What a rich winter holiday, with ALL our family--including four grandchildren four and under--gathered for over a week of visiting, playing, laughing, exploring, and taking turns. And now, with Chuck gone for three weeks in Australia, I have a very different rich opportunity--for quiet and self-direction. I'm grateful for both.
I bring other people's voices more than usual this month. My initial reflection is full of Pope Francis, and Instead of a poem I include a few thoughts from Robin Ward Kimmerer, a woman with Native American roots who knows and says things I would wish I could say myself.
With the buzz of festivities and hype of resolutions over, I wish you all a good start to a good new year.
When Pope Francis released his encyclical, Laudato Si, in the summer, I was delighted. I have since come to appreciate how the timing and content were planned strategically to have the greatest possible impact on the Paris climate talks. More recently, as part of sharing the encyclical with my faith community, I’ve had the opportunity to put that delight into words.
I love having a spiritual leader decide it was his place to speak out on matters that are usually seen as secular—and strongly defended as such. I love how he has mined the wealth of his spiritual understanding and tradition to bring such a fresh and powerful perspective to these big issues, in language that is accessible to everyone. I love having someone so wise to follow and be guided by—and I love it that such guidance is available outside of my (sometimes smug) Quaker tradition.
I love how he refuses to be put in a box. He’s not focusing just on personal morality or spirituality. He’s not focusing just on compassion for the poor. He’s not focusing just on stewardship of God’s earth. He’s focusing on how they are all part of one whole—and it is the connections among them that end up providing us with the most insight. What can we learn from his suggestion that “the human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together”?
I particularly love his emphasis on economics and technology. No part of our lives has been more fiercely walled off as secular territory or more fiercely protected against the “soft” and “unscientific” voices of ethics and religion. And Pope Francis just wades right in—totally and serenely confident in his right to be there!
He is eloquent on the dangers of compulsive consumerism, an issue dear to my heart. “Since the market tends to promote extreme consumerism in an effort to sell its products”, he says, “people can easily get caught up in a whirlwind of needless buying and spending. That paradigm leads people to believe that they are free as long as they have the supposed freedom to consume.” Freedom, indeed!
I love how clear he is about the limits of economic growth. We cannot grow our way into equality; indeed, without strong government intervention, economic growth has historically led to greater and greater disparities of wealth. “And the idea of infinite or unlimited growth…is based on the lie that there is an infinite supply of earth’s goods.” I love someone who isn’t afraid to call out a lie.
He is also eloquent about the limits of technological solutions. While technology has remedied countless evils over the years, when it is “linked to business interests, and presented as the only way of solving these problems, it proves incapable of seeing the mysterious network of relations between things, and so sometimes solves one problem only to create others”. Furthermore, “a technology severed from great ethical principles will not easily be able to limit its own power”. Now there’s a warning to ponder.
I love how he turns our ideas about debt upside down. While we tend to think of the Global South—the poor countries of the world—as being indebted to the Global North, he says no. Rather, we who have extracted their resources and used up way more than our share of the earth’s fossil fuels to power our industrialized lifestyles, it is we who owe them a very real debt.
We can’t just tinker with our current economic system, says Francis. “Is it realistic to hope that those who are obsessed with maximizing profits will stop to reflect on the environmental damage which they will leave behind for future generations?” Read that one again, slowly. If we are to survive, we have to transform our systems of providing for common well-being (and he uses that word “common” over and over again); we have to transform our relationships with each other; we have to transform our relationship to the earth.
He’s like the little boy who has called out the emperor with no clothes. I find that enormously hopeful, particularly because of the number of people who listen to him. With Pope Francis, I feel that we are on solid ground. The news is not good and the future is not secure. But we know what’s true, we know what’s important, we know how it’s all connected, and we know how to face as we move forward. Ultimately our lives will be better for grounding ourselves in truth, and acting from the basis of the love and connection that are at the center of his message.
Reclaiming the Honorable Harvest
Robin Ward Kimmerer
We are showered every day with the gifts of the Earth: air to breathe, fresh water, the companionship of geese and maples--and food. Since we lack the gift of photosynthesis, we animals are designed by biology to be utterly dependent upon the lives of others, the inherently generous, more-than human persons with whom we share the planet...
How can we reciprocate the gifts of the Earth? In gratitude, in ceremony, through acts of practical reverence and land stewardship, in fierce defense of the places we love, in art, in science, in song, in gardens, in children, in ballots, in stories of renewal, in creative resistance, in how we spend our money and our precious lives, by refusing to be complicit with the forces of ecological destruction. Whatever our gift, we are called to give it and dance for the renewal of the world.
Imagine: A new economy is possible!
Boulder's Carbon tax
First approved by voters in 2006, Boulder’s Climate Action Plan levies a carbon tax on energy use and uses the proceeds to pay for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. In 2012, Boulder voters approved a five-year extension of CAP, which generates around $1.9 million for the city. The average annual cost is $21 to residents, $94 to businesses, and $9,600 to industrial customers. The tax pays for energy-efficiency and renewable-energy programs, including rebates, credits and "energy audits" for homeowners and businesses.
The city now mandates energy-efficiency standards for rental housing and uses CAP funds to provide rebates and incentives to help landlords reach those mandates. It also runs a pilot program to get businesses to track their energy use more, and may mandate that businesses reach certain energy-efficiency standards. By encouraging upgrades, CAP tax funds help Boulder continue reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Some things that have made me hopeful recently:
How Muslims on a bus in Kenya saved Christians from a terrorist attack, and helped shift the conversation about Islam and terrorism in Kenya.
How US presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders is helping to change the political conversation by focusing his campaign on the economic needs of the working poor and middle class and the moral crisis of extreme inequality.
How millions in China are using a new app that provides updates on air and water pollution to put pressure on violators.
How Amsterdam in the Netherlands offers financing for local sustainability projects, available to start-ups, commercial ventures, and individual residents.
Resource from my friend Daniel Hunter, Building a Movement to End the New Jim Crow; An Organizing Guide. http://www.danielhunter.org/books/building-movement-end-new-jim-crow-organizing-guide
Recent posts on other web/blog sites:
In http://www.classism.org/gifts-american-dream/, Pamela Haines locates her family's homey DIY celebrations on a class spectrum of different connections to upward mobility.
Muscle Building for Peace and Justice; a Non-Violent Workout Routine for the 21st Century--an integration of much of my experience and thinking over the years: doingdemocracy.com/MB4PnJ02.htm (or just google the title)
faitheconomyecology.wordpress.com, a website that I've contributed to often (check the archives)
www.ourchildrenourselves.com, a home for all the parenting writing I've done over the past 20 years. NOTE THE NEW URL.
www.startguide.org. START: a way to study and work together with others to create a better world.
For earlier columns, go to www.pamelascolumn.blogspot.com. I'm currently posting at pamelalivinginthisworld.blogspot.com.
To be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing.