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Ruud Lubbers comment on Laudato Si’

22 June, 2015

By Ruud Lubbers

In 2015, the U.N. will agree on the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Conference of Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change will offer nations the opportunity to make a choice for Our Common Future. Pope Francis has just gone on record with Laudato Si’; the Encyclical Letter on Care for Our Common Home.

This gives me an immense joy. As a Roman Catholic, born in 1939, I have lived my life according to the teachings of Christ, my beliefs based on Love as His most important lesson. Also, I have been greatly influenced by Teilhard de Chardin, the Jesuit cited by the Pope in Laudato Si’, whose Le Phénomène Humain taught me in terms of science what our history and future is about.

During my life I have had the fortune to raise my children to become aware of our misbehavior in relation to nature. In that time, Europe – in particular the Rhine area with Rotterdam as its main port – was recovering from the Second World War and industrializing thanks to the generous American Marshall Plan. While recovery was impressive, it came at the cost of the environment and nature. It was an important lesson for me to respect nature, Our Common Home.

Almost 50 years ago, the Club of Rome published Limits to Growth and I entered politics to contribute to sustainable growth, prioritizing the quality of life above simply growth as an end in itself. It was what I thought my children, then teenagers, deserved.

Shortly after, I met Gro Harlem Brundtland, then the Environment Minister (in Norway), while I was at the time the Minister for the Economy (in the Netherlands).

Later, the two of us became Prime Ministers of our respective countries and were together in Rio de Janeiro at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, the Earth Summit in 1992, trying to give shape and substance to Our Common Future. It was there where NGOs and indigenous people convinced us to try and create the Earth Charter.

In the following years, people like Leonardo Boff, invited to go into silence by the Roman Catholic Church because of his Liberation theology, joined the effort, and now in 2015, the Pope, who chose to be named after Francis of Assisi, has written history with his Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’.

Only two generations after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Pope has made history by inviting mankind to the joyful celebration of life, contributing to the awareness needed to make a new start to achieve Our Common Future and to leave behind a period of self-destruction due to unsustainable growth and the lack of care for Our Common Home.

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Papal Encyclical on the environment: a call for compassionate Earth Behavior

Reflecting on the 15th anniversary of the Earth Charter, I am reminded of the values taught by St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis lived in accordance with the values formulated in the Earth Charter, long before the Earth Charter Document was written. And now, after so many centuries, these values are needed more than ever. Values such as logic and power seem to be outmoded. According to St. Francis, we should focus on relevant qualities such as self-knowledge, modesty and compassion. These qualities will lead to authentic behavior and will serve the environment and the Earth community.

St. Francis of Assisi, who was an inspiring leader with love and compassion, led his fraternity in extreme simplicity. He showed the world how much power is hidden in gentle values if they are exemplified in an individual’s lifestyle. These authentic Franciscan values are echoed by Pope Francis in his Papal Encyclical letter on the environment, “Laudato Si’: On the Care of our Common Home”, published the 18th of June 2015. In this letter, Pope Francis declares climate change and environmental protection as moral issues. He refers to the Earth as “our common home”; in fact, as written in The Earth Charter, it is our common destiny.

We should feel inspired by both St. Francis and Pope Francis. The urgent message of the Papal Encyclical to all of us should foster a new awareness within ourselves, as human beings related to Mother Earth. Being aware that the Earth is our only home should spur us to a generous, service-minded attitude towards others and the Earth. As stated by Angaangaq Angakkorsuaq, shaman and Eskimo-Kalaallit Elder from Greenland, “The Big Ice is melting and we can’t do anything about it. The only thing we can do, is melt the ice in the heart of men.” We have to see, hear, and feel with our hearts, in order to act with the power of compassion for the Earth and all living beings.

With this perspective we celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Earth Charter on Monday June 29th in The Netherlands
 
Brigitte van Baren
Earth Charter Affiliate Netherlands

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Elizabeth May: Why Pope Francis’s statement is important

WireService.ca Media Release (06/20/2015) Ottawa, ON – “It is increasingly odd to realize that the voices of the established order, sources of top-down control and out-dated structures, are suddenly allies. My experience for decades was to deride the International Monetary Fund ( IMF) for perverse “structural adjustment,” the World Bank for bad development, the International Energy Agency for focussing on expanding fossil fuel reserves, and the Vatican for policies so opposed to contraception as to ignore the threat of HIV-AIDs. I now find myself in the oddest of positions as a Canadian. They are all more progressive than my own government.

“The IMF and the World Bank are powerful allies in the fight to move off fossil fuels – calling for all governments to end fossil fuel subsidies and to place a price on carbon. The International Energy Agency is calling for two-thirds of all known reserves of fossil fuels to stay in the ground until at least 2050, to avoid a 2 degree C rise in global average temperatures. And now the Vatican is more aware of the science of climate change than is Stephen Harper. Galileo would be amazed.

“A Papal Encyclical is a rare event. And this one may be the most important ever. I urge all Canadians to read it, whether Catholic or atheist; Protestant, Jew, Muslim or pagan. It has something to say to us all.

“Its political intention is clear. We are six months from the opening of the deadline talks for the acceptance of a new, comprehensive international climate treaty. As the only Member of Parliament (other than Leona Aglukkaq) to have attended the negotiations in recent years, I have to admit that the prospects for an effective treaty are dim.

“Politicians make great speeches about increased ambition and the need for urgent action, but once behind closed doors their diplomats put on the brakes. The exception is Canada where politicians do not make great speeches and their negotiators put on the brakes. No question some nations and groups of nations are far more helpful than others. The EU has the most ambitious climate target, but ever since the economic disaster of 2008, in the talks its strength as a leader has been reduced. The US under Barak Obama is taking executive action to cut GHGs, but the State Department negotiators seem to be getting instructions from George Bush.

“In Warsaw at COP19, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, realizing the rate of progress was too slow, announced he would host a major UN climate summit in September 2014 to create more momentum for the COP 20 talks in Lima. The global citizens movement seized on his lead and mobilized the largest ever Peoples Climate Marches – all around the world, with 400,000 on the streets of New York the day before the U.N. climate summit. World leaders came to pledge action (not Stephen Harper, of course). But still, Lima sputtered.

“German Chancellor Angela Merkel understands the problem. She capitalized on her role as host of the G7 to make climate a focus. For the first time ever, the world’s largest industrialized countries have declared that our only way forward is to stop burning fossil fuels altogether. Sadly, and shamefully for Canadians, to get Stephen Harper to sign a communiqué using the word “decarbonisation” required shifting the deadline in the draft communiqué from “substantially by 2050” to “by 2100.”

“Any close observer of the talks will know that we need a miracle. Enter Pope Francis.

“His 74 page open letter to the world is vast in its ambition. It is largely focused on the need for climate action. He places the climate crisis in both scientific and moral terms. The over one billion Roman Catholics in the world will have to take heed – but so too should those of no faith. For in his science he is repeating what the IPCC, IMF, World Bank, IEA, OECD and others have said.

“In his appeal to a moral response to the crisis, he also has something important to say to those of no faith. Any observers of our current crisis know that consumerism and greed are at the heart of it. We face a deeply moral challenge at many levels. The industrialized and wealthy world is in no position to say “treat all countries the same.” We have created a crisis and those most at risk are the least responsible and most vulnerable. As his Holiness writes “the cries of the earth and the cries of the poor are the same.”

“Another dimension of the moral challenge is inter-generational. How can we in our generation condemn our own children and their children to an increasingly unlivable world?

“But the Pontiff takes the issue more directly to our current culture. The encyclical takes aim at consumer culture where throwing something away is done without a thought. “Reusing something instead of immediately discarding it, when done for the right reasons, can be an act of love which expresses our own dignity.” (211)

“I was deeply moved to find words I had helped draft from the Earth Charter:

“As never before in history, common destiny beckons us to seek a new beginning…Let ours be remembered for the awakening of a new reverence for life, the firm resolve to achieve sustainability, the quickening of the struggle for justice and peace and the joyful celebration of life.” (207)

“The six Global Green Values were distilled from the Earth Charter. I was honoured to be an Earth Charter Commissioner, working with an extraordinary group from around the world. The Green Party at our roots is tied to the Earth Charter.

“So now we have a voice, one with whom we will never agree on everything. Not surprisingly, the encyclical inserts an argument against abortion. Still there is far more to be embraced than rejected in a call for a greater recognition that we must embrace each other as a human family with a shared destiny and a common home. The call for inter-religious dialogue and respect across cultures and beliefs is powerful. Let us all take it to heart.”

For additional information or to arrange an interview, contact:

Julian Morelli
Director of Communications
Green Party of Canada
cell: (613) 614 4916
office: (613) 562 4916 (224)
julian.morelli@greenparty.ca

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Fritjof Capra: Laudato Si’ — The Ecological Ethics and Systemic Thought of Pope Francis

22 June, 2015

The title of the Pope’s new encyclical, Laudato Si’ (“Praise Be to You”), dated May 24, 2015, and published in eight languages on June 18, is an Umbrian phrase from the famous religious song “Canticle of the Sun” by Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology. The encyclical’s subtitle, “On Care for our Common Home,” refers to the Earth as oikos (“home”), the Greek root of the word “ecology,” while caring (curando in Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese) is a practice characteristic of the liberation theology of Latin America.

The text of the Papal encyclical, one year in the making and written with the help of a large team of theologians, philosophers, and scientists, reveals not only the great moral authority of Pope Francis, but also his complete familiarity with many concepts and ideas in contemporary science.

During the last thirty years, a new conception of life has emerged at the forefront of science — a unifying view that integrates life’s biological, cognitive, social, and ecological dimensions. At the very core of this new understanding of life we find a profound change of metaphors: from seeing the world as a machine to understanding it as a network. This new science of life is now being developed by outstanding researchers and their teams around the world. Their concepts and ideas are integrated into a grand synthesis in The Systems View of Life, a textbook I coauthored with Pier Luigi Luisi and which was published in 2014 by Cambridge University Press.

We call the new conception of life a “systems view” because it involves a new kind of thinking — thinking in terms of connectedness, relationships, patterns, and context. In science, this way of thinking is known as “systems thinking,” or “systemic thinking,” because it is crucial to understanding living systems of any kind — living organisms, social systems, or ecosystems.

The systems view of life will be the conceptual basis of my analysis of the Pope’s encyclical in this essay. I will show that the radical ethics championed by Pope Francis, expressed sometimes, but not always, in theological language, is essentially the ethics of deep ecology, the philosophical school founded by Arne Naess in the 1970s. I will also show with many examples that Pope Francis reveals himself in Laudato Si’ as a truly systemic thinker.

Ethics and the common good

From a systems perspective, ethical behavior is always related to community; it is behavior for the common good. In today’s world, there are two relevant communities to which we all belong. We are all members of humanity, and we all belong to the Earth Household, the global biosphere. As members of the human community, our behavior should reflect a respect of human dignity and basic human rights. As members of the Earth Household, our “common home,“ we should not interfere with nature’s inherent ability to sustain life. This is the essential meaning of ecological sustainability.

The defining characteristic of deep ecology is a shift from anthropocentric (human-centered) values to ecocentric (earth-centered) values. It is a worldview that acknowledges the inherent value of non-human life, recognizing that all living beings are members of ecological communities, bound together in networks of interdependencies. All these considerations, and the radically new system of ethics they imply, are clearly expressed in the Papal encyclical, as shown in the following passages.

156. Human ecology is inseparable from the notion of the common good, a central and unifying principle of social ethics.

95. The natural environment is a collective good, the patrimony of all humanity and the responsibility of everyone. If we make something our own, it is only to administer it for the good of all.

157. Society as a whole, and the state in particular, are obliged to defend and promote the common good.

5. Authentic human development has a moral character. It presumes full respect for the human person, but it must also be concerned for the world around us and “take into account the nature of each being and of its mutual connection in an ordered system.”

33. It is not enough…to think of different species merely as potential “resources” to be exploited, while overlooking the fact that they have value in themselves… Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right.

42. Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another.

159. The notion of the common good also extends to future generations. The global economic crises have made painfully obvious the detrimental effects of disregarding our common destiny, which cannot exclude those who come after us… We can no longer speak of sustainable development apart from intergenerational solidarity… Intergenerational solidarity is not optional, but rather a basic question of justice, since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us.

162. Our difficulty in taking up this challenge seriously has much to do with an ethical and cultural decline which has accompanied the deterioration of the environment.

The values of deep ecology and their implications for building a just, sustainable, and peaceful world are elaborated in terms of sixteen ethical principles in the Earth Charter, a unique document mentioned by Pope Francis explicitly as a source of inspiration:

207. The Earth Charter asked us to leave behind a period of self-destruction and make a new start, but we have not as yet developed a universal awareness needed to achieve this. Here, I would echo that courageous challenge: “As never before in history, common destiny beckons us to seek a new beginning… Let ours be a time remembered for the awakening of a new reverence for life, the firm resolve to achieve sustainability, the quickening of the struggle for justice and peace, and the joyful celebration of life.”

Science and religion

It is impressive that throughout the document, Pope Francis uses contemporary scientific language with complete ease. Technical terms like “paradigm,” “reductionism,” “microorganisms,” “subatomic particles,” “quantum leap,” etc. appear again and again. To cite just one example, in paragraph 18 the Pope notes the contrast between the hectic pace of modern life and the much slower pace of evolution:

18. Although change is part of the working of complex systems, the speed with which human activity has developed contrasts with the naturally slow pace of biological evolution.

In view of the wide-spread questioning of evolution by Christian fundamentalists, especially in the United States, the Pope’s matter-of-fact reference to biological evolution, without any need for further comments, is truly remarkable. In fact, Pope Francis states at the outset of his analysis of the state of the world that it is based on solid science:

15. I will begin by briefly reviewing several aspects of the present ecological crisis, with the aim of drawing on the results of the best scientific research available today, letting them touch us deeply and provide a concrete foundation for the ethical and spiritual itinerary that follows.

In the history of Christianity, theological statements about the nature of the world, or about human nature, were often considered as literal truths, and any attempt to question or modify them was deemed heretical. This rigid position of the Church led to the well-known conflicts between science and fundamentalist Christianity, which have continued to the present day. In these conflicts, antagonistic positions are often taken on by fundamentalists on both sides who fail to keep in mind the limited and approximate nature of all scientific theories, on the one hand, and the metaphorical and symbolic nature of the language in religious scriptures, on the other. Pope Francis seems to be well aware of this problem, and explicitly emphasizes the symbolic nature of religious language:

66. The creation accounts in the book of Genesis contain, in their own symbolic and narrative language, profound teachings about human existence and its historical reality.

In fact, Francis uses religious language mainly in connection with ethics, arguing that caring for the common good is valuable whether or not it is motivated by religious faith:

199. It would be quite simplistic to think that ethical principles present themselves purely in the abstract, detached from any context. Nor does the fact that they may be couched in religious language detract from their value in public debate. The ethical principles capable of being apprehended by reason can always reappear in different guise and find expression in a variety of languages, including religious language.

“Integral ecology”

The systems view of life, integrating life’s biological, cognitive, social, and ecological dimensions, is implicit in the conceptual framework of Laudato Si’. The Pope states explicitly that that solving our global problems requires a new way of thinking, and he makes clear that what he has in mind is thinking in terms of connectedness and relationships — in other words, systemic thinking:

215. Our efforts at education will be inadequate and ineffectual unless we strive to promote a new way of thinking about human beings, life, society and our relationship with nature.

79. In this universe, shaped by open and intercommunicating systems, we can discern countless forms of relationship and participation.

138. It cannot be emphasized enough how everything is interconnected. Time and space are not independent of one another, and not even atoms or subatomic particles can be considered in isolation.

Pope Francis uses the term “integral ecology” to refer to the systemic approach, and he emphasizes especially the interdependence of ecological and social issues, as well as the need to respect and honor local, indigenous cultures:

137. Since everything is closely interrelated, and today’s problems call for a vision capable of taking into account every aspect of the global crisis, I suggest that we now consider some elements of an integral ecology, one which clearly respects its human and social dimensions.

49. Today…we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.

143. Together with the patrimony of nature, there is also an historic, artistic and cultural patrimony which is likewise under threat… Ecology, then, also involves protecting the cultural treasures of humanity in the broadest sense. More specifically, it calls for greater attention to local cultures.

146. In this sense, it is essential to show special care for indigenous communities and their cultural traditions. They are not merely one minority among others, but should be the principal dialogue partners, especially when large projects affecting their land are proposed.
In his encyclical, the Pope not only emphasizes the values and ethics of deep ecology but also shows his “ecological literacy” — his understanding of the principles of organization of nature’s ecosystems — as, for example, in the following passages.

34. It may well disturb us to learn of the extinction of mammals or birds, since they are more visible. But the good functioning of ecosystems also requires fungi, algae, worms, insects, reptiles and an innumerable variety of microorganisms.

22. It is hard for us to accept that the way natural ecosystems work is exemplary: plants synthesize nutrients which feed herbivores; these in turn become food for carnivores, which produce significant quantities of organic waste which give rise to new generations of plants.

140. Although we are often not aware of it, we depend on these [ecosystems] for our own existence. We need only recall how ecosystems interact in dispersing carbon dioxide, purifying water, controlling illnesses and epidemics, forming soil, breaking down waste, and in many other ways which we overlook or simply do not know about… So, when we speak of “sustainable use,” consideration must always be given to each ecosystem’s regenerative ability in its different areas and aspects.

The state of the world

The encyclical is composed of six chapters. In the first chapter, Pope Francis presents his assessment of the state of the world — “what is happening to our common home,” as he puts it. Today, there is a broad consensus among scholars, community leaders, and activists that the major problems of our time — energy, environment, climate change, inequity, violence and war — cannot be understood in isolation. They are systemic problems, which means that they are all interconnected and interdependent. Pope Francis fully agrees with this fundamental insight:

61. The world’s problems cannot be analyzed or explained in isolation.

139. We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental.

175. The same mindset which stands in the way of making radical decisions to reverse the trend of global warming also stands in the way of achieving the goal of eliminating poverty.

The fact that the major problems of our time are systemic problems implies that they require corresponding systemic solutions — solutions that do not solve any problem in isolation but deal with it within the context of other related problems. Unfortunately, this is not understood by our political and corporate leaders, most of whom are unable to “connect the dots,” to use a popular phrase.

Instead of taking into account the interconnectedness of our major problems, their so-called “solutions” tend to focus on a single issue, thereby simply shifting the problem to another part of the system — for example, by producing more energy at the expense of biodiversity, public health, or climate stability. Pope Francis is very critical of this serious shortcoming:

20. Technology, which, linked to business interests, is presented as the only way of solving these problems, in fact proves incapable of seeing the mysterious network of relations between things and so sometimes solves one problem only to create others.

111. To seek only a technical remedy to each environmental problem which comes up is to separate what is in reality interconnected and to mask the true and deepest problems of the global system.

The Pope also recognizes clearly that systems thinking — or “integral ecology,” in his words — is inherently multidisciplinary. Hence he strongly advocates a multidisciplinary approach for solving our major global problems:

110. The fragmentation of knowledge proves helpful for concrete applications, and yet it often leads to a loss of appreciation for the whole, for the relationships between things, and for the broader horizon, which then becomes irrelevant. This very fact makes it hard to find adequate ways of solving the more complex problems of today’s world, particularly those regarding the environment and the poor; these problems cannot be dealt with from a single perspective or from a single set of interests.

197. What is needed is a politics which is far-sighted and capable of a new, integral and interdisciplinary approach to handling the different aspects of the crisis.

63. Given the complexity of the ecological crisis and its multiple causes, we need to realize that the solutions will not emerge from just one way of interpreting and transforming reality. Respect must also be shown for the various cultural riches of different peoples, their art and poetry, their interior life and spirituality.

The illusion of perpetual growth

At the very heart of our global crisis lies the illusion that unlimited growth is possible on a finite planet. Economic and corporate growth are the driving forces of global capitalism, the dominant economic system today. In this economic system, the irrational belief in perpetual growth is carried on relentlessly by promoting excessive consumption and a throw-away economy that is energy and resource intensive, generating waste and pollution, and depleting the Earth’s natural resources.

Moreover, these environmental problems are exacerbated by global climate change, caused by our energy-intensive and fossil-fuel-based technologies.

Pope Francis clearly recognizes the fatal flaw of the idea of perpetual growth, and he uses strong words to condemn it, calling it a lie rather than an illusion:

106. We are the ones to lay our hands on things, attempting to extract everything possible from them while frequently ignoring or forgetting the reality in front of us… This has made it easy to accept the idea of infinite or unlimited growth, which proves so attractive to economists, financiers and experts in technology. It is based on the lie that there is an infinite supply of the earth’s goods, and this leads to the planet being squeezed dry beyond every limit.

The Pope also associates the illusion of unlimited growth with the linear, one-dimensional notion of progress:

194. Put simply, it is a matter of redefining our notion of progress. A technological and economic development which does not leave in its wake a better world and an integrally higher quality of life cannot be considered progress.

It seems, then, that our key challenge is how to shift from an economic system based on the notion of unlimited growth to one that is both ecologically sustainable and socially just. Growth is a central characteristic of all life, but growth in nature is not linear and unlimited. While certain parts of organisms, or ecosystems, grow, others decline, releasing and recycling their components which become resources for new growth.

This kind of balanced, multi-faceted, or “qualitative” growth is well known to biologists and ecologists, and this is exactly what the Pope advocates:

193. We need also to think of containing growth by setting some reasonable limits and even retracing our steps before it is too late… That is why the time has come to accept decreased growth in some parts of the world, in order to provide resources for other places to experience healthy growth.

More generally, Pope Francis pleads for an economics grounded in ecology and designed to mimic the ecological cycles we observe in nature:

141. Economic growth, for its part, tends to produce predictable reactions and a certain standardization with the aim of simplifying procedures and reducing costs. This suggests the need for an “economic ecology” capable of appealing to a broader vision of reality.

22. Our industrial system, at the end of its cycle of production and consumption, has not developed the capacity to absorb and reuse waste and by-products. We have not yet managed to adopt a circular model of production capable of preserving resources for present and future generations, while limiting as much as possible the use of non-renewable resources, moderating their consumption, maximizing their efficient use, reusing and recycling them.

Among the symptoms of our global crisis, climate change and economic inequality are perhaps the most urgent ones. Pope Francis addresses both of them in some detail in his encyclical. In addition, he discusses the dramatic rise in resource depletion and species extinction. He pays particular attention to the scarcity of fresh drinking water and unequivocally condemns the privatization of water:

30. Even as the quality of available water is constantly diminishing, in some places there is a growing tendency, despite its scarcity, to privatize this resource, turning it into a commodity subject to the laws of the market. Yet access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights.

Climate change

Climate change is discussed in paragraphs 23–26 and in paragraphs 165 and 169 of the text in a way that accurately reflects the broad scientific consensus existing today. This should not be surprising because one of our leading climate scientists, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, was a key scientific adviser to the Pope for many months during the drafting of Laudato Si’.

The section on climate change begins (in paragraph 23) with the moral exhortation that “the climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all.” This is followed by brief discussions of global warming, “due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity.” The intensive use of fossil fuels and deforestation for agricultural purposes are mentioned as two key sources of greenhouse gases.

The many consequences of climate change discussed include the constant rise in sea levels and the increase of extreme weather conditions (23); the decrease of the planet’s biodiversity and the acidification of the oceans, compromising the marine food chain (24); and the tragic rise in the number of climate refugees (25).

This analysis is followed by the Pope’s urgent appeal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and, eventually, to phase out fossil fuels:

26. There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy. Worldwide there is minimal access to clean and renewable energy.

165. We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels – especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas – needs to be progressively replaced without delay.

Finally, Pope Francis bemoans the slow progress in developing effective climate policies and clearly denounces the situation as a moral failure:

169. With regard to climate change, the advances have been regrettably few. Reducing greenhouse gases requires honesty, courage and responsibility, above all on the part of those countries which are more powerful and pollute the most… International negotiations cannot make significant progress due to positions taken by countries which place their national interests above the global common good. Those who will have to suffer the consequences of what we are trying to hide will not forget this failure of conscience and responsibility.
Economic inequality

Throughout the encyclical, Pope Francis emphasizes the interdependence of environmental and social degradation. He lists numerous signs of the devastating social impact of economic globalization, paying special attention to economic inequality:
48. The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together; we cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to causes related to human and social degradation. In fact, the deterioration of the environment and of society affects the most vulnerable people on the planet.

46. The social dimensions of global change include the effects of technological innovations on employment, social exclusion, an inequitable distribution and consumption of energy and other services, social breakdown, increased violence and a rise in new forms of social aggression, drug trafficking, growing drug use by young people, and the loss of identity. These are signs that the growth of the past two centuries has not always led to an integral development and an improvement in the quality of life. Some of these signs are also symptomatic of real social decline, the silent rupture of the bonds of integration and social cohesion.

51. Inequity affects not only individuals but entire countries; it compels us to consider an ethics of international relations. A true “ecological debt” exists, particularly between the global north and south, connected to commercial imbalances with effects on the environment, and the disproportionate use of natural resources by certain countries over long periods of time… “We note that often the businesses which operate this way are multinationals.”

Perhaps the only unconvincing section of the encyclical is paragraph 50 where Pope Francis tries to downplay the importance of stabilizing population. This is perhaps not surprising, given the Church’s staunch opposition to birth control. It is especially unfortunate, however, in view of the fact that demographers have documented again and again the strong correlation between declining birth rates and women’s rights, in particular access to education. This would have given the Pope another opportunity to emphasize the interdependence of ecological balance and social justice, which is one of the main themes of his encyclical.

Need for a global consensus

At the end of his wide-ranging systemic and ethical analysis of the state of the world, Pope Francis concludes that we need a global consensus for effective action:

164. A global consensus is essential for confronting the deeper problems, which cannot be resolved by unilateral actions on the part of individual countries. Such a consensus could lead, for example, to planning a sustainable and diversified agriculture, developing renewable and less polluting forms of energy, encouraging a more efficient use of energy, promoting a better management of marine and forest resources, and ensuring universal access to drinking water.

The Pope decries the lack of political leadership to achieve the urgently needed global consensus, and he does not hesitate to name wide-spread political corruption, often institutionalized, as the main culprit:

54. It is remarkable how weak international political responses have been. The failure of global summits on the environment make it plain that our politics are subject to technology and finance. There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected.

178. A politics concerned with immediate results, supported by consumerist sectors of the population, is driven to produce short-term growth. In response to electoral interests, governments are reluctant to upset the public with measures which could affect the level of consumption or create risks for foreign investment. The myopia of power politics delays the inclusion of a far-sighted environmental agenda within the overall agenda of governments.

182. The forms of corruption which conceal the actual environmental impact of a given project, in exchange for favours, usually produce specious agreements which fail to inform adequately and to allow for full debate.

Throughout his encyclical, Pope Francis praises the actions of the global network of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), known as the global civil society, to raise public awareness and develop systemic solutions in a variety of areas:

13. Here I want to recognize, encourage and thank all those striving in countless ways to guarantee the protection of the home which we share. Particular appreciation is owed to those who tirelessly seek to resolve the tragic effects of environmental degradation on the lives of the world’s poorest. Young people demand change.

14. The worldwide ecological movement has already made considerable progress and led to the establishment of numerous organizations committed to raising awareness of these challenges.

38. We cannot fail to praise the commitment of international agencies and civil society organizations which draw public attention to these issues and offer critical cooperation, employing legitimate means of pressure, to ensure that each government carries out its proper and inalienable responsibility to preserve its country’s environment and natural resources, without capitulating to spurious local or international interests.

166. Worldwide, the ecological movement has made significant advances, thanks also to the efforts of many organizations of civil society. It is impossible here to mention them all, or to review the history of their contributions. But thanks to their efforts, environmental questions have increasingly found a place on public agendas and encouraged more far-sighted approaches.

In the end, the Pope asserts unequivocally that the only effective way to develop appropriate environmental and social policies will be through political pressure of grassroots movements on governments at all levels:

179. Society, through non-governmental organizations and intermediate groups, must put pressure on governments to develop more rigorous regulations, procedures and controls. Unless citizens control political power – national, regional and municipal – it will not be possible to control damage to the environment.

With this encyclical Pope Francis has single-handedly brought the Catholic Church to the forefront of the ecology movement and has established himself as a true world leader in the mold of Václav Havel, Jimmy Carter, or the Dalai Lama. We can only hope that the wisdom and passion of Laudato Si’ will resonate strongly around the world.

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Article by Leonardo Boff on the Pope’s Encyclical

The Magna Carta of integral ecology:
Cry of the Earth, Cry of the poor

By Leonardo Boff,  theologist and ecologist

Before making any comment it is worth highlighting some peculiarities of the Laudato Si’ encyclical of Pope Francis.

It is the first time a Pope has addressed the issue of ecology in the sense of an integral ecology (as it goes beyond the environment) in such a complete way. Big surprise: he elaborates the subject on the new ecological paradigm, which no official document of the UN has done so far.

He bases his writing on the safest data from the life sciences and Earth. He reads the data affectionately (with a sensitive or cordial intelligence), as he discerns that behind them hides human tragedy and suffering, and for Mother Earth as. The current situation is serious, but Pope Francis always finds reasons for hope and trust that human beings can find viable solutions. He links to the Popes who preceded him, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, quoting them frequently.

And something absolutely new: the text is part of collegiality, as it values the contributions of dozens of bishops’ conferences around the world, from the US to Germany, Brazil, Patagonia-Comahue, and Paraguay. He gathers the contributions of other thinkers, such as Catholics Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Romano Guardini, Dante Alighieri, the Argentinian maestro Juan Carlos Scannone, Protestant Paul Ricoeur and the Sufi Muslim Ali Al-Khawwas. The recipients are all of us human beings, we are all inhabitants of the same common home (commonly used term by the Pope) and suffer the same threats.

Pope Francis does not write as a Master or Doctor of faith, but as a zealous pastor who cares for the common home of all beings, not just humans, that inhabit it.

One element deserves to be highlighted, as it reveals the “forma mentis” (the way he organizes his thinking) of Pope Francis. This is a contribution of the pastoral and theological experience of Latin American churches in the light of the documents of Latin American Bishops (CELAM) in Medellin (1968), Puebla (1979) and Aparecida (2007), that were an option for the poor against poverty and in favor of liberation.

The wording and tone of the encyclical are typical of Pope Francis, and the ecological culture that he has accumulated, but I also realize that many expressions and ways of speaking refer to what is being thought and written mainly in Latin America. The themes of the “common home”, of “Mother Earth”, the “cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor”, the “care” of the “interdependence of all beings”, of the “poor and vulnerable”, the “paradigm shift,” the “human being as Earth” that feels, thinks, loves and reveres, the ” integral ecology” among others, are recurrent among us.

The structure of the encyclical follows the methodological ritual used by our churches and theological reflection linked to the practice of liberation, now taken over and consecrated by the Pope: see, judge, act and celebrate.

First, he begins revealing his main source of inspiration: St. Francis of Assisi, whom he calls “the quintessential example of comprehensive care and ecology, who showed special concern for the poor and the abandoned” (n.10, n.66).

Then he moves on to see “What is happening in our home” (nn.17-61). The Pope says, “just by looking at the reality with sincerity we can see that there is a deterioration of our common home” (n.61). This part incorporates the most consistent data on climate change (nn.20-22), the issue of water (n.27-31), erosion of biodiversity (nn.32-42), the deterioration of the quality of human life and the degradation of social life (nn.43-47), he denounces the high rate of planetary inequality, which affects all areas of life (nn.48-52), with the poor as its main victims (n. 48).

In this part there is a phrase which refers to the reflection made in Latin America: “Today we cannot ignore that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach and should integrate justice in discussions on the environment to hear both the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor “(n.49). Then he adds: “the cries of the Earth join the cries of the abandoned of this world” (n.53). This is quite consistent since the beginning he has said that “we are Earth” (No. 2; cf. Gen 2.7.). Very much in line with the great singer and poet Argentine indigenous Atahualpa Yupanqui: “humans beings are the Earth walking, feeling, thinking and loving.”

He condemns the proposed internationalization of the Amazon that “only serves the interests of multinationals” (n.38). There is a great statement of ethical force, “it is severely grave to obtain significant benefits making the rest of humanity, present and future, pay for the high costs of environmental degradation” (n.36).

He acknowledges with sadness: “We had never mistreated and offended our common home as much as in the last two centuries” (n.53). Faced with this human offensive against Mother Earth that many scientists have denounced as the beginning of a new geological era -the anthropocene- he regrets the weakness of the powers of this world, that deceived, “believed that everything can continue as it is, as an alibi to “maintain its self-destructive habits” (n.59) with “a behavior that seems suicidal” (n.55).

Prudently, he recognizes the diversity of opinions (nn.60-61) and that “there is no single way to solve the problem” (n.60). However, “it is true that the global system is unsustainable from many points of view because we have stopped thinking about the purpose of human action (n.61) and we get lost in the construction of means for unlimited accumulation at the expense of ecological injustice (degradation of ecosystems) and social injustice (impoverishment of populations). Mankind simply disappointed the divine hope”(n.61).

The urgent challenge, then, is “to protect our common home” (n.13); and for that we need, quoting Pope John Paul II, “a global ecological conversion” (n.5); “A culture of caring that permeates all of society” (n.231). Once the seeing dimension is realized, the dimension of judgment prevails. This judging is done in two aspects, the scientific and the theological.

Let´s see the scientific. The encyclical devoted the entire third chapter to the analysis “of the human root of the ecological crisis” (nn.101-136). Here the Pope proposes to analyze techno-science, without prejudice, recognizing what it has brought such as “precious things to improve the quality of human life” (n. 103). But this is not the problem, it is independence submitted to the economy, politics and nature in view of the accumulation of material goods (cf.n.109). Techno-science nourishes a mistaken assumption that there is an “infinite availability of goods in the world” (n.106), when we know that we have surpassed the physical limits of the Earth and that much of the goods and services are not renewable. Techno-science has turned into technocracy, which has become a real dictatorship with a firm logic of domination over everything and everyone (n.108).

The great illusion, dominant today, lies in believing that techno-science can solve all environmental problems. This is a misleading idea because it “involves isolating the things that are always connected” (n.111). In fact, “everything is connected” (n.117), “everything is related” (n.120), a claim that appears throughout the encyclical text as a refrain, as it is a key concept of the contemporary paradigm. The great limitation of technocracy is “knowledge fragmentation and losing the sense of wholeness” (n.110). The worst thing is “not to recognize the intrinsic value of every being and even denying a peculiar value to the human being” (n.118).

The intrinsic value of each being, even if it is minuscule, is permanently highlighted in the encyclical (N.69), as it is in the Earth Charter. By denying the intrinsic value we are preventing “each being to communicate its message and to give glory to God” (n.33).

The largest deviation of technocracy is anthropocentrism. This means an illusion that things have value only insofar as they are ordered to human use, forgetting that its existence is valuable by itself (n.33). If it is true that everything is related, then “we humans are united as brothers and sisters and join with tender affection to Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Brother river and Mother Earth” (n.92). How can we expect to dominate them and view them within the narrow perspective of domination by humans?

All these “ecological virtues” (n.88) are lost by the will of power and domination of others to nature. We live a distressing “loss of meaning of life and the desire to live together” (n.110). He sometimes quotes the Italian-German theologist Romano Guardini (1885-1968), one of the most read in the middle of last century, who wrote a critical book against the claims of the modernity (n.105 note 83: Das Ende der Neuzeit, The decline of the Modern Age, 1958).

The other side of judgment is the theological. The encyclical reserves an important space for the “Gospel of Creation” (nos. 62-100). It begins justifying the contribution of religions and Christianity, as it is global crisis, each instance must, with its religious capital contribute to the care of the Earth (n.62). He does not insists in doctrines but on the wisdom in various spiritual paths. Christianity prefers to speak of creation rather than nature, because “creation is related to a project of love of God” (n.76). He quotes, more than once, a beautiful text of the Book of Wisdom (21.24) where it is clear that “the creation of the order of love” (n.77) and God emerges as “the Lord lover of life “(Wis 11:26).

The text opens for an evolutionary view of the universe without using the word, but through a circumlocution referring to the universe “consisting of open systems that come into communion with each other” (n.79). It uses the main texts that link Christ incarnated and risen with the world and with the whole universe, making all matters of the Earth sacred (n.83). In this context he quotes Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955, n.83 note 53) as a precursor of this cosmic vision. The fact that Trinity-God is divine and it related with people means that all things are related resonances of the divine Trinity (n.240).

The Encyclical quotes the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of the Orthodox Church who “recognizes that sins against creation are sins against God” (n.7). Hence the urgency of a collective ecological conversion to repair the lost harmony.

The encyclical concludes well with this part “The analysis showed the need for a change of course … we must escape the spiral of self-destruction in which we are sinking” (n.163). It is not a reform, but, citing the Earth Charter, to seek “a new beginning” (n.207). The interdependence of all with all leads us to believe “in one world with a common project” (n.164).

Since reality has many aspects, all closely related, Pope Francis proposes an “integral ecology” that goes beyond the environmental ecology to which we are accustomed (n.137). It covers all areas, the environmental, economic, social, cultural and everyday life (n.147-148). Never forget the poor who also testify to the living human and social ecology ties of belonging and solidarity with each other (n.149).

The third methodological step is to act. In this part, the Encyclical observes the major issues of the international, national and local politics (nn.164-181). It stresses the interdependence of social and educational aspects with the ecological and sadly states the difficulties that bring the prevalence of technocracy, creating difficulties for the changes needed to restrain the greed of accumulation and consumption, that can be re-opened (n.141). He mentions again the theme of economics and politics that should serve the common good and create conditions for a possible human fulfillment (n.189-198). He re-emphasizes the dialogue between science and religion, as it has been suggested by the great biologist Edward O.Wilson (cf. the book Creation: How to save life on Earth, 2008). All religions “should seek the care of nature and the defense of the poor” (n.201).

Still in the aspect of acting, he challenges education in the sense of creating “ecological citizenship” (n.211) and a new lifestyle, based on caring, compassion, shared sobriety, the alliance between humanity and the environment, since both are umbilically linked, and the co-responsibility for everything that exists and lives and our common destiny (nn.203-208).

Finally, the time to celebrate. The celebration takes place in a context of “ecological conversion” (n.216), it involves an “ecological spirituality” (n.216). This stems not so much from theological doctrines but the motivations that faith arises to take care of the common home and “nurture a passion for caring for the world” (216). Such a mystical experience is what mobilizes people to live in ecological balance, “to those who are solidary inside themselves, with others, with nature and with all living and spiritual beings and God” (n.210). It appears to be the truth that “less is more” and that we can be happy with little. In the sense of celebrating “the world is more than something to be solved, it is a joyous mystery to be contemplated in joy and with love” (n.12).

The tender and fraternal spirit of St. Francis of Assisi is present through the entire text of the encyclical Laudato Si’. The current situation does not mean an announced tragedy, but a challenge for us to care for the common home and for each other. The text highlights poetry and joy in the Spirit and indestructible hope that if the threat is big, greater is the opportunity for solving our environmental problems.

The text poetically ends with the words “Beyond the Sun”, saying: “let’s walk singing. That our struggles and our concerns about this planet do not take away our joy of hope “(n.244).

I would like to end with the final words of the Earth Charter which the Pope quotes himself (n.207): ” Let ours be a time remembered for the awakening of a new reverence for life, the firm resolve to achieve sustainability, the quickening of the struggle for justice and peace, and the joyful celebration of life.¨

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Guest blog from Earth Charter Youth: A letter to a friend

Guest blog from Ayla van Kessel, Earth Charter Youth, Netherlands

In anticipation of the Climate Summit COP21 taking place in Paris this December, Earth Charter youth member Ayla van Kessel travelled to Brussels. There, around 100 people passionate to contribute to climate justice met to talk about ideas for different projects. What can Earth Charter values bring to an event around climate activism and direct action? By way of this blog, Ayla reflects on her contributions to the gathering. And how she sees theories of transition and holism apply in the practice of systemic change for climate justice.

Ayla studied Economics for Transition (2013/14) at Schumacher College, international centre offering transformative learning for sustainable living. Her favourite Earth Charter phrase: It starts with one.

A letter to a friend

2 February 2015

Dear,

In the bus back home, from Brussels to Amsterdam, I take a moment to reflect on the experience we shared these past few days. All weekend, I thought I was not an activist of direct action. I think I found out I am. My direct action is the action of writing this letter to you. I have seen a change of your personality at the cost of your peace of mind, and this change concerns me. More than climate change concerns me. I decided to take a moment to write to you because to the extent you are worried for the future of our climate and humanity, I am worried for our present. 

I recall entering the space on Friday afternoon. A large concrete building, a former bus repair depot, poorly heated and with no windows. For the occasion, a mobile kitchen and gas heaters. All coated in winter gear, we meet everyone else who came to this place to discuss all of our ideas around direct activism for the next Climate Summit. You and I – we are part of a team. Yet up to now we haven’t had much chance to really check in with each other.

In one of the plenary sessions, I recall Sara crying out with a big smile on her face: “We’re probably going to be smashed!” Do you remember this as well? A special moment. A moment of group recognition that our efforts to change status quo are oh so often ignored, misinterpreted, smashed. Sara was one of the most vibrant participants this past weekend, wasn’t she? It was nice meeting her. Someone who just doesn’t lose hope and enjoys the ride. Understanding that her protests and ludic actions are nudges of which the direct impact is difficult to track, she wants to try and try for more, and maintains the smile. So determined to make the change. And so are you. Also, you maintain your smile. It strikes me as a different kind of smile. You have become so involved in the fight for climate justice, that you have become a fighter.

“Systems change, not climate change!” Everybody here is aware that we, all people together, form the system. This awareness that each of us influences the system, is why we feel called to stand up to change it. The recognition that each interaction and transaction influences the system, is why we gather low-budget, low-carbon, and in welcoming fashion. Whilst everyone in (explicit) power positions goes through diverse processes of coming to their senses on setting the right priorities for the community of life; we will live by our values. We listen, collaborate, share. We do this in the understanding that changes are happening all the time – whether they concern policy, culture, and behaviour, the climate, individual wellbeing. One event may have many effects. One cause is affected by many events. Climate change is caused by a complex system of events and beliefs. Climate change is causing many events and beliefs.

It is worthwhile to find out to what extent climate change is changing me. To what extent a system defines me and my choices in life. With that, it is worthwhile to find out to what extent we have internalized the currently prevailing culture of exploitation of natural and human resources into our own ways of doing things. As activists, so often we exploit ourselves, even when we think it is voluntary rather than reactionary. Without climate change, what would the both of us have been doing over the past weekend? I understand now, climate change changes me. Each day. It changes you. And I would like us to be aware of these changes, and to assess if they are changing us in a direction we want to go. I would like us to consider whether future climate justice is becoming a trade-off for our own current wellbeing, our autonomy, our authenticity. I don’t believe in trade-offs.

I know you as a loving person. A lover of people, the planet, of life. Is the fight for climate justice, the fight for anything, nurturing your love, your identity? Your great sense of responsibility, it can be satisfied in a way that brings you peace, not war. Fighting is one option in a grand spectrum of choices. And to some people combat indeed nurtures their creativity and peace of mind. It’s not the same for everybody, and I believe no sacrifice has to be made to harmonize the satisfaction of all living needs.

“Systems change, not climate change!” Let’s shout it from the roof tops. Let’s write it on the skyline. To first and foremost remind ourselves. That we are the system. And that if suffering prevails inside of us, suffering prevails in the system. If sacrifice prevails inside of us, sacrifice prevails in the system. A war against our future does not call for a war against our present. For the love of the future, we love the present.  

Thank you for letting me be honest with you. I look forward to meeting again soon. For now: Happy Global Divestment Day on Valentine’s! I think I will be joining the boys on the bike tour, inviting Amsterdam to stop investing in the fossil fuel industry.

xxxx
Ayla

Learn more about divestment here.

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University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh holds annual Earth Charter week of events

Guest post by Brad Spanbauer (spanbb79@uwosh.edu)

Aside from homecoming and brisk autumn days, early October at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh also means it is time for the Earth Charter Community Summit, a tradition with a focus on global awareness. Signed in 2002, UW-Oshkosh was one of the first universities in the United States to sign the document and is the only university signatory in Wisconsin. UW-Oshkosh has upheld the principles of the Earth Charter, such as the respect and care for the community of life, for many years. Each year, the Earth Charter committee plans events that span a wide range of topics and cover the principles of ecological integrity, social and economic justice, democracy, non-violence, and peace found in the Earth Charter.

The week started off this year with an event focused on Fair Trade clothing. As the first Fair Trade university in the United States, UW-Oshkosh proudly supports Fair Trade events throughout the year. This year’s speaker was Sonja Parr with Liz Alig clothing, who talked about the working conditions for manufacturers of clothing and the social and economic implications of traditional clothes-making.

Tuesday’s events focused on divestment from fossil fuels and a political debate by local candidates. The Change the Climate Campaign is a student movement focused on educating the campus community about what it could mean if UW-Oshkosh were to divest from fossil fuels. The divestment movement has been gaining momentum and several other institutions worldwide have committed to this change in their policies.

The candidate debate was sponsored in part by the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin and the university’s American Democracy Project. The first round was the debate for State Assembly district 54 featuring incumbent Gordon Hintz (D) and newcomer Mark Elliot. The following debate was for the 6th Congressional District representative featuring Mark Harris (D) and Gus Fahrendorf representing the Libertarian party. Glenn Grothman (R) did not attend the debate. The campus has been actively engaged in elections for many years and seeks to sponsor events such as the candidate debates to increase awareness of political issues.

This year’s keynote speaker was Dr. Eric Klinenberg, from NYU. Klinenberg is a sociologist who focuses on community responses to climate change and how people can come together to fight what is being called the greatest environmental challenge of our time. Jim Feldman, professor of Environmental Studies and History, was very pleased with the turnout at the banquet this year. “The biggest take away for students from Eric’s talk [is] that we can respond more intelligently to climate change if we think about social factors and the things that make our communities stronger,” Feldman said.

UW-Oshkosh has recently reformed its general education, with a new program called the University Studies Program (USP). The university’s advancements and leadership in sustainability among institutions of higher education tie into the Earth Charter and also align with this general education reform. “USP requires students to attend out-of-class events, and thereby learn about the intellectual life of the university,” Feldman said. Throughout their first year at UW-Oshkosh, students in the USP program encounter courses focused on intercultural knowledge, civic engagement, and sustainability, which directly connects with principles outlined in the Earth Charter. Feldman stated, “Both institutions, the Earth Charter and the USP, require us to think deeply about the ways that these different categories overlap and intersect with each other.”

Keeping with the theme of strong communities in response to climate change, UW-Oshkosh was proud to host Winona LaDuke during the Earth Charter Community Summit this year as well. With standing room only, students, faculty and staff crowded the theatre in Reeve Union to hear Ms. LaDuke’s presentation. Environmental Studies student Emily Husar Martin was extremely inspired by Ms. LaDuke’s presentation. “Winona is a great activist who inspires me to continue my efforts towards a more fair and sustainability-focused future,” she said. Ms. LaDuke’s presentation focused on intercultural knowledge and sustainability as she has devoted her life to protecting the lands and ways of life of Native communities.

The week wrapped up with students working together to close down the community gardens for the winter. “The garden party was a success as far as the amount of work that got done.” said community garden vice president, Kasey Stewart. “I am trying to reach out to local growers to get some in to give talks and things or possibly do field trips. We also have a logo competition coming up soon,” Stewart said. In accordance with the Earth Charter, groups at UW-Oshkosh continue moving forward to promote the principles of the Charter campus-wide.

Find out more about University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh sustainability activity.

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Report from Religions for the Earth Conference in New York

Guest post by Brigitte van Baren, ECI Affiliate from Inner Sense, The Netherlands

Hosted by Union Theological Seminary in New York from 19-21September in the lead-up to Climate Week, this conference brought together 250 religious and spiritual leaders of diverse traditions from around the world along with scientists, environmental activists, political leaders, and UN Staff members. The goal of this conference was to use the occasion of the Climate Summit to create awareness of religious activism, raise the global will to act on climate change, and advocate for and support effective measures to address climate change. This issue is directly related to the central themes of the Earth Charter, especially to ecological integrity, the second pillar of the Earth Charter.

In history, religious leadership has influenced many successful social movements and it must also play a role in addressing the climate crisis. This became very clear through the messages of spiritual indigenous leaders such as Chief Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan. He related that over the past decades the ice in the North is melting and that nobody seems to care. Angaangaq Angakkorsuaq, an Eskimo-Kalaallit Elder and shaman, whose family belongs to the traditional healers from Kalaallit Nunaat, Greenland, gave his advice on creating compassionate Earth behavior, “The Ice in the North is melting. The only thing we can do is melt the ice in the heart of man.”

The workshops of the different religions and different themes related to climate change made the values aspect of climate change tangible and practical. The messages from the indigenous people touched me especially. For so many years they have been warning us about our bad behaviour towards the Earth. In this conference it was made clear that we have to consider Mother Earth as a family member and not as a resource anymore. This reminded me of Earth Charter principle 5, which urges us, “To protect and restore the integrity of Earth’s ecological systems.”

There were many outstanding speakers such and Rabbi Ellen Bernstein, the Founder of Shomrei Adamah – Keepers of the Earth, and Mary Evelyn Tucker, who has been involved with the Earth Charter since its inception. To meet soul companions from different religious and political backgrounds, all involved and committed to act to address the climate crisis was a deeply powerful experience.

Walking in the Climate March in New York with more than 300,000 people was differently, but equally, impressive and moving. We happened to see UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Al Gore, and Jane Goodall. It felt like the whole community of New York cared about climate change.

The conference ended with a wonderful multifaith service in the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, during which all participants, including religious and political leaders like Vandana Shiva, Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, Rabbi Ellen Bernstein, Reverend Dr. Gerald Durley, Al Gore, and Jan Eliasson, made a vow for concrete actions against climate change.


There were also many other friends of the Earth Charter at the Conference and event including Rick Clugston and Rabbi Avraham Soetendorp, among others, seen in pictures above.

You can read more about the event and see videos of speakers and photos at the conference website.

Read an article about the service here.

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Climate March with the Earth Charter and Friends

Earth Charter International would like to invite you to be a part of a diverse group of activists and lovers of the planet and Earth Community on September 21st, International Peace Day, in New York City. There will be a large and peaceful march in support of strong climate action by governments in advance of a Climate Summit at the UN on the 23rd called for by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. The march will begin at noon, but we will meet at 10:30AM in Central Park to get to know each other, share our good intentions, and maybe listen to some inspirational music and words, hear about our initiatives, and get excited to join a mass peaceful demonstration in support of addressing the climate challenge we all face.

We will meet at the north end of a field in Central Park that you can get to by entering the park at 66th street and Central Park West, walking under the 65th street transverse, and voila! There you are.

We look forward to seeing you there and if you have any questions, please leave comments below and join our invitation on facebook.

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Interfaith Climate Group celebrated the 14th Anniversary of the Earth Charter

Guest report by Sue Blythe
 
On June 29, the Interfaith Climate Group celebrated the 14th Anniversary of the Earth Charter at the Quaker Meetinghouse in Gainesville, Florida.
 
Youth from the FutureFlash! Climate Challenge / Making the Game Club presented the story of the Earth Charter from 1968 to the present. They challenged participants to write the rest of the story, from 2014 to 2050. People made short- and long-term commitments for action, and matched them to the 16 Earth Charter principles for a sustainable, just and peaceful world. These will become part of Illuminating the Earth Charter in the online game. The young people also led Sing for the Climate, joining the 25 participants to the global climate movement.
 
This was the third gathering of Building Community in a Changing Climate, a series of four workshops hosted by the Interfaith Climate Group:

World Religion Day / January – We shared scripture and climate statements from the world’s religions.  Speakers described local activities of national and international climate programs.  Participants created a list of individual actions and organizations.
 
Earth Day / April – Using the list created at the previous meeting, participants discussed what each is involved in and made commitments for personal action.
 
Earth Charter Anniversary / June – The Interfaith Climate Group and the FutureFlash! Project will co-host an event on the Earth Charter anniversary each year, completing activities for the FutureFlash! Climate Challenge online game.
 
UN International Day of Peace / September – The Interfaith Climate Group is collaborating with other religious and community peace organizations, marching on a major road with flags of the United Nations.  We will ask participants to consider how we can create peace with the Earth through our growing network of interfaith partners.
 
The Interfaith Climate Group also hosts monthly devotional gatherings and occasional special presentations such as Saving Energy with Home Depot.  For more information, contact Sue Blythe, sue@interfaithclimategroup.org.

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