by all the noise.

When we feel overwhelmed it’s easier to retreat, simply throw up our hands and say the problem is too big. The noise is deafening. Who will hear me, even if I yell?

During my time with the other eco-focused young adults on our Eco-Stewards trip to Seattle, I learned many things that continue to shape my perspective and daily habits. We met with members from the Lummi Nation, a Native tribe living in the far northwest portion of Washington State. The Lummi have been in this area of Washington for generations and are very connected to the waterways in the area, mainly the Salish Sea. These waters are sacred fishing grounds for the Lummi. The immense respect their people have for the water influences the life of the tribe and the life of each individual. This respect, sadly, is not a part of the culture in corporate oil and coal export. Corporate interests have pillaged the Lummi’s sacred waterways for oil and coal. Luckily, the Lummi were courageous enough to fight, and defeat, plans to install another massive export facility.

Corporate interests plan to do similar things here, in Virginia, by building a natural gas pipeline that runs through some of Virginia’s most pristine mountainous landscapes. Our governor has decided to support the pipeline to the shock and disappointment of many citizens. Our disappointment turned into action.

A number of community groups and non-profits organized a “March on the Mansion” to show our opposition to the pipeline. Even on a 98-degree day, with the heat index well over 100, we took to the streets of Richmond in a physical manifestation of resistance. Conservative estimates  say the crowd was 600 strong. I think it was more. We marched from the James River, which is being polluted by the region’s electric utility monopoly, past the electric utility’s headquarters, through Capital Square to the Governor’s Mansion. We were loud, we had signs, we had community.

When you think that the noise is too loud for you to be heard, do not retreat. This is too great an issue to retreat. God’s Creation is at stake. So, when you feel like you will be drowned out, join others and yell together. The sum of all of our voices can, and will, overcome the noise.