Thursday, January 21, 2021

Founding Member, Ecumenical Eco-Justice of Saint Joseph, Inc.

 Janet D. Storts

Founding Member, Ecumenical Eco-Justice of Saint Joseph, Inc.

I spent most of my working years employed by an international oil company. I worked in budget preparation and expense explanation, and I did not spend time thinking about how they were contributing to the climate problems we were beginning to experience. (I left the industry in the 1990s.)

Since then, the oil company for which I worked has put a lot of effort into rehabilitating its image and publicizing its commitment to the environment. But as a 2019 article in The Guardian stated, the company’s objective is to get the public to trust it, not to reduce its production of fossil fuels.

After I retired, I became friends with some environmental activists and got engaged in advocacy work in my community. I went back to school for an MA in Social Justice. I continue to grow in my awareness that all justice issues are interrelated. Climate change and environmental degradation disproportionately affects people who are marginalized in other ways, such as through poverty and racial discrimination. 

I have mixed feelings about whether the fossil fuel industry can reform itself. This may be a case where working from the inside is not possible and change will depend on those outside of the industry – including those that have left or retired. I do believe that whatever oil companies do to promote good environmental practices is worthwhile. Their motives do not negate the positive impact. Perhaps it will influence people who will then take up the cause. 


Born and reared in Tulsa, Oklahoma, 
Janet Storts moved to Saint Joseph, Missouri in 2007. She is the daughter, great granddaughter, and great great granddaughter of Presbyterian ministers. After retiring, Janet graduated from Missouri Western State University with a B.S. in Sociology and a minor in Creative Writing and earned her MASJ (Social Justice) from Phillips Theological Seminary. She is a founding member of Ecumenical Eco-Justice of Saint Joseph, Inc. and a member of the City of Saint Joseph’s Sustainable Environment Advisory Committee.

Dana Myers, President & CEO, Myers EV

 Dana Myers

President & CEO, Myers EV

In my younger years, I used to think that when God gave mankind dominion over the earth, it meant we could do whatever we wanted to do with the earth.  Now I believe that dominion was more along the lines of bringing Garden of Eden beauty and order to a world of chaos. 

In the late 1800's, the transportation pollution concern was tons of horse manure. Thousands of gallons of horse urine and dead horses littered the streets of the world’s biggest cities.  Gas cars solved this problem. 

The world now has over one billion gas cars, and the accumulated emissions are harming human health and the environment.  Not very Garden of Eden-ish.  Now that we recognize this, we can do something about it.      

Electric cars are the next progression.  Unfortunately, many electric cars are more polluting than gas cars due to the large battery packs needed for long-distance trips.  Fortunately, most of our driving is short trips.  Short-range electric cars used as second household vehicles are cleaner than gas cars - and less expensive to buy. A new idea, perhaps, but ofttimes the way forward looks different than what we think we need.     

God created us in the divine image and gave us a mandate.  As we look to God – not to government or to others - God will give us the solutions we need to do what we were created to do.  And the answer is always one that makes life better for others as well as ourselves.  Through looking to God and practicing the Golden Rule in all we do, we can get back to the Garden. 


After putting together a team that built and sold 3-wheel EVs, 
Dana Myers founded Myers EV to build the perfect car for around-town driving:  the 4-wheel, 2-person, Point5.  He and his wife of 34 years currently attend Bethel Cleveland, an evangelical charismatic church. 

Past Chair, Missouri Sierra Club

 James Turner

Past Chair, Missouri Sierra Club


In 2014, six Midwesterners chartered a Trailways bus, headed for the People’s Climate March in New York City.  We soon had a busload, and walked with over 300,000 others, representing dozens of organizations.  Diane Waddell marched with Presbyterians for Earth Care and the Presbyterian Hunger Program, and I marched with Missouri’s Sierra Club.  Months later, when President Obama led America’s participation in the Paris Climate Accord, that arduous bus trip felt worthwhile.  

Popular support for climate protection keeps growing.  Market leaders see wind and solar power, electric-powered transportation, and energy efficiency as good opportunities for cutting costs.  But actions by our federal, state, and local governments are crucial, and strong political forces cling to gas and oil’s dominance of our economy.   

Grassroots support for energy reform is imperative. Presbyterian activists are helping by co-sponsoring meetings where technical experts educate a wider public.   But we of PEC must also show up in halls of governmental power, providing visible support for enlightened leaders who must flip the policy switches.  And we should wear PEC logos.  In 2014 the big March’s cultural diversity was visible in our tee-shirts and banners, and that diversity made our collective witness more robust.  Today, visibility of our PEC logo in those halls will likewise aid environmentalism’s work, and it will draw people who share our views and will support PEC’s witness.

PEC and our faith partners are essential strands in environmentalism’s defense of Earth's community, because we will broaden the persuasive reach of the coalition.  Being in touch with values and realities, we can be agents of reconciliation.

James R Turner is retired and lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where he serves as an Elder at Westport Presbyterian Church. He holds a BA in English, an MS in Accountancy, and a JD from the University of Missouri – Columbia.  In thirty years at Truman State University, Missouri’s public liberal arts university located in Kirksville, he taught business law, environmental studies, and accounting.  There he was Founding Secretary for Delta of Missouri Chapter, Phi Beta Kappa.  During 2006 – 2016 Jim was on Missouri Sierra Club’s Executive Committee, and its Chair for six years.  

Inaugural Member, The Faithful Climate Action Fellowship

 Colleen Schena

Inaugural Member, The Faithful Climate Action Fellowship

In a decade in which climate change is mostly seen yet often ignored, a positive environmental future may seem unlikely. Yet with any change comes a fresh wave of hope, that we might truly live what we value. So is the case for the 2021 shift in power – and environmental priority.

I cannot speak for anyone as to what shape a future of renewal may take. Yet in my own mind, this future explores and supports the development of renewable energy sources, whether as new as algal energy or as well-known as wind turbines. In the same hand, this is a future that actively seeks to replace ecologically destructive cultural habits with restorative, healthy actions and views. 

A future of environmental renewal protects what natural places we have the privilege to see, and expands those protections to the urban ecosystem, including parks and green spaces, even in the midst of cities. This future is alive with refusal to compromise the beauty, integrity, and goodness of Creation for the utilitarian whims of man. It is also filled with a recognized integrality of the natural world to the human incarnational experience. 

In this interconnected link, the future of environmental renewal and protection focuses on the vulnerable Creation, yet it does not end there. While seeking healing for the environment, this future power would focus on the poorest of the poor who suffer most in this ongoing crisis. Whether it would look like funding for rebuilding or assistance in relocating, this future, by necessity, is kind to the poor, to the vulnerable earth, and to those who are seeking changes for the good of another.

All this may not seem possible with a simple administrative change. Yet with a new year and new leadership, may we find the energy to project and protect Creation. May we have the strength to start our future.


Colleen Schena
 is an inaugural member of The Faithful Climate Action Fellowship, a collaborative project through the U.S. Climate Action Network. She is also a freelance journalist and a student of theology and biology. Schena recently concluded her thesis about the connection between human image and likeness to God (imago Dei), Creation, and stewardship as an embodiment of the imago Dei. She seeks to further immerse herself in topics of the environment and work for its betterment, whether that would be through public action writing or hands-on conservation work.

ED, Earth Ministry/Washington IP&L

 

LeeAnne Beres
Executive Director, Earth Ministry/Washington Interfaith Power & Light

At Earth Ministry, our vision is a just and sustainable future in which people of all spiritual traditions fully embrace their faith’s call to environmental stewardship. As people of faith, we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves and to put our faith into action for justice.

In working toward that goal, it's imperative to remember that environmental justice is deeply interwoven with social and racial justice. We work for climate justice that addresses inequities tied to environmental health, and we strive to create a better future for generations to come. 

The disproportionate and devastating impact of the climate crisis on Black and Indigenous people and the health disparities of people of color due to pollution must galvanize our efforts in addition to our desire to protect critically important species and ecosystems. The faith community has a powerful role to play in building bridges by working in coalition with religious, tribal, environmental, communities of color, labor, and other partners, and by understanding the intersectionality of our shared efforts. In organizing people of faith to advocate for environmental justice, we are transforming faith into action for the well-being of communities and the environment to create a better future for all.


LeeAnne Beres
 is Executive Director of Earth Ministry/Washington Interfaith Power & Light, one of the first groups in the country to connect faith with caring for the environment. Since joining Earth Ministry in 2005, LeeAnne has led development of the organization's nationally-recognized faithful advocacy program which empowers clergy and lay leaders to speak out on environmental justice issues.

Solar Nation

 

Carlos Monteagudo
CEO, SolarNation

SolarNation’s vision is to activate every person in every community to personally and directly engage in the project of combating catastrophic climate change by acting at the local level. Our mission is to ignite a national net-zero movement that supports and accelerates the efforts of local communities to eliminate their carbon footprints. 

Our method is founded on the premise that individuals and communities will enthusiastically embrace the aspirational goal of addressing climate change when they are empowered to co-create meaningful and plausible ways to do so that fit into their lives. For example, a community might decide to create a local community solar project, to provide cheaper, carbon-free energy to low-income members. Later, what begins as an attempt to save a little money on utility bills while doing the “right thing” for the planet, can subsequently grow into a venture to engage more neighbors, the broader business community, educators, students and local government leaders to collaborate in creating additional ways to provide a just and sustainable energy future for the local area. 

Ultimately, SolarNation targets the denial, despair and sense of powerlessness that many feel at the prospect of catastrophic climate change by guiding community-driven efforts to organize and finance community solar and other net-zero energy activities. SolarNation’s approach minimizes technical barriers while maximizing participants’ emotional connection to the work. This changes people’s relationship to climate change, from isolated victims to collective victors. The resultant transformation of climate-change consciousness puts communities on hopeful pathways to take further action to grow the movement and ensure a healthy future for the planet.


Carlos Monteagudo
, MD, MPH: Founder & CEO – a social entrepreneur for 20 years and a practicing psychiatrist in public hospitals since 1988. After a Kellogg National Leadership Fellowship, in 2002 Carlos cofounded SEED, which creates tools and supports community agencies for community organizing and leadership development. In 2014, Carlos founded SolarNation to apply his experiences in leadership development and community organizing to the issue of climate change. He has Chicago roots and is a Bloomfield, NJ, resident.  He is an Elder at the Bloomfield Presbyterian Church on the Green, where his wife, the Reverend Ruth Boling, is the pastor.

Monday, January 18, 2021

All We Can Save Book Review

 Faithfully Feminist

Book review by Nancy Corson Carter 



ALL WE CAN SAVE: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson & Katharine K. Wilkinson (New York: One World, 2020)  


Can you imagine all of us trusting each other, working together for our common home?” Thus the authors address us in BEGIN, their introduction to this extraordinary anthology of essays and poems intermixed with art by women and girls. 


Why women and girls? Because patriarchy still sullies our culture with Dominance, supremacy, violence, extraction, egotism, greed, [and] ruthless competition” (xviii). These are threats to all, but they are greater for women and girls. There is growing proof of the link between climate change and gender-based violence, including sexual assault, domestic abuse, and forced prostitution” (xviii). This is true particularly in conditions of poverty for those of color, those in the Global South, and those who are rural or Indigenous” (xix). 

Still, the authors assert, women and girls around the world are blooming in a climate movement faithfully feminist, rooted in compassion, connection, creativity, and collaboration” (xix)—qualities even more courageous with Covid-19 exploding just as this book emerged. We can take heart from this inspiring gathering of diverse women engaged in climate action in the United States. They include scientists, human rights attorneys, leaders of national environmental groups like Earthjustice and NRDC, developers of the Green New Deal, Indigenous rights advocates, social science researchers, landscape architects, as well as farmers of regenerative agriculture, Sunrise leaders, and others. All offer hope for drawdown,” a future point in time when levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to steadily decline. (See the 6-page appendix listing Climate Solutions already on hand.)


Heres a selection of essay notes (skipping fine poems woven in): 


Calling In by Xiye Bastida

A young woman born and raised in a small town near Mexico City, descendant of the Otomi-Toltec people, tells of her ancestral philosophy: Take care of the Earth because she takes care of you.” 

 

Collards are Just as Good as Kale by Heather McTeer Toney from Mississippi. Everywhere I turned I was surrounded by the interweaving of nature with Black culture, poverty, and the rural South…. Yet our voices are constantly ignored on matter concerning climate impacts and environmental protections” (76). Pregnancy with her first child led her to concentrate on saving lives and ensuring a planet safe for kids into the future. Strengthened by her faiths requirement to tend and keep Gods creation” she writes My faith keeps me focused” (80). 


Harnessing Cultural Power by Favianna Rodriguez, award-winning artist, president of Center for Cultural Power: We need our storytellers to image a future where together we thrive with nature.” “We arent seeing diverse stories about climate because those who control the cultural engine in the United States are overwhelmingly White men,” so we need to Pass the mic to artists and culture-makers of color” (122).

Loving a Vanishing World by Emily N. Johnston: On a beach in the British Columbia Gulf Islands, she grieves that the wondrously intelligent 73 remaining Southern Resident orcas there probably cannot survive. No matter that we feel fear, grief, and anger,…In any moment, we can choose to show up. … We have beautiful work to do before we die”(260-1).


A Letter to Adults by Alexandria VillaseƱor, a climate activist at age 15. The climate crisis is the largest challenge humans have ever faced. We young people are doing everything we can, so please join us. We need your help.  Welcome to the uprising!” (327) 


Nancy Corson Carter, PhD in American Studies, is professor emerita of humanities at Eckerd College. ALL WE CAN SAVE resonates for her with teaching The Literature of Ecology” and Womens Studies courses. Since retirement to North Carolina in 2003, she has facilitated the Earth Care Committee at The Church of Reconciliation in Chapel Hill.  She helped lead Hope Workshops on the Climate Change Crisis” with NCIPL. Shes continued to write and speak widely about Earth and Spirit issues. Her most recent book is A GREEN BOUGH: POEMS FOR RENEWAL (2019); it witnesses to her quest to hold in tension the opposites of a celebration of the natural world, and in a time of great destruction, a call for its repair.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

We need each other



We Need Each Other
 
Staying connected with each other during the social distancing imposed by COVID-19 has been a challenge. Church members are not gathering in person for worship, committees are meeting by ZOOM, and children are learning at home. Yet during this time, Presbyterians for Earth Care has been here for you, communicating every other week with our e-newsletter and Devotionals for Lent and Advent. PEC needs you, too, to support us with your participation, comments, suggestions, and financial commitment. It is not too late to make a tax-deductible donation for 2020 if you make your contribution today.
 
PEC lives out its mission every day through connecting, equipping and inspiring you to act to protect the very Creation that we depend on for our breath, our water, our food, our safety and its beauty and solace that keep us alive and thriving. This is how we do it:
 
Connecting members through a grassroots network of people seeking to keep the sacred at the center of earth care, advocacy and action both inside and outside the walls of the church.


 
Equipping members with resources, ideas and information for a shared journey toward a healthier planet by growing and sharing theological understandings and perspectives on eco-justice issues.
 

Inspiring members through stories of individuals and groups who have responded to the sacred call to care for the earth—stories told person to person at events, and by newsletter, email, social media and devotions.
 

As a non-profit organization, Presbyterians for Earth Care depends on individual donations from people like you who are concerned about the future of our common home. Please make a tax-deductible donation to finish 2020 today and help PEC build a brighter future in 2021.
 

For God's creation,

Jane Laping, PEC Coordinator


 
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Thursday, December 17, 2020

Devotional for Christmas Day

                                                          Christmas Day

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, 
and do not return there until they have watered the earth
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. 

Isaiah 55:10-11  


Advent is the season of expectant waiting. As the snow and the rain in Isaiah offer rejuvenation in times of planting and harvesting, we seek constancy both in the turning of the seasons and in good work–even in the production of our “daily bread.” In the southern Appalachian Mountains, not so far from where I live, autumnal pilgrimages are marked by the desire of many to experience the sight and sounds of flowing water in crystalline mountain streams and the aesthetic explosion of the turning of the colors of the leaves of the trees. So it is that in our waiting, we look beyond ourselves for a constancy that offers sustenance in the face of unease and uncertainty.

In Guatemala, where I do much of my work, a Maya friend begins prayers by invoking our “Creator and Former,” a rendition that reminds us that we are called into being and shaped only in relationship with others and with the creation itself. We are not self-made, and the Maya articulate a cosmovision in which balance, harmony, and equilibrium are crucial components of our being in community with other humans and our being in the cosmos. As well, we are shaped by the past, not only in the presence of those ancestors and siblings we carry in our memory but also in the knowledge that the words of the Creator will not return empty in the lives of the faithful. The snow and the rain fall, often in unequal portions in these days of human-induced climate change. Yet we find constancy in the possibility of an expectant return from exile and the renewal of lifeways that may yet enable us to transcend enmity between peoples and the estrangement between our species and the creation from which our shared being cannot be separated.

What if Christmas, then, represents a sign of constancy on the horizon? What the liberationists refer to as an “in-breaking”? A new reality emerges out of our expectant waiting, our longing in THIS year punctuated by so much loss, anxiety, and fear. The Creator speaks a Word, and with that presence in our midst, we read the signs of our times and remember the promise of the tree of life that stands beside the river of life and whose leaves are for the healing of the nations (Revelations 22.2). Instead of normalcy, we look for renewal and restoration, a hope that watered by snow and rain and our own commitments will break forth in the redemption our times.

Prayer

God of life, you call us into being as our Creator; you redeem us in your words spoken throughout history and in your eternal Word that speaks to us through the generations; you sustain us with the constancy of your presence in the face of all that threatens. Teach us so to live that in our living, like the snow and the rain, we might water the earth with steadfastness and loving kindness.

Amen.
 
Matt Samson is an associate professor of anthropology and chair of Latin American Studies at Davidson College. A graduate of Austin Presbyterian Seminary and the University at Albany, his research and teaching are centered on religious change, ethnic identity, and human-environment relations in the Americas. Matt enjoys introducing students to ethnographic approaches, and currently serves on a PCUSA study team on Central America under the auspices of the Advisory Council on Social Witness Policy.

 




Water photo by David Kepley

Devotional for Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,

so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:10-11  

As of today, there are over 45 million confirmed Coronavirus cases globally. This virus has wreaked havoc on us, our economies and exposed many injustices. In addition, the virus is once again spiking as we wrestle with visioning a new path forward. This is a chaotic time. In times like these, words of encouragement and affirmation are needed to build our faith.

This text paints for us the beauty of God’s ecology. By showing us nature’s participation in God’s ecology we see that there is a system at work that is designed to be regenerative. Our society today is designed to be extractive with our natural resources and our relationships. We believe that we are lords over creation instead of participants of it. This text also challenges us to vision a path forward that is regenerative and operates with the ecology.


When I read Isaiah 55:10-11 juxtaposed to Christmas Eve, I am filled with anticipation because it is an announcement that God is participating in my care. God participated in my care through the birth of Jesus the Christ. Christ participates in our care through salvation. God participates in my care through nature and community. Our role in ecology is to maintain God’s ecology by participating in caring for creation also.

Alabama IPL is operating in the new path and inviting others on the journey. Beloved Community Church is the local church that I attend and serve in Birmingham, AL. The church is located in downtown Birmingham on a small lot. There is not a great deal of open space and a great deal of traffic. On this lot, we carved out and maintain a bird sanctuary that Alabama Interfaith Power and Light sponsors. In the middle of the chaos and lack, we carved out space for regenerative relationships in God’s ecology.

God’s created we maintain.

Prayer

God Our Creator,
We anticipate the newness that you are bringing forward. We commit our energy to caring for creation.
We thank you for renewing our hope.


Amen.

 
The Reverend Michael Malcom is the Founder and Executive Director of The People’s Justice Council and Alabama Interfaith Power and Light, and is a licensed and ordained United Church of Christ Minister. He currently serves as the International Liaison for the US Climate Action Network. He considers himself an impassioned environmental justice advocate, and sees environmental justice as the moral obligation to love your neighbor.
 
 
 Leaf photo by David Kepley