Forward, Upward, Inward: A Spiritual Response to Right Now by Rachel Hollander

Brother Francesco, known to the world as Saint Francis of Assisi, left us many sweet and lovely poems and songs. In “The Canticle of the Sun,” he wrote about the gifts of nature. Brother Sun, his light and radiance.  Sister Moon and Stars for their beauty.  Brothers Wind and Air, through fair skies or storms. Sister Water for her humility, purity, and usefulness. Brother Fire, who lights the night, is playful and strong. And Sister Death, whom no one living can escape. And, of course, he included: 

Praised be You my Lord through our Sister, Mother Earth who sustains and governs us, producing varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs. 

Mother Earth. We live on her, we eat what she provides, we use what wondrous supply she shares with us, and….

We are not the kindest of children. We are not always so Grateful for what our Mother so generously lends to us. Because it is a loan. Do not be mistaken. Mother Earth is not a bottomless well of giving. She is a Mother with expectations; a Mother who gives and then wants to see us give back.

These are tough lesson for humans; some humans, anyway. And never before have we been taught that lesson more clearly than right now. Continue reading “Forward, Upward, Inward: A Spiritual Response to Right Now by Rachel Hollander”

Ant Hill by Sara Wright

Yesterday I gave a poetry reading at a local library beginning and ending with thoughts about how Climate Change is affecting all living things. I am a naturalist who holds the radical belief that all living things are sentient. I also argue that we must not equate animal intelligence with that of humans.

Almost every poem I read was about my intimate relationship with some aspect of the natural world, for example, the changing seasons, my friendship with sagebrush lizards, steadfast trees, Sandhill cranes, beloved Black bears. Intimacy and inter –relationship are part of every experience I have with nature and by sharing these poems I hoped might draw others in to new ways of perceiving the earth and her creatures.

The whole point of my focusing on non – human species was to raise awareness that these animals and plants desperately need our help. Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough about how critical it is to bring animals, plants, trees, mushrooms into the picture in this age of the Anthropocene, that is, the period in which we live where a few men with power rule. Today, it is not an exaggeration to say that humans control every aspect of our fragile planet.

I repeat: Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough or perhaps almost no one was capable of listening? Maybe both. As soon as I concluded my reading one woman did actually bring up an incident involving a very difficult child who became attached to a lizard, so she at least, was on the track I hoped I had laid….

Continue reading “Ant Hill by Sara Wright”

Climate Change, the Generations and Religion’s Bad Rap by Susan de Gaia

As I reflect on my experience at the climate strike on September 20, 2019, I see a connection between climate change and the bad rap that religion has today. When asked what they think about religion, many are quick to point out how history has shown that it has been at the center of numerous wars. Even today we find conflicts between groups grounded in religious difference. There are other differences in these conflicts, such as ethnic differences, differences of social organization, and disagreements over territory, but religion is a clear element. Colonialism, misogyny, and priest sexual abuse are some other ways that religions have earned reputations for being too strict, too old fashioned, and too corrupt, among other things.

The climate strike was called Youth Climate Strike and had as one of its leaders a very special young woman, Greta Thunberg. It isn’t often that the youth are given a platform for their complaints and even rarer that a teenaged person – and a female at that – is seen as a world leader on one of the most important issues facing civilization. Not only does this young woman have the wisdom to see the problem from a global, even a cosmic, perspective, but she also stands before us as the face of the only group on the planet that is more impacted by climate change than any other – the youth.

Continue reading “Climate Change, the Generations and Religion’s Bad Rap by Susan de Gaia”

A Letter to Senator Feinstein by Sarah Robinson-Bertoni

Dear Senator Feinstein,

I distinctly remember celebrating the 1992 historic victory when you and Barbara Boxer were elected as the first female Senatorial duo from any state in the union.  My father brought my sister and me to an election party that evening at Gaia bookstore in Berkeley to watch the results trickle in.  We literally jumped for joy, proud that California could lead the nation in recognizing the full capacity of women to legislate effectively and to send you to Washington.  I never doubted that you would endeavor to represent me even though I was too young at that time to cast my own vote.

I am troubled by the recent media splash that showed your response to young people, who are rightly concerned about their own ability to have a future, represented in their intent to convince you to support the Green New Deal.  At a certain level, it doesn’t matter what name is on the legislation, but what does matter is the content.  Empirical reality, though undeniable in nearly the rest of the world, has been stymied here in the U.S. by those who profit from doubt and confusion.  It is time for more active leadership in government and business to steer away from the shore before the ship of civilization runs aground.

Continue reading “A Letter to Senator Feinstein by Sarah Robinson-Bertoni”

When “The Storm Left No Flowers” – A Review by Sara Wright

During the last year I have been struggling with the  catastrophic effects of Climate Change like never before as I witness the continuation of a drought that is withering plants, starving tree roots, shriveling our wildflowers and wild grasses, leaving our mountains barren of snow, and changing the face of the high desert for the foreseeable future. With forest fires leaving me literally breathless from plumes of thick smoke that turn the sun into a ball of orange flames at dawn, unable to cope with 100 plus degree heat, my body forces me to surrender: I will not be able to make my permanent home here. Instead I will migrate like the birds do – from south to north and back again.

Coming to terms with the ravages of Climate Change  brought me to my knees; it has been one of the most difficult adjustments I have ever had to make. I mourn the death of the trees, plants, the loss of precious frogs and toads, insects, birds, lizards – every plant and creature is under attack and few of us can thrive (let alone survive) in such an unforgiving climate. Continue reading “When “The Storm Left No Flowers” – A Review by Sara Wright”

We Have 12 Years. Luckily, Climate Lovers Are Usually Feminist by Tallessyn Grenfell-Lee

Climate scientists have been screaming the alarm for literally decades. Despite global efforts, they now say we have 12 years left to contain the damage: the difference between 1.5°C and 2°C warming means tens of millions of lives lost, not to mention the death of all coral reefs and half the world’s plants and insects. In the USA, our oligarchic, oil-funded government seems determined to drive our country off a cliff and take the rest of the world with us. What on this good, green Earth are we to do?

I have been thinking about this a while. Below is a seven-fold strategy that I pray may bring help, comfort, and inspiration to those who, like me, can feel utterly overwhelmed.

Face Reality

It astonishes me to have to include this, but so much money has poured into distractions and strategies to discredit climatology that we must still spread the word. We now know which approaches actually bring people along; a little bit of doom and gloom goes a very long way. Focus on empowerment, action, and most importantly, connection: how do climate issues affect people directly? How do they intersect with issues people already care about? (Hint: the climate affects all life and every place on Earth!) Continue reading “We Have 12 Years. Luckily, Climate Lovers Are Usually Feminist by Tallessyn Grenfell-Lee”

A View from the Chute by Charlene Spretnak

Charlene SpretnakRecently I was hurled across the existential divide that separates the millions of people around the world who have experienced a life-threatening extreme weather event from those who have not. In December 2017 unseasonal Santa Ana winds roared off a California desert across two drought-parched counties, not for the usual 48 hours but for more than a week, blowing a brush fire across 440 square miles. It was named the Thomas fire, the largest in California history.

The two mountain ranges forming the walls of the Ojai Valley were incinerated as the town on the valley floor was evacuated but, in the end, was saved. A month later 23 people were killed in nearby Montecito by mudslides that brought boulders and debris crashing down from the burned out mountainside after only one hour of an unusually intense rainstorm. The ground shook as a thunderous roar arose. The impact of the fast-moving debris flow obliterated many houses, splintering them instantly and sweeping the remains into the growing torrent that ran to the sea.   Continue reading “A View from the Chute by Charlene Spretnak”

Just South of Ventura by Sara Frykenberg

For those of us living in Southern California, it has been a tense week to say the least: flames ravaging up and down the coast, homes lost, thousands displaced, freeway and school closures, smoke thick in the air, and ash raining from the sky.

And the fires are still raging. 

Whether or not one is directly impacted by the wildfires here in Ventura and Los Angeles County, you can’t walk through the grocery store, turn on the radio, or get a cup of coffee without engaging the fear and concern, or hearing about the devastation left behind. We are sharing a trauma, howbeit differently, and with different levels of need.

I have been lucky during the fires.  I live just south of Ventura. My work is on the Getty side of the 405: it was threatened, but not in flames.  I spent the week checking in with family and friends, offering my home, and breathing the toxic air. I also made dinner, picked my brother up from the airport, attended a baby shower, and graded papers. … This is a strange juxtaposition, and like many Californians, I have had a hard time processing what’s going on.

On Sunday afternoon, surrounded by the unnatural darkness of an ash filled sky while traveling down the 101 freeway, I wrote the following. This is my effort to make sense.  And I offer it to you all here, in case this helps you make sense too.  Continue reading “Just South of Ventura by Sara Frykenberg”

Gratitude – A Salve to Heal Our Wounds by Judith Shaw

judith shaw photoTomorrow being Thanksgiving in the United States offers an opportunity to reflect on gratitude. With so much anger bubbling up on all fronts is it possible that gratitude could be the salve to heal our wounds?

Continue reading “Gratitude – A Salve to Heal Our Wounds by Judith Shaw”

Save Your Own Arse by Kate Brunner

Photo by Cameron Strandberg (Wikimedia Commons)

Huge swaths of forest are burning. Over the past few years, it seems like summer and autumn bring devastating fires to some region of the United States. This year it is the Great Smokey Mountains and Tennessee, in particular, who are experiencing hell on earth. (Kansas experienced its largest, most destructive fire season this year, as well.) Last year, it was California. The year before that, Washington state. The year before that…. Well, you catch my drift.

In 2011, I was living in Houston during the Bastrop County fire that consumed over 34,000 acres and more than 1,500 homes. Driving out towards the Hill Country after the highways were reopened was heartbreaking — nothing but charred tree trunks and ash covered hillsides for miles.

That same year, Texas experienced its worst single year drought ever and the hottest summer of any US state on record. Three individual fires were stoked by strong winds moving across Texas as a result of Tropical Storm Lee. It was a textbook demonstration of the perfectly catastrophic cocktail of climate change factors that are producing increasingly severe fire seasons across the country. Extreme summer heat, dire drought conditions, brittle forests, strong storms. And everything goes up in smoke. Continue reading “Save Your Own Arse by Kate Brunner”

Hidden Seeds in Laudato Si by Peg Conway

Peg Conway headshot2

The opening two paragraphs of the recent environment encyclical just might be saying even more than the pope intended. Beginning with a quote from the famous Canticle of the Creatures by St. Francis of Assisi, Laudato Si refers to “our sister, Mother Earth,” and compares the earth to “a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us”. Sister and mother are seen here as two separate images. But some translations of the Canticle read “Sister Mother Earth” without commas, consistent with the style of the rest of that text, which names Brother Sun and Sister Moon, etc.

Does a little punctuation difference matter? I think it does.

The single term Sister Mother Earth suggests a seamless linkage between all female bodies, whether our sisters, our mothers, our planet. We are brothers and sisters to one another as Christians (and members of the human family), every person has a biological mother, and the earth sustains us all. “Sister Mother Earth” means there are no distinctions among the three; they are one body. This interpretation lends even greater impact to the second paragraph, where the pope speaks of “this sister who now cries out to us” because of abusive treatment:

Continue reading “Hidden Seeds in Laudato Si by Peg Conway”

Ecofeminism is in the House (at the AAR) by Grace Yia-Hei Kao

Grace Yia-Hei KaoMy social media accounts have recently been ablaze with announcements of meetings, sessions, and receptions to attend for those of us who study or work in religion/theology in the U.S. Some 12,000-15,000 scholars and students will descend upon San Diego this weekend for the annual American Academy of Religion/Society of Biblical Literature (AAR/SBL) conference.

While as a theological and philosophical ethicist I attend this gathering every year regardless of venue or conference theme, I’m particularly excited about this year’s focus on climate change.

Sessions devoted to the topic include a panel on the release of the Public Religion Research Institute/AAR National Survey on Religion, Values, and Climate Change (Sat, 9-11:30am, CC-20D) presentations by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (Sat, 11:45-12:45, CC-20D), a talk by environmentalist Bil McKibben (Sat, 7:30-8:30pm, CC-20D),  the AAR Presidential Address by Laurie Zoloth (an eminent bioethics and Jewish Studies scholar; Sun 11:45-12:45,CC-20D), and remarks by former president Jimmy Carter on “The Role of Religion in Mediating Conflicts and Imagining Futures: The Cases of Climate Change and Equality for Women” (Mon, 4-5:30pm, CC-20) among others.


Beyond that, I’m especially excited about the number of sessions I see devoted to discussing ecofeminism–the scholarly and activist movement that takes seriously the interconnections between the oppression of women and the exploitation of nature. Let me enumerate a few of these (n.b. the following is a non-exhaustive list):

– On Friday, 1:30-3:30pm (CC-14A), the Women’s Lounge Roundtable will entail a pre-conference luncheon on “Ecofeminism and Earth Healing” featuring emerging scholars from Claremont Graduate University.

– On Sunday, 9-11:30am (CC-3), the Feminist Theory and Religious Reflection Group will feature a panel of papers on “ecological, epistemological, and ethical habitations.”

– On Sunday, 1-2:30pm (CC-30A), the Feminist Theory & Religious Reflection Group will sponsor another session tied to the conference theme: “Strategic Negotiations with Feminism on the Borders: Rhetoric in American Homiletics, ‘On the Move’ Ethics in Ecofeminism.”

– On Sunday, 3-4:30pm (CC-26), the Womanist Approaches to Religion and Society Group will convene a session entitled “Ecowomanism 101: A Roundtable Discussing Vital Themes and Trajectories.”

I’m looking forward to this conference and wish all AAR/SBL attendees an enriching and eventful time as well!

Climate change (Polar Bear on Melting Ice)

Grace Yia-Hei Kao is Associate Professor of Ethics and co-director of the Center for Sexuality, Gender, and Religion at Claremont School of TheologyShe is the author of Grounding Human Rights in a Pluralist World (Georgetown University Press, 2011), has a forthcoming co-edited anthology with Ilsup Ahn on Asian American Christian Ethics (Baylor University Press), and is working with Rebecca Todd Peters on anthology of women’s theological lives. Read more about her work on her website.

IN THE NEWS: Global Climate Change by Carol P. Christ

Climate change is in the news again due to the devasting storm known as Hurricane Sandy.  Scientists, activists, journalists, and politicians are telling us that Sandy is not just another “unpredictable event” brought to us by “Mother Nature.”  Will we listen this time?

Hurricane Sandy is a human-made and entirely predictable and sure to be repeated environmental consequence of the use of fossil fuels, especially oil and coal. Burning fossil fuels puts carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This raises the global temperature in the air, land, and sea. Melting of polar ice caps is a result of the rise in global temperatures. This will cause a 3 foot or more rise in the seas, leading to the permanent flooding of the seacoasts and sea coast constructions, including homes, restaurants and shops, office buildings, and harbors and ports.

The warming of the seas is also producing extreme weather conditions, including high winds and hurricanes, along with colder winters and hotter summers.  Extreme weather conditions will lead to regular storm-related flooding of rivers and sea coasts, erosion of hills and mountains in winter, followed by catastrophic fires in summer.  Prolonged droughts and unseasonal rains will devastate farms and food production. Wildlife habitats will be destroyed. Places where people live will become too hot, too cold, too wet, and generally unfriendly to life.

Continue reading “IN THE NEWS: Global Climate Change by Carol P. Christ”

Cry The Beloved Country by Carol P. Christ

With the final day of voting in the US election less than 24 hours away, I feel a deep sadness descending on my soul. 

This election will have far-reaching consequences in relation to a number of issues I care deeply about. Among them are health care, social services, a social safety net, a graduated tax structure that taxes the rich and to a lesser extent the middle classes in order to provide services for the poor, equal pay for equal work, a woman’s right to choose, and gay rights.  On these issues there is a clear choice between the two candidates for President and the two parties. 

Democrats believe that health care is a human right, that social services should be provided for those who need them, that taxes should be paid by those who can afford to do so, that women have a right to equal pay and control of our own bodies, and that gays and lesbians should have all the rights of other citizens. Republicans believe that government does not need to provide or control health care, that social services are largely unnecessary, that it is unfair to tax the rich, that equal pay is not important if women have husbands, that the church and state should be making decisions about women’s bodies, and that homosexuality is a unnatural.  There is a clear choice on these issues. 

For this reason, I urge all of you who have not voted yet—and those of you who are considering not voting–to vote, no matter how long the lines are, no matter what intimidation you may face, and no matter what discouragement and disappointment you may be feeling.*

Nevertheless I feel like crying.

I feel sad that just about half of all Americans who intend to vote will be voting for the rich, against the poor, and against women’s—my–independence.  Continue reading “Cry The Beloved Country by Carol P. Christ”

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