Thursday, September 17, 2020

 Presbyterians for Earth Care Celebrates 25 Years 

September 29, 1:00 PM Eastern
REGISTER HERE

"There is always an element of sadness in celebration. We cannot celebrate without alluding to it, because there are people on this earth of ours who are not celebrating, who are despairing, anguished, starving and mourning. That is why all celebration, which is like a great "Alleluia" and song of thanksgiving, should end with a moment of silence in which we remember before God all those who cannot celebrate." --Jean Vanier, "Community and Growth"
 
Presbyterians for Earth Care is 25 years old this year! Have you noticed our new logo?  Will there be a celebration? We’re glad you asked. The answer is, “Yes!” 


        

As we embarked on a new year back in January, we were dreaming of celebrating this milestone anniversary at the 224th PC (USA) General Assembly in Baltimore during our annual luncheon and awards presentation. Then came the global pandemic. Followed by a national reckoning that ensued as we were simultaneously forced to face the truth about another disease—structural and systemic racism.
 
Presbyterians for Earth Care was born for a time such as this. And we are stronger because of YOU! You don’t need to look any further than the recipients of our annual awards this year. The William Gibson Eco-Justice Lifetime Achievement Award bears the name of a leader who was involved with the organization we now know as Presbyterians for Earth Care from its beginning in 1995. As someone who served with Bill on the taskforce that created the seminal policy statement on “Restoring Creation for Ecology and Justice” adopted by the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 1990, I can attest to the fact that Bill would be proud of the individual receiving the award this year. We will also present the Emerging Earth Care Leader Award and the Restoring Creation Award to a deserving individual and a group, respectively.
 
Come, you who are young. Come, you who are young at heart. Come, all you who are concerned about the future of our nation as Election Day approaches. Come, you who are experiencing environmental grief as a changing climate fuels forest fires, destroying lives and property in the American West and in the Amazon region of Brazil.

RSVP and join our virtual celebration during this Season of Creation on Tuesday, September 29, 2020 at 1 pm ET. Rev. Rebecca Barnes, Coordinator of the Presbyterian Hunger Program, former Presbyterians for Earth Care coordinator and author of “50 Ways to Help Save the Earth: How You and Your Church Can Make a Difference” will be our guest speaker.

Come and celebrate the abundance of Creation! Come and celebrate love! Come and celebrate hope!

 

--Dennis Testerman, Moderator
Presbyterians for Earth Care


Friday, September 11, 2020

A Commentary: I Can't Breathe

 I Can’t Breathe

A Commentary


If I had to sum up this year of  2020 among the first words that come to mind are: “I can’t breathe”.   We have seen and heard too many people utter these words.  


I can’t breathe.  In May, a Black man from Minneapolis, George Floyd, uttered those words as he was restrained by a police team, with the air literally pressed out of him:  I can’t breathe.  


The result was a wave of protests on a massive scale – some violent, most not…that have continued to surge with each new shooting of a Black human being – most by local police.  And once more Anglo, White, Euro Americans have been confronted by American’s embedded racism.


I can’t breathe.  Words uttered by thousands of people this year being placed on a ventilator, trying to provide enough time for the body to do its healing.  Think back to January, February and March and the COVID-19 virus that exploded into a global pandemic.  Early on, the daily news told stories of those who caught it, avoided, it, survived it, and died from it.  Through the summer and fall we’ve watched the virus recede only to surge again, as we wait for a successful vaccine.  To date globally (September 2, 2020) over 25.5 million people have contracted the virus and 860,000 have succumbed to it.   


I can’t breathe.  Words spoken by employers and employees alike as businesses were shut down in response to the stay at home, lock the borders, quarantine orders.  The economic recession has crushed workers’ bank accounts and dreams, especially those who are part of our small business community.  They have gone underwater, or nearly so.  And millions more of us have sunk below the poverty level.   Help – I’m drowning.  I can’t…


I can’t breathe, Planet Earth has been telling us this for decades.  And then, in a bit of irony, Earth has been breathing a bit easier this year.  The stay at home orders have forced a different lifestyle in which we have been driving less, flying less, using less carbon-based oil and…putting less carbon dioxide into our very thin (62 miles) atmosphere.  But with our rush to re-open beaches and businesses, to reward ourselves with unmasked, mass gathering parties, to return to our former “normal”, it won’t last.  Earth’s temperatures keep rising (July was the hottest month ever recorded), and with that we all will have an increasingly difficult time breathing and Earth will keep groaning.


Rising temperatures have consequences, and not simply about the air we breathe.  As Earth’s climate becomes increasingly unstable, both animals and humans will face more and more heat waves, droughts, fires, floods, hurricanes, rising seas, economic crises and frankly, even more pandemics when thousand-year old frozen bacteria will be released as polar ice continues to melt.  We’re trapped between responding to today’s crises and anticipating tomorrow’s.  


Well, the God of Creation has some things to say to us.


Recognize that the impact of this year has affected us unevenly.   The poor, people of color, the marginalized, the sick, the elderly and the young whom we are supposed to protect have suffered the most.   Some have lost their lives. 


Recognize that thinking globally while living locally offers a healing power.  There’s a call to use the resources closest to us first, to be satisfied with enough.


Recognize that Earth is less and less able to absorb the consequences of our excessive, greedy, and short-sighted lifestyles.  Quit treating Planet Earth as our hospitality suite and become Earth’s partners for a sustainable future.


Remember that Life on this planet is not simply about breathing, but about connecting with others.  God expects us to respect, learn from, treat fairly all of Life here, to confront our prejudices against other people and other forms of Life…and to change our ways.  The best of this Life focuses primarily on the common good.


Finally, for those of us who are more fortunate, more secure and have suffered less…there are two God-given charges.  First, we with more are called to share more with those who have suffered more.  …with more of our time, energy, ingenuity, financial resources …to ease the pain and offer hope.  Second, we with more are called to imagine and build a future that is fairer, more just, and better prepared to face the pain that comes with continued rising temperatures.  Educating, Teaching, Planning Ahead. Holding Elected Leaders Accountable for their Actions and their Inaction.  


What a gift we could give each other if, as we approach the end of this year, we all were making this kind of turning.  The result?   More and more of us breathing easy.

 


Dave Wasserman, Rev. Dr., HR

Living in Taos, New Mexico

Copyright 2020, David H Wasserman

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Citizen Voices Make a Difference

 Taking Action for Public Lands in Utah 
Citizen Voices Make a Difference

This spring, Presbyterians for Earth Care became a member of the Utah Wilderness Coalition (UWC) www.protectwildutah.org, to join the national movement to protect 8.2 million acres of outstanding public lands in Utah as wilderness. Wilderness areas are important for spiritual renewal and remind us to practice humility in our relationship with God’s creation. Wild areas give glory to God in especially powerful ways. Why do the wild lands in Utah need help from groups like PEC throughout the country? Just a few of the reasons include:  

-Spectacular wilderness quality lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), many of which that surround National Parks like Canyonlands, Arches and Capitol Reef are unprotected and threatened by off-road vehicle use, oil and gas leasing, harmful ‘vegetation treatments” that increase cattle forage, and more. 
- These lands belong to all Americans, not just Utahans. 
-Utah’s members of Congress are notoriously anti-conservation and pro-extraction, even though the majority of Utahans favor protecting their public lands. 
-There is a strong movement in Utah to put more federal lands under state control which would translate into poor management that favors extractive uses. 

For many years, Senator Durbin (D-IL) and Rep Lowenthal (D-CA) have been champions of the America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act (ARRWA) bill to protect Utah’s wilderness quality lands for ecosystem health,  cultural resources, recreation and climate protection. The bill has helped to protect new wilderness. In 2019, new wilderness areas were established in the San Rafael Swell because the lands in ARRWA provided a clear negotiation starting point for the Public Lands Management Act. The three lead national organizations in the UWC are Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), National Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club. SUWA supports a national grassroots network, and organizes advocacy opportunities. Here are SUWA’s key advocacy opportunities for September.  

Thank Your Member of Congress for Stopping Oil and Gas Leases Near National Parks

In early August, the Bureau of Land announced that it will NOT offer oil and gas leases on 87,000 acres of public wildlands in Utah’s red rock country.  This includes parcels of land near Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef National Parks, and Bears Ears National Monument, as well as parcels located on lands proposed for wilderness in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.  This is a significant victory, and it is clearly in response to public outcry! 

 Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) sent separate letters to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt urging against leasing on the 87,000 acres.  Fifteen Senators joined Durbin’s letter  and 32 colleagues joined Representative Lowenthal’s letter.

 To thank your Senator(s) and/or Representative(s), you can use this link.  Feel free to personalize the message. THANK YOUS really help elected folks to feel good about what they did, and encourages them to do more of the same!

As a reminder about how egregious this sale would have been, here is a map of the 87,000 acres that were originally proposed for lease: 



Demand Congressional Oversight of BLM’s Vegetation Removal Program  
The BLM is casting aside public and independent scientific scrutiny of massive vegetation clear cuts across the Interior West. Under the guise of watershed or habitat enhancement up to 10,000 acres of Pinion-Juniper forests can be turned to mulch using chaining and bull hog masticators.  SUWA provided a webinar on this issue that you can view here Contact your Member of Congress and demand Congressional oversight on the devastating Bureau of Land Management practice of vegetation removal: wildutah.info/VGFB! Learn how Trump’s rollbacks of the National Environmental Policy Act have help to expand the BLM vegetation removal program here: https://suwa.org/wild-utah-podcast-episode-16-defanging-nepa/


Write a Letter to the Editor on BLM’s Vegetation Removal Program 

It is important to get visibility in the media for this critical, underreported issue.  If you willing to write a letter to the editor, here are  Messaging Points. Send your draft to dave@suwa.org or terri@suwa.org and they will review it for accuracy.

Ask Your Members of Congress to Cosponsor America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act, or Thank them for Doing So 

Although Congress is winding down before the election, you can thank your members of Congress for being a cosponsor of America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act or ask them to cosponsor if they haven’t yet. See if your Member of Congress has cosponsored here. Use this link to ask them to cosponsor https://secure2.convio.net/suwa/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=753&_ga=2.120712584.1489378489.1599025977-207731736.1590644208

Even more important will be encouraging newly elected members to cosponsor in 2021 after the bill has been reintroduced. 

 Join the Utah Wilderness Coalition as a Congregation – Congregations and faith organizations are welcome to become members of the Utah Wilderness Coalition. There is no expense involved and your involvement as a faith community helps underline the vital moral and spiritual dimension of protecting public lands. Fill out the form at www.protectwildutah.org and an organizer will follow up with you.